whatshername…

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When the G.O. and I eloped last year, once we’d weathered the gamut of welcome congratulations and not-so-welcome “unflattering amazement” as Kate so aptly described it, the next assumption we dealt with, after reassuring my new mother-in-law the absence of a big to-do wedding wasn’t because I was pregnant, and I wasn’t planning on -at 48 and childless- becoming pregnant… was about what I should thereon be called.P1010860

The answer for me was easy. My name. The one my parents gave me in 1965. Twice in my life I changed it, and was sorry both times. The first time at age twenty I was trying to do as many of the correct newly-married things possible. The second time I was nearly thirty, knew my mind and should have known better. I did make a stand, hyphenating the old and new surnames to begin with before conceding to husbandly expectations, lingering societal norms and laziness.

Like a boomerang, my own name -the one my parents gave me in 1965- kept coming back. And this -third time lucky- I was determined to hang onto it. We sensibly discussed it early in the proceedings before settling on wedding plans, and the big day. The G.O. was unconcerned; we’d been referring to each other by our respective surnames for more than two decades. I was who I was. So long as he didn’t have to take my name. Okaaayy, I could live with that.

Married for the first and hopefully only time several months before us, for my younger sister changing her name was a rite of passage. She assumed I’d be just as keen. And was somewhat nonplussed while understanding its place in her marriage & children plans, I rejected the idea for myself. No small practical consideration being the amount of necessary paperwork I wished to circumvent also.

For our Dad it’s plain confusing. My sister’s married name is Wells, and mine if I used it would be Welsh. For our husbands, Dad uses the surnames interchangeably.

Next came well-meaning reminders, from certain recipients of the note the G.O. and I mailed out sharing the happy news of our marriage, prompting us to procure return address labels updated with Mr & Mrs to supersede those featuring both our names that had been -in their view injudiciously- applied to the backs of the envelopes.

Regardless, several items of congratulatory mail came addressed to the new Mr & Mrs, and continue to do so. No problem. I’m happy to be the other half of Mr & Mrs and it’s never occurred to me to direct people’s preferences one way or another. I have no issue with their naming protocol even if I don’t refer to myself as such, and remain Ms. by my own hand. Although the G.O. sometimes refers to me as “The Missus”. Which he did even before we were legally married.

Very occasionally, usually in the vicinity of Taylors Arm where the G.O.’s family name abounds, if there’s a form to be filled in or a name to be offered up I opportunistically hyphenate our last names to put me in a local context. I’m not above a double standard when it suits me.

Coming up to a year of married life with the G.O. nothing has changed. We simply “put a ring on it” and carried on with our lives. We’re no less married than we would be if I had adopted his surname.

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” ~ W.C. Fields

Note: From mid next week I’ll be offline until early the following week, as we’re taking a few days away to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

prepping for transplant shock

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I get the appeal of an adventurous leap between disparate lifestyles + locations but part of me is thankful I already have the lay of the land to which the G.O. and I are headed; not so much tree-sea changing our life from city to country-coast but evolving via steady steps of progression… alleviating the possibility of transplant shock.

Later this year the G.O. and I will have owned together our house at Taylors Arm for a decade. I grew up in the country but lived in urban environs all my adult life. My rural village experiences haven’t been quite as were depicted in the U.S. TV series Green Acres but the weekends and holidays we spend at Taylors Arm give me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the vagaries of country life prior to leaving the city to reside there permanently.

Our house was empty for some time before we took possession and it was in need of a good clean. We were up for the job but after having spent our first hot summer day in situ scrubbing dirt off the surfaces and onto ourselves, we were also up for a cold beer and a hot shower. As it does from time to time, the electricity cut out, minutes before we were about to jump in the shower.

As the house water is supplied via rainwater tanks fed by an electric pump, no power meant no water. The electricity came back on in the early hours long after we’d half filled the bath via saucepans of water obtained in a trickle from the sole outside garden tap and heated on an ancient gas fuelled camping stove. At least the beer was cold.

The first Christmas is etched in our memory as being hot as hell; 40+ degrees Celsius (104 F) on Christmas Eve as I was trying to roast a turkey in a too-small electric kettle barbecue under the back awning of the house. To make it fit, the G.O. flattened out the turkey in the manner of Portuguese style chicken, to be forever remembered as the year of ‘roadkill turkey’.

Since then we’ve installed roof insulation, whirlybird roof vents, ceiling fans and window awnings; making the summer months much pleasanter. And we’ve reverted to more manageable roast chicken and cold ham for Christmas lunch.

Resident fauna don’t care whose name is on the deeds, or who does the work. They come with the house as a package deal. I’m not overfond of bats to say the least but have become accustomed to sable microbats at dusk flitting past, darting into almost imperceptible cracks in the house’s structure.

Over the years we’ve been friendly with neighbouring turkeys, geese, chickens and cows. We’ve had visiting wallabies, goannas, ducks, dogs, cats, snakes and a fox. Also, we aren’t the only inhabitants of our house. Fortunately George the carpet python moved on from our roof space but making themselves at home in addition to the bats we have; birds, frogs, lizards, mice, a bandicoot and the biggest mangiest meanest old possum I’ve ever encountered. Its traverses of the roof sound like not just a single creature but an army.

