Monday, December 17, 2007

After a week of staying indoors to keep cool and working extra at the coffee shop between irksome stints in the shopping mall, by Sunday morning I was really ready to do something fun; to go somewhere scenic; to go for a drive somewhere pretty and to breathe some fresh cool air.

Sadly we didn’t have all day – we had a massage booked for 3pm – so we couldn’t go up to Paluma to swim in Crystal Creek. Instead we drove out to the beach at Pallarenda. It’s much quieter there and – to be honest – a lot more beautiful than the beaches in town, and it’s surrounded by bushland on the hills behind the beach. Perfect.

When we got there we found it was a still day, so no kite surfers to sit and watch. Instead we went for a little walk out to the even more secluded beach further around the headland. Shelly Beach.

Longer-term residents of Townsville (Marny? Tanya?) might know where this is going … but we didn’t. We just clambered around the headland in the mid-morning heat (it was a bit idiot to be out in the sun, really) and enjoyed the views of calm aqua.
We even saw something – a croc? A dugong? Most probably a turtle – poke its head out of the water. Hayden as always tried to capture it on camera. He didn’t succeed.

While we were walking, we kept getting overtaken by single men, each walking alone but with purpose across the beach and around the next headland out of sight (if you click to enlarge the photo to the left you might be able to spot one or three).

We couldn’t work out why there were so many of them, but when we rested in the shade of an old gun placement (left over from WWII I suppose), we saw some graffiti which provided a clue: "Come one come all, come on down to the nude beach and have a Happy Nude Year."

Yep. Turns out that Shelley Beach is Townsville’s unofficial gay nude beach. We must have been the last to know. When I mentioned it to our masseuse in the afternoon, he replied breezily, “Oh yeah, Shelley Beach, it’s beautiful, I used to go there all the time with my,” and then he paused, “er… with my girlfriend.”

I suppose it must still be a bit scandalous to be gay in macho redneck Townsville.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Those are my new red crocs. I bought them last Friday and now I wear them everywhere. It’s terrible. It’s worse than when I bought those enormous unflattering baggy jeans last winter, which I had to do just to stop myself from wearing my trackie dacks to the shops. It seems that I just cannot choose form over comfort when it comes to what I wear.

This does not bode well for my wedding dress shopping which, some of you will be very pleased to note, is the Next Big Thing on my list to do for our wedding. The dress shopping is not going well so far. The shops in Townsville all cater to what the local girls (yes, girls – the average age for a bride in Townsville is about 21) are into which … how to put this? …is something that attempts to span the gulf between trashy and traditional. I was never in the market for the big creampuff of a dress with the astonishing cleavage. I was never going to choose a dress that I’d have to tape myself into.

But as I stand here at our front step, I’m thinking that my chances of finding a dress that is beautiful, classy and not too too uncomfortable are pretty hopeless. At least as far as shopping in Townsville goes. These are all the shoes we wear these days (note that Hayden has the one pair in a neutral tone, and I have six different pairs of thongs to match with different outfits). It’s not as if we had much motivation to wear anything other than thongs. In Townsville the dress code is either daggy shorts or a diamante ball gown. There’s nothing in between.

Monday, December 03, 2007

It's Started

Christmas at our place was officially begun on Saturday. (In previous years, Hayden has tried to keep a lid on my pre-Christmas excitement by decreeing that There Is To Be No Mention of Christmas Prior To The Beginning Of The Month Of December. I think he's now realised that that just focusses my energies even more, to start proceedings with a bang and a flourish on the 1st of the month.) Hayden opened the first window on his (home made, with love, by me) advent calendar; I doused the Christmas Cake in brandy and, of course, we put up the Christmas Tree.

Why yes, it is a Real Pineapple Bush Christmas Tree this year.

Its baby pineapple isn't ready yet, but it's got 21 more days to get itself in order. I'm counting.

Monday, November 26, 2007


In mining-speak, "gawn" means permanently gone, and not coming back, so don't even talk about it anymore.
(If you want to talk about something that's gone only temporarily, you'd say that it's "f*cked off", for example, like one guy said when he got accidentally left behind at the bus-stop: "The f*ckers have f*cked off, f*ck'em!" ... but if you mean that something's really gone forever? It's gawn, eg, "have you seen my stapler? I think it's f*cked off somewhere." "Nah mate, she's gawn. You'll have to get a new one.")

