Monday, February 08, 2010

This weeks' most desired combinations

A cool change / some gentle sunshine.

Wednesday evening's yoga class / a very un-zen glass of red or two with dinner afterwards

Cypress Mountain / some serious snow.

A good book / the time to read it without interruption

7pm news / no disasters, natural or otherwise

Table full of good food / all my family in the one place for long enough to enjoy it together.

Diary / blank pages.

I am confident of no 3, and hopeful of no 6, at least once. The rest ... next week?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

So this is middle age?

I know I'm well and truly there chronologically speaking, but it's only recently I've discovered the real indicator of the mid-life psyche. Happily, it seems to be an innocuous state, and is marked mainly by what I have discovered to be a propensity for smiling indulgently at small naked children playing at the beach, or grinning inanely back at raspberry-blowing babies in supermarket trolleys. In fact, I imagine my face now takes on a beatific glow whenever such moments present themselves. Funny, it was only the other day when I was smiling back at people who ahhed and ohhed at my own children chasing waves in the shallows or wriggling in shopping queues. How funny.

You know what's best about being middle-aged though? Having got there. When people moan about getting older, all I can think of is all the people who haven't had that opportunity. From my observations, I can safely say that getting older is infinitely better than the alternative, and I intend to enjoy all the benefits of sticking around for as long as possible.

By the way and speaking (vaguely) of generational matters, today I have finally given in to months of nagging from my eldest, and created a Facebook page. I lie of course - Madeleine did it for me, walking me gently through the process with a creditable minimum of patronising noises. Why did I give in? Partly to keep up with what my nearest and dearest are up to when they're not at home, but mostly because I can then see all the family photos they post and which I'd never see otherwise. The digital age is wonderful, but maintaining a tangible hold on the evidence is tricky.

So now I suppose I'm both clucking and clicking. Nice.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free at last!

No fatuous excuses for prolonged absences this time - this is the real deal.

Truth is that after many months I have finally struggled free of the hessian bag Stevie and her co-conspirators had me bundled in, and licked myself free of caramel (that took a while without help, I can tell you). Remind me to make my next task the inclusion of a "no female shall be subjected to being made a human S'more" clause in the Geneva Convention. Believe me Stevie, I shall never look at a marshmallow in the same way again.

Once free however, the real trouble started - let me tell you that the Luxor's bilges are a tad slimy, and not made for climbing out of. Those cloggies may think they're neat, but you've never seen mould unless you've experienced the bowels of a classic Rotterdam barge. I've always said there was a closet slattern within that too-good-to-be-true DIY fiend Valerie. Vindicated at last!

Anyway, having swum, bribed, hijacked and begged my way back to the reassuring dullness of suburban Melbourne, I'm still sticky, but only because while you lot are under snow, I'm suffering in 40degC+ heat. Last night it only went down to 30.6. I'm even beginning to pine for my nice moist, clammy sack.

Now to visit you all in the safety of blogland, and check out your alibis ...

Monday, July 20, 2009

But will it make you go blind?

Why is it that we find food so compelling as entertainment? Foodie magazines are flying off the shelves, beautifully designed high-end cookbooks sell by the truckload, and now a local version of “Master Chef” has just finished its first run here, attracting huge television audiences five nights a week. What’s going on?

The pleasures of staring at images and descriptions of gorgeous food you have no intention of preparing (or the ability or opportunity to do so in many cases) are known to many of us. The term “Gastroporn” was coined to describe all those glossy magazines and books filled not with airbrushed spread-eagled nubiles, but with superbly constructed works of culinary beauty we could only think to replicate in our imaginations and without the constraints of budget and family-driven timetables.

Why do we buy them? For my money, it’s the same thing as picking up the odd issue of “Country Life” to drool over perfect cottages or stately Grade II listed mansions with walled gardens and trout streams. There’s pleasure simply in knowing they exist, and just occasionally, you can translate a grand idea into something of your own that’s also wonderful, yet achievable on a more practical scale.

For every 3-Michelin-star-worthy dish, for every lovingly-built tower of truffle-infused genius, for every faultlessly turned baby vegetable and every perfect mousse, coulis or jus, there’s that little germ of knowledge, finesse or inspiration that makes the brave transition from haute cuisine to the family dining table.

Food is exciting, sensual and pleasurable. It’s easy and fun to experiment with, and trying new things often brings wonderful results. For most of us, it’s also less complicated and safer to share with more people than sex.

Gastroporn rules! Now where did I leave my glasses?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Oooh, let's see now - how does this thing work again?

It's been so long I'm beyond the space where apologies would mean anything. Suffice to say, it is midwinter here now, and life is burbling along busily. Dramas have come and gone, crises weathered, work done and milestones reached.

What hasn't been done is a great deal of communication outside the square of day-to-day physical life, and I have missed blogland. Knowing my tendency for obsessive behaviour one way or another, I went cold-turkey on the e-front, with the result that I'm now so far out of the loop I qualify for alien status.

Thanks hugely to those lovely ones who enquired either here or by email as to whether or not I was still alive, intact, sane and healthy. All boxes are now ticked (number 3 is debatable, but then it always was). I will be around to make some visits soon, in a controlled, non-obsessive, disciplined and time-efficient manner.

