Posts Tagged ‘England’

The marvel of the life-giving cabbage roll.

June 6, 2017

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It seems the privilege of the old to shamelessly bore endlessly the young with tales of the past. We already know of my parental desperations when claiming not to know ‘where on earth did Gerard come from?’ It is of little consolation now that my little boy search for my real parents by scanning sea’s horizon did not bear much results. No boat with my real parents ever appeared. I just had to reconcile myself with going home with wet shoes and accept the ones who at times seemed to disown me.

Another one of those memories refusing to lay down are those of a more edible kind. The war-time cabbage. I am here now because of the humble cabbage. Towards the end of the war it was the most covetous food item in my birth-city of Rotterdam. Even today, when I try and light the gas stove, the smell of the escaping unlit gas reminds me of war and my mother’s search for food. About the only food that could be had, if one was lucky, were cabbages.

It was during pensively resting in my fauteuil yesterday that one of those fleeting memories came to the befuddled fore. Heaven knows why they appear? I decided to try and make cabbage rolls. Helvi too became quite enthusiastic.  Some month ago there was a rather elaborate Baltic & Polish food sale on at Aldi’s. We discovered a huge jar of pickled cabbage leaves and a culinary inspiration got to us suddenly. We took it home and put the jar to rest amongst the Dutch Herrings and Italian tinned tomatoes. Occasionally I would stare at this jar of cabbage leaves and would proffer to make something of it, but both decided to relegate this delicacy for consumption to a future date. The cabbage leaves all looked so pale and withered all drowned in the vinegar.  I was happy to notice that the vinegar was an honest marinade and just that, and not the dreaded Balsamic version. The best thing it had going for it was the fact it was imported from Macedonia. Macedonia has such an exotic almost melodic ring to it. All those vowels.

Of course, cabbages is what used to make the world go round. From China through Russia and Europe, including Great Britain. What would England be without their beloved cold cabbage, consumed while standing up in a draft? The Koreans make the five-star Kimchee. A soul food if ever there was.

One only has to visit the old Eastern European towns and cities, where through the centuries of cabbage-food cooking, the very stucco, bricks and ancient cellars of the streets are impregnated with this pungent smell of the cabbage. Who has not walked through old Vienna or Budapest not to smell this delectable vegetable permeated into the very soul of these so musical societies. The very waltzes of Johann Strauss were  conceived after generous ingestion of cabbage.

So, yesterday I finally opened this large jar. Helvi remembered she made the humble cabbage roll many years ago. It is made from raw minced beef mixed with whatever one wants to mix together with a handful of boiled rice. She urged me not to overdo it with spices. ‘Just try and be a bit subtle this time, don’t muck it up,’ she urged kindly, but with some authority and deep husband knowledge.

I followed her urgings but when I momentarily and in a latent fit of wild adventurism thought of Kimchee I chucked in a small quantity of chilli flakes. The whole mixture was then kindly wrapped into the jar-released cabbage leaves. It filled the entire baking dish with two neat rows of nine each, totalling a rather large quantity of eighteen rolls.  With its red-coloured tomato marinade it looked very beautiful and enticing. Enough for an entire Austrian regiment.

After baking and allowed ‘to rest’ I made a nice dish of mashed potatoes and spinach. It was a nice dish but the chilli made the rolls too hot and spicy. I should not have added it. Helvi heartily agreed that I had mucked it up a bit.

‘When will you ever learn to contain yourself and not overdo things?‘ She said, adding. ‘Where do you come from?’

 

Only the lonely

February 8, 2017

 

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But where are the people? This was very often a question asked during the time we had foreign students living with us. We lived in Balmain. It is a suburb which many Australians would classify as having medium to high density living. We always look back with fondness of the twenty years we lived there. It is the place where our children grew up. So, how come this question; but where are the people?

The foreign students came from Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Germany with a couple from Holland. The question has to be looked at from the perspective of living in cities. Australia right from the start understood it had space.  Space was lacking in England, especially in the big smoked filled cities. Thus the suburban block here was soon to be seen as desirable for people to be housed on. At the beginning, people lived in terrace houses joined together forming complete streets. Balmain was one of those earlier suburbs of Sydney with streets of terrace houses. Parks were everywhere and it still felt very spacious.

However, the foreign students came from cities that were teeming with people. They would form throngs on the streets. I am sure that those that have been to Asia understand there is a huge difference between density of people there in cities compared to here in Australia. It were those people on the streets that the students were sorely missing, even in inner city Balmain.

