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Showing posts from January, 2011

Another world.

Early afternoon. Hot. The slight northerly air was barely enough to ruffle the wavelets. The crowds were gone and the beach was almost empty. Two hundred yards offshore, a windsurfer was trying to angle his sail to the breeze, but failed, and fell in slow motion into the water. I heard the 'slap' as the sail hit the sea. That and the muffled snarl of the traffic on Point Nepean Road. Thomas was beside me silently making engineering feats in the sand with his legs. He'd been in the water and his hair was brined to his scalp and he was wet and now he was covered in sand. I was in another world. (Maigret) had not turned on the lights at once. After removing his tie and opening his collar, he had walked over to the window and leant his elbows on the sill, as thousands of other Parisians must have done that night. The air was soft like velvet, almost palpable. Not a movement, not a sound disturbed the peace of the Rue Llomond which slopes gently down towards the lights of

Built house flooded; unbuilt one still dry.

The house of a second cousin who lives in Brisbane was flooded after the Wivenhoe flood mitigation dam was left at 100% capacity due to fears of 'wasting water', despite Bureau of Meteorology warnings of severe flood. 1400 kilometres away, in South Gippsland, my sister had been planning to build a house two years ago but was prevented from doing so by bureaucrats who believed that sea levels would rise and flood the land. Warmists have some explaining to do.

Cafe owner stoic.

Neville Cloak stayed in his cafe on the main street until 11pm, when the power went out and the torrent of water became too hard to fight. "The shop was going well until the front window caved in and the water picked up everything we had stacked up," he said. "Now it's rooted. The whole place needs to be gutted and restored. ... I don't think people will be able to afford to go out and buy a bloody latte for a while," he said.

Before the flood.

The papers are reporting that thousands of householders are finding themselves uninsured after the floods, and that Deputy Prime Minister Swan and Assistant Treasurer Shorten are gunning for the insurance companies. That should be interesting. The politicians in the red corner and the money men in the blue. Ding, ding. Snore. No insurance, no payout, the insurers are saying. "If people do not purchase flood cover insurance, they will not be covered," an Insurance Council of Australia spokesman sniffed, somewhat self-evidently. Unfortunately for those who might have thought they were reasonably covered, the issue is not black and white. Let's look at QBE's cover, for example. QBE is the quintessential Queensland insurance company - if there is a quintessential Queensland insurance company - formed in Townsville in the nineteenth century by renowned early businessmen Burns and Philp of Burns Philp fame. (Philp was twice Premier of Queensland, Burns a member of the

Where did the turkey come from?

After being critical of the role of traditional fare on the Australian Christmas dinner table, it started following me around. First a parcel of cold chicken arrived from somewhere a few days after Christmas, and later a stretch-wrapped platter piled high with cold turkey appeared in the refrigerator at the beach house. I was being stalked by festive poultry. My mother-in-law had been to visit. It must have been her. She always brings things; frozen Lorne sausage, home-made fruitcake, bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label, that kind of thing. The chicken was easy: I chopped and mixed it with good mayonnaise and divided the mixture into three bowls, to which I added (a) cracked pepper and snipped chives, (b) a mixture of chopped capers and celery, and (c) chopped walnuts, a dash of paprika and finely sliced spring onion respectively. This made an excellent New Year’s Day lunch platter of sandwiches on Potts wholemeal, sourdough baguette, and Coles’ brand plain square white loaf. Guess

Mint in solitary.

I once had a garden in which mint had taken over. It will annex as much territory as you allow it, and you can make only so much mint sauce or drink so many brandy smashes. These days I keep my mint imprisoned in one of those old double concrete troughs they used to have in pre-1940s exterior laundries – known as wash houses. My mother had one into the early 1970s. Originally, she'd wash in one side of the trough and wind the washing into the other side through a hand-wringer consisting of two enormous rubber rollers clamped onto the dividing wall. Best thing ever. As children we used to try to catch each others' hands in the roller and wring their arm through. Nasty little brutes we were. Most of the old troughs were smashed up and taken to the tip when washing machines came along, but visionary householders kept their troughs so that later generations could reuse them as plant pots. Their brass outlets offer better drainage than most of today’s planters, and the thick con

Irrelevant comparison syndrome #324: eat all your dinner or the planet dies.

OK, it’s the silly season. You have to expect filler in the newspapers. But this was exceptional: "The vast majority of Australians are unaware that when discarded food rots in landfill, it gives off methane, a greenhouse gas that's 25 times more potent than the carbon pollution that comes out of your car exhaust." Some people will believe anything, no matter how far-fetched. It was a hot afternoon and I’d been sitting on the beach reading a Clive Cussler novel, wading through a scene in which a sociopathic mass murderer has been imprisoned, and the only way the author could possibly plot him free is by having him bribe the jail governor and he goes right ahead and does exactly that . I threw the book down on the sand and picked up the newspaper instead and read the story containing the paragraph above. Talk about drawing a long bow. So I threw the paper down again and went back to the Cussler. Sorry, Clive. At least the story was entertaining and featured a Mercedes Simp

Small plastic fish.

One report said that more land than France and Germany combined is under water in Queensland. That will be your fruit and vegetable crops and your sugarcane, as well as Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Condamine and other towns. A photograph showed a man in a dinghy rowing past the Bundaberg rum warehouse halfway up the wall in front of the polar bear symbol. (Who came up with a polar bear for a rum distiller?) Another photograph showed a snake toiling along the top rail of a fence, and there were reports of people returning to houses full of reptiles. * A couple of nations worth of water, and work continues at the desalination plant down here in the south. A big water pipe would have been good. They built one from near Perth to Kalgoorlie in the 1800s, but that was for the goldfields. Gold got things done. * There was ham last week after all, but it was cold and thickly sliced. It had been a long drive out of town on Christmas day; a kind of reverse peak hour at the wrong time of day o