"The company you keep defines you. Surround yourself with shining souls that inspire you, lift you higher and bring forth the best in you"
“The company you keep defines you. Surround yourself with shining souls that inspire you, lift you higher and bring forth the best in you”

The G.O. wasn’t convinced of the possum’s notoriety until one summer evening he decided see for himself what was on the awning roof near the big bottlebrush tree. The G.O. climbed the ladder he’d used for cleaning the guttering, strolled across the roof expecting to encounter one of the neighbour’s cats enjoying the last of the warmth… but was instead met then pursued by an aggressive arboreal marsupial displeased the G.O. was interrupting its constitutional. The G.O. didn’t bother with the ladder beyond the first rung down, leaping to the safety of the ground as the possum growled its disapproval at the invasion of its space. Possum 1: G.O.: Nil.

I have a horror of dead things, so the G.O. and I have an arrangement. I deal with live things -except snakes which we tend to just leave alone- and he deals with the demised. That means particularly incursions of spiders and mice are my domain. To the G.O.’s frustration I usually let the spiders be -even if it means showering in their proximity- but if pressed I will corral them into a plastic tub and release them into the garden, usually too close to the house to suit the G.O. but I refuse to walk for miles to appease him.

I also employ the same technique for evicting mice. The G.O. doesn’t have the aversion to rodents he does to spiders but after umpteen rounds of the kitchen in fruitless pursuit of Taylor’s Arm’s own Speedy Gonzales, the G.O. paused long enough for the mouse to jump up on the table to assess the worthiness of its opponent, and I swear I saw it laugh. After being bested the G.O. no longer deigns to participate in their contests. Mouse: 1. G.O.: Nil.

My own mouse-keeping efforts haven’t been without glitches. I learned the hard way after scooping them up mice aren’t as cute as they look, and their teeth are sharp. Still merciful I tossed the ungrateful bitey little bugger -alive- over the fence into the back paddock. Our neighbour’s grey cat showed me the error of my ways by returning it -dead- to the back step. And looking at me as if to say there, I’ve avenged you, remember the lesson. Mouse: Nil. Grey Cat: 1.

The rainbow lorikeets act out their own colourful version of Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds, stalking us demanding a feed. When service has been too slow coming, they’ve followed me door to door around the verandah, and set up a stakeout at the door en route from the kitchen to the garden. Unlike their demands on the neighbours at least they haven’t come inside our house. Yet.

Local knowledge is gold, and the G.O. kindly and wisely pre-warned me about frogs who know no boundaries. Leroy, the main-man of our green frog gang has no respect for personal space. He’ll springboard off a back or… his claim to fame is attaching himself to the nether regions of an earlier-era female houseguest as she sat on the toilet resulting in her panicked flee to the hilarity of the assembled company. As a child I admired green frogs, from a distance, in their ability terrorise my aunts. Now I enjoy how they casually hang out with us, like we’re part of the furniture in their house.

Visitors sometimes look askance at our tap water. Because the aforementioned bottlebrush tree overhangs a lot of the water collecting area of the roof, our water may be tinted an interesting shade of tan. Fortunately bottlebrush trees are also called “tea trees” and “frequently used in teas… has antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties”. Although the colour takes a bit of getting used to, there’s no taste or harm to it.

At a time before we’d installed gas appliances and a wood burning fire we’d been supposed to take a winter holiday in Queensland, however the G.O.’s boss vetoed the time off so we settled for a long weekend at Taylors Arm, but Mother Nature intervened causing us to spend a cold early-winter week flooded in, several days of it without electricity. The experience wasn’t quite camping, nor was it glamping.

To underline the lesson, once the power came back on the TV advertisements teased us with “Queensland… Beautiful one day perfect the next“. Taylors Arm might not quite live up to that but writers have long waxed lyrical about bucolic pleasures…
“There is virtue in country houses, in gardens and orchards, in fields, streams, and groves, in rustic recreations and plain manners, that neither cities nor universities enjoy.” ~ Amos Bronson Alcott

Transplant shock is a term that refers to a number of stresses occurring in recently transplanted trees and shrubs. It involves failure of the plant to root well, consequently the plant becomes poorly established in the landscape. New transplants do not have extensive root systems, and they are frequently stressed by lack of sufficient water. Plants suffering from water stress may be more susceptible to injury from other causes such as the weather, insects, or disease. When several stresses are being experienced, the plant may no longer be able to function properly.”

Another ‘branching out’ story inspired by comments to my Out on a Limb post.

Blessing the day

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Bless the day (street art, Mary Street, Newtown)
Bless the day (street art, Mary Street, Newtown)

I believe there’s an energy that connects everything. An energy that has been given different labels and inferences across languages, times, cultures and beliefs. But regardless, exists alike in effect.

Depending on what you believe, or don’t, I may be like the Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass each morning… “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”. Because in that first quiet consciousness at the beginning of each day, I try to take a few moments of the interlude between sleep and awake to tap into the energy that connects us.

This is the basic invocation I employ… it varies slightly from day-to-day as the words come from my spirit and my heart… if it’s early in the morning my thoughts may be a little fuzzy but the form creates itself and what it needs to convey, not usually less, and when necessary more specific & personal entreaties.

Holding the energy and intent gently I converse with the spiritual entourage which are as much part of my life as the corporeal.

Universe, Gods, Goddesses, Angels, Archangels, Guardian Angels, Spirit Guides, Higher Selves, Muses, Agents of Fortune, Loved Ones and All Beneficent Beings — Please watch over all our beings and forms. Please grant us wisdom and discernment, and change with ease and grace. Please grant us truth, insight and understanding. Please grant us faith, tolerance and kindness. Please help us be the best we can be. Please protect us and keep us from harm. Please keep us safe and return us home with our loved ones each day. I ask this in love and light, for the highest good, no harm be done. Bless you and this day. Thank you for all you be and all you do.

On the days I have more time I sit with the energy and the light but otherwise these few valuable moments recharge both my personal energy and the source from which it derives and exists.

