The new beer in my life

Saturday saw us tramming it into town for the film festival again, where we witnessed the charming “Kitchen Stories” from Norway, which described a bizarre scientific experiment to track the motions of Norwegian bachelors in the post WW2 period. Funny, sad, and uplifting all in one package – a terrific film we both thought. Sitting in my backpack during proceedings were four bottles of the most exquisite, herby dark brew imaginable – purchased from Nicks on Swanston St. Probably the nicest beer I have ever tasted. Hitherto known as Coopers Extra Strong Vintage Ale (7.5%). We got home, glugged them down and then felt terrible because they are supposedly hard to come by, and watched weekly favourite “Red Cap” together on the ABC. Another weekend passes with not a lot of work getting done around the place. Oh well.

Tea leaves, Malt and Toffee

Steadily nosing through “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”, I was encouraged by all that liquor talk and found myself reaching for a bottle of All-Saints Tokay. It’s annoyed me for awhile that I’d struggle to name the difference between a Port, a Muscat or a Tokay, so I tried again and again to REALLY TASTE IT FOR ONCE. Kim said “Bugger it – just call them stickies and don’t worry about the difference”. For now I just have to remember – Tokay is Tea Leaves, Malt and Toffee. Time to try another tonight for practice.

A day at the movies

On Sunday I went to the 2004 MIFF and plonked myself down amongst the faithful. It’s not normally my thing to go to movies at all, let alone by myself. Kim had decided to sit this one out and do housework at home, so it felt indulgent of me, and I sat hemmed in on all sides amongst what I imagined to be knowlegeable filmgoers. The first film was a documentary about an Australian man in the 1940’s who was the first to try chemical (i.e Lithium) means to cure schizofrenia and other manic afflictions in people. He killed a hell of a lot of Guinea Pigs in the process. The director and the producer talked about their inspiration and said that a lot of former patients were in the audience at the back. I didn’t dare turn around and look. In the age of the Hollywood blockbuster, it was great to hear real people speak about an UNSUNG HERO, who right till the end maintained he was just a guy who got a lucky break. To carry on the morbid theme, the second film was about how the Anaconda Copper Mine company arranged for the killing of a Union agitator in Butte, Montana in 1917 and who, many years later, managed to create a huge toxic lake in the remnants of the open-cut mine when they pulled out. Virtually all evidence (of the killing – where he was dragged behind a car in his underwear for several kilometres) had been burned, lost or rewritten in the company-owned town newspaper a long time ago, so it might as well have been fiction although it seems unlikely. At regular intervals an annoying “Ode to the striking workers part#3” would start up and you would have to watch lyrics flash on the screen one word at a time, till you just stared at your lap until the music stopped. Luckily most of the music was by Dirty Three, Will Olham and Low. Lastly was G-Sale, a funny story about the petty rivalries between fellow 60’s kitch collectors and about a near-priceless board game called Pot ‘O Gold. It was a lot of fun, and will do great on DVD I imagine. I caught the tram home and walked the dogs in the near dark – we couldn’t throw balls in the park because kids were playing, and we all know that means Fergus would get way too exuberant.

Tax Shmax

A few nights ago, having come full circle, I sat down to put my yearly tax return in via the ATO’s e-tax software package. Years earlier, on the tail of delighted yelps from family members, we signed up with a dodgy greek accountant in Coburg to do his magic and deliver us a big refund each. He did a lot better than we were able to do, and we duly returned. 3 years in, loopholes had been closed, he grew more cautious and we decided it wasn’t worth it anymore. In hindsight, I don’t know why we succumbed in the first place – I’ve never been one to be obsessed about “the tax the government is ripping us off” or been one to scream for tax cuts. Come to think of it, exactly WHO ARE THE MYSTERY TAX CUT BOOSTERS that the major political parties are bending over to right now? Most people I know say they’d prefer Medicare to be fixed up – or for the money to go to government schools. I know why I have never been inclined towards shares, investments and rental properties. It’s because it MAKES LIFE HELL IN JULY at tax time. To be honest, I really can’t be bothered and I’m lazy. I stuck in some basic deductions like my Amnesty International donations and 50 bucks for professional magazines (Owner Builder and Renew – hmmm). The nicest part about it all is that I’m still going to get 450 or so back and it took me all of 20 minutes. Until next year.


A funny old weekend where nothing of consequence was achieved and yet a strange sense of relaxation and calm pervades…A 5:30am Saturday start in the dark with Ash to the Kilmore footy ground wearing snow gloves and layers of clothes. A car heater turned up to 3. We took tripod shot after shot and hoped liked crazy it would all be worth it, and that the sun would show. More driving to Kyneton after watching reluctant “I’m freezin” workers at the Lancefield Bakery put Lavazza Coffee barriers up “for the smokers” outside – whoever they were. Ash took photos of an odd little eating house next door to the Kyneton Mineral Water factory, only to be accosted by a chubby lad in a stained T-shirt who thought we were out to rob his clientele. An afterthought of a diversion to Mt. Macedon on the way home saw us in fields of snow and joyous toboganning by youngsters. We nervously spun our wheels through the slush and escaped. I suspect we both slept well that night after the early start and the dramatic Godspeed CD’s that featured heavily.

