Thursday, October 23, 2008


Our roses are out. I'm not a fan of roses, as a rule, but these came with the house. They are popular with our neighbours as well as my grandmother (who is very appreciative if brought one or two when we visit).

'Would a rose by any other name smell as sickly?'

They do look impressive though!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Disharmony at the races

So, I said to James:

"Hey, there was this really funny article in the paper today.
It was about a snake who bit a girl at the racecourse.
I was going to scan it and post it on the blog."

James: "Great, you do that.
- Now NO-ONE will come to visit us." *

Please don't cancel your plans. I'm sure the girl was fine. The whole thing reads like some sort of fiction.


* especially Rowena.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The bride's weapon?

Spotted in a shop window.
Now, I know there are many things that, as a man, I'm not privy to in a bride's world, but I've been thinking about this and anything I can think that a bride might want to hire it for over a weekend makes my eyes water.

That, as they say, is just wrong.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The goddess of good grub

Bev offers the strawberries, with a twist!

I am browning meat for a casserole - not just browning it to grey-brown, but proper deep chestnut colour. This takes time, and in that time, I'm reading food blogs.

Hungry? I am.

And the dog is keeping a close eye on me.

Tomorrow, I'm going out for lunch at this creperie, and I have followed my nose to a number of delicious food blogs full of ideas and delights. Here are three of them. Hold on to your tummy: it's gonna rumble!

A Goddess in the Kitchen
has got good ideas, lovely photos, and some attitude. I loved her post about cupcakes.

Feast your eyes and follow your nose for inspiration on The Elegant Sufficiency. I stayed here so long that I almost burned the meat! (Now safety tucked away and blurping under a blanket of wine, carrots and fennel)

Lobstersquad, all the way from Madrid. Packed with gorgeous drawings and lovely links to recipes. I need to read more of this one....

For dessert, there will be fresh strawberries. I've cut them into pieces and tossed them with 1/2 tsp of good balsamic vinegar and 2 tsp of castor sugar, a tip from Nigella Lawson's Feast. The sweetness will be astounding, when we eat them after they've had an hour to sit, covered on the side, gathering juice.

A nice table, in a previous life.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Washing the dog

You probably know that you are working too hard when washing the dog seems like a bit of a break. But Toby did need a wash, not because he was dirty, but because he's itchy and allergic and unhappy.

He doesn't enjoy the experience at all, but he wants to do the right thing, so he just huddles there, looking thoroughly miserable, and wet, with his normally perky ears right down, and a vanished tail, and making you feel like a remarkably imaginative and soulless torturer.

But it's soon over, and it's off to 'My new favourite thing!' a W-A-L-K, which is a reward, as Bev says, for all the pack.

Mine, all mine!

After the walk and the transformation of the washing room from a stable block with the stable-boy on strike back to human-habitable, one begins to notice the smell of the dog shampoo.

It's mild, like some other hardworking smells - woodworm treatment comes to mind.

But pervasive.

We'd changed all our clothes, but we smell of the damn stuff. The bathroom smells of the damn stuff - Toby of course, stinks of it, and it slowly becomes clear that the house smells of it, which is where the woodworm treatment comparison comes back to haunt. Are we going to have this for months?

Losing one's special biscuity smell must be some offence against the Declaration of Basic Dog Rights. Perhaps this smell is a subtle revenge? Smell, as any dog will tell you is very, very important. How else do you know who's who?

There could be no photographs, for reasons all-too-obvious, but our illustrator has stepped into the breech, sketching madly-away like an Official War Artist in a combat zone...
As I write this, someone's lying asleep next to me, working on getting 'his' smell back, dreaming doggy dreams, and looking like a little bear.

I wonder if he remembers enjoying the towel?

James - with illustrations, of course, by Bev.

PS: Talking of washing dogs, like all real dogs, there's a bit of Harry the dirty dog in Toby.

It's a great book, by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham, well worth seeking out. It seems to be filed in the kids' section which is clearly a mistake; it's wasted on them. And a big thanks to the local Darebin councillor who ensured Harry was enshrined on a mosaic covering a street tree planter. Harry, local hero.

Everyday codes in Orvieto

When I took this photograph, I just thought the random groups and spurned statue ("Hem. Look at me! Please!") were an interesting juxtaposition.

Then I realised that so much of what we see is actually code, albeit stuff most of us have learned growing up. Although we probably don't even notice any of it any more, if we were with someone who'd never encountered the various cultural civilisations that created each of these codes, they would be nonplussed, and probably amazed at our instant ability to draw out apparently minute specific data from what they can see, but not understand, like a Watson to our Sherlock Holmes.

First the clocks. You need to understand base 60 and 12, an analogue display, and the concept of two runs through a day. We may remember the 'when the little hand is pointing...' Most of us can also 'count' (a code) and count in Roman to XII as well as Arabic, the names spotlighting the two distinct civilisations' gifts we have in everyday use.

Then the roadsign. International standardisation has come a long way, and pictograms often make easy sense, but like the Rorschach inkblots, sometimes you may just not see it. You cerainly won't get this one unless you've seen a Richard Scarry tow-truck, that's a fact. 'I don't think we are in Busytown anymore Dorothy.'

