Sasha’s grandparents, Janny and Warry, bought a boat and called it L’ARGO. They quickly learned how to navigate and tie knots that wouldn’t come undone as easily as Sasha’s shoelaces.
They put life jackets and lots of food on board, and kissed Sasha goodbye.
“We are going to practice boating and when we get really good at it we can all go for a holiday together in the Whitsundays. We can anchor L’ARGO in quiet bays and put on our goggles, snorkels and flippers and jump in the water to look at the pretty coloured coral and amazing reef fish” they told her.
Sasha was used to her grandparents ducking off to strange places she had never heard of before. She got out the atlas and said “so show me where THIS place is, please.”
Warry, who was a wizard with maps and directions loved it when Sasha asked him these sort of questions.
“Well, Sasha,” he said, “The Whitsundays are a group of islands that are close to the Great Barrier Reef. Some have resorts on them where people can have relaxing holidays eating icecreams by the swimming pool, but others are deserted and with safe anchorages in the bays around them where we can enjoy the peace and beauty of nature.”
“Hmmmm” said Sasha, “Will I be able to take my bike?” (Sasha had a beautiful new bike that still had its Christmas gift ribbons tied to the handlebars, even though it was already the month of May.)
“No Sash,” said Warry, “you’ll be paddling a ski around instead of peddling your bike.”
“Warry, I’d really like to come, but I’ll miss Griffin and Buster.” Sasha pulled a long face. “Sash, did you know that L’ARGO has two big engines that have the same amount of strength as 860 real horses. We actually say that an engine has “horsepower” when we talk about how powerful it is,” Warry explained.
“Wow, Warry,” said Sasha, with her eyes lighting up, “so what do L’ARGO’S horses eat? You must have to take a lot of hay for them.”
Warry laughed. “Diesel, Sasha, a lot of it. L’ARGO carries about 3000 litres of diesel to feed her horses. She can travel about 1000 kilometres before she runs out of food for them.”
Sasha concentrated hard to understand this. She knew how much a litre was because here mummy sometimes sent her to the shop to get “a litre of milk, and ok, an iceblock too.” And Sasha knew how far 1000 kilometres was too, because her other grandparents had their home in Brisbane which was about 1000 kilometres from Sydney, where Janny and Warry lived. It took a long time to drive there, over one whole day.
“OK, I’ll come then, because I think L’ARGO’S horses will go faster than Griffin!” said Sasha with a twinkle in her eye.
So Janny and Warry and two of their friends, Kay and Max, boarded L’ARGO with armfuls of important things like pillows and Scrabble and fishing rods and two-way radios and satellite phones and magazines and seasick tablets and sunhats and binoculars and actually so much stuff that they wondered how it would all fit in a boat that was only 15 metres long.
“Look!” exclaimed Kay, “there’s a bit more room under the stairs – we can squeeze the baked beans and sardines in there….”
“No, no!” shouted Warry, “not there. I want that spot for the BBQ tools. Put the beans under the bed. If you lift the mattress there’s a hatch underneath. You might fit the brown sugar and salt in there too.”
Kay and Janny winked at each other. With raised eyebrows Kay said “Warry, you obviously don’t do the cooking. Beans under the bed? When you want beans on toast for breakfast in a week’s time, no-one will remember where they are.”
Then Janny got the best idea she had EVER had. “It’s alright Kay. We’ll just have to bring a SNIFFER DOG on board.” Jan was already missing her poodles, Inca and Karma – almost as much as she was missing Sasha and her sisters! Janny continued. “Warry, I know we have to look for storage spots in all the hidey holes on L’ARGO. And I’ve already put the cashew nuts and blackcurrant juice under the lounge, so OK, I think I can remember that. But the doonas behind the anchor winch and shoes on the left side of the tool box and bananas behind the ceiling lining? Kay, do you agree that we need a SNIFFER DOG?”
Now Kay was Janny’s best friend. Kay also had very curly hair, enjoyed eating anchovies straight out of the tin and missed her dogs that had been left at home. So of course she agreed with Janny. “A really good idea! Then we can say “go fetch, pooch, find the tinned peaches!”
“NO DOGS ON BOARD L’ARGO!” said Warry in his strict Captain-Of-The-Boat voice.
Kay and Janny winked at each other again, and whispered to each other at the same time “that’s what HE thinks”
Warry pushed the buttons that fired L’ARGO’S engines. The horses were loose at last! Janny untied the ropes that kept L’ARGO tethered to the dock and quickly jumped aboard.
Heading north from Brisbane they cruised along the Queensland coast stopping every night for a good sleep. Mooloolaba, Fraser Island, Pancake Creek, Bundaberg, Keppel Island, Island Head Creek, Middle Percy Island, Mackay, Tongue Bay, Airlie Beach… So many new places to show Sasha on the map.
Every morning they tuned their radio into weather reports to check the speed of the wind and the height of the waves. On days when it was too windy to be comfortable at sea, Warry and Max would visit chandleries and hardware shops to stock up on equipment for L’ARGO. (Chandleries are like toy shops for people who like boats. They sell rope and shackles and fenders and plastic plates that won’t break when the boat rolls around a lot at breakfast time.)
Kay and Janny liked to head off in a little rented car to find the best cappuccinos in town. And buy more emergency food to hide – brown bread, packets of cereal and teabags, just in case there were no more windy days for shopping.
And they liked meeting the pets that were with their people on other boats berthed in the marinas. They didn’t stay chatting for long to the cranky parrot that was being scolded for “biting mummy” but they liked the Devon Rex cat with the big ears and the posh red collar and lead. But they ALWAYS talked to the dogs. In fact, there were SO many dogs traveling on boats that Janny and Kay suspected that lots of other people had trouble finding their tinned peaches too!
There were five fridges on L’ARGO to store fresh and frozen food. Janny refused to let Warry put his screwdrivers and coils of rope in her iceboxes. “They are for FOOD only. WHEN I get a sniffer dog I’ll be able to find all the hidden food and THEN we will have spare space for your bits and pieces. Warry frowned “NO DOGS, definitely NO DOGS on board.”
Cruising along on L’ARGO was very pleasant on a fine day. But when the wind got strong and the waves got bigger, everyone had to hang on carefully, especially climbing the steep stairs to the flybridge. On those days being on L’ARGO was like being on the Scooby Doo ride at Movie World. Over and over and over again.
At night Janny and Warry slept in a cabin that had portholes instead of windows, and a big hatch in the ceiling that opened up so they could see the stars at night.
Kay and Max slept in another cabin and they could see the brilliant night sky through their hatch too. In a third cabin were a pair of bunk beds, perfect for Sasha and one of her sisters. And in the saloon there was another double bed. Lots and lots of places to sleep comfortably on L’ARGO! So finding somewhere for a sniffer dog to sleep would be no problem.
When L’ARGO was anchored up in quiet bays, Warry would lower the rubber dinghy from the flybridge where it was stored. He used a small crane called a “davit” to avoid hurting his back. When the dinghy was safely in the water he’d tie it to the big boat, then load the passengers from the swim platform at the stern. He’d check that the oars and anchor were aboard, and there was plenty of fuel in the tank for the outboard motor. Then LITTLE L’ARGO would zoom to the shore where they would unload their picnic baskets and snorkeling gear and spend time exploring. (And give the sniffer dog a run, imagined Janny!) There were shells to collect, fish and coloured coral to stare at through goggles and rock pools to explore.
On board L’ARGO they watched sharp eyed seabirds diving from the sky when they spotted small fish for their dinner, turtles popping their bald heads up to find out where they were and dolphins playing in the waves.
In the evenings, after an always really scrumptious dinner prepared by the onboard chefs, Janny and Kay, the L’ARGONAUTS, as they decided to call themselves, would play games or watch a DVD, just like at home. Or just relax on the flybridge and try to count the stars.
Because L’ARGO was a brand new boat she had all modern equipment. She had a TV that popped out of a cupboard when a secret button was pressed There was a clothes washer and dryer, a dishwasher and a satellite phone that could also pick up emails. And there was a microwave and a machine to make fresh water out of the salty sea and a generator to make power for the kettle, toaster, hairdryer and other electrical gadgets (“when you could find them,” thought Janny, knowing that the sniffer dog would fix that problem).
But by the end her first week on board Janny had snoozed on all the beds, watched the telly, defrosted the peas in the microwave, made heaps of water for her hot showers, washed all the clothes and dishes in their clever machine, collected all her emails, styled her hair with the hairdryer, and cooked her toast in the toaster and put the butter on it and gone hunting for the Vegemite BUT…
Every morning she hunted, but disappointed when she could never find it, she sadly ate her toast with yukky peanut butter instead. She looked under the bed, behind the stairs to the flybridge, under the BBQ lid, in the cutlery drawer, and in the box with the pens and pencils.
One morning, Warry said to Janny “Are you happy with the new boat? Is there anything else we need to live on board comfortably?”
Janny had been waiting for this opportunity.
“Warry, since you’ve asked, I’ll tell you now that there are TWO things we need….”
“Let me guess…” said Warry, who could honestly not think of another thing they needed. “Do we need a helicopter or a swimming pool?”
“NO room left for them under the stairs” said Janny, smiling.
“What about a lawn mower or a tractor?” said Warry
Janny didn’t bother answering THIS silly question.
“Maybe 1000 pairs of sneakers and a million packets of bubble gum?” Warry was being completely silly this time.
“SO wrong, try again..” said Janny.
Warry got a bit warmer when he said “Would you like a cranky parrot or a Devon Rex cat?” And when he asked if Janny would like a pony she called him a duffer, because there were already plenty of seahorses in the ocean all around them.
“I give up” said Warry.
“Warry,” she spoke very clearly so he would hear every word. “We do truly really need a SNIFFER DOG. If you had guessed this you would have been absolutely and completely correct!” And she told him about the missing Vegemite, and the spare toilet paper and the camera batteries that she had been unable to find.
