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Archive for August, 2008

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

– Nina Simone, 1964 (The Animals, 1965)

One of my guilty interweb pleasures is the LOLcats site I Can Has Cheezeburger. Nothing like a dose of goofy to help one’s day through the lumpy bits.

If you like LOLcats, maybe you’ll like The Guardian‘s LOLBush. Here’s two of my favourites:

Dubya is doubtless a man who thinks himself misunderstood.

I just have trouble understanding myself. Like, why did I drive 1300km at the weekend, to play croquet? Well actually, that one’s easy. It was my dear friend Miss Penny’s birthday and I’m never one to pass up several tumblers of Pimms & dry on a Saturday afternoon with old friends, even if it is a bit further to the esky than the next block. It’s been a better season out there on the Breeza Plains, if the road kill is anything to go by. The dead roos by the side of the road were monsterous. I was in a sweat as I drove through the dusk.

There’s other things I haven’t understood in the past week though. For example: why does the Qantarse Club force one to use plastic knives, when all the other cutlery is stainless steel? Damned things don’t even cut the cheese they serve. It’s not logical. I’m sure I could inflict more personal damage with a fork than a rounded butter knife, if I was so inclined. Or indeed with one of the glasses or wine bottles available at the bar. What a stupid over-reaction to the so-called terrorism threat. (This whole line of thought just goes to show how long the delays are at Quantarse these days. Two hours seems standard. There’s going to be a mass exodus of customers before long.)

And if I have trouble with comprehension, then so apparantly does the giant Salvos at Fyshwick, where they have an entire rack for donations they can’t quite get their head around. The heading should probably have read “Be Afraid” rather than “Be Surprised”. I looked, and amongst the masses of 80s tat there were indeed a couple of inexplicable items, including a dress consisting of a beautiful floor-length burgundy velvet skirt, attached to a hideous high-necked and long-sleeved red-and-green tartan bodice, complete with stiff ruffles. It was the sort of garment that might only be countenanced by certain religious minorities. Wheels turn, though, and I’m convinced that there will be something of interest there one day, so I’ll keep an eye out.

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It’s oh. so. quiet
It’s oh. so. still.
– Bjork, 1995

This morning was the coldest in the Berra for the year: -5.3 in town, according to the Met Bureau. Not so cold compared to some climates, but after a few years in balmy Slobart where close to the Derwent it never drops below zero, it was a novelty. I’m deeply grateful that, also unlike Slobart, rental houses in the Berra generally include heating.

The street this morning was shrouded in mist, layered in frost.

And I noticed a water bucket outside had frozen over, so I gave it a kick. Ouch. It wasn’t a thin crust of ice, but close to solid.

We had reports this morning of people breaking door handles when getting into their cars to go to work. Black ice on suburban roads.

Did you have the cold snap too?

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Berra Circular VIII: Seas of cheese

When the going gets tough, and the stomach acids flow
The cold wind of conformity is nipping at your nose
When some trendy new atrocity has brought you to your knees
Come with us we’ll sail the Seas of Cheese
– Primus, 1991

Liddle Fact no. 133:
The largest cheese ever made weighed 23,000 kgs.

There’s a regular meeting which I’m obliged to attend every few weeks at work. It’s the sort of meeting that needs to be softened by culinary inducements, such as cake and juice. The juice is little Spring Valley bottles of orange and apple, and under the lids are these “Liddle Facts”. They’re a hazardous distraction when you’re already struggling to keep your concentration on the straight and narrow.

Wisconsin's largest cheese

Wisconsin's largest cheese

My mind went a bit weird when I read this one. The number isn’t a misprint, as the comma is included. I got so obsessed by the number that I searched Google for a while to see if I could get a cross reference, only finding mentions of the 1964 World’s Fair in Wisconsin where their prizewinner weighed in at a measley 34,591lbs, or 15,690kgs. (One website announced, apparantly without irony, “we have a picture of a replica as the original cheese was eaten long ago.” There is a Wikipedia page, also apparantly without irony, devoted to the Spring Valley Liddle Facts… )

Now, I love cheese more than the next person. I would give up a lot of other things to keep cheese in my life. But maybe 23,000kg is too much cheese, even for me? Maybe not. Maybe it’s a kind of challenge. I took my next step on the road to the 23,000kg target at the weekend, at the Silo bakery at the inner-south suburb of Kingston.

Silo is a bakery/café, cheesery and winery held in high regard by Berran locals. I went there for brunch on Saturday at the invitation of two new friends, which in itself says a lot about The Berra; here, a good proportion of folk come from ‘somewhere else’, and so as a stranger you find random people actually being quite cordial to you. I met two great women, Liz and Lee, at an exhibition launch I turned up to by myself in my first week here. I’ve been bumping into Lee about once a week or so ever since, at a random variety of places (mostly markets and vintage clothing spots), and she always stops and has coffee or introduces me to someone new.