A death in the family

At 11:01 we fronted up late for my nana’s funeral. It’s only a 10 minute drive to Heidelberg yet we got our timing all wrong and speculated about the evil looks we’d get from mum for not sitting in the front row. After being shunted into a side wing we relaxed in the low-key feeling – fully visible to the priests and speakers, yet away from the main crowd. Everyone was wonderful. They gave tributes that were well thought out and generous; reminded us of her phrases like “I’m only a girl” and told stories of her puritanism and love of euchre and football. My favourite part was when Joy referred to her ability to emotionally blackmail people – I had long thought my mother must have learned her craft from an expert. It was a tiny coffin, and at the gravesite in Kingsbury they had it down in a jiffy as the rain was coming in and umbrellas were being turned inside out. Most people threw in a few rose petals, had a few quiet tears and it was all over – really a lot more straightforward than I thought.

What a perfect day

Woke with a splitting headache after a bottle of Abottsford Invalid Stout and a night of baby talk at a Bentleigh housewarming – Jack and Gills. A rare outright lie to a family member meant I didn’t need to attend ANOTHER DAMN BABY EVENT and could do what I like with my Sunday. We speculated what’s caused my frequent headaches in recent years and made a list of 3 in order of likelihood. One goes to dehydration because I never drink and our ducted heating is making a sultana out of my body. Two goes to glare – why else would I set my screen backgrounds to grey and feel bad the night after driving or painting in full sun. And LAST OF ALL IS MALT. Malt because it’s in scotch and stout in large quantities. And they seem to give me the biggest blinders. Moving on – tablets duly downed we shot through to Carlton and split up. Kim went for the fashion and I hunkered down inside Book Affair on Elgin St., buying 5 and scaring myself because the “To-Reads” are now a bigger pile than ever before. So much pressure. No wonder Kim just gallops through her books. All new writers for me: Meades, Ozeki, Williamson, Jones, Colapinto – it could be my pitching squad in Fantasy Baseball for all they mean. We bought tickets to “Touching the Void” at the Nova and wore extra clothing because of the snow scenes – I remember seeing a film about Iceland years ago and leaving the cinema totally frozen. IT WAS TIME TO GET SMART ABOUT MY FILMGOING. We both liked the film, the salmon focaccia and the exotic seedy loaves at Browns Bakery across the road afterwards. It was sunny, mostly still and the Tour De France was starting on SBS when we got home. A perfect day.

No changes to the Tramrider lineup

A few weeks ago a Telstra Surfboard arrived on my porch in a crisp box with a friendly note telling me to install it and to dispose of my old modem thoughtfully. I let it sit for awhile before being spurred into action by emails and phonecalls that preceded cutoff of the old service. I’m glad I waited until the Americans had gone before doing this because I was off the air for 2 days and it felt like more. Instead of being liberated by this chance to do other things, I spent small chunks of the days wondering how my Fantasy Baseball team – the Preston Tramriders on Yahoo were going. Since it is my long term wish to trounce the yanks at their own game, I have been micromanaging this team to the point where barely a single player is left from the original lineup. And I’m still only a few places from the bottom. Now. How does one dispose of an antiquated DOCSIS cable modem thoughtfully?

Things you find in foreign trees

With the Americans in tow, we have driven all over Victoria in the past few days – up into slush country at Stanley and along the top of the northern lowland slopes west to Bendigo. Maybe we were too busy talking about the bleak weather, but you could count the birds we have seen on a couple of hands – a White Winged Chough or 5, a couple of Kookaburras and a small magpie lark that careened off the windscreen on the Midland. As I left for work this morning, an Eastern Spinebill flitted amongst the foliage of one of the only non-native shrubs on my property. I have dreamed of this event for years and when I saw that flash of buff and the twisted curve of a beak, it was my natural high of this week.

The dome is dead

Once again I find myself stuck in the synthetic world of the Telstra dome – with Dave on my left and Dad on my right – a man who lets out regular whoops of joy when Carlton score goals. And he whoops a lot tonight. In one of the few positives, maybe it’s my imagination, but the ads on the scoreboards have been lowered in volume thesdays. And suddenly the Roar meter has gone – maybe we’re so bad they should have a boo meter? The Tigers got flogged again and it was depressingly familiar – I think just to make things interesting I should try sitting in a different part of the stadium next time. And at a different level. Why do I sit in the same forward pocket every time? Or I should go back to wearing Richmond jocks again like in the mid 90’s – we won a lot of games back then. Hardly a success in the bedroom, but they got results on the field.