Warry did not reply. He was thinking about his answer. But he did ask Janny what the second thing was that they needed.
Janny grinned. “It’s SASHA. We need Sasha. To come snorkeling with us. To make pancakes with me, to steer the boat with you …”
Warry, with the biggest smile on his face ever, interrupted,
“I know, I know…….AND FEED THAT SNIFFER DOG!”
Zozo the Red Setter was not smart. He lost his sight in a dogfight that he came second in but even so continued to run flat out along the sand flats below our garden, indifferent to the punctuations of anchored boats at low tide. He careered into them so many times that he grew a bony protrusion on his forehead. This helps explain unicorns, who were obviously fast galloping horses with limited sensory skills in very thick forests.
So after darling but daffy Zozo we moved on to more sagacious pooches.
A whip-smart but emotionally high maintenance miniature poodle, who we called Ziggy after an approximately democratic preferential-style vote, was the next canis familiaris to rule our roost. The names that made the ballot paper were largely colour-centric. Like Sooty, Darky, Blackie and Nigger. And Pinky got a vote from our toddler yet to learn his crayon colours.
Then came the Standards. Our four big poodles over nearly three decades have in each case brought solace, joy, loyalty, purpose, humour, tolerance, friendship, a world shortage of tennis balls and caused an inestimable amount of damage to our furniture.
Chris chose Zoe. Her mum was white, but she and all her litter mates were black. In our five generations of Standards bred from Zoe’s stock, and that’s over 40 pups, not one has been white. But they all get pepper and salty as they age, and believe me they are not getting grey hairs caused by stress. Life as a Malcolm poodle is one day after another of ball play, bone chewing, couch potatoing, head massages, ear fondling and don’t mention the spa treatments, pedicures and coiffures every third week.
After they met Zoe our friends Kerry and Bill were a touch besotted and decided that they’d get a boy poodle, with a view to matrimony. When Zoe became betrothed to their handsome Sam the ceremony was presided over by K and B’s six year old daughter Adelaide. The bride wore plumbago blossoms fresh from the Yowie garden, but the groom still took a decided disinterest until his missus went on heat a week later. Both however enjoyed the wedding cake moulded from chilled Pal.
The conception process was complicated by the fact that Sam’s human family lived in Canberra. So Sam came and stayed with us in Sydney for the ten day’s of Zoe’s fertility. When the orgy finally ended Zoe glowed with satisfaction.
The vet had trouble counting the all little heartbeats. We were told the indeterminate number of pups should come around mid January 1995. On NYE 1994 we held a wee party at Yowie. Friends from Bendigo, Trinette and Rob, were houseguests. We four were readying for bed at 2am when Zoe started turning in circles trying to bite her tail. The whelping box was ready, lined thick with old newspaper. The hot water bottles, scales, ribbons and notebook were lined up for action … next week! Everyone who’d been at the party got a call to come back and watch the action. The first five pups came in the next two hours. Intermission. Or maybe all over? Those pups were already suckling well, Zoe had nibbled through their umbilical cords and eaten their placentas. Text book. Spectators left satisfied after the floor show. Trinette, with her practical midwifery skills, offered to sit up with me, just in case.
Warren and Rob went to bed. Round 2 started soon after. Five more pups in a timely manner. Finito? No, just a pause. By the time the hubbies arose after their wholesome 8 hours slumber there were four more, total 14! Three didn’t make it, but the remaining eleven thrived as we rostered them on and off the milkiest nipples.
Different coloured ribbons identified each pup. Trained by seven weeks to not chew humans by Warren growling at them in a voice deeper and meaner than ever their mother might. Immediately they would stop, and he’d praise and pat them. They’d sit on their fattening haunches and wag their tails. Then start the game again.
The pups grew each night while I wasn’t looking. Feathery bits on their tails. Bigger paws made pedestals for ridiculously round bellies. Trembling legs soon grew into straightened springs and encouraged tendencies to escape from even bigger boxes.
Twice daily the pups, beribboned to discriminate the gluttons from the feed-needy, were test-weighed. Mealtimes became manic as 44 paws to all tried to scramble into the bowls of pellet mush. Containment became challenging. I regularly retrieved escapees from the plumbago hedge. I scolded and nuzzled them, removed the tacky blue flowers from their wavy poodle wool.
Wonderful friends came round wearing plastic aprons to help at bath time, bringing an artillery of hairdryers. Neighbours popped in for cuddles and thoughtfully brought piles of old newspapers that had become the floor covering of choice throughout our house. Zoe eventually became exasperated with no time-out, and once her pups were weaned and devouring mince and gnawing brisket bones, would march round the room, growling like Warren when her progeny tried to hang like trapeze artists from her droopy nipples, just for the heck.
At nine weeks they were as cute as buttons. Separation time. And it was bittersweet for me. I loved them all but was pretty much over being under house arrest and the nonstop cleanups.
Trinette drove up from Bendigo and took a little boy. With five dependent kids and a full time job she had not wanted a pup. But of course she took one, she was the doula at his birth. He was called Clayton, the dog you have when you don’t really want a dog.
Ronda, my dear old school friend, took Jessie. Sadly, at just six months old Jessie was run over. Ronda had eight children and there had not been enough of Jessie to go around, so many little fingers had wanted to ruffle her curly coat. The thought of telling her youngest daughter Lucy that Jessie was dead was unconscionable for Ronda. She had a solution though, Ronda was the quintessential lateral thinker. Through her torrents of tears she phoned every Standard Poodle breeder in Australia until she found one with an available pup. Sight unseen, it was on the next morning’s flight from Adelaide. They named her Jessie again, and she became one of our doggy daughters too, and it was soon forgotten that she was adopted. Soon after, Ronda solved the problem of not enough dog surface area for everyone in the family to pat and got another poodle. Then another. And another. Until seven standard poodles lived in the Opperman household.
Kate took Jet, eventually. She was an anxious young woman from the US, newly married to an Aussie, and missing her family back home. After several trips from Pymble to Yowie Bay to discuss the pros and cons of dog ownership, like what equipment the dog might need to eat from, and would we help her buy it. Would the dog want to sit in the front seat of the car, she’d buy a sheepskin cover if so. Did we think the dog liked her? I remember over another brew of plunger coffee sitting with Chris and Kate while he quietly helped her work through these worrying issues. Once she was settled he took her to the local pet shop where they bought all the non-necessities for a spoilt pet. Rubber chickens to chew, toenail clippers, a tartan lined basket. Kate, confident once fully equipped for all contingencies, took Jet home. We kept in touch, Jet lived to 12 years.
Jean was a psychiatrist from Balmain. She and husband Alan and their two teenage daughters also came several times to discuss the consequences of owning a pet. The girls clutched a puppy each in hope. The parents handled the matter with cold logic. There was to be no hasty decision, could they come back in a week to progress their thinking? In the meantime they would continue discussing the matter at home. Of course they offered to leave a deposit, but I trusted my Blink! reaction. I knew that after running it around the High Court of the Dining Table for several evenings, the young girls would get their first pet.
A few years on, Jean rang. Alan had left her. She and the girls would have to move into a flat and could not take Sheba. Did we know anyone who could adopt her? Jean was bereft and later told me that she had never forgiven herself for letting Sheba down, failing as human being at that level was far worse than a failed marriage, for the dog had unconditionally trusted her.
But that quirky hand of fate had a totally satisfactory solution in mind. On that SAME day I got a distraught phone call from Angela at Currarong. Her adored pup Sheena had died. She was heartbroken and desperate to get another poodle straight away, did I have the number for the Poodle Rescue organisation? So of course, Sheba moved in with Angela and became Sheena.
Only once did an inspection not amount to a commitment. A man with an Eton accent rang, quizzed us at length about pedigree, and seemingly satisfied said he’d come immediately from The Eastern Suburbs. An hour later we noticed a slow moving Bentley inching down our street with a flustered Asian youth jogging in front, looking for street numbers. The couple entered our home indifferently, and were introduced to the only available pup. The older man shook his head and said in his affected voice “oh no, we couldn’t take that one, it’s got little sticky-out white hairs!”. And they left.
No matter. That pup was predestined to go to a widow from Beecroft with a leafy garden and love left over, who would hand feed him steamed breast of chicken and the crusts off her Vegemite toast.
I launched onto the corporate scene after a three month stint at Miss Hales Business College where I had learnt to type quite fast and without looking at my fingers. This eventually lead to a prestigious job at Sydney Uni Appointments Board where my dexterity was useful for poking metal skewers through punched cards. Pre-computer, dear grandchildren, that was how data was sorted. Various skills were printed around the edge and if your resume said “I can bottle wash, trim roses, babysit etc” we clipped your perforated card accordingly, just like a bus ticket. Don’t know a bus ticket either?
I got two thirds of an Arts degree during that time, then the rescued kitten substitute came along. I knitted our baby girl Mary Quant-style dresses in gelato colours, and blew bubbles on her lovely tummy to make her giggle. We were living then in Hollywood Street Brighton le Sands with Warren’s mum, with my mum coming over each week to help me with the ironing, and encourage me to get bub on the bottle nice and early. It was helpful to have such loving support, but the unforeseen move to Melbourne meant we could nest as a primary family at last, and keep that decadent nightcap carafe of port by the bed, no see, no tut tut tut.
In the early months of motherhood, and incarcerated at Hollywood Street with only the tinned Carnation milk to mix 1 part to 7 of boiled water for baby’s lunch (since my mum was keeping order in the laundry and Warren’s kindly mum was making us her sodium nitrate enriched What Have You for each meal), I found the motivation to learn to cook. I covered a shoe box with leftover wallpaper then glued cutout magazine recipes onto cards before systematic filing. The careers councillor at school had suggested I was excellent librarian material, even though I hankered to be a journalist. No job for a woman said Grandpa Joe, so that was that, I wasn’t going to be offered a cadetship on the Newcastle Morning Herald on his watch. So I applied my investigative and cataloguing skills to sourcing, saving and eventually preparing recipes like Moussaka, Boeuf Carbonnade and Coq au Vin. I took cook books to bed and read them like thrillers.