My process of coexistence with and asking guidance of the Universe has somewhat evolved. I remember the first time I deliberately asked for assistance. I can still see me, time and place. Not in the warmth and privacy of my bed. Walking along a city street in the middle of the day, I’d had enough. I threw my worries and cares up to this energy. There were no magic effects, nor immediate tangible change except I no longer felt I alone had to resolve them. Sometimes asking is the smartest but hardest thing to do.

“You think you’re lost but you’re not lost on your own.
You’re not alone. I will stand by you,
I will help you through when you’ve done all you can do.
If you can’t cope, I will dry your eyes I will fight your fight,
I will hold you tight and I won’t let go”

from I Won’t Let Go lyrics, Rascal Flatts

 

In My Kitchen: not even half baked

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Late in June the oven in our apartment stopped with a pop; adjourning baking of the G.O.’s rain-checked sausages, bacon & onion gravy birthday dinner to the electric fry-pan.

Our relationship with the appliances in that apartment is uneasy. It’s coming up to 6 years old and the shiny appliances selected by the developers are more for show than go, rather than the domestic day-to-day use the G.O. and I put them to. We rent from my sister and in return for a not paying an arm and a leg we fix anything that goes wrong.

Even though I use it constantly I treat the oven cautiously since a couple of years ago I was wiping out the base when the door exploded into a storm of shattered glass that covered the expanse of the kitchen and then some. It took numerous telephone calls, 2 afternoons home from work and $600+ to realise the repairs. At the time I assumed something I did must have caused it but a later Google search for “smeg oven doors shattering” indicated probably not.

As we had enough food to keep us going for a few days and were reluctant to consider the unhappy subject of appliance repairers we took a leisurely approach to investigating the issue. A week or so later we tested and diagnosed a blown fan heating element as the problem. Once again I consulted Google, and found I could buy a replacement online. Which I did, from http://www.stoveconnection.com.au. When it arrived the cardboard box went directly into the back of the wardrobe until the G.O. could get around to installing it… which took another week or so. 

In the meantime we had to eat.

Out came the slow cooker, for a pot of old fashioned pea and ham soup, onto the balcony because of its pungent cooking aroma habitually remarked on by the G.O. The ingredients -dried green split peas+soup veges+ham hock+Massel vegetable stock- cost about $12 and when cooked are so much more delicious than the sum of their parts. We it enjoyed for weekend dinners and there was enough leftovers for 5 containers of lunch soup for me.

old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view
old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view

Out stayed the slow cooker on the balcony and in went lamb shoulder, Buller’s Malmsey, Massel vegetable stock, onions, carrots, and potatoes for the making of Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie… except I forgot I didn’t have a working oven to bake pie so it ended up being Deconstructed Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie. The leftovers are slated to become ATMT’s Shepherds Piesties.

slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony
slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony

Out came the simmer mat I recently bought from Victoria’s Basement, and the big stainless pot. In went a piece of silverside, water, onions, carrots, celery, malt vinegar, mustard powder and brown sugar to transform into corned beef for the G.O.’s weekday lunches. On went slowly sautéed tomatoes.

corned beef and winter tomatoes
corned beef and winter tomatoes

Out came the retro pudding steamer I bought from Braidwood Markets and in went a suitably old-style recipe using pineapple & coconut jam also from Braidwood Markets. On that, later, went a new recipe for Perfect Custard made with leatherwood honey.

steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard
steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard

Out went our no supermarket biscuits rule guideline. In came ginger biscuits for the G.O.’s smoko. The Woolworths Select Stem Ginger Cookies are delicious but tooooo sweet. Far better are the Nairns Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits.

invaders... supermarket ginger biccies
invaders… supermarket ginger biccies

We survived several oven-less weeks but the last week of easy pasta and toast meals when imagination and time ebbed meant the other thing that’s gone out are our waistlines…

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back via comments on Celia’s August IMK post.

“But the kitchen will not come into its own again until it ceases to be a status symbol and becomes again a workshop. It may be pastel. It may be ginghamed as to curtains and shining with copper like a picture in a woman’s magazine. But you and I will know it chiefly by its fragrances and its clutter. At the back of the stove will sit a soup kettle, gently bubbling, one into which every day are popped leftover bones and vegetables to make stock for sauces or soup for the family. Carrots and leeks will sprawl on counters, greens in a basket. There will be something sweet-smelling twirling in a bowl and something savory baking in the oven. Cabinet doors will gape ajar and colored surfaces are likely to be littered with salt and pepper and flour and herbs and cheesecloth and pot holders and long-handled forks. It won’t be neat. It won’t even look efficient. but when you enter it you will feel the pulse of life throbbing from every corner. The heart of the home will have begun once again to beat.”Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)

a story of Us

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Do you believe in love at first sight, serendipity, synchronicity, fate or meant-to-be?

a story of Us
a story of Us

Sara commented on my story the long way ’round” my favourite ever stories are ‘how we met’ stories” and other commenters shared snippets of their own.
Kate said… “You only have to read Celi’s account of how she and Our John met, missed, met again and married. One of the most fascinating ‘how we met’ stories and clear evidence that some things are just meant by the universe to happen” and “It sounds like the start of a collection of stories to me”.

For myself, being slow on the uptake, it took literally a word in my ear from the Universe to finally set the wheels in motion for us, as the G.O. so inelegantly phrases it, to “hook up”!

If you have a happy ever after or a relationship stepping-stone in life story, I’d love you to share it by commenting below, or posting and linking back to this post.

This is mine.

