Archive for January, 2013

I Told You I Was Ill

By popular request….


Off to Fremantle, or Fre-o as it’s popularly known, to the Salvo Stores and The Australia Day Charity Shop Challenge. I’m buying for China, he’s buying for me. China’s demure flat mates politely declined taking part in such silly Saxon antics.

Budget is $25. Theme is Famous Australians.

I’m hoping for R. Benaud. Or Mick Dundee.

I’ll probably get Kylie.

Gone West

“Forgive and forget Major” (Hello Paul!). With such sangfroid disdain reminiscent of IVA Richards in his pomp, Fawlty sends the grudge-heavy Major Gowen back towards the bunker within his scotch on the rocks and Times crosswords to a world of gloomy recollection and unsettled scores.
I empathise with the dear old Major here. I too can never move on -have seldom moved on- from an unresolved disgruntlement.

Yes, it’s only thirty five dollars. Yes, it was nearly a month ago. How many more Caaaaald ones would that have got? How many SevenEleven Coffees? Thirty five actually.
But that’s not the point.
The point is, even in the great depths of consumer hell and abyss of the value for money crypt that is Australia, thirty five dollars for four hours of looking at Melbourne graffiti is stupefyingly horrendous. Every dollar counts in the world of the Backpacker, especially the alcohol dependent ones.

So imagine my relief earlier, when I signed up for China Tours and the complete and unadulterated Perth walking tour (sun cream not provided) all refreshingly gratis, save for a couple of Caaaaald Ones at appropriate intervals.
First in store is a mooch around the city centre taking in the underwhelming malls and slightly better cafes and bars, three Flight Centres, four Subways, no SevenElevens and a Ye Olde Englishe Market which isn’t so much mock Tudor as taking a wazz on the very legacy of Henry VIII and all of his wives. The tour meanders on along the wooden decking pathway behind the WACA alongside the Swan River. Kayakers, bored shitless and melting in the midday sun float inconsequentially past, hopeless fishermen stand perspiring on the rocks.

Then the crowning glory of the tour. Dolphins. Twenty metres from our shaded resting place on the shore. For ten minutes these graceful creatures amuse themselves and us by slipping gracefully in and out of the serene view across the river.

Lunch is a couple of bespoke Caaaaald Ones in the nouveau riche area of Victoria Gardens. More walking and more sights they don’t tell you about in Lonely Planet; like the fascinating award winning multi-storey bridge and the most violent water fountain in the Southern Hemisphere.

All this for free. There’s a gap in the market here, surely? What China could do is package this all up for gullible tourists and charge them extortionate amounts for doing so.

Now there’s a thought….

If The Cap Fits….

So a heartfelt thank you and warm wishes to family Leddy in Brisbane. Their priceless hospitality over the last few days has been extremely well received.
Thank you for the insight into local cricket. They’re a good bunch of lads at Sandgate & Redcliffe District C.C. Thanks for the resulting post-match trip to the Geebung-Zillmere RSL, or The Razzle as it is affectionately known. The Phoenix Club in everything but name. All Brisbane life is there, including the scariest karaoke rendition of Dire Straits’ Romeo & Juliet I’ve ever seen. And heard.
Thank you for the use of the ferry card. The City Cat is most practical and most scenic way to see the River City as it winds its way around the busy Queensland capital. Thank you for taking me to Moooooloooooloooooloooooaba or whatever it’s called, a place away from glare of the guide books. The golden sands without The Gold Coast crowds.
Thank you for not taking me to Aussie World.
Thank you for reintroducing me to vegetables, salads and proper dinners. I can now look my nutritionist (Hello Sian!) in the eye again, albeit rather sheepishly. Thank you for my first ‘Chicken Parmy”.
Thank you for the trip to the Gabba, I know you didn’t organise the result, but it was the icing on the cake of a great day. Thanks too for the pre-match steins in the German Club over the road, unquestionably, the best Caaaaald Ones I’ve had since I got here.

And thank you, sincerely, for this….


I really am lost for words.

Do you expect me to wear it?

Oh, you do.

Good Lord.

Clever Trevor


Action from yesterday’s Sandgate & Redcliffe District CC vs Western Suburbs District CC, Grade 1 cricket in Queensland. The home team, seen batting here, went on to win by five wickets.

