A Good Night’s Sleep

It is remarkable how much better one feels after a good sleep. I have not been sleeping well lately, something I ascribe to a combination of my state of mind and the weather. The days and nights have been hot and humid. Any slight breeze is a blessed relief. My daily swim at the pool, though giving me the exercise I need, and the heavenly release from the pain that plagues my gravity-stressed muscles and bones, is not as refreshing as before because the water has become too warm for my preference.

I have been going to the pool earlier in the morning to get there when the water is coolest, but it still feels more like a warm bath than a fresh dip. Maybe I should switch to the sea and risk the jellyfish and imaginary monsters. I’ve never understood why Australians, who claim to be so hardy in their sunburnt land, won’t swim in water cooler than their skin temperature. I still recall how astounded I was when I learned Katanning Shire would close the public pool if the temperature of the water was below 20 degrees.

On Saturday, I had completed my 90 minute swim and ridden my bike home again by 9 am. That left me nothing to do for the rest of the day but lay under my fan, nap and watch Netflix. The day was supposed to be one of my vegetarian days. I was planning to have dal and rice. On a whim I rode around to the butcher to seek out some more substantial sustenance. I’ve not had red meat in an age. I found a plump lamb shank, already marinating in a red wine sauce, just begging to be cooked and eaten. It fit perfectly into my 12V slow cooker with some celery, onion, tomatoes, and a large sweet potato, cut into chunks. By 7 pm it was perfectly cooked and ready to be deliciously overeaten.

In the afternoon the sky became increasingly overcast and the breeze cooled noticeably. The rain started in the early evening and continued all night. By Sunday morning it was still pelting down and the camp roads were all flowing streams of stormwater. The morning walk to the ablution block was also the morning shower. I had to towel off and change my clothes when I returned. I don’t have a raincoat. I should get one.

I did not ride to the pool. Nor did I drive. I spent the day reading Ursula Le Guin. I was so inactive that my self-winding watch actually stopped. I couldn’t understand why I was so hungry when it was only two pm and I had eaten brunch at eleven. But it was nearly seven. Time flies when you are reading a good book. I hadn’t even noticed how dark it had become as I lay under my reading lamp.

The rain continued. Then the wind came up. It buffeted the caravan until it rocked and creaked. It felt like being in a small boat in a storm. It felt wonderful. The breeze coming through the insect screen was cool and damp. For the first time in weeks I pulled my duvet over my body rather than laying uncovered on top of the bed under the fan. With a full stomach and snuggled in like a child, I had the best sleep I’ve experienced in a long while.

This morning, the outlook seems a little less bleak, though the weather hasn’t improved at all.

On the plus side, this amount of rain means the fire risk has been significantly reduced.

Meds and Booze

Frequent visitors may have detected a slightly surreal turn in some of my recent blog entries. Usually I let some whimsy into my posts deliberately, but lately I have been experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Not in order to get high, but in order NOT to get high. I was aware the recent increase in pregabalin dosage would affect me, and despite joking about getting stoned, I took care not to mix drink and drug until I had adjusted to the new dose. When I first stated taking Lyrica i had three days of being pleasantly stoned, to the consternation of my neighbours and employers. Being a sensible chap I did not drive or interact with my community kids until I adapted. Being in a dry community at the time meant I did not have an alcohol interaction issue.

Pregabalin has been an incredible help in managing the pain in my legs caused by the spondylosis in my spine. I cannot manage without it. I know. I tried. Recently the pain has been returning. Walking any distance, or carrying weighty objects exacerbates it badly. To the point of tearful suicidal thoughts.

The new dose gave me a pleasant buzz after the first couple, though nowhere near as much fun as when I first started on it. So I foreswore alcohol until the effect subsided. I also did not drive my car, though I did ride the bike to the pool. The pool is my real drug these days.

Once I thought I was used to the dose, I tentatively tried booze by putting a drop of Baileys in my coffee. That seemed ok. Next day I had a wine with my evening meal. Later, while talking on the phone with a friend I had a whisky. Or two.

It hit me like a hammer. I fell into bed and immediately weird sleep. Next day I knew I was incapacitated.

Queensland cops are the most rabid in Australia, and besides, even stoned, I am a responsible person. I didn’t even ride the bike to the pool. But I had a weird day. The blog tells it all.

This is an explanation, not an apology. To be perfectly frank, I enjoyed the experience, but not enough to want to keep repeating it. I’ve missed too much pool time. I tried a whisky nightcap last night with no ill effect, so maybe I’m back to normal, whatever that is.

