In Woolworths Bellara store, in the Asian Foods aisle, there is a small section devoted to New Zealand produce. Why they put it there I have no idea, but amongst the Byriani and Mirin one can find cans of Lemon and Paeroa, Whittaker’s chocolate, Watties tomato sauce and Watties canned beans and spaghetti.
On my latest visit I was overjoyed to find a stock of my two favourite (non-chocolate) biscuits; the Griffins Malt biscuit, and Griffins Crispies.
I was as happy as an English friend of mine was when he discovered Jammy Dodgers in a shop in Perth. But when he gave me one to try, I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. The Jammy Dodger is just like a Griffins Shrewsbury, but not as nice. And without a hole in the middle of one of the halves.
A wee bit of nostalgia. Buttering a couple of Malt biscuits and dunking them in my Earl Grey. Some things just naturally go together; apple and cinnamon, bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade, malt biscuits and butter, with tea.
Way out in the Gibson desert, not far from Lake MacKay, at the end of a long day crossing the desert at an average speed of 20kph, I came upon an old man sitting by a campfire . His back leaned against the tyre of an ancient troopy. He was cooking something that smelled good. It was kangaroo stew and damper.
He introduced himself as Pete, and invited me to join him for a meal, which I accepted cheerfully, bringing out some canned fruit and creamed rice from my stock as a dessert offering.
His stew was really good. His damper was unexpectedly extraordinary. It tasted like the best sourdough bread I’ve ever had. Damper is usually made from self raising flour or using baking powder. I complimented Pete on the bread, and he told me he used raisins to make a starter dough. It seems the yeasts naturally found on the dried fruit were perfect for making bread. The starter fermented all day in the hot car as he travelled and was ready to bake in the camp oven at the end of every day.
He showed me how it was done. He opened an old pack, pulled out a bag of raisins, mixed some with flour and water in an old Tupperware container, and put it on the bonnet of his Troopy ready for the next day. Then he put the raisins beside the container on the bonnet. We sat down to share dessert.
As we ate, there was a whir of wings and a large crow landed on the car. Without hesitation, it grabbed the bag of dried fruit and flew away with it.
Pete watched the bird fly away with the resigned acceptance of one who is used to the vagaries and tragedies of life. “Ah.” he said philosophically. “There goes my raisins for leavening”.
There’s water in the scuppers and the sea is cutting rough The bilge pumps are not working and if that’s not bad enough There’s salt water in the rum lads, there will be no getting drunk We’ll all drown stone cold sober when the fucking ship has sunk
The skipper’s drinking brandy, for he has a private store He says he’ll go down with his ship and what can he do more? He ordered the abandon ship, we cut the lifeboats free Not one of them would stay afloat. They sank into the sea
The life jackets are useless. They are soggy wet kapok We tossed them in the ocean and they went down like a rock The first mate said to swim for it, we’ve minutes to get clear Before the old girl founders, and drags us down with her
The bosun said there was no point for where then would we go? Unless there is an island near and that, he did not know So even if we swam and swam, and then we swam some more The bloody sharks would take us all before we reached a shore
I’ll take me chances here said he, and go down quick and clean Just then a huge wave swamped us. The biggest we had seen The old ship groaned and foundered, then settled on a reef The water’s really shallow here, to everyone’s relief. .
Every lane of the pool was fully booked today for each time slot. Which meant that for the first time while I’ve been there after reopening staff had to sound the musical bing-bong over the PA to nudge everyone to leave in time for the next 10 people to come in.
One woman had arrived about 20 minutes after the hour and despite being late, spent another 15 minutes walking round the pool talking to anyone who’d listen. She berated me for lying about how warm the water was before she had even got in. Apparently she is “very observant”. With barely ten minutes to go she finally took the plunge (literally) and started swimming. When the chimes sounded, she stayed in and would not get out. Staff spoke to her, explaining her time was up and a new batch of people were awaiting their turn. Protests followed. Eventually she left. Still complaining. Some People.
