Thursday, April 24, 2008

Remembering Remembrance

There have been some memorable ANZAC day ceremonies in my life so I thought I'd share them, given that ANZAC day isn't very big in Glasgow. I think it is one of those days where, like Australia Day, I feel not at ease. On one hand, I'm incredibly sad that so many young men gave their lives for a stupid stupid war - senseless, wasteful, stupid. On the other, I dread the bogan element coming to the fore, flags draped and heads bowed in pseudo penitence unsuccessfully hiding blatant nationalism. I have gone to dawn services most years, although not recently because I've been overseas.

The Funniest Dawn Service:
Attending Dawn Service in Bunbury was always quite good because it was generally pretty relaxed. You could wake up at 5.45, be at the service for 6am and back in bed by 6.30. Unless there was a spontaneous street party which is what happened in 2002. After the Ode:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left to grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

came the one minute silence which in Bunbury was generally followed by the Last Post (most dawn ceremonies have a gun salute followed by the Reveille which traditionally woke the soldiers up, but Bunbury was too small for a gun salute for fear of ricochets or rednecks turning up with their own shotguns). Well, this minute silence went on forever. There was no Last Post until eventually someone hummed it through pursed lips. Bunbury's only bugler had been on a bender the night before and had slept in. None of the organisers had noticed he was missing. Somebody then started singing Waltzing Matilda and another crew took out some beers and that was it. Party in the park. The following year he slept in his uniform at a mate's house, with an alarm clock, a wake up call and a rooster.....

The smallest dawn service
Richard, Michael and I were in Manchester for Rich's bucks weekend in 2004. We had hired a convertible beetle and after driving around in London's taxi and bus zone with a blow up kangaroo in the back, we headed for Britain's birthplace of dance music (how ironic that we were driving a German car....). I knew we'd be up all night discotheque-ing on the 24th, so had arranged a surprise dawn service for my mates. As Rich's best man, I wanted to make it a weekend to remember, so I had packed a couple of ANZAC posters kindly donated by the Bunbury RSL (who were ecstatic that I was planning a DIY service) and a laminated poster of the Ode. On the way home, we stopped in a central park and much to the boys' amusement (and about 20 puzzled onlookers) we held an ANZAC service with the posters spread around us.

The hard-core dawn service
Some time in the eighties a bunch of friends who may have also been Venturer scouts decided it would be a good idea to ride from Applecross to Kings Park for the dawn service. At the age of 16, it was difficult enough getting up in normal hours, let alone stupid o'clock. And there was a strong easterly making the ride not very pleasant. And I think I ripped my scout uniform falling over when navigating the curly part of a footbridge.

The 13 step dawn service
It was a privilege to guard the memorial in Kings Park. Each Rover unit (scouts for people who don't grow up) had to nominate 4 people to do a half hour stint of marching around the memorial. Our unit always seemed to get 3am or 4am. The older we got, the more likely we were to go into Northbridge, party at a club, then rock up to do a swift clothing change that transformed us from nouveau ravers into para-military disciples. There are massive orange flood lights in each corner of the memorial and these are not pleasant to walk over because the light really does blind you. This, combined with trying to be sensible after a night on the town, in what was a sombre occasion marching around in circles for the state, does not bode well for a fun 30 minute walk. We worked out if you kept your eyes closed and counted thirteen steps, all you needed to do was turn sharply left and you wouldn't fall off.

The traffic light vigil
For some reason, we would guard the Mosman Park memorial on the corner of Stirling Highway and Leake St all night before the dawn service there. I think the idea was to have scouts milling around to stop hippy peacenik vandals. This vigil involved just 2 scouts standing next to the memorial in half hour stints holding a stave. There was a deli across the road with the time and temperature. We would watch the temperature go down throughout the night and woop each time it changed, laying bets over who would have the coldest stint. When you tired of wooping, you could lean over and push the "walk" button on the lights with your stave. We had great pleasure in pressing this button all night, causing cars to stop in the dead of night for no apparent reason. Sometimes we got yelled at....

Upon re-reading this entry, it would seem that there is my own bogan element to ANZAC day, but I prefer to think of it as a legacy of Aussie larrakin and mateship.....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dessert Recipe: Poached Pears with Chilli and Balsamic

Readers who loved the Lemon Something French Thingy on a previous blog entry are in for a treat! Back by popular demand, it's Recipe of the Week and this week I'm pleased to present this pear recipe I prepared for a pair of parents - mine to be precise. Mamma et Pappa arrived yesterday and so, being the foodies that they are, I had to impress them with my culinary skills.

This recipe is invented by me. I am laying claim to it, so bugger off Nigella.

Poached Pears with Chilli and Balsamic
Serves 4

  • 4 pears, or two pairs of pears, pared. I chose Conference Pears because they are long and slender and elegant.
  • Cranberry juice
  • Sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • birds eye chilli (red)
  • marscarpone
You'll notice that I haven't given any measurements. The correct measurement for all ingredients in this recipe is a bung.