That John Howard, he gawn. Finally.
What a relief.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Birthday

It was my birthday last weekend. And while you might be expecting (if those chick lit books are any kind of guide) for me to be all sad about the marching on of time and the accumulation of years and wrinkles, I’ll have to disappoint you. I decided two years ago that my thirties were going to be awesome, and so far they have been. Completely.

Hayden took me up to the Atherton Tablelands for the weekend, to stay at our favourite B&B in Ravenshoe (pronounced Ravens-Hoe not Raven-Shoe). We spent Saturday hooning around the Tablelands, tasting the local cheeses and visiting the bogan-infested Tinaroo Dam to watch them race each other on waterskis and jetskis. Hilarious. Later in the afternoon we met the charmingly kooky celebrant who is going to marry us in April next year. That is, if she turns up on the right day.

On Sunday morning we weren’t feeling ready to go home just yet, so we decided to visit the markets at Archer Creek – just down the road from where we were staying.

There were a couple of stalls that really caught my attention. I loved this one selling watermelons:

Unfortunately I was a bit perplexed by this one: the guy just seemed to be selling things out of his campervan. Things he might possibly be needing later – like the spare tyre? And how long has he been hoarding that thigh-master for?

Since we had never been down that road before, we decided (I can’t remember who’s idea it was) to drive home on the inland route. And it got pretty outbacky pretty quickly. This is the view from the truckstop where we had lunch:

Please note: I did not request to have lunch at a truck stop in the final hours of my special birthday weekend. It was just that it was the last place to get fuel or food for the next 256km. (And yes they did have a sign out the front that said just that.)

Before getting back in the car I went to the loo and I saw this sign advertising showers for $3. That’s per person, just to be clear.

Do you want to see what a $3 shower looks like in inland North Queensland?


I am definitely not as tough as I used to be when it comes to the places where I'd shower, you know, expecting to come out cleaner than when I went in.

I suppose that would be the old age catching up with me.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Meeting in Melbourne

The best part of our trip to Melbourne was catching up with friends and revisiting our old haunts, and in between times getting totally distracted by the beautiful Europeany-style gardens. This culminated, of course, in the wedding of Drue and Sarah where I got to see so many unexpected faces (Pip and Vesna, I don't know why I didn't expect to see you there - in retrospect I should have, but it was a great surprise to see you both and meet your delightful other halves), the reception was near our old neighbourhood just down the road from where Hayden used to work, and the last thing I did on the night was nick a beautiful white rose from the table decorations. I was not the only person to do that, and I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have had the courage to start dismantling the beautiful arrangements if someone else hadn't shown me the way. But there it is.

We had expected that in the week before the wedding the bride and groom would be completely overrun with last-minute to-do's, so I felt pretty lucky to get a whole afternoon of Drue's time on Tuesday. It was just like the olden days, with Drue dragging us through some inky cobbled laneway up to the back entrance of this charming drawing room of a bar above Swanston Street. You know only the good bars in Melbourne are entered through a tiny old door squeezed between two massive industrial bins in a back ally that smells of cat piss and old oyster sauce.

As well as bars, Melbourne is famous for its cafes and bookshops, and we did make the most of our time in both. Actually, for all the build-up of getting to go to Borders after dinner, the first visit was a bit of a fizzer. I don't know if it was just that at that point in the trip I was always going to be overwhelmed - any time that I've had a drink or two in the afternoon, I'm definitely (these days at least) headed for an early night. We probably shouldn't have pushed on to what was one of our old favourites in the past: dinner at Trotters on Lygon Street followed by a good long browse in Borders. Now you know that we'd built up the Borders thing. Especially the after-dinner Borders thing. So arriving in Borders on an extremely full tummy and a fading afternoon-wine headache, I have to admit it: I got overwhelmed. Hayden did too. We just weren't used to seeing so many books. And so many people buying books. And walking up and down the aisles, talking on thier phones while buying books.

