Sunday, November 6, 2011

Spring Rush

Last weekend I was in Melbourne. Briefly, but I was there.

It was a good thing to do. I met with the truly remarkable Prof Boylan, and with Bangar, and Melbo and Catty and Trish, and we had an excellent lunch at The Mitre, which is a fine Melbourne oddity. It's a colonial-era pub that's been left standing in the heart of the hightower district, which is as strange as strange can be. To find it, you have to venture down alleyways between gleaming glass monoliths that hold the sky far from your head... and then, suddenly, there it is. Little. Almost ramshackle. But solid, and old.

The food was good. The booze was better. Bangar and the Prof and I hit the Fat Yak, and then I noticed that their wine list included the Kreglinger, and the Prof decided we needed a bottle. He was right, of course. (He usually is, I have discovered.) But this time he was righter than he knew... the Kreglinger bubbly that comes off the old Pipers Brook estates here in Tas is an exceptional drop. They had the 2004 there at the Mitre, and I felt like an utter wanker when I explained that actually, the '04 wasn't a really good year because the weather that year was kind of shitty for the grapes... but what else could I say? I live here. The weather that year really was kind of shitty for grapes.

Despite that, the '04 Kreglinger was still a very fine drop. Even a poor year hereabouts yields a remarkable wine.

It was a long afternoon, but very enjoyable. Bangar and I retired with the Prof to the Adelphi, where we talked his ear off until it was time for dinner. By then, poor Prof Boylan was feeling the effects of travel and constant yammer, so Bangar and I took off with Mr Barnes, and left the Prof to catch up with his snoozing.

Dinner took us to the House of Sichuan. This is a glorious little establishment to which Mr Barnes introduced me on my last Melbourne foray. It's located at the end of a tight little alley in Chinatown, and if you don't know where it is, you won't find it. But it's worth it. It is soooo worth it.

Barnes ordered the Chili Cumin Pork Ribs. He always does. It's a good stratagem, because the platters are huge, and so he winds up sharing the stuff that other people order. But he orders the Chili Cumin Pork Ribs because they are so farkin' good.

I ordered the Baked Chili Chicken. That's a bit of a misnomer. They take wee bits of chicken, coat it was spices and (probably) rice flour, and fry it crispy. But then they take all those tasty bits of chicken and they put 'em in a flogging great oven dish, and they pour dried chilis all around and through and over and they mix it all up, and they bake it until the oil starts to come out of those dried chilis and coat the chicken pieces.

Yes. It's a touch spicy. But again: once you get started, it's very hard to stop.

Bangar ordered the salt-and-pepper quail. Unlike most places, you actually get a stack of the little things. And they're tasty as hell.

Young Mr B ordered... food. I distinctly remember it was food. And then we ate. And ate. And ate. And sweated, and growled, and ate.

Tragically, Bangar had a small cultural lesson to learn. Tsingtao beer is sold in 750ml bottles. He had two. And the last half of the second bottle went down rather quickly, as we were leaving. Taken as it was atop a vast pile of lavishly spiced food, there were... side effects. But he bore up well, and he is stronger for the learning experience, because it did not kill him. Mr Barnes and I definitely observed that he was not dead.

And unfortunately, that was pretty much the end of my Melbourne sojourn. Because I had booked with Shitstar, you see, and that was the weekend when that cocktastic turdgurgler Joyce pulled the plug on Qantas.

I was supposed to be on a comfortable midday flight home on Sunday. But Saturday afternoon, Shitstar rang me to say my flight was cancelled, and I had the choice of flying home at Oh Fuck Too Early in the morning, or Oh Shit Way Too Fucking Late at night.

Now you need to understand that the Shitstar people were lying to me. My flight wasn't cancelled, as I confirmed the next day. Shitstar went into and out of Launceston exactly as normal all day. No - what they were doing was simple. I hadn't yet nailed down my seat on the flight, you see. I had a ticket, yes, but no seat allocation. So essentially, they fucked me. They threw me off my booked flight in favour of some poor Qantas bastard who got even more screwed than I did.