My parents soon after arrival in 1956 went to live in western Sydney. Real Estate agents and blocks of land were the main topics of conversation amongst the migrants.  We too were swept up into saving a deposit for our ‘own’ block of land.  There was no real understanding of the social consequences in making a choice of where to live.  To be near a rail-station was desirable but as for other desirable needs, it just wasn’t about or questioned. Migrants had a need to have a roof and security of an income, all else was secondary. It was like a fever. One got caught up in the frenzy of making a new life. It was all a bit puzzling for my dad. He was different.

The street that my parents ended up living in was like millions of suburban streets anywhere in Australia. There were people living in houses but you would rarely see them. It felt achingly lonely. Sometimes a curtain would stir or a car would drive by. For me it was deadly, spiritual dehydration. Sure, the petunias and rockeries were plenty. Rosellas would be screeching and flying about and then there was cracker night. This was a yearly event with bon-fire on the street, somehow mysteriously related to Guy Fawkes or something. It was an occasion for neighbours to meet up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes

All this in response to having read a lecture by Hugh MacKay. He is a well know social commentator. “The State of the Nation starts in your Street.”

http://theconversation.com/hugh-mackay-the-state-of-the-nation-starts-in-your-street-72264

It seems to fit in what is happening with all that card swiping and waving at poles. We are forced to dealing with less and less people. Banking is done silently in front of an ATM. People buy food on-line and sit at home all sated and possibly overweight. The steel posts at rail stations. Most work will finally be done by  steel posts and robots. Soon we might go to bed enjoying the icy embrace of a steel post or with a rotating robot with a waving of cards giving consent to heaven knows what sexual delights

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I don’t know what can be done to liven up lonely suburban streets. My mum did her best and was fearless in her search for social contact. It was difficult. All those Venetian blinds and that obsession with privacy. A sign of change is that most people now prefer an apartment close to the city. People do seem to want to live close to each other, able to walk to shops and work. People need people.

We shall see!

London wants exit from Brexit, another referendum the Neverendum

June 25, 2016

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It is clear now. The UK is heading for what they are famous for; pure chaos and Monty Python. Over two and half million signatures have been collected calling for a new referendum. A second referendum is also gathering steam for London to exit the Brexit and remain in the EU.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-25/petition-for-second-eu-referendum-reaches-one-million-signatures/7543860

A map of the petition signatures showed that most came from England’s major cities, topped by London where there is a separate petition calling on Mayor Sadiq Khan to declare the capital independent from the United Kingdom, and apply to join the EU.

With Scotland and now London wanting to become independent one can start to see what happens when, instead of joining in globalisation, the isolation and separating can’t be good for the general welfare of this tiny world.

I feel like going back to bed, curl up with a good book. ( don’t forget Libexit!)

Christmas and Social Intercourse.

December 13, 2015

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With advancing years do we shift into different modes of intercourse? Does it move upwards from the nether regions to a more upper or higher region? Do our vocal chords get more involved. Do we say less aaaahhhs followed by a couple of innate grunts and actually (but finally) articulate ideas, thoughts, wishes, memories or,as in my case, just nonsense?  Has it come about we look each other in the eyes instead of below the belted regions? It is never too late.

For some time now an elderly couple have tried to include us in their lives. They moved almost next door to us about a year ago. She is Australian and he is from Dutch background. The husband has an even stronger accent than I and is over eighty years old, but walks ram-rod straight. He also talks in a rather straight and factual manner. No flourishes or decorations in what he says. You know precisely where you stand with him.

Their invitations are rather formal on a printed card with time and programs and included were; A discussion on our ‘heritage’, followed by a video and the consumption of some finger food. When they knocked on our door, the husband wore a neatly pressed shirt and pinned to it was a card with ‘Elder’ written on it. The wife had a similar ticket with ‘Sister’ on it. A curious way of inviting the neighbours. Still, a brave invitation is better than none. Husband and wife called ‘Elder and Sister’ is not an everyday occurrence. Calling Helvi ‘Sister’ is not something I have as yet tried.

However, apart from the somewhat unusual invitations, I also suspected there was more to this ex Dutchman and his wife the Sister. It all seemed to have a religious tinge to it. It is all far too late for me to get converted. (Once an un-repented fornicator, always a fornicator). All this was confirmed by the last invitation to a special meeting at a building near Bowral. It was a “latter day Saints” and the couple are Mormons. I looked up Mormons and couples are deemed to wear special underwear and other things. They are genuine and nice people. The wife is especially nice and not without a sense of humour. Even so, we did not to go any of their invited parties or events. I am not going to bed with special underwear or any other sin-avoiding attire. I like sin, but even if it is getting less, I don’t as yet have totally repented or given up on it.

