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Showing posts from August, 2022

The year I read Animal Farm.

The last thing I did that year was to read Animal Farm . There was nothing significant about it; the novel just happened to be at hand on that hot, close, steamy new year's eve. I finished it in a couple of hours, sweating on a stool propped up against a bench in the backyard art studio my father had built. The 'studio' was a neat white cube with a raked roof and windows to the north and west to catch the day and early evening sun. Inside, on a bench running the length of the room was a mess of paint tubes, brushes in old jars, palettes thick with hardened paint, bottles of thinners, oils and sealers; and paintings - finished, unfinished and barely started. The smell of a working art studio is bewitching. I sat amidst the linseedy redolence, switched on the downlight over the bench and opened the book. Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night ... . Some notes from an Emerson, Lake and Palmer track detached themselves from the radio on the shelf

Long Live the King: King Crimson turns 50.

The best thing about the film documentary In the Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson at 50 is that very little screen time is devoted to the progressive rock band's early days. While old concert footage makes music documentaries interesting in a nostalgic sense, it often renders them unremarkable as films. In this example, director Toby Amies could have mined over fifty years of King Crimson material but chose to focus on the present. King Crimson founding member Robert Fripp is a Toscanini-like dictatorial perfectionist who is a self-confessed monster to work with. He is narrow-minded, obsessively focussed, definite, immutable, and completely his own person. He is not unlikeable: far from it, he is merely a pedantic genius. He keeps telling Amies (who is trailing after him with a microphone and camera) that all his questions are 'shite'. Bill Rieflin, percussionist and keyboard player, had been in and out of the band on Robert Fripp's say-so over several years and

A shorter history of Sundays.

We had gone, the twelve-year-old and I, to the house down the coast on Saturday night to work on the fallen tree on Sunday. I woke late, which for me is almost mid-morning; not anywhere near midday or, God forbid, even later. I'd feel like the day had been stolen. It had rained since midnight. The yard was sodden and there would be no cutting or burning. I drove down the hill to get the Sunday paper. No traffic; nothing. Even the horizon was gone; Port Philip Bay, dirty grey with drizzle met a leaden sky somewhere you couldn't see.  The deadness sparked one of those momentary flashes of memory, lighting on those wet 1960s Sunday mornings; bringing alive that remembered frieze: knots of people outside a church after mass - ladies under hats, men in dark suits - coated and bent against the driven rain; ignoring the weather for the sake of fifteen minutes' cordiality. You couldn't just rush off. Near the church door a booth that opened only on Sundays sold the accessories

Lost in Paradise: a book-lover's heaven.

The eastern side of Vincent Street shivered; the shops on the western side were ablaze in the late-morning sun. It was the morning after thge coldest night this year, cloudless with brittle stars frozen in an icy universe. Of course we had chosen the night to stay in Blackwood. The caravan park was little more than a creekside campground, and Blackwood is possibly the coldest place in Victoria outside the alps. We split between an ancient caravan and a Kmart tent. We were walking north on the sunny side of Vincent Street trying to defrost. I pushed open a shop door and found myself in cavernous semi-darkness. When my eyes adjusted to what might once have been a goldrush era hotel, I saw passageways vanishing into darkness, staircases winding out of sight, and shelves stretching to the ceiling, valiantly bearing thousands of books waiting in stoic mute silence for someone to read them again. I crept up some dark-stained stairs, moved along a narrow hall and came into a small space, poss

Pasta with pork sausage, zucchini and potato.

I once posted a story about combining pasta and potatoes in the same dish; an unusual combination but certainly not an unlikely one. Must have been a couple of years ago .... (conducts search) .... couple of years?  - time flies: it was  posted in February 2007 .  This is different; it combines pork with fennel in a pasta dish without tomato- or cream-based sauce, but simply relies on the fragrance and sheer good flavour of its core ingredients. Pasta with pork sausage, zucchini and potato. I diced a large white zucchini and fried it in olive oil, with half a diced onion and two cloves of garlic. When done, I reserved the zucchini; and in the same pan, fried the crumbled meat of four coarse de-cased pork and caramelised onion sausages with some more onion and a scattering of fennel seeds. Meanwhile, I peeled two medium potatoes and diced them into small pieces. These I boiled - they need only a few minutes or they will soften and break up. For the pasta, I used the small twists of past

8.23 a.m.

Broken shafts of late winter sun came through the window, having penetrated the lemon tree just outside, and crawled their way across the floor, pieces of broken gold. Shards of toast were scattered on the table along with open jars of Vegemite and peanut butter, a newspaper wet from a spilt cup of tea and other detritus of the type generated by late-rising, breakfasting teenagers. Now water was running in adjacent bathrooms and, on the fridge, the radio tuned to 3MBS-FM played to a mute audience of one. 8.23 a.m.  Her voice came out of the speaker like a lark ascending, apologies to Messrs. Vaughan-Williams and Meredith. It was a live version, recorded much later than the original 1965 studio recording which was gayer, younger. This later version was shot through with a sense of sad, yearning wistfulness but without any over-sentimentality. She lived in my suburb, but when I walked past her house on the way to St Monica's church on one of those rainy early 1960s winter Sunday morn

Ancient law: never throw away scissors. Or can openers ...

It is some ancient tradition or belief system. One whose roots are lost in the tortuous once-hollow ribbons of time, blocked by centuries of sclerotic irrationality intermixed, confusedly, with an occasional random truth.  Never throw away certain items.   Why would you, when they still work? The can opener still opened. Kind of. The scissors still cut. Most things, anyway. Paper, thin cardboard.  Here's the proof sitting, opened, on the table: an 800-gram can of pears; Australian, not Chinese or Mexican or Thai or wherever else they can these things. Topped by my old Swing-a-Way can opener. A little crinkly around the edges. But open nonetheless. It was a bit of a twist. Metal must be harder these days. Everything else is. Have you tried opening a shrink-wrapped pack of, I don't know, flank steak? You know, that semi-hard plastic that has a thinner seal with a gripping point that gives you a millimetre to grasp between thumb and forefinger and that is so strong that, instead,