♥ EllaDee

It’s so easy to see now. But for many years I didn’t. I know there are a few doubters who look at us with speculative eyes. All I have to say to them is don’t judge us by standards which are not ours.

I can feel the autumnal Saturday afternoon, daylight waning. I can see the place: scruffy shops adjacent a suburban Sydney railway station. I remain connected to the moment as if by a long silver thread. A thread that twisted and tangled but joins us still twenty-five years later.

I’d escaped a too-young marriage and utilitarian country town to seek better in the city. I’d come without a job but with a man. It was complicated. I should have known it was never going to end well. It took fourteen years and the failure of a second marriage before I gave up trying to deny to myself that blind naivety had given what ought to have been a misguided fling an artificially long shelf life. Abetted by impossible pride, I’d made another mistake.

Its redeeming legacy was my friendship with the G.O.  Husband#2 had introduced us in the beginning; on that autumn afternoon so indelibly inked into my story. For more than a decade after that day, the G.O. came and went from my life. Familiar to my family and friends. Beloved of my cats and dog. Sometime sharer of households and long late night conversations. We attended each others weddings and wished each other happiness.

In the end, it took a serendipitous job where I spent week-nights away from home to distance me literally, figuratively and sufficiently to see clearly and disconnect from my marriage. Finally forced by foolishness and deceit to view it with honest eyes.

Although Husband#2 and the G.O. had teamed up once again working together, just as the marriage couldn’t withstand the increasing chicanery nor could their friendship. The G.O. also had had enough, and returning to his country life, left Husband#2 to his own injudicious devices. The G.O.’s withdrawal was another clue how far Husband#2 had gone. Too far.

Change was in the wind before I consciously realised it. Months before I physically left, a chance remark tipped me off to what would soon eventuate. A work colleague commented about my long daily commute and my spontaneous reply “I’m moving back to the city” surprised us both. But sure enough, as inevitably transpired, sufficient responsibilities and impediments fell away to enable me to rent a small apartment in the inner city – alone.

Lingering obligations tied me to Husband#2. His problematic life continued to encroach my progression to freedom. I couldn’t save him from himself and I damned sure wasn’t going down with him. Holding him up financially and materially simply perpetuated his imprudence. One of the last accommodations I made was to indulge his claim I had gotten the better of our two mobile phones, and swap. It was a gesture that would go on to change my life.

Just when I’d had enough, thought I’d done enough, there was more. Several months after I removed myself, the significance and permanence of my absence revealed itself to other parties inveigled by Husband#2 into involvement with his business affairs. I swapped phones but kept my number. It started ringing; revealing mendacity I hadn’t been involved in and couldn’t explain.

Husband#2’s phone came complete with contact numbers I didn’t bother removing. After one particularly harrowing late night call I scrolled through the list and saw the G.O.’s home number. If there was one person who might enlighten me about the dealings I was being confronted with, it was him.

Although not feeling it myself, the time of day I waited until to call the G.O. was civilized. He was surprised to hear from me, somewhat surprised at the news of my marriage split but unsurprised at the purpose of my call. He’d been aware of escalating dubiousness in Husband#2’s conduct, had interpreted my apparent tolerance as acquiescence and prudently refrained from interfering.

Neither the phone call nor confirmation of Husband#2’s further transgressions had an immediate effect. By and by once the complainants believed I neither had knowledge nor influence their entreaties fizzled out. Eventually I extricated myself from the snarled web woven by my good intentions and Husband#2’s schemes.

While I sorted out peripheral details, the core of my life was strong. Half a year before the dam of my denial broke, the contract role that had taken me away from home morphed into a permanent job. The decision to move back to Sydney freed me not only from the marriage but from a four hour daily commute. As if by magic the small apartment that felt like home manifested at the right time and place.

I didn’t miss having a man in my life. Monday to Friday professionally the law firm partner I assisted was sufficient. Lovely man that he is I revelled in shutting the door each evening and not hearing him call my name. I explored the streets of my new neighbourhood. I invested my spare time variously in the blissful peace of aloneness, books, meditation, massages, a spiritual development group, the cinema, and volunteered with an asylum seekers support program.

And so the months pleasantly passed until just-another-Wednesday evening in the last days of winter I was leaving work waiting for the lift to arrive at my floor. In the moment before the doors opened I heard a clear silent voice say “Call Wayne”. There’s no mobile coverage in the lifts so I had twenty-five floors to digest this communication. It wasn’t until I’d exited the building, descended the escalator, walked the expanse of the near empty food court and stepped onto the next escalator that the authenticity of the message registered.

Half way down the second escalator I pressed the G.O.’s number on my phone. He answered by the time I stepped onto the street. He hadn’t been expecting my call, rather hoping as he was working in the city for a few days, intended to call me but inadvertently left his wallet containing my phone number at home.

He suggested we catch up; it had been some time since we’d talked on the phone, longer since in person. He was busy that night but not the next. That suited me as well so we agreed on time and place.

The next evening when I climbed the railway station stairs he was waiting for me on the overpass. We greeted each other like the old friends we were, proceeded to drinks and dinner. As with our past long late night conversations the hours flew, until it was nearly midnight and we were again standing at the steps of the railway station. I was about to get on a train when he kissed me goodbye. I missed that train and the next.

At last seated on a homeward bound train, I knew it would be a long time until my whirling thoughts let me sleep.

This story would be a real life fairy-tale if our happy ever after started at that point. In reality we lived disparate lives; him country, me city. It would take another year before the lovely possibility of us became a true Us.

The G.O. has been waiting for me at railway stations whenever he can manage ever since.