Meanwhile, I am thinking of starting work on my first book; "The Good Slattern's Guide to Modern Living". It's going to be all about maximising pleasure, creativity and quality of life and minimising the unnecessary drudgery that gets in the way of it. I'm picturing a more intellectually vibrant and creative sort of slothful Nigella Lawson type, but without the cleavage, the domestic help or personal assistant.

Wotcha think?

Monday, February 09, 2009

What a way to end the silence - updated just a little

Post script 12th Feb: In the midst of so much loss, one tiny victory. I'm afraid I never have figured out how to embed videos, but I hope this link works.

Believe me, this is amazing. Koalas are not tame, and they can actually be very aggressive. (They're not bears, either, despite the lovely CFA guy's awful pun). As a general rule, they don't drink water either, getting all their hydration from eucalyptus leaves. This is very special indeed:

Photo from The Age newspaper, taken by reader Jac Warburton.

Photo taken from suburban Doncaster by the Mulherin family. Again, from the Age.

This can be a merciless country at times. Last week floods devastated whole towns in Northern Queensland, and the water levels are still too high for many to return to see what they can salvage from their homes. Now, over the last twenty-four hours, terrible fires have raged, exploded and raced at speeds never before seen across vast areas of country Victoria. This morning it has been reported that 108 are confirmed dead, and the number keeps climbing as firefighters and emergency services are able to re-enter areas devoured by the fires.

The fires are still spreading. Over 750 houses are confirmed gone already, and among so many towns ravaged, there are at least two which now no longer exist in any form at all, such was the power of the firestorm. Livestock, domestic animals and native animal populations have also been lost in huge numbers.

While London was under a foot of snow last week, we were experiencing temperatures well into the forties; 46.7 in Melbourne one day, with a humidity level of 4%. On the rare moments I ventured outside, I swear I understood what a baking potato feels like. The heat was indescribable. And to fight a fire in that? Suddenly the concept of Hell is very real.

On Saturday it was in temperatures of up to 47 degrees (that's 116 degrees Farenheit) that most of these fires were born, fed by vicious North winds that created conditions akin to standing in front of a huge blast furnace. Several fires joined up to cover thousands of hectares at once with equal strength. Even cooler conditions in many places yesterday did nothing to slow the spread of firefronts which are still travelling terrifyingly fast.

The reports are horrific. People in their homes who five minutes before had been assured the fire was not an immediate threat to them were engulfed by flames driven by sudden wind changes, with fire fronts moving so fast they covered kilometres in seconds. Many others died in their cars, thinking (or perhaps beyond thinking) that they could outrun the danger and escape. Being on the road in a bushfire is never a good idea. This weekend it was suicide.

Common wisdom says if you are properly prepared, you are safest in your house. This time, the worst weather conditions ever recorded meant that even some of those who did everything right weren't able to survive, though there are many amazing stories emerging of those who did. One family, unable to save their house, ran down into an already burnt gully with bundles of wet sheets and blankets and hid in and around against a wombat hole, sheltered by a dirt mound.

We have friends in some of these areas. Thankfully, all are safe, and although one may have lost a vineyard and weekend house, none have been left homeless. This morning I spoke to Mads' lovely friend Laura, who has been at her family's farm for the weekend. We had been texting messages during what we thought was their worst time of threat, but it was only this morning we found how close they had come to disaster. The fire was a mere 400 metres from them when the wind blew it back on itself. They had no running water to operate hoses, as loss of power meant the pumps couldn't operate. I'm shaking even as I think of what could so easily have happened. The danger is not yet over for them. Winds can still change, and they have been told it is still not safe for them to leave.

The volunteers fighting these fires are as brave and heroic as human beings can ever be. To face walls of flame driven by winds so great that they leap four lane highways as you would jump a puddle, creating the sort of fireballs associated with chemical explosions is just staggering. To cope with the terror, the heat, the exhaustion of twelve hour shifts and the emotional trauma of finding victims ... these people are just magnificent.

However, there is another, darker side of humanity. There is already evidence that while lightning strikes may have started several of the fires, it is arsonists who have created much of this maelstrom. It is here that words just can't express what I feel. I hope they are caught. I hope they are charged with mass murder. I hope they are made to face some of those who have lost family, animals, houses, precious memories. And I hope they live long enough to comprehend the horror of what they have done.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ho Ho Hop

This is an insane time of year, so in case I get too caught up in the mayhem and don't find time to do this when I should, Happy Christmas / Hannukah / Jedi Holiday or Excuse for a Lie-In to everyone.
I pinched this photo from a pack of Hallmark cards, the proceeds of which go towards breast cancer research (well at least I bought the cards!). I rather like it - it could have been taken on any one of hundreds of roads I've driven along on country trips over the years. It looks very hot.
So, while you're all huddling under blankets and chucking snowballs at each other, I'll be listening to the cicadas and slapping on the sunscreen, wondering yet again why I don't do a cold buffet on Christmas day rather than the traditional roasts and hot, flamed plum pudding. I am however a happy slave to the habits of my youth; I did briefly toy with the crazy idea of replacing turkey with kangaroo, but the moment passed.
Big love.