Guilty, I have to admit my life has largely revolved around the larder. Try not to salivate as you picture these in your mind’s eye. My mum’s melt in the mouth tangy lemon delicious pudding, her light as thisledown passionfruit flummery, her grilled lamb cutlets crusted with celery salt. A first confrontation with an anchovy as a talented but minor player in a Pythonesque production of Caesar’s Salad, performed tableside and from scratch by a liveried cast in the Sheraton Hotel in Istanbul in 1976. Simple Turkish breakfasts of hard boiled eggs, black olives, hunks of feta, honey, pide bread and thick sweet coffee. Continental breakfasts on the actual Continent – buttery croissants served warm, spread with more butter and that posh jam called confiture. Tiger pies from Harry’s Cafe de Wheels – take a hunger pang, add a run of the mill meat pie then pile on potato mash, mushy peas and spicy gravy. Sea bass baked in salt crust served with a garnish of Adriatic view. Prime rib at the Houston Airport Hotel of all places. The squishy succulence of Giddy’s creamed rice. Saltimbocca alla Romana perfected at Trio Romanos, against which all others are now measured. King Oscar tinned sardines, heavily lemoned, grilled on toast for mornos. Slow roasted garlicky lamb shoulder a la Evan. Chris’s Coconut Chicken, how does he get it so crunchy? Warren’s accurately buttered toast and Vegemite with milky English Breakfast tea served in bed …
The first little possum was wandering alone along Blues Point Rd late at night. We were newlyweds and had not yet rescued the Kings Cross cat and needed something to nurture, as mating animals instinctively do. We smuggled it up to the 14th floor of the NO PETS ALLOWED apartment building we were living in, and made it a home away from home in the bathtub. It loved us dearly until it shredded the lounge room curtains.
Then there was the brazen one who marched up to the dining table through the open balcony doors when we were late delivering his evening banana slices. Our dinner party guests were charmed of course, they came from England and admitted they couldn’t train squirrels or badgers to do that.
And what about when we woke in the middle of the night hearing something in our bedroom. Sit bolt upright, both of us. Thankfully. Possum runs across the pillows behind us and clambers up the bed light. I run for the camera, Warren for the clean sheets which sums up our essential differences. The poor thing is frozen in fear and won’t budge. While I am capturing the moment from every angle, my practical partner has built a barricade of pillows to shoo our intruder through to an open door. Exit possum stage left. Remnants of lamp to bin.
When Madeline was 9 months old we moved to Victoria. Warren was to be sent there temporarily, ha ha, so we reasoned that his daily allowance could be eeked out to cover our small family if we stayed somewhere cheaper than the one star Collingwood Motel. So we took a small room in a dodgy “guest house” at St Kilda. I was now 20 and should have know better than to rush to the side of an apoplectic fellow guest in the communal lounge. No, he didn’t say “please call an ambulance”. He panted out “I’ll give you ten dollars for a good naughty!” I locked myself in our room in mortification. Unamused when spouse said later that I should have asked for 20!
Next day we found a nice flat near a synagogue at South Caulfield and started the habit of keeping a carafe of port by the bed. This is probably the wickedest thing we have ever done.
A year later, in 1969, Warren was offered a better paid job near Yarram in nippy Gippsland. It was boom time then in the offshore oil industry and there was not much affordable accommodation around. We had to settle for a ramshackle farmhouse with no hot water to the outside bathroom. We trudged it in buckets from the kitchen for our weekly bath. We were briefly the custodians of a black Labrador pup that tried to please by bringing fresh lamb placentas to our kitchen door. Our little girl grew big and strong on her limited diet of Weetbix and bananas.
We befriended Marg and Ian, farmers from a few paddocks away. They gave us a baby lamb for Madeline to play with. It grew into a mouton of course, and since there was no properly closable back door in our “heritage homestead” it would make itself comfortable on our donated Night ‘n’ Day convertible sofa when we were out. It had a penchant for eating plastic anything, but the day it met us at the kitchen door with the decorative streamers off our littlie’s new tricycle hanging from it’s jowls we sent it for a short holiday from which it returned in Cryovac bags.
This was also the era of the fondue. Usually the pots were made of copper, and were very displayable on the then fashionable Welsh dresser. Back in the 1960’s everyone got at least one set as a wedding present. Methylated spirits went in the burner. If you accidentally used thinners because someone had decanted it into an old metho bottle, you had to be prepared to repaint the ceiling. Vegetable oil, cheapest you could source, went in the pot. Heat it. Cut up enough chuck steak into bite size cubes to give everybody a handful. It took a long time to chew so you didn’t need as much as you thought you would. Provide plenty of garlic bread too, cheap and filling. Everyone impaled a piece of meat and put it in the bubbling oil until shrivelled like a raisin. Dipped then in one of the three sauces you had made out of one jar of home brand mayonnaise. Mayo with curry powder, mayo with tomato sauce and plain mayo. Share a flagon of sherry between 4 while preparing and a cask of rough red during the meal. Repeat weekly. If you burn your arm with hot oil you won’t feel it till next morning and the scars will still be there when you reach 70. Ask Joan.
Joan’s spouse Alan was a work chum of Warren’s. They were a bit older than us and much more worldly. Joan had lived on a kibbutz and had a Palestinian black and white headscarf that she used as a tablecloth. Totally chic way of serving her pissaladiere. Beyond delicious, with it’s buttery shortcrust base smeared thickly with caramelized onions, crisscrossed with anchovies, black olives in the diamond shaped spaces between them. Baked while sharing a bottle of Lexia.
The Texan guys that Warren worked for could not get their mouths around his name. Warren Malcolm came out as “More than Welcome”. Inspired us to buy a hogshead of red plonk and have a bottling party. Had some suave labels printed too,
MORE THAN WELCOME WINE.
Made from grapes from the sunny side of a hill
BOTTLED UNDER UNHYGENIC CONDITIONS
It tasted ok with cornbread and that great stew that site manager’s wife used to make with green olives and a whole bottle of Catalina dressing.
The Texans bid for a job in Nigeria and we were set to go. Yellow Fever shots, visas, sad farewells. I would have been living in Lagos with partner in whoop whoop for months on end. But it didn’t come off, and a windfall opportunity to buy some damaged pipe and on sell it at a good profit got us the start of a deposit for a house. Thank you, fickle hand of fate!
So after the spartan isolation of rural life we bought a newly completed triple fronted red textured brick veneer house at 8 Conjola Place Gymea. Not a living thing in the yard, but rockeries with pockets of pigface and westringia soon softened its prominent septic tank. We made ginger beer and home brew, stored it under new infant Chris’s cot. One night the stash exploded. Baby became a bit jumpy at loud noises after that. We put less sugar in the next batch.
My parents had a poultry farm and piggery at Kulnura and we would go up most weekends to help out. Marlene and Charles were the managers and could Marlene cook! The kitchen mostly smelled of blistered red capsicums, except for the winter morning when it was scented with slow roasted piglet litter. The sordid detail is that my young brother thought they’d keep nicely warm in the lower oven of the Aga where Marlene’s meringues also came to a slow state of crispness overnight.
We learned other basics of rural life. How to wring the neck of a sick chook with finesse (that is, not separating head from body). How not to cook a pig on the spit actually in the piggery compound (conflicting aromas). How to create something edible from a tray of cracked eggs, lacquered with poo and feathers. But all good things must come to and end, and the farm was resumed for a dam.
Free weekends again. And now three kids. Bought a tidal waterfront block of land at 10 Calyspo Place Gymea Bay. Built a nuts and berries style split-level house. Made $20,000 when Council failed to clean their drains and a steep portion of our land washed away, voila, instant excavation for swimming pool. Pay out the mortgage, use nice windfall to build rumpus area under house but note that the difficult to conceal large structural beam could be handicap when selling in the future. Seven years on, buy another bigger better block with deeper water. Advertise Calypso house privately. Sell to guys who want to homebuild a small aeroplane and need a substantial internal beam to hang it off.
Build our current home at 1a Yellambie Street Yowie Bay. The land looked like a moonscape after it was cleared but 39 years on is a tropical paradise with undisturbed golden orb spiders, sun-baking water monitors, cascades of bougainvillea, exclamation marks of Gymea lilies where lorikeets sway and play and tickle around for nectar, where up-too-early magpies warble, where larangytic white cockatoos steal dog’s brisket bones, and where migratory channel billed cuckoos raucously screech like harpies through the night, tempting us each summer to buy them tickets on Qantas to get straight back to New Guinea. We are bonded to this place. It is where our pre-teenage sons, apparently even then environmentally sensitive, started a recycling program that involved secretion of discarded PLAYBOY Magazines salvaged during Council Cleanups then archived in a rock shelf cave behind our house. One cool winter’s day they lit a comforting fire in this midden amongst the precambian winkle shells, just like much earlier occupants probably had. And so set our Earthly Garden of Eden alight. Our kindly next door neighbours let the culprits take refuge on their roof till parental flames of fury were also extinguished.
I will paint you a word picture of my heart throb:
He worked out how to rock his high chair around the kitchen without tipping it over, while I at the same age was focused on the mouth feel of mashed pumpkin. This was an early indicator that he would become the sort of engineer you want designing your harbour bridge. That he regularly used to get the train home from work forgetting that he’d driven in that day only confirmed to me that his mind was on a higher plane. Solving Fermat’s Theorem potentially.
He didn’t divorce me when I nearly sliced off his nose after putting an unopened tin of baked beans in a campfire to heat. The exploded bean purée mimicked blood and gore in the moonlight, to add to the actual trauma. A forgiving nature, and a good instructor in elementary physics.