Get a birds eye red chilli (I keep mine in the freezer and then bung it in some hot water to unfreeze it). You need to be careful here because you don't want your dessert to turn into a curry. I just got a pair of kitchen scissors and cut about a third of the chilli into tiny pieces and bunged them straight into the pan, sans seeds. Under no circumstances should you use sweet chilli sauce or cheat's chilli. That would be rank.

Carefully place the pears on their sides in the pan and bung in some cranberry juice. This bung would go halfway up the pear shaped bit of the pear.

Next, bung in some balsamic - not too much, it ain't chish and fips. Bung in some sugar (caster if poss.) and put the lid on the pan and give it a bit of a shake. I poured some of the juice over the pears so the top bits wouldn't miss out. Taste the juice just to make sure you haven't fucked it up. Too much chilli and it's a curry, too little and what's the point.....With it on a low heat, walk away and go and have your main course, which you should have prepared earlier.

When you're half way through your dinner and the conversation has turned to the political situation in Tibet, check on the pears. That way you won't look stupid if you can't contribute to the conversation.

Go back and change the subject, and don't forget to check on the pears again at some point.

When you reckon they're ready, dish the pears into bowls. If there's too much juice, put the heat up high and reduce it.

Serve with marscarpone cheese (try and find good quality marscarpone). I added a few rasberries as well. The sourness of the chilli and balsamic goes beautifully with the sweetness of the pear.

I used the remainder of the chilli the next day to make honey soy chilli prawns with bok choi.

1) picture not actually my pear.
2) may contain nuts

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Black Watch

As Jock and I don't have a telly, we've decided to see more theatre this year. There are times when you are so moved by a piece of theatre that the experience will stay with you for a long time. One of those times was when I saw Orpheus in the Underwold at His Maj in Perth about a hundred years ago and the other was being privileged enough to see The Black Watch in Glasgow on Friday night.

If you ever have the chance to see this inspiring play by Gregory Burke, then you are in for a treat.
The production is cleaver and slick, with the central prop being a pool table that doubles as an army vehicle. You can feel the exhaustion of 8 men crammed into it sweating out their dispair on a 50 degree day.

The production and script is what makes this political play one that will be done over and over again. The script is deeply funny and dark. However, some of the most powerful and poignant lines are delivered in sign language, when the soldiers receive their letters from home. Each stands on his own, reading messages that loved ones can often only say in written words.

One hilarious scene involves a new soldier being told about the importance of a piece of blank paper to a soldier's kit. He remains unconvinced, until this piece of paper is waved at the seargent major as a "get out of jail" free card.

The desert storm fatigues and their colours are dominant, with the only other colour being red - red carpet, red pool table and the red hackle in their tam-o-shanters.

I have never seen a play like it. A fabulous fabulous piece of theatre.

PS - if you want to see a lovely film and one that you can take your mum to, try Son of Rambow.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Elephant in the Room

John Howard would never have stood up in front of a group of Chinese students in Beijing and said that human rights in Tibet was a concern for Australians. Good on Chairman Rudd! Although he did borrow the whole "it's okay for friends to disagree sometimes" line from Howard when the very predictable Chinese Government Spokesperson responded by saying that Rudd didn't know what he was talking about. I'm sure they'll quickly forget once they start playing Chinese Whispers over owning a stake in BHP Billiton.

Glad Australia has a PM who can speak Mandarin. I think it is right for him to tell China that Australians are concerned about human rights. I wonder what the athletes from the Olympic movement think about the protests over the torch relay? If you go on to you tube it has been flooded with comments from Chinese students banging on about King Gesar and that we shouldn't be fooled by that terrible man, the Deli Lamb Burger.

In other news just to hand:
  • we're off to see the play Black Watch on the weekend which I am very much looking forward to
  • I subscribe to poem of the week and today they sent me one called "Impatience" that was so long, I didn't bother reading it
  • today I went up to Inverness to discuss Scotland's Climate Change Bill. There is snow in the hills and it's April. This time last year it was 20 degrees. You know it doesn't make sense; we're all doomed
  • on the up side though, there were no midgies

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Things that are stupid:
The way Morrisons packages its bananas. I bought one just to take a photo and post it here. Disgraceful - global warming? climate change? landfill? birds eating plastic? Doesn't happen in Partick.....You can email the CEO of Morrisons with your fury by clicking here.
I used the Investor Services site, because we are all invested in our future. Copy and paste this into your email:

Dear Sir Ken Morrison
I am disturbed by the level of excessive packaging for your bananas. Bananas already have their own protective skin and do not nee
d another. I would like to invest in the future of the planet but do not wish to invest in your company whilst you continue to have this ridiculous policy.
Regards, Your Name Goes Here

See the pic - somebody bought a Sony Play Station box for two hundred bucks!!

Kilt wearers

How embarrassed would you be....Here on my right is Lieutentant Seargent Captain Major and his boys....