Monday, 29 September 2014

old codgers

They are an unlikely duo, my father and his friend. They pose for a photo seated under the olive trees they planted a few years ago. Their seven decades etched into lined faces and bodies that move and bend slower than once they did; lives that now revolve around the production and consumption of food and alcohol. It is this that has bound them together over the years.
My father’s friend must be a patient and affable man. My father tends to burn off friends, a difficult, opinionated and argumentative man. Nick knows best and it’s Nick’s way or no way! This friendship has survived where others have not.
The 3 acre block they work together is his friend’s retirement dream. Dream is what my father’s friend does best, a multitude of projects begun and only the ones my father has an interest in are completed. The dreamer and the doer. One is always an hour or two late the other waiting and stewing, steam spouting from his ears. One dithers and is easily distracted, flitting from one project to another, the other likes order and the completion of tasks. They are chalk and cheese but a mutual love of the land, food and home made plonk binds them together. Each needs the other. My father cannot cope with the stress and responsibility of managing his own land, his friend cannot maintain focus or complete what he begins. Together they have created a little piece of Italy.
There’s a veggie patch of course and no garden is complete without its tomato plants. Delicate buds of pink and white blossom cover the fruit trees. A row of olive trees stand like sentinels in the middle of the block. There are home made and lean to sheds and buildings dotted throughout, for chooks and storage and other stuff. And pride of place is the ‘brewery’, an intricate set up of tubs and plastic pipe, bottles and a yeasty fermenting smell. There’s an old caravan, for what I’m not sure, a dam, lots of wood and stakes and piles of stuff and tracks leading to nooks and crannies that hold treasures of metal and plastic that will come in handy for some project or another. There’s chooks and ducks and two fat turkeys (google and gaga). There’s a trap for catching eels and a converted drum to smoke them. There’s long grass in places and wooden seats and crates for tired bodies to rest. There’s fences patched and held together with bits of metal rescued from a pile behind a shed somewhere. There is purposefulness  and randomness, order and chaos, a reflection of two very different men.
A decade ago they laboured; building, creating and planting, now they potter; tinkering, appreciating and savouring. There is more sitting and eating and drinking than working these days. The plans and dreams still live but they are hostage to slow and tired bodies. They belong more to the world of imagination than reality.
This plot of land is infused with the character of two old blokes – a dreamer and a doer. It has weathered arguments and disagreements a plenty and hosted many a spit roast or BBQ and countless bottles of booze. On this land two old blokes have dreamed and worked and made good food and plonk; eating and drinking and enjoying the time that is left to them.
As we prepare to leave they ‘discuss’ tomorrows plan for a BBQ – will they eat lamb or chicken (actually it is a rooster, Georgie, recently departed from this life), they decide on both. Then follows a discussion on how best to cook Georgie and the lamb, of course my father knows best. My father then reminds his friend more than once that he must prepare in advance and have the food ready on time, knowing full well that it will be hours late and most likely he will take over and ensure that there is something to eat at all. And no doubt there will be a few choice words in the process.
A final goodbye is accompanied with a gift from my father’s friend, a bottle of yellow green olive oil, home grown and cold pressed and made with the weathered hands of two old Italian codgers. What could be better….

P.S my father is the one in red

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Colin’s lament; “I was dreaming of blue skies and wearing shorts and t-shirt”. Unfortunately he arrived home a day too late. This week felt like the beginning of summer – blue skies, warm weather, people out and about, bodies in the sea and lazing on the sand. Yep, the shorts and t-shirts came out of the cupboard and I couldn’t resist lazing by the pool and taking a quick dip to cool off! This weekend – grey skies, drizzle and a cool wind; chalk and cheese.
This week, blue and warm, is bookmarked by Melbourne and Tassie at either end (we head South again tomorrow). The beauty and pleasure of this place sandwiched by the beauty and pleasure of family at the other. It feels like perfection would be the merging of the two. When I am North my heart yearns for my family and when I am South my heart yearns for sun and warmth and to gaze upon the sea. For other people it will be different things, but the feeling of being pushed and pulled by different desires is a familiar one. We are attempting to live in such a way as to have both, it kind of works and kind of doesn’t. There is more North than South at the moment and missing my children is an ever-present heaviness in my heart. Next year our experimenting with a transient and mobile life will see us more South than North. We’ll trade sun and warmth for family and we’ll try and seek out places of natural beauty wherever we are. You can’t ‘unknow’ something and having lived in a place of beauty and felt pleasure and peace seep into our being, it is not something we can easily let go.
As the reality of our leaving sinks in and the time of our leaving draws ever closer we find ourselves taking comfort in what has become familiar and symbolic of living here, blue skies and warm weather and the ever present beauty of the sea. We are breathing deeply and greedily, feeling a sense of impending loss, wanting to make the most of every minute that is left to us…

Monday, 15 September 2014


getting ready
The under 15/17 Road National Championships were held at Toowoomba over the weekend. We spent a couple of days at the event watching my nephew represent Tasmania. He held his own against the best cyclists in the country doing himself and his state proud. The speed these cyclists reach and maintain over kilometres is incredible and scary. There are millimetres between wheels and the smallest error has huge consequences – loss of skin is a given and broken bones common. It is not a relaxing spectator sport!
fast and furious 

Hayden in the green and gold

back onto the track

the home strait
There are three separate events over three days; individual time trials, a road race and criterium, each requiring slightly different skills and tactics. It is not a sport for the faint hearted. Those riders sure earned my respect.
On a slightly more calming note, Toowoomba is known for its gardens and we took the opportunity one morning for a quick peek at the Japanese Garden. The beauty and stillness a stark contrast to the adrenalin and speed of cycling…

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

sooo cute

We’ve had a usual manic Melbourne week including a side trip to Tassie for a couple of days, taking the opportunity to babysit 4 orphaned lambs for a day while my sister was at work. Baby lambs really would have to be one of the cutest and cuddliest things (beside babies of the human variety of course). These four have adopted my sister’s dogs as surrogate mothers and follow them everywhere, even trying to suckle from Teddy the golden Labrador who good naturedly gives himself a shake and simply moves away. Their antics kept us entertained and amused and bottle feeding kept us busy. A sunny blue sky and the beautiful countryside of the Tamar Valley topped off a picture perfect day.

Also appreciated and enjoyed was the opportunity to see my mother, two sisters and their families and catch up on all the news – cycling, ballet and tennis dominating the niece and nephew world. I think perhaps the highlight was Jo Best, aged 6 years and 11 months, giving us a demonstration of his dance moves. Although further questioning revealed that the highly energetic and ‘hip’ dance moves had not been used at the junior school disco. Instead he spent his time piggy backing his friend and swinging him around knocking into the girls. Six year olds seem pretty much the same one generation to the next.
The highlight of Melbourne was of course having the family all together, including my mother who joined us on the flight from Tassie back to Melbourne. We also got to catch up with Colin’s family on Fathers day and enjoyed watching Jan play in the Chinese orchestra at the Vic Market. We managed a spot of shopping, actually more than a spot and Heidi impressed with a magnificent raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake to celebrate Colin’s birthday.
Our intermittent and frantic days in Melbourne have become the place where family and food meld, the place where we gather with those we love, to share. We are conscious of how very fortunate we are…