A Good Beginning Makes A Good Ending

Back when I was growing up in Williamstown there was little choice as to what footie team you barracked for; if you were born and raised in the working class western suburbs you barracked for Footscray. Fooyscray’s mascot was the British bulldog, and the boys were collectively known as the Doggies. I’ve forgotten the number of cold, dank, winter Saturday afternoons I stood on the sloped terraces in front of the grandstand at the Western Oval. I stood with the brotherhood of Doggie faithful; the air, thick with the perfume of meat pies and tomato sauce, and cigarette smoke and beer. We drank our beer, and cheered the boys on with affectionate obscenities and insulting encouragements. And we welcomed the last quarter with the tribal ritual of a pie in one hand, and a beer raised in the other; our salute to the sound of the siren that started the final onslaught. It was a penny to a quid that the four n twenty would be either hot enough to burn the roof of your mouth or on the cold side of warm.

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Not long ago I went back to the sacred ground. I thought about taking a couple of Melbourne Bitter long necks in a paper bag, or a thermos full of hot of tomato soup and some sandwiches wrapped in grease proof paper, but instead went empty handed. I stood in silence. The turnstiles were gone. The driveway we had walked along had gone. The scoreboard had gone. I stood in front of the metal statue of Ted, and remembered the times we barracked from the terraces; and now he stands at the entrance to where the boys no longer play. Back then it was the Western Oval, but we called it the kennel. It’s now the Whitten Oval, and the boys use it as their training ground; it’s main attractions are a souvenir shop, a childcare centre, and a conference and convention centre. The kennel had changed.

I didn’t want to change from being an Aussie. I went back to Australia every couple of years after I first moved to the US. I didn’t do tourist things; I stayed at mum’s place, spent time with aunts and cousins, and hung out with friends. I was back home living in Oz. It was before e-commerce; before you could buy genuine Australian foods online and have them delivered to your door. When I left to return to the US I’d stuff my bags full of Cherry Ripes, Violet Crumbles, Twisties, and Minties. I didn’t bring back hats emblazoned with kangaroos and koalas, T-shirts printed with G’day I’m an Aussie, or any plush Aussie animals and toys.

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I have always tried to keep in touch with what was happening back in Melbourne, and Australia. Years ago an aerogram or a letter from mum, stuffed with newspaper clippings of Footscray and Williamstown news, would arrive in the letter box every month or so. When ever I wrote to mum and reminisced about her sausage rolls, shortbread, pavlova, and meat pie her handwritten recipes for them would be in the next envelope in the letter box. I still have some of my favourite mum recipes.

When I lived in Springfield, Illinois, I’d spend an afternoon, every couple of weeks, in the library catching up on what’s happening in Melbourne three weeks ago by reading the most current copy of the The Age on the newspaper rack; it was a time before the internet.

As time went by the trips back to the The Lucky Country became every three to four years; and then even longer. When I left to return to the US I didn’t have to load up my suitcase with Cherry Ripes, Violet Crumbles, Twisties, and Minties because the Internet had arrived; I could go online and order all the Clinkers, Freddos, or Fantails I wanted. And my news and updates about what’s happening in Melbourne and Australia were now tomorrow’s headlines; I was reading the The Age, and ABC News online. A large selection of Australian foods that included sausage rolls, pasties, biscuits, jams and spreads, and other tastes of Oz were just a mouse click away, so I no longer asked mum for any of her recipes.

image source:huffingtonpost.com.au

YouTube evolved with the Internet and I watched the doggies playing their brand of footie sitting on a couch, instead of standing with the faithful on the sloped terraces in front of the grandstand; though I still saluted the boys with a few cold ones. I searched YouTube for the The Masters Apprentices, The Twilights, Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, Ronnie Burns, and other singers and groups I don’t remember, who performed at Berties, Sebastian’s, and the Thumpin Tum; Melbourne’s legendary live music discotheques of the sixties. And as I found the black and white tributes I sang once again, loud and out of key, to myself; when I looked up I would see the sea of umbrellas hanging from the ceiling of the Tum, and the velvet curtains and antique furniture of Berties. I would sit with Andrew Lambrainew in the front seat of his white Ford Fairlane, outside the Ormond Hall in Prahran, drinking from long necks to prepare our self for the music and girls of Opus. It seemed as if there was a mod and rockers street fight every second Saturday night; we would lock the car doors and watch the floundering fighters. And so we divided our Saturday night’s between Berties, Sebastian’s, the The Thumpin Tum, and Opus.

image source:radioinfo.com.au

And when I shouted the words of Let the Little Girl Dance in disharmony with Grantley Dee I was back standing on the esplanade at Williamstown Beach. If you looked through the large back window of the 3AK mobile studio broadcast caravan, you could watch, and listen to, the AK Good Guys Grantley Dee and Lionel Yorke playing the hits. During the summer holidays the AK Good Guys team did their radio shows live from popular Victorian beaches; when I wasn’t at the beach mum’s Bakelite kitchen wireless was tuned to 3AK.

YouTube also allowed me to watch Australian television shows of the sixties and seventies. I giggled once more at the double entendres and ad-libbing that was the staple of In Melbourne Tonight with Graham Kennedy, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Blankety Blanks, and the The Paul Hogan Show. It was like I was back in the Springfield library reading the newspapers from three weeks ago; but this time I was watching Australian television from forty years ago. I didn’t watch any current Australian television; I didn’t know what to search for. My Melbourne and Australian television YouTube watching was as up to date as my last visit back to the The Lucky Country.

image source:nfsa.gov.au

Over the years I slowly adopted American words and expressions at the expense of Australian sayings, phrases and words; I’ve tried to keep the Australian pronunciation of words that are common to both languages. On the first few visits back to the The Land Down Under I didn’t have an accent, but I had an accent in the US. I’m still told that I have an accent in the US, and now I have an accent in the The Land Down Under. I like to think that words roll off my tongue with a harmony of warmth and melodic foreign sounds.

Beechworth is a well preserved historical gold rush town in north east Victoria, Australia. Ian was dressed in period costume; waistcoat, faded black boots, low-slung belt, hat and moleskin trousers. His face was surrounded by long grey whiskers that resembled a mutton chop beard. He was our guide for our walking tour of Beechworth’s Historic and Cultural Precinct. The Precinct is made up of honey coloured granite buildings that were the home of the Superintendent of Police, Telegraph Station, Courthouse, Powder Magazine, and the Chinese Protector’s office.

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At the start of the tour Ian gathered our small group outside one of the heritage gold rush buildings to introduce himself, and for the group to introduce themselves. Ian heard me say I was from Nebraska in the United States, and from then on I was the yank. Ian regaled us with a blend of humour and facts, and when anybody answered a questions incorrectly he pretended to berate and mock the innocent drongo. I carefully constructed my answers to Ian’s questions around what I had learned in school about Victoria’s gold rush history; Ian was impressed with the yank. And Ian was further impressed with the yank when I reacted to an Ian joke, or risque question, with a response laced with my own humour. I chatted with Ian for a short time after the tour; he thought I was American and I never did tell him any different.