I watched as I drank my cappuccino. I buy one after every swim because I’m trying to stop the pool going bankrupt. I’m pretty sure that without those extra $18 a week the pool would have to close again and all my good friends working there would be on the dole. Today I received my ninth stamp on my loyalty card. So the next is free. I hope that free cappuccino is not the final straw.
I was swapping anecdotes with the staff as I drank my coffee when we saw a beautiful young Eastern Brown, sleek and healthy, obviously well fed, slithering across the concrete towards the children’s pool.
As you will all know by now, I get excited and protective when I see a serpent. I was delighted to find the two staff members on duty, Sue-Ellyn and Jacob, were of similar mind. Jacob and I herded the young fellow into a corner. We caught him or her in a box and I carried him or her out to the bush on the far side of the parking lot.
I was surprised to see a snake out and about at this time of year. I thought they would all be hibernating. But a quick search on Google produced some interesting information. No hibernation round here.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo, but here is a picture of one, just as pretty, from the Internet.
This morning I had decided today would be a walking stick and ambulatory support mechanism-free day. I walk more like a zombie than a person these days, I need to strengthen my leg muscles and not rely on support all the time. I also exercised my calf and thigh muscles in the pool with my fins.
Then I had a bit of a workout with a snake so on all counts today was a Good Day.
With the reopening of the Bribie Aquatic Centre I’m at last able to swim again. I was going to use the ocean when the pool closed, but by the time my excisions had healed and the beaches were open, the water was too cold, even for me.
The post-COVID rules at the pool are very different. The changing rooms and showers are no longer available. I arrive wearing my swimming togs and go home wet below the waist. As the number to be admitted to the pool at any time is now limited there is an appointment system. I can swim for 45 minutes four days a week. Better than nothing.
I’m pretty sure the time allocation will be increased soon. It seems not too many are coming back yet. Though the morning spots are filled with the really keen swimmers, by noon the pool is empty. My noon spot is often shared with no one. I’m frequently the only person in the pool during my session.
The water is crystal clear. Fewer people are peeing in it. School groups are still not permitted. The staff have boosted the water temperature to 29C for the winter season. It seems cooler. And getting out is a chilly experience, even on a sunny day the air is comparatively cool. I miss the hot shower immediately after my swim.
I gained weight and lost condition in the hiatus. I’m unfit. Forty five minutes swimming is enough for now. The muscles in my arm are sore and slow to adjust to the new regime. Even so, I’m putting in the maximum effort in the time available. The finger paddles give me a good workout. I’m looking forward to getting back to longer sessions for five or six days a week.
I very rarely buy sweets, except perhaps for the occasional bar of dark chocolate, which is not really very sweet. When I do buy sweets, I rarely eat them. I still have a container of lemon sherbets I bought from a ‘British’ shop a couple of years ago. I still eat one now and then, but they have gone soft and sticky.
I bought them because they take me back sixty four years to a time when I pedalled my pedal car down to the sweet shop with a pocketful of farthings, to buy a quarter of jellybabies. Or lemon sherbets, or Rowntree’s fruit pastilles and fruit gums.
Look what I found in Aldi yesterday. We don’t see these often in the antipodes. To my ageing decrepit taste buds they still taste the same as they did when I was four. Such a delight.
For millennials, “a quarter” referred to a quarter ounce. Sweets were sold by weight, and were measured out on a balance scale. One could buy a sizeable bag of sweets (to a four year old) for a few farthings.
For some time I’ve had a strange condition that even my doctor has not been able to explain. Nor has he suggested any tests that might put light on the matter.
Is it neurological or circulation? Or something else.
The tip of the ring finger on my right hand is numb. Sometimes it is itchy, as if bitten by a mosquito. I feel pressure if I touch it but it seems to have no operational pain receptors, as I can poke it with a pin without sensation other than a hint of pressure.
I have no explanation. But it seems ironic that the Romans and other old societies believed this finger is connected directly to the heart, which explains why it is the ring finger