Not fancy cooking

Would I like to make a living from writing? I don’t really know! And, at the moment, I don’t really care.

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portrait by Lily circa 2012

Trigger warning for vegetarians and vegans.

Today, when we got back from Freo I put together a rich oxtail stew. It is cooking away as I write and the aroma is divine! I like to make big pots of stew and/or soup in winter. It is good to have spare meals in the freezer. I don’t put too much in each container because it is tasty to add fresh veges when reheated, thus giving the stew a boost.

Why I decided to make stew today was because I read an interesting cooking hack on a Facebook chat page “Chat 10 looks 3” whereby cauliflower was added at the beginning of the cooking time to make the gravy rich and creamy. I usually use sweet potato so today I used both. I am not a precise cook and I use measurements like a ‘sprinkle’ or ‘handful’ or ‘some’. I cook on an ancient gas stove top.

This is how I make Oxtail stew: I start with a large, heavy bottomed, stainless steel pot and melt some coconut oil before adding the pieces of oxtail to brown. If the tail sections are very fatty I trim some of the fat. Today, I added roughly chopped cauliflower including the stalk. Add some roughly chopped carrots, pumpkin, peeled chopped sweet potato, onion, and a good lot of smashed up garlic.

Stir and then I add in whatever I’ve forgotten – chopped or grated fresh ginger, lemon juice (or apple cider) and chopped up lemon skin (apparently the acid helps draw out the goodness from the bones). I remember to add lentils. I used black lentils this time but usually I use red lentils.

Moosh it all around with a big strong spoon and then add stock to cover the ingredients. Homemade stock is best, of course, but if there is none available, box stock is ok or even stock cubes. Season to your taste – if you’ve used bought stock it won’t need so much salt. If I remember I sauté whole coriander seeds in the coconut oil at the beginning, before I add the meat. Today I forgot to do that. Sometimes, if there is a sad looking apple in fridge, I’ll slice it up and add to the stew.

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Cover and stir occasionally, especially if you’ve added anything with sugar because the mixture will stick to bottom of the pot. I don’t use flour or cornflour as thickener because the sweet potato, cauliflower and lentils do the trick and are not gluggy.

My mother used to make Oxtail stew and it is one of my favourites. I suppose it is comfort food in the cold weather. This is not fancy cooking but we like it in our house!

Not fancy cooking

Bali

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I think I caught the cold in Bali as the day before we left I said to Kath how stiff I was feeling – thinking it was from all the yoga. I self-medicated with gin and soda but that didn’t work! The plane trip back to Perth was fairly horrible but luckily not too many people and Perth airport was more or less deserted. Bali was quite cool most of the time. I think I must’ve been Balinese in a previous incarnation because I wore a jumper most of the time and the only other people who did were Balinese! There were heaps of Europeans wearing very little.

 

Some people are not keen on Bali but for me it is the best place. This last trip, a sneaky little five-day number, was lovely. I’m not a massage addict but managed to have two amazing sessions: one in Sanur at The Nest (highly recommended) and an extra long spa treatment in Ubud at Karsa Spa, also highly recommended.

The video clip, I’ve Been to Bali Too, came up on one of the Bali Facebook pages. It was filmed in 1984. For those who know Bali and have been there, will also see how much the island has changed in the intervening years. The amount of traffic must’ve increased by 100% in the thirty-three years since the clip was filmed. More and bigger bridges, hotels, tourists, shops – even massive tourist buses from Java trying to negotiate the narrow mountain roads.

 

I noticed many more dogs than last time I was there. Most Bali dogs are not really owned by anyone although I saw quite a few had collars on and looked well tended. There seems to be a considerable disconnect between dogs ‘owned’ by ex-pats in Bali and the local owners. We met an Australian tourist walking a large and beautiful black dog along the front in Sanur. I asked her about the dog. She told me it belonged to the homestay where she was living. She decided to walk it each day because it was cooped up most of the time. She said, “He pulls like crazy and smells like a polecat!” I had to agree, the dog really smelled to high heaven. I saw one dog covered in sarcoptic mange poor creature. Rabies is endemic in Bali, especially in the countryside.

The outbreak of measles in Bali concerns many people. Many Balinese suffer hearing loss because of measles. Not only deafness, but also blindness can result from measles. I can remember when I was a child, 20 years before measles vaccine was invented; we had to stay in a darkened room because of the threat measles posed to vision. I’m still amazed that some Australians do not vaccinate their children against this – and other ‘childhood’ diseases.

Everywhere you turn in Bali another hotel is under construction. Nearly 5million tourists visited Bali in 2016. And so the development in Bali continues with POTUS wanting to build a massive resort on the sacred ground of Tanalot. It saddens me.

