Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems…
Kate Bush, 1985


Now, where was I?

Oh yes. The hole that is winter, mid-year, mid-contract, mid-life terror-inertia, just opened up and swallowed me whole a little while ago. It was either write rubbish… or take a short break. So we ran away to a foreign land for a few weeks, then came home and I turned my brain off and slept in for a few more weeks, and now here we are and it’s spring.

The Berra seems determined to put on a proper spring, too, showering us with warm days and thunderstorms, lush overgrown lawns, rogue oak seedlings infesting naturestrips and battalions of magpies. 2009 is a great deal more fecund than last year.

Melbourne Cup Day, marked in the Berra as the universally reviled Family & Community Day public holiday (it’s in fact a day when families and the rest of the community just go down-the-coast) saw the Bald Man and me achieve a little local milestone: we finally climbed Mount Ainslie.

If you’re local, you won’t be fooled by the disingenuous use of “climb”. It’s actually a brisk walk up a hill that’s 842m high. Some people reputedly jog to the summit each morning, using the paved track from the rear of the War Memorial. But we started round the back end at the site of the old tip in North Ainslie, went up the fire trail, came down the more usual path and then walked back around to our starting point.

On the way up there were regular pauses because it was pretty warm, and steep. But on the way down the path was so tame, I actually jogged for short periods, maybe up to a km total. That’s the fastest I’ve moved my legs (and fat ol’ arse) in several years, so you’ll forgive me for being so pleased with myself over such a little thing.

The other milestone from this period is a d’ohmestic goddess one. You may have noticed that the pizza reviews have petered out; the taste tests and reviews were fun at first, but the exercise quickly became depressing. Thanks for your suggestions, but after a passable but pricey pizza at Il Covo, one average and two rubbish pizzas at Firestone, and a truly horrible experience at Pizza Arte*, I’ve given up and started to make my own.

A domestic oven and little kitchen notwithstanding, after about five attempts I’m making headway. Less is truly more with toppings – I recommend seasonal vegetable matter and smallgoods sourced from from the EPIC Farmers Market or your own garden.

But the base is definitely the key. I’m now working from a very old recipe that comes from a Good Weekend about a hundred years ago that I tore out, tucked away and fortuitously found again. Like toppings, less is probably more – this ace base uses little more than flour, olive oil and yeast. It works better now after a little modification, a result of trial and error. If you’re interested, the recipe’s on the other, sporadically updated blog i made you this. If you try it, give yourself at least three goes to get a feel for the dough (so to speak) – and let me know how it goes.

* I think we got Pizza Arte on a bad day – Victorians now call that day Black Saturday, and it felt at least 60 degrees in their kitchen – but really, the pizza was terrible. Burned and undercooked patches on one pizza, overcooked base and dry toppings that just fell off the other one. I don’t have words to describe how disgusting it was.


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A sorrowful tale I’ll tell,
Concerning of a hero who through misfortune fell
His name, it was Ben Hall
– (trad), Weddings Parties Anything, 1989

Does anyone else find the Logies excruciating? It seems to get more puerile every year. Funny people aren’t funny, and smart people look insipid and/or embarassed. Only Johanna Griggs looks excited. As Dave From Albury twitted tweed observed mere moments ago, “When even Rove doesn’t respect the Logies anymore, does that mean that they have officially jumped the shark?” It’s enough to turn you back to the computer on a Sunday evening.

Okay, what happened with the rest of that long weekend? A little while after the Dawn Service, The Bald Man hopped on his bike, joined two friends and rode to Collector. Collector is not a cafe, not a shop, and not in this case a common noun, but one of the weirdly named places* within cooee of The Berra. This Collector is a smidgen of a town about 60km to the north-east not far from Lake George**, known for its annual pumpkin festival and not much else. It was a stupid brave thing to ride out there, given the filthy weather (the drizzle had cleared a little, mostly blown away by the gale-force winds). I am not so stupid brave and therefore opted to drive out there to meet them. The plan was to stay overnight at the famed Bushranger Hotel.

The Bushranger Hotel, Collector. Ominous.

The Bushranger Hotel, Collector. Ominous.

The Bushranger Hotel was founded in 1860 as the Kimberley’s Commercial. A heritage study of the Hotel I found at the bar notes that the name Collector is probably a corruption of a local Aboriginal word ‘collegdar’, thought to mean either ‘pelican’ or ‘hill’ (of course, they’re so similar). The Hotel’s name was changed after an incident in which Ben Hall and his mates Gilbert and Dunn shot a Constable Nelson right outside the pub.

With that sort of heritage, I suppose I should have expected a rowdy night. Certainly the plasma TVs, one over the otherwise-empty bar and one in the main lounge blaring the Country Music Channel at full volume mid-afternoon, should have been a hint. But no. I was captivated by the many rustic touches, including the sign labelled “dunnies” confusing some non-English speaking tourists who were also visiting, the strangely attired and unravelling stuffed kangaroo, and the collection of dead snakes in jam jars on the shelf behind the pool table.