We got married last year ten years to the day after that first kiss.

when the bough breaks

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"She returned home early. He'd been and gone. So had someone else. A lipstick on the dresser. It didn't belong to her. Any colour except red..."
“She returned home early. He’d been and gone. So had someone else. A lipstick on the dresser. It didn’t belong to her. Any colour except red…”

In February, I was out on a limb trying to come up with a ‘branching out’ themed short story to enter Country Style Magazine’s short story competition. Thanks to some inspired suggestions from comments to that post, I managed to cobble together an entry just before the cut-off date.

Winning $5000 and being published in a magazine would be lovely but that’s not why I do it. The occasional challenge of entering a competition exercises my short story writing around a topic, word count and deadline.

Winners were to be notified prior to publication in the August magazine, which is out now. I haven’t had a call, so I can share it here.

**********************

when the bough breaks

I remember her as she was then.
This is not going to work out.

Her reflected pale visage flanked by her mother-and-sister-in-law-to-be in the backlit mirror of that mining town hair salon whose windows faced Shoey’s supermarket car park. Fair fine hair coiffed into a chignon heightened the strange dream sensation.

Despite her calm mien understanding was revealing itself viscerally. Realisation of the mistake reinforced by her mind refuting all avenues of extrication. Flash of insight accompanied by gut instinct left her with the resolute conclusion she’d have to proceed.

Exit and explanations at this late stage weren’t going to happen. Yesterday was her twentieth birthday. Today was her wedding day. For better or worse.

Less than a year before, walking home one late night from her second job behind the bar at a local hotel, she turned the corner from the main road at the rose garden house, breathed in scented air, looked up, saw a bright star and silently chanted her customary… star light star bright first star I’ve seen tonight wish I may wish I might please make my wish come true tonight. Only this time she said the words, actually made a wish. “I wish for someone to love me. Just for a little while.”

The wish came true.
As they do.
Be careful what you wish for.

It manifested in the form of a new neighbour. A young bloke who for the first month had roared in and out of her apartment complex in a blue Toyota four-by-four. She’d spent the day studying, and lost track of time. A knock on her door made her realize it was late and she was starving. It was him. Hair damp, wearing ironed jeans and shirt.

“Do you like car races?”

“What are you asking me for?”

“I thought you might want to go?”

Momentarily she responded, “Wait”. Fled inside. Looked in the mirror. Looked for clothes. Found none better than what she saw in the mirror. Picked up her handbag and walked out the door.

The car races were cancelled due to rain. Over dinner they got to know each other.

Her flatmate commented “He’s a bit of a yob”. She agreed. There was no avoiding him. Walking past his door. Taking the rubbish out. He was at the pub on nights she worked and ordered beers he didn’t drink much of.

He came to her door again.

“The car races are on tonight.”

She went.

Meeting his parents was like being welcomed home. Home that was a modest white cottage on a farm. She met his mother, father, sister, two large cats and small fluffy white dog. A special roast dinner.

The following Sunday after his parents attended their church meeting, he drove her out to the farm for his mother’s Sunday bacon and egg breakfast. Soon she accompanied him for mid-week laundry drop off and dinner.

As other things changed his presence didn’t. When new hotel owners took over, she didn’t ask to stay on. When her lease ended he helped her shift to another apartment in the same complex.

A change of job meant driving to a neighbouring town. After several months her new flatmate moved out. He suggested they get a place together.

Her new job didn’t require her to study so she deferred that semester. She read books instead. He never did. He preferred her to watch movies with him.

Several months later, officially a couple, they attended his cousin’s wedding. They met curious looks, expectations and enquiries with “It’s early days yet. Plenty of time”. Several evenings later, sitting on the sofa watching TV he dropped to one knee, produced an engagement ring and asked her to marry him.

“When?”

“On your birthday.”

“Next year my twenty-first is a Saturday.”

“Wait a year?”

“We could have both.”

“What about this year? The day after.”

“Only three months away?”

Not ready to say yes.
Or no.
But she wasn’t ready for things to change either.

He wanted to tell his parents straight away. They were pleased. Living together wasn’t right. He spoke to her Dad whose only comment was “Good thing”. Testimony to new wife, baby and business concerns rather than regard.

She wanted her mother’s borrowed wedding dress but it had been passed on. He chose a fairy-tale princess white gown & veil with a faux pearl circlet. Grey suits for him and the best man. Her baby half-sister flower girl a smaller rendering of his frilly pink bridesmaid sister.

The day before the wedding among her birthday mail was an envelope addressed to him in female handwriting. He shredded the note it contained.

Despite her epiphany, on the last Saturday of spring they stood before a celebrant, family and friends.
She looked like the bride doll from Santa the Christmas after her mother died.

She thought to make the best of it, and went on much as before. She hadn’t resumed part-time studies but continued working, enjoying her job and co-workers’ company. Her mother-in-law remarked it didn’t look right.

He sold his ute. To buy a newer model with a big truck kit he sold her car as well. They didn’t need two. She could walk, or he’d drive her.

His parents celebrated the first wedding anniversary with a family dinner. His father had a proposition. A late wedding gift. Five thousand dollars. Possibly his wife’s moonstone bracelet. When the baby was born.

They’d talked of babies. She’d said she thought not. He’d said she would change her mind. All women he knew wanted babies.

His work took him out of town. His friends took him out at night. She went out with her friends. Her mother-in-law remarked it didn’t look right.

He wasn’t there to drive her around. She went to the bank, arranged a loan and bought a second-hand Corolla.

On work weekends he stayed away. When invited, she drove to where he was. She spent Saturdays browsing the shops or walking the beach. They went out with his friends.

