Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2011

"What's the house chardonnay like?"

The waiter flew out of the door and put a plate on our pavement table and that characteristic aroma of something freshly deep-fried rose from the plate. The crumb coating on four ovoid shapes was ragged pale gold, like tempura, and flecked with herbs. There was a dipping sauce. Is eating something deep-fried and dipped in a tangy sauce the pinnacle of eating? William and Thomas thought so. Children like fried things. You can’t blame them. Their hands reached out. They bit and tasted, and tried to place the taste, and bit some more, and thought about it. Was it chicken? Was it fish? Music from a band in another cafĂ© fifty metres up the street floated down to us. It was playing Crimson and Clover , without the distortion. No, William and Thomas, I replied. It is not chicken. It is not fish. Don’t talk like a Dr Seuss book, they replied. Just tell us what the hell it is. I’m paraphrasing loosely. The never say ‘the hell’. In reply, I picked up the menu and read aloud from

25 April, 2011

  An Anzac Day story worth reading. What does a child make of Anzac Day these days? ... The Anzac legend is unfettered by distortion, unspoiled by excess, and may it ever be so. The legend has grown, and we the children, no matter how old we are, continue to embrace the heritage. ... Tomorrow's children laughing in our parks and playgrounds will always be the children of the Anzacs, and we waltz Matilda still in their memory. If you'll excuse the web jargon, read the whole thing.

Moon dances through sky; lands on pillow.

We drove home late, when the full moon was riding in the sky. It came with us, according to the children. We rolled across the dark hills of Gippsland through shadowy eucalypt forest lit silver by the kaleidoscoping moon. Then the freeway, a Jeffrey Smart painting made three dimensional by John Holland Constructions, the only difference being that these days the paintings are more minimalist than the road, which is littered with oversized artworks. A large black bird pecking at an iron chip. An orange bridge. Then a green one. Then a faux hotel that is just sheer bad taste, like a real hotel. Indeed, they should have built a real one so that the bad taste at least had a purpose, like an Alessi juicer. The moon disappeared and the children slept and then we turned into our short street with the No Through Road sign at the top. The moon slid to a stop just as we did, and sat in the poplars at the end of the street. Look, it came home with us, said William, sleepily. I carried sleepi

The smell of baking.

He was about twelve years old. He stood at the edge of a concrete precipice on a scooter blade, still as a statue. Then he shot forward and dropped like a stone, out of sight. Four seconds later, on the other side of the precipice, he shot into the air and flew six feet above the ground, released the scooter, rolled forward 360 degrees in the vertical plain, met the scooter again in mid-air on the way down and landed like a sparrow on a chair. It was around that time early on a Saturday afternoon when you realise the weekend really has arrived, and you don’t have to rush anywhere or do anything for anyone. I sat on a bench under a blue sky and half-read the newspaper in the sun while William and Tom climbed. The playground is near the main street, and the view from my bench stretched away past a football ground and a primary school and a swimming pool, closed now, and all the way across a valley where it turned into blue South Gippsland haze. I struggled on through the Weekend Austra

Fresh angel hair pasta with poached chicken, asparagus, snow peas, a touch of pesto and clarinets.

It was well after eight on a Saturday night. My mother-in-law was here for dinner so I wanted something fast but impressive, easy but interesting, simple but appetising. So I went to the kebab shop. No, I didn’t. I might have wanted to, but instead I sliced a large chicken breast fillet into one-centimetre cubes, placed these in a pan with a close-fitting lid over half a tablespoon of olive oil and a sliced garlic clove, sloshed in half a glass of white wine and the cubed flesh of an avocado and set the pan on a low heat to poach the chicken and warm the avocado through. Then I drank the other half of the glass of wine. Fresh angel hair pasta, six little bunches from Donnini’s, was already cooking in a large pan in salted, oiled water. When the pasta was a minute away from done, I threw in ten asparagus spears I had sliced in three pieces each, and a good handful of snow peas. I shook the poaching pan and, with tongs, turned over a few cubes of reluctant chicken. It shouldn’t sti

Bribed by red wine.

