Sunday, August 31, 2014

I HAD A BALL!



Debutante Ball
Caledonian Hill, Gympie
Gympie's now heritage-listed Post Office at the base of Caledonian Hill
A Couple of Balls in Ruby Red - Beehive Hairdos were in fashion!!
A still from the movie "Rebecca"...starring Aussie Judith Anderson as the sinister "Mrs Danvers" who was devoted to the late "Rebecca de Winter" and Joan Fontaine as the second "Mrs. de Winter" who lived in the shadow of the first Mrs. de Winter..."Rebecca".
Programme from Miss Australia Quest...I'm top left...then known as "Lee Hill"

Ball Gowns Circa 1943 - the years when I was a little girl

Ball seasons in Gympie were the highlight on my and my friends’ already hectic social calendars when we were teenagers. 

And when I was much younger the debutante balls, in particular, were eagerly anticipated events of the year. They were grand “events”.  As a little girl, one who believed in Cinderella, fairy princesses and the handsome princes who swept them off their feet to live in a fantasy world of happily-ever-after endings, excitement filled my being when my Nana took me with her to become part of the admiring throngs; the gathering crowd of on-lookers watching the arrival of the ball- goers. We’d find ourselves amongst other half of Gympie’s population; those not actually attending the Friday night balls, but members the rubberneckers congregated around the entrance to Gympie’s Soldiers’ Hall where the balls (dances, and then later, record hops) were held. 

The madding crowd was there to marvel at the pretty young ladies glamorously dressed in lace, tulle, chiffon, silk or satin (sometimes of various varied combinations). Their partners, Gympie’s dashing young blades attired in their finery, stood proudly at their sides nervously fiddling with their bow ties or ties; a little embarrassed from all the attention they were receiving. 

For a little girl watching the young women in their beautiful ball gowns it was like being transported into a fairy tale. 

Debutante balls were very popular back in those days, too. To be presented into “society” was the dream of many a young girl.  It was never a dream of mine. Even as a kid I could see no point in it; I’ve never been able to discover the point of “making one’s debut”.  For one thing, I thought it was a waste of money.  Like big, frothy, over-the-top wedding gowns, the debutante’s ball gown could only be worn once in most cases.  I was never a fan of those types of wedding gowns, either.  Each to their own, I guess…it was how I felt about it, and still is.  We’re not all the same…thank goodness in many case…so it’s just my own opinion.  But, that's not to say I didn't enjoy being an on-looker when I was a young child.

However, I did borrow a friend’s debutante gown one year. I was 18 years old at the time. I’d joined the Gympie Drama group. Daphne du Maurier wrote three plays.  Her first was an adaption of her successful novel, “Rebecca”.  The play was also very successful. It first opened in London in March, 1940.

In 1963, our Drama Group’s latest production ready to be inflicted upon Gympie’s audiences was the dramatised play version of Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca”.

Gympie annual birthday celebrations were due.  Decorated floats of all kinds and colours were put together for the parade through Mary Street, Gympie’s main hub of activity. 

The Drama Club committee decided to enter a float to advertise the up and coming play.  I was picked to represent “Rebecca”.  I wasn’t sure if it was an honour or not because Rebecca is actually dead, having died a suspicious death.  She never physically appears in the story, although the novel/play is built around the never seen title character. Even though dead, she lingers long and is the crux of the tale.  Rebeca, the first Mrs. de Winter is, of course, crucial to the story.   

I had to sit graciously and gracefully upon an elaborate arm chair on the tray of a truck, dressed is a flowing, white gown, looking very ethereal. 

I’d also been an entrant in the Miss Australia Quest that year; a nation-wide Quest sponsored by the lingerie manufacturer, Hickory.  The Quest raised important, much-needed money for the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association (originally referred to as The Spastic Centres of Australia), an association which began in 1954 The Miss Australia Quest/Awards first started way back in 1926.  However the title of “Miss Australia” had existed since 1908. 

The Quest is no longer alive (although I still am). People like Germaine Greer started burning their bras and drinking Scotch straight from a 40oz bottle, and then political-correctness became the “in thing”. Those flag-wavers are more interested in their own agendas than raising money for worthy causes!

Anyway, I guess because I’d been an entrant in the Quest I was the likely volunteer to sit on the back of the truck!

Gympie, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the town, is very hilly. 

As the truck, with me sitting precariously on its rear tray, slowly crawled down Gympie's Caledonian Hill towards the entry into Mary Street we had to pass the now heritage-listed Post Office (as pictured) at the base of the hill.  Just before the truck came to the Post Office, suddenly its driver appeared beside me.

Standing on the road to my left, he’d jumped out of the cabin and nonchalantly strolled back to have a few words with me!  I asked him if anything was wrong. 

His reply was: “Not really.  I’m just checking the brakes to see if they’re okay.” 

That sure gave me a lot of confidence!  

I told him in no uncertain terms I thought it probably would be a good idea for him to get back in the truck!  I imagined me flying through Mary Street, white ball gown flowing in the wind while I hung on for dear life as we tore along the street wiping out a few of the unsuspecting spectators!

Back to making one’s debut into society…

As far as I was concerned, the moment I started working in my first job after leaving school I’d already made my debut into the big, bad, but, in those years, mostly absolutely wonderful world.

Within a week of commencing my job as a legal secretary in a local law firm I attended my first “grown-up” dance. It was a Wednesday night.  I tagged along with a co-worker and her friends, all of whom were a couple of years older than me. I was only 15 at the time; three or so months short of turning 16. 