Tirau is about a forty minute dive from Rotorua. It’s a quaint New Zealand, North Island town and is known for the corrugated iron dog and sheep buildings on the main street. Across the road from the corrugations is the The Twisted Café. We stopped in for lunch at the The Twisted Café, and after I had chosen a slice of homemade egg and bacon pie I started chatting to the lady behind the counter.

image source:jmcadam

Lady behind the counter: Gidday where are ya from?
Me: (with swagger in my voice) G’Day; Australia, Melbourne
Lady behind the counter: Fair go bro, no you’re not; with a twang like that you can’t be from Melbourne eh
Me: (in a conciliatory tone) Yeah I’m from Melbourne; but I live in the US now
Lady behind the counter: I bloody knew it
Me: (concerned about driving to Rotorua) Think there’ll be rain today?
Lady behind the counter: (with a quizzical look) What do ya want to know about the marines?
Me: (with a charming smile) Cheers; hooroo

I don’t think many supporters wanted the Footscray Bulldogs to become the Western Bulldogs, or for the boys to move away from playing footie at the old home ground. I didn’t want to change from being an Aussie. I’ve now lived longer in the US than I did in Australia. A lot changes over time; I just don’t think you really notice it when you see it changing every day. The Aussie tradition I’m still holding onto is wearing shorts.

image source:jmcadam

I’ve worn shorts from when I first lived in Lincoln, Nebraska; way before you ever saw saw the United Parcel person or the postman in shorts. I still don’t wear a ball cap but I might start wearing a bright yellow Cricket Australia one with the Australian coat of arms on the front. I don’t think I’ve ever worn Australia on my sleeve so maybe I’ll wear it on my head.

After all that out of key loud singing my mouth feels like the bottom of a cocky’s cage; I think I’ll go out back and down a few neck oils.

 

Western Bulldogs

Australian Music 60s & 70s

Beechworth, Victoria

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You Get Out Of Something What You Breathe Into It

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Last year the forgotten memories of my travels through the circles of Industrial Chemist Hell were roused from the deep recess of my mind. Soon after boarding the Air New Zealand 777-300 I was nestled into my seat and tapping the seat back touchscreen; cycling through the hundreds of hours of movies and TV shows, hoping to find something that would entertain me for the next 13 hours. I kept coming back to Wonder Woman. I read, and reread the plot summary until I had it memorised; she was raised on a sheltered island and trained to become a warrior, and then the Amazon Princess, Diana Prince, discovers the endless war going on in the outside world. She embarks on a journey to end the war of all wars whilst discovering her true power as well.

And then I became lost in thought; how closely did my life follow Wonder Woman’s. I was raised in an idyllic age of innocence in the sheltered city of Williamstown and trained to become an Industrial Chemist; a scientist who mixes chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds. My white lab coat would be stained, and frayed with acid burns, after the second day on the job. I would be my own discovery team, and wallow in complex research projects. I discover the seventies, the world of change and uncertainty, and embark on a journey of discovery; searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary whilst uncovering my true self. The bumping of the approaching drink trolley distracted me from my ruminations.

My first job when I finished at Footscray Institute was as an Industrial Chemist at Spartan Paint’s West Footscray factory. The laboratory I was in didn’t have beakers, Bunsen burners, test tubes or any of the apparatus usually associated with a chemistry lab. It was a Process Control lab in which scaled down formulations of proposed automotive paints were mixed, and tested to assess if they met car makers’ specifications. The paints were tested for orange peeling, viscosity, flow, metallic solid suspension, natural and artificial weathering, and adhesion. To test for weathering a paint sample was sprayed onto small metal panels. Each day I took the small painted panels to the weather testing racks that were in a paddock over the road from the factory; I also collected the panels from the racks that were ready for lab testing.

image source:sheffieldmetals.com

As a Paint Scientist I collected samples when a truck load of paint solvents was delivered to the factory, and took the samples to the lab for quality control testing. I must have been a Paint Scientist for about nine months when I started thinking that there must be more to being a Paint Scientist than changing painted metal panels, and carrying solvent samples to the lab; when will I mix chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds, and invent new products. I started to find reasons to leave the lab and I would wander aimlessly through the different areas of the plant. I found myself stopping to talk to the lone worker in the solvent holding area. The air he breathed was thick with the smell of benzene derivatives, and organic ketones. There was no ventilation, and no one was required to wear protective clothing, or use a respirator. Every conversation I had with my solvent caretaker confidant was always interrupted by his constant sniffing of a folded scrap of material. One day he shared that he soaked scraps of material in different solvents; spending his days at work, and at home sniffing solvents.

image source:californiadetoxhelpline.com

I left Spartan Paints within the year; I never did develop new and improve products, or invent new automotive paint formulas.

My second job as an Industrial Chemist was in Process Control at The Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company. Olympic Tyre was also in West Footscray; across the railway line from Spartan Paints. Process Control tested and analysed the raw and process materials, and the finished tyres to ensure everything met Olympic’s standards and quality. I still remember the first time I saw the laboratory; beakers, flasks, measuring cylinders, condensers, and other lab glassware glistened in the stark laboratory light. And I thought how I wouldn’t be shackled to the mundane, routine, day to day testing of melting point, moisture volume, dry mass volume, percentage of heavy metals, tensile strength, density and refractive index of raw materials and different rubber mixes. I would be my own discovery team, creating new synthetic polymeric compounds, and reinventing the world of automobile tyres.

image source:jmcadam

I sat at a desk in a huge open area, upstairs from the lab. The desks were arranged in groups of four; a clerical worker sat facing me and another clerical worker sat alongside him, and my supervisor sat beside me. I was a Tyre Product Scientist. Twice a day I would go into the factory and collect samples of raw materials at the rubber mixing mills, and samples of batch rubber at the different mixing and extruder machines. The factory air was laden with the smell of sulphur and rubber, and the scent of polymers and monomers; it was dense with fine particles of suspended carbon and moist from the heat of the curing presses. It was the era before ear plugs, safety glasses and helmets, protective clothing, and respirators and ventilation. I took the samples to the Process Control lab for quality control testing. I sat at my desk between the morning and afternoon sample collection walkabouts reading trade magazines about the tyre manufacturing process; it was an era before the Internet. The days were a duplicate of each other, and after several months I started thinking that a Tyre Product Scientist has to do more that collect samples of raw and process materials, and carry samples to the lab; when will I create new synthetic polymeric compounds and reinvent the automobile tyre.

image source:buerolandschaft.net

I found other reasons to leave my desk and the trade magazines, and I wandered aimlessly through the different areas of the factory. The operators of the milling and extruding machines were dwarfed by their mechanical masters. It started with a slight wave and nod of the head as I was passing, and soon I was stopping for a short time; I watched in silence, spellbound as he became master of his tyre building machine. In perfect synchronisation with the moving drums, and levers and foot pedals, he reached for the different sheets of rubber; he layered the inner rubber, bead, sidewall, and tread. I watched him build Olympic tyres. My brief stops grew into long delays, but we only exchanged nods, and an occasional thumbs up; he didn’t speak English. We shared the smell of sulphur, antioxidants, and rubber, and breathed the damp, powdery carcinogenic air. I don’t remember his name. The days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months; I wandered the factory floor, stopping to watch in silence, the tyre builder. That afternoon was no different than any other; I left my desk tidy, hung my white lab coat in my locker, clocked out, and walked out of the Olympic building.

image source:pixabay

And for the next forty plus years I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking back to when I wanted to be a scientist who mixed chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds; a scientist whose white lab coat would be stained, and frayed with acid burns after the second day on the job, and who would be his own discovery team and wallow in complex research projects.

I was so immersed in Wonder Woman that the bumping of the approaching meal trolley didn’t even distract me from the colour and movement on the seat back touchscreen. We had just arrived at Dr. Poison’s lab. The disfigured, diabolical chemist was pioneering a deadly new form of toxic mustard gas; it couldn’t be stopped by protective masks. And my forgotten memories came flooding back. I was the scientist who was going to mix chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds; my lab coat was going to be stained and frayed with acid burns. I had inhaled air laden with biohazadeous pollutants and powdery granular particles of synthetic compounds. I had breathed air dank with the heavy mist of evaporated ketones, aldehydes, and benzene derivatives. I pushed pause, and was soon in deep thoughts about Dr. Poison’s facial prosthetics; had she suffered a severe injury from inhaling toxic, radioactive chemicals, or had she just made a dreadful mistake when mixing chemicals in her lab.

image source:screenrant.com

I wondered if two years of continuously breathing toxic air could cause tissue or cell damage and if your body heat, and the natural pressures inside your brain, could cause a catalytic polymerisation reaction of contaminates transferred to the blood in your lungs, causing them to become biocellular regenerative reactant. If that was the case then the lungs would be able to hold incredible amounts of air; was I able to hold my breath for hours, able to breathe out massive gusts of air to create gale force winds, and suck in air to generate vortexes. On the seat back touchscreen the mind boggling, computer generated, green screen digital finale of Wonder Woman was unfolding.

