31 May 2008

dispatch from the arctic south

Our crossing of the much-maligned Bass Strait proved smooth and almost painfully uneventful.

First landfall was Bicheno, where we lost first mate to the real world but gained a very large cray from a local greenie friend of Pelican. Further south we did two schmooze cruises and generally impressed. Other landfalls were at Brian’s Corner, Schouten Island and Triabunna, a cute little fishing town opposite Maria Island where I scored a pair of leather driving gloves and assorted woollies from the co-op and opp shop respectively.

Brian's is an impossibly intact, unpeopled sweep of bay north of the Freycinet Peninsula. During a sliver of blue sky we dinghy ashore through shallows a-sway with mussel shell and sunlight glimmer. Rusty rocks and bottle-brown weed sit in clumps and curls on wet sand. Like winter woollies discarded by the shining bay. Wallaby tracks ply the sand. Stones and shells in marshmallow creams reveal the tide’s limit like a milk moustache. Dunes flecked with pale grass like whispering fingers beckon into the tea tree where it’s still and quiet. Shell-strewn understory. Needles and petal-leaved fungi. A billy missing it’s bottom hangs from a log. Gums grasp skyward to ribbons of cloud. Up the beach, there's an estuary and all is thick with bristle-yellow banksias.

We began our return early this morning with an all-girl crew. Am feeling mighty chuffed to remember my knots and other boat-y things after a four-month dry spell.

As for whales... they probably went north early given how bloody arctic it is. Yes, it's as cold as recalled and stupid me left my beanie behind somehwere during repacking. Thank gawd for the stunning views and Tassie pinot!

21 May 2008

off again

The on again / off again Tassie sail is on again. So I'm off again. Ten days, leaving tomorrow night. A timely distraction from navel-gazing irks. And hopefully a chance to see whales. And hopefully not freeze to death.

I think I’ve mentioned how cold it’s been… and it’s not just my acclimatisation to the subtropics talking. Even the cat thinks it's cold (which I guess is not the bolstering this argument needs given the general heat-seeking tendencies of cats). Anyway... I know he's feeling the cold because instead of sleeping all day in his box, he makes frequent trips to the woodstove, where he sits and miaows to be let in, like it’s a viable doorway or something. Or a portal into cat heaven where there’s a pink velvet cushion bathed in 24-hour sun encircled by a low-flying flurry of moths.

But back to the cold… I’ve been to Tassie once before. I was nine. It was summer. We camped. It rained for three weeks straight. There was snow on Cradle Mountain. We nearly got blown off Mount Wellington. In short, we froze during what was supposedly the most hospitable season in southern latitudes.

So I’m not sure about the wisdom of ringing in winter in Tasmania. On a boat.

There had better be whales. Or a pink velvet cushion…

19 May 2008

blackbird pie and the broad bean emancipation

*Warning: contains reportage of violence*

The relics arrived home last night. One was in a foul twitch after visiting the vegie garden this morning. I’d been keeping an eye on things as instructed. I’d watered, I’d reinstated dislodged fencings. Unfortunately I’d failed to detect the uprooting of large swathes of newly planted (and in my defence, very tiny) broad bean seedlings. For which I felt due remorse … though this diminished somewhat during the unabridged, technicolour, all-singing, all-dancing screening of 101 Reasons Why Blackbirds are Bastards.

Blackbird wrangles are well entrenched here. But in a Tom and Jerry / Coyote-Roadrunner kind of way. (I’d never actually seen anyone use a slingshot, outside of cartoons, until arriving here.)

While ‘discussing’ the problem with fellow vegie gardeners in Melbourne, the unnamed relic was promptly furnished with air-gun and ammunition.

(Which are now, uncomfortably and probably illegally, in the house. But this is small fry...)

After this morning’s little fracas, Operation Blackbird Pie: The Broad Bean Emancipation, took flight.

Tacticians don’t appreciate the realities of advanced weaponry until they become groundsmen. I'm not going there, suffice to say it was not pretty.

The day ended with one enemy casualty – whose corpse now hangs in the apple tree as a "warning to others"… hello, UN War Crimes Tribunal? – and the complete moral depletion of the friendlies.

I can’t believe I’m related.

16 May 2008

survivor binginwarri

Five weeks of the rural life (the longest I’ve been in one place in ten months) is slow slog. You would think it’d be all knickerbockers and sunny afternoons lolling on a green with a glass of fizz.

But consider: a 40km round trip for the weekend papers and 80km for a DVD. I’ve moved onto survivor footing, planning infrequent tactical swoops for all outside needs.

Have also rediscovered the library since money angst urges delayed gratification; not to mention delayed haircuts (I’ll go without: experience cautions against submitting to ‘the regions’). And you can forget bubbles. I’m talking myself round to top-shelf cask wine for non-cooking purposes. Broad horizons and all…

Then there’s the daily drudge of being rejected by editors far and wide: seems the thoroughbreds have staked the greenest turf and there’s scant room for newcomers.

At least domestic life beckons… I’ve a nimble wrist for sweeping possum poo off the deck.


This week the relics trundled off to Corowa for a spell. I must state upfront how much I appreciate being housed and humored. But this respite is tonic.

At the risk of becoming homeless, I shall demonstrate:

Invoking the essence of Homer Simpson, one talks in faux foreign languages in an attempt to scramble telco voice recognition technologies.