He sprained his ankle in a pothole, then running to his aid I did the same thing. So consequentially we hobbled arm-in-arm into Casualty with our unlikely story. Our bemused daughter got a byline in the Sydney Morning Herald next day headed MY PARENTS DO EVERYTHING TOGETHER!
He never confused the meteorological “sheep weather alert” with “better get your bed linen off the Hill Hoist, it’s about to rain”. Like I did. A man who listens carefully.
I like the simple things in life. The leaf symmetry of flannel flowers and frangipanis. Unclipped poodles. Trout without the meuniere sauce. So he bought me an iridescent pink Porsche for my 44th Birthday. A lover with a wonderful sense of the ridiculous.
He brought interesting objects into our startup household. Like his Sunday School Prize, a hardback edition of BROTHER DUSTYFEET (he wasn’t an atheist then). And his friends Pixie and Ralph gave us a really useful bongo drum for a wedding gift (if only it had made toast). And his brother sent us a stuffed baby crocodile from the Sepik which created a point of interest on our inverted tea chest dining table. A man with sentiment.
I only bought a thin sausage each for the first meal I ever ever ever cooked. I was a Child Bride of 19 and had not yet read The Wifely Skills Handbook. But he happily just filled up on a loaf of sliced white bread and half a jar of peanut butter. He had grown lanky on a regular diet of substances his mother called “what have you” – which was whatever could be concocted from corned beef fritters which had been the left overs from the boiled corned beef from the night before. He is appreciative of all offerings.
My parents never did the really proper camping thing with us sprogs. My mother was much too wise to fall for that one. But when I was about eleven they did tow a pre-loved caravan from Sydney to Mildura. All I remember of that low spot in my life is us four kids squashed and squabbling in the back seat of the Hillman Minx, and my father nervously watching this cumbersome hula-hula dancing rig in the rear-vision mirror as he drove, hour in, hour out, at 30 miles per hour with his hands always in the correct ten to two position on the sweaty steering wheel. And if those eagle-eyes in the back of his head caught us nodding off we were in for it. If he was going to make the effort to drive through this landscape, we were going to see every bit of it. But Warren had lived in a caravan for six months as a kid while his Mum and Dad built a house. He still holds warm and fuzzy memories of playing Cowboys and Indians around the ablution block with other barefoot kids. An imaginative and adaptable man. He’s not a cat fancier, but tolerated the three who’ve so far chosen us. The black one that was thrown through the open kitchen window of a friend’s ground floor King’s Cross squat. We took it home and treated it like a baby til we got a real one. Then Mrs Puss the nymphomanic tabby we inherited at Yarram when we rented the farmhouse. She nursed her repetitious kitten litters in the haystack. One day we thought she was pirouetting for joy because her current batch of sucklings had left home, but she was unfortunately in her death throes and went kerplonk at our feet. Cat Three was Tom, an exotic Russian Blue lookalike who thought he was the other dog in the family. Lots of little children’s tears were shed into his silver coat, he was the soft, cuddly, consoling creature to turn to when your brother wouldn’t share the Lego or you didn’t get invited to Nicole’s 9th birthday party.
We had been married a week before I realised that dealing with the mounting pile of soiled singlets in the bedroom corner was my responsibility. Was this in the marriage vows I wondered, had I really promised to Love, Honour AND Launder? He’s ever pragmatic and bought me a Hoover Twin Tub.
For years he had checked out every backyard-built catamaran in Queensland and scoured Trade-a-Boat monthly, dog earring pages of potential then emailing owners for displacement figures and details of rudder shapes. So when he asked me what I wanted for my 58th birthday I said “I just want you to make a DECISION about a boat.”
And he did, and bought a gracious Grand Banks. In a bogan moment we briefly considered calling her JANUWARRY but settled on L’ARGO. (ARGO being the ship of Jason and the Argonauts in which they headed off in search of the mythical Golden Fleece. Just like we would be seeking out the least cautious coral trout for our BBQ.)
From a very young age, and I’m talking not yet seven, I was served a wee sweet sherry before lunch when I stayed with my maternal grandparents, Giddy and Joe. They lived in Newcastle and I used to choof up there all the way from Sydney, unaccompanied, on “The Flyer”. Train travel then was something else – pots of tea and buttered scones served with the elegance of the Orient Express but without the murders. I think if there had been regular murders I might have been sent accompanied.
There was a lanky eucalyptus on top of the cliff at the back of Giddy and Joe’s Brooks Street house. The crazy-paved path up to it was an epic trek, winding past the clothes line, hen house, parsley patch, coiled hose and two weathered garden gnomes. One had an attitude of industry and held a rake. My reward for effort was that from the first branch of this tree I could see the town hall clock and so would know the time without asking and therefore, how long, roughly, till sherry.
Visits to Newcastle meant
… Popping in nearly every day to visit a neighbour who lived round the corner and up a bit. She was also my grandmother’s best friend. They called each other Mrs Dickinson and Mrs Caldwell.
… Being shown off at Joe’s work. He did the evening shift as The News Editor at The Newcastle Morning Herald after a motivational pre-lunch rum while I had my sherry.
… Picking up the flattened lamb cutlets from Barney the Butcher for Tuesday lunch. From this I learnt two life skills – cutlets have to be flat to crumb nicely and raw sausages won’t necessarily kill you. Butchers in the 1950s were allowed to poison little girls with complimentary uncooked tidbits from the window display.
… Helping crumb the mullet for Friday lunch. Crumbed food was very popular back then. I’ve forgotten which day’s lunch was crumbed brains. Anyhow, The Pope had decreed only mullet on Fridays and it had to be followed by creamed rice for dessert as only Giddy could make it. Half a cup of short grain rice, teaspoon of butter and pinch salt boiled to soften a little with small amount of water, then a pint of milk slowly added while stirring constantly over a low gas flame. When fully absorbed add two beaten egg yolks with two tablespoons sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Empty into good crystal bowl leaving enough on the wooden spoon and bottom of saucepan for salivating granddaughter.
… Remembering to say that 37 Brooks Street was in MEREWEATHER and not Cooks Hill for, heavens to Betsy, Darby St running parallel and a little downer the notorious Hill was a slum, and maybe even housed Ladies of the Night. Those same terraces and semis fifty years on are now high-end art galleries and funky bistros.
… Watching Sunday lunch’s squawking chicken being chased around the backyard with an axe. Even after it lost it’s head.
… Waiting for the baker’s cart to bring the day’s high-top loaf and wondering if his horse would drop a poo (free veggie garden fertiliser for the first neighbour to get there with his spade).
… listening to the titillating daily episode of Blue Hills by Queenie Ashton on the Bakelite radio. This was The Bold and the Beautiful of the 1950s!
… Sitting with infinite patience in the Ladies Lounge at the Northern Star Hotel with Giddy and her one shandy while Joe had a few pints with other important chaps in felt hats and three-button suits at the saloon bar.
… Anticipating that Giddy, when she spotted me sprawled on her cut moquette lounge engrossed in my Enid Blytons would bring me a forehead kiss and a little tray with sweet tea and hot buttered pikelets.
However there were two traumas in my childhood, just in case you think my juvenile years were just a bed of roses:
Firstly the anxiety before ballet lessons. I was terminally unsuccessful at walking with my feet in second position while wearing a red crossover cardigan that my mother had knitted very badly.
Secondly having an irrational fear of aunts who were nuns. Giddy’s sister, known to me as Aunty Mary, and to others less familiar as Sister Mary Leander, taught at All Hallows’ Girls School for Wicked Grand-Nieces. My parents’ ultimate punishment threat was to send me to Brisbane to board at Aunt Mary’s penitentiary. It sure kept me on the straightened arrow!
Sometime during my dad Bob’s wartime career with the RAAF, he had met my mother. She was at that time the reigning Miss Victoria League, the Newcastle equivalent of Miss Universe. Crown, sash, the whole shebang. No wonder he fell for her.
After a couple of years of living with Giddy and Joe, it was time to go hang out with my other grandparents for a bit. Bob’s parents, Nanna and Pa, had a houseful already at 715 Beaufort Street Mt Lawley Perth Western Australia so I suppose three more meant just another cup and a half of water in the stew. With seven boisterous sons and one daughter it is it no wonder that Nanna found some solace in joining the Christian Scientists.
Eventually I started school, and it was off to the local convent and into the grip of some fearsome nuns and the dubious dogma of Pope Pius the Umpteenth. The trouble started when I was to make my first holy communion and in the pre-event cleansing confession session I mentioned coveting a two wheeler bike. The kindly priest told me there would be one waiting after I died and went to heaven. So I went home and prayed hard to be released early from this mortal coil.
It nearly happened when soon after I fell a couple of metres from an out of bounds ramp leading up to the church. Now this is me who only made it to the first branch of Giddy’s gum tree doing something really daring for probably the first time, so of course I messed up. Embarrassed and injured I was sent home, told the oldies a fib, something like I’d just tripped over a rock. I thought I could confess all at church somewhere down the track and square up with God, the only one who mattered, because he was minding my bike. His earthly nominee, the parish priest, would just give me a few rounds of the rosary as penance. And that done, bingo, should be back in God’s good book. But a nosy nun rang home to check on my WELLBEING, true story comes out, parents mortified and furious, and it’s a choice – a lashing with my father’s trouser belt or a fast train to the dreaded All Hallows for a term of incarceration. The whip, the whip!
But on the upside my wicked behaviour triggered the much needed conversation between my heathen father and my RC mother about where I should go to school next. Time to let the State system drill some sense into me. Since I knew that Protestant kids had no chance of getting even to Purgatory on their way to Hell I was initially apprehensive, but although I hated folk dancing on Friday mornings it still beat catechism recitation hands down. And then God delivered the bike that Xmas anyway.