 

Bali

Order and disorder

The first time I saw a Twenty-eight, an Australian ring neck parrot, I asked Roland to stop the car. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, by the side of the highway this brilliant emerald green bird pecking at grass seeds. Of course I had seen brightly coloured birds before but nothing like this. The Latin name is Barnadius zonarius. The bird is quite large. When I have found corpses of these birds, victims of road-kill, I’ve been surprised at how big they are.

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This morning I was listening to the plaintive call these beautiful birds make. I’ve heard from someone who knows, that it isn’t really “twenty-eight, twenty-eight” but rather “vingt-huit, vingt-huit”. There are a few families of Twenty-eights in our area and they are widespread throughout Western Australia. I’ve heard that when it is about to rain the birds hang upside down on the power lines and washing lines and call, “vingt-huit, vingt-huit”. I have seen them hanging upside down on my washing line but not associated this with rain.

Now I’ve got that out of the way I’ll get on with what I was planning on writing about, which is the state of disorder in my writing practice. I have a number of notebooks, journals, and other places where I write. Most of what I write begins life written in cursive in one of these notebooks. I fully intend to have some form of order: reflections in this notebook; travel notes in my Moleskine; poetry here, fiction there … and so it goes. Go it certainly does because invariably whichever notebook I pick up is the one in which I will write. I prefer unlined because lines limit me. I prefer to write with a 2B (or softer) pencil because the feel of the graphite running smoothly over the paper gives me a frisson of joy.

Blogging is the only place I am interested in publishing my writing these days. Does this make me a dilettante? A dabbler? If it does, do I care? No.

 

 

 

 

Order and disorder

Dawn Meditation

Early morning is my time for sitting in meditation. I composed this Haiku which, even though it doesn’t conform to Haiku rules, expresses the essence of my daily experience.

Winter dawn

Sit, feel my breath

Darkness. Solitude.

Some days meditation is easier than others. Some days getting out of bed is easier than others. Most days I just have to get out of bed, stretch and go for it!

Some days I can sit in stillness and some days I fidget. I think the main thing is to do it!

Thinking about Lessons with Persephone, and walking meditation in the maze, there is the understanding that meditation is not only sitting in stillness.

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Lessons with Persephone combined Yoga and Writing. In the beautiful and peaceful surroundings of Nathaneal’s Rest in Mundaring, both Yoga and Writing flowed easily. Home, and the quotidian life makes both more difficult.

I persevere.

Dawn Meditation

Levitating under stress

I think I’ll write about levitating.

I have levitated twice in my long life, both times under extreme stress. I have tried to levitate in normal conditions but it doesn’t work! I do have a witness for both times that I did rise up and forward.

The first time I levitated was many years ago in Africa. It was just before Christmas. We were looking for a particular prickly fern that grows wild in the bush. We used it as a Christmas decoration. The long tendrils draped nicely over pictures, doorways and window pelmets.

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climbing asparagus fern – a weed in Australia

A few of the farm dogs were with us as we walked down the gravel track leading from the main road into the farm. Among the dogs was my mother’s fox terrier, Kleintjie. Roughly translated, Kleintjie is ‘little one’. In fact, all my mother’s foxies were called Kleintjie. As one departed this life another Kleintjie took her place.

Walking back to the Big House, Kath – who had recently learned to walk – ran a little way ahead perhaps thirty metres. I noticed movement next to her on the gravel. Dear God, my heart leapt into my mouth. The movement was a banded cobra rising up to strike directly into my daughter’s face. So, I levitated from where I was standing to Kath. As I landed, Kleintjie ran between the striking cobra and Kath drawing its attention away from her. Even as I write this I can feel the hairs on my neck prickle. Death was so close. Kleintjie evaded the snake, which then slithered off the track and into the bush.

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photo by Peter Wright

The second time I levitated was in Cape Town. I think it was in 1977. We were living in a flat in Camp’s Bay on the side of the mountain. Because of the angle of the ground, the block of flats was perched atop tall pillars and we were on the top (third) floor. We were more or less level with the ground at the back but had the most astonishing views over Camp’s Bay and the ocean from the front windows.

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Twelve Apostles. Camps Bay. Photo by FromJoanne on Flickr

Anyway, early one morning I was standing in the kitchen looking up at The Twelve Apostles through the kitchen window. I heard an extraordinary sound, like a massive pantechnicon that seemed to come from the street behind us. I couldn’t see one and wondered to myself what was a pantechnicon doing up on the mountain at this hour? Then I realised that the stove was moving and rattling. Objects were falling off the shelves. The floor was shaking too. Shit, an earthquake! So, without further ado, I levitated from the kitchen to the bedroom and into the bed. I pulled the blankets over my head although, under the circumstances, that may not have been the wisest thing to do.

If you don’t believe me, ask Roland!

Levitating under stress

Monkey’s Wedding

Liana and I are standing in the doorway of the hall looking out at the rain. The sun shines through the rain and the rain keeps falling. I say, “Monkey’s wedding”. Liana looks at me, “I haven’t heard that expression before?”
“It is something we say in Africa when the sun is shining the same time the rain is falling.”