After a couple more visits to Borders and other massive bookshops during the week, I did finally manage to make a purchase on Sunday before we went home. I managed to come away with a small paperback about punctuation. Hm. OK, I did gain a few moments of timelessness leafing through a book of Thomas Hardy's poetry and another one of Yeats. But why undermine that by purchasing a small (but admittedly very helpful) book on commas and full stops?


Anyone who's come here (Directed by Mikey?) looking for pictures from the wedding day, I'm afraid this is pretty much it from us:

Hayden did take some flashless ones in the church, but unfortunately they came out completely blurry. It was a beautiful ceremony and it even had a little *gasp* moment .. there are heaps more pictures on Claire's blog, and with any luck Drue and Sarah will write it up themselves too.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Going Away

Of all the potplants I am fussing over before we leave them alone in the house for a week while we go to Melbourne to witness the union of Drue and Sarah, it's this little mint plant I'm worried about most.

Its sole purpose in life is to sit on the window sill above the dishrack and provide me with a minty twist to every glass of lemon cordial. And now that we are up to 30 degrees with humidity of 66% (Hayden brought home a Prolonged Exposure to the Elements chart from work and I now realise that this is the equivalent of what 42 degrees feels like back in the temperate zone where there's less humidity. 42 degrees is hot!) there is a lot of icy lemon cordial to be had. I would miss this little plant terribly if it didn't make it through the week without us.
But the poor thing has been feeling the pinch of my fingernails every hour or so since it started warming up. Oh wait ... maybe it will fare better while we're away?
I hadn't thought of that.

Friday, October 19, 2007


It's like procrastination, but it happens not before the assignment but after, while you're waiting to hear if everything went OK.

The writing work is finished for the moment. All the text and photos have been handed over to the graphic designer, and now the waiting begins. You would think that this is the time for me to rest? Unfortunately no; due to ever so slight anxiety about how it’s all going to turn out I’m hovering at the edge of my seat, refreshing my email inbox about 500 times a day and generally trying to occupy my agitated self. In some ways this is a very productive time: the house is cleaner and tidier than it’s been for ages, insurance has been renewed, old bills/bank statements/miscellaneous bits of paper have been filed away, and even my tax return has been lodged.

Why so anxious? It's not like it matters that much. I've done my bit, I've tried my best and I'm told the cheque is in the mail. But whatever comes out, it will be the result of a collaboration, and everyone who is involved - from the people I interviewed and profiled to the faraway bosses who sign off on it all - has his or her slant. Everyone has their own angle. My angle, of course, is to do with the writing: whole sentences not fragments; active voice not passive; and a nice crisp rhythm instead of drawn-out strands of bureaucratic gobbledigook. I have been messing with other peoples' sentences and I'm sure it drives them as nuts as it drives me when they mess with mine. So I'm anxiously waiting to see how much of my stuff makes the final cut.

What to do next I wonder? eat something?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pictures of my Ex

Slightly pathetiquely, I have been gazing at photos from my old job today. Well, you know it wasn’t even a proper job, just a temp assignment. But it was a really good one.

(I always loved this photo the best. It was taken by Hayden on the weekend that he came to visit me at work. He's in the plane, looking out a window to starboard, coming down to land at the mine's airport; that big plume of dust is coming from the back of a truck as it hurtles down the road to the airport to meet the plane. I can feel the excitement of the people in that truck; the plane that Hayden's on is going to turn around soon and take them HOME. Going home is a BIG deal after two straight weeks at work in the middle of nowhere.)

(This is the middle of nowhere, right here)
(This one is of what's outside the camp in the middle of nowhere)

Not that I didn't find anything to complain about with that job (long days, waking up in the dark, being away from Hayden, filing before the sun came up on a Sunday) there is always something, isn’t there?) but what I am remembering today is what an amazing experience it was. How much I learned – about mining, about working away from home (some people do it for years), about the dry middle of Australia, about our indigenous culture, so many things.

