Kiwi As.

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.

Two Crispies? Too right!

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.

There is nothing as Kiwi as buttered Malt biscuits.

Sourdough Pete

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”.

Sea Song

Sea Song

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.
.

© 2020 ARF

Flashback

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.

I even found a picture of my pedal car.

Mate

Within minutes of publishing my last post the phone rang. It was my mate David in New Zealand. Concerned about my mental wellbeing. A call I really appreciated.

Not that I’m any more depressed than usual. I have developed a philosophy of off-handed acceptance in the vein of “shit happens”. I’m not going to worry about anything over which I have no control. I’m certainly not going to worry about unconfirmed possibilities.

When shit happens I remind myself that it doesn’t matter. In fact, “it doesn’t matter” has pretty much become my mantra whenever something happens that I cannot do anything about. Quite a lot falls into that category. It’s part of growing old.

Dave’s call reminds me I have a mate. That matters.

Something More Sinister

Dear Diary, Discussing my blood test with Mehdi yesterday, by phone, I learned that the tests which coincided with those ordered by the kidney clinic delivered the same results.

However, in separate news, my haemoglobin and iron levels continue to be too low. This despite the Ferrograd C tablets and weekly meals of lamb’s fry. So Mehdi ordered another set of tests, to ensure the cause is not “something more sinister”.

“Something more sinister” is not something someone in my demographic wants to hear. A quick Google confirmed there is plenty to be concerned about. But I’ll leave the worrying until I get the results.

Orpheus in the Undergrowth

There is a bird in the bushes behind my home – I think it may be a currawong- whose cheerful call sounds incredibly similar to the “cancan” riff from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.

Chirp, chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp, chirp
Chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,
Chirp,chirp,chirp, chirp,chirp,.
Chirp,chirp,chirp.
chirp,chirp,
chirp,chirp,
chirp,chirp,
chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,chirp,
chirp chirpchirp
Chirp chirp,chirp chirp chirp
Chirp chirp
Chirp chirp.

It is the early bird that causes the earworm, because I find myself mentally playing that tune as I go about my routine. The rhythm infiltrates almost all of my tasks. I clean my teeth, and realise I am doing it in time to the beat. The same happens when I wash the dishes, shave, or sweep the concrete.

Brush, brush,brush,brush,brush,brush, brush
Brush,brush,brush,brush,brush,brush,
Brush,brush,brush, brush,brush,.
Brush,brush,brush.
brush,brush,
brush,brush,
brush,brush,
brush,brush,brush,brush,brush,brush,brush,brush,brush,
brush brushbrush
Brush brush,brush brush brush
Brush brush
Brush brush.

And now I find that having written ‘brush’ that many times, it looks wrong. And. I’ve forgotten what I was going to write next.

So. To other matters. On my way back from Woolworths this afternoon, I saw one of my lady friends was working at the pool. I called in to say hi and ask how soon the pool would be open again. Next Saturday! Yay!

But it will be restricted, and swimmers must book ahead. The announcement goes out to all members by email tonight. Guess who is the first to book in for 07:00 Saturday morning.

Time to get wet again. Despite Winter’s chill.

Health Update, May 19

Dear Diary,

I have a new kidney specialist. The North Lakes clinic have transferred my file to Caboolture. Last week I peed and bled for the pathology lab, and this morning I discussed the lab results with the specialist at Caboolture Hospital in a telephone consultation.

He tells me he is pleased with the lab report. I have maintained my 37% kidney function in the face of adversity and adiposity. My results were good despite that I have regained a little of the weight I lost. This is since the pool was closed for the COVID crisis. Exercise has been rather problematic as walking for any worthwhile time is not a feasible option.

I was heartened to learn the pool should be reopening in about three weeks. It is not only the best place for me to get active, but also my most important social activity, because I don’t frequent pubs and clubs. Lately my depression has become noticeable again. Too much time alone. Perhaps a little too much introspection.

Life has been quiet since lockdown. I watch a lot of Netflix, and read, though I am finding that my eyes get tired if I read a lot. My marathon book days are done. it is frustrating. Now the weather has deteriorated, and deters me from taking out the boat.

On the plus side, I have had time to tidy up and organise my caravan and get rid of more stuff I don’t need. I have completely killed the collector bug and the sentimental attachments I once had to material things, even the valuable collectibles. I’m not sure if that is due to depression or a late development of sense.

Writing

Even if it seems unrealistic, or self-important, or just delusional, the act of writing implies that someone in the future will read what we’re currently in the process of writing. That future can only exist if we believe in it now.

Emily Gould

I don’t think so.

Alan R Freshwater