Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

The black pudding festival of my Youth

June 5, 2013


If ever there were scents of lingering on in old age, nothing in my memory lingers more than the aroma of my mother’s fried up black pudding on a cold winter’s night. It seems as if from yesterday.  Before I wax on any further about the delights of this fare, let me give a short definition of what this delicacy entails.

It is a kind of robust fare made from a mixture of herbs and spices, including cloves, pepper, salt , bay leaf or more, mixed with pig’s fat and…its main ingredient…blood. I sometimes wonder if, in the mythological tales of those vampires busy with bloodletting back in 1734 Romania, the basic recipe of black pudding was not born.

In any case, we are lucky that the recipe has survived, irrespective of fangs stuck in someone’s main throat artery or not. We all make the best of life, and vampires did not ask to be born with that addiction. Drinking fresh blood was the quintessential ingredient and affliction of Dracula as well.  Just imagine a world without Dracula? Well, actually, I can. I never felt the slightest interest in Vampires sucking blood, being more of a blood giver.

Anyway, I am off subject.

Oh yes, those scents of yesteryears. How come roses smelt stronger? One just brushed past a tomato on its truss and one almost passed out with its fragrance. This seems to have disappeared. Are scientists developing faster growing bigger produce and sacrificing scents or are my smelling patches going downhill? Our olfactory skills are pretty feeble compared for instance with a bloodhound but we are all born with between 3 or 4 million smelling receptors. The blood hound has 220 million give or take a few million.

We taste food with our nose more than by mouth as our mouth is only capable with tasting sour, sweet, salt and bitter. The rest of taste is done by our olfactory receptors high up our nose. Perhaps that’s why our nose is above our mouth, seeing that smells go upwards!

It seems unfair that women outdo men in the smell department as well as in the shopping department. Does that explain men can’t get away with leaving the shower till next week or wearing day socks to bed? I always counter complaints about my smells to H with ‘that just born babies have shown to prefer the unwashed breast to the freshly soaped one.’ I further enhance the well known proven theory, that humans find their mate through smelling each other’s arm pits’ pheromones and that the daily shower is now seen by many ‘experts’ as being the final death-knell in many a marriage. She, very sadly, doesn’t accept that and sniffs disapprovingly and (cruelly) turns her back.

The black pudding scent was brutally brought back yesterday when doing our shopping at Aldi’s supermarket. I like to linger at the butter-cheese and small-goods division while H takes the opportunity to, very casually, saunter around and inspect sheets, pillow slips, toothpaste or brush-ware, deodorants isles. As my gaze left the Stilton cheese the unsalted butter and moved slowly upwards, what did I spot next to the buttermilk and bacon; ‘black pudding’ in all its glorious white speckled with fat and dark blood- brown luster. I nearly cried with the memory of it all flooding back. My nostrils were in overtime, quivering like a fierce bloodhound in the snow just metres away from his rabbit.

Aldi is a very German-Euro slanted shopping phenomenon specializing in foods and goods that migrants from Europe sink to their knees before bedtime and pray to be able to buy again.  Black pudding has always been high on my list but I stop short on offering prayer.

This morning, at the crack of dawn at around 5.30 am I was up frying black pudding while making our first coffee.  It was early for H’s coffee, but what the hell; I had showered the night before. As I opened the door to pass H her coffee, she very sleepily said; “what is that strange smell?” “Its freshly brewed coffee darling”, I said. “No, it smells dark and brooding”, H answered with a puckered nose. “Oh, I said,” feigning ignorance, “could it be the cloves in the black pudding. Would you like a slice?”

Helvi does not like black pudding. I gave her slice to our Jack Russell ‘Milo.’

Borgen :11 out of 10

May 30, 2013


Borgen; 11 out of 10.

You can’t go past a good series of Danish TV. Not long ago we had ‘The Bridge’ and ‘The Killing’, which I believe was a Swedish-Danish Co-production. It was riveting TV watching and we were counting the days when it would be on again. The pepper-crackers would be out and the Stilton cheese with the Shiraz brought to room temperature together with my ear-phones. Those earphones were superfluous. The series were translated in English sub-titles but I wanted to hear the Danish language. Dutch and Danish are brother languages, (or sisters for the pc readers of this blog).