The park was named after a Queensland cricketer who, having represented the club with distinction, went on to play seven Tests for Australia at the end of the eighties. His name is Trevor Hohns. The park is called The Trevor Hohns Field.

So this, presumably, is where he honed….

Border, Blackbirds, Black Caviar. And Beef.

Herbed spring pea & lemon risotto? Pah! You didn’t really think I’d gone all posh did you?
The Gabba, a warts n’ all bastion of Aussie sporting supremacy. Home, down the years, to the likes of Lindwall, Border, Hayden and latterly, err, Johnson. Gutsy blokes need gutsy grub. In addition to the soft-cock fine dining on offer in the Members Stand, there’s proper tucker for the blue-collar boys too.
Having cocked a snook at the array of pork-knuckles, bockwursts and rissoles on offer at the marvellously authentic German club across Vulture Street (as well as the Member’s Lunch in the ground), we sought out something for lunch as authentically Australian as, well, their recent cricket failures.
Having been here for four weeks now and not got round to trying one, it was to time to get involved. Four N’ Twenty Meat Pies, it was time to come to Papa.

In a bad week for bad meat, it was a job to focus on the task in hand. Was I about to, as implied by the name, chow down on two dozen pastry encased Turdus Merula? Or would it be the meat of the moment; horse?
Just as I was about to bite my way into my imagined meat roulette I was abruptly halted by the Leddy brothers. “Whoa there H mate, what are ya doing?” Aw, look ya can’t have an Aussie pie without tomato sauce…..”

Heavens above. What madness is this? Why would you take a perfectly presentable, lovingly crafted meat pie and slather lashings of rich, red ketchup all over it? What sort of evil mind comes up with that? Furthermore, why is it, like shortening and sticking ‘ie’ on the end of every other word, the accepted norm over here?
Wrestling with this awkward clash of cultures, I found myself drawn towards the squeezy bottle of Tommy-K and while I turned over these conundrums in my overworked mind, the bottle, as if on auto-pilot squirted out a thick jet of sugary, scarlet goo on my pie top.

There’s no picture for prosperity of this seminal moment in my pie eating life, but the Leddy boys seemed impressed that the dollop atop my lunch looked like a dead ringer for a tomato-ey silhouette of Australia (with the omission of Tasmania, sadly). This ceremonial nonsense rather took my mind off what lied within.

Beef, not horse or indeed blackbird. What a relief! But not as I was expecting. No chunks, no onion, no finery, just a glorious concoction of mince and gravy. It was as delicious as the Australian batting collapse unfolding in front of me and the perturbed twenty thousand Queenslanders present.
While the Gabba is something of a fortress at Test level, its record in shorter forms of the game is rather sketchy. Even the unusual combination of the omnipresent tomato sauce couldn’t distract me from the fact that the home team were getting absolutely buried in their own backyard. In fact, maybe that’s the way us Poms should approach the pie plus tomato sauce conundrum;

Best Served Watching The Aussies Getting Dicked

I finished my pie with a flourish, licking keenly every last fleck of pastry from my sated chops. So simple, yet so good. I’m sure the Australian selectors must wish Mitchell Johnson was this uncomplicated.
There’s a good chance Four N’ Twenty pies, like Lionel Richie and Sharpe novels will end up in the corner of my conscience labelled ‘guilty pleasures’. I enjoyed this taste sensation so much, I went back for another, this time, at Leddo’s insistence, topped with heaps of barbecue sauce.

Maybe, as long as Australian sporting misfortunes are happening in front of me, anything goes…. Now then, anyone know where I can get a witchety grub omelette?

Epilogue. Australia, having been bowled out for 74, went on to lose the third Commonwealth Bank One Day International to Sri Lanka by five wickets inside twenty overs. The Leddys and I went on to a nice meal at an Italian Restaurant on Brisbane’s Southside with the rest of the family.
Grazie mille Mr & Mrs Leddo, a lovely gesture and a lovely occasion.

Pie’s Off….

Sorry Friday Pie-Day fans. As you’ll see from today’s menu below, there’s a distinct lack of pie action on the menu at The Gabba for the 3rd One Day International between Australia and Sri Lanka.

This means I’ll have to review two pies next week, I’m sure I’ll cope. Also, bearing in mind it’s Burn’s Night (Hello Kevin!) next Friday, hopefully there’ll be a lamb pie to pass comment on in addition to an Aussie staple.

