Not quite six months, the frequency is getting better

And so we have another hiatus; no apologies, no grovelling excuses, I’m just going to say it – it’s not you, it’s me. I’m a real commitment-phobe when it comes to writing. It’s a poor reason, I know, but I can only come to this conclusion as I made a promise to myself and you and then, here we are, months later, with me re-engaging with my writing having done nothing for months.

I said last time that I was writing a journal in earnest, well that turned out to be a great big lie. I am supposed to use the journal to explore my inner thoughts, conflicts and turmoils as I journey along a leadership program with a group of other community leaders. It’s been an abysmal failure. I have realised that I only write for myself when there is trouble – trouble in my life and trouble in my mind. The program has not really disrupted my equilibrium. Well, not in such a way as to make me take to the book. There has been some conflict but it is mostly me against the constricts of the program and there ain’t no journaling that will fix that. I must just shrug my shoulders and take what I can from the offerings. 

I have written essays though; many, many essays. This has entailed much reading and thinking and immersion in the topic. Coupled with my work, my leadership program, my mentoring duties and trying to have a life, the essays have been passable. “Journalistic,” was one critique. I think that was meant to spur me to greater academic heights, I took it as a compliment and shrugged off the less than ideal mark. I passed, no one is really going to care, unless I want to go on to do a PhD (hahahahaha, are you serious?).

My novel? Have I progressed there? “What novel?”you say. Exactly, what novel. I have grandiose ideas. I may even have a passable story to tell. Have I written anything much lately? No, just tinkering around the edges. Is it a novel, a memoir, a short story, a confessional, a self-help book, an autobiography rich with personal detail? I don’t know! I’m in the research stage, checking out scenarios, possibilities, probabilities and reasons. I need to speak with family to round out some ideas but it’s proving to be difficult for me. Shame is a strong emotion.

I’ve made some other progress, though. I’ve been walking the dog most days until the awful weather set in, even Managed a quick one between the showers of today. I’m still not feeling very fit, so I went to the old swim/fitness centre with the new owners and I’m pleased to see that there have been marked improvements in the cleanliness. I might even get in the pool now and try to build some stamina and fitness. 

All in all I’m doing ok. Might check in with you soon. No promises now, though. I could be writing the great Australian novel.m

Review – Local ‘Pest Species of Speed’ Café.

Service – greeted pleasantly and then ignored while they phaffed around behind the counter for a while. I retrieved my own menus, when we fathomed that there were menus and not just the chalk board. Once I grabbed the menus the wait staff were galvanised into action and glasses and water were brought to the table. We ordered two cafe lattes and proceeded to peruse the menu.

The staff were quite prompt in returning to get our order for food. The assumption that we knew the menu, that we were not first time customers, was disconcerting but the transaction went smoothly enough.

Coffee – milk on the cool side of the dial, too cool for me. I had to overcome the urge to drink it all very quickly to avoid it becoming cold. The coffee blend was unusual, with the flavour of burnt caramel strong in the brew. This presented a confusing first impression of bitter coffee that on second tasting revealed its caramel origins.

The Specials Board – it seems that everything tastes better with bacon, even the waffles with poached rhubarb & strawberries with cream.

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The Service – there was a large group before us. I was concerned that the food might be a little while. The table we had chosen, to be away from the front door, was squashed against the stairs and the main pathway to the kitchen went past it. The other table was too close, I thought, and made the space cramped and a little claustrophobic. At 25 minutes I was beginning to worry but the food arrived just then, the wait staff plonking the plate in front of me and spilling a chip onto the table. This received a comment but not an apology from the staff. I had ordered the Rabbit Pie with chips and salad. My companion had ordered the beef burger with chips and slaw. It arrived on a chopping board, gauche and inhibiting.

The Meals – My pie was compact, quite burnt on the bottom, but tasty and well seasoned and the pastry that could be eaten was short and buttery. The accompanying tomato sauce proved too sweet for my taste. The chips were a ‘specialty’ and presented as crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle but somehow seemed processed rather than authentic. The salads with my meal were delicious; a chickpea and green bean and a rice and pumpkin. The mescaline was just that.

