Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


The taste of tea in the morning.

It was still dark, but the birds were twittering and tweeting. I sat up and realised those verbs didn’t work any more. More perfectly good words gone forever. I felt my way to the kitchen, found the kettle and put it on. Then I switched the light on. I could have done that first, but I hadn’t been able to find the light switch, and the faint light from the east-facing window had led me to the kettle first.

That’s what happens in when you’re in an unfamiliar house. At least I hadn’t clocked myself on an overhanging mantel, or a door ajar.

The kettle hummed and then clicked off and I poured the water into a brown ceramic teapot over loose leaves of Tuckfields Tynee Tips tea, the name of which product once led to an alliterative jingle that once heard, could never be forgotten. I haven't.


We were staying in a renovated 1940s timber house in the middle of town. It had polished floors, an east-facing kitchen, two bedrooms, and a lounge furnished with comfortable chairs and a bookcase full of books and a gas fire. That’s all you need. The house was two minutes on foot from the main street, where there was a supermarket, a post office, a newsagent, several cafes, some craft shops, a real estate agent, a butcher and several original buildings from the colonial days including the Caledonian Inn. Walk two minutes more and you’re at the local library that doubles as a tourist information centre. Another two minutes and you pass the marina and the ruins of the old gaol, and the lighthouse, and the 1844 obelisk built to guide ships into Guichen Bay, and then you have to stop walking, or you’ll fall off crumbling cliffs and drop onto treacherous rocks smacked by huge waves. There’s a warning sign.


Robe is an old seaport on a point that sticks out into the Southern Ocean. It is cold and bleak and turns in on itself in winter; and as far as I could see, we were the only visitors in town. Thousands of Chinese landed at this windblown port in the 1850s, heading for the gold rush, after they were refused disembarkation in Victoria. So they got off here instead and walked to the goldfields. No problem. What’s a few hundred miles? This probably dissuaded many from making the return journey, however; evidenced by the ubiquitous Chinese cafĂ© that graces every country town.


The house was set in the middle of a block with garden all around and no sideway gates, so the boys could run endless laps of the house chasing each other, using up entire afternoons. Thoughtful touches like this really make a holiday. So much more practical than little pouches of complimentary shampoo in the bathroom.


It rained for three days, on and off. We watched the bands of rain rolling in from the north-west: the Southern Ocean. (You need a map to figure that out.) In between rain bands, the sun shone wanly into the north-facing backyard and the boys played cricket using the cricket set conveniently provided in the shed. They’ve played cricket before, in a manner. But with every activity, there is a break-through point. This was it. We omitted the run-out rules, and stuck to hitting and running, hitting and running, hitting and running. Both boys seemed to find the sweet spot and had the ball all over the yard. William even learned to sweep, going down on one knee. There were square cuts, cover drives, pulls, a couple of leg glances and even a late cut or two. Most were perfect on-drives, straight into the sheep-manure covered fruit tree orchard at the rear of the property. They will remember Robe as the place where they finally learned to play cricket.


I poured the tea. A door creaked. They were awake now. The sun was up, and it lit the room.

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