When The Spectator magazine launched its Australian edition some years ago, I couldn’t find it in the newsagent's. I asked the newsagent. ‘Yes,’ he beamed. ‘ The Spectator ! We have it! It’s in the sporting section down the back!’ There it was next to Runner’s World and Fly Fishing and Gun Dog . I didn’t say anything, but some weeks later it had been moved to the current events and politics section next to The Economist and Time and BRW , so I suppose someone else did. The cover price of The Spectator has doubled from $4.50 to $8.95 over the last decade, so I was surprised to find an ad in the current issue offering a gift subscription at $139. That’s $2.673076923076923 a copy, a discount of 76.0759615%. I like to be precise. Fine. Your gift recipient gets the magazine and you get the credit, having paid a quarter of the price. Further, if he or she is in the same household, you get to read the magazine anyway. She is, and I will. But there was something else in the d

Newspaper seller dies.

The daily circulation of the Australian Financial Review is 75,000. How many of those were sold by one of my favourite columnists, Peter Ruehl, who died on Monday? I always turned to his column first and then threw the thing across the room. While we're taking potshots at newspapers, the dreadful Herald Sun today reports Ruehl's death without acknowledging that it carried his columns for some years. Pour a gin and tonic, crank up The Boss and toast the memory of a great writer who kept us laughing.

Song of the month: April.

The song opens with an unaccompanied voice – when I woke up this morning – sung in a single note. Then a rhythm guitar ticks off the heartbeat of a person who might have woken in fright, and the voice comes again: you were on my mind The tempo picks up a gear. A drum chases the voice through the next verse, tom-tomming a tattoo of fear. Then the voice is alone again with the ticking rhythm: so I went to the corner/just to ease my pain/I said just to ease my pain The chase resumes with a tambourine joining the drum in the stalk. It’s building. but I've got a feeling/yeah, down in my shoes/I said way down in my shoes Then a screaming organ joins in, punctuated by a sinister brass note. But the chase stops suddenly as if in a feint. The song finishes with no result, no ending, nothing but pain: I got wounds to bind Crispian St Peter's You Were on My Mind is a three minute spine-chiller. Even the silences in between the rhythm notes sound ominous. Sit in a dark

Acid trip.

This is why we grow tomatoes. A quiet mid-autumn Saturday morning and the sun is giving a last hot encore before it leaves centre stage and we drift south and out of reach and then it’s just a memory until next season. I’ve already ripped out a dozen tomato vines but a few remain, browning foliage studded with red balls. I pulled the last two out yesterday. They gave more than I expected. One had little bunches of ovoid cherries, hot from the sun, orange red, perfect. A few dozen, many lower down the vine and out of sight until you pull it up. The other gave round speckled ones – I forget the name, some kind of heritage variety – that were fatter and orange with pale green mottling, like old-fashioned apples in miniature. I had the radio on, of course, to help me through the morning's work in the garden. Off the Record started with a track I hadn't heard for years, The Only Living Boy in New York , one of the two best tracks from Bridge Over Troubled Water . What a song, all

Castle in the air.

... an enormous building made from concrete curves and no roof unfolded itself into view on the top of a hill. It looked like a postmodern milking shed the size of the Sydney Opera House. We came close and the curves snaked past and a sign that said Port Phillip Estate, and then the whole thing poured itself into the rear vision mirror and disappeared. Maybe I imagined it. I had not imagined it. It was this building. It's won awards , of course. You're doing well if your building wins awards as well the wine inside it.

The restaurant at the end of Sydney Road.

It was a big restaurant on the northwest corner of the busiest intersection in Melbourne. I pulled out of four solid lanes of northbound traffic and into the truck layby, and off that into the car park the restaurant shares with a Hungry Jacks. We got out. The air was full of flame-grilled whopper just to get you started, and it worked just as well for customers of the restaurant. The restaurant is set back from the road and there are cane tables and chairs and sun umbrellas outside, in case you want to watch Kenworths hauling B-doubles up the last part of Sydney Road where it becomes the Hume Highway while you eat your pizza. We went inside. Thomas led the way and didn't stop at the sign that read Please Wait Here To Be Seated near the pizza bar, but marched right on in. The front of house guy laughed because he was talking on my mobile phone to his Much Older Sister and he looked like a business executive off to a power lunch at Florentino’s. The place is a warren flowing ar