Saturday, July 10, 2010

Apostrophe catastrophies [fully sic]

Or should that be apostrophe catastrophe's? Or, perhaps, given my debilitating penchant for picking the snot out of gluggy nosed apostrophe catastrophes, am I actually collecting apostrophe catastrophies?

Today's West Australian newspaper is the culprit. In particular, the Real Estate liftout. One would imagine full page colour spreads are expensive, Webb & Brown-Neaves?

hmm.... Anyway, now that Ms Gillard, a self confessed apostrophe nerd like myself, is on the rise and banging on about her own desires to Artline block out ectopic apostrophes, I feel it's my duty, as an Awwwstraylian, to carry on the good lordless girl's work.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You aren't invited anyway.

This dude is very funny. I like understated funny. Like caustic funny. Like burning wee making you explode funny.
And this is that.

Go to his party. Or don't. You're not invited anyway. Even I'm not invited. Not that I want to go. It's just that, because I want to go, it makes me not, because I'm not a loser who wants to go to a party I'm not invited to. Which makes me want to even more.

xxx Elise

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What to do when your plans spring a leak.

To bother or not to bother? That is the question, as I approach the still point in the turning world and the point of no return (or at least no tax return due to my frustration with this leisure pursuit) in turning forty very shortly.

Literary theory is definitely high up on the list. The garden, acting, French linguistics and fine dining are also there. Singing, well, it might have been had not my pubescence involved a curtailed chorally based scholarship and subsequent placement in an imploding music school in Melbourne. Melbourne - it’s there too. And snow. Sleeping in, late nights, g-string knickers. Yup. If I may be so bold. All there. Gold rings. Silver earrings. And another, just to pick one of myriad choices, high impact aerobics.

I like every one of these things. Some, over time, have become obsessions. The catch is that I understand only too well my ability to fall in lust with the idea of world supremacy over all newfound pursuits in self-actualisation. Yet, the heat dies, the pheromones take a shower, the gas goes out on MasterChef and the Olympics conclude, every four years, yet again, despite my love letters begging otherwise. It is at this point I am cyclically shamed to discover that I’ve cried EVERY time a package appeared before an ad break with a smorgasbord of gold medal swimming/diving/sprinting/marathon/javelin performances. And they’re all accompanied by Newton Faulkner.

So, to clarify, I like all of these things. It’s just that, facing brutal reality, I’m not very good at them. Not in the slightest. So, should I continue to bother with them at all?

Let’s see now…

Garden. Well, anyone who knows me wouldn’t waste the muscles rolling their eyeballs, my herbivorous touch of death and all. Somehow, most bizarrely, I did assist in the successful chlorophycation of several sunflowers this year. A first. Not just in the growing of sunflowers, but procreating florally in general. I was under pressure though. Kindy project for my eldest daughter and all, had to impress. Bluff. Yet both she and the sunflowers failed to call it and we had life!

They’re all dead now. A good friend has explained that I should put paper bags over their heads to collect their dropping seeds. I’m struggling with this, strangely enough, as it seems counterintuitive to want to suffocate the last life out of the one thing I haven’t killed off through apathy in the first place.

Acting. I had an agent in Melbourne. Went for a Target audition once. I was worried sick that day as the call had come during my teaching period one (Year 11 English) and I’d replied the affirmative that I could be there at 4pm. The cause of the angst was that I detested the undies I was wearing. That day, a Monday, was big-chundy-undies day. I hadn’t had the courage to face the washing on the weekend and I was wearing what one might call bloomers. They would have worked well in a Picnic at Hanging Rock scene, where the plain chick snags her undies on a twig climbing through the rock maze all sweaty and then disappears and no one sees her or her undies again. Or cares. I just wished I’d worn something a bit more elegant, delicate, a g-string even. This was particularly as the pair of black pants I was wearing were struggling to cope with the folds of saggy cotton huddling amongst my buttocks, vying for space in the dark crevices of that winter afternoon.

I arrived at the audition and sat wallflowerlike in a downstairs room with three other women and one man also sitting wallflowerlikely, eyes not making much contact, heads no doubt jabbering on with their internal discussions about who the Target peeps would be picking to advertise their latest…

What was the company advertising this time? Electronics? Books? Discounted baby clothes? NO one else in the room appeared interested in or able to enlighten me, so I sat stony, praying to the gods of Tar-jay my undies wouldn’t show above the top of my black pants whenever my time came to do…whatever it was the powers that be upstairs might be about to challenge me with.

