The mind plays tricks and has difficulty making sense of things it has not seen before. For instance, in the days before we had electricity at home, at night we managed without an artificial light in places we knew well. Except on the night in question. On that night I popped into the bathroom without the aid of a lantern and I bumped into an unfamiliar damp body standing in my way. It terrified me someone else was in there with me. I ran from the room without saying as much as, “Pardon”. Later, I returned with a lantern only to see the silent visitor was nothing more than a damp coat hanging in my usual path.
This week, in full daylight, the experience was unique. The sky formed one long continuous cloud unlike anything I had seen before. Trying to make sense of it, because it stretched across the sky from horizon to horizon, it appeared as if the clouds had piled one upon another in formation. They really had, but the visual effect was as if they were ridges left on a sandy beach when the tide ebbs.
We love our flaming Utes Hotted-up fuel-guzzling, V8 powered cars — invented here — Anachronisms in a future world. Where bloody minded humankind burns the globe Turns out it’s fossil fuel The ugly transgressor Whilst manufacturers electrify cars novelle Operate charge-points — not common fuel servos. Yet another modern Luddite blunder.
Every country son and daughter lusts for their first two door V8 so as to attend a BNS ball. A mythical rural scene of bacchanalian debauchery manufactured in the minds of their city cousins. When the isolated, shy individual in fact arrives, gaucheness personified alights unless egged on by a peer pressure group. At least it was until the local motor industry gave in to the economic reality the government would no longer prop-up our lazy car industry. They closed their plants and a V8 utility (ute) vehicle is no longer constructed here.
The Ute survived in the country because of its usefulness. Once the domain of two main constructors it pootled around the farm in many guises. The first, according to my friend Kevin Norbury (1), was an invention of a Geelong farmer. He cut his new car in half and had a luggage tray built over the rear wheels so he could carry a sick lamb or a bale of hay when inspecting his stock.
A new vehicle fills the suburbs. Too big to be a useful farm appliance, it sports four doors and a smaller luggage tray. The SUV is the car of choice of home builders (tradies) and it too is a ute. The car is ubiquitous in suburban shopping centres in parks designed for shopping trollies.
The tarmac becomes so hot in most of these the centre owners have built sun protection.
While business accepts our world has changed, our government has not. Perhaps the reason for this is the fossil fuels industries are major donors to the government. Another reason is the support the government gets from the media. (Media rules were changed some years ago. Over those years consolidation has taken place, so that in some states there is no longer a choice in the news supplier. To put it more succinctly, if the Murdoch press says,” This is how things are.” There is no alternative view put to most folk to add any balance.)
Artificial global warming has reached a point of danger. No informed individual wants to test the predictions of climate scientists to discover the scientists were right and they were wrong except governments beholden to fossil fuel purveyors. The first global change to reduce carbon emissions was an agreement in Kyoto to cut them. Here in Australia we put a levy on carbon and asked producers to improve or pay to produce it. The levy was so successful carbon emissions fell. At least they did for a while until opposition leader Tony Abbott called it a carbon tax. At the next election, he became PM and carbon usage shot up. It continued to do so until 2019, when we had another election. At that election a new PM, Scott Morrison, demonised the Labor party by claiming, “The Labor Party wants to take away Tradies’ utes.” They returned him on the promise to do nothing about carbon emissions. Or that was his claim. So the country does nothing.
However, manufacturers are in a scramble to catch up to China, the largest maker of electric vehicles. Observers are warning if Australia does not change its rules on carbon emissions, they destine us to become the dumping ground for all the world’s most polluting cars. A thirsty internal combustion engine does not make a ute a ute. A car becomes one when it has an external carriage area.
A new industry is not without error and a story yesterday caught my eye, The tale is about the difficulty new adapters had charging their electric car on English motorways. (4) This story suggests there is some working out to do until every car is fitted with a universal power connection.
I was born in a coastal city yet fish was not a big part of our diet. The number of times we children ate fish was limited. The fish we ate at home was fillets of smoked cod. When mum prepared it she cooked it in a white sauce with some onion. Another common name for this sauce is Mornay Sauce. To the French it is know as Béchamel sauce. Not that the milky substance Mum cooked was anything like a rich Béchamel common to French cooking.
In her case I imagine it’s role was to act as a filler. For, as history tells us, it’s original common name was Glue sauce. Served as it was the sauce disguised the salty fish we were dished. Cooked this way the smoked fillets were boneless and tender. When it came to fish our preference was to eat fillets because served that way bones were eliminated. On a rare, very rare occasion, we ate fish from a Fish and Chip shop.