Honestly, I’m not really loving my current job - the one at the café. Too many hours in a hot dingy kitchen, and the camaradarie is definitely missing. What I’m learning there, apart from how to make coffee (did I really want to learn how to do that? I can’t remember) is how lucky I was with the other two jobs I’ve had since we came to Townsville. Do you remember the first one, at the building site? And of course the second one, at Century mine where these photos are from.
I’m not breaking up with the cafe just yet … not until something nicer comes along. But I wonder if I could get it to dump me first?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Work Station

Recently I’ve been complaining a lot about work (have I been complaining to you? I’m sorry. You see, the problem with work is that I’m just not used to it.)

But just now I think that the tide is beginning to turn. I’ve taken leave from the café for the rest of this week (everyone who works there has got other stuff on the boil, and our boss Paul is extremely kind about letting us work around it) and I’m settling down to get stuck in to the writing.

And look where I work. It’s not so bad, is it? I’ve got natural light and natural breezes, and a bunch of yellow flowers I bought from Bilo for $8. I’ve got a fridge full of snacks and best of all, I’m working in my pyjamas (and you know how much I love to do that).

Plus I've got all those blogs down the sidebar to keep me entertained when I'm 'on a break'. Do you ever click on other peoples' links? I often do. Recently I was a bit taken aback when one of my favourite bloggers, Yarnstorm, reduced her list of blog links from about twenty to just eight. I was kind of miffed on behalf of all those whose blog links just got deleted (not mine, I don't think Yarnstorm knows I exist), but then I started clicking on the ones that she had left behind ... and I found Lobstersquad. It's brilliant. It's a cooking blog from Spain, and it's illustrated. Go on, have a look.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ahh, the twin joys of the warmer weather: suddenly fruit can't survive in our fruitbowl, and big black ants invade our house.

At the end of last week I made a banana cake out of a couple of bananas that were getting a bit squishy. I was kind of proud of being so frugal and house-wifely; I have this secret Stephanie-inspired aspiration to eat fresh food all the time, to cook what's in season and to always be zinging with ideas of what to do with the delicious bits and bobs I keep in my pantry. I was pretty stoked with myself a) for even thinking of making a cake out of old bananas and b) having the rest of the ingredients on hand. I thought it was a big step in the right direction.

But I didn't get to taste the banana cake (I was a bit distracted helping to finish off Hayden's birthday cakes) before a herd of enormous black ants had smelled the cake from outside and marched inside in a big long line - up the outside wall, in through the kitchen window, along the window sill, down a bottle of wine and along the edge of the bench to where the cake sat on a plate.

Sometimes when the ants invade, you can brush them off quickly and the food is still ok (I find I get more and more cavalier about this throughout the summer). This time the ants had infiltrated the cake so completely that we just let them keep it. Over the weekend they nibbled the 22cm loaf down to this knobbly end:

Yes, well done ants. Very good effort.

But now what am I going to do with these?

Stephanie?? anyone?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rest Stop

I have been so hard at work recently - way too many hours at the cafe, looming deadlines for my writing work, trying to sew my new dress before the arrival of summer ...

This morning I'm taking a break. It's for my health. And for Hayden's.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Townsville Weekend

Friday Night:

Hayden and I go to our favourite delicious Indian takeaway on Palmer Street. While we're waiting for our food, we go for a short stroll along Ross Creek past the maritime museum. As we look up and down the banks, I feel the sea breeze on my bare arms and I see the lights gently twinkling on the other side and the boats bobbing peacefully on their moorings. We pick up our Indian (one butter chicken and rice to share, one garlic naan and one sweet naan), and take it home. All is right with the world.

Later, we book our flights to Melbourne for Drue and Sarah’s wedding in November. Yay! We’re going to Melbourne! On holiday!


I wake up already thinking about Melbourne. I’m slightly anxious. We haven’t been back since we left nearly two years ago. I’m looking forward to the wedding of course, but we’ll have a whole week to hang out beforehand. What are we going to do with that?

I spend the morning looking at accommodation options and trying to imagine what we might possibly do after we’ve had a cup of $2.80 coffee (is it possible that it’s still only $2.80?) and about five rolls each of sushi.

