Saturday, 18 October 2014

Oh, the disappointment!

Life can be a hard slog sometimes. So it's important to take the little victories and small joys as often as they come along. 

I have made no secret of the fact that one small joy for me is lemon meringue pie. That lemony, tart filling that makes your lips pucker (if it's done right) topped with that crisp sweet meringue; all encapsulated in a light, thin pastry shell. What's not to like?

As I say, a small joy.

So you can imagine my expectations when this arrived at my table earlier this month.

The ratio of filling to pie shell is perfect, and even though it sits alone on the plate with no other dressing, I was willing to award almost top marks for presentation. I mean, look at the height of that meringue! 

My usual method of tasting a new slice of pie is to take the whole of the very tip of the pie segment so I can taste the pastry, the filling and the meringue all in one mouthful. Not quite possible with pie that has such substantial proportions, but I gamely continued in my quest.

Just one such mouthful later I knew I was going to be disappointed. 

The meringue was raw. 

Seriously. Not just under-cooked. Completely raw. 

Closer inspection revealed that the meringue had received the briefest possible introduction to a flame. This pie had not gone into an oven.

I tried, I really did. I sampled the filling alone; not bad, but the tartness was fairly low. I tasted the pastry by itself; light, sweet, but in need of more oven time.  Each displayed a reasonable level of taste, but without a decent partner in the meringue department they were never going to arise to much individually.  I gamely braved more meringue, but in its raw state it was never going to be a winner.

I usually score my lemon meringue pies but this one cannot receive any such treatment. It was a complete fail. I am also not going to reveal where I experienced this failure. Those of you observant enough will already know the establishment within which this very poor experience occurred.

Don't worry dear reader, it's not as if I am in the throws of depression and this was the last straw. I see that bonoffee pie is making a come-back.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

What tree is this?

This is a spectacular, yellow-flowered tree that has lost its leaves and is in full bloom in early Spring.

Can you tell me what the name (common or botanical) of this tree is? I think it might be a Cybistax Primavera, but I could be wrong.

This particular specimen is located in Highfields on the left travelling north, opposite the Highfields Primary School. There is a walk-way between the highway and the suburban street and you can see it there in all its glory.

Saturday, 27 September 2014


Time stretches itself, silently yawning
Age hurries forward, death dawning
Travail finally ends, new life spawning
Folly and glee leave no room for mourning.



Saturday, 20 September 2014


Legalism binds the law on us as a curse.
Legalism is simple and naive and lacks understanding.
Legalism is comfortable with regulatory, commanding, legislative, intolerant and unmerciful ways and is eventually justified by them.
Legalism cannot cope with most things, including immaturity.
Legalism produces self-approval by comparative assessment therefore it produces self-justification by establishing a personally-attainable standard.
Legalism sees all failure as rebellion, therefore it establishes petty and narrow values, which will rarely ever be clearly stated.
Legalism confuses immaturity with rebellion.
Legalism provides no power to relate, communicate, teach, fellowship or process immaturity.
Legalism promotes criticism, negativity, conformity and compliance to its expectations without any relationship.
Legalism narrows affections to mutual approval according to its standards and rejects all those who differ, and therefore promotes partiality.
Legalism never understands that to be guilty in part is to be guilty of the whole.
Legalism is easily offended by the failures of others.
Legalism never cries out, "Oh wretched man that I am!".

Culpability comes before wretchedness, which comes before silence.
We can only be freed once we become culpable for our actions and behaviours.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Spring Dress

The child-bride was attending a spring fashion 'do' a few years ago. Everyone attending was asked to bring a song, a short story, a poem or piece of prose relating to spring. 

She asked me write her a poem for the occasion.  Being very pregnant at the time she was wearing a new dress that was covered in flowers. 

This is what I gave her.

This is a poem ‘bout this here dress,
(I’m writing it good so it don’t look a mess)
My wife she wanted it writ on spring
Funny that, she don’t know a thing
‘bout suspension, brakes, a nut and bolt
Can’t blame her, it’s not her fault.
So I wrote her a poem.  I wrote it good.
It sounded just like a spring poem should.
I had hydraulics and shockies, sprockets of lead…
She took one look and said, “Empty head!”

She said it wasn’t what she meant
And she was sure my mind was bent.
So here it is, this is it.
(Don’t I feel a right royal twit)

It’s got a hem, a collar of lace
Really sets off her pretty face.
Two short sleeves, lots of flowers
(I’ve had to sit and watch for hours!)
That will do, that’s enough
I‘m not good at doing this stuff.



Monday, 8 September 2014


A couple of years ago, the child bride and I took a short holiday to Vanuatu. I won't bore you with a long list of things we did or places we saw. As much as these things contributed to our happy holiday, the thing that really made it enjoyable was seeing life through the eyes of another culture.