We both hope we can meet with the couple but not on the formal religious level. Just normal, you know. But what constitutes ‘normal’?

We had our grandsons over with the usual towering pancakes hovering over the table. The kid’s IPhones’ batteries thankfully went dead. I had put the skateboards and basket ball outside before their arrival. After the initial coming-down from IPhone addiction and a bit of grumpy fighting they took off for the park and we did not see them for a while. It was so nice.

Yesterday we were in Sydney at the annual Christmas Balmain party. It was great. I am now so deaf that any attempted conversation constituted normally with nothing more that the usual questions being answered (by just the 50% chance of being right) by either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’  an added inclusion of,  ‘ I think that is an interesting concept.’ Under the circumstances, with so many people talking in a confined space, it was a rather nifty inclusion. I was doing really well.

I love social intercourse.

(News update.)

“A suspected drunk driver who crashed his car into a metal barrier has attempted to evade police — by hiding in nativity scene.The incident occurred in Yorkshire, England”

 

 

Salami

March 1, 2015

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Todays word that came to mind on wakening was ‘salami’.

With my conversion back to white bread from whole-meal, it brought back memories from way back. My mother making sandwiches for my three brothers and one sister going to school in Australia. It was part of the ‘New Country’ that schoolkids did not come home for lunch as schoolkids did and still do back in Holland. Instead they would stay at school and have a lunch made by mothers. Sometimes, but rarely by fathers. My dad never made a single sandwich but did excel in pancakes with golden syrup.

Of course in the heat of summers and in mid flight, the opening of hundreds of lunch boxes simultaneously, created a stench that over the years impregnated the class rooms, the walls and indeed, the whole building. I can walk-by any school today and get an instant re-call of banana sandwiches, spaghetti sandwiches and the essence of any lunch box; Devon with tomato sauce. It is now thought that the Devon sandwich with tomato sauce started school bullying. In England the Devon was called luncheon meat or Spam.

My mother was at her wit’s end trying to find interesting filling for my brothers’ and sister’s sandwiches. Australia was very sunny and very spacious but as far as sandwich fillings, back in the fifties and sixties, it was a dark unforgiving place. I mean, I can still taste the tinned spaghetti with Tom. sauce sandwich. Is it of any wonder that failure followed so many that went to school?

Till the late eighties and at social adult gatherings, it was the pickled gherkin surrounded by Devon or in some rare cases ham, pierced by a toothpick’ that would brake the ice and get things rocketing and moving. Men with beer around the barbeque and the girls in the kitchen. If a man dared to move to the kitchen he was suspected of being a bit of a poofter.

It was left to the genius of Barry Humphries of the Edna Average fame to make this famous quote of someone quietly farting on entering the lift on the ground floor filling up with lawyers of Madigan and Madigan Ltd (solicitors and family lawyers) suffering all the way up to the 26th floor;… “Who opened their lunch box?”

It was some years after that Italian salami, prosciutto and non plastic cheese came to the shelves at David Jones delicatessen, soon followed by olives, real coffee and anchovies. I remember the advertisements on TV ’43 beans of coffee in every Nescafe instant coffee. In the late seventies coffee lounges opened up in Kings Cross and garlic made its entrance. It was a true revolution.

Look at me now.

The End is Nigh, Nr 2

September 8, 2013

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You wonder why we seem to have such a strange and illogical voting system. I have never really understood the system of voting in Australia. Especially not the system of preferential sharing of votes going elsewhere where the voter is left with a result they did not intend. I have asked many people to explain this but most of them also don’t understand it. Here is an extract of a piece on our National Broadcaster the ABC and it seems even the politicians themselves find it a ‘Bizarre’ system.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-08/minor-parties-to-play-key-role-in-senate-make-up/4944188

It begs the question; why not make it fair and logical?
WHY NOT CHANGE IT?
Or are our voting systems based and inherited from England totally Fawlty Towers stuff and beyond fixing especially with the oft quoted ; if it isn’t broke don’t fix it?
Anyway, here is an extract from that article,

Quote:’Bizarre preference flows all over the shop’: Xenophon

Speaking to the ABC’s Insiders program, Senator Xenophon described the results as “very interesting”.

“It happens because of the way preference flows work and there are harvesting of preferences,” he said.

“I didn’t get any advantage from anyone. I always had to win basically two full quotas in order for my running mate to get up but there is a lack of transparency in terms of preference deals.

