Saturday, April 25, 2009


The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915. A crushing defeat, this day is used not to glorify war but to remember the brave dead, honor veterans and hail current members of the armed forces.

The largest of Perth's ANZAC Day services-which start at dawn-is held at Kings' Park. It is followed by a 'gunfire' breakfast, then a parade and culminating in a commemorative program on the Esplanade. It attracts tens of thousands of people all sardining themselves on the hill to watch the event on a big screen. So there is a big move to have Returned Services League (VFW equivalent) branches hold smaller ceremonies in their community. Our service was at the end of my street at Memorial Garden. All too convenient, even at 6 a.m., to join elected officials, neighborhood vets, a church choir, diligent Scouts and assorted insomniacs for a solemn service. The predawn program goes off without hitch [if you don't count the three Scouts who stood with knees locked for too long and fainted] and even with a bit of humor- a seven year-old girl joined the wreath laying action wearing a lime green robe and red slippers. She was part of the ever-increasing numbers attending ANZAC services everywhere.

Afterwards, it is off to a 'gunfire' breakfast. Normally this would mean rum in the trenches for foot soldiers. Victoria Park attendees were treated to eggs, bacon, tomato and bread at tables set up in the cleanest municipal building loading dock [euphemistically called an undercroft] you have ever sat in. My distinguished table mates included a well-decorated vet who served in Papua New Guinea and the mayor of Vic Park! The conversation was lively and very interesting. Good thing we weren't at the back of the chow line as more people showed up for breakfast than for the service and food was running out. Or does a freebie meal inspire larger self-served portions?

Choices, choices. At this point, one can bus downtown for the parade or head home and watch it on TV. I love a parade, any parade, all parades. Clap, clap, clap, woo hoo, clap, clap, oh yeah, clap, clap. Is that a 99 year-old man walking the parade? And another? Gee, can we cut these oldies some slack?

It is rather ironic that ANZAC Day, of all days in the year, has alcohol sale restrictions on it. The pubs and casino close from 3 a.m. to noon- not out of respect and patriotism-but because it is one of the very few times it is not legal to sell booze. So it is always a bit of a contest each year to see which RSL Hall (full of thirsty vets) gets sprung by law enforcement for tapping a vein before 12 o'clock. I'll settle for an Anzac (oatmeal) cookie, instead.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Being a long-time food preserver and Ohio State Fair blue ribbon winner, I was eager to start canning here in WA. As it was impractical to ship my complete kit, I planned on picking up a used set here right away and immediately start taking advantage of the long growing season. Canning is cheap therapy for this gal.

Easier said than done. After months of searching every possible corner of the city, I managed to score a set that is nearly 50 years old, 31 bottles, not all the accoutrement and considered myself lucky. Ancient, peeling paint and all evidence of having been well used, the Fowler Sterilizer is certainly not the Mason system. A holed platform is hinged at the bottom. Round jars, rubber gasket at the neck, and full lid clamped on top, are put into the pot, cold water is poured up to 3/4 the height of the jars. The water is supposed to take one hour to get to the desired temperature--which may be anywhere from 150 to 200F. And then kept at that 170F for two and a half hours or however long the directions require for the particular produce being preserved. Newer versions are electric; put in jars, water, plug in, set the thermometer and you're finished. No one was selling one of those for $30.

Second issue was the produce. U-Pick places are almost nonexistent. Double drats. Picking is part of the therapy for me. So I get my produce from farmers markets. Blue ribbons in mind, I measure the width of the peaches, sort the tomatoes by size (all to odd looks from the proprietors.) It's difficult to manage the sub-boiling temp on an electric stove. The peaches, shy of perfect, was my first attempt, also not perfect. Better luck with my tomatoes...a possible ribbon winner in the batch.
The pictures are a bit off. My Hannah Montana cam has a 'viewfinder' but not a captured image screen. I have no idea of the exact picture taken until I upload it into my camera. But still you can see the sun shining off the stainless steel lids atop the Vacola jars, the whole tomatoes in the left jar (my potential winner) and the old pot on our easy-bake-oven sized stove. I have a meat thermometer in the side water well.
The jars are stored in the cupboard under the stairs. I've put the kit up in the spare room but it is a very short distance to retrieve should another canning opportunity present itself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April 14

April 14, 2009. Today marks the first anniversary of my arrival here in Australia. So many thoughts rushing through my head, so few rushing to my lips or fingertips.

I guess the disappointments are obvious. The economic boom in Western Australia was bust for me before I even got here. And now that the global economy is a bit weak in the knees, my prospects are no brighter.

I really have enjoyed touring about on weekend or day trips. WA is more than red desert and hopping kangaroo. As Kev always travelled abroad rather than interstate, I'm thinking he has experienced more of WA than his home state of Victoria. I thought the same way for a long time-- old people with kids vacationed up the road or in Florida, I want to go far, far away. Mom would say, "But there is so much here in this country..." and eventually I did go on a drive-about or two in the U.S. It is quite easy to be a tourist in one's own state. Now Kev & I "go walk-about" as often as possible to discover exactly what is at the farthest end of Earth. (Insert shameless plug for blog entries which report my findings ;-p )

I'm also rather glad we live so close Perth's Central Business District. A city slicker like myself wouldn't last very long at a sheep station (ranch) in the outback. Glamorize it in song & poem, but it is still a very solitary existence. I am very glad to have found some rewarding volunteer opportunities. I get to learn about the area and stretch some creative muscle in preparing my radio show, "What's On Where" No pay. It's considered community radio.
A few Aussie phrases creep into the vocabulary, but don't look for any Crocodile Dundee type twangy accent.