Life in the red brick veneer on the corner of Ellis and Evelyn Streets Sylvania was cool. My dad was by now a Health Food Shop Pioneer and an Entrepeneur since he had shops at not only Gymea and Caringbah but Kirrawee too. He always had tons of empty boxes in the garage that converted into shop counters where I planned my own retail empire. And I was considered smart enough to help in the shops before I was even 10. I could be trusted to accurately weigh out bags of raisins and mixed peel for the Christmas puddings of the Sutherland Shire. As a bonus a slow boy who was working there part time asked to see mine if he showed me his.
Sylvania at the time was nightclub central for Sydney. In those days before random breathtesting a two hour drive to the outskirts of the city for a big night out at Dora Skelsey’s Ace of Spades or an exotic meal of Chicken in a Basket at Herman’s Haystack with a nice bottle or two of Moselle was tres chic. The swankiest venue was The Colony Club. It had a glamorous indoor pool with oyster shell grottoes for canoodling. Incongruously the management let our school hold swimming classes there during the days.
I learned to drive on my dad’s fancy Dodge Phoenix. Now that was a limo that Batman would have lusted after, but the darn thing was so wide and long is it any wonder I regularly anointed cars on either side with blessings of expensive royal blue paint when I parked it.
We were by then living at 28 Castle Street Blakehurst. Peter Smith lived opposite and later became a medico which didn’t surprise me because he spent much of the last term of sixth class at Baldface Primary measuring his dick with a wooden ruler.
At high school I studied home economics (mandatory for girls in First Year, while boys did woodwork), Latin (Cicero – great name, should be on the Popular Baby Name long list), art (opportunity to bleach hair with Ajax as creative project), history (white men rule, ok?), English (I after E except after C), maths (blank), French (voulez vous desire a couchez avec moi ce soir?), comparative religion (hello Buddha, meet Allah) and biology (knew that already, remember Peter Smith?)
I did quite well in The Leaving Certificate. So after this successful and rounded education my reward was to be taken on the grand European tour with my parents and their three other squirmy progeny to keep me snug in the back seat of a Ford Zephyr for months on end. I got to visit the Windmill Theatre in London, which was pretty grown up stuff as the girls were topless but the main thing I remember is putting on 10 kilos of baguette despite the back seat compression factor.
The sea voyage to Southhampton was a ton of fun. We sank our tug in Suez and drowned four men. The captain put the ship into fast forward in a Bonnie and Clyde-style getaway but Interpol caught up with us mid Mediterranean. He was arrested and jailed while we got a free extra week stuck in Port Said during the Official Enquiry.
On the ship trip home and being so much more worldly (I’d been to the Moulin Rouge), and erudite (I’d seen the Sistine Chapel), and obviously attracted to my recently acquired serious child-bearing hips, I gained a 35 year old suitor talking future marriage. But I trusted my Blink! instinct. I was still only 17 and felt I was yet to formally meet the true man of my dreams. Though I had seen him on on the bus.
Let’s look at food, the hours I’ve spent
Making tummies more content.
My feet now flat from standing scraping
Carrots, and the such, for shaping
Little bodies into fatter
Well-conditioned human matter.
I wrack my brain, now what for tea
That I can churn out yummily.
The pros and cons are carefully weighted,
Something tasty then created
(But nothing made seems to eclipse
Their strong penchant for “steak and chips.”)
When time for bed, I take delight
In reading cook books half the night.
It’s odd to think a hot-plate slaver
Hits the cot and wants to savour
Recipes that others state
Are nicer than the things we ate.
All those clippings, when a bride,
I stored but have not ever tried.
Exotic ones so carefully hoarded
Till making them could be afforded.
(But would they eat if I did bake
A tasty Turkish Pickle Cake?)
Sprawls across our double bed as though it is her own
(A habit started early and never quite outgrown)
Adorns the kitchen table in posture like a sphinx
And though that’s unhygienic, that’s not quite what she thinks.
No-one dares chastise her and any naughty doing
Is added as a talent to the others she’s accruing.
We even took to spelling out certain words she knows
Are other dogs this clever? Some may be, I suppose.
This dog is really special. I know that she can feel
When someone has the lonelies, for up to you she’ll steal
And give you just a little lick, a subtle blink of eye
“I understand your problem” is the message she’ll imply.
It sort of makes me comfy to have a dog around
The unimposing presence that with humans isn’t found
You can’t get cross or cranky when a canine cuddles up
The world would be much better if it bought itself a pup.
Why do I keep tarnished souvenir spoons
Limp sheets of music of never played tunes
Dolls of my Gran’s with their cracked waxen faces
Shelves full of books that my Kindle replaces.
Portraits on walls with unfashionable frames
In sepia tones and of unrecalled names
Albums of photos assembled with care
So easy right now to just digitally share.
The lamp from Mao’s China we carted along
To find them already for sale in Hong Kong
The rug called flokati we purchased in Greece
That still smells of sheep with its long tangled fleece.
Suspicion runs deep that my flawed DNA
Keeps putting my home into wild disarray
In which case, consoled, this most probably means
The mess just occurs ‘cause I’m wearing these genes.
1984, revised 2018
SYDNEY TO ETTALONG
My Chief of Staff left early by train to put arrangements in place for my State Visit to the Central Coast later in the day. I heard later that she had strategic negotiations with the Event Coordinator over a lavish lunch of fish and chips at the Ettalong RSL Club.
Some food envy here, as I do like flathead, and would have enjoyed a portion of matured leftovers wrapped in a soggy paper serviette and served from the bottom of her handbag in a day or two’s time. As occasionally happens.
However, I will move on…
Mid afternoon I set off from Barkingham Palace in a current model BMW on the the back seat of which my Chauffeur had spread a clean beach towel for my sprawling comfort. The pillow I had requested was firmer than necessary, but I DIDN’T complain as my sharp sense of smell determined that there was a block of Lindt mint chocolate within this medium sized Esky, and I’m partial to my minuscule after-dinner portion served cool.
On arriving in Ettalong in the early evening my Chauffeur, the Event Coordinator and my Chief of Staff patted and licked each other enthusiastically then entrusted me with minding the limo while they visited the Ettalong Bowling Club to select my gourmet dinner. The service was a little slow I have to admit but the meal was excellent when it arrived, well worth the wait. It makes me salivate just to tell you this – it was sautéed bison. Though they told me it was veal, I know a toothsome piece of well hung bison when I’m served it, so satisfying to get one’s canines into. No vegetables, thankfully, and they thoughtfully had added a side of selected remnants of a savoury crumbed item with tasty gravy.
I spent the night at the Event Coordinator’s own impressive residence. She had even laid out the Green Carpet Grass for my grand entrance, and placed my OWN bed alongside hers. I’ve heard The Queen of England travels with her own toilet seat, but even She doesn’t get to take her much loved aromatic one metre square futon.
Feeling very content with the way things have gone so far on this trip. A brisket bone thawing on the back seat would have been a nice touch to make my journey from Sydney to Ettalong less arduous but hey, this travelling with a Standard Poodle is all new to my staff.
ETTALONG TO OLD BAR
Around 5am I had a good stretch, then passed some silent wind to gently rouse my Event
Coordinator. She had omitted to show me the bathroom facilities last night and I was more than ready for a long squatted pee on that vibrantly green synthetic turf outside her residence. She dressed quickly for this occasion in an ankle length pink chenille gown with loosely knotted matching belt. She really didn’t need to get so formally attired for this relatively brief outing, but it was appreciated anyway.
I broke my fast satisfactorily with triangles of Vegemite toast, thanked my Event Coordinator for her sterling efforts in making this visit seamlessly pleasant, and deliberately didn’t mention that I had personally autographed her slippers during the night. She will get such a pleasant surprise later when she puts them on and sees how nicely I reworked their decorative pom-poms and inner soles. Much like Banksy might.
I was collected by my Chauffeur and my Chief of Staff, who by the way, I had personally selected because they seem to work so well together. They then took me to visit a dear younger friend, Beau Palmer, at his nearby lakeside villa. He’s a lively chap, taking flying lessons actually, see pic. He has a Butler of such high order that Beau allows him to closely cohabit at night with total disregard for his own personal hygiene.
A delightful morning tea had been prepared in my honour, then we took our Staff for a gambol along the lakeshore. They unfortunately didn’t make the most of the opportunity to roll in fresh puddles and chase slow pelicans as Beau and I did. Their loss. We had even allowed them off our leashes during this highly pleasurable excursion.
Well, I have to say Beau’s lakeside fine abode eclipses anything my imagination might have conjured up about George Clooney’s Italian pondside shack. I wouldn’t have minded pooping by to check out those Nosepresso-scented kennels, but, as I’m reluctant to fly (confinement in a chilly metal tube careering through Space versus elevated back seat position in a well grounded silver Beemer, go figure) it is not going to happen in this life. I do believe in reincarnation though, so karma-dependent, I maybe will find myself there in the future.
Next stop to pee was on the weeds out front of a Smacka’s Speedy Eats at Bulahdelah, which was also a convenient location for the staff to replenish my recyclable plastic lidded tureen with scrummy leftovers. Which I of course planned to save for later. Delayed gratification, I work on it. The aroma from that one third of a grilled teriyaki chicken wrap was torture though but I still abstained for a full ten minutes before computing that this form of martyrdom was not drawing the attention I had hoped for, so I just wolfed down that damn delicious chook while no one was looking.
For the rest of the journey to Old Bar I have to admit I dozed. My staff checked on my needs a few times, but I am not not a needy sort of poodle really, unless I’ve o’deed on running water in the park after a ball game. Sometimes then its hard to know when to stop. When your preferred liquor is on tap it can be hard to resist having another pint.
As no further pee stops were deemed necessary for any of us, when we reached the Boogie Woogie Beach House I assured them that I was still continent so they went on ahead to liaise with the manager about our accommodation arrangements. I was privileged to be allotted the alfresco verandah where my own futon and paraphernalia could be installed, while my Staff were to lay sentry indoors, poor things, in a shared bed.