Fish and chips were the most popular takeaway meals one could buy in the 1950’s. Nearly every town, or hamlet, had a local Fish and Chip shop. The fish was nearly always fried Flake served with a handful of potato chips (three pence worth of chips.) When the family ate this way we possibly had sixpence worth. (Potatoes were most commonly cheap. It was only in times when farmers failed to grow a decent crop the shopkeeper more carefully budgeted the chip amount).
When cooked, the Chipper, would pour the fried food on a single piece of white butcher’s paper and wrap the lot in a bundle of used newspaper. (The newspaper was used as an insulator to keep the meal hot until it was consumed). As soon as we got outside we would tear a hole in one end of the paper and pull the chips from the gaping hole and eat the meal using our fingers aa eating utensils. (When old enough to have money of my own I would sometimes sell a bundle of old newspapers to the shops for a few pennies).
It is surprising in 2020 to note how little we valued the riches of the sea years ago. For instance, as kids walking around the rocks of Lady Bay we had no appreciation the migrant families that picked wild mussels and oysters from the rocks later enjoyed a free gourmet meal. Worse, by the time we appreciated what they had feasted upon it was a banned activity. (Only once have I enjoyed the pleasure of harvesting wild oysters from the sea. This was at an Army Reserves camp in Tasmania around 1970).
In Victoria the Fisheries Department stocked local streams and lakes with trout. In season, and with some childhood luck, we ate Rainbow salmon trout sometimes and lots of wild eels. The eels were easily caught but most difficult to manage when landed. Their writhing slippery skin allowed for a dangerous moment or two before they were bagged. For the boy fisher, who tried to kill and extract the fish hook in the half light of dusk on the grassy edge of a local creek the battle was dangerous. The eel would wrap its body around an arm or leg, and with a hook protruding from its mouth it was also capable of a nasty bite. The fish caught this way was eaten as a trophy but otherwise unappreciated because each had unfamiliar bones that required caution when eating them.
Unusually at our Education Department run hostel, “Hawthorne”, at our final meal before graduation in 1961, we were served what the Army would call a Mess Formal Dinner. The meal started with soup, followed by a course of Crayfish (Australian Rock Lobster.) Our main dish was fillet steak. I have no recollection of what came next. The point is back in 1961 Crayfish was plentiful. It wasn’t cheap but it was plentiful and considered enough of a delicacy to form part of of our final college meal. (Within a few short years crayfish disappeared from Australian tables. The fishing fleets along the southern coast disappeared with them.) (To buy Australian Rock Lobster , in 2020, one competes with the rest of the world and pays what is asked)).
It was not until I became a regular Friday night diner at the Nicholson dinner table, did I regularly eat bony fish. Marie’s choice was Barracouta. This was served as fried steaks with mashed potatoes. The Barracouta (now renamed Australian Snoek) is a tasty fish. Unlike the delicate bones of trout the fish has darning needle thick long bones. Hundreds of them. (It too has almost disappeared from fish mongers. Either it was over fished, or with global warming has moved to colder climes).
All along the south western coast of Victoria it was possible to find a fleet of the wooden Couta boats. Many of these places had no natural harbour, or poor berthing places, (Lorne, Port Campbell, Peterborough, for protection the boats were hauled out of the water at shift’s end and rested high and dry on the pier.)
Over the years I have had my taste palette trained to enjoy the fruit of the sea. An example is octopus. As a school boy a text we read was A Pattern of Islands by A. Grimble. This book tells in great detail how the indigenous people of the Gilbert and Ellis Islands (Kiribati) caught and ate the fish. Grimble an Englishman was appalled how people could eat it. After a couple of trips to Greece I now ask how could they not?
Today many local people attempt to catch fish as their forefathers did and they fail. They fail to catch their local fish because they have been over fished, or the condition of the water has changed and the fish have moved away.
It is a curse of international fishing that schools have been over fished. (Sometime the fishing lines are hundreds of kilometres long. The goal of these fishers might be one variety, yet all varieties of fish are caught. The unwanted fish are released as by-catch corpses thus wasting every other species.)
The ecological problems are many. The oceans are full of indigestible plastics. Fish farms feed confined fish fish meal that requires antibiotics to kill harmful pathogens. Species have been lost and fish is considered the property of every body at the expense anyone living in water indigenous to them. My final word is if we are to continue to enjoy fish as a food we must only take what we can eat – today.