What makes these series so extraordinary is the ordinariness of it all. The prime minister lives in a modest house with the dishes piling up at an overflowing kitchen bench top, husband walking around in his singlet and their children wanting to eat Coco-pops for breakfast. She goes to work on a pushbike without wearing a helmet, and seems to have no security concerns. Husband of the PM and mother of their two children seem to have the best of a most normal of functional marriage. The odd thing is, in most of the Northern European governments, the Borgen treatment of PMs (and their royal families), it is not that far removed from reality.

The TV show apparently was difficult to obtain in the US with claims by competing commercial TV stations of piracy. I believe in California people can now see the series legally. It seems that the differences of political systems and the holders of power between the US and Denmark were seen as almost un-transferable in a TV series and, that at least in the US ‘normality of politics’ is hardly ever residing in a world of being ‘normal’. No president would go to the White-House on a bicycle and would probably have to go through numerous security cycles to just buy his wife a bunch of flowers.

The Danish TV drama shows how the PM can remain herself despite having risen to the highest office. She remains cool and normal and the series is not blown up in grandiosity like so many American dramas such as West-Wing, Homeland, and House of Cards. There are no lines of limousines or black-clad security lurking on roof tops with machine guns at the ready or hovering gun-ships overhead. No one is seen talking into their sleeves or wear Polaroid sunglasses.

The Danish way on thorny issues and legislations are resolved or passed with the parties sitting around the table sipping coffee and making sensible compromises within minutes. The Danes have a serious addiction to caffeine. What I would not give for our Australian politicians to behave like that!

We had just about given up on TV watching when Borgen rose up like Phoenix from ashes, none too late. The urgings of funeral insurances advertisements and the manic laughter of so many comedy trailers got us so depressed our intake of Stilton with Shiraz almost doubled. True, the kept us going but soon waned when most of people restlessly searching for their ancestors ended up teary and overwrought when it was found out, their great, great, great, great grandfather had succumbed to whoring and a dose of the clap with blindness to dear Aunty Betty at birth in 1789 in Yorkshire to have been a result of all that.

We soon came to switching off the telly and just sat amongst the crackers and cheese, talked or did the after dinner washing up instead.  Not anymore now though. Another five days and Borgen will be on again.

There is hope for all of us now.

Go, buy some good cheese and watch “Borgen.”

Of Dalliances and Dunny Men

September 25, 2012

Of Dalliances and The Dunny Men.

Not having sewerage connected was normal in Australia during the time of European immigration from early days till the 1960’s. The enormous distances between houses and suburbs and the sheer spread of just a few hundred people over many kilometres of land made the provision of infrastructure such as a sewerage system too expensive for many suburban areas at that time. The way out was for the local Council to provide a ‘dunny pan’. This pan was a heavy metal container coated with pitch or bitumen and actually smelt quite fresh and spicy when just delivered. A bit like an industrial harbour foreshore, with moorings and thick ropes, tarred anchors and pylons. This pan would be used in a small outside room of about a couple of square metres and called the ‘dunnee’. An outside toilet, sometimes politely called by the upper shore, ‘the outhouse’. You have to go sometimes, don’t you?

The dunny pan would be covered by another outer metal shell with a hinged wooden lid. With some imagination this could then be seen as a toilet. However, when lifting the lid, no matter what it looked like from outside, the smell and darkness from inside was broodingly brutal and left nothing to imagination. Not many would linger reading poetry or Thomas Hardy.

The pan would be collected once a week by burley blokes in blue singlets and verdant armpits, who would come before dawn and summer heat, to heave the sloshing but lidded pan on shoulders and put on the truck with the driver having a Lucky ciggie. Coarse oaths would be renting the still morning air and heavily shod feet would crunch the concrete path along the side of the veranda.

This dunnee pan would be capped by a lid secured on top with a metal band that would lever the lid tightly around the container, not unlike some preservatives such as sour Kraut or apple sauce of the present day. This was a job purely reserved for the dinky-di locals and much coveted. It was well paid and had all sorts of lurks, including dalliances with lonely women and early ‘knock-off’ times when finished. I am not sure if the smell added to their appeal, but rumours had it that many a woman, widowed, single or even married, was left happy after an early visit from the ‘dunnee man’.