The counter meals certainly lived up to the hype; I thoroughly recommend the pork roast. The beer on tap is fine. Together, they make a nice day trip. But that’s all I’d recommend.

To cut a long story short, all other business at the Collector Hotel was conducted at an excruciating volume. As patrons started to flow in, the volume of conversation went up, the music went up to compensate, and the conversation rose to shouting level. Tribes of feral children ran screaming through the premises accompanied by dogs and chasing cats. At one point The Bald Man turned the music down a little, but it was promptly turned back up to ear-splitting. At about 9.30pm, tired from the ride and tired of shouting, our group retired to our respective rooms. At about this time, the plasma was retuned to a contemporary music channel and the party began in earnest. Our bedroom was directly over the lounge, and the floor vibrated with the noise. This continued until 2.45am. At this time someone turned off the music halfway through an appalling song, which was all the better to hear another half hour of whooping and shouting as the remaining patrons wound down. I can honestly say I have never paid for a more hideous hotel experience, and believe me I have plenty to choose from. The morning wasn’t much better, as the bathrooms turned out not to have been washed for some weeks and were too vile for use. We fled into an oncoming storm.

Bruce Stadium, or rather, Canberra Stadium. Those are cheerleaders on the turf, freezing their rumps off at half time. I don't get this cheerleaders thing. Personally, I'd rather have the Little League.

Bruce Stadium, or rather, Canberra Stadium. Those are cheerleaders on the turf, freezing their rumps off at half time. I don't get cheerleaders. Personally, I'd rather have the Little League.

Sunday had one good experience in store, however; my first ever a-grade Rugby League match. In fact, it was a Raiders game at Bruce Stadium, making it a truly Berran experience. The weather was a disturbing mix of sunshine and sleet, and the crowd a piffling 10,000 (the AFL girl in me sniffed) but I have to confess watching good footy in the flesh is always a joy. It was a good match too, although the Raiders lost. I think I am finally on my way to understanding and perhaps even appreciating the northern codes, a little. Go you Raiders.

* There’s also a place nearby called Tarago. Not related to Toyota in any way, I understand.
** Another strangely named place, seeing as there’s never any actual ‘lake’ at Lake George. Well, I saw water in it once, but that was decades ago.

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Well the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
I ran for the trench but I had no time to speak
My heart said yes but my head said no
When the English colonel said, “It’s time to go.”
He said, “What’s a few men?”
– Mark Seymour, 1987

Here I am, sitting at home at the end of a long weekend. Today, Monday, is a public holiday in lieu of ANZAC Day falling on a Saturday this year and observed only in the ACT and WA. I’m okay about the public holiday falling on the 25th not being observed on another day; in my view, a holiday is not required to remember. Perhaps the karma for this thought is that I’ve ended up doing some work on all three days this weekend.

It’s also been a weekend on which I enjoyed some particularly Berran experiences.

Most importantly, all local wisdom says that after ANZAC Day it’s time to turn on your heater and get out the flannelette sheets.

ANZAC Day dawned grey and soggy-sleety, officially 11.6 degrees but feeling more like 6.5 degrees at 6am according to the Bureau of Meteorology. In fact by 6am I was heading home. The Bald Man and I got up to attend the Dawn Service; it was our first ANZAC Day in the Berra, and this national service at the Australian War Memorial is one of the local landmark events. We have a work presence there each year that I was keen to see. And although the vile weather meant the assembled crowd was down by a third on last year, the Dawn Service still attracted some 20,000 people.

I have to confess a whole host of reservations and anxieties around events like ANZAC Day, mostly to do with ethnic background (mine) and ignorant bigots (others), and so I’ve stayed away from dawn services until now. This Dawn Service laid some of those fears to rest. The service itself was brief at half an hour, simple and humble. There was no glorification of war, though I found it moving and important to be reminded that at this time of day 94 years ago men were preparing to get on the boats and make that run at that beach, hence the significance of gathering at dawn. The part that made the biggest impression on me were the prayers. The priest acknowledged not everyone was Christian or indeed religious before he offered four prayers: one for all service men and women past and present, one for those who don’t fight but whose efforts are at home, one for those left behind to wait and grieve, and one for all the people who work for peace. That covers just about all of us, doesn’t it? Inclusive, not exclusive.

The whole tone was humble, thoughtful; there was no arrogance and no misplaced, boorish displays of so-called nationalism. It was an arresting sight, 20,000 people gathered on the parade ground before the War Memorial, holding candles and remembering, in the dark before the dawn. A fitting remembrance for those who fight and die. (I also have to admit to being weirded out by the Lord’s Prayer said in the modern parlance; I was incapable of saying “who is in heaven” and “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, and no doubt looked to my neighbours like a time-warped lapsed Catholic, which isn’t true but isn’t miles away either.)

I was glad to have attended the National Dawn Service, and will probably go again.

I’ll write about the rest of the weekend when I can summon the strength.

