This has been perhaps the shittiest year in my life, not so much personally – though that has not been particularly positive – but because of what is going on in the world. Climate change, extinctions, storms, fires, political empire declining and falling. Caligula suggesting he might like to hold on to the reins of Incitatus. The world is Orwellian. Not 1984, but Animal Farm.
Meanwhile, here in the land next to Godzone, Spring has unequinoxiquivocally arrived. The thunderstorms have begun, and the temperature soars. Time for spring cleaning the caravan. There is quite a bit of mildew on the canvas sides of the poptop, and cooking residue at the kitchen end.
Time also to get rid of all the junk I’ve collected, and somehow managed to keep from the thieves, as it is all just meaningless clutter now.
Then I may prepare to move on. Perhaps I’ll head back to Katanning in the new year, if the borders open. I have a part time job offer in the area. One not too physically demanding. I would have liked to return to NZ but my last trip did not give me reason to think it was such a good idea.
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”.
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.
Now westlin winds and slaught’ring guns Bring Autumn’s pleasant weather; The moorcock springs on whirring wings Amang the blooming heather: Now waving grain, wide o’er the plain, Delights the weary farmer; And the moon shines bright, when I rove at night, To muse upon my charmer.
The partridge loves the fruitful fells, The plover loves the mountains; The woodcock haunts the lonely dells, The soaring hern the fountains: Thro’ lofty groves the cushat roves, The path of man to shun it; The hazel bush o’erhangs the thrush, The spreading thorn the linnet.
Thus ev’ry kind their pleasure find, The savage and the tender; Some social join, and leagues combine, Some solitary wander: Avaunt, away! the cruel sway, Tyrannic man’s dominion; The sportsman’s joy, the murd’ring cry, The flutt’ring, gory pinion!
But, Peggy dear, the ev’ning’s clear, Thick flies the skimming swallow, The sky is blue, the fields in view, All fading-green and yellow: Come let us stray our gladsome way, And view the charms of Nature; The rustling corn, the fruited thorn, And ev’ry happy creature.
We’ll gently walk, and sweetly talk, Till the silent moon shine clearly; I’ll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest, Swear how I love thee dearly: Not vernal show’rs to budding flow’rs, Not Autumn to the farmer, So dear can be as thou to me, My fair, my lovely charmer!
My new RAC membership card arrived in the mail on Friday. I have been upgraded to Gold status, having been a member for twenty five years. That is including my New Zealand AA membership of course. It would actually be forty five years had I not let my AA membership lapse for a year when I was in Solomon Islands.
It reminded me that I failed my first drivers test only a few days after my fifteenth birthday. Fifty three years ago. I remember that Ted Saunders, the Henderson traffic cop, asked me who had taught me. I told him my Dad. He said to tell my dad to teach me how to park. I learned later that he failed every kid on their first try.
A few weeks later I passed and for three hundred dollars bought my first car. A Morris Oxford, made only a year or two after I was born. Column change, dipswitch on the floor, as solid as a tank, and probably just as dangerous if it could have got up to any speed.
I remember we had a standard joke coming up the hill from Piha beach where the thirty mile per hour sign was placed. everyone yelled “thirty! Speed up!”
She could barely do twenty up that hill in second gear, and inevitably boiled over at the top.
Even so, with a roof rack loaded with surfboards, we rode that old girl everywhere from the Bay of Islands in the north, to Coromandel and Tauranga in the south and East, to Raglan and Muriwai in the West. often we would drive to Hamilton merely to have the best burger ever from one of the Uncle’s franchise burger bars, better than all the rest. Or to Coromandel for the best ever fish and chips, or to Hikurangi for the best ever pies.
And in Mission Bay one could obtain the best ever pizza from Mimmo’s. Fungi, Quatro Stagione, Marinara, Margherita, All authentic. I’ve never since had a pizza to compare. Better still, one could buy a half bottle of red wine from the shop next door and take it with the pizza across the road to eat and drink by the fountain. Magic memories. Our lives were based on beaches and food.
The Morris had a cracked head. After an attempt to have it welded, and a day spent just doing a valve grind, and continual problems of overheating, I eventually got rid of it. I never again had a car that smelled like old leather and exhaust fumes. Ah the nostrilalgia.
I can’t find a picture of her.
My second car was a beach buggy. Probably the most fun vehicle ever until the Landcruiser. Certainly better than the two Land Rovers that followed. We had discovered SCUBA diving by then. All our previous surfing trips were replaced by dive trips. Often to the same areas. In those days a three hour drive was a long way. I hadn’t discovered Australia yet.
I bought almond milk to put on my cereal instead of real milk. I decided I don’t really like it, and prefer to use the milk I make up from milk powder. New Zealand milk powder of course.
One use for almond milk I do like, is my low fat I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken. I’m going to make some today. I enjoy it all the more because every time I make it I am reminded of one of the funniest word play sketches ever, from The Vicar of Dibley.