Anyway, Silo was our first ‘organised’ outing, and on Saturday morning it’s very busy. The clientele seems to be working hard to look just Saturday-casual enough not to be posing, but also just posh enough to make everyone else look at them. It’s a bit disconcerting until you get into the vibe of the place, which is actually to ignore everyone else. There’s a lot of other things to look at anyway, including mountains of rustically-styled posh breads and gorgeous fancy sweet tarts. The entire rear of the café is an eye-catching walk-in cool room stuffed with cheese. Mountains of it. The barista flapping his hands and lurching from one minor drama to the next is also diverting.

Both Ls recommended the cooked dishes for a proper meal, but we opted for some modest antipasto and cheese plates. Emphasis was on quality rather than quantity, but that’s fine where cheese is concerned. The lunch selection consisted of a slice each of nice enough blue vein, soft and a good piquant hard goat’s cheese, centred around an inoffensive quince paste. A large dish of excellent bread was included without asking (oh, thankfully a return to civilised dining!). The antipasto had some, er, unusual combinations (eg. grilled baby octopus on pineapple, which was better than it sounds) and the symmetrically-arranged presentation of single portions really wasn’t ideal for sharing, unless of course you’re three women for whom the divvying up is not embarrassing. No amount of divvying will share a shucked oyster between 3 people though; Lee did the honours and found it to be good. The side bowl of olives consisted of a really good selection, quality and quantity of fruit. Coffee was great. I’ll be back once I’ve saved a few more pennies and worked off that plate of cheese. I’ll make room for a glass of wine.

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I see trouble on the way
– Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969

Human beings are mostly water (or, after last Friday’s dinner party, mostly wine; I am meeting some very hospitable Berran locals). It’s no wonder then that so many of us seem, like the tide, subject to phases of the moon.

The full moon is the one we discuss most, usually in terms of weird complaints and aberrant manic behaviour from the public and colleagues alike. But I reckon that there’s a corresponding effect in the days at the opposite end of the scale, around the dark of the moon. I’m still studying it, but it seems to bring out a sort of negative, cranky-pants streak, a helpless-belligerent, passive-agressive sullenness, or else a kind of deer-in-the-headlights cluelessness.

On the weekend the road users were all nutso. In Fyshwick, despite having the right of way I slowed down for a bike rider who clearly hadn’t looked towards me. When he did, and noticed I had slowed for him, he pursed his lips and shook his head at me, to signal I was clearly a villiage-idiot-Volvo-driver who drove too slowly. What, he would rather I barrelled through the intersection dragging his mangled bike and person because I had right of way? Well, I rather wish I had, he made me feel so small.

I was still fuming sullenly a little later when, while cruising a narrow road beside Lake Curly-Gherkin, a fellow in a very large Landcruiser leaned over to fiddle with something and began driving directly at me. Too shocked to honk, I took evasive action and narrowly avoided a head-on with both the Landcruiser and various walkers and ducks. Really, it was too much. I had to go home and have a lie-down on the couch.

And I’ll spare you today’s details; a Monday from hell, the kind of day that makes one wonder how it is people don’t go postal more often.

All the tramping around on the weekend was in search of an item of second-hand furniture: a dressing table, to compensate for the dab of a bathroom in my funny little house. I’ve realised a curious thing about the Berra that is unlike any other city or town I’ve ever lived in before. There’s almost no second-hand furniture. All the usual sources, like the Salvos and Vinnies, are wastelands of 80s clothes and 70s pottery knicknacks. No furniture.

Wow. What do the Berra students do? In my salad days I would have slept and studied and ate and everything on the floor if I had not had second hand furniture. In fact, as I look around the loungeroom now, the only item I bought new was the couch. Once I would have thought, I should grow up; now I am embracing my inner recycler. Why do I need so many new things made from stuff freshly chopped down or dug up, when oftentimes there’s a perfectly good old thing that has outlived its original purpose and needs a new home? And if acquired for a bargain, so much the better.

Not that I run an orphanage for old unloved stuff. Much. Except for a lovely vintage bookshelf from a garage sale in Armidale. CD shelves made from recycled timber and copper by a clever friend in Nundle, that somehow go with a wing-backed timber and green vinyl armchair. The TV / stereo stand from the junk shop in the former Walcha theatre. Some funny old stools from those Melbourne salad days, a green vinyl footstool from the Hobart tip shop to go with the armchair. A little round dining table I don’t much like except that it was my Grandma’s, and I still miss her. And now – well, while I’m still searching for the dressing table, I didn’t come home empty handed. Check out this example of the Berra’s style heyday: a 70s coffee table, all dovetailed timber and curves. Delicious.

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