‘Ms Batchelor?’ A woman. Dressed in black, wiry black hair, grim looking and on a mission to exclude, called me from the bottom of the steps. I rose (releasing wedgie with little subtlety) and followed her up the steps.

‘So, you’ve read the script?’

‘Uh.’ Yeah. Good one. Dick. What ph*&^g script? I hadn’t seen a script. Had there been a script? Had anyone been reading the script? Did anyone point to a script when I came in? (A duh, as if they would. This world is FIERCE). ‘Was there a…script?’

She looked back at me kindly.

                                       In your dreams.

She looked back at me like I was a dick. Which I realised I was. And in chundy undies, providing nothing if not a little extra warmth on this grievously brittle Melbourne winter afternoon.

‘Right.’ Sigh. Too audible.

I smiled. No, beamed. Determined to impress, I took the resilience-in-adversity approach and put on ‘jolly’. Jolly jolly, hoho. Ho.

‘You are playing a wife and mother. It’s a busy morning before school and you’re trying to organise yourself for work, whilst your family are all begging you to find various pieces of clothing for the day. In this ad, you spend fifteen seconds responding to their calls by running back and forth from your kitchen out to the washing line, upon which all the underwear hangs. It is chilly outside. Icelandic chilly. And you too are wearing your...

I get it. Underwear.

Again. I smiled. No, beamed. Determined to impress, I stripped down down to my pearly whites and my not quite tight enough chundy undies and jiggle and wiggle and run up and down the passageway of this frigid Melbourne flat, playing mother hen.

All I could think was, smile like it’s frozen on you, girl. At least you didn’t come to the audition wearing a g-string...

                                                     I’ll keep it sweet with the others.

G-strings. See above. (Warning, someone may make you run semi naked somewhere at any point in time and you need to be prepared).

Melbourne. See above also. If someone’s going to make you run semi naked anywhere, you don’t want it to be somewhere your bits are frozen.

Snow. An exaggerated vision of Melbourne. Plus, the small incident of having to be rescued from atop a blizzarding Kosciuszko one night.

Literary theory. Has anyone ever in the history of text analysis, really truly, truly ruly, had any ph***ing IDEA what Jacques Derrida was banging on about?

French. Wee wee manure. That's about as good as it gets. Plus, I was once told that a croissant with butter and jam has the equivalent calories (kilojoules, whatever, but putting it in kilojoules induces apocalyptic terror) of three pieces of thick toast buttered on both sides.

600 000 calories

Fine dining. Love to cook, useless at following recipes. Bo-RING. This means I am a walking advertisement for rubbery chicken, gluggy rice (didn’t think you could get it wrong in a rice cooker, did ya?), charcoal damper and soufflops.
Gold rings. It’s not the gold rings I mind. It’s when your fiancé buys you a gold engagement ring and it’s actually thinly veiled nickel. You also pay for it yourself from your overdrawn credit account, it rubs off, genie like, until its green on the inside, even though it’s an amethyst not an emerald, and gives you for near ten years now, the most gravelly, ripped skin eczema known to the human finger.

Silver earrings. Ditto. Replace finger with ear(s).

Sleeping in. Moot point, never get to: Children. And then when I do, bored, bored, bored. I should have added breakfast in bed to that. Uneven. Cluttered. Uncomfortable. And who gets to clean up anyway?

Late nights. I have the circadian rhythm of a mountain goat. They get the jitters by 4pm, wondering when last light’s going to be upon them and bleating ferociously until their shepherd guides them safely to the green, green grass of hearth, home and doona, by 8pm. At the latest. Put it this way, even in my early 20s out at parties, I would often be led, by my self defeating physiology, to ask the host where the nearest bed was. And no, not a shag in sight. Or generally not anyway. I just needed a little kip. And would thus sleep, wake by 6.30 completely hungoverless, and remind myself that the world needs nerds. Surely I wasn't the only one on the planet to behave in such an incomprehensibly daggy fashion?

This leaves high impact aerobics. I was an aerobics instructor for several years, a gym junkie in the years surrounding this, a tae bo instructor following that. I lived, ate, slept, bled 45 minute Music and Motion dance mixes for the better part of the 1990s. This was the era of the lurid lycra g-string pants OVER the lurid lycra leotard shorts (another bad sign for the g-string). I adored, and still adore, aerobics. Every shin splint, every chronic foot syndrome, bruise, Diet Coke addiction and push ups obsession. I was anaemic and as bony as a ghost in a skeleton costume. I was a machine.

Now I have produced two offspring and both the ghost and the machine leak.

