Saturday, September 10, 2005

An update on Rachael

For those of you concerned to know more about Rachael, here she is, safe and sound. When she lived at Hello Gorgeous, she always liked to be in the window, with an outlook. She even used to have her own coat, quite a sparkly affair. She gave up her coat to a (real) cocker spaniel when she came to live with us. After her encounter with Jonty, she has taken up her post in our window, so she can keep an eye on the street. She seems very happy there, and Jonty hasn't spotted her yet. So all is calm in Rachael's world, and in Jonty's.

We are not sure yet whether there should be another encounter. Jonty does like having something to attack. He misses his bags of leaves. Huh??? Well, since South Sydney Council was swallowed up by Sydney Council, we no longer have human street sweepers gathering leaves into big bags. They used to leave them leaning against street poles. Jonty used to fix those bags with his beady gaze, then lunge at them, biting, shaking them, generally savaging them. Those bags sent him into a frenzy. Please don't ask me why, if I understood Pug Logic I'd be worried. He didn't like the human street sweepers either, and despite their attempts to befriend him, he always tried to bite them.

Now, however, we have little sweeping machines that go around scooping up the leaves (and there are many this time of year - the camphor laurels drop piles of their leaves in spring.) Poor Jonty misses the excitement. Rachael - come here......

Friday, September 09, 2005

Tio Alex and the Asparagus

Alex is our next door neighbour, and a source of many things - confusion, annoyance, amusement, weather reports, updates on real estate prices (especially of his own house) and masses of rotting vegetables. Michael has taken to calling him Tio Alex, which seems to wash over Alex like water off a duck's back. Or should that be a chicken's back? Alex sometimes refers to himself as Chicken Brain. We think this is a reference to something his brother once said to him about buying a house in our area, rather than somewhere more salubrious. Alex has been in this suburb for fifty years, and it is now becoming trendy and higher priced. Alex cackles at the idea that his place is worth as much as it is, and gleefully refers again to himself as Chicken Brain.

He's an old Italian, with not much English, but thinks of himself as the Padrone of the neighbourhood. He's extremely nosy, and always has an opinion. Most of the neighbours are wary of him, but he's harmless. He really should have been a farmer. When he was younger he colonised bits of spare land around the suburb, wherever he could make a deal, and would grow vegetables for the local fruit shop. Sometimes we would get some. As he gets older, he still has an arrangement with the fruit shop, but doesn't grow anything any more. The deal with the shop seems to be that he helps unload and pack stuff, and in return gets to take the older fruit and veg that don't sell. A couple of years ago we got quite a few trays of swiss brown mushrooms. I dried some, and some I put in jars preserved with oil. I gave him one of the jars. Next time I got trays of mushrooms, jars were included. Hmmm, subtle hint. He liked the mushrooms. I made them again.

The trays of stuff he leaves are a challenge for me. I get out my old book of jams and preserves. Sometimes I make pickles, or freeze what I can. I hate waste. But sometimes I am defeated. The stuff is too old, or I haven't got time to do anything with it. Here is the latest offering - a tray of asparagus. The label says it is fresh, but believe me, it isn't.

Asparagus jam? Asparagus chutney? Asparagus pickle? I don't think so. Aha! I know what I'll do with it. I cut all the plastic tape off the bunches...... ASPARAGUS COMPOST!

I wonder what will be next. Oh, and by the way, Jonty loathes Alex and tries to bite him whenever he catches sight of him. Alex seems not to mind, and asks when Jonty is going to get the needle. Alex thinks this is funny.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The joy of motherhood

It just makes me glow with pride. Like mother, like daughter. Mother leads the way, daughter follows (sometimes.) She has started her own blog and in it she displays her wonderful knitting talents. Look at those tea cosies! Don't they make you just drool? And the display of cabling makes me very happy.

So I have to counter with the progress I've made on the front of the re-knitted jumper. You see I haven't gotten very far, but at least it hasn't been abandoned. I've just cast off for the sleeves. Managed to make a mistake while gripped by the Ashes last night and had to rip some out, but have gotten going again. You may not be able to see well, but I'm using the Boyes knitting needles my Aunt Jane gave me. It took a while to get used to them, but I really like them. The way the knitting hangs makes it easier to deal with than stiff needles.

One of these days I am going to do a post with some of my favourite blogs, but for the moment you can enjoy Julie's, and perhaps this one. Over and out for now, back to work.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


I haven't blogged since the devastation in the Gulf States of the U.S. When I began blogging, I thought I would keep it light and frothy, amusing, entertaining. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I just couldn't do it. It didn't seem right to be so trivial.

On a plane home from a work trip to Melbourne yesterday, I travelled with a friend who also has a blog. We discussed this question. She encouraged me to write about my reactions. A blog is about life, and life isn't all amusing or frothy. There is the dark among the light. So I've been thinking about the words, and here goes.

You might be wondering why a girl from Sydney is so upset about it. It is a long way away, after all. But I am very upset. A couple of nights ago I went to bed, and burst into tears. "What's wrong" asked Michael anxiously. Earlier, we had been discussing our visit to New Orleans in June, 2004. We talked about things we had seen, such as the Aquarium, the Cabildo, Jackson Square. "That whole city" I sobbed. All those people, the buildings, inundated and ruined. I continued to cry remembering visits past.

My first visit to New Orleans was with my mother and my sister, way back in 1965. My mother's sister, my Aunt Jane, lived in Hammond, north of NO, and we were going to meet her, Uncle Bill, and our cousins for the first time. How exotic the US was for us Sydney teenagers. Louisiana was a strange place of misty Spanish moss, heat and humidity, and the city a fascinating mix. Coming from white Australia, the black faces around us were new and intriguing. We had our portraits done by a street artist in Jackson Square - I still have mine. We ate beignets and gumbo, we explored the attractions of the city. We drove across Lake Ponchartrain to Hammond, like driving across the ocean. We ate thin-sliced catfish at a stop along the way.

I visited again several times, always enjoying my relatives' company. In 1971 my sister and I again visited Hammond, Louisiana. Gwen had been living in London, I had visited her (you saw me in a previous post, wearing my fur coat during that vist). We travelled together from London to Hammond. We still have pictures of ourselves in the local newspaper. We were exotic to them too. There we were, on the verandah of the big old wooden house, wearing the latest in hot pants from Harrods, long flowing hair, dark smoky eyeliner.

I returned to Australia, Gwen stayed in the US and met her husband. She spent some time living in New Orleans, and still lives in hurricane-prone Florida.

Several more times over the years I've visited Aunt Jane and the family, so I've gotten to know the place. And last year's visit with Michael was to introduce him to that world. We stayed with Aunt and Cousin Jane near Baton Rouge, we met the next generation. We explored New Orleans and ate at Mona's Middle Eastern with Cousin Susan and other family members. We drove across Lake Ponchartrain. We drove around the city, down St. Charles Street, with its beautiful fretworked wooden mansions and the fabulous fern-covered arches of the oak trees.

So you can see my memories are strong, and they are fresh. I've made anxious phone calls and everyone is OK, the New Orleans contingent having evacuated. They don't know how their houses are.

I spend time on Google Earth, hovering anxiously over their addresses, trying to see what detail I can. I've sent the grainy pictures to them - the miracle of technology.

I've needed to write this, so I can go back to being (hopefully) amusing. My thoughts are still there, with them all.