He liked her to look nice. To wear make-up whenever she left the house. Not too much. He had an eye for the female form. It was harmless. When he compared her, he meant well.

He’d had a couple of girlfriends. He talked about how sexy they were. He said he thought she was pretty. He didn’t like other men looking. He offered to pay for D cups. The kind fellow walking past smiled at her. He didn’t like that. Her encouraging looks. She hadn’t.

Grateful for an unwitting kindness.

If he was home on Saturdays, after she did housework she cooked dinners from magazine recipes to take to the farm. He liked her cooking, often enough finishing her dinner if she didn’t eat quickly. She played card games with his parents. He watched TV in the back room. They stayed overnight for his mother’s Sunday bacon and egg breakfast.

They drove to his grandparents at their hometown eight hours distant. His father sped like no time was to be lost. His mother took a sleeping pill. He went out with his friends. He didn’t come home. His father went looking for him. Found him at daylight outside a pub in the next town with a mate and an old girlfriend. He had nothing to say.

He didn’t want to feel bad so he told her. It didn’t mean anything. He was drunk. He felt better that she knew. He was being honest with her.

It was her fault.
She’d tried so hard.

He couldn’t be home for her birthday. He gave his workmate’s girlfriend money to take her out for dinner. He was going to buy her a present but he’d spent the money at the pub.

He went on a boys’ trip. Her aunt and uncle invited her to join them for the weekend at the beach. The weather wasn’t good. She returned home early. He’d been and gone. So had someone else. A lipstick on the dresser. It didn’t belong to her. Any colour except red.

She drove to her aunt’s. Her aunt said “I knew he was no good”. Her aunt confronted him. Told him what she knew. Told him what she thought. Her aunt and uncle picked up her belongings.

His parents telephoned. Could they visit? They knew but didn’t want to. Another old girlfriend. They wanted her to make it right. She couldn’t. She never spoke to him again.

She took back her maiden name. Left her job. Found a place to live in the city. She accelerated as her car reached the highway. Up through the gears over the crest of the hill. She didn’t look back. Not ever.

As I flick through pages of photo album memories I see her as she was then.
Humming…
“Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.”

things have changed . . .

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I wished I’d kept a food journal, but now I’ve thought about it; a consumer journal. What I supposed were lifelong constants are no longer. I was willing to be faithful so long as manufacturers were true. I wanted them to care about the things I did. They offered more products and promises to get my money. I ditched them. But it took many years to get to that point. Back to the less-is-more world I grew up in.

During my rural small town 1970’s childhood brands didn’t map my life. My earliest memories are of Mr Sheen, the timber furniture polish and Fabulon ironing aid. The overspray from both made our timber floor fantastically slippery… great fun for a 4 year old wearing socks. I can’t remember what kind of washing detergent my mother used but a vague memory of the fragrance of Handy Andy mopped floors. At my grandparents’ farm I can remember only Sunlight soap and Phenyle.

My own first household brand choice was clothes washing detergent. My sister once remarked about our joint and ongoing dedication to Cussons Radiant washing detergent as we collaborated on bargains. It’s been around for over 25 years, and I’d been loyally using it the entire time until almost 4 years ago when a move to an apartment with a front load washer rather than top loader made me take another look, and opened up the world of eco brands.

"I pressed the fire control... and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky..." Once I started changing I couldn't stop!
“I pressed the fire control… and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky…” Once I started changing I couldn’t stop!

Light turned on, I made the switch to eco not only clothes washing detergent but everything I could get: dishwashing detergent and tablets, paper towel and toilet paper. Not only changing brands but decreasing consumption.

I swapped out half washing powder scoops for bicarb soda and ditched cleaning products except eco glass spray and bleach of which we use less than a bottle per year. I substituted vinegar as laundry rinse, adding lavender and eucalyptus oils to make sprays for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. Reusable cleaning cloths and tea towels go into the daily wash. This, in the city by choice… But in the country by necessity because we have a septic tank for sewerage and otherwise our grey water runs into the garden.

No not-so-plastic-fantastic bottled water for us. In the city we boil & filter tap water kept chilled in the fridge or taken with us in stainless steel water bottles, and we use a Soda Stream to make carbonated-aka-fizzy water. In the country at Taylors Arm we employ an old-fashioned soda syphon and drink rainwater collected on the roof into tanks straight from the tap. For the G.O. and I, both coming from farming backgrounds drinking tank water is back where we began.

Coffee has been a lifelong journey from the instant powder of my early teen years to a grown up penchant for takeaway large soy lattes.  About 4 years ago we went with straight blacks and invested in a Jura Ena 5 coffee machine which has more than paid for itself. I buy bags of organic fair trade coffee and we use our own cups at home or KeepCups for DIY takeaway. At Taylors Arm we make pour over coffee using a Hario drip decanter and unbleached paper filters.

Occasionally I encounter the G.O. shuffling jars around the tea shelf hoping, in vain, for a glimpse of a yellow Lipton’s teabag label therein. Left to his own devices he is a creature of habit. I offer to swap out another of his indulgences. Coke or Cadbury? No. He was just hoping but he’s fine with Daintree or herbal tea. He’ll have a Lipton’s at his mother’s.

I feel that same way about personal products as I do about food labels, if I don’t know what it is I don’t want it as an ingredient. It didn’t make sense to go to the effort and expense of pursuing clean and home cooked food while undermining the effects by applying goodness-knows-what to our persons.