As an act of solidarity I indicated by repeatedly pawing the door separating us that I could not possibly pull rank on them like this. As there was inadequate room for their cumbersome elevated futon on my airy patio I insisted on bringing mine inside to join them in their air conditioned space as an act of selflessness and friendship.
While they arranged more leftovers for my dinner, I again minded the limo which had been parked conveniently close to our shared quarters. It’s the least I could offer to do, and meant I could keep an eye out for local mongrels. I should add that the Pavarotti pizza residuals were lip smacking good. What’s not to like about crispy salami and melted cheese with a touch of anchovy on a thin crust.
AROUND OLD BAR
The day started poorly with my Staff being evicted from Boogie Woogie Beach House. I did overhear grumblings about breached demarcation lines. Species discrimination is a slim possibility but at least pelt colour did not appear to be the big issue.
We all rehoused nearby at much more appropriate lodgings from my perspective. I would have to say it was the ultimate in shabby chic. I’d heard that ‘50s original scuffed linoleum flooring was de rigeur in the latest high end kennels. I warmed to The Look immediately.
I encouraged the Staff to take a drive out to Manning Point and sample their famous locally grown oysters. Can’t say that molluscs are my cup of bone broth, but they certainly invigorated my Chauffeur and Chief of Staff. I discretely shut myself in their
ablutions room on our return to lodgings and put my paws over my ears.
OLD BAR TO COFFS HARBOUR
A picture speaks a million words. Do I look happy or not? Not only was there a welcome sign out for me at the Toreador Motel in Coffs Harbour, but attached
to the key to my suite was a gift wrapped packet of my favourite
biscuits. Does not get much better than this.
COFFS HARBOUR TO BELLINGEN
My Staff have arranged another State Visit for me, this time I am to stay overnight in the home of the La Principessa Kirsty e Il Princepe George della Bello. They live as sumptuously as I’d expected and of course have arranged alfresco daybeds, warmed human laps and bowls of my favourite bevvie, adorned with tasty fresh newts from their own creek instead of those silly umbrellas and lemon slices.
They will get a Triphoundvisor Certificate of Excellence if I have anything to bark about it. I should mention we lunched enroute in the nearby citadel of Bellingen on a local delicacy, pork and fennelsausage rolls. All politely noted my slightly fresher breath.
BELLINGEN TO YAMBA
A bad hair day and a tedious drive to Yamba.
I’ve had little chance today to sniff any of my peers.
Makes me realise it is not just about the journey, its all about the ball play and the ecstasy of a dozen or so leisurely squatted pees at the destination.
YAMBA TO MERMAID BEACH
Nice to finally reach Ewingsdale where we all partook of lunch at my elderly mother Zo’s place. I hadn’t been to her Utopian country house before. My Staff licked and patted Mama Zo’s Attendees in an awkward display of overfamiliarity while I showed more restraint and just discretely sniffed the designer diaper of the tiny Court Jester. My step-sister Lola showed me around her private zoo, also most impressive. She has a rare furry Tree Dog that eats gum leaves, and even tastier water dragons than I keep in my Yowie Bay moat. I’ve arranged a repeat visit later in the week, and hopefully then will meet the python, who Lola says lives a solitary life on a rafter above the communal banqueting hall.
After my splendid midday repast of partially buttered sourdough crusts, leg ham gristly bits and fat, and a small segment of reptile tail, we pushed on and reached The Holy Grail this afternoon. A visit to magical Mermaid Beach had long been on my bucket list.
My Staff are so well connected, they had spoken with The Powers That Be and a Welcome Bubble Bath awaited me. Just what I needed after a week of insufficient ball play opps and far too much reclining effortlessly on the back seat of a limo.
I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like to go on Royal Tour. So many
arrangements must be put in place, and coincidentally there are other Aristdograts
visiting my domain this month too, so just imagine the logistics that faced the organisers. (Hazza and Megs Windsor, haven’t met them yet but he’s the one with the orange pelt, very rare. She’s more my colouring, quite sleek, doubt if she tangles.)
You are sure to have noticed that I am quite dogged about documenting the fine details of this tour. Here is another observation – I had no idea there could be so many varieties of muffins served with morning puppacinos. White chocolate and banana, feta and spinach – I mean, who dreams up these things?
Anyway, we have reached Nirvana and in this lifetime too. And I never use the word Utopian lightly, but Mermaid Beach exceeds my expectations. I can only imagine the size of the water dragons that live in this enormous moat.
Mostly it’s just my species and their attendants vacationing here. Felines, equines and bovines don’t know what they’re missing, there are just so many archaeopteryx and pletosaurs to hunt. Hard to catch but I keep reminding myself that the fun’s in the chase. It’s my mantra actually, and particularly regarding the pointless returning of fetched tennis balls.
I turn 11 today, and I’ve gone on heat to celebrate. I get to wear customised fancy pants (actually the tiny Court Jester I met yesterday had on a similar pair, but as she is unevolved hers didn’t have the special tail aperture that I’m modelling!).
Rotisserie chicken skin and thigh flesh (with no yukky stuffing) for celebratory dinner tonight! I requested the addictive crunchy wing bone be served also. Not something I’d do too often as I’ve heard horror stories about my species ingesting too many cooked bones, but hey we are here for a good time, not a long time.
BYRON BAY AND MERMAID
I rostered off my Staff for a few days and returned to my relatives in Byron Bay. Been ages since we had quality time together so Zo, Lola and I raged like there was no tomorrow. Snoozed in every boudoir, midnight-snacked on discarded salmon patty crumble under the tiny Court Jester’s throne-ette. I know you’d like to hear more but sorry, that’s all I’m prepared to disclose here, what happens in
Byron stays in Byron. No, not even telling for liver treat bribes.
When my Staff returned they drove me in the manner to which I am so accustomed back to Mermaid Beach, where to celebrate our reunion they made me a degustation dinner. You want details? I gobbled up three good handfuls of microwaved turkey mince then wolfed down an ear of last Easter’s Lindt bunny that had been hidden for me behind the sofa.
I felt a need to return the hospitality so invited Lola and Zo up to Mermaid Beach for a few days. The Puparazzi were, as expected, out in force as we did our our meet and greet walkabouts around Mermaid Beach. Here however are a couple of my own Instdogram posts. Apologies for not always getting the horizon straight. I’m left pawed, and I need a good pedi.
…Here we are, dining al fresco on osso bucco. One each, from the Nobby’s butcher.
At $14.99 a kilo, I’ll suggest to Lola and Zo that we save the marrow bones for another chew tomorrow.
… My Exercise Physiologist is so well trained, he knows I will only fetch Dunlop Fort All Court tennis balls.
AND you will also have noted by now that, just like the British royals, I don’t carry a bag myself, but Staff always have my necessities, so if I do whoopsy they deal with it.
MERMAID BEACH TO ULMARRA
Before we set off on the drive back to Barkingham Palace I made a quick trip to the Day Spa as a few more official visits had been lined up for me. My Staff closed the drawbridge to the fortress at Mermaid Beach and my cavalcade set forth for
Ulmarra where I feasted on the crumb coating off a chicken schnitzel in the beer garden of the most glam resort in town.
Day 22, 23
ULMARRA TO SOUTH WEST ROCKS
Smoky Cape Retreat, what a lifetime highlight. Just check out this mob of Macropodidae. It took enormous restraint to not befriend them. My Special Envoy advised just in time
that they were accomplished boxers and could not be relied on to give up their delicious, pouch-sized young willingly.
SOUTH WEST ROCKS TO PORT MACQUARIE
More official duties, rather a ho hum day from my perspective. Beach runs, beach runs blah blah blah. Rather looking forward to tomorrow…
PORT MACQUARIE TO ETTALONG
It’s always nice to revisit special places, and I have to say Ettalong is one of those. Such a fuss made of me, the green carpet grass was out again, and I felt the love as I was hand fed bite size pieces of nicely underspiced Portuguese chicken thigh by a delegation of local serfs.
Nearly forgot to mention. Pooped in to see young Beau Palmer again today. He’s still, hhhmm hhmmm, intact, and I’m still on heat- ish… Call me a cougar if you like but I did give it a momentary thought…
So it is back to Bark Palace tomorrow after a rather successful tour. Many have patted me, but next month I am scheduled to have a tepid tea tree rinse after my shampoo, so it’s a security risk I can manage. I’ve dined wisely whilst not forsaking the opportunities that travel presents to try local delicacies. Schnitzels I now know vary regionally. I prefer them Panko crumbed, but not all of my rurally based underlings get to experience the subtleties of Japanese food, so cornflake crumbs it sometimes has to be.
In conclusion, I make no apologies for typos in this officially sanctioned Traveldogue. Good editors are hard to find and I want to see this going as viral as kennel cough asap.
Hey, here comes comes a slow fat cat…bye!
Love, Baci xxx
At Michelin place she did feast
On sumptuous foods, unpoliced,
With elders to share
This day of despair
Who understood ageing, at least.
But surprise of surprise, when Day came
It wasn’t as bad as its fame.
Her wrinkles, she checked,
Weren’t much worse to inspect
Than the previous time she’d been game.
She prayed that the eyesight of HE
Who she lived with, would also not see
The lines and the flaws
That the year’s might have caused
And would love just her inner real ME!
Poor toady has been slaughtered and in coffin has been stored
His legs have slightly stiffened and his eyes seem glazed and bored
He’s looking rather flaccid and a rotting smell has grown
And propped upon his pogo stick, he cannot bounce alone.
He seems real unattractive now with lips so widely bared
Being rigid makes him clumsy so his bouncing’s quite impaired.
I hardly considered when twenty, and wed
That a formal career could have suited instead.
The options to this weren’t yet to arise
While I tended my children in aproned disguise.
Who would have guessed that the hands in the sink
Belonged to a woman with real thoughts to think?
