Table service for two

February 24, 2021
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People’s fascination with cafes and restaurants still does not seemed to have peaked. Our post Covid economic recovery now is heavily reliant on the reopening of eating places. Ordinary people are now burdened by this Government to increase their patronage, and not to stop using those venues, no matter how this last year has exhausted, not just their will to keep going, but also their finances. And that is apart from those establishment themselves trying to keep heads above water. Often severely financially tired chefs would feature being interviewed on the TV while listlessly stirring a wooden spoon in a pot of gruel while facing a single diner, if not a totally empty café. There were so many lockdowns, lockouts and group limitations of no more than five or seven, that cafes were either knocked out or buckled under.

This Covid now has peaked and in Australia at least there hasn’t been any new cases and if there are, they are confined to just two or three people locked in hotel quarantine that are using aerosol nebulizers whose covid loaded vapors seep underneath doors or through air conditioners. TV is also showing  politicians baring a single arm, smiling a bit sheepishly getting the first of the vaccination jabs. A problem now popped up is getting people actually interested in getting the vaccination. There have been almost as many shark attacks than people getting the Covid of late. 

In this spirit of helping the country recover financially, my new found love Annette and I now have visited a number of well established eating venues that managed to withstand Covid and the shifting tectonic economic plates. One of them was a Japanese sushi bar. I have often stood still watching people eating and picking little plates that go around and around on some kind of rail system. I loved watching it and was mesmerized yet did not have the courage to ever try it out. It seemed such an advanced way of eating and I was conscious of my ineptitude of what would be  a form of eating of which my ignorance would show as soon as I walked into such a bar. I have great difficulty in showing airs of confidence or ‘nous’ especially in public. Fortunately, Annette has no qualms about this and I followed her bravely and with some nonchalance. It works by the platters that the food comes around and around with in being of different colours and each colour has a price that differs from the other platters. When one has eaten enough you simply take the empty different coloured platters to the cashier and you get the bill.

It was a unique way of dining and we loved it. I know a sushi train bar here in Bowral and we shall try that out next time.

I will keep you informed.

Rotterdam, my city of Birth and Berkelouw’s books.

February 13, 2021

Rotterdam, was the city I was born in on The 7th of August 1940 a few months after it was bombed by Germany at the beginning of WW2.

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Gerard on the right (looking already bewildered.)

The story below is what I gleaned from the Berkelouw’s bookshop website. Berkelouw Online Bookstore So I quote.

“The story of Berkelouw Books begins in Kipstraat, Rotterdam, Holland, in 1812. Solomon Berkelouw traded in vellum-bound theology books which were en vogue in the early nineteenth century. Publishers of the period were certain of selling publications as long as they dealt with theology. Solomon peddled his wares on Rotterdam Quay and his clients were mainly owners and skippers of the barques that brought grain and other agricultural products from the provinces of Zealand and Zuid Holland to Rotterdam. The owners of barques were well to do citizens with a growing interest in education. Not much is known of Solomon Berkelouw except that his bookselling career came to a sudden and unfortunate end. On a late winter’s afternoon, with snow falling thickly all around, Solomon attempted to cross an icy plank that connected a customer’s ship to the wharf. Halfway up, he lost his footing and fell into the freezing water. Before anyone could fetch help he drowned, his jute-bag full of books sinking with him to the bottom of the icy harbour.

Solomon’s young son Carel was determined to carry on his father’s trade. He put the business on a more stable footing by opening a bookstore at the Niewe Market in Rotterdam. Under Carel’s direction Berkelouw Books prospered and he later moved to a larger premises at Beurs Station, also in Rotterdam.

Carel’s son Hartog Berkelouw continued to expand the family business. After serving an apprenticeship with his father in the Beurs Station store, he opened a new shop at Schoolstraat, Rotterdam. It was Hartog who first began issuing the catalogues that gained Berkelouw an international reputation. In 1928, the firm was granted membership to the prestigious International Antiquarian Booksellers Association. Business subsequently increased and Hartog’s children, Sientje, Leo, Carel and Isidoor, all became involved in the book trade. However, the Second World War intervened, introducing a dark chapter into the history of the Berkelouw family. During the siege of Rotterdam, Berkelouw Books’ premises were bombed and its entire stock destroyed. Amongst the lost books was a collection of antique bibles thought to be the most valuable in all of Europe. Further tragedy followed – Sientje and Carel became casualties of the war. As Leo had left the firm many years earlier, the once thriving business was brought to a standstill – the work of four generations of Rotterdam booksellers virtually wiped out in just a few years.