Seduced by product claims, marketing and colours I have a drawer full of accumulated lotions and potions. Now, I wear less makeup, perfume, nail or skincare products and look for brands that are safe-ethical-eco-organic such as Natio. I’m fond of Clarins and OPI which are apparently ok but could do better. We use locally made lemon myrtle products and oral care products such as Grants.

Of course, it’s all work-in-progress. Ongoing changes come about as I continue to research and discover good products. I’ve checked my habit of impulse buying fragrant candles replacing them with beeswax, essential oils and incense. Magazines also are a treat rather than a regular purchase. I find more than enough inspiration via the blog-world, Facebook Pages Feed, Pinterest and free online subscriptions to websites that interest me.

On my to-do list is make my own washing powder and skin moisturisers. On my to-do-better list are clothes and household items. Possibly the most complicated and expensive exercise. The best we manage at the moment is to limit consumption, buy Australian Made where possible, get value from wear and reuse-recycle.

A daunting and recent change is abstinence from hair colour. As a kid my fair hair was naturally blonde due to the time I spent outdoors. In my late teen years it darkened to mouse with increased time spent indoors at a desk studying, then working. It’s been lightened unnaturally for just over 30 years. Now I’m turning 50 and my hair is turning silver, I’ve decided to embrace it.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does.”
William James

In My Kitchen: birthday bits n’ pieces

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Having recovered from the flu lurgy that curtailed my Saturday morning farmers market expeditions I was desperate for farmers market eggs, fruit, vegetables, and meat. Despite stocking up there the previous Saturday, when Celia told me that Beth from Burrawong Gaian Poultry would have a stall at my local Eveleigh Farmers Market I didn’t hesitate in agreeing to meet her the next.

Even better, the G.O. took Saturday off work and came along as my porter and to select key ingredients for his traditional birthday dinner of sausages, onion gravy & mashed potato which he assured Celia you can live on.

IMK: Birthday bits n' pieces - flowers, apple rice meringue and Tojiro blades
IMK: The G.O’s birthday bits n’ pieces – roses “no-ones ever given me flowers before!”, apple rice meringue and Tojiro kitchen knives for his inner Samurai

The G.O. doesn’t get to the markets as much as I do but he’s familiar with and to the stallholders and has his favourites. So while Celia and I wandered around chatting to stallholders at Olsson’s Australian salt and Margin’s Mushrooms, the G.O. chatted to Mr Apples and Moobi Valley Meats. And came away with Pink Lady’s as well as Granny Smiths for his birthday sweet treat (my first attempt at this dessert made by his grandmother) plus sirloin steaks grown just up the road from where my grandparents had their farm when I was a kid.

The G.O. approved my selection of sausages and bacon from Linga Longa Farm’s stall and potatoes from Highland Gourmet Potatoes.

IMK: Traditional birthday dinner of the G.O.
IMK: Traditional birthday dinner of the G.O.

Did you know potatoes have a season? The guys that have this stall are lovely but we only see them from December to September. At the moment my go-to potatoes are Lustre for lustrous silky mashed potato, Emma for light crisp air-filled baked potatoes and Pink Kiss for old-fashioned tasty baked potatoes like my Nanna used to make.

IMK: Lustre, Emma and Pink Kiss
IMK: Lustre, Emma and Pink Kiss

Of course we caught up with Beth at her Burrawong Gaian Poultry stall and sampled her delicious pates and rillettes. The duck marylands were selling fast but I managed to buy 2 packs of 2 for Sunday night dinner.

IMK: Burrawong Gaian duck marylands 3 ways
IMK: Burrawong Gaian duck marylands 3 ways

By the time we left my nanna trolley was overflowing and my wallet empty. A few extras depleted my own funds and I had to borrow cash from the G.O. He’s not only handy as a porter but a mobile cash dispensing machine.

As I explained to Celia, how I make fresh food shopping at the farmers market viable is to use it all, and buy little other food for the rest of the week… and sometimes the week after… when freezer, fridge and pantry stock comprises the greater part of our eating.

IMK: Organic Australian oats, honey and salt
IMK: Organic Australian oats, honey and salt
  • Moobi Valley sirloin steak, baked Highland Gourmet potatoes, Muscat’s carrots & golden beetroot plus Darling Mills micro salad was Saturday night dinner.
  • Sunday breakfast was porridge made with organic Australian organic rolled oats and Highland Organics milk topped with Mr Apples compote, Nambucca MacNuts macadamias and R. Stephens Mole Creek Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey.
  • Linga Longa Farm bacon, Margins mushrooms, peas, pasta and cream sauce made from Highland Organics milk made a cosy lunch for a damp chilly Sunday.
  • Duck marylands slow roasted at 150 C in a bath of Massel chicken stock  and Buller Malmsey plus re-fried roast veges and steamed sugar snap peas was Sunday night dinner.
  • For Monday lunch the G.O. took half the leftover pasta, the other half went into the freezer. I took the leftover piece of cold sirloin and salad which I added to a fresh bread roll.
  • Monday dinner was noodle, vegetable and shredded duck Maryland stir-fry with puffy omelettes made with Thirlmere eggs, sesame oil and a dash of carbonated water.
  • Tuesday, the G.O.’s birthday, we headed out and enjoyed a lovely lunch of fish and chips at Watsons Bay so didn’t need to cook dinner. But we had room for birthday apple rice meringue made from Mr Apples’ Granny Smiths, Thirlmere eggs and Highland Organics milk.
  • Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the G.O. took apple rice meringue for smoko.
  • Wednesday I had an in-house work lunch and as there were no dinner leftovers the G.O. fended for himself.
  • Wednesday night I prepared the rain-checked birthday dinner of Linga Longa Farm sausages & bacon with Muscat’s onions and gravy made with Prickle Hill Worcestershire sauce from Coleambally and Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard, and mashed Highland Gourmet potatoes.
  • For Thursday lunch the G.O. took mashed potato, sausages and onion gravy for lunch. I took bits n’ pieces of leftover vege & duck noodles, omelette and baked veges.
  • Thursday night dinner was leftover mashed potato, sausages, bacon and onion gravy. The leftovers went into the freezer.