We are in mid autumn and the passion fruit is flowering as if it was spring time.
As far as I am concerned this it great, but I am prepared to be disappointed as the days get colder as the fruit might not fully ripen. We have two grafted Nellie Kelly variety plants growing over our rainwater tank on a rustic trellis I have constructed.
In spring we has a fabulous display of flowers. Traditionally our spring days are just below twenty degrees and summer average is perhaps twenty three. In the summer just past the passion vine had lots of fruit as summer approached. As this was the second season I was excited at how prolific the crop looked and then we had a day of 40 degrees and the fruit cooked on the vine.
When the temperature was nearing its peak I thought of cooling it down but changed my mind when I thought it might actually make it worse for the plant. It was even hotter on the second day and third day. A heatwave of days in a row of excessively hot days is unusual in early summer. Last year it ensured the crop was lost.
In January we had another couple of very hot days and this plant drank all the water I could give it just to stay alive. The old fruit turned black as it is supposed to when it is ripe. For a day or so it looked lush but when I cut a sample fruit it was hollow inside. Since then I have watched each week as the fruit on the vine shrank into smaller and smaller crumpled black dots among the green leaves. The fruit that grew after those hot days was sparse but now we have a new unseasonal feast growing on the plant.
Nellie Kellie is reminding me not to give up on her. In a week or so I will give her a pre-winter feed of pelletised fertiliser as a reward for perseverance over the dreadful summer and the late flowering she is exciting me with now.
The other fruit that struggled at the beginning of summer was the raspberry. Our spring was chillier than usual. The bees struggled to find a time in the day when they felt comfortable leaving their hive. Consequently many of the plants relying on bees were left un-pollinated. The raspberry was one such plant so we had no early fruit.
In February we had the first regular rainfall for months and the plants have responded beautifully. Throughout March we have had regular picking from our small clump of raspberries. What a treat is is to pick from our garden. When a fruit is picked fresh from the plant the taste is extraordinarily special. The quantity is relatively unimportant as our fruiterer sells excellent produce to top up what we need.
In the days before supermarkets we had specialist shops that sold: fruit, meat, bread, fish and groceries. Each shopkeeper was a specialist in his field. If one wanted apples, mangoes and grapes likely as not you were unable to buy them on the same day. What these specialists did was stock only what was in season. For instance, the summer fruit started with fruit with pips like plumbs and cherries. When they were finished we bought apricots and nectarines. Peaches, pears and apples came into the shops in the following months.
Long before these shops proliferated people grew their own fruit and vegetables in kitchen gardens. At least they did where I grew up. Each of the big estates like Renny Hill had excellent kitchen gardens. It had had a well cultivated garden of about one acre. But by the time I got to haunt the property it had become over- grown. The fruit trees almost made a continuous canopy over the area that once grew patches of potatoes, leeks, lettuce, or whatever.
The orchard included fruit trees once considered exotic. Persimmons, medlars, crab apples and cumquats grew among the vegetables. My favourite was the fig tree. At the time I first knew the garden it must have been sixty or seventy years old. It had wide spreading limbs like the chestnut, and the walnut, but twice a year without fail it produced the most succulent fruit. The tree had so much fruit there was enough on it for the family, their friends, and the possums.
I so loved the sweet fruit I remember picking it straight from the tree as we played under it. As a result I have often planted one in the gardens we have created. My latest little back yard has not got much space but I am training a fig to grow along the fence. Currently the young tree has about half a dozen figs. I know I have too few at present to share them with my neighbours and I have no intention at all to share them with the possums, so I am protecting them, and checking on them every day.
A trip to Clifton Springs is usually just a short dash along the highway. Today though it was hot, and all the Sunday drivers seemed lost, or unwilling to get a move on. All they could do was tootle along – one foot poised over the brake pedal – ready to stop in case road workers were actually at work. Too often, in the rush to finish work on Friday, signs – warning construction is underway – are left in-situ instead of being locked away at the end of the last shift. What happened today was an example of worker laxity. Unnecessarily signs were left out. This is just another reason to avoid the people who timidly drive one day in the week.
Fire warnings today
Sunlit dried silver grass lies flat
No snowflakes in sight
Basho haibun poem. ( saekaeru) Definitely not celebrating a return to icy weather, but what can you write on this topic at the beginning of autumn? A paragraph of prose, finished with a haiku with a hint of the same theme.
Perhaps you will pause and comment. I will thank you.