In the mean time, damn that Rosemary baked loin of Victorian lamb…..

Gabba Members Dining Room

Sportsman’s Lunch

Roasted vine ripened tomato & goats cheese tart w caramelised onion

Main Course
Rosemary baked loin of Victorian lamb w sweet potato dauphinoise & minted runner beans
Roasted breast of chicken w herbed spring pea & lemon risotto

Hazelnut meringue w milk chocolate mousse
A selection of fine Australian cheeses w fig paste & wafer biscuits

Premium blend coffee & a selection of traditional & herbal teas

Bananas About Coff’s

Who is this chap Coff that they named this part of Australia after? He must have been one heck of a boy. The Shane Warne of his day, perhaps. Either way, he must have been a super, splendid chap as this is one heck of a place.

Understatedly wonderful, it is without doubt one of my favourite spots in this country. Which, even as a card-carrying, fully paid up member of the Whinging Poms Brigade, I don’t mind admitting getting I’m rather fond of.
One or two carping European voices from the hostel decried the place as boring. There is, clearly, no pleasing some folks.
Great swathes of idyllic beaches awash with playful surf from the warm azure sea that go on longer and more rewardingly than a Seventies Prog Rock instrumental solo, nature walks, either coastal or further inland among the Creeks that bring you face to face with the absorbing flora and fauna that dominate the area. All this is overlooked serenely by the mountains of the Great Dividing Range that, whether mysteriously shrouded by mist or resplendent in the sunshine dominate this special scene.


Boring? Clearly, I’ve lost something in translation.

N.B. as I’m sure you all knew; Coff’s Harbour, as well as being the banana growing capital of the country, originally was Korff. As in John Korff, who, rather egotistically, named the region after himself having been shipwrecked here on arrival in the antipodes back in the mid-nineteenth century.
As I said, the Shane Warne of his day….

Birthday Cake

They go in for a bit of the sweet stuff Down Under. The Cheesecake Shop, an Australian institution, leads the way on this front. There’s one in most towns all full to the gunnels with cheesecakes, gateaux and all types of different, delicious puds. Coff’s Harbour is no different, so with a bit of time to kill before my trip north to Brisbane, I thought I’d go and have a Butcher’s.
The attentive young lady behind the counter, Sheila, seemed most obliging. On entering the premises I couldn’t help notice a chap in the corner hammering out the classics on a didgeridoo. Thinking nothing of it, I approached the counter in huge anticipation of the tasty treat that awaiting me…..

Henry: Good Morning.
Sheila: Good morning, Sir. Welcome to the Cheesecake Shop!
Henry: Ah, thank you, Madam.
Sheila: What can I do for you, Sir?
Henry: Well, I was, uh, sitting in the Tourist Information Office on Elizabeth Street just now, skimming through My Spin On Cricket by Richie Benaud, and I suddenly came over all peckish.
Sheila: Peckish, sir?
Henry: Esurient.
Sheila: Eh?
Henry: (adopts silly Aussie accent) ‘Aw, ah wor heaps ‘ungry mate!
Sheila: Ah, hungry!
Henry: In a nutshell. And I thought to myself, “a little whipped up cream cheese & biscuit crumbs based dessert will do the trick,” so, I curtailed my Benauding activities, sallied forth, and infiltrated your place of purveyance to negotiate the vending of some sweet toothed comestibles!
Sheila: Come again?
Henry: I want to buy some cheese cake.
Customer: Oh, I thought you were complaining about the didgeridoo player!
Henry: Oh, heaven forbid: I am one who delights in all manifestations of the Aboriginal muse!
Sheila: Sorry?
Henry: (the accent again) ‘Aw mate, Ah lahk a nice tuune’, you’re forced too!
Sheila: So he can go on playing, can he?
Henry: Most certainly! Now then, some cheesecake please, good lady.
Sheila: (lustily) Certainly, sir. What would you like?
Henry: Well, eh, how about some lemon?
Sheila: I’m, a-fraid we’re fresh out of lemon, sir.
Henry: Oh, never mind, how are you on black currant?
Sheila: I’m afraid we never have that at the end of the week, sir, we get it fresh on Monday.
Henry: Tish tish. No matter. Well, dear lady, four slices of chocolate, if you please.
Sheila: Ah! It’s beeeen on order, sir, for two weeks. Was expecting it this morning.
Henry: ‘T’s Not my lucky day, is it? Aah, Tiramisu?
Sheila: Sorry, sir.
Henry: Orange?
Sheila: Normally, sir, yes. Today the van broke down.
Henry: Ah. Blueberry?
Sheila: Sorry.
Henry: Fruits of the Forest? Raspberry?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Any Norwegian Cloudberry, per chance.
Sheila: No.
Henry: Coffee?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Plum Duff?
Sheila: No.
Henry: White Chocolate?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Danish Apple?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Double Chocolate?