I believe the fancy ads call it ‘LBL’*. I call it lame, but may well get the whole lot strung up and tied in a knot to the closest available free internal organ.  Maybe then I’ll brave the g-string again.

* Light bladder leakage: As ‘light’ in leakage as the ‘morning’ in morning sickness is in the morning.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I'm thinking that ads such as the following should be made illegal for the purposes of national literacy. That it was in Melbourne's favoured newspaper increases the agony. Part of me wishes I just couldn't see this sort of stuff. Apostrophes and all. Grammar in general. Punctuation fanatically. Such blindness would solve all my other issues too... alot, definately, absolutly.

So here it is. Time to be brave and share. Even as I look at the file I'm about to upload, nails shriek and tear through the chalkboard of my soul. A lot. Definitely. Absolutely.

Ok. Here goes...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Puree de Papillon

I have just returned from two weeks in Broome. It is a short drive up the road for us, of eight hours sans kidlets and about thirteen with these small and delicate creatures, especially those desiring frequent wee stops on saltbush and other crackled roadside paraphernalia (rusty cans, roo bones and the occasional dinosaur skeleton, according to our eldest daughter). For Pilbara dwellers, Broome is a love or hate escapade. Those here long enough to have known Broome BTB (Before Tour Bus) reminisce on the simplicity of this pearling village with its Asian flavours and infinite shoreline. I'm a bit like that with Coral Bay, five hours south of Karratha and home to Ningaloo Reef. But that's another story (involving heaving sobs on a previously Edenic shoreline now beseiged by signs like 'Swimmers watch out for boats'). I'll get there another day. Broome now has, as many a Paradise Found, been well and truly...found. Yet, as I didn't know this particular town before it became a backpackertourbuscruiseliner bumper-sticker-with-camel-silhouette, I'm an addict.

My husband and I had the fortune to be showered by a group of students with the gift of a meal out. Let me say, this was to be no ordinary meal. Well, the actual meal might be, but its significance cannot go unremarked. We had not been out to dinner, or on a date (ew...sounds freaky) since children. That's four and a half years ago. In fact, due to the complexities both everyday and ... completely out of left field, with family life, we'd basically been stapled to home since 2005. So, the experience was significant. The stepping over a deeply etched line in red dirt (or Cable Beach sand) meant we would be simply having dinner together. Alone. Just us and the meal on our plate. Whatever we dared.

And what did we choose?

Well...we were game. Or it was.

Let us step back to the drive up the road from Karratha; in particular, roadkill. Game. The meal, at the gorgeous Old Zoo Cafe as opposed to the stuff which litters the roadside, was divine. Entree, in particular, marked my virgin foray into the stuff which usually splatters windscreens at high speed. My husband and I shared a rather more delectable looking tasting plate which included roo and 'mu. ie. Kangaroo and emu. The other three weren't roadkill, but of the aquatic variety of exotic flavours: croc, barra and pearl meat. We sampled and savoured each bite, in turn analysing its flavours, textures, tenderness and colours. Astoundingly, the croc was the whitest of silky sweet meat and the bird, our humble emu, was a maroon, delectably grilled medium rare. I loved this feast and avoided, with surprising success, imagining the untidy ends these animals often come to in the wild, or out on the open road.

What the menu didn't offer up, however, was the most delectable of game I have ever encountered. Indeed, a fare the fairest of game. Let me take you back to Sandfire Roadhouse...

Sandfire Roadhouse is located about 300 kilometers north of Port Hedland, halfway to Broome. Three years ago, Sandfire was unfortunately, no matter how semantically fitting such a tragedy might appear, destroyed by fire. Finally, around Easter this year, the new building opened. Phew. Icecreams at Sandfire again! Maybe not quite Eftpos, but at least a fridge and freezer in operation along with these naughtily ironic caps for sale advertising the repeated failure and subsequent success of BP getting their roadhouse back into action after such a protracted demise: Something along the lines of 

Except there really needed to be a cross through the 9 and a '10 to finally finalise the rebuilding fracas.

So hurrah for Sandfire Roadhouse!

What DID survive the fire, fortunately, was a lovely area of thick trees and scrub through which wanton peacocks and peahens squander and ponder the relentless heat of this north west desert region. The trees are  reticulated, there's plenty of polkadot feathered parading and even a couple of albino peahens meander about. We have always loved spending a few minutes in this oasis, amongst the birds, if for nothing but to enjoy the sight of a tree. Or fifty. To remember shade with a hint of cool.