Don't know what to expect in my book of tomorrows, I'll just have to wait and see...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Biggest Holiday of the Year

The biggest holiday of the year is coming upon us quickly. No, not Easter or ANZAC Day.

Good Friday.

Call it the most important holiday, if you will, as the entire country grinds to a halt on Good Friday. No mail, no commerce, no libraries or casino, no school or work, no newspaper, no public services, the pubs & liquor stores are closed as well. You might find the odd bakery doing a few hours trade in the morning selling hot cross buns, but they fall silent in short order.
One wonders.
Don't worry about Easter itself, lots of activity then. The hardware stores do land office business and even offer do-it-yourself classes for kids on Sunday. It's actually a four-day weekend. Easter Monday is considered a federal holiday also so a lot of people hit the road for mini-vacations.

All of this sounds odd for a country considered far less conservative than the U.S. Christmas, New Year's, ANZAC Day don't get this kind of treatment. Don't know why. I just go with the flow here.

Happy Easter. Happy Good Friday.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Palm Sunday

My Sundays start out rather predictably. I walk to early Mass. No, not the 6 a.m. service, the 8 a.m. one. It's cooler then, less noisy and crowded, no hoons barreling down the street-perfect for a 12 minute walk. First sign of life I pass are the motorcycle enthusiasts breakfasting at Farrell's restaurant at the corner of my street and the main road. This Sunday there were were 19 "bikies" hanging out at one super extended outdoor table. Hardly a gang, these folks are 55 (if a day) and not even a threat to the cute waitresses Farrell's tends to employ. I cross the main road and observe the maintenance guy for the Broken Hill sweeping up the courtyard. The predictable detritus of a Saturday night at the pub but sometimes there's stuff you don't want to know about, so I'll skip it. He hoses down the steps leading to the door. The Broken Hill is no longer the dive it once was, yuppies like sterilized steps.

Palm Sunday service held a surprise. I'm used to just picking up a palm frond provided by the church upon entering. Here, it is BYO. And true to the Italian neighborhood that it is, most people had olive branches. Some were clusters bound to look like a bush, others carried little more than a twig with two olives dangling from it. A few gum tree branches surfaced and a nice lady mowed down a sharp palm bush to provide extras for those who forgot. Another sign that it is an Italian neighborhood church: the organist, in her tired off-key voice, sings all responses and most hymns in Italian. sotto voce

I usually take a different path home. I almost always have letters to mail, so I detour to the post office, which is right across the street from Tammy's Bakery [open 7 days and run by a woman named Effie.] I never buy but I sure do breath deeply as I pass the open door. I then go up a different street, a bit of a hill, but there are a twin pair of agave plants I have to monitor progress of (they look like giant asparagus) and a stately white home that looks humorously cockeyed on the steep hill. After that, it is all down hill (ha ha) and all bets are off on how Sunday continues.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Random Musings II

There isn't a kosher dill pickle to be found anywhere in OZ. In fact, 'gherkins' in general are an afterthought found on the bottom shelf of the grocery store. Prominently placed: pickled brown onions. Lots of them. Even cocktail onions get prime placement.

Self-service checkout just arrived in Perth. It's fun to watch people figure out the machines. Think of the jobs lost. I wonder if Aussies will embrace the self-service concept.

Know that "Op Shop" = thrift store. Imagine looking for a thrift store and seeing this sign:

Drug-Arm Op Shop & Bargain Centre
It's safe to go inside.

My library has a 28-day loan policy. Which explains why I am watching "It's A Wonderful Life" and "White Christmas" in April instead of December. They are good anytime. Actually, they are better suited now because it is getting cooler outside.

What do Aussies have against dry hands? Paper towels or working hand dryers are a rarity. In the department store women's restroom: 12 stalls, 10 sinks, 1 dryer.

Don't play soccer, cricket, lawn bowls or croquet? Here's the club to belong to:
the Pigeon Racing Club. No fewer than 15 chapters of the Pigeon Racing Federation of WA, Inc. in the area. And some of the club houses are none too small.

There are idiots and bored youth here, also. "Tagging" -spray painting your mark on buildings, trains,etc. and "hooning" - drag racing with preferably lots of burning rubber are the scourge of almost every community. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Garage sales: where people try to sell 35 year-old Tupperware at near-current prices. One lady was selling OPENED and 1/3 empty bottles of liquor for almost the same price as a liquor store special! Claimed it was a big discount from the Duty-Free price she paid. We manage to get back into the car before whooping into laughter.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hanging with my Peeps

At about this time of year, absolutely eons ago when I worked in Texarkana, my reporter and I went to a Kmart/Walmart-y type of store and shot some video of little baby chicks. The cute little beggars were dyed with food color and resembled cheep-cheeping jelly beans. The story was about how baby chicks, darling though they are, make terrible Easter presents as they grow rapidly into chickens. Moreover, stores like Kmart/Walmart (our unnamed source of footage) were not good places to buy pets anyhow because animal care is not their focus.
As I didn't trawl pet sections before this report, and haven't since, I have no idea what has become of the Easter chick.

Until this week.

There was this strange noise in the library yesterday. I thought a bird had flown in and was twittering around. What it was -- my library's own peep coop. A small incubator, housing a dozen eggs, was next to a mini pen complete with warming light, water trough, smorgasbord tray and two little chicks. A magnet for kids, young & old.
Today I walked in and discovered an entire clutch of cuties. In 24 hours, 10 eggs had hatched! A few are light brown, many of the newbies are unsteady on their feet. There are two eggs left, ducks, waiting to be fashionably late. My initial shock has turned into amusement. The glitterati amongst the literati.
The Thursday before Easter, the company that markets this kind of educational experience will come pick them up and take them away--hopefully to a good place. In the meantime, I shall remain in the library hanging with my peeps.