Sunday, January 19, 2014

Do Not Drink Unless Desperate - good advice from the Under 21s

Last week Melbourne absolutely sweltered in 40 plus degrees, not good news for those playing in the Australian Tennis Open which became more of a Bikram Yoga session than a Wimbledon like event.  Sydney in contrast to the Southern half of Australia had the most glorious weather, temperatures in the low 30s and a bit of cool in the evenings and early mornings. 

One of the hot weather habits we have adopted is keeping cold bottles of water in the fridge.  Bombay Sapphire gin bottles have always struck me as the ideal water bottles, in terms of weight and aesthetic looks and provided we keep an eye on guests trying to throw out the tops, it’s been a great system over the years, though it has led to raised eyebrows at time re my drinking habits.

“Do you always drink gin at breakfast?” being an example of a penetrating questions from one of my nephews. 

Like all great systems there are always the glitches.  In addition to the kitchen fridge we also have what is known as the back fridge in the dog room cum laundry.  The back fridge is where we keep the alcohol, as opposed to the decomposing vegetables, clingfilmed leftovers that I am hopeful will be eaten soon despite the fact they were rejected on the first outing, and out of date yoghurts that reside in the kitchen fridge.  At the end of last week owing to the fact that some one – I was going to write child but could equally be Husband, as age is not the criteria for this scapegoat role, rather lack of common sense, turned the back fridge thermostat up to high, leading to a very dramatic Diet Coke explosion that blew the door open and scattered Diet Coke crystals across the laundry and dog.  In the clean up, I took all the bottles out, including the gin and the 20 bottles of beer that for some reason reside there, neither of us actually drinks beer but it would be social death in Australia not to have a beer to hand for visitors and rewarding tradesmen.  Having washed everything down I left the bottles to dry and wandered off, came back, restacked back fridge without noticing I was missing a bottle of gin that someone in unaccustomed helpful mode had put in the kitchen fridge.  We came home from a night out to an accusing gin bottle and accompanying note from Drama Queen No.1 who had obviously attempted to pour herself a glass of water and received a full on dose of ‘Mother’s Ruin’ – glad to see she hasn’t got a taste for it.  

I do remember trying to drink Gin mixed with water and sugar at university as we were too lazy/broke to go out for tonic – and it was pretty nasty, so I am with DQ No. 1 on the 'desperate' sentiment.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 is going to be a Frangipani of a year

Happy New Year!  I have abandoned New Year Resolutions as a bad idea as not only do I break them within a week, but I am then wracked with guilt about what a feeble human being I am.  In past years I was full of good ideas, strangely enough the same ones every year.  It probably comes as no surprise that these annual notes to self always seem to focus on daily exercise, miraculously weight loss and writing more, perhaps in retrospect I should have thought about a way of combining the last two and attempted to write the best selling, ‘Read Your Way Down a Dress Size Diet” or “The Novel Diet” – am thinking of copywriting the latter title which will feature as its central tenet that rather than reaching for the biscuit tin, one should select a riveting read and lie on the bed or in the bath – sure to be a bestseller amongst the London literary set and just imagine the fun I could have selecting titles as alternatives to various foodstuffs.    Anyway best selling diet book fantasies aside, this year I have taken a chill pill on the resolution front as it were and made a realistic assessment of my stock of will power and decided that my only resolution is to be happy.  If nothing else the drama of our lives in 2012 and 2013 has taught me that that love and happiness are really the only things that matter in life.

Happily, in this context we did have a lovely Christmas and New Year.  This particular Christmas was spent in Lymington on the south coast of England and was made extra special by the fact that owing to the winter storms, we spent three days from the 23rd to the 26th living by candlelight and open fire.  All very romantic in theory, but actually very inconvenient, if like my noble sister-in-law you have to contend with 12 in the house with no dishwasher, guttering candles and unwashed relatives unwilling to face cold showers.   

Based on life without power I came to a number of conclusions:

a)   You can never have enough candles.  Forget period drama showing ball rooms lit by a few discreet tapers, the reality is it takes a huge amount of candles to create a liveable amount of light. Likewise tea lights may be atmospheric in an airy fairy type way but do not last for any meaningful amount of time and bear in mind that given the bleak midwinter timing of Christmas, that it gets dark at 3.30pm and not reliably light until 8am.  In fact early morning stocking openers had to be sent back to bed until adults could actually see what was going on as the combination of wrapping paper, bed linen and candles was deemed as too inflammable for anyone to face.

    b) It’s remarkable how much wood you burn when you are relying on fires to heat your house rather than to provide atmospheric flickering and back up to the central heating.  Husband took on the role of wood boy and like the poor man in ‘Good King Wenceslas’ did a lot of ‘gathering winter fuel’.

    c)  Should I ever live in the UK countryside I need to remember the importance of having at least three different sources of heating – and one of those must be an Aga.  It radiated cheerful heat, provided Christmas dinner and heated the numerous kettles of water that were needed for bracing cups of tea needed when we weren’t taking to alcohol to cheer ourselves up.

As ever with these situations, it’s the company you keep that makes the difference, not the environment, and we couldn’t have had a better Christmas in terms of general jollity.

So here’s hoping that 2014 keeps up the happiness quotient that Christmas kicked off to such a good start.  Back in Sydney, my heart thrills to see that for the first time in my career as a gardener, a career characterised less by green fingers, and more by being the harbinger of the black kiss of death to most plants, I have managed to get a frangipani to flower.   The orchid that I did manage to keep alive for a whole year wasn’t quite so lucky and is looking a little less festive.