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Reports about the burger and slaw were largely favourable, though it was a little cool and the pumpkin bun was a bit sweet but not unpleasant. Also, the chopping board layout and the abundance or sauce made it hard to pick up. The slaw was delicious, with good dressing and tasty, sharp gherkins as a garnish.

All in all a pleasant meal with some service and presentation hiccups that need to be corrected. Of particular note was the leaving. As we got up from the table one of the staff wished us a pleasant day and kept going toward the kitchen. Another was attending to some task behind the counter. We went to pay and no one actually served us, we had to alert the staff to our presence to pay our bill and I’m sure we could have just walked out.

The Atmosphere – we had attended this relatively new café because of the excellent reviews we had heard from people. I must say, we were not that impressed with the ambience on this particular day. We had hoped we might have found our new favourite café. Not this time. Like a new wine, the first sip can be sharp and unyielding and you have to have a second gulp to capture the full flavour. We will try again and see what unfolds.

3 out of 5 stars.

It’s Life Darling But Don’t Call It Bucolic

It’s a shiny, misty morning. Clouds criss cross the sky, leaving gaps for the glaring sun to pierce through on occasion, illuminating a landscape green with recent rain and cast in shadow by the low fog that wisps across the valleys.

Dew is heavy on the ground and, although we have had unseasonably warm days during May, the fact that winter is no longer coming, is in fact here, is evidenced by the stubbornness with which the dew clings to the lengthening grass. In a short week our yard has gone from growing green grass to forming a jungle of marshmallow weeds and native grasses that grow in thick tufts. The boggy ground will make using the mower difficult and we may have to bring out the whipper-snipper.

The local farmer has dropped off another couple of rams, making that five now, and they’ll winter on our hilly back paddock, leaving the ewes alone while they lamb and suckle. He said he’d happily come and look after our chooks for us if we went away, let the sheep roam in the front paddock too, maybe they’ll eat some of that grass we never got to mow. And I’ve finally convinced him that I’m not a vegetarian and neither is my wife (anymore), so next time he kills a lamb there’s half of one coming our way.

Life in our sleepy country town may not be bucolic* but it sure is uplifting to know that there’s people willing to help where they can.

* For my wife – Alternative definition: that sickening feeling you get when your plans turn to dust because of treachery and mansplaining.

Fried Green Tomatoes?

Gravy beef. It’s the one* consolation of winter. A rich, tasty piece of beef that, cooked slowly with mushrooms and veggies, a few herbs and spices, can make a cold winter night a feast fit for a royal personage.

A friend, last year, became obsessed with cooking the perfect gravy beef and mushroom pasta sauce on her glorious wood-fired stove. My wife and I were lucky enough to be part of the experiments and partook in one such evening, remembered fondly and concluded at 3am! (Ok, ok, some wine was drink too).

Why am I talking about winter? Well, it’s here already. No Indian summer for us this Autumn, hot, hot, hot, freezing! That’s what happened. I looked forebodingly at my wife in mid-March and said we were going to need wood early. She blithely stated we’d be alright but Easter was bitter and the wood guy has suddenly become really popular (in our lives and others).

Don’t get me wrong, the colours of Autumn are all around, but the gradual decent into frozen• was missing. It happened so quickly that our tomatoes were unable to ripen. Neither were other people’s and so it’s time to make green tomato pickles or chutney.

So, does anyone have any good recipes to help use our green tomatoes? Post them in the comments, I’d love to try something new.

*a lie and a generalisation for the purposes of emphasis. I also love roasts, layers, winter coats, warm hats, mittens and gloves, wood fires and soups.

•I know, in Australia we don’t really get frozen winters in the sense of the Northern hemisphere, but relatively speaking it’s cold.