You can still expect some weirdness on occasion. I don’t need drugs or booze for that.

Midnight Feast

Article 365 of the International Code of Gustatory Regulation as ratified at the European Federation of Food Science congress, 2012, states:

Food eaten between the hours of 23:50 and 00:10 shall not be counted towards the Calorific count of either day .

Who knew that Stilton cheese came with cranberries?

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

Time for a bit more feckin’ culture, mate.

Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came
Thomas Moran
1859


MY first thought was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee, that purs’d and scor’d
Its edge, at one more victim gain’d thereby.

What else should he be set for, with his staff?
What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
All travellers who might find him posted there,
And ask the road? I guess’d what skull-like laugh
Would break, what crutch ’gin write my epitaph
For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,

If at his counsel I should turn aside
Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly
I did turn as he pointed: neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end descried,
So much as gladness that some end might be.

For, what with my whole world-wide wandering,
What with my search drawn out thro’ years, my hope
Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
With that obstreperous joy success would bring,—
I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring
My heart made, finding failure in its scope.

As when a sick man very near to death
Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end
The tears and takes the farewell of each friend,
And hears one bid the other go, draw breath
Freelier outside, (“since all is o’er,” he saith,
“And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;”)

While some discuss if near the other graves
Be room enough for this, and when a day
Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
With care about the banners, scarves and staves,
And still the man hears all, and only craves
He may not shame such tender love and stay.

Thus, I had so long suffer’d, in this quest,
Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
So many times among “The Band”—to wit,
The knights who to the Dark Tower’s search address’d
Their steps—that just to fail as they, seem’d best.
And all the doubt was now—should I be fit?

So, quiet as despair, I turn’d from him,
That hateful cripple, out of his highway
Into the path the pointed. All the day
Had been a dreary one at best, and dim
Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim
Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.

For mark! no sooner was I fairly found
Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two,
Than, pausing to throw backward a last view
O’er the safe road, ’t was gone; gray plain all round:
Nothing but plain to the horizon’s bound.
I might go on; nought else remain’d to do.

So, on I went. I think I never saw
Such starv’d ignoble nature; nothing throve:
For flowers—as well expect a cedar grove!
But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,
You ’d think; a burr had been a treasure trove.

No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In the strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See
Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly,
“It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
’T is the Last Judgment’s fire must cure this place,
Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”

If there push’d any ragged thistle=stalk
Above its mates, the head was chopp’d; the bents
Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
In the dock’s harsh swarth leaves, bruis’d as to baulk
All hope of greenness? ’T is a brute must walk
Pashing their life out, with a brute’s intents.

As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
In leprosy; thin dry blades prick’d the mud
Which underneath look’d kneaded up with blood.
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
Stood stupefied, however he came there:
Thrust out past service from the devil’s stud!

Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
With that red, gaunt and collop’d neck a-strain,
And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;
Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
I never saw a brute I hated so;
He must be wicked to deserve such pain.

I shut my eyes and turn’d them on my heart.
As a man calls for wine before he fights,
I ask’d one draught of earlier, happier sights,
Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier’s art:
One taste of the old time sets all to rights.

Not it! I fancied Cuthbert’s reddening face
Beneath its garniture of curly gold,
Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place,
That way he us’d. Alas, one night’s disgrace!
Out went my heart’s new fire and left it cold.

Giles then, the soul of honor—there he stands
Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.
What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.
Good—but the scene shifts—faugh! what hangman hands
Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands
Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!

Better this present than a past like that;
Back therefore to my darkening path again!
No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.
Will the night send a howlet of a bat?
I asked: when something on the dismal flat
Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.

A sudden little river cross’d my path
As unexpected as a serpent comes.
No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms;
This, as it froth’d by, might have been a bath
For the fiend’s glowing hoof—to see the wrath
Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.

So petty yet so spiteful All along,
Low scrubby alders kneel’d down over it;
Drench’d willows flung them headlong in a fit
Of mute despair, a suicidal throng:
The river which had done them all the wrong,
Whate’er that was, roll’d by, deterr’d no whit.

Which, while I forded,—good saints, how I fear’d
To set my foot upon a dead man’s cheek,
Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard!
—It may have been a water-rat I spear’d,
But, ugh! it sounded like a baby’s shriek.

Glad was I when I reach’d the other bank.
Now for a better country. Vain presage!
Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage
Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank
Soil to a plash? Toads in a poison’d tank,
Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage—

The fight must so have seem’d in that fell cirque.
What penn’d them there, with all the plain to choose?
No foot-print leading to that horrid mews,
None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk
Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.