Immediately after the war, Isidoor Berkelouw began to re-establish the firm. He set up business in Amsterdam and began conducting successful book auctions. However, Isidoor was keen to move the business out of Europe. The Berkelouw collection had already been destroyed once and he did not want to see it happen again. In 1948 Isidoor liquidated his company and made the long journey to Australia. Shortly after arriving in Sydney, Isidoor issued a catalogue, generating immediate interest amongst book collectors around the country. He set up shop at 38 King St, Sydney and conducted book auctions on a regular basis. As Berkelouw’s clientele and stock expanded, headquarters was relocated to 114 King St and Isidoor began to share the management of the business with his two sons, Henry and Leo. By 1972 the Berkelouw collection had grown to such a size that it was forced to change premises once again. The firm made a brief move to Rushcutters Bay, then in 1977 took a quantum leap relocating entirely to ‘Bendooley’, an historic property just outside the beautiful village of Berrima in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

In 1994, the sixth generation, Paul, Robert and David Berkelouw, returned to Sydney, opening its now landmark store in Paddington. Five years later another Sydney store was opened in the cosmopolitan suburb of Leichhardt. Since then, Berkelouw Books has opened further stores in Sydney and Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. All our stores offer an extensive, interesting and eclectic new book selection covering all interest areas with a special interest in Children’s Books, fine stationery, as well as a hand-picked display of rare books. Our Paddington, Leichhardt and Eumundi stores have a vast selection of secondhand books. Adjoining many of our stores are the Berkelouw Cafes, a great place to relax and enjoy ambience.

Today Berkelouw Books is Australia’s largest rare and antiquarian, secondhand, and new bookseller. We have an overall stock in excess of 2 million books, many of which are listed and available for purchase here.

Thus the romance of books is engendered. Thus too, the association of books and Berkelouw continues. An old and fruitful tree of Rotterdam, Holland, now firmly planted in the soil of Australia.”

Baked vegetables and the Rejection of Crown Casino.

February 10, 2021

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It was a surprise for me to hear that one can bake vegetables. I have baked legs of lamb, chickens, stews and cakes but never contemplated doing that to vegetables. Of course, lately I eat most thing raw including vegetables. Some time ago I steamed vegetables to a semi raw stage and before that I boiled my vegies.

Doctors  often praise the Mediterranean diet which has raw vegetables and fish as main staples. I now am drawn to this diet as well, but since discovering baking vegetables I now am hooked. I add nice sesame or other nut extracted oils to give it taste. One can buy packets of ready to bake vegetables and for someone living by themselves it is a good solution. Buying each vegetable separately might work out cheaper but it also creates waste. Nothing worse than slicing a limp carrot or mushy zucchini!  I found the reason for a strange smell coming from my fridge when discovering a grey almost fossilized stalk of celery, a lonely end for it, for sure and not fair for the celery which I had bought in good faith and for eating!.

The next bit of excitement I want to share is the demise of a billion dollar gambling emporium planned in a prominent but ugly foreshore building at Barangaroo, Sydney, and euphemistically called,  ‘James’s Pecker’ . It does spring images of a penis when looked at this monstrosity from a certain angle and relates to one of the main owners, James Packer.

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A judgement, after a lengthy inquiry, found that the organization behind this enterprise was not fit to hold a gambling license. I am not sure that gambling licenses should exist at all. Is there anyone who can see any benefits to mankind in gambling? OK, the occasional lottery ticked or a chook raffle, but actual gambling? The word ‘gambling license’ seems not far removed from a robbing license or theft. Murder next?

Australia holds 20% of the world’s poker machines, the highest per capita! Over 20 billion gets gambled away each year, and experts equate Australia’s gambling fascination on the same level as guns in the US. It is estimated that 400 suicides occur annually in Australia as a direct result of gambling addictions. Some say that individual responsibility is what should prevail. But… it obviously doesn’t work. The above figures show that it is addictive for many and it becomes like a disease.