So. Knowing that my family were expecting me, and had made plans, I took the What The Fuck Am I Doing Awake At This Stupid Hour option. And Mr Barnes kindly saw me off to the airport, for which I am very grateful...

...pardon me. I just got called away to put sunscreen on five kids. It's a public holiday today in Tas -- something to do with Obscure Historical Figure Day, I think -- and we have two extras in residence. Fortunately, it's a beautiful green, glorious, sunny day. The boys are renovating the cubby house, industriously laying down old carpet and tacking it into place, and working with two-part epoxy to put an improvised door handle on the cut-down cupboard door that guards the interior. Meanwhile, the girls are zinging around on the trampoline, gathering flowers, playing. The morning has already seen a full-on expedition into the hillside forests, complete with pith helmets, compasses, walking sticks, mapping tools, and screaming younger sisters.

I doubt I'm going to get a lot of work done today.

Er. Where was I? Oh yes. I flew home and left Melbourne. And I'm kind of shitty with Jetstar, who have now fucked up my last four flights with them. And I'm really shitty with the CEO of Qantas, who accepted a $2 million payrise in the middle of a shitfight with his pilots and engineers, in which he claimed the airline is running on empty and he couldn't possibly afford a single cent more for the workers...

Prof Boylan thinks I'm temperamental with regard to my position on Qantas. But right now, I think the government should be stepping in. Mr Joyce should be brought to the table and asked to negotiate in good faith. He should be given exactly one chance to do this. And when he fails, the 2IC of Qantas should be brought in, shown Joyce's bloody head on a pike, and then asked to negotiate. In good faith. With the new next-in-command waiting in the next room.

For those of you who think I'm excessive on this, I suggest you check Senator Xenophon's information on this matter. Particularly with regard to the way Jetstar is being used to strip Qantas' profitability, leaving the national carrier vulnerable, and weakened. There is bastardry at work here, folks - and as usual, you and I are the ultimate victims.

I did manage to get Tuesday night to watch films with the Shite Boys (and ladies; best to you both, Tiarne and Heather!) but that really was it for personal time. In between, I've been writing like hell, assessing manuscripts, teaching martial arts (Thursday was Community Sports Day for the primary school. I organised the setup for the Mau-mau's music lessons when I delivered her to school. Then I opened the dojo, and ran a session sport-style ju-jitsu until about 12. Half an hour later, I ran a second session with a new group of kids until nearly 2. Then I packed up, raced home and grabbed the necessary crap for the gymnastics run. Picked up the kids from the bus stop. Left Jake with Viking Neighbour. Took the others to gymnastics. Did the grocery run while they did their thing. Came home, picked up Jake, produced dinner for all including on-call Natalie... sat down and read and wrote and reviewed manuscripts until one in the morning...) and then finally, the weekend.

Which was about Iaido. The Australian head of school came out from Adelaide and ran seminars on Saturday and Sunday morning. No way I was going to miss those, so I got up early and drove into town, waved swords around a lot, then did the grocery run and came home, cooked for everybody, etc etc etc.

Good weekend, yes. Hard work. But today is Monday, and the extended weekend with the extra kids is not a joy, but a bit of a burden. I should be having a quiet day to myself, in which to work like a bastard. Instead, I'm keeping my ears and eyes open, making sure that five kids are sunscreened, fed, watered, and more or less aimed in a safe direction.

Ah well. Eventually they'll go to bed. And there's always the late night hours, right?


  1. A wonderful day it was and yes I've learned I can no longer guzzle beer :(

    Your package is ready 2.250L

  2. Oh, you good thing you.

    And of COURSE you can guzzle beer. You just don't do it on top of a truly vast quantity of very spicy Sichuan food. It was a simple lapse in judgement that led to a valuable learning experience.

  3. and despite brief I think I can say without equivocation Melbourne was the better for the visit.

    Next time we have overseas visitors, please don't break them so they can not come to dinner.

  4. He wasn't broken! He was just... tired. And Bangar helped!