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Saying, “Monkey’s wedding” is a quaint memory from my childhood. It is something I taught my own daughter and my granddaughters too. It isn’t something one deliberately sets out to ‘teach’ but one of those sayings that children pick up because you use it in a certain identifiable situation. It is a colourful phrase that appeals to children – that appeals to people of all ages. The image of a monkey bridal couple complete with fluffy white dress and flowers, top hat and tails, sparks the imagination.

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It has never entered my head that Australians don’t say, “Monkey’s wedding” when the sun shines through the rain. We have so many expressions in common but this one has slipped past the keeper. I wonder if it is because there are no monkeys native to Australia? I’ve had a look at Google and Wiki. It seems that the original phrase comes from the Zulu language – “… a loan translation of the Zulu umshado wezinkawu, a wedding for monkeys”. There is also a link to Portuguese casamento de rapôsa – vixen’s wedding – which then changed to casamento de macaco – monkey’s wedding.

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The term ‘Sunshower’ seems to be the most commonly used expression in various parts of the world. Topically, The Word Detective says that in “In New York we used to say, “The Donald is fixing his hair”. Whether that is the POTUS Donald or not is a moot point!

There are so many places I could go with this blog entry. For example, Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens and the instinct of play that nourishes so much of our philosophy. But that will turn this into a Sociology essay and bore most people witless. So, I’ll leave it here and just say … Next time you see the sun shining through the rain try saying, “Monkey’s wedding” – it’s guaranteed to make you smile.

Monkey’s Wedding

Writing and Research

Thinking about what to write in this week’s blog, I mull over the events at the Lessons with Persephone Retreat at the weekend. In the quiet of the Retreat, writing came easily. At the moment, this blog is going nowhere.

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When we were talking about if, and when, we had been published, I mentioned that I had only published in a couple of academic journals and one chapter in a book. This chapter was a shared enterprise with my PhD Supervisor, Prof. Jenny de Reuck, and a colleague who was also one of Jenny’s Post Grads, Sharifa Ahjum. The title of the chapter is “The Remembrance of Things Past”: Memory and Migration as Tropes in the Construction of Postgraduate Subjectivities. (You can see we didn’t resile from long and involved titles). When I reread it now, I am struck by the clarity of the writing and the sense of community we shared.

The book is Bartlett, A & Mercer G (Eds) (2001) Postgraduate Research Supervision: Transforming (R)Elations. New York. Peter Lang. pp 233-245.

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The paragraphs that I want to bring to this blog are my own.

In the beginning my doctoral research was to follow my own background – about the women who went to Africa, not from England. That was the intention. In the event, I didn’t follow that research – a common enough story for any PhD Candidate.

In this essay, I moved to writing about Jenny, Sharifa and I – our positionality and affective ethnicity. This is what I wrote: “Where do I stand to Jenny? Where do I stand to Sharifa? How are we so inclusive of each other? It is our coming out of Africa that is our ‘affective ethnicity’. Our form of ethnicity is beyond blood and colour. We draw our connection from our African origins, shared memories of experiences from a country we have left. ‘Affective ethnicity’; meta-ethnicity! Affective pedagogy!” I drew on the work of Moshe Shokeid (‘An Anthropologist’s Work between Moving Genres’ in Ethnos. Vol 57, 1 – 4, 233- 44, 1992.)

Following this I bemoan the fact that I have such difficulty in understanding some of the texts such as Foucault and Bhabha. Sharifa can read and understand these but I battle to make sense of such abstract concepts. Here, again, I quote myself, “Is it my age that stands between me and truly understanding these readings? Has my mind closed the doors—atrophied in the cells? Am I trapped in ignorance? Sometimes I bang my fists against these closed doors, “Open up! Open up!” I call, then, “Think Woman! Think!” Who is the teacher who can lead me to comprehension? Where is the insight that I deny myself? Self-proscribed knowledge, self-proscribed wisdom.

Finally, back to the beginning.

The first entry in my PhD journal reads thus:

Some of the things I want to include:

The spiritual aspect.

The sense of self.

The sense of place.

Identity as a fragile, contextual thing … I worry about my rigidity.

Can I sustain the energy?

The essence is this, researching and writing a doctoral thesis is a lonely thing to do. It is atonement for curiosity; an exercise in humility; self-inflicted isolation. Nevertheless, this is my search for an identity in an alien space. I was never brought up to be an academic. I was never brought up to be an Australian. I catch a glimpse of myself and ask “Who are you?” or maybe, “Who do you think you are?” And then I continue—because what else is there to do?

So, I did continue and eventually, a couple of days before I turned 60, I was notified that I was through. I was now a bona fide doctor.

Writing and Research