Selflessly they took me under their wings. My introduction to Gympie’s “society” was done and dusted, then and there.  I didn’t have to be “presented” to the mayor, a priest, a church minister or whomever else to prove I’d be able to pass muster!  I didn’t need anyone’s permission or acceptance.  Already I had a fairly good grip on what the world was about; of how to behave and how not to behave.  My grandmother and mother were fairly astute tutors in that department; including deportment!  The proof is in the pudding…I’ve never been deported. 

A local dressmaker made my first ball gown to my own design. Back then, short ball gowns were as acceptable as long, so I my first gown was short; just below my knees.  It was a beautiful gown of ruby red satin. The sleeveless bodice, with its boat neckline at the front, had quite a low v-back, almost to waist level. 

I wore it to many balls.  All my friends did similar. None of us had the money to spend on a new gown for each ball!  We didn't care if our one gown served many balls!  After wearing my red dress to a few balls, I then  made a sheer red "coat" to add to the ensemble. Once I arrived at the balls, I removed the coat.  I made most of my own clothes back in those days.

I can’t say I felt like a fairy princess in the dress because it wasn’t frilly or flouncy. Froth or meringue was never my “thing”…not in clothing, anyway; they still aren't.  I felt more like Audrey Hepburn from “Roman Holiday” or “Sabrina”.

I loved my ruby red ball gown.

I was pretty cranky (read – “very cranky”) when a work-mate’s older sister decided to have a dress made along very similar lines for her to wear to the balls! 

It is said “imitation is the highest form of flattery”; oft times it can be the highest form of annoyance!

My next ball gown, which fell almost to the ground, was made by the same dressmaker who made my first gown. Again I felt like a million dollars in my second ball gown. It was the colour of pale apricot; the colour of (dry) custard powder. 

I had a ball attending balls; the pre-ball and post-ball parties were lots of fun, too!

Orange Frothy: Blend until smooth 1-1/2c fresh orange juice, ice, 2tbs vanilla yoghurt, 1tbs honey and 1tsp vanilla.  

Mint Meringues: Preheat oven 93C. Grease 2 baking trays. Beat 2 egg whites, 1/4tsp cream of tartar and 1/8th tsp salt until foamy. Add 1/2c sugar; beat on high speed until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form. Mix in 1/4tsp mint extract; gradually add 3 to 5 drops green food colouring to desired colour. Spoon meringue into piping bag; pipe into 1-1/2-inch puffs onto greased baking trays; sprinkle with green-coloured sugar, if you like. Bake 2 hours. Remove immediately from oven; and then trays; cool on wire racks.  

Meringues with Lemon Cream: Line 2 baking trays. Whisk on low speed 4 large egg whites and pinch salt, 1min; increase speed to medium; whisk 2-3mins or until stiff peaks form. Continue whisking while gradually adding 200g caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Using metal spoon, spoon free-form shapes onto trays; add a drop of pink colouring to each meringue; use skewer to gently swirl through meringue. Bake in 140C oven, 40-50mins; alternate trays after 20mins. Cool in oven with door slightly ajar. Stir150g lemon curd through whipped cream; serve with meringues.  

Yo-Yo Cookies: Whip16tbs butter and 1/2c icing sugar until light and creamy. Sift 1/2c custard powder, pinch of salt and 1-1/2c plain flour over the mixture; mix well. Form small balls; gently press with fork to form cookie shape. Arrange an inch apart on lined baking tray. Bake in 190C oven, 10-12mins. Cool on tray, 5mins; then on wire rack. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

WHEN YOUR NUMBER COMES UP….



http://alvey.com.au/fishing-information/beach-and-surf-fishing/
Alvey Reels, in my opinion, are the best reels for surf fishing.
You've Gotta Have Sole!
Map of Peregian Beach/Coolum Beach and Yaroomba


As far as my Lotto numbers are concerned one number once in a while bounces out of the barrel; most times, however, none escape. I think they take one look at me and leap back into the barrel!

On rare instances a couple of my numbers exuberantly pop up like toast out of a toaster, but all my numbers never come up in the one draw; not yet, anyway. I live in hope!  I might be the one who is toast!

Years ago I erroneously registered my numbers. You know…the usual…birthdays, street addresses, that sort of thing. It wasn’t a well-considered decision for anyone as superstitious as I am. In truth, I’m not overly superstitious, but I am when it comes to looking at the winning numbers when I’ve not placed an entry.  On such occasions I never check the winning numbers. What would be the point? It’d be my luck that would be the time all my numbers spun out of control, and spewed forth from the Lotto barrel; then I’d be the one spinning out of control! The agony would be too much to bear. Being the quavering coward I am, I’d rather not know. 

My sparse winning history is…

In 1979 I won $300 plus change. I spent my winnings on a new, you-beaut 12-foot surf rod for myself, along with an equally-new, you-beaut shiny side cast Alvey reel (both of which I no longer have). When in my possession the rod and reel served me well. They helped me catch a lot of fish…a lot!  On the scale of things, I mostly caught bream with a quite a few tailor, flathead, whiting and dart thrown into the esky for good measure; and then, on one bright early morn, to my surprise I landed a flounder when surf fishing at Yaroomba.

Yaroomba is about 3kms (1.8 miles) south of Coolum Beach.  After we left Brisbane to live and work on the coast back in early 1979, my husband and I lived at Coolum for the first six or so months until we bought our house at Sunshine Beach. Sunshine Beach is about 15kms (nine miles) further north of Coolum; close to Noosa Heads.