The one thing I took with me from the years studying chemistry at Footscray Institute was to live life according to the scientific principle; observe, create a hypothesis, and experiment to test your theory. I had to test my biocellular regenerative reactant hypothesis. I needed a controlled environment with calibrated instruments to measure my breath flow and lung capacity. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Two weeks later we were confronted by bright flashing lights and arrows, and a line of waving torches escorting cars into a corridor of cones; a booze bus stop. The police woman politely explained that I was about to undergo a random alcohol breath test; she was going to request a sample of the air in my lungs to determine the concentration of alcohol in my body.

image source:scramsystems.com

Police Woman: Sir, please take a deep breath and blow into the mouthpiece.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (questioning the reading on the calibrated breathalyser and replacing the mouthpiece) Sir, would you mind taking another deep breath and blow again.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (after looking at the second reading; with a puzzled looked, and replacing the mouthpiece) Sorry sir, but it doesn’t seem to be working correctly; would you mind blowing into the mouthpiece again.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (quizzically looking at the reading on the calibrated breathalyser; conferring with another team member and replacing the mouthpiece) Sir, we’ll give it one more try; I’ve never seen this before, a deep breath, sir.
Me: (after taking an incredible deep breath and with a knowing smile) No worries.
Police Woman: (after checking the calibrated breathalyser) It just doesn’t seem to be working properly; thank you sir for your cooperation; have a wonderful evening, or what’s left of it.
Me: No worries, see ya.

As I drove out through the cones and onto Westgate Bridge’s Williamstown Road Yarraville on ramp I smiled, and repeated several times; observe, create a hypothesis, and experiment to test your theory.

I think I’ll start blowing up a balloons with my nose. Sureshgaur from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India claimed the record of 10.62 seconds in 2014 for the fastest time of blowing up a balloon with your nose before it bursts; it shouldn’t be a problem to crush Sureshgaur’s record.

image source:jmcadam

 

Olympic Tyre & Rubber Co.

Victoria Police Fake Alcohol Breath Test

The Origins Of Wonder Woman

You Can Only See The Change From The Footpath

I went back to Australia every couple of years after I first moved to the US. As time went by the trips back to the The Lucky Country became every three to four years; and then they grew even longer. The last two trips back Down Under were in 2016 and 2017. Whenever I went back I would walk the streets of Newport and Williamstown; the streets I walked and bicycled as a young boy and teenager. And whenever I walked those streets I saw my gentrified memories. At first the changes in the houses and shops were subtle. The Victorian and Edwardian houses, and the 1920’s and 30’s weatherboard houses that lined both sides of the street where I once lived were slowly being renovated and refurbished. The charm of Williamstown and Newport was being discovered; the homes of the working class were selling for a million to two million plus dollars.

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Just over six months ago I stood on the corner of Williamstown’s Stevedore Street and Douglas Parade and stared; Burke’s had been refurbished into six shops. The emporium had been at the corner since 1926; I was intimidated by it as a young boy. I wouldn’t go into the shop without mum. Burke’s sold men’s and women’s clothing, haberdasheries, bedding, linens, curtains, and everything else. Inside the shop a wooden floor separated the glass display counters of the different departments; and each department had a shopping assistant, ready to serve, waiting behind their glass display counter. It was all so polite and formal; except for the tangle of overhead cables, and the small metal cylinders flying back and forth along the cables. I was mesmerised by the cylinders, and fantasised I was watching Squadron Commander James Bigglesworth bank and roll his Sopwith Camel in the skies over WWI Europe. I would stand spellbound, and my eyes would follow the whistling sound of the cylinders as they sped along the cable; a clunking sound announced their arrival at their destination. The cylinders carried money from the different departments in the shop to a raised central cashier’s booth. After an assistant made a sale the customer’s payment, and the docket were put into a cylinder, and it was attached onto a two wheel carrier hanging from the cable. The assistant pulled a cord and the cylinder was launched along the cable to the cashier’s booth; the cashier put the receipt and change back into the cylinder, and sent it back to the department.

image source:notechmagazine.com

As I ambled along Douglas Parade towards the corner of Douglas Parade and Ferguson Street I started to think about the shoe shop that was once there; it had an upright X Ray machine in the doorway. The machine displayed an eerie image of bones, and a faint outline of your foot on a florescent screen. The shoe salespeople asked customers to put one of their feet into the machine so they could get an exact measurement of the size of their foot. There wasn’t a youngster in Williamstown who cared about the size of their foot; but we were all fascinated by the X Ray shoe fitter machine. We all crossed over the street whenever we came close to the Douglas Parade and Ferguson Street corner so we would be on the same side of the street as the machine. It was hard not to run as you got close to the X Ray shoe fitter machine. And then the moment came; you pushed your feet into and then out, then sideways, and then both together, into the opening of the machine. Back then we were innocent about electromagnetic radiation; we stared at the eerie florescent images on the screen as we moved and turned our feet. I wonder if that’s why my big toes are bent; and why my second toes have large bends in the middle joint. The shoe shop is now a real estate shop; auctioning what was once the homes of the working class for a million to two million plus dollars.

image source:google maps

Just as I had paused outside of Burke’s emporium I now hesitated on the footpath in front of Patterson’s furniture shop; there were no televisions in the window. Patterson’s is at the bottom end of Ferguson Street; just before the Cenotaph, and the Nelson Place and Strand intersection. The windows always displayed lounge and bedroom furniture, lighting, decor accessories, and the most up to date electrical goods and appliances of the fifties and early sixties. I watched television for the first time from the footpath outside Pattersons windows. I squinted at the small black and white television set showing the 1956 Olympic Games; all of us on the footpath wondered how it was possible to watch the Golden Girl Betty Cuthbert, Dawn Fraser, and Murray Rose when they were competing at the MCG and the swimming stadium. When the Olympics were not being broadcast we watched a black and white test pattern image, and sometimes black and white static; the footpath was a congested, crowded place. I never thought that staring at a screen that gave off some type of unknown electomagnetic radiation could cause my eyes to melt.

image source:commercialrealestate.com.au

And now, the windows that once bedazzled us with all that was new in the fifties and sixties were separate shops; the Yambuki Japanese restaurant, an Ella Bache skin therapy day spa, Cocoa Latte, H&R Block, and the YN alterations and clothing repair shop. I squinted at a verandah sign peering out from behind the Ella Bache’s skin therapy day spa sign; staring just as I did years ago when I stood in front of Patterson’s windows. And I wondered; what’s an organic dry cleaner. What would an organic dry cleaner dry clean. Would you take spandex bicycle shorts to an organic dry cleaner. And could you use an organic dry cleaner if the stains on your clothes were just conventional food residue.