“For instance, in South Australia, the Greens preferenced the climate sceptics ahead of my running mate who actually believes in climate change and believes that something needs to be done about it in a very constructive way.

“So, all sorts of bizarre preference flows all over the shop. Clive Palmer, a coal miner, preferenced the Greens ahead of my running mate in South Australia. You go figure.”

Unquote

Norwegian Woods and Justice

December 1, 2011


We all know that the Norwegian fjords and forests are probably the most inspiring and beautiful examples of nature at its best. Just ask Edvard Grieg or simply listen to his music of Peer Gynt or his four Norwegian dances.
Those young Norwegian people camped out on their beloved island thought so too, till their serenity was cruelly interrupted by being killed. Seventy seven shot dead. A mass killer was on the loose. His name is Anders Behring Breivik. His court case is yet to start but it seems likely he will not be charged of any crime but declared criminally insane and will spend time in an asylum. A 240 page report has been presented to the Norwegian Prosecutors office by three psychiatrists. The assessment was made after thirteen interviews with Breivik.
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/world/confessed-norwegian-gunman-anders-behring-breivik-found-to-be-insane/story-e6frf7lf-1226209668267

Here in Australia as in England an insanity plea is extremely hard to be successful. We are not so far advanced to accept that sometimes evil is done by sick people, indeed we are still struggling with accepting the idea of ‘mental illness’ and feel safer to lock those up in jail that have ended up doing terrible things.
Some years ago a similar deed was done by a blond Tasmanian. His name was Martin Bryant. Suddenly one Sunday he opened fire and thirty three were dead. It would not be beyond the law of averages to accept that an examination by three eminent psychiatrists would also have found him insane and for the prosecutor and Courts to have heeded to that. No such luck for the mentally ill Martin. He now languishes in a jail cell instead of in a hospital or asylum where he would still enjoy some kind of life. We concentrate on retribution, punishment, forget about insanity, and lock the bastards up, for life, forever, good riddance.
http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/mass/bryant/index_1.html

Not long ago there was another terrible deed by two young children who had walked another even younger child along a railway line, stoned him and killed him. This time it was in England, a country that was still hanging children not all that long ago and sent convicts away from home and hearth to Australia for having stolen butter or bread. The act of legal “Gibbeting” was abolished before the hanging of children which was abolished in 1908.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_the_United_Kingdom.

The two children Thompson and Venables responsible for the killing were deemed to have known right from wrong and charged with murder then sentenced for many years to juvenile detention. England became somewhat divided but generally, the retribution enthusiasm succeeded above that of the principle of ‘doli incapax’ that presumes that children cannot be held legally responsible for their actions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_James_Bulger

There have been countless books and even more movies made of the case, endless controversy that still pops up including a documentary about how that case would have never resulted in criminal charges being laid in Norway.
Norway’s 1994, in Trondheim, five year old Silje Redegard was beaten to death by two little boys. Today, the girl’s family still suffers and one of the boys is in trouble again- echoes of the Bulger case are clear. The public reaction in Norway has been startlingly different. Here are some of those differences.

The children involved were younger, but the most significant difference was that in Britain, the authorities decided to let the nation of its people judge the child killers. The children in England were tried as small adults and the media did, as they still do today, (keenly in contempt of Court), calmly and deliberately release mug shots and names of the boys. A roar of revenge was a result of the blood curdling and minute publication of the details of the killings. All this media hysteria was whipped up much to the disadvantage of Thompson and Venables, but it made millions by the media and salved the revenge seeking population in frenzy of hate towards the two children, stirred up by that same media.

What the Norwegian case demonstrates that it needn’t have been that way. In Norway, the initial response to the killing of that little girl was that of horror. What sort of monster did this? Revenge was foremost as well. When the news broke through that two little boys had done this, the hysteria for ‘blood’ died down and the case left to run its course without the media getting involved. There was no sensational reporting of the case in the Norwegian press. I doubt whether many of us here in Australia have even heard of this case. In Norway, even the mother Beathe Redergard felt bad for the little boys, even in the middle of her grief for having lost her daughter, because they were just’ little kids’. They were just six years old but even if they had been ten or eleven, it would have been dealt with the same way. Norway forgave and forgot its child killers.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2010/mar/20/norway-town-forgave-child-killers

The names of the two boys were never published, their anonymity have been protected even till today.
Those Norwegian woods will remain witness to terrible deeds, but no amount of the blood soaked soil will ever bring the victims back, nor will revenge on an insane and mentally ill person.
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