Note: We’re a 2 person household. We both work full-time. We live in a small city apartment and wish we had a vege garden and chooks. Maybe one day. For now, where possible I buy pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand. For us farmers markets an equitable option as if I can’t get there we spend the same money or more at supermarkets, takeaway food or eating out. My choices may not suit everyone –  it’s up to each of us to do what we think and best can. Corporate commodification of food, marketing, advertorials, profiteering and undue influence on our lives concerns me greatly. Shopping and eating mindfully is my antidote to that.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too…” Kurt Vonnegut

IMK: Apple Rice Meringue from The Commonsense Cookery Book (Source - http://community.tasteofhome.com/community_forums/f/30/t/332742.aspx)
IMK: Apple Rice Meringue from The Commonsense Cookery Book (Source – http://community.tasteofhome.com/community_forums/f/30/t/332742.aspx)

hop, skip and jump to the point

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I could get used to this. The G.O. not working on Saturdays, and spending time by the water.

Last Friday when the G.O. communicated the news he has at last finished working at the site where he’s been doing 160 kilometre daily round trip commutes, often working Saturday, I called my sister to see if she and our new niece, sunny Skye apple of her family’s eye, had a free Saturday. Not quite, but could meet up in the afternoon.

Excellent. That meant we didn’t have to rush our trip from Sydney to the Hunter Valley. And could take up a recommendation from a work colleague who’s a local, to stop for breakfast from the Estuary Kiosk on the way.

An hour drive and about half way along our journey, only minutes from the M1 motorway exit, Estuary Restaurant is at Kangaroo Point just over the old bridge and first turn to the left on the Old Pacific Highway on the Hawkesbury River driving towards Brooklyn. The restaurant has scored some spectacular reviews… currently some spectacularly bad… so we’ll be giving it a miss until that’s ironed out, but our takeaway coffees and bacon and egg rolls from the kiosk were first-rate. The refurbished park area is attractive and the views are amazing. We’ll be back!

We love the Hawkesbury River. The G.O. has a long affection for the area as he worked an oyster barge on the river for a few years, and still says it was the best job he ever had. Nearby Brooklyn is a favourite for fish and chips or meeting up for family celebratory lunches at Lifeboat Seafood, handy for us as we can catch the train from the city.

The Hawkesbury River is the setting for the 2004 Australian film The Oyster Farmer and recently the two-part ABC television mini-series The Secret River adaptation of Kate Grenville’s novel of the same name.

“This place had been here long before him. It would go on sighing and breathing and being itself after he had gone, the land lapping on and on, watching, waiting, getting on with its own life.” Kate Grenville, The Secret River

Elementary, my dear Watson

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Trying to get the G.O. to celebrate his birthday is like trying to prise a stubborn crab out of its hidey-hole. Unsurprising as he is born under the Cancerian astrological sign. For the first time ever I managed to persuade him to ditch work on a weekday birthday. Coercion that involved me using a precious annual leave day and suggesting he wouldn’t want me to celebrate his birthday on my own. It worked. Just. My backup tactic was to suggest if he didn’t stay home with me, I’d go to work with him.

As work commitments prevented us taking a long weekend away the G.O.’s celebration of choice was a coastal escape within the city environs.

After a sleep-in, leisurely coffees and gift unwrapping in bed we followed the route of my usual morning commute to Circular Quay, even making a dash to the cafe in my building for a soy chai latte & hot chocolate before joining Tuesday tourists and day-trippers on a ferry ride across Sydney Harbour to Watsons Bay, a 17 minute trip as opposed to the other public transport option of bus that takes near an hour to cover the 11 km distance.

Watsons Bay is located on the southern head of the entrance to Sydney Harbour. To the east is the Tasman Sea and to the west is the Harbour with a glorious view of the city of Sydney in the distance.

Watsons Bay is where Governor Phillip first landed in Australia. It’s also recognised as Australia’s oldest fishing village, having been established in 1788.

The Bay is famous for being the home of the first Doyles Restaurant. The site on which the restaurant now stands is where Doyle originally sold his daily fish catch in 1845. It’s well worth the trip to Watsons Bay to eat at the restaurant or, alternatively, for a more informal meal, buy a take-away lunch from Doyles’ fish and chip outlet, located on the wharf, and eat it in the park and feed the seagulls.

There are two walking paths from the wharf, both require around one hour for the round trip. From the wharf you can walk north past Lady Bay (see their nude beach) and on to South Head…”

And we did just that, walked around to the north looking across to Manly, didn’t see any nudists although the day was a pleasant and sunny 20 degrees Celsius (winter in Sydney at its best!), enjoyed a simple fish and chip lunch accompanied by attentive seagulls, postprandial strolled until the sun enticed us to a garden bench with a harbour view before a speedy afternoon return on the ferry to Circular Quay.

Despite widely being attributed to him, Sherlock Holmes never said those words “Elementary, my dear Watson” but no doubt he would have by way of approbation of the G.O.’s excellent choice of destination of the same name.

*The first known, or at least recorded use of the phrase was in the 1915 novel, Psmith, Journalist written by P.G. Wodehouse.

Note: Australia’s place names have lost their apostrophes.