And more than that—a furlong on—why, there!
What bad use was that engine for, that wheel,
Or brake, not wheel—that harrow fit to reel
Men’s bodies out like silk? with all the air
Of Tophet’s tool, on earth left unaware,
Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.

Then came a bit of stubb’d ground, once a wood,
Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth
Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth,
Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood
Changes and off he goes!) within a rood—
Bog, clay, and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.

Now blotches rankling, color’d gay and grim,
Now patches where some leanness of the soil’s
Broke into moss or substances like thus;
Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him
Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim
Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

And just as far as ever from the end,
Nought in the distance but the evening, nought
To point my footstep further! At the thought,
A great black bird, Apollyon’s bosom-friend,
Sail’d past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penn’d
That brush’d my cap—perchance the guide I sought.

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,
Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place
All round to mountains—with such name to grace
Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view.
How thus they had surpris’d me,—solve it, you!
How to get from them was no clearer case.

Yet half I seem’d to recognize some trick
Of mischief happen’d to me, God knows when—
In a bad perhaps. Here ended, then,
Progress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one time more, came a click
As when a trap shuts—you ’re inside the den.

Burningly it came on me all at once,
This was the place! those two hills on the right,
Couch’d like two bulls lock’d horn in horn in fight,
While, to the left, a tall scalp’d mountain … Dunce,
Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
After a life spent training for the sight!

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
The round squat turret, blind as the fool’s heart,
Built of brown stone, without a counter-part
In the whole world. The tempest’s mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf
He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

Not see? because of night perhaps?—Why, day
Came back again for that! before it left,
The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay,
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,—
“Now stab and end the creature—to the heft!”

Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it toll’d
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers my peers,—
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knell’d the woe of years.

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

Robert Browning (1812–89)

A Visit from Varanus

Mehdi doubled the strength of my pain meds. I’m so grateful..

I’m having some of the more pleasant side effects I had when I first started taking Pregabalin though not nearly as strong. Strong enough however to think I should not be driving for a day or two.

That’s fine. There’s nowhere I need to go that I can’t go by bike. First thing this morning: to the pool! I’m permitted to swim again.

I’m probably being ultra-conservative about not driving. I was perfectly steady and in control on the bike. But as if to pat me on the back, Karma had me come upon a pair of cops on First Avenue stopping cars and checking out the drivers.

After my swim, off to Aldi for fresh salad vegetables. Then home for a brunch of salad made from lettuce, baby spinach, julienned carrot, cucumber, capsicum, tomato, and a chilli all coated in a generous dollop of my home-made aioli.

I took my salad outside to eat. I drank icy cold sparkling mineral water from the Engel. As I sat, I heard a rustling in the dead leaves behind me. At first I thought it was the bush turkey, come for the carrot and cucumber peel I’d put out. But no.

‘It was a huge goanna, a lace monitor lizard, Varanus varius. These are in my opinion the most attractive of the goannas. Their beautiful colours and patterns are perfect for blending in with the bush.

He, or she, was almost two metres long. It strolled past me and lay down to bask in a patch of sunlight behind my Toyota. Long tongue flickering in and out all the while. I got a crick in my neck watching it, but I knew that if I moved my chair it would be off. No chance to fetch the camera even though I’d charged the battery and left it handily by the door ready for just such an occasion. Never mind. I just enjoy watching,

Behind me – more rustling. I said “if that’s you turkey, be advised there is a goanna here. Come back later for the carrot”. But no. Again.

It was another goanna. On the other side of the fence. Same species. Smaller in size. I have two goanna neighbours! It was maybe two thirds the size of. Number one. Again, I have no way of knowing it’s gender. It wandered nonchalantly past without stopping, its tongue constantly tasting the air. It did not seem interested or concerned about us on this side of the fence.

Goanna number one, however, was very interested. It didn’t make any angry hissing sounds or seem agitated, it just got up and started along the hurricane mesh fence looking for a way through. As it moved along the fence it tested the gaps but could not find one large enough for it to push through. I lost sight of it behind the neighbour’s caravan. By the time I’d got up, fetched my camera and followed it, it was gone. There’s a hole under the fence behind Gaz’ place.

I wonder if those two are a pair?

Here is someone else’s picture of Varanus varius

Alamy Stock Photo.

Hollandaise Hack

My food posts are more popular on this blog than they are on my Cook blog. I wonder why that is?

So here is the perfect recipe to keep on hand in case you are unexpectedly visited by Benedict, or by someone with Aspergers.

Aspergers is delicious with Hollandaise.