Large families were given a ‘special 2 pan treat’, this usually meant giving very generously at Christmas time.( A couple of crates of beer would suffice.) Any large family that were too stingy at Christmas would soon find a lonely single pan again. Those dunnee men were often kind rogues but a law onto their own, revered and respected by many, but feared by some. The ‘dunny man’ is now part of folklore and Tamworth Country music, but long gone since.

Our family was more than large and dad had to make some adjustments to a down pipe outside the dunnee that would carry rain water from the roof to the open storm water drain at the front of the street. Despite our generosity towards the Shire’s dunnee men at Christmas time, we never had more than two pans a week. For our family this was not enough. I never did find out how our neighbours coped, they had six children as well. We were on friendly terms but not that friendly that you could ask; what do you do with your poo? In any case, their concern was more focussed on the fan tail pigeons’ shit on their shiny new roof tiles, all caused by my brother John’s flock of sixty birds… It would be unwise to mention anything to do with poo!

It was not as if our family were too copious with ‘solid stuff’, no, it was the sloshing around of the liquid waste that was the problem. Of course, being right next to neighbours it wasn’t as if one could go outside at any time and urinate in the garden. This is what happened though. When the height in second pan became critical, and the dunnee man still a day or so away from collecting, that the boys were told to do as much as possible at school or wait till late at night and then in the garden in the dark.

In the summer this caused some olfactory concerns and when this ammonia like stench could no longer be hidden or blamed on Dad’s fertiliser for the veggie patch, that Dad did a piece of engineering that is still admired until this day, alas without his presence.

As I already said before, there was a metal downpipe running on the outside of the dunny that carried rainwater from the roof to the trench at the front of the house. Dad simply cut a small hole in the fibro on the inside of the dunnee directly abutting the downpipe and conveniently next to the pan. This hole was also made on the inside of the downpipe, accessible now from within. Both holes corresponded and synchronized brilliantly. This hole was then used by all the males (six in total) as a urinal taking the piss straight down the downpipe and to the front of the house in the open stormwater trench. This trench was usually overgrown with weeds. Generous rains would wash it downhill and finally into concrete stormwater and into the Georges River. Council used to come along three times a year to get rid of the weeds and mow the grass around it.

Well, our trench was the most luxurious green and lush looking of the whole street. It would have won a blue ribbon for excellence if that nature strip could have been entered into the Royal Easter Show. It wasn’t till some years later that sewerage was connected and my mother’s dream of ‘own bathroom’ with inside flushing toilet was truly fulfilled.

My father was a genius. With the toilet indoors, the dunny man receding into history; we were all riding high in the achievements wrought so hard by this migrant family of six children and parents.

Greek Drama with Euro-Neuro

June 18, 2012

Greek Drama with Euro-Neuro.

The unity of Europe with a common currency was a dream that was destined to become a nightmare. It was conceived in good faith but the genes were so diverse and far apart that the result could not have been but a mule, neither a horse nor a donkey, a sterile disambiguation at best.

The United States of America has at least a common language and common culture. Going from north to south there is a common architecture, language and common goals. Through work and credit card they hope to ‘make it’. A simple philosophy of materialism that more or less, (lately a bit less,) that has stood the test of time. And with Hollywood and Gridiron thrown it they have somehow achieved a kind of unity that by and large seemed to have worked for its population.

Just look at Europe and its diversity. The question should be asked; why this need for commonality? If anything, its diversity should have been encouraged and maintained instead of it artificial made homogenous with the push of the Euro.

The Greeks should have been allowed to remain the architects of democracy. Let them sit around cafes, it worked very well in the past. There is a need for the Greeks to do their own thing.

What would a common European culture be like? Should it be like the British, a hotchpotch of chasing something forever obsolete with their love of complicated tradition and dislike of the new? Should it be the simplicity of the Scandinavians or the thriftiness of the Dutch?  Or should it embrace the German method with its icy emphasis on order and meticulous organizational qualities? Perhaps the French way, with its food and love of fashion and truffles. Spain with paella. Oh, Portugal with its deliciously char-grilled sardines. Unforgettable.