Then there’s the drawing of chicken faces on eggs - r
ationally defended when questioned, as a way to identify which end of the egg should face up in the basket.

And the miserly bombast provoked by anything that gets in the way of a timely bowl of cornflakes, anyone on a ‘success’ spiral in the western economic context, and anyone elected to represent anyone else who (misguidedly) opens their mouth.

Cuteness or regression?

Either or, I empathise with the sentiments. Mostly. But after five weeks my internal monologues threatened to turn a shade of vicious that would insult a tourette’s sufferer.

Thanks be to the despicable entrepreneurs providing us with satellite internet, my link with the outside. Without which I would be... in danger of becoming an egg-defacing hermit prone to anti-authoritarian tom-foolery.

13 May 2008

bloggers' dissonance

I love the blogosphere, but there was a reason (well, serveral, actually) I joined late. The one I’m thinking of is my discomfort with the genre’s focus on self.

I know, I know! It’s the whole point!

Maybe it’s all those uni journalism subjects retro-kicking: 'the writer is not the story'. Anyway, small doubts were easily ignored in the shining doorway of Web 2.0.

Fast forward the good part of a year to the current freelance footslog (greylead nested behind ear, trying to make a buck, etc). All is moving slowly and then the pre-eminent Dumbo feather found little earth stories (whose delightful acronym I realised, post naming, is the tattoo-knuckled truckie moniker of ‘Les’... but I digress). Df batted its eyelids at the bread post and suggested publication.


Exult or cringe?


“You look as happy as a man who thought a cat had done its business on his pie but then it turned out to be an extra large blackberry.” – George, the Prince Regent, Blackadder III

I think Df is all blackberry, so on one hand, am utterly flattered.

But on the other, I’ve discovered that small doubts left unattended have a tendency to pork up: so many more worthy bloggers… I’m just a middling drop-out without any significant accomplishments… one million displaced Burmese versus meandering bread-making escapades, and, and… when does self-consciousness become vanity?

Or more to the point, when is blogging not?


So now I must go and try to write myself out of the post that won the feather's affection!

PS: Apologies to anyone called Les. And if anyone sees any doubts on the loose, please do hit them with a large hammer!

07 May 2008

the new peasant economics

Why is it that time and money exist on parallel planes? It’s like some evil economic quantam scale where you invariably have a rude abundance of one and a dearth of the other. It's also like a Snuffleupagus and Mr Hooper scene (never the twain shall meet). Whatever, the imbalance is stress-provoking and anti-life.

Since joining the ranks of daytime gadabouts (ie, adequately furnished with time), I’ve noticed a peculiar change in my activities...

Fire. I am besotted with it. After rousing from bed and feeding the cat, my first priority is to light the woodstove. Throughout the day I feed it, poke it and monitor its behaviour like a new mother. This is because it is both a brilliant heat provider (do you know how close Gippsland is to Antarctica?) and the cooker of our hot meals. Hail the woodstove. You are my new god.

Tools. The pyro preoccupation has led to a parallel interest in the chainsaw. Yes! Last week I wielded death in my hands, surviving Chainsaw 101 and Kickback 102. I figure it’s probably good to know how to use the thing, just in case wood supplies here run low. Which is not likely to precede melting of the polar caps, but anyway…

Bread. As noted previously, I’m on an upward sourdough curve. After mastering the folding in and low-knead techniques, I’ve cracked the flour:wet ingredients ratio. Breakthroughs that resulted in a loaf which doesn’t digest like stone. Next assignments: Tibetan barley bread and ginger bread…

Herbs. While the elder relic plays in the vegie garden, I’ve begun my ‘I will never buy herbs from the supermarket again’ campaign. Cuttings from E going well. Seeds sown but yet to sprout. The sun’s return would help. (I might have also thrown a bunch of random vegie seeds in a pot – my competitive streak lingers despite the change of postcode/lifestyle.)

Handicrafts. Object of my fascination Mystic Medusa promised an answer lurking in a clogged-up cupboard. To offset further goading from one of the relics, I began sorting through boxes of old school/uni work. The mega-deed ended in a craft session (and a disturbing flashback to my youth) as I sat on my bedroom floor making notebooks out of photocopied waste. If the question was whether I will ever need to buy another notepad again...

All other incarnations of food not already covered. Have swanned into role of house chef. Food prep enthusiasm has returned in full, courtesy wads of time to dream and create. Of recent note was a black-eyed bean, tomato and spinach curry with minted yoghurt and coconut rice. Didn't sound all that appealing when I tried to describe my vision to the diners. Verdict? They did rave. And I would serve it with girlish glee to a table of me and David Wenham. In other food news, an order for lamb roast has been received for mothers day.

<$ Since I’ve been watching it like the woodstove, I’ve noticed how much of it I waste. I’ve been paying monthly salary packaging fees since last September… without actually earning a salary! The car also caused acute haemorrhaging last week – I still can't talk about it but have regained my composure after a weekend of wine and 100 kinds of dairy that I can blame on visiting brother and T. And of course, every single recurrent expense I have was recently ‘adjusted in line with CPI’. Bah! Grrrr!

All these activities have been bubbling alongside the vision quest, which of course is to (*closes eyes and clicks heels thrice*) creatively fund my continued existence in this new part-time, fire-starting, tool-wielding, cultivating, crafting, baking mode (where creative = on my terms and legal).

Gordon Bennett! I’ve joined the peasantry!