Should I, while in “youth” (for I’m still 39)
Be checking new offers in Fate’s Grand Design?
Does Destiny state that my life holds in store
Brief sentence as housewife, then joys evermore
As artist esteemed, of Impressionist style
Or pianist renowned if I practice a while?
A writer of poems or novels long wrapped
In ribbons of fantasy still safely trapped
Until such a time that it’s right to unlock
My erudite thoughts caught by calendars’ clock?
Or “competent asset” as husband, elated,
Would say if I offered my talents, (unstated)
To help him our burgeoning business to run
As earlier on I had willingly done.
Unknown to the kids, and to him at this stage
My unsettled feelings, confused by my age.
Bring fantasy thoughts of alternative lives
Til obliged to “grow up” when THAT birthday arrives.
If Lady Godiva
Had limo and driver
It might have been best
To get better dressed
Robert Gordon Menzies
Got lesser men in frenzies.
He found that even highbrows
Were daunted by his eyebrows
He had little hair on his chest
To act like a warm woolly vest.
He wished he had ringlets
Instead of his singlets
So wore a toupee when undressed.
Please think of the person who made
This image where nothing once laid.
Long hours at my easel, engrossed,
Just to sell to some man who will boast
That he owns an “original piece”
Worth much once she’d kindly decease!
By THE J.A.M. TEAM
Once upon a time two genetically related Pseudoscientists by the names of Janny Crypticlimpet and Maya Gonzomal decided to explore the so called “myth” of the KANGAROODLE (kang-a-roo-dle)
Maya, aged 10, said
“We have found evidence that this animal exists and is still breeding. Kangaroodles are mis-understood and should be respected like any other”
This article shows images of sightings and tells a great story.
The Kangaroodle has muscular hind legs and tiny front paws, a heavy bushy tail, long floppy ears, a curly coat, great ball fetching and boxing skills, but it cannot walk or hop backwards on its hind legs.
It is very good at hand stands, cartwheels, salsa dancing and walking backwards on its front paws.
It can only use a computer keyboard with its left front paw as the nails on its right paw are too long and obviously need to be kept in this condition to enable it to scratch inside its long, fluffy ears when they get itchy. When content, it wags its tail with great enthusiasm.
Its diet is very strange. It loves raw lamb bones (which make it a serious threat to live sheep, who often huddle in a group in the corner of their paddock to protect their front and hind legs from being gnawed). It does occasionally vary its diet by scooping up slow green frogs and lazy eels from rivers with its poodle-like paws. The coastal variety are known to occasionally freshen their breath with seaweed, and sharpen their teeth on distant coral reefs, because, of course, they can do the doggy paddle extremely competently.
The Kangaroodle chases birds and cats, and barks loudly at any intruders entering its territory. It is generally found in the centre of The Middle Of Nowhere where it gives birth to its joppies, usually 12 in number, raised in its large floppy pouch all at the same time. As far as scientists have confirmed it jumps up onto your knee for cuddles when in a good mood and licks a lot.
It is assumed that the average Kangaroodle enjoys lounging on couches during the day and sneaking into bedrooms at night to sprawl out at the end of imaginative children’s beds. The children often wake up with hot feet. This is firm evidence that a Kangaroodle has been around. Unfortunately sometimes next morning their mothers find wiffy evidence on the bedding that the visiting Kangaroodle was not toilet trained.
The pooh of a Kangaroodle consists of sticky luminous triangular pellets excreted in a spiral formation. When very young the Kangaroodles are Vegemite coloured but when older, they turn the same shade as peanut butter. When VERY old they go the colour of apricot jam. Kangaroodles love to go for walks. Because of their abnormally good sense of smell, and their fine retrieving skills they are thought to have, on more than one occasion, returned naughty lost children to their unhappy parents. The parents in each case were quite distressed to have the particular children returned as they had taken them into the woods and deliberately left them (well, the wicked stepmothers had anyway). It is an exhausting job to bathe these returned children. The saliva of a Kangaroodle is very sticky. (Cleaning instructions are on page 18 of the website http://www.mythicalmixes.com.au/kangaroodle-poodleroo).
Little is known about the habitat of the kangaroodle, but the peanut butter colouring of the adult and the foul smell of their pooh suggests that the urban type might roost in compost heaps and muddy construction sights as well as beauty shops that specialize in acrylic nails. The wild ones prefer pig sheds, extinct volcano craters and bat caves.
ADDITIONAL FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Because of their indestructible teeth, the lifespan of a kangaroodle is around 5000 years!
Research shows that they only give birth on full moons that occur on rainy Sundays.
The joppies are extremely cute, and easily trainable to assist blondes!!
Next time we will be telling you all about
Ice, spun like veils
Of muslin voile
Skims lacy trails
Like pancake coil.
These pasta strands
In icy sauce
While watched disband
Til windy force
Cold, crispens chips
And flake round ships.
And sternly slice
With knifely bows
This scouring ice.
For endless hours
They crunch and press
With sturdy wedge,
Floe depth unguessed.
Unkempt at edge
Some shaky stacks
Like LEGO blocks
Have egg shell cracks
While bergs on tides
With one eighth tips
Will lean lopsides
To menace ships.
Wide inky deeps
Are Neptune’s court,
Some boats he keeps,
The men they brought.
His wind wild howls
His seas stay freezed
While gripey bowels
If you think that a penguin is smelly
Because he has stains on his belly
Then maybe a Gentoo
(Because he is meant to)
Pongs less than a common Adelie?
When those with the straps on their chin
And the leer that is maybe a grind
Go fishing, they shortly
Return, rather portly,
From earlier being most thin.
If eggs you are wanting to coddle
Or lessons in doing The Waddle
I’m sure you could learn
From a kind nesting tern
Or better, a penguin as model.
If a Chinstap or a Gentoo
Found that it was to be sent to
Would it know it was not meant to?
If you lead a good life as a krill
Just swimming along as you will,
Will death then be followed
(As soon as you’re swallowed)
By having to come back… until?
Slug-like seals are fast asleep,
Cautious penguins past them creep,
Well aware the danger real
Of being a nutritious meal.
Dapper penguin, dinner-suited
It is know and undisputed
That your genus finds it normal
Wearing skin that looks so formal.
Who does the cookery
Down at the rookery?
Dad feeds the lad
Spare krill that he had,
Mother will trudge
Fifty miles without grudge
But given the choice
Would her penguin-y voice
Say, “Stick it, my dear,
This is not my career
I am leaving, my son,
I’m becoming a nun
I look quite the part,
I’ve the Habit, to start
Please grant me this wish
For I’m darned SICK OF FISH!”
Once, aboard a pirate ship
Three little girls did take a trip.
Loaded high with grain and carrot
Captain, with his shouldered parrot
Told the lasses of the plan
To cruise to places hid from man.
He wildly waved his polished hook
(Which scared away his shouldered chook)
And loud decreed that “rice be fried”
And snorkelling at least be tried
And in the case of “itchy rash”
That vineg-ring be done by Sash!
That made her the “Assistant Boss”
And jealous sisters VERY cross!
The cruised around Whitsundays wild
And every woman, man and child
Struggled to remain erect
(Thank God the ship was widely decked!)
They rolled around their beds that night
But seas were smooth at morning light,
So Sasha poured some Coco Pops
And even thawed some steak n chops
And everyone was smiley faced
And dug into Nutella paste.
As they’d survived the stormy sea
They now could eat a normal tea.
The parrot too flapped happy wings,
The captain did his “captain things”,
Sasha donned her stinger suit
And dived to look for precious loot
Like oyster shells and crabby claw,
Lots of treasures, she found more.
Sash loaded up her treasure box
Then stuffed the extras in her sox.
And finally when back on board
She showed the parrot all her hoard.
His beak went wide in eager glee,
“You brought some CUTTLEFISH for me?
Your kindness I shall soon repay,
I’ll do the washing up today!”
A happy Sasha quick agreed
And gave the bird some extra seed!
Then Sash woke up – it was a DREAM,
But things aren’t always as the seem
For hey, if it was just nap
Why in her hand this Treasure Map?
Whitsunday Islands 2007
A NEW EMPEROR IS NEEDED
(OLDER MODEL SUPERCEDED)
CANDIDATES WITH REGAL FLAIR
MAY APPLY AS MARRIED PAIR.
EXOTIC BACKGROUND IS PREFERRED
(WILL CONSIDER WELL-GROOMED BIRD)
THRONES AND SCEPTRES CAN BE HIRED
(OWN TUXEDO IS REQUIRED)
DRINKS WITH ICE WILL BE DISCUSSED.
DAILY BATHING IS A MUST.
DON’T APPLY UNLESS YOU WISH
TO EAT LOTS OF SASHIMIED FISH.
Me, Poodle, likes Vegemite toast.
“I share with the master” I boast,
“Not slices left whole
Just dumped in my bowl
But served on my tongue, like the Host!”
Each morning, with mugs of hot tea
She grills sourdough loaf, slices three.
There’s none for the cat,
(I soon saw to that)
Just one each for him, her and me.
Real butter all over the bread.
The edges must also be spread.
My bits not too large,
Note, never take marg,
And none of those crusts that I dread.
I sits at the feet of my Lord,
(My Lady is also adored)
My paw on his knee
Means “don’t forget me”
(This works, I am rarely ignored.)
Thus daily, ‘tween seven and six
I thank them, with caninely licks.
As Pavlov explained
(When I went to be trained)
“You CAN teach Old Masters new tricks!”
Hey, what about all that they ate
As fillets of us filled their plate
They’d gobble, enjoying each bite
Unaware of our personal plight
That schools now of Finger Mark Bream
And Queenfish and Snapper are grim.
There’s a Kingdom of Neptune Alert
That a guy in a checked flannel shirt
Has buttered some nice crusty bread
And with it he serves, it is said,
A bouillabaisse fishysoisse soup
Just full of the weak of our group
Who moved through the oceans too slow
And spotting his lure, had a go.
