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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cu-Cu Catchoo

The Townsville Jazz Festival was on Sunday.
Hayden and I tried to look cool while we watched, but the bar we were in kept filling up with Mums and Dads and their really little kids. They ruined our buzz. We had to leave when a two year old took control of her own stroller and started pushing it round and round our table while she improvised a little song of her own. So unhip.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I’ve been flat as a tack recently. Morose, especially around the house all day long by myself. I’ve been waiting to find out whether I’ve got more writing work coming or if I need to go and look for some myself, and in the meantime I’ve been …bored.

But today something happened to take my mind off things. Some men arrived to pull down the big old tree that has been shading the carpark of our block of flats, probably since before the flats were built. It was a good tree, and it did a really good job of shading the searing hot hurty gravel of the carpark, through which you have to scamper on tip-toes on your way to the pool in summer. However, Corporate Services said that it had to go. So it had to.

Corporate Services didn’t give us any warning that this was going to happen. The first I heard about it was when a bush-ranger-looking guy knocked on our door to see if I knew who owned the cars that were parked under the tree out the back. I said: “Sorry mate, can’t 'elp ya,” in my flattest Townsville accent, so that he’d know I really meant it, and was about to close the door when he added “Cos we’re cutting down the tree today.”

And at that point I thought I might go and have a look at what was going on. I have spent a bit of time trying to stop this kind of thing from happening, after all. I changed out of my jarmies, and when I got out to the carpark it was clear that the fellers had had no luck finding out whose cars they were - they were on their way to removing one of them with a tiny loader.

One of the fellers must also be wanted in another state, because he jumped clear of my photo with alacrity. The guy who'd ripped the arms out of his work shirt and was wearing it with footy shorts told me that if I caught the other guy on film, he’d break my camera. Riiiiiightio.

The original bush-ranger looking guy backed down the drive with the offending car in tow.

Then he "parked" it in the street with the other abandoned vehicles before getting on with the business of chopping down the tree. Note the grass growing up under that classic black Holden ute - it's been there a long long time. In this shot you can also see the number plate of the car from our place, in case you recognise it and want to know what's happened to it. Also, see those two takeaway coffees on the dash? They've been there for at least a year.

The actual tree-removal was very quick in the end.

And 15 minutes after:

Let the long hot shadeless summer begin!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Yesterday I found myself browsing on Paris Breakfasts, a blog of Paris and watercolours, who mentioned Chardin and got me thinking about still life pictures. Later on last night, I bought these pears in Bilo - they're beautiful and if I was going to make a still life picture I would paint them.

Instead they were gonna be another exciting lunch ... but I was snacking on biccies while I was admiring them, and now I'm not hungry any more. Oh well, maybe pears for dinner?