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If you sing me a song, you know that I’ll come running
Whistle me that tune that brings a tear to my eye
– The Go Set, 2004

dust21There’s a pall hanging over The Berra this afternoon. A furious windstorm has dragged in a massive dust cloud from somewhere way out west; driving around earlier, everything was quite indistinct, even the Tamil protesters camped en masse outside The Lodge, and their police minders. So much for the washing, of which there’s quite a bit, after a weekend at a shack up in the Barrington Tops.

It was nice to get away, after working on Good Friday. The OB was a success, great news for both our first foray into live broadcast of a new medium, and for a new community partnership. And what, you ask, would I be working at on Good Friday, doing all those things? It was the National Folk Festival.

When we first started getting our crap together for this year’s activity some months ago, I immediately began to wonder how much it might be like the Country Music Festival at Tamworth. I’ve covered six of those, replete with large hats, chaps (the leather kind), linedancing, and buskers of wildly varying quality. Back in the old days, I even covered the first six Big Day Outs (or should the plural be, Big Days Out?) I was looking forward to covering a whole new festival. Indeed, I was looking forward to adding to my collection of stubbie holders from unusual festivals, amongst which my CMF ones are dearly loved.

I was also a bit worried about having to learn a whole new set of eccentricities in order not to draw undue attention to myself, or commit some fatal faux pas. It took some time, but I learned that country music is a serious business. For example: at the CMF, it’s important to know you can laugh with those in country music costume, but not at them; not at the elderly lady in the leather fringed vest without a shirt under it, not at the feral ute driven by that large fellow in the even larger black hat, and certainly not at the bloke playing guitar with the chicken on his head (I’m not making these up). Folk music lovers are preceded by their own special stereotypes: freaky folkies, feral folkies, beardy weirdies, flutes ‘n’ fiddles, twangy-twangy, fiddle-de-fiddle-de-fiddle-o. You know. (It also brought to mind words uttered by Mick Thomas at a particularly feral Tasnarnian gig, “I’m your worst fucking nightmare, mate. I’m gunna play folk music all night.”)

And it’s no small deal, this National Folk Festival. Five days, 22 venues at the Berra’s EPIC showgrounds (it’s a ticketed event), hundreds of performers, thousands of campers on site, and some 50,000 patrons through the gates overall.

So, what was it like?

Well, overall it was a very civilised affair. A family festival. Calm, well mannered, pleasant; some stereotypes were borne out, and some were exploded.

instrument1There were a surprising number of teenagers there without parents, well behaved (if a little prone to wearing long velvet capes) and having a good time. There was no conspicuous drinking or drunkenness (unlike the CMF, in which drinking to excess is an integral part of the festival for many); and so, sadly, there were no NFF stubbie holders; I only twice caught a whiff of wacky tobaccy. The music was quite good, a little broader-appeal than what you might expect, and yes it was taken seriously. Trad-folk, folk from non-Anglo traditions, local and overseas performers, protest music, contemporary and loud music, comedy, and even a spooky men’s choir, it was all there. There were men with beards (who had the good grace to laugh at themselves at our OB) and some really crusty old Deadhead-types. There were certainly weird (if beautifully crafted) instruments; over in the instrument-makers’ tent there were arrays of expensive wood-whistles, handmade harps, medieval dulcimers, mountain mandolins (I am not making these up) and a number of contraptions that didn’t seem to be related to normal instruments but evidently made music, somehow.

mulledwineThere were pantomimes and poets, most of which seemed to have strong left leaning, anti-establishment themes (I spotted a brace of children gathered around a man with a guitar conversing in parable-style with another man dressed as a tree about the importance of trade unions in democracies) (I’m not making that up, either). There was a yurt. Amongst the many venues there was actually one called Flute & Fiddle. And for a festival with definite alternative-left socio-political tendancies, there was a lot of commerce. Many stall names sported bad puns, and most touted some sort of perceived virtue (organic, eco, fair trade, hemp, hand-crafted, recycled, vegetarian, etc.) but it was still dirty, profit-making commerce. This kind of tension makes for interesting business and goods for sale. Two eye-catchers were an organic-halal gelato (I don’t know why, it was a very anglo crowd) and a fast-food stall called Voodoo Hamburgers (the logo was a smiling skull). There were vendors of goods you might not expect to see at a folk festival, including a broom maker. I heard one borderline feral mum saying to her 8-year old, “I’ve already bought you a firestick, I’m not going to buy you a puppet head too. I don’t care if it’s hand-made hemp.” Of course I was pleased to see mulled wine, though being at work I opted for the mulled and spiced orange juice.

mugsThe thing I liked best was only a little thing, but it summed up so much about the NFF: what it is, what drives it, and what it strives to be. Almost all the drinks on site were sold in sturdy plastic mugs. When you finished your drink, you dropped your mug in one of the many wire-cage mug collection points. Volunteers (the ‘mug jugglers’) regularly emptied out the cages, took the mugs away, washed them, delivered them back to the stalls, and the cycle began anew.

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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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