(While all this is going on, the didgeridoo man is still hard at it….)

Sheila: (pause) No.
Henry: Cherry?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Pecan?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Apricot, Creme de Cassis, Crepe Suzette, Pear Tarte Tatin, Brioche Perdu, Croquembouche, Creme Caramel, Nougat, Champagne Roulade?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Creme Brûlée, perhaps?
Sheila: Ah! We have Creme Brûlée, yessir.
Henry: (suprised) You do! Excellent.
Sheila: Yessir. It’s..ah,…’s a bit runny…
Henry: Oh, I like it runny.
Sheila: Well,.. It’s very runny, actually, sir.
Henry: No matter. Fetch hither the dessert de la Belle France! Mmmwah!
Sheila: I…think it’s a bit runnier than you’ll like it, sir.
Henry: I don’t care how excrementally runny it is. Hand it over with all speed.
Sheila: Oooooooooohhh……..! (pause)
Henry: What now?
Sheila: The cat’s eaten it.
Henry: (pause) Has he.
Sheila: She, sir.
Henry: (pause) Maple?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Lychee?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Banana?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Shwarzwalde Kirsche Torte?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Gulab Jamun?
Sheila: No, sir.
Henry: You…do have some cheesecake, don’t you?
Sheila: (brightly) Of course, sir. It’s a cheesecake shop, sir. We’ve got–
Henry: No no… don’t tell me. I’m keen to guess.
Sheila: Fair enough.
Henry: Uuuuuh, Pavlova.
Sheila: Yes?
Henry: Ah, well, I’ll have some of that!
Sheila: Oh! I thought you were talking to me, sir. Miss Sheila Pavlova, that’s my name.

(Taking it up a notch or two, the didgeridoo player plays on…)

Henry: (pause) Citrus Fruits?
Sheila: Not as such.
Henry: Uuh, Granola?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Zabaglione,
Sheila: No.
Henry: Biscotti,
Sheila: No.
Henry: Cookies & Cream,
Sheila: No.
Henry: Pomegranate,
Sheila: No.
Henry: Toffee,
Sheila: No.
Henry: Mississippi Mud Pie?
Sheila: Not today, sir, no.
Henry: (pause) Aah, how about Strawberry?
Sheila: Well, we don’t get much call for it around here, sir.
Henry: Not much ca– it’s the single most popular cheesecake in the world!
Sheila: Not ’round here, sir.
Henry: (slight pause) and what IS the most popular cheese ’round here?
Sheila: Pistachio, sir.
Henry: IS it.
Sheila: Oh, yes, it’s staggeringly popular in this manor, squire.
Henry: Is it.
Sheila: It’s our number one best seller, sir!
Henry: I see. Uuh… Pistachio, eh?
Sheila: Right, sir.
Henry: All right. Okay. ‘Have you got any?’ he asked, expecting the answer ‘no’.
Sheila: I’ll have a look, sir……..nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnno.
Henry: It’s not much of a cheesecake shop, is it?
Sheila: Finest in the district!
Henry: (annoyed) Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, please.
Sheila: Well, it’s so clean, sir!
Henry: It’s certainly uncontaminated by cheesecake….
Sheila: (brightly) You haven’t asked me about Amaretto, sir.
Henry: Would it be worth it?
Sheila: Could be….
Henry: Have you–


Sheila: Told you sir….
Henry: (slowly) Have you got any Amaretto?
Sheila: No.
Henry: Figures. Predictable, really I suppose. It was an act of purest optimism to have posed the question in the first place. Tell me:
Sheila: Yessir?
Henry: (deliberately) Have you in fact got any cheesecake here at all.
Sheila: Yes, sir.
Henry: Really?


Sheila: No. Not really, sir.
Henry: You haven’t.

