Posts Tagged ‘Queen’

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.

Bok-choy

Bok-choy

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.

 

The Aspidistra and a Bed.

April 13, 2015
Aspidistra

Aspidistra

If one could compare an aspidistra with some marriages, it would not be far off the mark. The same conclusion might be drawn from home-made timber beds.  I am always in awe of those death notices in the back pages of newspapers reading how Mr or Mrs  Robinson passed away at over eighty or more, leaving a sad and bewildered partner , countless children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. All to continue on and pick up the pieces, in that strange unpredictable fickle game which we call life.  I am of course talking about the aspidistra- like- endurance to keep going, making the best of all life’s problems. Actually, I should write ‘challenges’. There are no problems anymore, just challenges. We are all  ‘challenged’ throughout our lives, so we are told…but I remain suspicious. Be wary of the wisdom espoused from learned couches.

One reason might by that not long ago, life was supposed to be not really difficult or challenging. It was just a matter  of grabbing ‘solutions’. Remember the age of solutions? Huge trucks would thunder past with tarpaulins covering ‘banana solution to you from sunny Queensland.’  Our butcher,  when we were still living on the farm had ‘meat solutions’ written on his display window. “I’ll have two kilo of your best sausage solutions, please butcher!” And before that some of us might have a life somehow unnecessarily tangled up by not practising enough of ‘logistics’. We needed to get our logistics sorted out! There are some  of the brightest ad men in town thinking all this up. The psychiatrist couch is worn threadbare by endless queues lining up to sort out all that confusion. And it is no wonder. It used to be simple.

All this latest insight while sipping my first coffee at 5.30 am and staring at an aspidistra, sitting on the kitchen bench keeping an eye out for any eventuality. If aspidistra’s could talk! Helvi told me that it is the same one we had in Balmain in 1976 when we moved in after returning from three years in Holland. Helvi’s memory is phenomenal. She remembers having bought it at a market stall that is still being held every Saturday. The same market stall where I tried setting up a business selling chicken sates. It lasted just a couple of Saturdays. The smell of  raw chicken pieces on bamboo stick with peanut sauce was overwhelming. I don’t mind eating them. But amazingly, around 2002, and buying my sausage solutions I got talking to the butcher at Marulan (170 KMs from Balmain’s Sydney) who remembered my chicken sate all those years ago. He said; “they were the best chicken sates I ever had and the spicy peanut sauce was fantastic.” No small praise from a butcher! It is a small world indeed.

On par with the longevity of our aspidistra we also had a bed  that lived even longer. I made that bed soon after our arrival in Holland when we left Australia in 1976. We had taken our camping airbeds with us in the aeroplane together with clothes. All was packed tightly in four suitcases. We had no address to go to but had arranged to meet a mayor of a small town to whom I had written from Australia. He had published an article about art and community. We stayed one night in a hotel near the airport from where I arranged to hire a car. Next day we met the Mayor and he knew a farmer who had an old farm house for us to use while we found our feet. It was quite an undertaking with our three children, but we were young and adventurous, but perhaps on hindsight a bit foolish as well.

Family living in Holland

Family living in Holland

In any case, after we settled in the farm-house in North-West Holland on the second day after arrival, I bought a Skill electric saw and some dressed pine to try and make a bed. I had already made a bed in that rickety old Balmain cottage because the narrow curving stairs would never allow a double bed through.  I had refined the design to the simplest form. The matrass would rest on slats that were being held within a frame of four planks dowelled together with timber dowels. The whole bed would be flush with floor, so nothing could ever get lost underneath this bed, ever; not even a single sock. It was Queen size and totally demountable. It had no nails.

After three years in Holland we returned to Australia and straight back to Balmain. This time we had two large crates shipped over with all of our present furniture  including the home made bed that I had disassembled in a small bundle of slats and the four planks. This bed survived many, many years, with lots of sleeping and tossing and turning, sadness’s, crying and laughter,  actions. Even some unbelievable geriatric  gymnastics of latter years.

Life back in Australia

Life back in Australia

I don’t know wether we can draw any conclusions from all this, but I would suggest that making own timber bed goes a long way in the ‘logistics’ of long lasting relationships.  As for the Aspidistra, you can’t go wrong and is the least of life’s challenges.

They are sometimes called ‘cast iron’ plant. What does that tell you?

Utopia

June 28, 2013

images
The Chain and Ball baseness of Politics.
Now, please don’t run away (yet), just a few words about the recent drama leading to a change of our Prime Minister. Her name is Julia Gillard. We had for the first time a PM that was and still is a female, but not anymore our country’s leader. Six years ago she was lauded as a future Prime Minister.

We had Kevin Rudd for three years first, after which fate decided a time was right for a female prime minister. We were so happy to get a change from an 11 year long stifling conservative government doing its best to keep us within the set of boundaries that ensured a solid maintenance of the status quo and cups-o-tea.

Of course, some now say, “The conservative government between 1996 and 2007 were our best years.” Sorry, but I am vague what the achievements during those years were. Was it the involvement of Australia in the Iraqi war or keeping refugees away from our shores? Was it the fondness of the PM John Howard in his love of a foreign Queen and cricket while wearing raglan sleeved pullovers…?

I remember his way of assuaging latent or not so latent xenophobia with his rant about how ‘we will decide who comes to this country and the method whereby they come’ followed up with ‘the children overboard’ lie. The slogans were received like honky-tonk to the ears of the red necks. “Let the boat people drown, they deserve it,” was his real message. “Teach them a lesson,” while rocking back authoritatively on his immoral heels. He knew it all.

As his tenure unfolded over the years, history, as it always does, spewed him out with his unpopularity resulting in only the second time around of a PM losing his own seat. Can you imagine? Yes I can. Nothing lowers everything to a level of baseness than politics.

My idea of a Utopia would be no politics and no Government. Go back to yeomen, carpenters and roof thatchers, jesters and clowns deciding issues with a fair exchange of goods for labour, a bartering for books on papyrus, wheel barrows or axes and with families around the communal fire or water-well. Poetry reading on Friday conversationally aided by the lubricant of an honest ale and strong coffee with snacks of calamari soaked in butter milk with some pepper.

There will be discourse on the weeks’ comings with fireworks and building giant slippery dips contemplation with dancing and hop scotching by others. Hurts would be heeled and soothed made better with hugs and kisses. Almonds, char-grilled and coated with chocolate would be currency and goats would give us cheese and much joyful bleating. Barking dogs and purring cats bouncing at the feet of leaping children, skipping using flaxen ropes and slapping rounded twiggy hoops round and around.

Music and singing for the just and last alive lingering up to a heaven still imagined during the final moment of a joyful departure. Incense burning to a loving memory never to fade or forgotten by kins and friends. Fresh daisies with five leaf clover on our dear beloved, so still now, yet buried below warm embracing sands.

That’s a Utopia that may one day find itself on the shores of our salt encrusted shores, smooth worn by pounding waves on rocks.
It is so much better than the present chain and ball politics.