Well, this time we stopped at Sandfire, dug up enough change for me to buy icecreams and my husband to secure his ceremonial Sanfire cap, and headed yet again straight for the peacocks' den of serenity. But this time things were different. The birds had visitors. In their thousands. And evidently, the visiting cacophany of butterflies we encountered were multiplying, exponentially and insatiably in the heady shade. Next thing you know we're attempting to fob off four year old most keen to understand why a couple of butterflies were hugging. Yes, clearly, transfixedly, grappling with each other and holding on for dear life. Who ever would have thought?

What a wonder this sight was! Lurid golds and dusky yellows, pupil-black mirror spots all swish and flutter through the peacock sanctum. Nothing like it ever seen before. Not at Melbourne Zoo, Perth Zoo, in any butterfly enclosure purpose built to house and protract the procreative possibilities of this whisperlight lick of a creature. Sandfire needed a cap just for this butterfly extravaganza.

Still, with hours yet to travel (and many a wee stop yet to be had despite banning fluids and even Hi5 songs about waterfalls, rivers and baths) the inevitable departure ensued. We departed the roadhouse - itself now solid(ish), functional(ish) and prepared for any future fire, cyclone or attack by rampant tourbus (maybe not the latter) - leaving the beautiful butterflies to


...  become Puree de Papillon. Like silken butter (how fitting their name quickly became), a splodge and drag across the windscreen. Just as one might apply an elegant smear of squash mash across fine china. Or carrot. Or sauteed and whipped sunflower petals. Except this time, it was just dead butterfly. Butterflies [pl]. By the time we reached Broome, our view of the encroaching Kimberly twilight was, to say the least, rather golden.

And so, that was all I was missing from dinner at the Old Zoo Cafe, from my crossing-over dinner, from my Broome experience. What a little dollop of that buttery butterfly delight upon my plate might have done for my palette I shall never know. But one thing is certain, puree de papillon is by far the most equisite roadkill I have ever been blessed to encounter.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If you can't find goat's milk fromage blanc...

It's time I moved on from my rant about alot [sic]. I could begin this entry with a foray into my town's Eagle Boys and their pizza's on special (brandished across a sign perched beside a busy roundabout, thus increasing my chance of death by ectopic apostrophe). But it's late in the evening and I should be sensible with my heart rate.

The spotted apostrophe monster makes me angry. Quite often. A lot. This makes it such a joy to read a glossy magazine with all its apostrophic morsels intact. And it is from such a magazine that I'm going to share a little something which all ended in tears. Joyous tears of the hysterical, body heaving variety. Let us go back nearly seven years to when I am in Melbourne. Of course, it is wet. Winter is vile with seeping cold yet, as ever, heady with culture and cheap takeaway. It is on such cracker black, bruised and soggy nights I cosy up in my Box Hill kitchen, unable to sleep, to pore over recipe books or posh, high-end travel and entertainment magazines (stolen from my psychaitrist's and doctor's waiting rooms in general. Oh, and once from the mechanic at the end of the street). In such an environment, it is easy to indulge in recipes you know you'll be able to find the ingredients for, if not visit the chef's actual restaurant over the next weekend. I believe such heady reading late at night is, as a good friend of mine puts it, 'food porn'. I've spent a significant proportion of my late night adult life fondling the folds of recipe books and gourmet magazines. No fuss (no mess) no calories. And all those deliciously onomatopoeically charged words such as the portly portabello mushroom, fennelguk? fennelgeek? And caperberry.

So here I am now, nearly seven years on from abandoning my rainy post in Melbourne and running out of money in Karratha - not necessarily completely unserendipitously, the spot in Australia most diametrically opposed to Melbourne - a vast outpost and timeworn rock shop. This place is Hot. Red. Separated from the known universe by the horizon. Which is to say, if you walk to the end of my street, you will fall off. Not the sidewalk, but the end of the universe.

Karratha, gateway to awesome natural wonder, awesome landscapes and awe ore (one might call this region a Chinese fortune cookie), is in close proximity to an array of yearned for features, such as the long drop wonder of Karijini gorges, limitless space crowded only by saltbush and good drying days, and that stunning midnight glitterati - our not so humble, multi billion dollar gas plants.

Sadly, however, there is other stuff we can't boast of. Take, for instance, this food porn folly. It's all well and good for me these days to pick up a gourmet travel magazine (sure my dentist doesn't mind) or a fancy schmancy food glossy. It's another thing to find half of its contortionesque ingredients lists in our shops. I once managed to salivate myself into a puddle over a wagyu beef burger recipe with organic this, hand fed that, and pickled whatsihooses. And subsequently did the hard yards to build the thing. But with our range of grocery options extending to Cs and Ws, the burger was yummy. For a burger. Beef - beef. Bacon - not organic. Cheese...tasty. Not gruyere. Etc. Beloved loved it. He loves anything he doesn't have to cook. So, on my cooking nights (the 364 days of the year we don't eat a tuna sandwich) I am exulted and praised beyond Anne Tenney's wildest imaginings. Amazing how loved one can feel when one places microwaved boxed barra with hot chips and vinegar on the humble dinner plate.