Saturday night:

After dinner, I declare my wish that Townsville had a Borders or any bookshop that was open late. I haven’t pronounced this wish out loud for ages (it was probably a year ago that I gave up on this impossibility). My absolute favourite thing to do in Melbourne was to go browsing in bookshops after dinner. I’ve loved doing that ever since I first moved to Melbourne in 1999 when it struck me as the height of civility, and the effect hasn’t worn off yet. My favourite was to go browsing in Borders and in Readings in Lygon Street, then afterwards to Trotters or Brunetti's for delicious pastries.

I ask Hayden if he wants to come for a walk to have some dessert? He looks at me warily. This is highly irregular. All restaurants and cafes in Townsville close their kitchens at 9pm sharp. In Townsville, if you’re going to the 7:30 movie you have to make sure to have some dinner first. It is 8:55pm … but I convince him to chance it. We have a nice walk along the strand and when we reach C Bar, they allow us to sit outside and have a milkshake, a cup of tea and a slice of cheesecake. I feel lucky.

But while we’re sitting there, the cafe staff begin packing away all the chairs and tables from around us. They take the potted palm trees inside. They take down the guard railings and we are left feeling quite exposed, our little table alone in a sea of emptiness and the waitresses all standing around staring at us, willing us with their eyes to finish our cake so that they can go home. The cake isn’t that good so we leave half of it behind and let the waitresses off the hook.

Sunday Morning:

Wake up. Mmm, wouldn’t it be nice to have a big Melbourne-style breakfast? You can get a good Sunday breakfast at The Balcony. (Actually it was breakfast at The Balcony on our recon trip two years ago that made me decide that I could live in Townsville after all). I decide that that’s exactly what I’m after now. I bundle Hayden into the car, promising that afterwards we can go shopping for his running shorts, and we drive into town. The nice lady at the Balcony’s front counter tells us that she can’t give us a table straight away, there’s a twenty minute wait. Not because the café is full - I can see empty tables behind her - but because they don’t have enough staff on today. Ok. I’m not daunted. But it’s not like we can just go to the café next door. There is only the one café serving breakfast.

So I go and look in a dress shop filled with synthetic clothes I don’t like. Clothes shopping in Townsville is very easy on your purse. On the whole the clothes are cheap and nasty, and no-one minds at all if you just wear shorts and thongs and the same five-year-old t-shirt. Sometimes when I see little kids at the beach I tell them, I was wearing this shirt before you were even born.

Sunday afternoon:

The big rugby league game is on this afternoon. It’s a preliminary final, and the North Queensland Cowboys are in with a chance (you should have seen the locals in the sports store this morning. They couldn’t get their hands on enough cowboy hats, cowboys jerseys, cowboys thongs etc). The pub is going to be full of big angry red-faced blokes. Instead of playing pool, like I had been thinking about, we make plans to go and watch the game at Rob’s place. We ask him if he wants us to bring some sausages? He says no, he’s already got some thawing in the sink.

I'll never stop being a Melbourne girl transplanted, but ... It’s Townsville. I’ve gotta go with it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Two Years of This

On Saturday afternoon I asked Hayden if he remembered where we were exactly two years ago at that moment? and we both laughed a bit because where we were was about five houses down on the left. We haven’t travelled very far.

Two years ago we were on our first visit to Townsville, and we were taking Marny her birthday carrot cake (it turned out that she’d already had two other carrot cakes that day. She was very gracious about getting a third). We were in town for Hayden to attend an interview for a job at the refinery and for me to check the place out just in case he got offered it.

All in all it was a successful trip. I took the first of many photos of palm trees, the beach and the view to Magnetic Island. I see it nearly every day and I’m not tired of it yet.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Towers

For some reason I was itching to go to Charters Towers, and I was so worried that it wasn’t going to happen. (I’m a champion at worrying. I could take out the North Queensland titles. I don’t think I’d make State Champion though, cos that one would definitely go to my mum). Charters is a hot dry little town 150km inland from Townsville, ie somewhere we were never going to go in summer. Since this coming summer is slated to be our very last here (that’s the plan anyway), it was looking as though I was going to miss out. I have quite a strong feeling that once we leave North Queensland, wherever we go to (Singapore? Perth? London? Melbourne?) it’s going to be a long time before we’re back here. And even if we do come back to North Queensland, it will be to go diving on the reef, or to some resort island, or, or, I don’t know, but it wouldn’t be to Charters.