A lump of shaped stone can probably be identified by most humans as a representation of a human, but it could be fine deduction to state that the person represented here is an Apostle of the Christian religion, probably John the Evangelist...

Clothes tell a lot, both what we intend and what we don't. An extreme is the archaic dress of most religious orders - a part of humanity who don't worry about 'what's in' this season, just this millennium. Those that are up on the threads can probably place that nun more precisely than Holmes would by the mud on your toecaps. D'you think her friend is really a Breton fisherwoman?

Then there's the tourists. We like to play a game of nailing the nationality before we hear them. Most Americans are like shooting elephants - too easy, but then there's the other ones, the stealth Europhile who blends in, like a stalking lion. This group are sending mixed messages (baseball cap and manbag, sir? Not quite in harmony) but the white trousers? I reckon she calls them pants. Sock colour is a 90% litmus test.

Oh, and that large building to the right is covered in stuff that archaeologists call 'for ritual purposes'. Don't look now, but I think there's a Duomo around here somewhere...



Melbourne Zoo, by James.

I used to work with someone like this. Do you?

I was going to try and tell you what kind of a pigeon this chap is, and logged onto the Melbourne Zoo website to look up their list of birds. But they don't have one (or I can't find it - which if I can't find it means it may as well not exist). Obviously they don't do information or learning any more, it's all about the 'visitor experience'.

Perhaps he's their PR consultant?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Country Roads

Since we've been back in Melbourne, one of the things I've been pondering is how to describe what it's like living here; the question we probably got asked most by our friends and family as we travelled.

Maldon. Victoria's first Heritage Town.

It's almost impossible to answer; it's certainly not like the adverts or the myth of Australia that's known overseas.

That's more what's expected.

Wind pump.

While Victoria has few of the 'big ticket' tourist destinations, it does have a remarkable variety of landscape and flora.

Lovely stonework on the railways.

Since we got back, we've not yet got 'up country'. Rural Victoria doesn't have the clich├ęd views that people expect, and is the smallest Mainland state (so, about the size of England) but we enjoy exploring it.

Includes big trees, and prehistoric ferns.

The pics here were all taken on days out around Victoria, mostly last year. I'm looking forward to hitting those country roads once again.

There's a fair amount of industrial archaeology.

No drinks at this pub.

There's nowhere quite like it, and it's 'home'.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blogs, birthdays, and the big lights!

We've had a busy couple of weeks, and some fun out and about in Melbourne. James' birthday, last weekend, coincided with the many delights of the Italian Film Festival.

Here we are, heading to the cinema:

No? Then how about this picture of us coming home again?

Nice corduroys, James, great hair, Bev. (But I think he'd get a better snuggle than that, since he's clearly wearing a scratchy home-made jumper....)

So, this film festival. Last year, we clocked in at five movies in the week, and this year's attempt was not too bad at four. We had a few - minor - hiccups, vis:
  1. Forgetting that one of our 'top picks' was on. - forfeit 1 popcorn point for forgetfulness
  2. Failing to remember daylight savings, and turning up one hour late. - forfeit 3 popcorn points for stupidity!
  3. Buying tickets, an hour early (organised: gain 1 popcorn point), only to discover that the film reels have not arrived from Sydney and they will be showing the movie we accidentally missed instead (see 2 above) - Gain 4 popcorn points for excellent karma!
  4. Opting to stay at the cinema for a second film, only to run out of cash because the card payment machine is broken. Skip dinner, eat popcorn, paid for with handfuls of coins carefully pooled together and counted across the counter. This is called: Cashing in your popcorn points!
Was it fun? Yes! Apart from the extra hanging around the cinema. (It gave us some time for a stroll, and to take some pictures in between features).

What did we see? Ah, that's the really good bit. This year, there were no duds. Everything we saw was good to excellent, and here's the list.

Days and Clouds (Giorno e nuvole)
- Fantastic acting, and a complex, sometimes difficult story about a husband and wife going through a complete change in their circumstances. We both thoroughly enjoyed this film and admired the fantastic acting and writing.

Speak to me of Love (Parlami d'amore)
- A rich picture of the friendship between a young man and a married French woman in Rome, this was colourful and well-acted, but perhaps lacked the depth of the other movies we saw. (It was very good, just not entirely stunning!)

These two were fantastic:

Don't Think About it (Non pensarci)
- A sweetly hopeless punk rocker gives it up and heads home to see his family. Mom, Dad, his brother and sister are all going off in their own shambolic directions. This movie was hilarious, warm, and didn't follow the same old story you would expect when the prodigal son comes home, studs and all. I want to watch this one again!

Her Whole Life Ahead (Tutta la vita davanti)
- Also a commedia Italiano movie, but with bite. This parody of the call-centre life and American-style sales psychology walks a perfect line between serious issues and super silly comedy. We loved this, and I'd highly recommend it.

What a good week!

You can check out the full blurbs and stills on the Melbourne Italian Film Festival web site .