On the particular morning I refer to, my husband (now ex) and I had been surf fishing from around 4 am.  We were packing up, ready to head back home for hot showers and a hearty breakfast when I cast out my line for one last try while Randall, my husband gathered together our gear. I started to reel my line in, when, right at the water’s edge where the water was shallow, I felt something on the end of my line. At first I thought my hook and sinker were stuck in the sand as the waves were rushing back out to sea...but lo and behold….I’d picked up a nice-sized flounder, probably around 30cm, just as my rigged line was about to hit the shore. 

We enjoyed fresh flounder cooked gently in butter and lemon juice for breakfast that morning.  It was the first and only flounder I’ve ever caught.

The last time I won a semi-reasonable amount in Lotto was in 1985. Once again, my windfall was three hundred dollars plus change; and then, a couple of weeks later I won a similar amount.  

Back then $300.00 was nothing to scoff at; neither was it a bag of peanuts; it still isn’t.  A pattern formed for a brief moment in time. It became apparent I had something going for me with the number three, but it didn’t last. It fizzled out like a candle in the wind, and never reignited. My luck is no match for Fate. Since then I’ve only won the change; here and there; once in a while. 

In 1967 I won a chicken in a raffle; the first and only time I’ve ever done so. Chicken trays are safe when I’m around.  As for meat trays - I’ve never won a meat tray, either. And, of course, to keep my clean record, I’ve never won a seafood tray from a Lions Club or a Rotary Club raffle; or from any other raffle run by an organisation, for that matter. I wouldn’t want to be starving, would I? With my winning history, or lack thereof, I should be skeletal. Thank goodness I’m an adept hand at food shopping. 

I may have mentioned somewhere along the line that I won a mountain bike in 1994 when I was living and working in Townsville; but as there is only one hill in Townsville, Castle Hill, and the fact that I wasn’t, and still am not into bike riding I gave the bike to a friend, a local 4TO radio announcer, and asked him to give it away to a worthy child listener by whatever method he saw fit, leaving my name out of the play. 

It was a Coca-Cola competition. I bought a ticket when fueling my car at the service station down the road a bit from the restaurant in which I was cooking at the time.

From memory that’s about it as far as my winning streaks are concerned.  I can’t even win an argument these days. Things are bad.

Taking all of the above into account, I must be due for a big win soon.  Perhaps, it’d be easier to buy a bag of raw peanuts.  Some I’ll roast; others I’ll boil; and the rest I’ll eat raw. While watching the Lotto draw - one I’ve entered, of course, I can throw peanuts at the TV screen when my numbers don’t come up.

Eggplant-Peanut Salad: Peel 2 eggplants, about 700g each; cut in ½ to 1-inch cubes. Put in colander; salt liberally; set aside 30mins. Rinse, drain and dry cubes.  Heat 1/2tbs oil in large pan; sauté 2 onions, cut in ½-inch cubes, 1-2mins; add 2 chopped garlic cloves; cook 1min; remove from pan; add eggplant in one layer; add more oil if needed; cook 5-7mins. Remove while eggplant still holds shape, soft but not mushy. Whisk together 1/2c red wine vinegar and 1tbs Dijon mustard; slowly drizzle in 3/4c olive oil while whisking; continue until emulsified; stir in the still warm vegetables; cool; cover and chill. About 30mins before serving add 1/2c raisins (plumped in water 10-15mins, then drained), 1/2c halved or chopped peanuts, chopped fresh thyme, and/or basil or marjoram to taste.  

Nut-Crusted Salmon: Place rack on baking sheet; put salmon fillets on top of rack; drizzle with a little oil; gently rub it in; season lightly; set aside. Process 1/3c unsalted peanuts, 1/4c cashews, 2tbs breadcrumbs, 1-1/2tsp Dijon mustard, juice of ½ lemon and some fresh parsley; pulse a few times until coarse. With processor running, drizzle in about 2tbs olive oil. The mixture should remain somewhat coarse. Press mixture onto top of salmon fillets; press down; cook in preheated 204C oven, 20mins, or until tops are golden.  

Kale-Cabbage Peanut Salad: Combine thinly-sliced bunch of kale with 1c chopped red cabbage, 1 carrot, julienned, 2 thinly-sliced shallots, and ½c roasted or raw peanuts. Dressing; combine 2tbs rice or cider vinegar, 1tbs lime juice, 1tbs soy sauce, 1 minced garlic clove, 1tsp honey and pinch of chilli flakes. Slowly drizzle in 1/4c sesame oil while whisking; add to salad; mix well. Garnish with chopped peanuts. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ASSOCIATION BY ASSOCIATION - OR SO WORD HAS IT…



John Thaw aka "Inspector Morse"
Peter Falk aka "Columbo"
Barry Foster aka "Van Der Valk"...on right





My word! Who we associate with says a lot about us; and, in turn, about them, of course.  However, not having planted a bug I’m unable to tell you what is said about you, me or us. 

Please don’t go around sticking beetles on your friends. Arthropods are not the kind of bugs to which I refer.  If you do play around with bugs perhaps heed should be taken of the saying that goes something like this: “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas”. Where’s the advantage in doing so if that’s the result?

How silly!  And let's be honest here...it would be very unkind to infest your pets in such a way!

I'm not referring to the bug of the motorised kind - the Volkswagen “Beetle", either.

Gee! It bugs me when I’m misunderstood!

An exchange a friend and I shared a couple of weeks ago started me thinking about association.  Alright…an “associate”, if you insist on being pedantic. 

In a round about way my associate raised the subject of word association. She does it often, not the raising of the subject, but the practice of word association; the utilization thereof.  And it must be said, she often does go the round about route when telling a story; not dissimilar to what I’m doing at present!
Between you and me, she rarely gets it right. She always stuffs it up. I refer to word association, not the route she takes.