In Bed Only Your Lover Can Hear You Moan

It’s been a rough night. My little sciatica relapse has morphed into a full-blown attack of the jangled nerves. Last night’s sleep was brought to me by strong drugs and a soothing back stroke. The sleep lasted for about six hours in total but was punctuated with hours between of painful wakefulness.

This post is dedicated to my patient, caring and equally tired lover (wife), who, although she doesn’t believe in them, is a saint. The very powerful but it-only-works-for-four-hours drug I took at nearly midnight meant that I suddenly woke up at 3.45am with no barrier between me and the pain. I roll over, searching for some relief from the fiery, incessant throb pulsing down my left leg. This movement makes things worse, so I roll again, and the noise that leaves my mouth is alien to me and wakes my sleeping wife.
“Shhhh”, she soothes,
“shhhh”, and proceeds to stroke my back, gently, starting at the shoulders and moving down to the mid section. The night is dark, silent, punctuated by my little sobs and her calming croon.

I’ve awoken into a frenzy of pain. My memory is of dreaming that there was a way to isolate the pain, a right position to be in, some form of mitigation, but the wakefulness does not live up to the dream. It takes a while to bring me back down from the shock of feeling this much pain. She patiently strokes my back some more. Her hand stops, she is asleep again. I try and wiggle away a bit, bury my head in my pillow and whimper again, trying to stifle the sound, not wanting to wake her.

The sound penetrates her early sleep and she switches the light on so that she can see me. We agree that I have to try some different drugs and she goes off to get them. This time, when she gets back in bed, she props herself up a bit, so she can’t sleep accidentally, and I try to relax into the gentle massage of her hand trailing down my back. I shift position, prop my good leg with a pillow so it’s not leaning on my bad leg and I finally feel myself drift toward sleep.

The next time I awake it is light and the rooster is loudly proclaiming his right to be free to roam. The hens are forming a chorus of protest, like backing vocals. My wife is gently snoring next to me. Her beatific smile curving her lips even as she sleeps. This time the pain is bearable and I remain silent, watching her and marvelling at her generous, loving gift of being there with me, not leaving me to fight this pain alone.

A Short Piece Full Of Hope And Longing

Missed a day or two. Been so tired that I’ve just dragged myself to work and home. Hopelessness of working to just pay the bills.

Then some light and no, not an oncoming train. We’ve had a bit of a social time with invitations to friends for tea and then it seems my lovely wife has scored a job. It’s not a dream job or a great career move but it’s a job that pays money and that is a good thing.

It means a little of the pressure will be relieved. It means that I can think of other things other than how I’m going to juggle the next lot of expenses. It means that I might not have to go to another market at 6.30am to make $120 for the day to try to cover some expenses. Markets are hard and that was pretty tough. The dogs were cute though.

It’s been a struggle with just one low wage. Two low wages isn’t going to change the world but it might mean we can pay all of the things. And we all know that good fortune begets good fortune. So, if that’s true then my wife’s dream job is just around the corner. And if that’s the case then the gravy train is in (not really but, you know, compared to now).

Come On Down To The Market Stall

I’m in the queue. I’m set to go. I’ve been here since just after 6.30am. I’M READY TO GET IN AND SET UP NOW.

I need a coffee. I want to get all of the stuff out and spread it on my table and tarps and on the clothes rack. I want to get the prices written and on the stuff. I want to get people coming through, rummaging through my cast-off clothes and finding a bargain.

My stall will be a great place for all women to find a clothes bargain. There’s floaty skirts and luxurious scarves through to butch shirts and jeans to fit a range of women. I want to set it all out, make it enticing, get all my wares ready. There’s a bit of bric and brac too.

There doesn’t seem to be anyone coming to open the gate yet. I thought the market was an early starter? At this rate I’ll not be set up before 8.30am and will have missed all the early birds.

Ah, the man has come. The gate is open. The line of cars before me files in and I join the end. I hope I don’t get bogged.

Come on down. Daylesford market. In the paddock.