But, back to the porn. It's Sunday night. All on my lonesome. On the couch. Begin canoodling with a five year old copy of Vogue Entertaining. It's plastered with mini Italian gelatis, coated in pastel chocolate and always worth a drool. My old favourite mag. And I indulge, flick through luscious culinary exploits. Then I am halted by a crazy, if not ironically logical thought: after all these years, isn't it about time I cook something out of this magazine rather than just licking the pages?

Flicking through, I arrive at a comfortable page. One whose recipes correspond with a delightful tale of fresh, tropical summers and nostalgic ocean breezes. Close enough to home I thought. Except we have mudflats, strong winds and the occasional cyclone to decrease summer nostalgia and electricity supplies on occasion (although not this year). Anyway, it felt right, this fare. So I grabbed pen and paper and began to peruse the ingredients list of a simple looking salad with green beans. It incorporated seven ingredients, the easiest of which to source were salt and pepper. Lemon peel was also fine. Lemon infused olive oil - could even manage that in Karratha (I know this because a couple of weeks ago I thought everything I stirfried was off because it would suddenly take on this heady left-in-the-pantry-for-a-decade whiff in the wok. Nope. Took me a while to work out I'd accidently bought lemon olive oil rather than the plain variety and, in a fit of pique, binned the lemon olive oil in melodramatic ferocity for its clever tactic of destroying several of the previous week's meals.)

But with Pilbara eyes rather than market extravaganza Melbourne ones, things went a little haywire after this. I was offered options for the beans: Roman beans, round beans or runner beans. Hmmm...I mused...then there are my options: slightly bruised from the truck beans, frozen beans or, out on a limb here, baked beans. I was tending towards the latter if for nothing but the joy of feeling I was pushing the culinary envelope just like this Vogue. Ok. So, we're going baked beans rather than Roman ones. Tick.

Now, what to do about the stoned olives (is that really the phrase? Like they've been marinated and bottled in weed for a year or two?). The recipe asked me to use Niçoise or Ligurian olives. Now, first of all, any ingredient with a word containing a squiggled cedilla ç was bound to be unnatainable in the Pilbara. I mean, we're talking about a place where such beautiful French street names as Legendre are necessarily pronounced 'Legendah. Mate.' And what does a Ligurian olive look like? More to the point (and this is getting weird now) what does a stoned Ligurian olive look like? I hear that and I'm thinking of an imported roadside worker, melting in the heat and out to it after a big night at Trawlers (No kidding, that's was the name of our nightclub. Thank goodness, they've just renamed it). Again, my choices for olives were less...exotic: Bottled or unbottled. And less onomatopoeically luxurious than stoned, I could buy them pitted...or unpitted.

Then we're down to the final ingredient. And here's where my spiral into a mise en abyme of possessed hilarity gained its ultimate and final momentum:

Please use '80 grams of goat's milk fromage blanc.'

Fromage blanc. Is that like creme fraiche? Or cheese? I wondered if I might be able to find some goat's milk Fruche. Even if not goat's milk flavour, would strawberry Fruche do? Or lemon lime (to complement the olive oil)? Or, what about that pomegranate Fruche I'm sure I saw? Suffice to say, Karratha and goat's milk fromage blanc - not a happening thing.


Joy of joys, this ingredient was suffixed with an friendly little *. The Asterisk of Hope in my baked bean, black olive and pomegranate salad. This asterisk would hopefully offer me a fair trade. So I'm thinking...creme cheese? Marscapone cheese even? Or maybe just Bega? So I scan the page, hunting down directions for assembling this salad until I reach the recipe's end. And there it is, in a flourish of italics, my salvation. Awaiting confirmation of the simpler option, I read the asterisked postscript:

*If you can't find goat's milk fromage blanc, substitue for marinated Persian feta...


Suffice to say, I laughed. Aloud. A lot. Then I closed my Vogue Entertaining and toddled out to the kitchen pantry for a late night snack. Baked beans, of course. Followed by a punnet of Fruche. And I went to bed, spent and satiated. And slept soundly, dreaming of stoned Persian goats nibbling on olive pips somewhere far, oh so very far, from here.