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Showing posts from October, 2011

Fish. Cashews. Raisins.

In a pan, soften two very finely chopped onions in oil. Add some ghee for a richer flavour. Place a dozen cashews, one large can of coconut cream, a teaspoon of chili, a knob of peeled and chopped ginger the size of your thumb, a large clove of garlic (or two small), half a teaspoon each of cinnamon and garam masala, two cardamom pods and a couple of rays of star anise (optional) into a food processor. Hit ‘turbo’. Watch as the colours homogenise. Listen as the initial nut grind goes into a high-pitched turbine-smooth whizz. Twenty seconds and you will have a pinkish beige sludge flecked with small pieces of cashew. The aroma will make you want to spoon it out of the processor and eat it now. Steep a couple of tablespoons of raisins in hot water to which you have added a teaspoon of turmeric. Remove half of the onion from the pan, reserve. Transfer cashew and coconut cream mixture to the pan. Drain the raisins and add. Stir and cook very gently for ten minutes. Add a little wate
Every now and then the weekend papers have something worth reading, such as how to write a song and how to write a movie score . And both in the one magazine. Quote: Morricone says when he was young he tried to improve some mediocre films. "I tried to put some really strong music and accelerated them too much, and the result was way too strong for the film. It was [as] if you dressed a parrot like a cardinal."

Bees depart.

The visitors left on Sunday. We had been out all day and, by late afternoon when we returned, the swarm had gone; although some late risers were still buzzing around the temporary hive. To where they have flown I don’t know. I hope it’s not in the roof. Around a thin branch deep in the old weigela shrub, the bees left a temporary hive structure that was several opaque white semi-cylindrical sections of honeycomb-patterned wax in a cascading form that resembled a modernist chandelier in the stairwell of a 1950s public building.


I kept bumping into Occupy Melbourne last Friday. I was in town for the day, working in an office in Collins Street, fifty metres from the mess of tents in the City Square. I went out mid-morning for an apple from the Swanston Street fruit stall. By that time the eviction was commencing and I passed between rows of protesters holding placards made from brown cardboard that was wet because of the drizzle. At lunchtime I went out for sushi from the cheap sushi shop in Capitol arcade where you get free miso with your order. The intersection of Collins and Swanston was at a standstill and several trams were stuck in the throng. It looked like Wellington Parade on a Saturday afternoon after the football in the 1950s when trams lined up to ferry thousands back into town. It was raining now, and the police were telling the protestors to go home. Why wouldn’t you? The City Square is an ugly concrete slab with patches of hard sand. A dreadful place to camp. The shouting had begun. A man weari

Out of the archive.

I’ve done it again. Volunteered. This time it’s a 125th anniversary publication for a college. My mother and two of my sisters walked through its gates in the 1940s and the 1960s/1970s respectively. But that’s incidental. The school shares its archivist with the school that was the subject of the book I finished last year, and she asked me if I’d do one for the second school. I said yes because this one will be shorter. But it still has to be done. I said yes also because, in a strange twist of coincidence, the archivist was my Grade Three teacher in 1965 and it is ingrained in one to say yes to one’s teachers. (Yes, she was young – 1965 was her first year out of teacher’s college.) * The college archive was in a cramped office in one of the old wings that was once the nuns’ living quarters. Across one entire wall was one of those sliding compactus things that holds sixty million documents in no particular order. Me and my big mouth. I went to the 1960s and pulled out some annuals

The four-year-old.

Four is grown up, but not. Mr Four is a small and generally self-possessed gentleman who suffers occasional unfortunate fits of uncontrollable laughter. But Mr Four has dignity. It is the last great age of childhood before they go to school and get corrupted and bring home the schoolyard’s whining jargon, and want what the others want. In the morning he comes to the corner and holds his fat arms around my neck and kisses me. Then he lets go, and waves, and runs brightly back around the corner and I go away, and when I come back at night he is always asleep, his eyes tight slits sloping down and his mouth half open, like his baby photo . * Years ago, there was another four-year-old. He was just the same. I must have been twelve, off to school. It is winter, 1969. He comes to the gate with the same self-possession. The same kiss, the same arms around the neck. I wonder now if I was as patient with my brother as I am with his nephew, my son. * Thomas turns five this weekend. An

Visitors drop in. Length of stay unknown.

I looked out the front window. It was a warm, cloudless afternoon, but the room had almost imperceptibly darkened, as if a cloud had passed the sun. There was something in the air, like smoke, or a dust storm. I went outside and into the front garden. The flowers were out, and the shrubs were in bloom, and the garden was looking nice, and the thing in the air was bees. Thousands of them. They were flying around in ever decreasing circles like fighter planes homing in on an enemy base. They were silent. I thought swarming bees would buzz but the only hum came from a light plane cutting a line in the northern sky towards Essendon airport. The bees were circling the old weigela. It could be sixty years old. It's about ten feet tall and almost as wide. It still flowers well, but inside it is like an old hedge with thick gnarled inner branches. By five o’clock they had settled. How many bees are there in a swarm? It’s the size and shape of a bagpipes, pendulous at the bottom an

Two things to do with smoked salmon, and how to socialise a wolf.

I had some fish left over after a lunch of rolls with avocado, salad shoots and smoked salmon, which was a rare luxury put on for friends who had visited along with their new addition to the family for some socialisation with our children. The new addition was a two-month old maltese terrier poodle cross, light brown in colour, a tiny round roly-poly thing, name of Boxer. They should have called it Malteser. They live in an apartment and have no children. We sat outside and the dog acted as if he thought he had been re-released into the wild. Apparently all dogs are 99% wolf in terms of DNA, or appetite, or mating habits, or brain power, or something. This creature was woolly and scampered over the lawn like a spring lamb and was therefore by definition a wolf in sheep's clothing. That night I cooked up a pot full of pasta - bavette - drained it and simply added twirls (for forkability) of the salmon, a generous dollop of sour cream and a shower of cracked black pepper. Delicious

Half time entertainment: a set menu.

I don’t watch grand finals. Never have. I don’t like the angles or the commentary or the crowd shots or the stupid continuous slow motion replays. I listen to the radio so I can track the action in my own mind. I’ve watched one grand final in twenty years and it’s the only one I can’t remember. I took the boys to the indoor pool. They’d set it up with team balloons and the broadcast over the loudspeaker and after the first quarter we were the only ones there, plus the attendants and a few lane-swimming die-hards who barely raised their heads all afternoon, so it was our own private grand final pool party. William and I tossed tennis balls to each other and Tom practised his dives. Half time came and with it the 'entertainment'. Someone had booked an entertainer by the name of Meatloaf. He used to be a singer. I thought it was just the pool loudspeakers, but when he sang, he sounded like a man having a heart attack and a nervous breakdown simultaneously, to save time. Or Bri

One day in September.

Cool climate? It was cold. I turned the heater switch to warm and opened the little grates in the dash. The country at the back of Ballarat was high and green and there was no sky between the ground and the clouds. They seemed to sit on the hills. The rain had stopped. It turned out to be the wettest September day in fifty years but I didn’t know that then. I was driving on a single-lane B road with no line markings. I hadn’t seen a car since Clunes, a small town with verandah-shaded shops hugging the empty winding main street. The streets always wind in old gold mining towns because they grew up around the diggings. No planners involved. Out of Clunes and on past old mounds of slag overgrown with grasses, and into the green made almost luminous by the teary sky. The Irish came here in their thousands and stayed after the gold rush; it reminded them of home. Now I was higher. The clouds sat; no blue anywhere. Then the green hills started growing trellises bearing curling shoots. W