Sheila: No sir. Not a scrap. I was deliberately wasting your time, sir.
Henry: Well I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to shoot you.
Sheila: Right-Oh, sir.

(Henry takes out a gun and shoots the owner)

Henry: What a senseless waste of human life.

N.B. I didn’t really shoot anyone. And actually, the Cheesecake Shop produce is rather wonderful.
Similarly, the whole thing has been loving ripped off, as they would probably put it from Messrs Cleese and Palin. If you’re reading gents, and let’s face it you’re probably not, but thank you for producing one of the most inspirationally hilarious skits ever made. Classic, classic stuff.

Cheer yourself up, make your week. Get on YouTube and enter ‘Monty Python Cheese Shop Sketch’ today.

And Roachy, a very, very Happy 30th Birthday to you sir. Have a good one.

Wauchope Springs

There’s no hope. There’s Bob Hope. Then there’s this.


A one horse town on the New South Wales mid-coast in between Port MacQuarie and Byron Bay.

Pronounced ‘war-hope’.

Not Wanchope as I first thought. Football’s getting bigger out here, unquestionably, but not to the extent they’re naming places after iconic, nation-carrying centre forwards of the nineties.

Not yet, anyway. Right then, next stop on my tour of Australia’s East Coast: Stoichkov’s Harbour

Forgive me. Coff’s Harbour. Sorry.

Welcome To Milton Keynes

It’s called Port MacQuarie, not Milton Keynes on Sea. I wake up and the rain’s still coming down, in mardy drizzle rather than the stair-rods of last night. For the first time in 60 odd days of travelling, it looks like Rain Stops Play.

Reminiscent of that part of the Summer Holidays of teenage years where due to the rubbish weather you’re housebound. Draped sloth like over sofas and chairs watching Rory Bremner’s Creased Up (Hello China! Hello Rob!) or playing Subbuteo or World Cup Cricket (Hello Will! Hello Tom!) rather than out and about.
Good has come of it already, I swap my recently completed 70 Rupees worth of Le Carre brilliance for Faulks’ Birdsong in the hostel’s book exchange. A day of reading, blogging and looking for work awaits.
Something in the third bit of the last sentence stirs me into life. If this place really is Milton Keynes, it’s best I examine the evidence on foot. The rain holds up for the briefest of moments and I’m so keen to get out and about, I forget, loyally stowed in my backpack is a waterproof and some appropriate footwear.

The view across the bay is miles better than Willen Lake. Down the hill, I make for the water. New Conniburrow stands defiantly in the way. Feinting to the left, I escape the unlovely, domineering housing estates and reach the sanctuary of the boardwalk. The bay opens up in front of me and I ignore the concrete jungle to my right, taking in the underemployed pleasure boats and the encroaching melancholy skies while carefully avoiding the ruddy big swan that stands Schmeichel like on the jetty.
Following the path round the bay, I reach Town Beach and Port MacQuarie’s answer to the Concrete Cows; the expansive rows of painted rocks that aline the harbour. Tourists and locals have done their bit to give the place some individuality by liberally slapping slogans, cartoons, tributes and other such brush strokes on stone. It’s kitsch, it’s hip, it’s different. It reminds me of a Downs Barn community project.
The rain’s back. It doesn’t help. I make for the shelter of the trees and Flagstaff Hill.


Staring back towards town from this pleasant vantage point, it strikes me that a town planner came out here on holiday once and thought, “that’s a nice coastline, lets ruin it a bit” and, Hey Presto!, Port MacQuarie as we know it was born. In the foreground is a scene from a Swift or Stevenson novel, in the background, Campbell Heights.

The sun makes a brief cameo appearance before another deluge ensures Flynn’s Beach is as far as my Port MacQuarie adventure is ever going to go. I turn back towards the hostel and figuring my reserve set of espadrilles have suffered enough I tread nervously inland.
Further comparison with Buckinghamshire’s favourite New City is found through The Point, a shimmering edifice of steel, concrete and glass that overlooks the cliff. No red fluorescent lights on this one though.
If the apartments are an eyesore, the motels are even more vacuous. New towns will never be my thing, even ones as brazen than this. Apparently, there are more places like this lying in wait for me up the coast.

I shrug then smile. What a horrible, vain, snob of a man I am.

Besides, I’m sure it’s lovely when the sun’s out.