Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Voice from the Grave

My father died just over 20 years ago at the age of 82. Not a bad innings.
His father, mother and he had emigrated to Australia from a very economically depressed Scotland after World War 1.
I knew my grandfather for only a short time. He died when I was 5, my grandmother a little later.
In typical Scottish fashion Dad was a man of few words. I knew very little about his childhood or his early life in Australia. It was something he never seemed to want to share.
But when going through his stuff, I came across 20 cassette tapes about his life that he had made for his granddaughter. That’s 10 hours of oral history.
They had a very special relationship and the daughter was always reluctant to listen to the tapes.
"Too sad", she would always say.
But she has finally bitten the bullet and transferred the tapes to CD to preserve them and is sharing them with me.
I must say it was a very strange experience to hear his voice again all these years on.
And the story has been fascinating so far.
The daughter says that not only do I look like him now but we also sound alike.
I cannot disagree as I ‘see’ him in the mirror most mornings and ’hear’ him quite often too (without the accent) before I can stop myself.
So I will take the comparison as a compliment.

He only returned to Arbroath his home town in Scotland once, in 1952, with my mother.
I remember him often saying that 'people say the bagpipes always sound good from a distance and 10,000 miles is about the right distance to hear them from'.
He was always fiercely Australian but seem to quietly cherish his Scottish heritage. My adding ice to one of his beloved single malts would always earn a stern look.
I had visited some of the family in Arbroath in 1969. I really did not know who they were relation wise but I was welcomed with open arms at the time and spent a rather hectic day with them all. I do remember one older lady thought I was my father.
I have visited Arbroath twice since then, once with the daughter and once with the co driver.
Last time before I went, I put a small family history on the genealogy section of the town’s web site and asked for any family contact but heard nothing.
Then last year I got a call from a lady in Victoria who was researching her husband’s family tree and had come across my entry.
From the information she had, it turned out that my grandfather had five siblings, many of whom had also emigrated and that her husband and I were related.
Who knew? Not me. I was never told about grandpa's brothers and sisters.
But now with these tapes seeing the light of day I might learn a whole lot of new things.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sometimes Decisions Come Back to Bite You

Some time ago due to my and the surrounding vineyards' experience, I decided not to spray for powdery mildew.
We had never had an outbreak in the 10 years prior and climatic conditions (mild cloudy weather) for its development were virtually never experienced in our area.
Not that spraying sulphur is any difficulty as it can simply be added in with the copper for normal downy mildew protection.
The disadvantage is that it's smelly, can cause some breathing allergies and its application can lead to leaf burn on hot (+30C) days.
And not using sulphur saves a bit of money.
Anyway, this summer was virtually not a summer at all.
We had lots of rain (wettest summer in 51 years) and also very cool temperatures and lots of overcast days which is not normal.
You are already getting my drift here.

Sad to say powdery mildew 'hit' the Tempranillo and Semillon pretty hard.
Curative sprays unfortunately did not do their job.
Powdery mildew delays the maturity and retards the growth of the berries and causes them to split.
In addition it causes off flavours in wine.
So this will mean we won't be picking those two varieties this year.
Thankfully the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon have not succumbed and are both looking good so far.
Back to the sulphur next vintage!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A Weekend in Sydney

As time goes on, we tend to avoid going to Sydney as much as possible. The traffic is usually crazy and it's always noisy, crowded and a little bit frantic. This is the complete antithesis of our south coast environment.
However it's always good to visit the daughter and enjoy far better shopping opportunities as well as eat at one or two of a huge range of restaurants with a myriad of ethnic cuisines.
This time we were catching up with a special friend who had made a quick trip home from Canada for a few weeks.
Naturally the co driver had a list of quilt shops to visit. We left home early and made our way north through driving rain and then across the mid western suburbs of Sydney to Drummoyne and Material Obsession.
This quilt shop was housed in a very cute 19th century Sydney sandstone terrace house (replica?).
Luckily the Australian cricket team was completing the 4-0 demolition of the Indian team in the fourth test match in Adelaide so I took the opportunity to listen to some of the day's play on the car radio while purchases were being made.

Then we went on to Balmain, another older inner Sydney suburb, for lunch.
At random we picked a North African restaurant which specialized in Moroccan food. Not knowing much about this cuisine we asked them to 'surprise' us.
We ended up with a starter of hummus, babaghanouj and taramasalata with flat bread and then a sample platter of grilled haloumi, tabouli, spicy lamb and pine nuts and marinated sardines.
This was followed by char grilled harissa and garlic marinated octopus and cumin battered soft shelled crab with a date and lime sauce.
All wonderful!
Then it was onto quilt shop #2, Calico and Ivy just a short walk down the road. More cricket for me, more purchases for the co driver.
We made it to the daughters in Rose Bay just before peak hour and wandered down the hill to our favourite Japanese Restaurant for dinner. Sushi, sashimi, teriyaki salmon, teriyaki chicken, gyoza and edamame were our choices.
This simple little place, Asakusa, never fails to deliver.
Next morning we drove along Sydney's eastern suburbs beaches Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte ending up at Clovelly for a light breakfast and coffee in a beach cafe overlooking the ocean.
The daughter had taken an unusual picture of Bondi Beach just before sunset a few weeks ago.

Then it was into the CBD (downtown) of Sydney for some serious shopping at Myers and David Jones before meeting up with Muriel at the Malaya Restaurant on Darling Harbour.
This area used to be a part of the commercial port of Sydney but was redeveloped when the advent of container shipping moved the main port from Sydney Harbour to Botany Bay. Cruise ships still tie up here but both sides of the bay are now shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, a convention and exhibition centre and the Maritime Museum as well as other tourist orientated attractions.
One of the the banquets on the Malaya menu looked intriguing and it did not disappoint.
Popiah, then lightly battered deep fried king prawns with chilli and satay beef skewers were the starters.
This was followed by curry prawns with roti cana, black pepper chicken, korma lamb, kwai du and finally chilli beansprouts and snow peas. And of course boiled rice throughout.
Phew! We all rolled out of the restaurant three hours later.
After a late afternoon coffee at one of the many cafes in the QVB we were overfed and talked out so, after farewelling Moo, we headed 'home' for a quiet night.
Surprisingly no one was interested in dinner.
It was an early rise to head south with breakfast at Hungry Jacks (Burger King) on the way.
Well you can't nosh it up every time!
It was a relative easy drive with very little traffic going our way and four hours later we were home.
A really enjoyable weekend away.