In Vanuatu, there is only one rule to become a taxi driver. You must own, or have access to, a vehicle. If you have a sedan you can become a bona fide taxi driver by painting the letter "T" on the front of your number plate. If you have a people mover and want to become a bus driver, then it is the letter "B" that must be painted instead. As a result it seems that every vehicle owner on this small island has entrepreneurial aspirations. I don't recall seeing a single vehicle that did not have the obligatory letter added to the number plate. 

This means that you meet the real people who live on the island, not some trained and approved representatives. We found them all very friendly and very informative, and very frank. 

We were being taken somewhere one day and struck up a conversation with the driver. We commented that we often saw men walking around the roads of the island with large machetes in their hands. We asked why this was so. The driver explained that the jungle grew so quickly that the paths needed to be cut back on an almost constant basis. The island did not have council workers that maintained these paths, so the locals did it each time they used them.

My daughter commented that in Australia, if we saw a man walking around with a machete, we would call the police.

The bus driver was silent for a moment and then said, "Oh, if we saw a white man with a machete, we would call the police too."

Ah, perspective. It changes everything.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Adding to the fabric of family life

We are a family that enjoys discussing the past events and incidents of our life together. Over the years, anyone who has spent time around our dinner table has been regaled with more than one story about a randomly selected family member or two. The stories become well-known, and though they do not change, they are told with humour, affection and much laughter.  These times and stories help introduce new friends into the wider family context. Such is the content of this blog post, although in this instance the story does not remain the same for a surprising addition must be included.

One of our daughters was the nurse in a very remote part of the Outback for a few years. The work was exciting, but the hours were gruelling. One of the side-benefits of this employment was an excellent wage, and as a result of this, when it came time to leave, our daughter had some extra savings.

She decided to purchase a Peugeot 306 soft-top sports car. It was second-hand and old and did not cost very much, but it was in good condition. It was bright yellow and cute and the family started calling it the Jelly Bean. The child bride loved this little car too, and the two of them were often ducking off somewhere with the top down.

Fast forward a few months and we were looking after it while our daughter was away at another remote outpost. One day the top would not go down. No matter how long or hard we pushed the button, the best we could get were a few shudders, and eventually, not even that. Feeling responsible, I took the car down to the local authorised dealer to see what was wrong.

Some days later, I received an unbelievable call from the service department manager. Apparently, the hood was opened and closed by a hydraulic ram. This unit was broken and needed replacing. There was none in stock in Australia, and he had scoured the country to see if there was a wrecking yard somewhere that might have one. No such luck. A new unit would have to be ordered from France with a waiting time of at least three months.

This was not good news, but it got worse. The price quoted for the replacement unit, NOT including freight or labour, was twenty-one thousand, and sixteen dollars! Yes, you read correctly. $21,016.00 As you can see, that number is forever burnt into my memory.

Not only was this unit broken, but while dismantling portions of the car to access the faulty unit, a mechanic had broken one of the actuator arms too. No apology; just a grunting comment that it was no real loss because the thing did't work anyway.

I'm not sure what upset me the most. The fact the car had become broken while in my care? While I knew my daughter would be upset, I knew it would not have a detrimental effect on our relationship. Perhaps the fact the cost of repair was so extortionate that approval would never be given to proceed? Not that either. Such things happen in life and any mature adult soon learns to get over them. No, the thing that got under my skin was the attitude of the service department manager. Having been involved in business consultancy for many years, I knew there were oh, so many ways that the guy could have improved his service in this particular instance.

The whole affair eventually became another story in the fabric of our family. After all, how many people get a quote to repair a car that is more than four times the value of the car? The car has remained reliable and as our daughter is currently working closer to civilisation she is able to use her little Jelly Bean for commuting to work. 

I got a call from her last night. It seems that she has had some problems with the air conditioning; it would not turn off. A friend had explained to her the steps to troubleshoot a problem in order to ascertain whether the fault lay in the electrics, the plumbing, the pneumatics, etc. She was able to successfully diagnose the cause of the problem and rectify things so her air-con now behaves itself.

She decided to apply the same troubleshooting process to the soft-top. Would you believe she came up with a completely different diagnosis than the service agent did? As repeating the process brought the same result, she decided to spend the few dollars and replace the signal cable that her diagnosis indicated was faulty. Lo, and behold! the soft-top now closes as expected. I  was flabbergasted when she called me. We laughed for some minutes; I not sure whether from sheer surprise at the unexpected result, or in derision at the "professional" service team who clearly need further training in trouble shooting techniques. Perhaps a little of both.

Either way, we now have an even better story that will now be re-told around the dinner table for many years to come.