Saturday, December 8, 2012

First Harvests

There is a lot to write about after our trip to the Arnhem Lands, but time keeps rolling and early summer has us hard at work.  This dress is one found in the supermarket at Kakadu - round neck, sleeveless, a-lined with a zip front and deep patch pockets.  Up north, it felt kinda Sapphires/ Suzie Wong/ Nam. Down here it's the perfect station summer dress.  Ok. I confess. I bought two. The other dress is bright orange and fluro pink and blazing with little sunflowers.  I wore it as we drove uphill to check out work on our neighbour Gordy's fence line. He has an amazing block - beautifully kept and vertigo inducing.  He saw the look on my face as I fell out of the Hi-lux and he said: "You'll be right Charlotte. Go over there and you'll find some cherry trees. Get yourself a feed. Got a bucket in the ute?" and then he disappeared further up the hill with my husband.  I grabbed every hat I could get my hands on, and a billy can, and staggered and stumbled around the bank....having strange flashbacks to that 80's movie Manon Des Source and silently calling Yiddee Yiddee Yiddee in the vain hope that it would get me to the trees more gracefully.  Once there, under five beautifully kept trees, in full fruit, on  the ripest day of the year, I went into a picking frenzy/awed contemplation of the valley as it was laid out below.  The deep pockets in the new dress were perfect for picking into.  How good it was to be so graciously welcomed onto land that was so well cared for. An inspiration. 

Manon Des Sources

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Two nights at Twin Cities

I was still on reception when he rang, and told me we were going to The Wild Dog Meeting.  
It was a 100k drive over the gap and we got there just in time for a counter meal at the Victoria.  
At the Memorial Hall, the meeting was already underway, but we sat out on the astro turf and hustled down the reef and beef and the rib eye.  
We got to the hall in time for the tea break. 
"So you made it through the traps and baits?" quipped a woman from the old valley. 
A woman from the new valley told me about her son's marriage to a samoan princess. 
In Samoa. And she'd never been overseas before. I smiled in awe.  
The meeting reconvened. 
I counted a ratio of one government worker/journo to one farmer. 
Funny how fear provides a base for power.
And how power needs servicing.

We crawled into town and caught Lawless at the Regent Cinema.  
It was a loved up blood soaked roller coaster dipped in moonshine. 
We retired to The Twin Cities Motel with shoulders around our ears and stomachs lumped with steak.  It's a cheap joint on the Melbourne Road, with hooker hard mattresses, pea green feature walls, and perfect roses in plastic colours.  
There were salted chocolate croissants for breakfast, and oysters for lunch.  
We watched a group of politicians suffering over a table. My husband needed more sleep. 
I stayed back at The Steak Pit to indulge in a spot of mutual fawning with the maitre d. 
And a naughty homeopathicaly scaled coffee.  
I sat in the sunlight, in a club chair, with a newspaper...and left half way through the piccolo, because it was just all too lovely.

Back in the rosy roundabout, we had a heavy discussion about farming and families. 
It was hard to stay fighting surrounded by these gifts. 
Having always despised plastic chairs, I am developing a thing for plastic chairs.

Playing hooky was good for us. We stayed another night.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A little light dancing...

Back in 2001, I hit a little bit of big time and used the money to invest in video technology. The result was a couple of shoe boxes full of moving images from a very strange time. Some of them were beautiful but, like most amateurs with lenses, I had a lot of trouble editing them into anything beyond indulgent loops. "How do you edit endings?" I asked my friend in the industry. "You shoot them." He said.  I battled and struggled and managed to carve one piece into narrative form, then I showed it to friends. There were mixed responses. "Is all your work this raw?" commented one woman.  She says she meant it as a compliment, but I took it as a catalyst to throw both shoe boxes of mini DV into Tallangatta Tip.  A lot of the accumulated clutter of my life went with it - six wedding dresses, a vintage olivetti type writer, a boom box style record player, irish kitchen crockery that is now very bloggable.....

The experience got me thinking about technologies of remembrance, about what we hang onto and about what we let go of, and about the nuttiness of the capture and edit process. Immense mental and emotional energy required.  This little light dance happened in our kitchen last week, and it's a replay of something that happened to me in Sydney over a decade ago. If I said I found god in the glow of naff little blue neon jukebox on the wall of the Judgement Bar on Oxford Street, would you believe me? The next morning, I walked from Surrey Hills to Glebe, though the tunnels around Central Station, and the early morning sunlight turned everyone and everything to gold.

