Posts Tagged ‘Latte’

Of isolating and the Smart TV

May 2, 2020


Etching by G. Oosterman

The longer our self isolating is going on the more the question arises; what about the victims of this isolating? In my case, I find it reasonably alright as I have rarely been much of a social roustabout, never really learned the skills on attracting much of an audience at social gatherings. I suppose also, that much depends on an audience as well.

At my indoor bowling adventure the social intercourse that I was hoping for did not come to much fruition. A peculiar and firmly ingrained habit of that sport seems to be that even though women and men bowled together, in between the bowling while having a cup of tea, the men and women strictly did their sipping at separate tables.

On the other side of the scales, the latest attempt at meeting people I was invited and met an extraordinary group of people who one feels totally at ease with. Both men and women embrace the sipping in total unison. We sip different beverages to the bowlers and enjoy coffees instead of tea, but I don’t think it is just the difference in the liquid. On second thoughts, perhaps there is a tie that links the differences.

Going back to 1956 when my family arrived in Australia we noticed that coffee drinking was mainly the domain of the reffos. Reffo was the name given to European refugees known for the same obnoxious xenophobic stupidity as now falling on the Iranians and other Middle Eastern refugees’ ears. Funny enough they too seem to prefer coffee. But, I am drifting off subject. In those early days my mum had to travel to Sydney by train to get ‘real’ coffee in the form of beans. The brave Australian born and bred thought coffee always came in powder form and each cup had 43 beans. So, what is your problem they used to tell my mum who kept insisting that coffee has to be freshly brewed from ground coffee beans.

Tea drinking is a British institution. The Queen would not dream of ever be seen drinking a latte. Can you imagine the horror of the British if it became known? A filthy European habit will never do in between the Beefeaters.  Now, is the link between the bowling club people the reason for the separation of the sexes caused by their ingrained tea habit? Is my new found group of the most friendly egalitarian people and their open ended welcome caused by the Euro linked latte? The link might be a trifle tenuous, some might even thing tedious!

Who knows?

As for my opening line of ‘Isolating and the Smart TV. It is difficult, and yesterday I did not talk to a human being. However, the good news is that I managed to get my Smart TV working and…more than that. On the SBS ‘on demand’ classic movie channel I discovered Wim Wenders’ ‘Wings of Desire’, a black and white masterpiece of a movie Helvi and I watched years ago.


What a find and there are a lot more good movies to watch. Of course, meeting up with friends and share the latte will also happen again and there is a lot to look forward to.


Family news-flash.

February 2, 2018

Japanese Windflower

Well, as they say, ‘there is never a dull moment.’ There isn’t a nook or cranny that we are now not familiar with in regard to our local hospitals. How a fortuitous choice we took some eight years ago in the decision to live almost next door to not one but two hospitals. It’s a toeing and froing not just of ambulances but also care-flight helicopters whirring over our roof-top picking or delivering patients that are in a hurry to receive life saving procedures. What a prime position! At our age one needs to be within metres of caring nurses and doctors. Better than water views. We are also blessed with two hospital cafes. So both, the alcohol laced hand sanitisers and the lattes are never far away.

Going back to ‘never a dull moment’, Helvi came home from her operation two days ago. The lumps and nodes that were cancerous, removed by the surgeon. We are now waiting for the community nurse to exchange the plastic bag into which her lymphatic fluid is being directed to flow in.  Compared with her chemo therapy, the breast operation was a pic-nic. Yesterday we joined the community care organisation and met two of their staff who will now take care of Helvi’s post operation recovery.

Helvi doesn’t really like any attention to herself and her plight, so I have been somewhat reluctant to write about something which she feels is unimportant in the general scheme of things. She is more interested and concerned in issues of others.

Even so, she is happy how many people have shown they care and is grateful for the attention and well-wishing she received and is still receiving. It is amazing. The dedication and sheer hard work of hospital staff admirable.  Helvi is thanking all the blog followers and friends and will keep you informed.

This journey is ongoing.

Hugs, Helvi and Gerard



Curmudgeon re-visited.