Well, we seem to treat Covid with great enthusiasm, keep thousands of people in quarantine even with just a single case of Covid, yet we treat gambling as if it is somehow part of a normal life and too bad if it kills. Is it just a consequence of a person’s own lack of responsibility?  Often it is not.

Let’s ban poker machine gambling.

The missing apostrophe with the raw tuna.

February 5, 2021

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One of my friends suggested I update my internet devices. For many years I have had the same computer. For some time now it had to ‘warm up’ and during the last few months this warming up would run into minutes by which time I often I had forgotten what I was going to write, or worse, had fallen asleep.  He suggested I get a laptop which he said ‘ you can carry around and even take it on your walk to the local Don Bradman ‘Stump’ cricket café ‘. I would then of course join the rank of those suave looking young people tapping away on laptops while sipping lattes. It would then also finally give me that demeanour of success. 

I have now a new Dell Intel CORE 17 inspiron 15 5000 laptop which I have started to take downstairs as proof it is a portable device.  If the neighbours happen to walk by and look inside my living quarters they might even see me with the device in my lap, truly proving the portable laptop capabilities.  However, as is so often the case with electronic devices, PHD laden and gifted genies are always proving and often on their nightly prowl, to make things shorter, faster and minimal.   The keyboard is very flash with that metallic polished look and a little square down the bottom that is in lieu of a mouse. One has to maneuver a finger around this square to  point the curser at the desired letter or number. The odd thing is that it did not show an apostrophe. The key sign of the apostrophe is there but it doesn’t appear on the screen when pressed.  A truly masterpiece of shorting and minimalizing. 

I told Annette ( my lovely new best friend of my life, and very female!) about this oddity of the keyboard and she too found it baffling. I have discovered though that when you press the apostrophe and then move the curser to its next inevitable step, it, like magic, the apostrophe appears on the screen. So, even though the apostrophe doesn’t appear when pressed first, in will pop up on the screen when you move the key.

One thing that miffed me a bit is that my fish supplier did not have my yellow fin red tuna. I usually have this thinly sliced raw on my week-end plate together with a bit of wasabi and some soya sauce. I bought a large piece of Tasmanian salmon instead. However, after reading about eating raw fish I was rather taken aback when I learned that the raw fish is not without risk and can include lurking microbes and evil creatures that are waiting to inhabit your stomach. I always liked raw fish, not least the salted herring. I was brought up on raw herrings and so far without any ill effects.  (including the dreaded tape worm that can grow up to 15 meters inside the stomach.) The good news is though, that cooking the fish takes away some of the health benefits of eating raw fish. So there you have it. 

Nothing is perfect, cooked or raw fish, it will always be healthier than McDonalds or take-aways. 

 

The Mattock.

January 28, 2021

 

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Who would have thought I would go out and buy a mattock on a hot day? This is what happened to me a few days ago when the heat became so bad, lethargy started to creep in. You know how it is. You sit in a reclining chair and let the heat numb you almost into a comatose state. You look out but  your eyes see nothing.  There is nothing worse than letting the days slip through your fingers and yet that’s what heat seems to be very good at, stealing your time.

There are those that try and relieve this ennui by licking ice creams or go out to an air-conditioned McDonalds and buy a Big Mack with a Coke.  On hot days discarded hamburger big McDonalds’ cartons and bags litter the bitumen roads, sticking to it and expressing seeping despair. On those very hot days even the birds are sunk in gloom. The hot air is simmering, the town is empty but for a lost dog on the nature strip, scratching listlessly. Even the fleas deserted the dog.

For no reason at all, or at least not one that I can remember, I looked at a very tall bush at the back of the sunflowers, that apart from being tall and green, had refused to give enough satisfaction for me to gaze my eyes on for any length of time ( while seated in the recliner). It was one of the salvias that I had taken with me from my previous address. Yes, the home of the pathologically impaired garden slasher, as some of you might remember. This salvia had grown very fast but refused to flower and was now on the way to their wilting journey that salvias go into before resuming growth again after winter. 