If we didn’t go soon, it would be never. I could tell.

Luckily my parents were visiting cos Mum could understand the pain of my worry, and she suggested that we all go to Charters together. The plan was that Hayden and I would accompany Mum and Dad on the first stage of their journey back to Brisbane. We’d turn around after a lunch in Charters, and they would go on to an un-namable camping spot in the deserted middle of Queensland like they like to do.

We got a perfect day for driving west: it was bright and clear and warm, and I had not imagined that the drive to Charters would be so beautiful - in an open country, blue sky and bush and that's all kind of way. I am definitely developing a taste for the dusty innards of Australia.

When we arrived in Charters, I was glad we had saved it up for last. It was the perfect setting for us to use our making-our-own-fun-while-visiting-a-country town skills that we have been developing for the past year and a bit. Last winter's efforts at self-entertainment in small country towns was mainly focussed on the sugar cane harvest. That culminated in our visit to the Museum in Proserpine where we learnt all about the cane production process from a film made in 1982. We watched that film from deckchairs in a little section of the museum which recreated the atmosphere of the historic Proserpine Picture Theatre, and we left with a thorough understanding of what happens to the cane crop from start to finish.

We were ready to learn about something else.

The topic of our visit to Charters Towers was the gold rush of the 1880s. Charters itself is extremely dry and still and has hardly changed at all since those days so it was exceptionally easy to imagine all of the goings on from that time, which we learnt about during a visit to the National Trust Information Centre and the National Trust Museum.

Many of the old buildings, built in the most prosperous time in the town's history, are there still and largely unchanged (compared to what happens on the tropical coast, where any really old building will likely have been flattened by a cyclone or encircled with moss and tropical foliage like Angkor Wat). In those days, Charters Towers was nicknamed The World and it was the bustling metropolis and Townsville was its sleepy port.

My favourite feature of Charters Towers was the view from up on a hill just outside the town. You could see how the land surrounding was dotted with mine shafts (now all boringly blocked up with concrete) and little walking trails meandering between the plots made it so easy to imagine the hand-dug operation.

Upon striking it lucky, the miners could walk less than a k into town to the Stock Market. The assayer out the back would value the gold and mould it into bullion. Then the miner could pop over to the stock market in the next room, and sell it all for stocks. There town was full of sheisters looking to take advantage of the newly rich.

Now the stock market building is a tea shop, which served us a really-not-too-bad cappucino.
I love this gentle kind of historical tourism. As we drove away I really felt like I'd been in another land and another time. Getting back to Townsville, it seemed so confoundingly modern and busy. And breezy.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lemon Cake

Remember our lemons? They were green on our tiny balcony tree for nearly a whole year before they finally came good.

With my parents on their way to visit us, I decided to bake a cake (as always, they drove up from Brisbane giving us plenty of lead-time before they arrived. I could have baked the cake at least four times over during the days it took them to get here).

The mixture was good and thick (a whole 250g butter) and it gave my poor old mixer a work out. I got that mixer back in 1997 - the year of Bittersweet Symphony. (Where were you when they were playing that song? I was in Cash Converters in The Valley in Brisbane, searching for a stack of CDs that had been stolen out of the house I was sharing with two other students, an architect and a guy who was in a band. I'd heard that if you could spot a good number of your own CDs in Cash Converters the day after your house got broken into, they'd generally let you have them back for free. Unfortunately they didn't have my CDs, but they did have this cool retro mixer for $7.)

Sadly, the thick mixture was too much for the little old mixer, and she gave out before the mixing was completely done.

After half an hour in the oven the cake was still a bit mishapen - but it did taste OK.

Goodbye little old mixer. RIP. I wish I could go back to 1997 and get another one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Of Course They Did

It was the Townsville Amateurs race day last weekend but sadly, because of the Equine Flu, no horses were allowed to attend. But get this: 4500 people got dressed up in their fancy gear - dresses, hats, suits and loud ties - and went down to the race track anyway.

The Townsville Bully's full report is here: Guests of honour didn’t attend, but the party went on regardless.