May 31, 2014



The latest fad seems to be people ordering take-away lattes. Can you believe it? Surely a sign of a society in deep trouble or decay. I remember decades ago when the freshly brewed coffee started to make inroads in Australia. New grounds had to be fought over, tooth and nail. Eyebrows were raised and there were vehement protests from the African Violet Society and the Cricket Board. Sign were paraded in front of Parliament house. “No European Habits here, please!” The coffee lounge was born. I think the first one was near the brothel area around Crown Street in Surrey Hills called ‘Reggio’s. Lonely swarthy European men were seen quietly sipping an espresso contemplating their next move around the corner. Was it 1957/58?. It was frowned upon by many Sydney siders, especially its proximity to a large maternity hospital.

I do remember a Balmain woman some years later when coffee drinking had taken to the footpaths, bitterly complaining, “Look at those people, sitting around, not DOING anything”. ‘Doing things’ was seen as obligatory to a successful life. The fact that all good art is derived from deep and insightful espresso sipping was a total anathema to a fruitful life in the suburbs. Own deposits for own block of land had to be saved for or payments on the B/W telly had to be met. The brick veneer was beckoning. That’s what life was about then.

It was an uphill battle and we know now that since its reluctant acceptance it now has overtaken all in its paths especially footpaths. A cultural tsunami indeed. But going back to the ‘take away latte’ I feel it is taking a dangerous turn. Why would one join those crowds of sipping on the go. It seems now impossible to cross a road for many without risking total dehydration. I saw a man sipping enthusiastically from a bottle of Fanta drink almost walking in front of a fully laden cement truck. I looked up, but the driver was also sipping from a bottle. What is going on?

It is sacrilege to drink coffee while walking. Surely sitting down with friends in great excitement, animation, even exultation or in reflective contemplation is what coffee is about. Coffee demands that of us. What would the Brazilians make of it, or indeed the Colombians?

Coffee for two.

March 10, 2014
coffee for two

coffee for two

“Coffee dear, here it is darling. Sleep well?” “Yes, like an angel. How’s the day looking?”. “Oh, a bit pale.” “Trust you to come up with a limp answer, cheer up Gerard, you’re not dead yet.” “Easier said than done.”

This is the normal start of most days. A kind of repeat routine doing the rounds at millions of households. A waking up ritual all over the world. Of course amongst us retirees there is no urgency to jump out. They are not getting ready for the 6.45am bus and train to work like most people. We are wearing the laurels of well earned rewards of having caught trains and buses to work for decades. We can now sleep in.

I remember well the silence of workers in transit to work. Especially Monday mornings. Boy, was it glum. I, on the other hand was always happy for a Monday to arrive. I used to smile on Monday mornings. Sundays in my suburban outfit of western Sydney was unbelievably dull. It was more than dull. It was deliberately dead and limp. They were joy-killer of days.

The demon of Noontide was never so strong as on Sunday’s Australian suburbia in the nineteen fifties up till the first coffee lounge opened on a Sunday some decades later. It was a true revolution. Unbelievably, drinking beverages in public on Sunday did not strike down anyone, despite dire warnings from the saviours of our morals from Sunday pulpits…Shaking the Rev. Murphy’s hand after the service would be as exciting as it could possibly get on most Sundays.

We don’t want those dirty European habits to come to our shores, some shouted still in the late nineties. I remember a true to her tea doily Anglo lady complaining about all those ‘loafers’ sitting around sipping a latte on a Sunday. True enough. They should be mowing the lawn or clear the gutters while repenting lusting after some illicit and unlawful joy.

Even today, remnants of those feverously restrictive practices are still around us. Alcohol drinks can only be bought at ‘licensed’ premises. It is not as if you can buy a bottle of wine together with a packet of butter. The binge drinking excesses here might well be a result of never really having been at ease with joy and leisure with friends around. I remember buying wine for my mother at the greengrocer in Holland when I was 15. No one thought it was anything special. The last time we travelled back to Holland it was not unusual for a trolley to be wheeled through the trains offering coffee with croissants as well as a Heineken and a rookworst.
I doubt it could ever be possible here, even today.

The local train Bowral to Sydney taking two hours, doesn’t have water on board unless you want to drink from the toilet tap! I don’t know what tourists make of our abstemious beverage habits on public transport. I suppose on the Afghan train, Adelaide – Darwin, a distance of almost 3000kms, there surely would be a cafeteria on board or are tourists expected to bring their own jam sandwiches and cater for hydration needs?

How’s the coffee this morning, dear? Nice and strong? I did not sugar it!
Yes, it’s good. How’s yours? Good too. Very good. Oh, that’s good! Good.

You are nothing but a Latte Sipper.

