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Showing posts from February, 2011

The end of books.

Ex- The Australian reporter and now independent bookseller Corrie Perkin gets free publicity on Page 3 of last Saturday's Weekend Australian : "A true booklover loves having a conversation about books ... That may be the conversation they have with the bookseller or with other booklovers in the bookshop. ... You can't have those conversations with Amazon, you can't have those conversations most of the time in a shop like Borders because they don't have the staff." True, but only up to a point. It's also patronising to customers as well as to the hundreds of book-loving staff who work in the book chains. They don't all do it for the dollar. Moreover, it ignores the information available at Amazon such as reader comments and reviews, forums, rankings, reader purchases, recommendations, recently viewed lists and on it goes. I have found Amazon's service to be faultless, and I do enjoy that parcel arriving in the mail. No face-to-face? That's lik

The deck chair.

Childhood summers were Inverloch and Choc Wedges and Essendon baths and backyard apple fights with my cousins in the sweltering dark. Picking bucket loads of ripe fruit from the apricot trees. The wooden salad bowl of iceberg lettuce always on the kitchen table. The Carnival is Over and Strangers in the Night . The rumbling of trams from Keilor Road at 6 a.m. on hot mornings. And Puffin books. They were a kind of default Christmas gift for an age that is hard to buy for; past toys and not ready for grown-up things. So they gave me Puffins. Hundreds of them. The funny thing is, I associate them with one place: the apple tree in the backyard in a little patch of lawn behind the garage. The tree was the same one that yielded the worm-filled fruit that became the ammunition for the great apple fight of 1967 (mentioned above) that ended only when my cousin had to go home to Clayton, to us the other side of the world. I used to read my books under that tree, sitting in a timber and canv

Family lives on one zucchini for a week; survives.

It sat there on the kitchen table. It must have been three feet long, but it had taken a detour two thirds in. The short end was fatter than the barrel. It looked like an oversized pirate’s pistol. It weighed 2.5 kilograms. It was a monster. We’d been trading vegetables with our neighbour. This one, a white zucchini known sometimes as Lebanese white squash, trumped the lot. I’d imagined the struggle my next door neighbour had suffered in landing it. Wrestling it from the vine. Lashing it to the wheelbarrow. Fighting off garden predators on the barrow run back down the garden path to kitchen’s safe harbour. The old man and the zucchini. It was edible. Usually at that size they are only good for show. But the constant rain and heat in the last two weeks meant it was still tender inside. We dined off it for a week. Zucchini curry, Goanese-style This curry combines spices often associated with the Goa region of India, but I don’t know if regionality matters any more. In any case, t

Dinner with la famiglia.

7 p.m. I was sitting staring into the west facing window of a restaurant in a small rural city in the middle of Victoria. It was another shadowy place full of dark walls and dark stained timber tables and chairs. The sun low in the sky streamed into the window through the slats of a wooden Venetian and made gold stripes on my face and the walls behind me. The stripes were hot. There were two wine glasses on the table and I poured some red wine into them and we drank and I watched some dust motes swim through the sunbeams. Tracy sat on the opposite side of the table with the sun behind her. She was a silhouette and her hair was a fiery sunset. We raised our glasses. Cheers! The children were there too, but do we have to bring them into it? Children should be seen and not heard. They agreed for once. The place was called Capone’s and inside the enlarged ‘O’ in the middle of the word on the sign out the front was an illustration in an early black and white photographic style of a fat ma

Door handles.

The town had that uncanny height-of-summer stillness. It was midday. You expect a curtain to move in a window or a dog to snarl as you walk down the street past the sleeping houses. It was forty degrees, a hundred-plus on that old scale they used to show on GTV-9 next to the black and white clock in between programs. Epic Theatre. Point of View. TV Ringside. Epilogue. I walked past the houses and down the hill and then there were shops that were once stables and blacksmiths and grain stores and banks for newly-dug gold. I pushed open a door and went into a cavernous old building that could have been anything. Talk about another world. It was pitch black until your eyes got used to it, and then it was just dark, with pinholes of light in the corrugated iron ceiling above ancient timber rafters. I don’t know what it was then, but now they call it the Restorer’s Barn. It creaked in the heat. In a rainstorm you wouldn’t hear yourself admiring the old wares. The pinpoints in the ceilin