By all accounts those 4500 people had a good day wandering around the empty track drinking champagne in the sun, although as one attendee put it: "It was a funny feeling, hard to describe I suppose. It wasn't the buzz of previous years.” Yeah, I know that feeling, like when something is missing but you just can't put your finger on what it is..?

I think we can conclude from this that it’s probably worth keeping the horses involved in future.

Has anybody told the Melbourne Cup? Because I think they'll need to know.

Friday, August 24, 2007

On the Beach

Since Hayden got some consultants in to help him at work, he’s learnt himself a new phrase: On the beach. “The beach” is where consultants go for a good rest between assignments, or they might nip out to “the beach” for an afternoon if they have been up til 3am on a deadline the night before. I have never seen these consultants in action, but I imagine them to be something like stockbrokers from the 1980s: tall, tanned, Sydney-looking fellows dressed in crisp business shirts and a level of grooming unheard of in Townsville. I picture them drawling out of the corners of their mouths, “Why’d I miss that meeting? Oh yeah, [nodding slowly] I was ‘on the beach’ that day, heh-heh..” OK, so that is not an attractive image (think American Psycho), and “on the beach” is not even a very amusing piece of lingo but I still wanted to note it down cos, as I’ve mentioned before, I do like to collect a bit of workplace slang (example A, and example B).

This week I started a new job at a café just down the road, and I am hoping it will balance nicely with the next round of writing work - which should be coming up soon. It surprised me how lonely I got working on those articles at home by myself. Like, way lonelier than if I was just at home by myself doing my own stuff, even though when I’m working I’m emailing, texting, talking on the phone a lot more than I would otherwise do. I’m hoping that working in the café will be a good antidote to that.

Since I’m not rostered on at the café today and I haven’t yet received my brief for the writing work, it occurred to me that today I must be, legitimately, ‘on the beach’. And because I can’t stay actually on the beach too long (summer’s coming back, I get sunburned if I stay after 9:30am), I decided to spend my beach day doing something else entirely:

This fish mould has been sitting in the back of our pantry ever since my mum passed it on to me from her aunt Marjorie. It came with a hand-written recipe for salmon mousse, which whenever I see I think to myself: “I’m going to try that out one day.”

Today is that day.

I don’t know what I expect it to taste like. I have this weird attraction sometimes, to the most cheap and kitschy food available (Drue, do you remember that time I made you have a $5 fry-up in sleazy Spencer Street with me, in the belief that it would make a deliciously fun and kitschy preparation for a night of drinking? Yeah, I don’t know why I did that to you. I’m sorry).

The Salmon Mousse recipe calls for onion, gelatine, cream, and two lots of tinned salmon.

(Doesn’t this picture remind you of food shopping on a budget in, say, France? All these unfamiliar things in little tins and jars, no fibre in sight and the only thing fresh is an onion?)
Bung it all together, and viola! An extremely unhappy-looking fish.

And now to serve ...
and to taste ...

And he's off! racing to the bathroom.
Was my day on the beach wasted?

I think not!

But what to do with the rest of the fish?
I suppose I'll have to freeze it til bin day.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What I'm laughing at today:

My sister's report of her birthday:

"And then, Nick [her partner who's of Croatian descent] cooked me a chocolate cake. Someone at his work had brought it in, and he thought it was the best cake ever so he got the recipe. I think it's surprising that a chemist can't follow a recipe, but he's just incapable of it. He tried really hard ... except his egg whites didn't beat up so good because he didn't clean the beaters after making the chocolate mix, and he had to change all of the amounts since we didn't buy enough chocolate. In the end it was really good - surprisingly good seeing as he realised (after putting the cake in the oven) that he'd forgotten the flour."

and the ensuing email conversation:

Me: that's hilarious. Do you mind if I put it on my blog?

Her: No ... just don't include his surname, so when his potential chemist bosses google him they won't find out that he can't cook. Is it paranoid to think like that?

Me: No, it isn't. But anyway Nick's safe because I don't know how to spell his surname. It's something like Knrkjn isn't it?