The organic dry cleaner’s window featured a display of old Singer sewing machines. Mum had a Singer. She worked as a seamstress before she married dad and was an incredible sewer. Mum could make anything. She made my first grown up clothes; I was maturing into a teenager when she sewed my new blue blazer, and grey long trousers. They were about twice the size they should have been; they were made to grow into. I soon learnt that the organic dry cleaner’s did more than sewing, cleaning was their business; dry cleaning, and cleaning leather and suede, pram and baby seats, and rugs. They cleaned everything with an environmentally friendly, and chemical free service; and they used state of the art dry to dry technology which insulated fabrics from damage that water usually caused.

image source:slv.vic.gov.au

Mum never talked about water causing damage to our clothes; maybe the water was different back then. When our combined bathroom, mum’s washing room, was remodelled, mum’s copper was replaced with a washing machine with a clothes wringer, the cement wash troughs were switched over to brushed metal, and a briquette water heater was added to provide the kitchen and bathroom with running hot water. Even though mum now had running hot water to her wash troughs, and a washing machine with a wringer, her washing process stayed the same; soak the clothes for at least a day in cold water in the troughs but instead of boiling them in the copper throw them into the washing machine with Lux or Velvet, and then rinse and wring out twice to get rid of the soapy water before hanging everything on the rotary clothes hoist in the backyard. Mum used a bucket to carry the water from the one day soaking to water her passion fruit vine, and other assortment of flowering plants growing in the backyard; and that was her environmentally friendly, and chemical free process of washing clothes.

image source:jmcadam

At least three Australian fashion brands are now offering sustainable produced, non toxic, organic sleepwear, leisurewear, and underpants; all garments are made from GOTS certified cotton, where no toxic chemicals are used when it is spun, woven and dyed. Maybe there is a need for organic dry cleaners; there should be somewhere to take your stained organic knickers to get them cleaned. But then again, if Lux can get a load of nappies spotless there should be no worries with a few stained grundies.

Mum’s washing days were always Monday and Thursday; Friday was her grocery shopping day. She bought her meat from three different butcher shops. The windows of the shops displayed neatly arranged metal trays of sausages, mince meat, chops, cutlets, tripe, kidney, tongue, rabbit, and rissoles. The butchers served mum by scooping her order from the trays in the window, weighing it on the counter scale, and then wrapping each order in several sheets of white butchers paper; there wasn’t a polystyrene tray, shrink film, or vacuum pouch in sight. And the butchers wouldn’t be seen dead wearing a hair net, and their hands wouldn’t come within cooee of a pair of vinyl gloves.

image source:jmcadam

The sign on the footpath outside the butchers seduced me into the shop. There wasn’t a hint of sawdust on the floor; the butcher was dressed in a denim bib apron with rope straps, and was wearing a pork pie hat. The apron was detailed with a front statement pocket, and was protecting a black gingham check shirt.

Me: G’day mate
Butcher: G’day mate; before ya order let me get the missus out here so you can meet patty; just a little butcher’s joke, what can I do for ya
Me: I saw your sign on the footpath; what’s biodynamic lamb
Butcher: Ya heard of organic farming mate; biodynamics takes it a step further; it’s traditional farming that uses the universal cosmic forces in the environment
Me: Fair suck of the sav mate
Butcher: Na, fair dinkum mate, it uses the natural life forces
Me: (thinking to oneself) He’s gotta have a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock
Butcher: The healthful energies mate
Me:No worries mate; I’ll see ya later
Me: What do ya call a cow with no legs
Me: Ground beef; cheers
Butcher: I think I’ll use that one, see ya

I don’t think mum would have ever put biodynamic cutlets or tripe on a plate and served it to us. When I thought about the changes to the Ferguson Street shops, I wondered how long it would be before a biodynamic dry cleaner opened; where else would you get a shirt cleaned after you dropped a piece of biodynamic cutlet smothered in mustard cream sauce down the front of you.

Perhaps I was too spellbound by the small metal tubes flying back and forth along the maze of overhead cables, but I don’t remember ever seeing anything close to biodynamic organic underpants made from Global Organic Textile Standard certified organic cotton, at Burke’s emporium; a Chesty Bond singlet and Y front undies was as good as it got. I think Chesty Y fronts have morphed into Guyfront Trunks; which just goes to prove that whatever happened will change into something else.

 

Cripes! Biggles Was Real

Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope

The Melbourne 1956 Games

If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing Then You’ll Do Something Else

I remember when you went to a travel agent to plan your holidays. After meeting with the agent, and talking about your holiday, you would leave with a handshake and a firm assurance of see you next week. Next week the agent, as you sat facing them, would open your travel documents folder and slide each document across their desk; it was upside down to them but facing you. They would explain your itinerary while unfolding a collection of three-fold brochures; local events and tourist attractions at each town, and day side-trips and excursions. They would have made overnight accommodation reservations, which always included a cooked breakfast, at holiday friendly hotels and motels, or booked you into a caravan park or a holiday flat. And then with a flourish, the agent would produce from the drawer in their desk your railway or airline tickets. Even though the jet age had arrived in Australia most Australians still took the train to their holiday destination; but they were starting to take to the road. Australia was falling in love with it’s own car; the Holden was the king of the road. Family holidays were becoming long road trips with a caravan in tow, and mum sitting in the front seat next to dad.

image source:photobucket

I don’t remember mum and dad going to a travel agent for our holiday road trips to Sydney, Surfers Paradise, Canberra, and what must have been all of Victoria’s country towns. But I don’t think mum would have agreed to these holidays if she didn’t know where we were going to stay and how we were getting there. Dad was the one who wouldn’t have wanted any planning; but he must have gone into the city headquarters of the RACV and picked up road maps and pamphlets on the best routes to take and the condition of the roads, brochures on scenic attractions, leaflets about hotels that catered to the motorist, and handouts on the leading caravan parks and camping grounds. As a member of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria you felt a sense of eminence and entitlement; it was as if our holidays had been approved by Her Royal Majesty. Dad drove the old Princess Highway to Sydney. I only remember the huge open pits of the SEC’s coal mines at Moe and Yallourn, stopping in Lakes Entrance, and the Jenolan Caves and Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains.

image source:sydneyaffairs.com

The only planning I did when I went searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary was to buy a ticket for a berth in tourist class, below the water line, on Lloyd Triestino’s Galileo Galilei, and for the second quest an economy class ticket on Thai Airways. The journey to the US was done with the same amount of planning; a stuffed Adidas gym bag and a Qantas economy class ticket. In the last thirty plus years travelling to Australia, United Kingdom, and throughout the US has been for holidays; and for most of these trips, accommodation, car rental, places to visit, and the sights to see have been decided on before the journeys. Some say that planning the itinerary is part of the holiday. However, I don’t think the planning should be so detailed and absolute that it forbids any spur of the moment detours or flexibility.

On the most recent trip to the The Land Down Under we had planned to stop over in the North Island of New Zealand for a little over a week, and then head off to Melbourne and an Airbnb in Albert Park. We had reserved a rental car for the first week in Melbourne so as to meander around the Mornington Peninsula wineries, drive to Castlemaine, and then rekindle faded memories by cruising some of the Melbourne suburbs that we used to haunt. The itinerary also included a couple of walking tours, high teas, and building tours. Sometime during the holiday we were going to visit my brother and cousin Peter. We phoned my cousin when we arrived in Melbourne, and on the spur of the moment invited him on our day trip to Castlemaine; and so we headed off to the historic goldfields area of Victoria. On the drive back we spontaneously suggested we call on him next week for vanilla slices and cups of tea.

image source:pixabay

My cousin Peter has lived in Moonee Ponds for over thirty years. I remember when he bought the flat; we thought he had a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock. Moonee Ponds was just Moonee Ponds; a nondescript inner suburb of Melbourne bordered by Braybrook, Maidstone, Brunswick, and Essendon. Back then, anywhere past Footscray was off limits for a Williamstown boy. Besides, Essendon was the home of the bombers; the rough and tough football team of the seventies. The only supporters of the bombers were those that lived within the shadow of Windy Hill; and if you were a true sons of the scray you hated Essendon. Edna Everidge also lived in Moonee Ponds. Edna is a character created by Australian satirist Barry Humpheries; originally a drab Melbourne housewife satirising suburbia. Edna is now a Dame, and is known for her lilac coloured wisteria hair and cat eye glasses. Her favourite flower is the gladiolus or gladdie, and she greets everyone with an affectionate Hello, Possums.

image source:skmcadam

After catching the train to Moonee Ponds we station met Peter at the Rusty Duck. Just as we finished our flat whites and latte, Peter in a casual way, suggested a walk to Queens Park. He guided us along, and through streets lined with well maintained nature strips and Federation style brick and weatherboard houses. And we crossed the traffic busy, tree lined Mt Alexander Road into Queens Park. We aimlessly meandered along the winding gravel pathways, across grassways, and around huge shady trees; past the rose and sunken gardens, around the swimming pool and the restored curator cottage that is now a café, and skirted the bowling club and lake. Queens Park was laid out to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee. The original swamp that became the park was a camp site for gold seekers heading to Victoria’s newly discovered Castlemaine gold fields on their first night out of Melbourne; and explorers Burke and Wills used it for their first camp on their ill fated expedition. Today you can hop on board the #59 Airport West-Flinders Street Station City tram and it will take you right past Queens Park. Before leaving Moonee Ponds you shouldn’t forego the opportunity for a self guided viewing tour of the peds migrating to Queens Park; you’ll be amazed by this magical procession, but will need to refrain from using camera flashes. I imagine it’s only a matter of time before they build an elevated wooden viewing stand.

image source:jmcadam

And I had always thought Moonee Ponds was just Moonee Ponds; a nondescript inner suburb of Melbourne.