Frequently I drop subtle hints that she should give up trying. Her failures are far reater than her successes. Actually, my hints aren’t subtle in any way.  So, you see, I’m not talking behind her back. I tell it straight to her face…or in her ear when we chat via the phone.  We are best of friends, by the way…in case you’re wondering.  She will read this sometime or other. If I happen to go missing, please don’t link my absence my associate!

Our latest discussion proved, once again, word association doesn’t work for my friend.

I’m not sure how we got onto the topic of the late British actor John Thaw and his well-known, well-executed televised characterisation of author Colin Dexter’s “Inspector Morse”; but by the end of our conversation my facial cheeks were stretched and sore, not from remorse, but from laughter.

While on the subject of Thaw aka Morse word association, somehow, reared its fraternizing head.
My friend insisted Thaw also played the role of a detective in an Amsterdam-based TV series; my unswerving endeavour trying to convince her that this wasn’t so failed to quell or thaw her persistent, frozen insistence.

Before continuing I must point out here, without sounding like a big-headed, know-it-all, I am a bit of a Mistress of Useless Trivia, particularly when the subject strays onto movies, movie stars, television series, television actors, novels and their protagonists etc., et al.  It’s an unconscious idle, frivolous hobby I unconsciously stumbled upon when I was a kid; one that has stayed with me ever since.  I just can’t seem to shake it off. I have no desire to do so.  I enjoy playing with it!  And, in my defense, it also must be said that my friend frequently turns to me for answers to questions about such trivial subject matters.

During our telephone conversation the other day, impelled by an image in her mind, my friend upheld her argument. She stood her ground like a fierce Warrior Princess. Xena, eat your heart out! You would be no match for my associate when she’s on a roll about who played what role. And when it comes to putting both of us together, toe to toe,  Xena wouldn’t get a look in!

As our animated discussion continued I was in awe when Thaw magically morphed into Peter Falk, who, disguised as Columbo obviously must have left LA to do a stint in Amsterdam because my friend tossed Falk onto the plate for reasons known only to her. It made me baulk. All I could do was gawk at the phone and let my friend talk her way into more befuddlement.  I’d chalk it up to another example of muddled word association confusion.

A needless profusion of words; a diffusion of theories and suggestions floated back and forth as our discussion progressed. None made any sense. The preclusion of one idea didn’t automatically bring us closer to a satisfactory conclusion of our dilemma. All the while, my laughter bubbled and erupted, as did hers.  We became a lethal combination.

Of course, I found myself growing hoarse trying to explain to her that neither Morse nor Thaw had anything to do with whatever she was talking about. By that stage, she’d not only confused me, but herself as well. As a stubborn adversary she may be, I also can stand my ground until my feet are thaw - I mean sore!  I wasn’t going to melt into submission because I knew she was beating the wrong drum.

Two days later I received an email from said associate.  She’d remembered the mysterious TV series.  It had nothing to do with Thaw or Falk; Morse or Columbo. Our lengthy discussion had been just a pile of mumbo-jumbo. 

The show my friend was trying to recall at the time of our phone conversation was the British television series “Van Der Valk”. It starred English actor Barry Foster in the title role as the Dutch detective. The series was based mainly in and around Amsterdam.  The theme music from “Van Der Valk”; a melody otherwise known as “Eye Level”, became very popular in the early Seventies. Each time I heard the music (and, no doubt, when many others heard the music played on their radios) its association with the television series immediately sprung to mind.I suppose “Valk” could, at a squeeze, be associated with “Falk”, but only in the rhyming department. And of course, similar to Thaw playing Inspector Morse, Falk did play a homicide detective called “Columbo”, often with his arms held akimbo!

If pinch came to shove, I could be forced into admitting there was a similarity in appearance between Thaw aka Morse and Foster aka Van Der Valk; but that’s as far as I’m prepared to go!

It's patently apparent I don’t practice word association. Give me one good reason why I should.
My ex-husband practiced word association.  Much to his embarrassment, one day he discovered it was probably a better idea to give up such a foolhardy habit.  It was a moment of enlightenment!

We were living in Brisbane and, at the time, my husband was a real estate salesman employed by a real estate agency in the suburb of Toowong; a Brisbane suburb in which we also lived.  He dealt with properties in the popular Toowong area, as well as in the equally popular surrounding western suburbs of Brisbane.

During that period, prior to us leaving the city to live at the coast, he’d gained his real estate license. Soon after we settled into coastal living we began operating our own small agency from our home office at Sunshine Beach. 

Back in Brisbane…a wealthy client was due in town. My ex’s would-be client’s name was Mr. Trigger. The sole purpose of Mr. Trigger’s visit to Brisbane was to purchase a couple of investment properties in and around Toowong. 

To ensure he’d remember his new client’s name my ex employed his word association skills prior to their appointment. Everything was going to well-rehearsed plan until my then husband extended his hand in welcome to - “Mr. Gunn”.

Citrus & Spice Pan-Seared Fish: Pat dry 3x155g fish fillets. Combine 1/2c orange juice, juice of 1 lime, 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, 3tsp soy sauce, 1tbs brown sugar, 1/2tsp each paprika and cumin, 1/4ts black pepper and 2 finely-chopped garlic cloves. Add fillets; coat evenly; chill 30-60mins. Heat pan on med-high heat; add fish to pan; sear about 4mins per side; remove and set aside.  Add rest of marinade to pan; bring to boil; reduce. Serve over fillets. 

