Posts Tagged ‘herring’

The Sting is in the Tail.

November 12, 2016


The week was difficult enough without the US election. The only light was that the shivers down my spine proved right. Calamitous is a word that got much used. We decided to do a practise run and booked a cabin all secluded. We are fully expecting the possibilities, that once again, town-hall sirens will blare and warn the people of an impending disaster.
People will be urged to seek shelter and safety from the coming of carnage. Again the running and shouting of people on the streets. The thuds of boots finding home on falling bodies

It wasn’t just the Trump tragedy but also Leonard Cohen passing. To mention both in one breath is a bit of an insult to Cohen. Like comparing acrid acid with the tasting of the finest of first-press olive oil. But Cohen is at peace and we are still here!

The three lily- white blondie livery daughters of Trump are primed to fill important roles and he is backing down from undoing Obamacare. His mascara has come off and paleness replaced brashness and red-necked bully-boy. The markets are going wild and gyrating madly opposite of all expectations. The biggest rally for years. All topsy-turvy. Yet, Hillary Clinton all pale and sad. What has America done? Protests on the streets. Cars are burning. People shouting. Contorted faces. Rage is rising.

Our cabin was just a short down-hill clamber from a rocky yet sandy beach, waiting for the tumult of hordes of Christmas crowds to arrive. I decided to check up on an aboriginal midden that I knew existed when Helvi and I used to visit this same spot with our young children so many memorable years ago. It amazed me already then that this sacred site hadn’t been protected. People walked over it, unaware it was a midden and sacred site

As I was walking along the beach I noticed a dark shape in the water. Getting closer I was amazed to see a large stingray. Steve Irwin, the Australian naturalist was killed by a stingray while swimming above one. The barbed tail whipped up, went through his wet-suit and penetrated his heart. He died almost instantly.

I had boots on and did not want to get into the water to get a closer look. I did not have to. He came to me. It swam in very shallow water and was just a couple of metres away from the sandy beach on this expanse of the Tasman sea. Its bulbous watery eyes was looking at me as if expecting something. Its eyes seemed sad and carried a reproach. I was astounded. What had I done to receive his attention? Apart from a small packet of peanuts I had nothing to give him. I spoke some kind words but wasn’t sure it could hear under the water. Did he expect me to have a herring on me? I never carry fish on me as I never feed fish in oceans. I felt guilty for not ever having fed fish. Instead, I often I eat them. ( I did not tell the stingray that.)

It was a somewhat helpless situation but I took some more pictures with my IPhone. What else would anyone do? But what followed was remarkable. As I continued my walk, the stingray followed me for some twenty metres or so along the edge of the sea. Had I been accepted as his friend? I again took some pictures.
He then had enough and swam away.


The aboriginal midden was still there and in good condition. I suppose all the seashells and cockles are just not worth digging up or scooping away as most people might not even be aware of its significance and aboriginal heritage. For thousands of years this was the site were the original owners of this land would congregate look out over the sea and consume their catch of sea-food.

Sacred aboriginal sites are to be respected and not to be photographed.

The country of ‘long week-end’. Memoires.

October 4, 2015
The mussel party

The mussel party

The long week-end would inevitably start by packing the van and go camping. We have most of our photo albums packed with camping shots. We finally got it down to an art form. In the days when our children were young, camping was big. Especially down and up from Sydney. The bush was still bush and it wasn’t till caravan parks started to spruik up that camping was pushed in the background and bush-camping lost its charm. Now camping grounds are controlled and camper vans and caravans  are parked neck-on neck. It is like going to the local Drive- In of yesteryears.  Watch Quo Vadis with a 2 kilo pack of pop-corn. The kids and mum dressed in pyjamas, ready to hit the sack after driving home.

This week-end we had the grandsons staying with us after mum had them all week. School Holidays used to be the worst time for mothers, the stuff of nightmares. Now, of course with the average family of 1.9 children it should be a much easier ride for mums. But is it? Sipping a coffee with our grand-kids yesterday I noticed the grimly-faced mums walking the Bowral streets with kids in tow. There was an air of resignation but also of a hope springing eternally. Another couple of days and all will be back at school. Order again, and bored kids getting what they deserve, an education.