On the way back to Peter’s flat we made an impromptu stop at a Puckle Street cake shop for lamingtons and vanilla slices, and a spur of the moment pie and sauce. The kettle was soon boiling and my taste buds were reunited with the heavenly taste of the vanilla slice. It must have been the pleasurable encounter with the vanilla slice that caused Peter to make the off the cuff suggestion of watching Cinerama. As he fished around for the DVD we reminisced, and tested our memories about Melbourne’s first Cinerama theatre; the Plaza was underneath the Regent Theatre and  Cinerama was installed in the late fifties. Peter soon found the DVD and the travelogue style Cinerama Holiday on the big screen TV caused joyous gushings of Todd AO, 3 projectors, glorious technicolour and stereophonic sound, curved screen; and the point of view bobsled ride produced murmurs of; it’s just like 3-D, just like you were there. And that gave rise to Peter spontaneously finding 3-D glasses, and swapping the Cinerama Holiday DVD with MGM’s 3-D colour musical Kiss Me Kate; starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, and Ann Miller.

image source:jmcadam

I sat spell bound on the couch, that at one time had resting on it the doilies from Prince Charles’s and Diana’s seats when they visited a Hoyts theatre in Melbourne. The sizzling Ann Miller spent time dancing on Fred Graham’s coffee table and throwing her chiffon scarf at the audience, and tap dancing in front of the three-fold mirror in Fred’s apartment; Too Darn Hot doesn’t advance or contribute to the plot, but it was great 3D.

It’s strange how the unplanned guides you with unexpected, but connected surprises. A few days after savouring Cinerama and 3-D at Peter’s we did an off the top of the head visit to the Melbourne Aquarium; my brother’s grandchildren prompted this free spirited decision. It was easy to forget about the aquatic animals, the mysterious stingrays and jellyfish, and seahorses, because there was the fully immersive, eye popping, high energy nine minute 4-D movie Ice Age: No Time For Nuts. Scrat, a nut crazed sabre toothed tiger battles a wonky time machine that has zapped his beloved nut. Now that’s a story line. The 3-D projection is combined with vibrating seats, water spray, snow falling, and strobe lights. The little ones really enjoyed the experience but I think it could have been enhanced with a 3-D Ann Miller dance routine from MGM’s Deep In My Heart.

image source:giphy.com

And when I think back and remember the highlights, and experiences of that recent time in the The Land Down Under and New Zealand I wonder if

  • an Art Deco dining experience at the 1932 Café and Restaurant in the Manchester Unity Building and then a formal guided tour of the building
  • a traditional high tea of freshly baked scones with jam and cream, exquisite pastries and finger sandwiches served on tiered stands, and freshly brewed tea at the Strangers Corridor restaurant in Parliament House of Victoria
  • being immersed in the history of Australian art by the The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia collection; it includes photography, prints and drawings, fashion and textiles, decorative arts from the colonial period and the Heidelberg School, through to the present day
  • sipping a chilled glass of white wine at the Pt Leo Estate on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula; a winery, restaurant and sculpture park with stunning views of Western Port Bay and a distant Phillip Island
  • strolling through eclectic St Kilda; home of Luna Park, the Victorian Heritage Register St Kilda pier, fine dining restaurants and old European cake shops, the Esplanade Market, and the colony of little penguins

or if taking in the lawn bowls at the Moonee Ponds Bowling Club in Queens Park, and watching Kiss Me Kate in 3-D will be the keepsake memories. I should put aside some random time in the next few weeks to start planning a spur of the moment trip to somewhere; I wonder if you can watch 3-D films in Liechtenstein.

 

Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

Kiss Me Kate

Queens Park

I’ll Have The Takeaway To Go

Every time I wear an oversize pair of lobster claws I start thinking about crayfish stacked in neat rows in a fish shop window. Growing up I didn’t know about lobsters; only crayfish and yabbies. I remember going yabbing a couple of times; it must have been in my late teens and with a few mates. We had driven somewhere into the near bush just outside of Melbourne to find a fresh water stream. How to catch yabbies is just something you grow up instinctively knowing how to do; the same as you know what brussel sprouts taste like, that rain will make you wet, and kangaroos can’t walk backwards.

image source:jmcadam

I found the most successful method for yabbing to be:

  • Crack open a VB
  • Tie a piece of meat to a few feet of string
  • Tie one end of the string to a stick and push the stick into the bank
  • Throw the end of the string with the meat into the water
  • Crack open another VB
  • Wait until the string pulls tight; a yabby has grabbed the meat in it’s claws and is trying to make off with it
  • Crack open one more VB
  • Pull the string slowly back to the bank
  • When you can just reach the meat and the yabby scoop them out of the water with a net; or use a shoe box or anything from the car boot that can be used as a scoop
  • Crack open yet another VB
  • Repeat the above

Most times you’d buy a fresh cray to cook at home in a pot of boiling water, or to save yourself some work a red coloured cooked one, from the fish and chip shop. I didn’t eat a lot of cray; If I had to I’d crack open the claws for bits of fresh white meat. I never sucked the head to savour what some people claimed was the most moist and flavourful of the cray. I don’t think crayfish have a brain so I don’t really know what you’d be sucking out of the head when you did the head suck; probably chunks of crayfish fatty gel stuff that’s been spiced up with the seasoning’s from the boiling water used to cook the cray.

image source:pixabay

Even though Australia was introduced to a new range of smells, tastes and ingredients at the end of the Second World War by Italian, Greek, Turkish and Lebanese immigrants it took time for these new ethnic cuisines to transform Australian restaurants, and culinary traditions. Instead, it seemed as if every fruit shop, milk bar, and fish and chip shop was owned by a Greek, Turkish or Lebanese family. And the Italian immigrants opened pizza shops. Australian takeaway was transformed; it became more than a pie and sauce. Takeaway fish and chips became a Friday night treat when we were growing up. Dad would drive to the fish and chip shop in Melbourne Road and come back with a newspaper wrapped parcel; the newspapers were moist with the frier fat from the fish and chips, and potato cakes, that had soaked through the papers.

image source:foodandtravelfun.com

Newport’s Melbourne Road also had a pizza shop. Back then pizzas were exotic and mysterious; and the names only added to their mystic. I remember the Capricciosa and Neapolitan; we only ordered what we knew. The Capricciosa came with tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, mushroom, and diced olives, but sometimes you would ask for no olives. And the Neapolitan was tomato paste, cheese, mushrooms, chopped olives, and anchovies, but you never ate the anchovies. The backup pizza was the Capri; tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, and mushroom. And then the Italian pizza shop owners started to make the Hawaiian; tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, and pineapple. I don’t think mum liked pizza. At first we didn’t have it as a Friday night treat; but as teenagers it was not uncommon to see a Capricciosa on the kitchen table.