Things are so different now. But the sun still comes up.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Lillies from a new friend, a locally made vase from an old friend, a rainbow from a boy from Japan, The Complete Emily Dickinson, a homespun shawl on a busted chaise lounge, a kettle in the bedroom (motel style) and old roses from the fence: these are the things that sustain me.  The garden party was a delight. The Elms rained seeds like golden confetti over the day. More pictures to come.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

freshly thawed

Both my blog and I have been strangely frozen for months. But nothing stops the gathering of images and ideas. Like bees to the blossom that has been and exploded around here.  Spending more time in the garden these days, and about to start a cook up for our first big party. Would you accept a barrage of images?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

For the Twenty First of May, 2012.

Grief is a funny business.
It can overwhelm in waves,
taint days with shame.
And loss.
Sometimes it sits
just below the edge of consciousness,
doesn't get in the way too much.

Op-shops and grief go together.
Places for perfectly good things that nobody knows quite how to deal with.
Absence transforms into treasure.

I found twenty different linen and lawn handkerchiefs.
I surrender.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Aga Blame

A friend asked me about my "Aga Bonding" today and I have to admit that, as Agas do, the thing is growing on me.  I am not sure whether I've been in denial about my food habits/secret desires, but up until a week or two ago I would have described myself as a food lover who was: happy to eat out; delighted to receive culinary treats from friends and family; cool with holding a big dinner party four times a year; and fine with living on toast-in-between.  Becoming a mother forced me into regular food preparation. Marrying a farmer has raised the stakes again. And now we live with a four oven AGA.

Over cocoa last night, I sat down with Joe and told him the story of the Aga we had in Wales.  The hotplate covers were for drying snow soaked mittens, the coolest oven warmed sick piglets (often while a roast was happening in the hot oven), coal used to go down a hole in the top, and we all burnt our fingers and toes on the handle of the door that reads: "Keep Tightly Closed".  Joe got his arm stuck between the rail and the stove top the other day and I felt his panic. I'd been there before.   I remember tracing out the cursive, raised AGA letters on the front. Joe thinks the font is ridiculous, the swirls unnecessary.

Here at Burrowye Station, the Aga is the only thing that survives from the original house. The weatherboard homestead burnt down in the 1950's, and a spanking new brick house was built...around the Aga.  Like many new generation families moving back to the family property, we talk about how this house faces the wrong way, how we lose the northern light in a utility room and how really the kitchen should be where the master bedroom is.  But, unlike other new generation families, I think we're going to stick with things as they are.  A lick of pillar box red paint here and there could well be the extent of our renovations. We hear stories about the vast expense of new Aga stoves and the vast expense of converting this one to gas and we assume any attempt at re-locating it would be out of the question.

The Aga has three cooking ovens going, simultaneously, at different temperatures.  You approach it with the intention of slow cooking a roast, then a pudding becomes essential and, while you're at it, a slab of slice and some biscotti suddenly seem like a good idea. The warm metal plate beside the hotplates is perfect for rising dough or making yoghurt - although not simultaneously because the yeast does funny things with the milk culture.

Am I sounding like a devotee? Am I one of those Aga people?  James himself is showing signs.  He slipped back into bed at about 3 am the other morning.  In this day and age, most wives would suspect a bit of internet trawling had been going on. After mild interrogation he confessed. He'd been sitting up beside the Aga, drinking tea.

And me? I'm still living on toast-in-between. And working two days in week in a cafe kitchen.  Cooking food.  And loving it. Sometimes I stop and pinch myself and wonder to what extent that Aga is to blame.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Burrowye Blazes

My mother used to drive us a very long way, from our little farm  in the Camarthenshire hills to Netherwood Prep School down near Saundersfoot.  We braved flood, snow and mud. We stopped on the way home for Cadbury's Cream Eggs and Cordon Bleu cooking school magazines at the Narbeth newsagent. We listened to BBC Radio.  I was still young enough to be shocked by The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole, and just old enough to be passionately interested in getting my writing published.  Adrian's rejection note from The BBC is etched in my memory. It went something like this: "At this time of year, the corridors of the BBC are positively reeking with the scent of autumn bonfires and rustling with golden leaves...".  Blogland must be much the same this year, but I just can't resist getting autumnal.
We had our first heavy frost last night, and the leaves are raining down, so in between bouts of housework I ran out and captured these images.