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Showing posts from January, 2016

Swedish heavy metal: VROOM in action again.

This Volvo is so old it was built before the Berlin Wall came down. Yet it appears to be brand new. I found it on a used car lot in Alphington. The Volvo, a 740GL model first registered in March 1990, is a time warp. If you are sitting in the back, the glasshouse is so large it is like riding in one of those trans-national railway observation cars. The car handles like a train too. Designed by Volvo legend Jan Wilsgaard , the 740 was poorly regarded by critics at the time of its release: In 1983, Autocar 's Gordon Murray said, "To me it's obscene ... goes right against the grain of what everybody else is trying to do. To me it looks like a European version of a North American car." Murray still didn't like the model in 1990 : Ordinary passenger cars are getting bigger and heavier, and that's an awful trend. If everyone drove around in Volvo (700 series) there'd be no room on the road for you and me! It's ridiculous making these massive cars for pe

Avocadoes from across the Great Divide.

Eight of them came down, hard as rocks, from a friend's farm outside Euroa. They don't all come from Queensland; they grow well just across the Great Divide. Put them in a paper bag with a banana, he said. Ripens them. Ripens the banana, too. Made banana cake when they went soft. Been eating avocadoes for ten days. They came up beautifully. Four days in a paper bag with a banana will do that to you. Creamy and cold, with a perfect interior of pale green, like a 1930s tiled bathroom. I made pasta with avocado, variations of which I have posted many times; the clichéd but delicious guacamole; one, halved and baked, even became a rerun of the 1970s classic avocado vinaigrette. Then there were sandwiches of wholegrain bread with cold sliced chicken and avocado, tomato and cheddar cheese, possibly the best sandwich ever invented. (Toast these in winter and never go back to ham-and-cheese again.) But the best dish with the Euroa avocado consignment was a scotch fillet stea

A Cat With No Name, Part Two.

Synopsis: Kitchen Hand is visited regularly by a neighbour's badly-named cat whose health is in decline. Another neighbour, who works in animal welfare, intervenes. Now read on. More months passed. Fluffball had fattened up again, but he still limped, and he had lumps around his neck. He used to fight with Lion, a cat who lived in the yard of another neighbour, unrelated to this story. One day, the animal welfare neighbour, whose name is Z., knocked on the door. Z. had a plan. The broad plan was to steal Fluffball. Yes, take him. Kidnap him. Z. would take him to a refuge. But we had to catch him first. He would not voluntarily get into a car and be driven away. He didn't even really like being picked up. He just liked head-butting me. The finer detail of the plan was that Z. would borrow a cage from a shelter. (You can get them from the council, but that takes six months and delivery is about as inconspicuous as riding a pink elephant down Bourke Street.) But she couldn

Fair trade doesn't get any fairer than this.

The price of a cup of coffee at Coburg’s original and best café, Coffee and Kitchen, has risen for the first time in four years. It is now $2.50. That is not a typo. Coffee and Kitchen caters for the old Coburg crowd; the elderly Greeks and Italians who moved into the suburb in the 1950s and '60s as young factory fodder and are now in their twilight years. The two newspapers most read here are Il Globo and Neos Kosmos ; and, unlike most cafes, the most popular drink served is the short black, leaving the ubiquitous café latte a distant second. Gradually supplanting the old guard of customers at Coffee and Kitchen is a new generation of Coburg families whose children love the milkshakes or kick balls around in the mall while their parents sit outdoors under big market umbrellas in hot weather. But Coffee and Kitchen is still not quite hip enough for the hipsters - ironically, because it is exactly the kind of place foodie experience-seekers travel the world to find: an unpreten

A Cat With No Name, Part One.

Another animal story, but this one is highly confidential as it includes cruelty, identity theft, actual theft, kidnapping, lies, trickery, and deception. Tell no-one you have read this. One day two summers ago, a cat walked in my front gate, proceeded up the long driveway, turned left at the pathway that leads to the front door and sat down on the front porch. I watched this happen through the front window and was strangely moved by the cat's nonchalant self-possession. It looked like it had been here before. But I was sure it hadn't. I invited it inside. You don't usually invite cats, you just let them in. But this one had such a debonair personality I felt a more formal approach was appropriate. The cat accepted my invitation and marched in regally, walked to the kitchen and sat down expectantly at the refrigerator. This was a cat that knew what it wanted. I fed it. The cat was a complete male, confident and fat and sleek with soft, small fold-over ears and shifty

Carrying the drinks.

Greyhounds have quirks, if not outright eccentricities. You have to wonder where they come from; the eccentricities, I mean. Perhaps it is because they have been living with humans for centuries. It is the only dog breed mentioned in the Bible, but that may have been a mis-translation. Our last visitor, Lou , (who gives them these names?) was here during the hot weather. Dogs like to play with their water, so you have to put around multiple sources. If they tip out their water on a 40 degree day they're in big trouble. I used a large plastic basin and two-litre yogurt buckets with handles as backups. Lou would gently nose the handle up to the pick-up position, take it delicately in his jaws, and carry the bucket to another part of the garden, where he would set it down again. Without spilling a drop. He did this all the time. He was self-taught. I have the evidence. I should upload it to YouTube, but the last thing the world wants is another pet video. Like most things, it wo