I grew up with fish and chips and pizza as takeaways, and the pie and sauce from the corner milk bar or cake shop. I don’t count the Chinese shop in Williamstown’s Nelson Place as a take away. It was a sit down restaurant, but you could take your own saucepan into the shop and have it filled with your own takeaway. People would queue up on Friday nights for a saucepan full of their favourite takeaway Chinese food; sweet and sour pork, chop suey, or fried rice. The Chinese was also a great stop after a Saturday of consuming ice colds with the mates for a takeaway bag of steamed dimmies.

image source:deanoworldtravels.wordpress.com

There’s a lot I don’t remember from the sixties and seventies but I do remember the first McDonalds that opened in Melbourne’s Swanston Street. Macca’s had been building a presence in Melbourne’s suburbs since the early seventies, but the opening of an overseas takeaway shop in the centre of the city caused the next transformation of the takeway. A few years ago when I was back holidaying in Melbourne it seemed as if I came across an American fast food shop with every step I took, every corner that I turned, and every outing down a suburban street; Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King) and Subway were everywhere. I could have been in any main street USA. Last year when I was back in Melbourne the Americanisation of the Australian takeaway was all but complete. Not only was Krispy Kreme, TGI Fridays, Dunkin Donuts, Mrs. Fields, Gloria Jeans, Starbuck’s, and the Outback Steakhouse now on every second corner but most of the fast food shops had added a drive through and a playground for the little ones, and had introduced extended open hours. Seven Eleven was also on every third corner; each with an over supply of cellophane wrapped, tasty, corporate takeaway meat pies, pasties, and sausage rolls.

image source:facebook.com

The Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Australia have dropped some of the exaggerated, pseudo Australianisms that you come across in the American franchises; you’re not going to find a kookaburra wings party platter, Aussie cheese fries, or Alice Springs Chicken and Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp on the Down Under menu. The American Outback Steakhouses promote the Alice Springs Chicken and Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp as an 8 oz wood fired grilled chicken, topped with sauteed mushrooms, crisp bacon, melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and Honey Mustard Sauce, paired with shrimp that are hand dipped in batter, rolled in coconut and fried until golden. And it’s served with Aussie Fries.

Alice Springs is a remote outback Northern Territory town, rich with Australian pioneering history and culture, halfway between Darwin and Adelaide; it’s surrounded by red dirt and mountain ranges. You’re not going to find a lot of plump chickens or mushrooms around Alice; instead you’ll find bush tucker. Outback Steakhouse could easily introduce genuine Australian menu selections, table service, and takeaway traditions into it’s 1,000 plus worldwide restaurants. I would ditch the Alice Springs Chicken and replace it with a selection of either kangaroo fillet, crocodile patties, camel rissoles, or an Aussie burger with the lot; meat, lettuce, egg, bacon, pineapple, cheese, beetroot and sauce. And any menu selection should be cooked on the table with a make shift barbie.

image source:jmcadam

The Outback menu needs to be Australian; no Aussie is going to call a prawn a shrimp. Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp should be Gold Coast Coconut Prawn, lobster tails would become cray tails, Alice Springs Chicken becomes The Alice Chook, and Outback Center Cut Sirloin would be Back of Bourke Scotch Fillet. Ordering at the Outback would become something like:

Outback Steakhouse Server: G’day mate, how you goin!
Guest: G’day mate!
Outback Steakhouse Server: Wanna blow the froth of a few while yu take a squiz at the menu?
Guest: I’ll wrap the laughing gear round a VB; I’m as dry as a drovers dog
Outback Steakhouse Server: Only got Fourex or New on draught
Guest: No worries, mate! she’ll be right, just give us yu top drop
Outback Steakhouse Server: And for yu tucker?
Guest: Coat of Arms Burger; how much emu is on it?
Outback Steakhouse Server: No worries; fair size patty, same as the kanga

If Outback Steakhouse adopted these modest suggestions it would become more than the home of juicy steaks, spirited drinks and Aussie hospitality.

image source:mashable.com

Long John Silvers tried to make a go of it in Australia a little over 10 years ago. They thought they would be successful by just serving Fish, Chicken and Shrimp Platters with Hushpuppies, Baked Cod with 2 sides and Hushpuppies, and Family Meals made up of mix and match fish and chicken; and not follow the eleven rules of a dinkum Aussie fish and chip shop.

1. Owned and run by a hard working immigrant Greek family
2. Serves only own home made chips from their own potatoes; frozen chips from a bag are unacceptable
3. Serves only own home made potato cakes that are dipped in batter just before being dropped in the deep fryer
4. Only sells pickled onions out of a plastic jar on the counter; the price must be written on the side with a felt tip marker
5. Cannot sell any food that doesn’t live in the water; pizza, kebabs, green beans, corn, onion rings, and chicken is a no-no
6. Has a multi coloured plastic door strip to keep the flies out
7. Fresh fish is displayed on crushed ice in the front window
8. Must have fried and steamed dim sims that come from a frozen plastic bag.
9. Prices are written in chalk on a board above the fryers
10. Soft drinks fridge has a sign which says; please select before opening door
11. Only have salt and vinegar in recycled soft drink bottles with holes poked in the screw top cap on the counter; tomato sauce is forbidden

I’m sure that Long John Silver’s will try it one more time Down Under, and because Red Lobster, Captain D’s, or a start up US fast food seafood restaurant will want to expand into the The Lucky Country, my suggestion would be to Australianise the US franchise shops with the fish shop rules as soon as possible. Australianising would put them on a good wicket for a move into the Lucky Country.

image source:jmcadam

But there still are lots of family owned traditional fish and chip, pizza, Middle Eastern and Asian shops nestled in suburban shopping centres; and they uphold the tradition and heritage of the time honoured Australian takeaway. I really should think about doing a takeaway make over to my dinners. I could do a burger with the lot by adding a few lettuce leaves, beetroot, pineapple, and a few strips of bacon to a Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and cheese, English muffin sandwich. Even though a pizza with prawn cutlets and roast beetroot would take a bit of work I think it would be a winner:

Roast Beetroot: Drizzle a couple of beetroot with water, wrap them in foil and roast for 45-55 minutes. Let cool, then peel and slice thinly
Prawn Cutlets: Butterfly half a pound of tails intact, peeled, deveined prawns and whack each one with a rolling pin. Dip each prawn in flour, egg, and breadcrumb. Deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt
Preparation: Take a half cooked Thin Crust Lean Cuisine Margherita pizza and add the roast beetroot and prawn cutlets; finish cooking

 

Australian food and drink

Australian food history timeline – First Australian McDonald’s

A time when we were all rapt for a Friday night of fish and chips

If You Say Sausage Backwards Quickly It Could Sound Like Pirates

I hope switching to QVC the home shopping channel every time I turn on the television isn’t habit forming; I started this routine just over a week ago. They say it takes anywhere from 2 to 8 months to introduce a new behaviour to your life through repetition; when the new behaviour becomes automatic you have a new habit. I don’t switch the channel to QVC for online shopping, I just want to understand the popularity of David Venable. Dave hosts his twice a week show, In the Kitchen With David; and you can find him at other times selling anything from electric razors to FrostGuard windscreen and wiper covers. But Dave is more at home selling egg poachers, frozen crab cakes, backyard smokers, silicone crisping mats, ceramic bakers with lids, and crumb cake assortments. At the start of every show Dave shares one of his delicious recipes with all of his kitchen foodies out there.

image source:youtube

And I impulsively raise my arms, and even though I stay seated on the couch I dance along with Dave whenever I hear: it’s time for a happy dance. It’s the ultimate compliment that Dave can bestow on a product. In the Kitchen With David gets thousands of phone calls from his foodie fans from all over the country; all of them hoping for a chance to speak with Dave. I still don’t understand the popularity of David Venable.