Green Peas & Roasted Carrots: Cut 6 large carrots into 5x1cm batons; toss in 1tsp olive oil; add 1tsp each lightly-toasted caraway and cumin seeds, 1/4tsp smoked paprika, 2tsp maple syrup, 10g thyme sprigs, salt and freshly-ground pepper. Transfer onto lined baking tray. Roast at 220C, 20-25mins, until caramelized; cool. Tip into bowl; discard thyme. Blanche 150g fresh/frozen peas; drain; dry; add to carrots with 1tbs freshly-squeezed lemon juice, 1tsp orange zest, 1tsp finely-chopped tarragon, 1/2tbs olive oil; season. Toss gently; just before serving stir through 40g pea shoots.  

Three Fruit Citrus Loaf: Grease and flour two loaf tins; line bases. Cream 1c room temp butter and 2c sugar until light and fluffy. At med-speed, add 4 x-large eggs, 1 at a time and 1/3c grated lime and orange zest. Sift together 3c plain flour, 1/2tsp each baking powder and baking soda and 1tsp salt. In bowl combine 1/4c each orange and lemon juice, 3/4c room-temp buttermilk and 1tsp vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixture to butter/eggs alternately; begin and end with flour. Divide between pans; bake at 175C, 45-60mins. Cook 1/2c sugar with 1/3 lemon juice in saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Spoon sauce over still warm cakes; then cool completely.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

FRITTERING IT ALL AWAY….ONE WAY OR THE OTHER...



Taken for my 16th birthday...November, 1960
From left - Me (Lee), Vicki and Evonne in Gympie..taken in July, 1965


I wasn’t entirely a Child of the Sixties. I had my fingers in a couple of pies; my feet through a couple of doors; I mixed in a few circles. 

As an aside, it must be drawn to the attention of many, the Sixties started at the last of the stroke of midnight, January 1st, 1960; long before The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Flower Children, psychedelic illusions, et al arrived on the scene.  Chubby Checker, Dion & The Belmonts, The Marvelettes, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, The Everly Brothers, The Beach Boys, Duane Eddy, The Champs, The Surfaris, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio, and so many, many more - too many to list here - beat them to the punch.

You see, to be more exact, to draw a clearer picture - I was a child of the Fifties who became a teenager shortly before the turn of the Sixties. Therefore, I was more a Teenager of the Sixties than a Child of the Sixties.

More precisely, I was a teenager for half of the Sixties; and then I became a “Twenty-Something” for the second half of the Sixties, and remained so into the early-to-mid Seventies...and so the pattern has continued through out the decades.  I'm a Child of the Half & Half! 

A few minutes have been frittered away figuring out the above calculations in my head, but I don’t consider it time wasted at all. It makes sense to me. However, if you’re confused by my nonsensical number-crunching and you’re now searching for an abacus, otherwise known as a counting frame, don’t be overly concerned because it really doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things. 

I’ll keep frittering away on my keyboard while you catch up – if, of course, you’re in any way interested working out the math.  If you’re not interested it really doesn’t matter. I won’t know unless you tell me otherwise.

Before I cease my frittering I must say I’m glad I was a child, teenager and twenty-something during the above-mentioned decades.  Those years had much to offer even if today’s technology wasn’t available at our fingertips.  For example, the great music that filled our airwaves; some of which is still being played and enjoyed today.  It’s been around almost as long as I have – and that’s a long time. And, of course, the youthful years it offered; as in how old I was at the time - or how young. I can't ignore the generous gift of being youthful in those decades. Quite a few decades have since flowed under the bridge or disappeared beyond the far horizons into the Never-Never; but myriad memories have remained.

Flippantly I could be accused of having frittered away this morning. A couple of hours were spent talking on the phone with a friend of long-standing. We've known each other since I was four years old...long before I became a half-Child of the Sixties.

However, I don’t call the time I've spent this morning talking on the phone, writing this post, playing with Remy and Shama, preparing my lunch as being time wasted or frittered.  Some could say I squandered my morning; but I don’t believe time spent catching up with good friends not often seen as being time frittered away.  

 Sure! There’s housework that needs my attention; but it’s not leaving home. It never does; it’ll still be here tomorrow, the next day and the following day. To be honest with you, I did fritter away a little time earlier sweeping the floor. How frivolous of me!

While on the subject of frittering - lately I’ve had a yearning for fritters. I know myself very well; once a seed has been planted in my mind, rather than fritter away time fighting against whatever the persistent yearning is - I refer to food yearnings - I prefer to allow myself to succumb to the enticing allure of the longing. 

Why torture myself? There are enough people in this world of ours who, every day, torture my sensibilities and my perception of fair play without me tormenting me.

When I was a little girl Sunday lunches were the most important, grandiose meal of the week.  My brother Graham and I attended Sunday School each Sunday morning.  To be honest, I think our minds were more on what was to follow, waiting for us at home upon our return, than on our lessons. We were always eager for the lessons to be over because we knew a delicious lunch was in store for us.  We ran home rather than walked - the trip between the Scots Church and home was always covered at a much faster pace and in less time than it took going from home to Sunday School.  We knew what awaited our arrival home - a delicious, special Sunday lunch.  We raced up the backstairs, two at a time, led by our noses.  Tantalising aromas wafting out from the kitchen teased and greeted us.  

If I sit quietly, letting myself drift back into years long gone by, I find myself being transported to those Sunday mornings…to those aromas and what they led to.  It’s not done by mirrors, but by the powerful magic of the mind.

The main feature of our Sunday lunch would be a chosen roast of some sort – beef, pork, lamb or veal, sometimes chicken (although chicken in those days was mostly preserved for Christmas lunch and Easter Sunday lunch) - accompanied by an enticing, wide variety of the obligatory roasted vegetables, often with a cheesy cauliflower au gratin as a side dish, and always fresh peas or green beans.