I suddenly got up and decided to dig it out. I tried first with an ordinary shovel but it was too difficult, especially in the 35 +C. I needed a tool  specific to the task. So, I went to this enormous cavernous hardware shop ‘Bunning”. After perusing a stunning variety of gardening tools I decided on the one shown above in the photo. It was an honest Spear Jackson mattock with a nice wooden handle . It felt nice too. It did the job admirably and my day came good.

It wasn’t wasted

Required; Photocopy of the front and back of your concession card.

January 18, 2021

My morning rituals include a walk to the letterbox, just in case something gets delivered inside. I have a notice stuck on its lid ‘no junk” but at times I feel like taking it off.  It is so rare that personal posts get delivered, even a catalogue on detergents would make a bit of a surprise. I suppose email has won out over personal letters. This morning though I was pleasantly surprised to get two letters. 

One was from the bank and the other from my local Shire Council who now wants proof that I am still the recipient of an old age pension.  Faithful followers of my blog know I have a quirky attitude to concessions including social benefits, especially pensions, sickness benefits, free medical services, education or anything that makes life more pleasurable and equitable for all.  Countries should at least strive for those benefits and raise enough revenue to pay for these.

Readers might also remember my pension card was torn in front of me at the Government  Office by a diligent but hard hearted bureaucrat whose eyes were reflecting a glee when she did that. I felt miffed at the time but did not show it. Anyway. with the letter in my pocket I drove to the Shire Council to tell them I was no longer a pensioner entitled to a pension because my wife had died and I was now ‘deemed’ to have enough income not to need a pension.  All our assets that were previously in two names, now were in one name.

It is no big deal, and all it means is that my rates that include water, garbage collection, nature strip grass cutting, Shire library, swimming pool and so much more now incurs the full charge and no pensioner discount. Fair enough. That’s how it is here in Australia. It seems The Netherlands too have become more frugal (mean) and they too had some kind of Robo debt scandal and now the whole government had no option but to resign.

This is an interesting graph relating to the situation in the US and not related to my pensioner concession card at all.

A Jam sandwich

January 10, 2021

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A jam sandwich

It was just after waking this morning when it dawned on me I had not enjoyed a jam sandwich for a very long time. Although I am not naturally drawn to sweet food, I was never philosophically opposed to a jam sandwich. I suppose it dates back to my childhood where in my youth, some seventy five years ago now, ( how the time flies) a jam sandwich was fairly normal and accepted all over The Netherlands. School children were always given jam sandwiches.

When my parents found out that in Australia it was normal to give schoolchildren  banana sandwiches , they stayed up late over many nights to mull over this new found national lunch habit. I remember my parents in their bedroom talking about the cultural differences including banana sandwiches. Oddly enough, my mother back in 1957, it was a sunny day, came home with a jar of vegemite. Yet, they never questioned that brown smear of sandwich spread. When I saw the opened jar of vegemite for the first time I immediately thought of  soiled baby nappies and cow pats in verdant meadows. 

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Jam sandwich

So, after a shower and getting dressed I sought out my fridge to free up some of the jars of jam. I remembered I was given a few for Christmas and I’ll just realized I have a good collection;  A Home Grown Strawberry jar, an Apricot jam (not home grown), A Grandes Signature Raspberry jam  from Aldi, and last of all,  a Chinese 5 Spice Plum Sauce dated ( 19-12-2020). The latest I use mixed in salads.

Talk about Jams. Yesterday I bought a Tuna steak from the local Harris Farm fancy food outlet. This is a shop for those with large wallets. It has the best of everything, but you need a bit of money. Anyway, I know they sell fresh fish so on a Friday I treat myself on sliced raw tuna and a nice salad in which I infuse lots of different herbs, oils and this Plum sauce. Below is a photo including the finely sliced raw tuna.

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Tuna salad with salad including Chinese 5 spice Plum sauce.

Please! Normal days, and Ducks show us the way.

January 4, 2021

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If there is one wish I could achieve and get fulfilled is to have a year of normal days. I am soaked with Covid 19 and numbers, relentless day after day. I have earplugs and wear dark glasses but last year it permeated so relentless. It would not stop. I escaped daily, took walks around the lake seeking counsel from ducks and waterhens, listening to weeping trees. They told me to go home, repose  and give love a chance, allow yourself to become revigorated.