Last Sunday I turned on the television, and switched the channel to QVC. Before the picture stabilised I heard Meredith Laurence proclaiming: after performing double duty as either a colander or steamer, both the large and small strainers conveniently collapse for compact, easy storage; maximise your kitchen storage space with this set of two silicone strainers. And when the picture appeared Meredith’s hands were a blur, as she demonstrated to Dave how the colanders expanded from flat to full size; it was if she was playing the accordion in a polka band. I fixated on the squashed, compressed, flat colander and mulled over the predicament that Pastafarians would now be faced with.

image source:jmcadam

Bobby Henderson first documented the philosophies and central beliefs of the church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster:

  • An invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe.
  • The pasta strainer or colander is considered as religious head wear in the church.
  • Pastafarians are encouraged to wear a colander to work and for photo ID’s.
  • Pirates are revered as the original Pastafarians.
  • The decline in the number of pirates over the years is the cause of global warming.

I was just a young lad, entering my teenager years, when Errol Flynn set sail for the big pirate island in the sky. Australian males admired Errol as a great bloke, and a shinning example of Aussie swashbuckling manhood; both on and off the screen. And he was the role model that all youngsters wanted to become.

image source:fffmoviepostermuseum.com

Captain Blood was the breakout performances for Errol, and his future movie career would be threaded with action packed pirate blockbusters. Errol was the greatest Australian pirate of all times. And we still wonder if the passing of the Pirate from Down Under precipitated a series of slow climate changes that caused a difference in the weather patterns Down Under. Over the years, summer weather in Melbourne has become unpredictable. The November of 2017 produced the coldest start to a November in 20 plus years, and presented the longest November heatwave in more than 150 years. In early December the city was predicted to be lashed with heavy rains and unprecedented thunderstorms.

image source:jmcadam

The apocalyptic weather predicted for Melbourne didn’t come to pass, but severe thunderstorms did drench the city for two consecutive nights; the city received it’s total December rains. Fear of the damage to be caused by the torrential rains and floods was instilled in most Melburnians by the Bureau of Meteorology and the State’s dramatic weather warnings. It was mid to late Saturday morning when my brother turned the Hyundi mini bus into the Altona Bunnings Wharehouse. Friday night’s rain had eased and the morning was overcast; I was expecting to see a crowd of Bunnings Sausage Sizzler aficionados. Similar to all Bunning Warehouses, Bunnings Altona hosts a sizzle every Saturday and Sunday. The sizzle serves as a fund raiser and is run by local charities, sports clubs, and other community organisations. Sizzles start around mid morning, and last until the snags are gone. On this Saturday the Altona Bunnings Sausage Sizzle was nowhere to be seen.

image source:jmcadam

The key cutting counter was by the front door. I picked out a hot pink purple aluminium domestic house key blank for my new key. As the sound of the key cutting machine started I shouted out to the key cutting lady:

Me: Where’s the sizzle?
Bunnings Key Cutting Lady: (the reply came unexpected) Cancelled because of the rain
Me: (with astonished disbelief) Wwwwhat; but there’s no rain now
Bunnings Key Cutting Lady: Cancelled because of the rain
Me: Who cancels because of rain?
Bunnings Key Cutting Lady: (emphatic) The Taste of Melbourne, Polo in the City, Opera in the Bowl, the Arts Centre Outdoor Christmas Market, the Victoria Tennis Premier League, and all grades of Victorian Premier Cricket
Me: But the sizzle?
Bunnings Key Cutting Lady: Cancelled because of the rain
Me: (with negativity) Next they’ll be sizzling vegan bangers

Forget that North Korea was threatening to bomb the world; I was stumbling around until Monday morning trying to understand why a Bunnings Sausage Sizzle was cancelled because of rain. I was experiencing chargrilled snag withdrawal. I aimlessly walked the streets thinking only of caramelised onions, lashings of tomato sauce, sliced soft white bread, and barbecued snags. The sun was announcing the end to the predicted apocalyptic weather by seeping through the last of the thin clouds. As the sky cleared and became a brilliant blue I realised my salvation, I would have my own sizzle.

image source:anon

We were staying in a airbnb that had an outdoor Weber barbecue. The Coles Supermarket was close by. With a packet of Coles classic all Australian beef sausages, a loaf of sliced white bread, and a plastic bottle of tomato sauce I walked jauntily, with a skip in my step, to my home away from home to fire up the Weber. At the start I committed one of the cardinal sins of good sizzling; I constantly prodded and turned the snags until my anxiousness was replaced by the long lost subtlety of barbecuing the banger. I looked down at the Weber grill rack; 10 of the little beauties just sizzling away. Nothing would dampen my sausage sizzle.

I wrapped 2 of the chargrilled snags in their own slice of buttered white bread, and smothered each of them with tomato sauce. My lips quivered as I raised a sizzle to my mouth. And I remembered you don’t eat a sizzle from the side, you eat it from one of the ends; I bit down. The sausage juices melted the butter, and they mixed with the tomato sauce and soaked into the white bread, and I heard: it’s time for a happy dance. I impulsively raised my hands, and the sizzle was thrust into the air.

image source:gourmandandgourmet.com.au

My eyes were closed, and I was a picture of bliss until I was stopped in mid chew; I bit down on a small hard object. I emptied my mouth of chewed sizzle, the slurry of white bread, sauce and butter, and let my tongue fish around the inside of my mouth until it found the small hard object I had bitten down on. Because it looked like a piece of tooth I let my curious tongue probe my teeth and look for a jagged void. I removed my one tooth partial denture, and my inquisitive tongue found a jagged rough edge on the outer side of one of the teeth that holds the metal clasp of the partial denture. I had found the home of the broken piece of tooth. I pushed the partial denture back between it’s teeth, and took another bite of the sizzle; and I thought, there’s nothing that should stop a good sizzle. I knew the tooth had to stay; it was an anchor to the partial denture. That meant a crown to repair and strengthen it.

The next morning I waited for the pain to start, and by the next day it still hadn’t started. It was a couple of days before I would be back in the US, and I though if I zeroed in on soft foods then maybe I could ride out the pain of the jagged void. I ate meat pies, fish and chips, milk soaked corn flakes, sausage rolls, lamingtons, and vanilla slices. The night before leaving I warded off any potential gum infection and pain with several sips of ice cold Melbourne Bitter.

image source:carltondraft.com

I slept the first day back in the US. The next morning the backrest of the dental chair was lowered and I was in a reclining position. I had the one tooth partial denture in my hand and was mindlessly pushing one of the sharp ends of the clasp under the finger nail of my thumb. I told the whole sizzle saga to my dentist; the mirror and pick were in my mouth, and he was exploring the jagged void.

Dentist: I don’t see a chipped tooth; the edge is a little rough, I could smooth it out a bit but I don’t want to take much off because it anchors the partial
Me: What about the bone I found in my mouth
Dentist: Must have been in the sausage
Me: It was in the sausage?? ….. It was in the sausage!!!
Dentist: It was in the sausage
The Dentist’s Suite: (shouts of) It was in the sausage

image source:pixabay

I slid my legs onto the floor and sat on the edge of the dental chair trying to figure it all out. If a pirate’s life is months on end sailing the high seas, plundering, pillaging and looting, and winds are buffeting their galleon, and mountains of angry waves are keeping the decks awash with salty water, and if they can only trade for fresh food when they land then the food has to become mouldy and rotten because they don’t have fridges or freezers; so they would get sick and their teeth would fallout out, and without teeth it would be hard for them to eat a sausage sizzle.

I think I will celebrate the next International Talk Like a Pirate Day by asking people over for a sausage sizzle in the back yard.