Her: there's a z in it too


The reason why I wanted to walk up Castle Hill yesterday afternoon was to test my theory that from the top, looking west down into the Townsville badlands, it looks just like Springfield (from up on that hill where Lisa took Nelson for a picnic that time she had a crush on him and dressed him up in nerd clothes. Minus the nuclear power station).

After taking that photo, Hayden and I started to walk back down the hill along a different path. Halfway down we came to a crossroads, where we met a large-ish lady in a bright pink top who was hopping from foot to foot like a kid who needs to pee. She looked really anxious, so we slowed down to check that she was all right – it’s not usual for people to stop halfway up or down Castle Hill. It’s one of those hills that people walk (or run if they’re nutcases) straight up then straight back down again. (In times past, people would to go up there in order to wait around and meet up with other people with similarly dodgy interests … but now they’ve got security cameras pointing in every direction so that doesn’t go on so much any more. It’s really just a fitness hill now.)

When the large pink lady saw that we were heading toward the left fork in the path, her expression melted into relief and she blurted: “Oh thank god you’re going that way. I’ll walk with you. There’s a python down the other way.” She took a step down the path before us but then hesitated again, presumably because it comes out at the bottom in a completely different suburb.

Meanwhile, at the mention of the word “python”, Hayden’s eyes had lit up and he had begun springing on the balls of his feet as if to say “Can we? Can we?” because he’s been waiting and waiting for his first chance to see a live Australian snake. I suggested he go on and have a look for it while I waited at the crossroads - I was assuming that by that time the snake would be long gone. Hayden wasn’t deterred by my indifference. He bounded off down the path towards the snake (seriously, hasn't he heard about how snakes respond to vibrations in the ground?). The pink lady continued to hesitate … then finally walked off after Hayden. I suppose she thought that he could offer protection.

After she went, I decided to follow her down that path too. I wanted to see what happened. Also, I thought that the pink lady might be glad of some company, as she still seemed fairly freaked out. When I caught up to her on the path she told me about how she’s used to snakes cos she lives on the edge of town near the bush and she sees them all the time in her yard. She still had a tremor in her voice. She kept repeating that this one was only a python so there was "really no need to worry because they don’t usually strike.” I hate hearing that, like when you don’t want to swim in the river because of crocodiles and someone always says “But they’re only fresh-water crocs.” That is not the point.

Eventually, the pink lady and I caught up to Hayden. He’d found the snake, which had hid itself (mostly) under a big rock and he was taking this photo of the its tail peeking out.
The pink lady’s anxiety regrouped. She halted about five metres from where Hayden was standing near the snake, and I pulled up behind her. She called to Hayden in a high, tight voice: “Is it safe??” and Hayden called back, and remember this is the first time he’s seen a real live snake, “Yeah, it’s fine.” (Hayden is incapable of answering in the negative. My dad took him sailing two Christmases ago, and before they left the shore he asked Hayden “Can you sail?” Hayden answered yes and by the end of the day the boat was upside down and they were both in the drink.) Anyway, the question was irrelevant because there was no way the big pink lady was ready to actually walk past Hayden within striking range of the snake.
While we were all standing around, another guy came up behind us. He must have been a local cos he was unsurprised to hear about the snake. He wasn’t scared at all, either. As he said, “it’s only a python. They don’t tend to strike.” He made to walk past us all on the track when the pink lady said “Uh-uh-uh, you’re not going ahead of me!” and she shot past us and the snake and sped off down the path without looking back. Here’s a blurred picture of her taking off:
She didn’t reply to our farewells. The other guy just shrugged and walked on, and that was that. Hayden and I took a few more photos and then walked home cos it was starting to get dark.

We’ve seen roos on the golf course, whales off the starboard bow when we were in the Whitsundays and now Hayden’s finally seen a snake (when I was at Century Mine I saw a hawk fly down and pick up a snake off the road in front of me, so I already had snake on my list). But we still haven’t seen a crocodile in the wild, either fresh or saltwater one, or a big sea-going turtle or a cassowary. There are many things left for us to do in Townsville.
Update: We've now seen some sea-turtles as well! We were down at the beach yesterday, the day after a rainy day and the water was really clear and we saw a whole batch of turtles swimming around the headland.