October 20, 2012

You are nothing but a Latte Sipper

March 4, 2011



The world even in its normal state and without dire future climate changes is on a roll: floods, earthquakes, fires, airports are frozen, planes can’t take off, cars are bobbing about in raging torrents, people clinging to trees and revolutions are toppling tyrants. All this is happening almost as a daily event. No sooner do we climb out of our bed, switch on the telly, and it starts again. Some sparkling ABC journalist is interviewing either a bearded climate expert or a shiny faced business expert, both telling us the world is getting better or getting far worse. The weather girl isn’t all that optimistic either: storms in the Illawarrah, hurricanes are reforming and there is a map where there are little zig zags or windy signals flashing ominously. Nervously we search for weather warnings on the net. El Nina is going berserk.

Politically, we are divided not just by poor or rich, the left or right, the moderately accepting or the fanatically opposing: No the criteria for the good or bad for any of us now depends totally on our preferred beverage. The battle lines are now drawn on what might be found at the bottom of our beloved Wedgewood beaker or the Royal Leerdam wine glass.

The masked shaman poring over the bleached and knuckled bones of our coffee dregs or corks, the veiled future teller at her tea leaves. All now are studiously peering into the remaining dregs of our daily imbibement.  This latest has now turned us into a divided nation, not based on just political leanings as in the past. All of a sudden we are judged by our liquid habits.

How did this ever come about? When did it all start? Can’t we just carry on without the lament of; “you are nothing but a latte sipper?”  Or, the war cry from the others, the tea drinking brigade, shouting from roof tops, “if it aint broke don’t fix it.” Only as little as two years ago it was ‘chardonnay’ drinking that carried the wrath of the right. This issue has become blurred where now both sides, including even Queenslanders, accuse each other of belonging to the Chardonnay set, irrespective of left or right..One would not want to stand in the shoes of the sommelier trying to predict future trends in wine consumption.

Does this coffee drinking somehow point to a form of unruly benevolence bordering on socialism that the knee sock wearers& tea drinkers are so suspicious of? Does latte sipping encourage riotous behavior?

Years ago, someone remarked rather disdainfully,” Who are all those people sitting around drinking espresso?” “Haven’t they got something better to do?” This coincided when more and more shopkeepers started to display their wares spilling out on the footpaths. They were truly revolutionary times. Local councils were at their wits end trying to figure out the laws governing the public use of footpaths versus shopkeepers trying to make a quid. At first, only moderate and narrow bits of footpaths were allowed to occupy merchant’s wares. When this did not cause any breakdown of society or rioting pedestrians, more of the footpaths were given over to boxes of tomatoes, buckets of flowers and even hardware, including stepladders, wheel barrows. And so, the coffee drinking on the footpath was born.

These were also the times when dogs were still allowed to generously deposit their wares on the footpaths as well. It wasn’t uncommon to see brown foot-marks leading to the news agency on a Saturday morning.

Ah, they were such easy going times. Tolerance and community sharing and caring were still the norm.

Those walks to the news agency combined with the Vietnamese croissant shop are becoming a thing of the past. The piles of papers spilling out from News agency are becoming thinner. Instead, the tapping on our laptops in the solitary confinement of our home office are becoming the norm, and sadly without those flakey croissants.

But, the one thing that is not getting less and much to the chagrin of many still, is our relentless latte sipping. History tells us that this humble bean’s first entry into Australia were with those brave Afghans that helped Australia establish its first overland telegraphy between Adelaide and Darwin back in 1870’s. Ah, how they coped with heat and dust, the dark brew giving sustenance in the void of the outback desert.

It remains for historian to fill in the puzzle how this beverage got lost and how tea sipping became the norm. Alright, I concede that the vile habit of ‘Instant Coffee’ ingratiated itself just after the war. Real coffee was lost and when it reappeared it would be seen as something related to sub-ordinance or the opposite, subservience.  Communism was hinted at during the Menzies period, and to be feared. But soon after, the Reffos from the Balkans and Hungary were, reintroducing it, disturbing the peace of afternoons with tea and the munching of lovely 1916 invention of the SAOs during Bingo.

Here and there in Sydney’s underworld regions of inner-west and Palmer Street the coffee drinking became more and more brazen. Now, some sixty years later, coffee has become mainstream. Yet, pockets of resistance are still around. We must remain vigilant.

Resist the shout; stand up ever proud; “we are the Latte sippers.”