 

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Pastafariansism

How to Run a Bunnings Barbecue Sausage Sizzle

Why Not Take A Six Month Holiday Twice A Year

There are several things that I remember about a sojourn back to Australia a few years ago. After settling back into Melbourne for three weeks and becoming a Melburnian again I headed off north to the Reef and the Rain Forest, and then flew from Darwin back home to the US. I may tell people about the four o’clock in the morning dash, in the hotel mini van, to the Darwin hospital and the two day stay there. What I tell everybody about though is the airport shuttle van ride to the beach side coastal hotel and the ride back from the hotel to the airport. From the airport to the hotel the shuttle van was bursting with excited, overjoyed, lively people who were thrilled to be starting their holidays, and from the hotel to the airport it was crammed with excited, overjoyed, upbeat people who had finished their holiday and were thrilled to be coming home. Holidays are strange like that; and since that time I wanted to drive an airport shuttle bus when I retired.

image source:jmcadam

I knew that I was sinking further and further down into the hard moulded resin seat at gate A4 in the Phoenix Airport because when I stared straight ahead into the dark floor to ceiling windows all I could see was the reflection of heads in the waiting area resin seats. There weren’t many waiting for the flight; I think it was after eight o’clock on a Tuesday night and that meant landing in Omaha around midnight. The little ones had given up playing on the floor, and throwing their small stuffed animals as far as they could and running after them; the information screen over the airline desk showed the flight was on time and was scheduled to arrive in Omaha around 11:30pm. I think the reason I was sinking further and further down into the hard moulded resin seat was because I was coming home from a holiday and had been travelling for the last twenty five plus hours.

image source:jmcadam

I wasn’t really sinking; my shoulders and head were bobbing and floating more so than all of me sinking. Before arriving back home in Omaha I would have crossed the international date line and three time zones. I arrived back in the US the same morning, and an hour before, I left my destination. I really don’t like leaving Melbourne. I’m not excited, overjoyed or upbeat about heading back home from a Down Under holiday; the last thing I do is order a flat white or latte and think about what I will miss. The coffee, unless it’s ordered as a take-a-way is always served in a ceramic or glass coffee cup. But there is a happiness to coming home. The announcement from gate A4 stopped my lusting for a flat white, and stopped my head bobbing

The aircraft at gate A4 has been withdrawn from service.
Would passengers please proceed to gate A8.
A replacement aircraft is being delivered from the hanger.
We will keep you updated on departure time.
We hope to have you in the air as soon as possible.

And I sleepily thought; the aircraft from the hanger will have to be cleaned, fuelled, filled with pretzels and coca cola, seat belts tidily crossed on top of seat cushions, vomit bags neatly arranged in the seat back pockets, and safety checks completed; I wondered what “we hope to have you in the air as soon as possible” meant. Even though I was fuddled by lack of sleep I clearly thought this could take hours. A small smile crossed my tired lips when I thought that because of these extra hours, I could challenge any coming home from a holiday travelling braggart when they posted their extreme number of hours in transit; and I could also regale my friends with harrowing stories of what happens to your brain, physical dexterity, and coordination when you’re deprived of sleep. And I became excited, overjoyed, upbeat, and thrilled to be coming home to Omaha from a holiday. The aircraft was delivered from the hanger to gate A8; apart from safety checks and fuelling it was ready to depart. We arrived in Omaha 15 minutes later than scheduled.

image source:jmcadam

I personally recommend doing the following as soon as you set foot in the house when you return from a holiday to preserve the thrill of the homecoming, and to purge any withdrawal symptoms

1. Grab a stubbie holder and crack open a few cold ones, cans of ginger ale, or Bloody Mary mix.
2. Turn on the telly and binge watch the Travel Channel.
3. Practice the language of the country you’ve just left.

If you have returned from a holiday in Australia practice the use of the word bastard. Remember that how bastard is being used, defines if it is a friendly reference to a mate or a vulgar version of bloke. A great example of the use of bastard is from the Body Line cricket tour, when the English Captain Douglas Jardine told the Australian captain Bill Woodfull that one of his team members had called him a bastard. Woodfull turned to the dressing room and roared out, at the top of his voice, Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard.

4. Eat small packets of pretzels, honey nuts, or trail mix.
5. Commit to starting a new hobby that reflects where you have been on holiday.

If you have returned from a holiday in Australia your new hobby should be stealing stuff from work. Office supplies are a good start. Make sure that you are caught stealing as soon as you start this new new hobby because stealing from work is a rite of passage with the mates. And the expected response to the boss to avoid being disciplined is shrugging your shoulders and saying; Well it wasn’t nailed down was it.

The next morning tried hard to dampen my excitement, joy, and thrill of coming home from a holiday. I read the email from the neighbour who had been starting, at irregular times, the cars parked in the garage and the drive way. The last time she tried to start the driveway car the battery was flat. She called AAA to jump start the car, and then parked it in it’s usual place on the street. Even though I have been a member of AAA, or triple A as it is known, and have always had excellent service and support from the organisation, I’ve always thought the name to be somewhat less than grand; even a little common. I belonged to the RACV in Melbourne. As a member of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria I felt a sense of eminence and entitlement. The RACV provided the same services and products as AAA but I always thought that when the RACV bloke jump started my mini cooper it was by Appointment to Her Royal Majesty.

image source:northernnatalcourier

I tried not to let the thrill of coming home from a holiday be diminished by the dread of grappling with the car not starting, calling AAA, and then buying a new battery. It is said that a car battery can be fully charged by driving around for an hour without using the lights, radio, or any other electrical devices in the car; but the longer the battery has been dead, the longer it will take to fully recharge it. Because we had no idea of the charge remaining in the battery a long drive had to be the best option. We drove the car nine hundred miles to Houston, Texas, and 900 miles back to Omaha; thinking that two eight to nine hour driving days each way should take care of recharging the battery. I imagined the driving seat to be seat 25D on a Boeing 777-300; there wouldn’t be a drink trolley, choice of seat back entertainment, or stumbling over legs to get out of a cramped seat to walk without shoes, or any one to serve small packets of pretzels, honey nuts, trail mix, ginger ale, or Bloody Mary mix, we wouldn’t be travelling at 520mph, and we would have to stop for meals. It’s a good idea to take a three or four day road trip when you come home from a holiday, and before you feel that euphoric thrill of coming home starting to wane; repeated road trips up until the next holiday will ensure that the thrill of coming home will persist until you come home after the next holiday.

image source:jmcadam

The next morning persisted in trying to dampen my excitement, joy, and thrill of coming home after a holiday. As soon as the shower was turned on a waterfall of water cascaded from the shower head; every spray nozzle was blocked. I thought long and hard and mentally sifted through the recesses of way back. When I was growing up our kitchen wireless was always tuned to 3AW. Mum would sit at the kitchen table when the Martha Gardener show started and slowly dawdle through her lunch, and would finish up with her cup of tea, or instant coffee, just as Martha was winding up her show. Mum swore by Martha’s housekeeping tips and hints;such as, use my Wool Mix for washing more than just woollens, and use vinegar to remove calcium build up residue from water. And so the shower head was soon resting in a small reservoir of vinegar. It didn’t take long for a pleasant vinegar smell to waft through the house; if I closed my eyes I was at the counter of a fish and chip shop about to sprinkle my order of chips, flake, dim sims, potatoes cakes, and calamari with a few good squirts of vinegar. It’s probably a good idea to soak or smear a household item with something that has an odour associated with the place that you have just returned from; and let the aroma remain in the house for several weeks. The thrill of returning home should persist as long as you refresh the distinctive smell.

image source:jmcadam

The thrill of coming home was continually challenged; the drainage outlet on the freezer had frozen and everything in the fridge and freezer had to be thrown away, including bottles of Mrs Ball’s chutney, HP sauce, and mint sauce, and I had to schedule a visit to the dentist to check on what I thought was a chipped tooth, and the car insurance had been cancelled, and the land line phone service was still not fixed after a month. I faced each challenge with an unflinching thrill of coming home.

I should have taken photos of each home coming challenge and uploaded them to Shuttefly to create a photo book to preserve all my favourite thrilled to be coming home digital memories as a beautiful coffee table book. I think that my friends would be gobsmacked looking through such a photo album.

 

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