Of course, flavoursome “made-from-scratch” rich brown gravy graced our plates; as well as a jug of freshly-made mint sauce if lamb was the roast of the day. Homemade apple sauce always accompanied roast pork. 

The highlight, before actually sitting down to enjoy the meal was being allowed to make the gravy. Gravy might seem simple to make, but diligent care and skill were required to make perfect rich brown, lump-free gravy.   Gravy could make or break a meal; and to achieve “oohs” and “ahhs” about your gravy from your family members sitting around the table were rewards proudly received.

When our Sunday lunch didn’t consist of a roast of some kind, corned silverside or brisket cooked in an appetising stock of black peppercorns, cloves, vinegar, dry mustard and brown sugar was on the menu. Carrots, whole unpeeled onions and celery were added to boost the cooking liquid’s flavour.  A “boiled” lunch was enjoyed with gusto equal to that of a roast meal.

Shortly before the meat finished cooking, the vegetables planned to accompany the meal were added to the delicious stock. Also, cabbage – a must with a “boiled” lunch - was cooked separately in the corned beef liquid. The flavour permeated the meat and the assorted vegetables in the most delicious way.  

A white parsley sauce, or sometimes, a tasty cheese sauce, was served with the meal.

Without fail, Monday night’s dinner was always prepared from Sunday’s left-overs.

Often the main feature of Monday’s dinner was corned beef fritters; fritters packed with diced corned silverside, onion, tomatoes and corn.

Over the past few weeks or so, I’ve satisfied my fritter yearning by frittering away my time making fritters.  Not only did I make fritters each time the longing arise, I ate them, too!  

Oh! And I enjoyed them!

Delete from your mind the image of fritters soaked in and dripping with oil. The barest amount of oil, if any, in a non-stick pan suffices. You can throw anything into the fritter mix – within reason, of course - serve with a salad, or just as is.  If they’re made with whatever you can lay your hands on, little else is needed.  Just raid your vegetable crisper in your fridge and miracles will happen!

Artichoke, Feta and Lemon Fritters: Drain, rinse, and chop 2 cans artichoke hearts.
Combine 3 thinly-sliced leeks, 2 chopped shallots, 1tbs minced garlic and 1tbs extra-virgin olive oil in a frying pan; sauté until softened; add to artichokes. Stir in 1c flour, 1/4c breadcrumbs, 1/2c parmesan, 1/4c chopped parsley, 1/4c crumbled feta, black pepper, 1/2tsp Italian seasoning, zest and juice of 1 lemon; stir in 1 beaten egg; chill 1hr. Heat non-stick pan; add a little oil, if desired; add spoonfuls of fritter mixture; cook on both sides until cooked through; keep warm in oven while cooking remaining mixture. 

Spinach & Ricotta Fritters: Combine thoroughly, 500g fresh ricotta, 250g thawed, well-drained frozen spinach or 500g finely-sliced fresh spinach or silverbeet, 1c parmesan, 2 eggs, 6tbs plain flour and zest of 1 lemon. Heat non-stick pan; add a little oil. Ladle batter by tablespoon into pan; cook 2-3mins each side. Place fritters onto a paper-lined oven tray; place in 180C oven, 5-10mins. Serve with salad. 

Mixed vegetable Fritters: Make batter;  combine - 1/2c buttermilk (or milk) 2 eggs, 1.5c plain flour, 1.5tsp baking powder; add 2 grated zucchini, 2 small carrots, grated, 1c frozen corn, 1 diced tomato, sliced shallots, 1c frozen peas, chopped silverbeet/spinach, chopped parsley, 40g grated cheese and salt. Mix well. Heat a little oil in non-stick pan. Add spoonfuls of batter to pan; cook as previously described.  

Sweet & Spicy Banana Fritters: Mix 1/2c chickpea flour, 1/2tsp salt and 1tsp chilli powder; add enough water to make batter. Using 2c cut bananas, dip fruit into batter; fry in hot oil until golden

Thursday, August 07, 2014

CHAPTER TWO…. SWIMMING UP STREAM OR A FISH OUT OF WATER…OR BOTH



View from the main building...and me setting up a barbecue just out from the bar area...I've posted these photos previously


 
A newer model to the marine flashlight I had on the island


Warning: If some straight-forward, to-the-point words upset you (it’s nothing you don’t hear every day in TV shows or in movies or elsewhere)…my advice is for you to read no further…but this is a true story…and I’m telling it as it was….as it happened.


The majority of times Pushkin and Rimsky chose to stay well clear of my island guests.  They, my two furry rascals, spent most of their days and nights - those nights when they weren’t downstairs chatting with the white-tailed bush rats; the nights when no humans were present - upstairs in my living quarters. Both cats liked to stay within easy purr, miaow and reach to me. Sometimes Rimsky was known to sneak downstairs during the day.  A few times he’d lie curled up on shelf of a cane hutch against one of the walls in the dining/bar area.  The hutch held knick-knacks and books…and, at the odd time, Rimsky, (course of 'cos - my own private joke for those of you who don't get it)!  His presence usually went by unnoticed.  One day, a guest, in surprise, said to me she, at initial glance, had thought he was a ceramic work of art sitting on the shelf. Rimsky gave himself away when he stirred in his slumber. It was then she realised he wasn’t made out of clay!  He was a work of art, all right…but a furry, mobile, living one!

Both cats had ample room to move about, at will, upstairs. They also had access to the outside through the always open windows that faced towards the hill at the rear. However, they did prefer the indoors. Why lie on the ground where there were a couple of comfortable beds made up especially for them? 