Seek Lockdowns and do Self Isolate was Government’s endless refrain! But, now with the ‘new year’ and endless glimmering vials of vaccine as shown on TV on their forward journeys and world-wide dispatched, so hopefully relief might be in sight. Can we hear now about a world of friends, kinships and a suspicion-less normal handshake with China? 

Will the US allow itself to become a more modest place with a fresh Government under a normal leader?  Not seeking out places to bomb or kill black people! One lives with hope! Will normalcy also return to Australia? Can we finally release the hundreds of refugees still in detention on Manus island and Nauru? What have they done to be kept in indefinite detention year in year out? Can we go forward and stop committing crimes against humanity and stop pointing the finger at others?

The rain has stopped and I will now quickly go with Milo to the lake and seek the ducks. I know they will be waiting. 

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The most unfortunate frog in my kitchen sink.

December 29, 2020

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Just when everything was going so well and feeling unusually happy, I came across a dead frog in my kitchen sink. After getting out of bed, I usually after a run to the toilet,  put on socks. It is the first thing I do, followed by going downstairs to make a cup of tea and start my washing up. I reverted to handwashing dishes despite several people including my daughter, pleading with me to try the dishwasher. I followed their advice only to go back to handwashing as soon as friends and family have shut the door homewards bound. I love handwashing. There is something sensual about the feel of soapy water running through the fingers.

As I was rinsing and somewhat absentmindedly playing around with small plates, forks and little spoons my mind went to some very caring text messages exchanged the previous night with a newly found friend , very female friend. The kitchen sink is the perfect place for the absentminded. The view outside to my garden is glorious and of course, even without a view, to be absent ought always be something to strive for. If only it was a subject of study at schools and universities instead of that mindless football with a malformed oblong ball…together with hollow finance and economics studies. What good has that done to the world?   

Of course, my raison d’etre for being above the sink had finally to be reckoned with and the washing up be finished. I was vaguely aware of something floating about in the water, especially after I drained the sink. To my horror and utter surprise, there was a frog in my sink. A listless frog, a dead frog. I could not believe it. How did it get there?

After questioning a few people including a well know marine biologist, the answer was that the frog most likely had hopped inside my house during the night and clambered up the kitchen cupboard and into the sink, where no doubt, it sheltered between some of the plates and cutlery within a nice and moist environment. It must have felt safe. I always leave the door open for my dog Milo to do his ablutions at night. We are both getting older and into more frequent bouts of needing a toilet. We sometimes run into each other, Milo downwards and me straight across the bedroom to my toilet. Milo has the temerity to push and go first before me.

I felt bad because I filled the sink with hot water and must have burnt and drowned the poor frog. What a horrible thought. The expert marine biologist told me frogs are good climbers and have suction pads on their feet enabling them to even clamber up porcelain toilet bowls, laminated surface.

As a consolation he said my garden must be attracting frogs and that with the copious rains pelting down the last few weeks, must have been provided a good place for this frog. He said; ‘you are providing a good ecology’.

As for my female friend, we met and it is so lovely now. I am so absentminded, floating almost.

Little treasures for the lockdowns

December 20, 2020

With now over thirty Covid 19  detected in the Beach side areas of Sydney it seems likely a Sydney wide lockdown will be imposed. A pity, because for many weeks there haven’t been any locally acquired cases of Covid in Australia.

If Sydney gets a lockdown my daughter and grandsons won’t be allowed to visit and neither will I be allowed to go there. No big deal really. I will hold my own visit, light some sparkles and sing ‘The little red nosed reindeer’. 

I thought I’ll give you, dear followers, some pictures to look at.

IMG_1291 a friendly lizzard

A friendly lizard that I spotted at the lake I walk around almost daily.

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The wisdom of ducks clearly visible.

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A long necked turtle. Unfortunately the turtle spotted Milo and withdrew it’s neck. They are he longest neck owning species of turtles in the world. 

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My garden is now getting to the jungle-like stage and attracts small birds scurrying for nectar and insects.

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More of the garden

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Lake Alexandra near my place. 

Enjoy the pictures.

Happy Christmas to you all.

See you next year!