In the fifties and sixties camping shops were big business and tents used to be put up on show. Parramatta road had huge camping shops and one would go there as an outing, feel inspired by stakes, axes, pocket knives, foldable water containers and mouth watering port-a-loos. Tents were made above those shops by Hungarian experts or strongly calved ex Austrian mountaineers. We loved camping and used to hack away the Lantana to clear a spot for our tents. With bush-saws we would cut a dead tree and sit around the camp-fire drinking cheap hot wine spiced with cloves. The headaches next morning were legendary and have till now never been surpassed.

All this has changed. On the highways enormous double bogey vans are being pulled along by equally enormous multi storey vans. There are air-condition units on top and at the back of the van. At times a smaller car is being towed along and multi layers of canoes with mountain-bikes strapped on top. I am not sure but I suspect that multi electronic devices are being held by those that are not driving. The selfie sticks at the ready and even while driving, images and selfies are instantly being beamed around the world by the kids sitting on the lower deck of the SUV.

Our camping days are over and I could not imagine crawling out of a tent with a bad headache and then having to cook porridge on a dead fire. This week-end no camping, instead I got up early and prepared the pan-cake mixture with the butter milk bought the previous day. It is the least I could do and the kids love it more than camping. Things have changed.

After a few days with us and before the mother came to pick them up I had promised them a bit of a gourmet supper. Apart from pancakes, the kids have also been,  by sound grandparental grooming, encouraged into liking sea-food. If there is one thing I wanted achieved, is for them to enjoy the delights of herrings and mussels. Even during the grimmest of times, a good herring or bowl of steaming mussels would pull me through during the blight of my suburban youth! It does no harm to kids and is as good as camping. I  bought two kilos of mussels and after steaming them up in some white wine, crushed tomatoes and lots of garlic, were consumed by a fervour not even experienced during their much earlier discovery of the I-Phone.

It was a great week-end. One of the best really.

The tuna dish.

September 24, 2015
wives waiting for their men at Scheveningen

wives waiting for their men at Scheveningen

We all know that fish is good. As we get older and start to stumble with memories and forget the name of a previous world champion runner or a failed Prime minister, it is time to call in the fishing fleet. As a child I used to watch this fleet coming in with the first herring which would be rushed and presented to the Dutch queen. Those first herrings used to cost a fortune. Our family would wait for the price to fall before able to buy them. The fishermen’s wives were waiting anxiously  at the peers for the boats to come in.

I was at the tail end of the herring fleet still being under sails. I might have been nine years or so. It wasn’t always that the boats would come back. It was a risky business and storms on the North Sea were frequent and dangerous. Many a husband would be lost. In those days the women waiting at the peer still wore traditional clothing, dark brown billowing skirts down to the ankle, and white head- gear. Perhaps they also wore a lacy scarf around their shoulders. It was all so long ago.

Now-a-days, fishing vessels are so large and so sophisticated they graze the ocean floor like never before. The whole area would be covered in miles of netting more or less depleting everything that swam. I remember two years ago a huge Dutch factory boat tried to enter Australian waters to fish. The local protesting fishermen were successful in fighting for their own rights to fish. The Dutch ship retreated and lost their case. Why has everything become so unromantic? I know losing your life while fishing isn’t romantic but so much of the past made and held memories. What memories will our grandchildren nurture in their old age? Perhaps in the future the Alzheimer will be cured by simply living along life’s path without anything remarkable to imprint on our memory’s storage. Memories will simply not be there anymore to lose!

Here is a dish to remember though. It is simple, cheap, healthy and guaranteed to refresh memories of failed Prime ministers and long time champions including Zátopek.

Its ingredients are potatoes, a good leek, onions, garlic, milk, herbs, a bit of butter, a bunch of bok-choy, tinned tuna in oil and little salt, pepper and chili. Also, young grated cheese.



Simply slice thinly a few potatoes and in layers interspersed with all the above sliced ingredient, place in a oven-proof ceramic dish. Soak the whole lot in milk level with the top of the dish and bake for an hour or so at 150C temperature. Make sure you are generous with the grated cheese on top to make sure this is brown and crusty. You then eat it with your spouse without saying a single word, except at times, just say mmm and again mmm.

I do hope my grandkids will remember my pancakes made with buttermilk.

We will all be lucky to get out alive.