The building had been constructed almost flush to the rise with only a fairly narrow gap between its outer wall and nature. Pushkin and Rimsky had their own personal, private au naturale ablutions’ block with, perhaps, only a koala passing by at infrequent intervals. Politely, they, the koalas, I’m sure, cast their eyes elsewhere when doing so. 

Of course, in the evenings when I set up the barbecue ready to cook a fresh seafood feast, Pushkin and Rimsky ventured downstairs. They would sit discreetly and patiently off to the side of the gas barbecue in the shadows, but close enough to be within easy reach as they waited for their fair share of what was on offer – a menu always filled with prawns, fish, oysters and crabs.  They manners were always perfect. What a life they had.  It’s little wonder they showed no interest in the bird life or the various animals wandering around our island paradise.  Why would my two furry rascals hunt for themselves, when fresh bounty from the ocean was regularly brought to their doorstep; when they had the trawler men do their hunting for them? Once they’d had their fill they scampered back upstairs and let the humans be.

Mostly the same group of trawlers called into the island after spending three to four weeks out at sea. They became my “regulars”; and they spent a lot of money over the bar after being so long at sea. I never had any trouble from them. I was always able to “nip it in the bud” if I noticed someone looking cross-eyed at another.

Sometimes, not often, a fishing-prawn trawler – a stranger to my shore paid a visit; not one of my regular boats, but rarely did that occur as far as the trawlers were concerned. Most of the faces and names were familiar to me.

The island was the last port of call for many of the trawlers before they returned to Mackay to off-load their catches. As I’ve written in previous posts I never paid for any seafood I received.  Our trading deals  – the exchanges between the trawlers and me – were conducted by the barter system…a carton of beer for a bucketful or two of prawns, fresh fish and/or oysters; or a bottle of bourbon, rum or scotch etc. etc, in other instances. I always had ample supplies of fresh seafood.  It was a very healthy existence…not only for my guests and me, but for Pushkin and Rimsky, too.       

One bright, sunny, clear blue sky day, along with a couple of other guests, a family of five came to stay on the island; a mother, father and their three children; the oldest of whom was a girl of around 14 years.  Her siblings were a couple of years younger.  The teenager was still very young for her years; an innocent. Developmentally she belied her years, mentally, but her body was blossoming into that of a young woman.  She was an attractive young girl who was at ease playing with her younger brothers.    

Earlier in the day I’d picked the family up from the boat ramp at Victor Creek and ferried them across to the island for the start of their three-day holiday.  Every member of the family was filled with excitement, particularly the three children.  Immediately upon arriving at Newry, I walked with them to their cabin so they could settle in. The kids hurriedly changed into their swimming togs; they were eager to get to the beach.  By the time I arrived back to the main building they were already on the beach, or in the water playing gaily. 

In the meantime a trawler had anchored up out in the channel between my island and Outer Newry Island. 

A little while later, the skipper along with a couple of his crew motored across to the resort.  I knew the skipper from his previous visits.  He was a quiet, well-mannered fellow.  With him on this particular visit he brought along his brother-in-law.  His brother-in-law was a temporary member of his crew.  The fellow had never been out on a trawler before, let alone for a three-week stint.  His brother-in-law was on holidays from his usual workplace and had decided it would be a good way to spend his time off – to help his wife’s brother on the trawler.

The children were still playing around on the beach and in the water, having a whale of a time. They were clearly enjoying a perfect day.   Their parents spent time wandering leisurely back and forth from their cabin, in between sitting on the foreshore relishing the balmy day as they talked between each other while watching their children at play.   

I wandered down to the beach…everything was under control up in the bar area.  No one needed my attention there.  For a while I'd noticed one of the crew from the trawler had been hanging around in the water, at about knee-high depth; near where the young lass was frolicking.  It was the brother-in-law of the skipper; the guy I’d not met before that morning.

Something about him caused the hairs on my back to stand on end, to coin a much-used phrase. An ominous feeling stirred in my gut – a warning.   I moved closer to the water’s edge, closer to where he was, to be within earshot.  I watched and listened awhile.  My antennae was up on high alert. It came time for me to make my move; to put a full stop to what he had in mind.  I believed in no time at all he would have persuaded the young girl to go for a walk with him…or for her to go for a walk, and he, just by accident or coincidence would catch up with her.  The scenario was so clear in my mind I could’ve written the script!

He was “grooming” the young 14 year old; and as I said, she was very young mentally for her years.  In her innocence she was lapping up his attention; his flattering, soft words. She giggled and squirmed. To me it was obvious she wasn’t used to receiving such attention.  She had no idea what he was up to; what evil thoughts he had in mind. 

He did…and so did I.   The young girl’s parents were unaware what was transpiring, and I wanted to keep it that way, if I could.  I’d handle it, my way.

There are a few things in this world I abhor.  Snakes are one of those things, but I abhor paedophiles - sexual predators even more.  I abhor domestic violence; but most of all, I abhor paedophiles...with vengeance.

Calmly wading through the water, I came to a standstill at the fellow’s left side.  He hardly noticed my presence.  After all, I was too old; and too smart to attract his attention.  Why, for goodness sake, would he notice me?

I said to him:  “I know what you’re doing.  I know what you’re up to.  I also know at this point in time the father of that young girl is unaware of your motives; your intentions, and I’d rather keep it that way if I can because I don’t want to have bloodshed on this island.”

He looked at me with a smug, half-smart ‘I-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about' look on his face.  His feigned innocence didn’t fool me. My instincts usually serve me well, and they were in perfect working order that day.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he responded. My skin crawled.

“Yes, you do. I suggest you leave this island right now; go back out to the trawler; stay there, and don’t come back. If you do, I won’t be held responsible for what I’ll do. I’m probably your worst nightmare…worse than that young girl’s father if he finds out.” I looked him squarely in the eye.