We’ve notified Mackeral from Spain,
(We’ve warned them again and again)
To shun every sight of his line
Lest they be invited to dine.
They eat us with lemon and chips
(That batter will broaden their hips!)
They’ll BBQ up a few more,
Wasabi our Tuna fish, raw.
Then homeward these gluttons will wend
And message to Neptune will send
“Well, thanks you’re an excellent host –
But nothing beats mother’s lamb roast.’
My Owners have quite a big bed
And pillows for under their head
My sad eyes implore
“No, not on the floor
But up there with You, please, instead?”
Ok, She warns, “Scratch not thy fleas”
(His glare says that He disagrees)
She beckons me up
(Overfloweth my cup!)
I inch on the bed by degrees.
Three circles I turn on the spot
(Dogs seem to do this quite a lot)
I nuzzle my nose
Quite close to her toes
Unsure if to tail wag or not.
Since Poodles are People in Fur
It’s proper theirs sleeps should occur
In sheeted, soft places
With three comfy spaces
(Though rather just Me and just Her…)
Burdened mules quite undersize
Carry loads of which comprise
Skins of goats now yellow dyed
Ample men with legs astride
Wooden crates of anxious hen
(Necks will wring but who knows when)
They carry, and submit with sigh
To panniers with goods piled high
With top of these more wool in bale
Resigned, they huff a long exhale.
Got ourselves some underwear,
A thermal vest-and-long-john pair,
Some polar fleece to go on top,
Stuff to use when blisters pop,
Goretex coats to stop the rain,
Then carefully read the list again –
Hiking boots of heavy hide,
(A thousand pairs of them we tried)
But don’t forget to seal with wax
In case of avalanche attacks.
So thus prepared for Milford Track
Of many miles (no turning back!)
We faced the thoughts of jelly knees
And altitude-acquired disease,
We trudged up the McKinnon heights
Undaunted by the sandfly bites,
Then skidded down the other side,
Not knowing then what that implied
Was that we really did descend
Three hundred storeys, top to end?
Our layers off and layers on
Depended on the sun that shone.
Our sore and somewhat blistered feet
Repaired inside our sleeping sheet.
So early morn, when keas stirred
The evening’s anguish somehow blurred,
We smiling faced another day,
Recalling that, for fun, you pay!
With fifteen women from Japan,
The three-time trekker, namely Ann,
The honeymooners from New York
And others who enjoy a walk.
Intriguing that the hand of fate
Could place us all, upon this date,
With common purpose – just to see
If forty’s good as twenty’s knee!
Panting under the great weight of the salver balanced overhead, my native waiter’s arse-grass rustled with each slip-slap of his bare brown feet. For efficiency, he had pushed up the sleeves of his tweed jacket. A correctly knotted tie bisected his shirtless Papuan torso.
He was delighted to at last serve a delicacy adapted from the Pidgin translation of Escoffier’s Complete Works (left by an earnest missionary keen to change the dietary preferences of the locals).
Before me he placed a gargantuan crystal bowl of cubed ice, an egg-cup of (very) imported caviar poised on top. Alongside, with leads trailing from a globe sited low in the ice, was a genuine car battery, beautified by a pleated skirt of tin-foil.
The cook craned from the kitchen door and the industrious fellow who drove the treadle sewing machine ceased mending donated damask tablecloths to watch this illuminated spectacle.
It tasted more-ish and I confess my fetish for eclectic dining started that day.
This civilised lady once dined
In a café your critic won’t find.
Ever since I’ve been urging
The eggs of the sturgeon
Be served in this manner defined.
Incongruous as it may seem,
New Guinean waiters, I deem,
Know best how to show
That magnificent roe
By lighting the ice with a beam.
In awe, I am nearly struck mute,
For the battery out of the ute
Has been placed on the tray
To adorn a display
Befitting Escoffier’s repute!
A Pidgin account of his book
Had been given the Papuan cook,
Long waiting a guest
Who might be impressed
By the diligent efforts he took.
That day when I ordered this dish,
I granted the native his wish –
He bore to my table
Ice, battery and cable
For lighting these ova of fish.
He beamed at the spectacle made
When presenting the eggs a fish laid.
And not one was wasted –
To date I’ve not tasted
A caviar quite of the grade!
Alice made an awful blunder,
Found herself in Land of Wonder.
Had to listen to the chatter
Of a known insane Mad Hatter.
Exhausted from frustrated weeping
Consulted Beauty (who was Sleeping)
She suggested chat with Hood,
Little Red said yes, she could
Recommend that Alice wake
And rectify this bad mistake.
Not her mission, what a fail,
She’d plopped into a fairy tale
That should have been young Cinder’s fate
But she was out on Tinder date.
Once there was a duck I knew
When I was less than three.
She’d gobble food I couldn’t chew
Though it was meant for me.
Perched up upon my highest chair
My sectioned bunny plate
Had carrots, peas and chops to share
So that was what she ate.
She never said a “THANKS FOR THAT”
Or “WOULD YOU PASS THE SAUCE?”
(It’s hard to have a little chat
While gobbling up, of course!)
This feathered friend (called Louie)
Gulped all things she was snuck,
Not just my bits too chewy,
Ate even Peking Duck!
Her manners were appalling
(I only know that now),
She’d never come on calling,
Come DINNER TIME though, WOW!
That duck was such an eater
We had to call a truce.
My Granny said “JUST TREAT HER
LIKE ANY NUISANCE GOOSE”
“She’s got to wait POLITELY
Til YOU are properly fed”
Then added in, quite brightly,
Could YOU eat it ALL, instead?”
Thus Louie’s lunches ended,
‘Twas back to worm and frog,
So then I just upended
My plate for Barney Dog.
Brown bread crusts are yucky
And so are gristly meats.
The little pooch got lucky
And woofed his sneaky treats.
He really liked my pasta,
Chomped radish up on sight,
Got porridge down much faster
And chicken in one bite.
Some foods are not delicious
And even dogs won’t eat
So Granny got suspicious
When squashings stuck to feet.
But Grannies of the kinder sort
Will turn a blindish eye.
They know it is a childhood sport
To feed dogs pumpkin pie.
They wouldn’t think it wicked
To give the dog your plate,
Its fun to watch him lick it
And sharing’s really great.
When your Granny fills your cup
With horrid spicy noodles,
It’s quite OK to tip it up
And feed it to her POODLES!
Windowed geese roast crispy tanned
(Peking Ducks, but different brand)
Hindu shrine, my feet unshod,
Entered, met generic God.
Chicken rice and rambutans
Iceless coke in safety cans
(Biggest fear not mug-by-thug
But 24 hour tummy bug)
Motor bikes leave some untoed
Who try to cross a busy road
Rain appears and soaks us all
Before we find umbrella stall.
Alleys watched by thinning cats,
Washing banners, blocks of flats,
Towers of daunting height (who cares)
Shadow stalls of brassieres.
Budgies, green and blue, by weight
For sale to fry for dinner plate.
Baptist church (Islamic arched),
Tourists, blister heeled and parched,
Expatriates in Gucci ties
On business here to analyse
Incentive payment versus graft
And rehydrate on Tiger draught.
And five star pubs that make me sneeze
Their aircon set at nought degrees
While in the street the humid air
Puts ringlets in my curly hair.
August, London’s leaden skies
Threaten Tuesday’s enterprise.
Merchant bankers, Hugh Grant haired
Who look, all look, quite Eaton Squared
With Brolly, TIMES, attache cased,
Receding chins and pasty faced.
Dubai sheiks in English suits
Go about their day’s pursuits.
Bentley chauffeurs cool their heels
While owners wrap up major deals.
Purdahed girls from Middle East
Hearing Sterling has increased
Head for Harrods shopping blitz
Pause for tea at Browns or Ritz.
(What need for shoes of Bally brand
For camel riding in the sand?)
Humanity, what’s in your name
That you play such a one-sided game
That lets you, quite voluntary, choose
To watch cattle killed just to amuse.
Your brethren in Spain treat as norm
The study of Bull, and its form.
To know it by name and by weight
Then pick a particular date
To arrow the flesh in its neck
And barb it with poles for the heck,
While prancing some ritual dance
In filigreed matador pants.
Imagine this new scene in play,
Let’s opt of a “Man of the Day”
And as he runs into the ring
On the signal to start, from the King
He’ll froth at the mouth in his fear
Knowing well that the Bull gets HIS EAR.
Aire sur L’Ardour, France 1992
Wardrobes full of dancing frocks
Creaking doors and rusted locks
“Make yourself a cuppa dear”
(Note, the milk expired last year)
Godly books beside the bed
Tattered drapes and dusty spread
Taps fall off, the water’s mean
Coronations snaps of Queen
Share the walls with safety drills
And living on the window sills
Are china dogs and upright plates
And magazines with heirloom dates.
Waiting for your praise, the host
Says “what time for your eggs on toast?”
Most politely you retort
“House is charming, when was bought?
Really? Carpets lasted well,
Fifty years, it’s hard to tell!
No, no, no, why have you fussed
We neither mind a little dust
From what we’ve seen when looking round
You’re reasonable at Thirty Pound
No, we live largely clutter-free
For when our forebears went to sea
They’re couldn’t take their antique clocks
As convicts, from Southampton docks
Its not just bed and lodge we seek
But chance to have a stickybeak.
We like it most, we do, because
It shows us Britain as she was
Your enterprise of course we praise
Why, saving stuff for rainy days
And only since the Tudor kings?
Wow, just how many useful things
Must dwell within those bulging drawers
Last used sometime between the Wars?”
(I ponder if Titanic sunk
From overload of grandma’s junk)
“Ah, sorry Cat, is that YOUR chair
I didn’t mean to squash you there.
And yes, I can believe its true
You havent moved since ’62!”
Pudsey, England 1996