The different work ethics, the different languages and above all the different cultures cannot make for a united Europe with all ambitions and its entire people being the same. Europe should celebrate its diversity and share the good but not at the cost of differences.

Years ago, train travel on the Continental express Genoa- Stockholm was an unforgettable experience, not least with all the pass-port controls and different currencies. Why did we ever think this needed weeding out? What is the benefit of this Euro efficiency when it all ends up being boring and monotonous? What are we alive for? Remember the custom officers (Douanes)? They all wore different caps and showed such different idiosyncrasies. Some would look you in the eye and try and determine levels of honesty, or, if capable of smuggling rare cheeses or African diamonds. Other would just nod and walk on. In Genoa you bought a small bottle of wine and half a chicken passed through the train window for 500 lire. In Germany, a Brodchen mit Kase or Bock-wurst.

What’s the point of going to Greece or any European country and not use a different currency? I went to Melbourne last week-end and ended up landing in a different kind of Sydney. Not one Iota of difference. I could just as well been in Perth. The same Harvey Norman frontages, the same large car parks with Big Macs golden arches. The sameness of a stifling all encompassing ennui of dreary monotonous architecture. Is that what the Euro-Visional behavioral architects envisaged? Surely not!

From Rambo Amadeus;

Euro skeptics, analphabetic, try not be hermetic. Euro-Neuro, not be skeptic, hermetic, neurotic, pathetic and analphabetic.

Forget all cosmetic, you need new poetic etc.

Going Dutch ( with an ageing Uncle)

April 24, 2012

With European markets spooked again, it’s the Dutch that are the culprits this time. The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has offered his resignation when the support by Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party was withdrawn. The markets dropped over 2% and with an early election now looming, the predictions are that the winners will be the Socialist Party with a possible doubling of seats from 15 to 30. Geert Wilder’s Freedom Party is on the wane and predicted to lose some seats.

If elections are held in the Netherlands, possibly as early as September, the most likely scenario will be a copy of the present French election with a big increase in both the left and right vote and the traditional liberal or conservative vote ending up the losers.

What makes the recent Dutch upheavals interesting is that the austerity measures needed to bring back its deficit to a maximum of 3% of GDP is being exploited by the extreme right. Their opposition is based on the same principles that the Liberals are opposing some of the economic measures here in Australia; that economic growth is more important than bringing budget deficits down.  Economic growth above all is the mantra owned by the right.

In Australia the proposal to tax the mining industry more vigorously together with the introduction of a carbon tax on polluters is being opposed by those believers in ‘economic growth above everything else’, even if, as we all know, the continuation of polluting our earth will make the world unlivable for our grandchildren. It seems almost beyond belief that there are political ‘leaders’ who don’t belief in climate change no matter what the science is telling them.

The dogged and obstinate stance of those ‘economic growth ‘believers are what seem to be bedeviling many countries and it will be interesting to find out who will be the winners. The danger is that unless solutions are found and the people reassured that all will come good, a rise in those tens of millions of seething and restless masses could turn very nasty. We don’t have to go back all that far to see similarities cropping up that resulted in some very nasty wars.

It was perhaps never a good idea to promise lower taxes and at the same time fan material expectations of voters riding towards the horizon with more and more goodies with a never ending wealth. We now can have not one massive TV but TV’s in every room. Not just one simple modest car but multiple ones and SUV’s to boot. We expect an Iphone for the ten year olds going to private schools and our cupboards are full of tangled battery chargers and dated electronics with small buttons.

Fiscal prudence together with taxing the obscene wealthy, who are always best able to afford contributing to societies, might give the opportunity to give the restless masses seething with discontent a much needed relief and reassurance that all will come good again.

There are some who hold the view that economic growth is old hat and that governments ought to become more aware that the world is precariously close to losing out to an inevitable closing down of its support system.  Ecological balance ought to be as important as economic prudence. We can’t continue taking out more than putting back. Something has to give way. Let’s hope the seething masses will sway towards demanding its representatives to heed what the world’s ecology is telling us. Give up your squandering ways. Tighten up and balance things out. Don’t spend more that what you’ve got. Prudence even abstemiousness might give us a way out in the nick of time.

There are no other solutions that can avoid disaster.