“Who do you think you are?” He sneered. “The police…”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, on this island I am the police.  I’m in charge, and what I say goes…so fuck off right now.  This is your last and only warning. Get off my island.  If you set even a toe back on this island, I’ll fucking well knock your head off.  You can be guaranteed of that!”

The timbre of my voice, my whole demeanour showed him I wasn’t fooling around. Without fuss or further argument from him, I escorted the despicable creature towards the dinghy in which he’d arrived to the island. In a quiet, but threatening voice, I ordered him to remain there; to not  move even a hair until I returned with the skipper. I was livid. Rage burned within me. I went up to the bar area where I took the skipper aside and quietly told him to take his new crew member off the island, and that, he, the skipper was welcome to return if he so wished, but in no way was the idiot he’d brought with him welcome. The skipper had been oblivious to what had gone on, as had everyone else.  At that point in time, I didn’t go into minute details. I wanted to keep a lid on everything.   

Once the problem was removed, I relaxed a little. However, I still kept a keen eye on the trawler anchored out in the channel.  It’s always good to be a couple of steps ahead of the game.

The children remained playing in the ocean and on the beach until their parents beckoned that it was time to return to their cabin for lunch and whatever other plans they’d made to fill the afternoon.  The tide was on its way out, so swimming wouldn’t be an afternoon pastime.  The tide went out a long way to the drop-off at the edge of the channel between the two islands.

A seafood barbecue was on the evening agenda. I’d finished preparation by late afternoon. Everything was ready for whenever my guests were.  Around dusk, shortly before 6 pm, daylight still lingered, but was fading.  My guests had not yet arrived to the main building, but I knew they were due at any minute.    

I looked out to sea…the tide was at its lowest.  I saw a dinghy, the tender from the trawler with one body aboard heading towards the island. My heart began to pound.  It felt like it was going to burst out of my chest.

On the island I had a heavy-duty marine flashlight, not dissimilar to the one pictured above. It was a necessity for island living. I always kept it within easy reach at the bar.  Grabbing the flashlight - I didn’t need it for light as there was still enough daylight for me to see clearly – it made for a good weapon if the need arose. In haste, I walked down to the beach. As I passed my little red dinghy that was securely tied to a tree on the foreshore, I picked up one of its oars. 

In one hand I had the oar; in the other I held the large flashlight.  Worthy weapons, I believed.  As I said the tide was well out. I had the mudflats to cross before I reached the water’s edge.  As I drew closer, I recognized who was in the dinghy.  I’d assumed correctly as soon as I’d noticed it coming towards the island – it was the fellow I’d banished earlier in the day.  He was coming back for a second shot. Some people never learn....

Over my dead body he was going to set foot on the island…but in the black mood I was in, the more likely scenario was it would be over his dead body.

I knew I had the advantage, even though the ground below me was soft, muddy sand, it was still “ground”, and both my feet were firmly planted on it.  He, on the other hand was at a disadvantage by being in the dinghy.  And for him to attempt to alight from it, a fair amount of uncertain, unsteady movement would be caused.

Just as he reached the water’s edge, simultaneously I reached the dinghy and him.   
He had a sneering, smirk on his face, but I soon wiped it off. 

“You don’t fucking listen, do you?” I said to him. “You’ve got shit for brains! I told you earlier you’re not welcome here. So, I’ll tell you again - one more time.  Turn this boat around, right now, and row back out to the trawler.  If you dare even make an attempt of getting out; if you dare set one fucking foot out of the boat, I’ll knock your fucking head off!  Don’t fool yourself, mate; don’t think that I won’t! Get the fuck out of here now, and don’t ever come back!”   

I was absolutely furious.  It’s not often I’ve felt anger like I felt at that moment.  It was a steely anger; a burning, and yet, cold rage.  I didn’t shake; I stood firm. I meant every word I said.  I had the upper hand.  If he’d made one movement, the slightest movement towards getting out of the dinghy I would’ve let fly with the oar. I was ready. The flashlight would’ve been quickly dropped to the ground, and with both my hands grasped tightly on the oar I would have struck out at his head with the full force of my being.  He would’ve been minus a head; either that or he would’ve ended up with a very sore, broken head.  And I would have given no apologies. I have no doubts whatsoever about what would have happened. 

From my words, my stance and the look on my face, he immediately had no doubts, either.  He knew I was serious.  It wasn’t a time for jokes.

I stood my ground. I didn't back off, nor did I take my eyes off him.  He turned and left, without even an attempt at rising, let alone setting a foot out of the boat. He went back from whence he came.

I waited at the water’s edge until he’d reached the trawler; tied up and climbed on board.  Then I returned to the resort’s main building.  By that time the few guests staying on the island had begun to meander down for pre-dinner drinks; the family included.  

Everyone was totally unaware what had occurred.  I intended to keep it that way.

The next morning the skipper of the trawler rowed across to the island to see me.  I told him what had transpired. He’d heard one side of the story.  It was my turn to tell him the other – the truth.  He listened without interrupting.  I said to him that he would continue to be welcome on the island, but his brother-in-law wasn’t; that he was never to bring him to the island again; and if he did, he, too, would be banned for as long as I was the manager of Newry Island.  The skipper apologised profusely for the behaviour of his brother-in-law. I just listened.  He never did bring his brother-in-law back to the island.  He never again had him as a member of his crew on the trawler.
    
The family had a wonderful, carefree, three-day holiday on the island; and left unaware of what could have transpired.  And that’s how I wanted it to be.

                                                                THE END