Christmas came and went. It was fun, albeit exhausting. We ate simple food done well, handmade granola and fresh berries for breakfast, Bangalow pork belly and salads for a late lunch and the most decadent Donna Hay dessert, an upside down pavlova with stone fruit and raspberries, which we called ‘linner’.
Donna Hays Upside down pavlova with stone fruits and raspberries
The next day we travelled to Tamworth, sans Siri, and arrived to the fanfare of family and a warm welcome.
After such a long day in the kitchen on Christmas Day, the thought of cooking anything more than toast and a cup of tea was overwhelming, so we dined out that night at The Workshop Restaurant next door to where we were staying. The steak cuts from beef cattle raised in the New England district were plump and juicy and the duck breast served pink was tender with a crisp glaze.
Duck breast with seasonal vegetables at The Workshop Restaurant,
Powerhouse Motel, Tamworth
Most of the visit was spent catching up with family, however we did manage to escape for a visit to windy Walcha, the birthplace of my significant other. We were on a mission to track down the whereabouts of a portrait of one paternal grandfather, the founder and first chairman of the Ex-Servicemen’s Club. The club had closed about eighteen months prior and my father-in-law was keen to recover the portrait of his dad that hung above the staircase in the foyer. We arrived in the early afternoon with few expectations as it was a public holiday and very few places were open. It was an unseasonably cool day and the wind blew as we watched the ducks at play on the trickling waters that flowed along the grassy riverbed. As we returned towards the car we were intrigued by a big black building in the street and as the doors were open we decided to take a peek inside. It was a warehouse full of curios and collectables, a haven for anyone with retro style tastes. The owner sitting near the door struck up a conversation and my daughter asked if he knew whether the Ex-Servicemen’s club had been sold, and if so who the new recipient might be. He said he had heard that it had been purchased by the owner of the Apsley Arms Hotel, a Nepalese gentleman named Ganesh. As luck would have it the Apsley was open that day and we headed straight there, where we were delighted to find Ganesh serving behind the bar. Over a few drinks and some dumplings we conversed together, confirmed that Ganesh had indeed purchased the club, and was in the process of restoring it and obtaining a liquor license. We told him our story and he said he was happy to take us there anytime to retrieve the portrait and any other treasures that may hold sentimental value to our family. Our afternoon of detective work had been well spent and we left feeling like we had gone some way towards solving the mystery of the missing portrait. We vowed to return on our next visit to Walcha and take up Ganesh’s kind offer.
A few days later we departed Tamworth and headed north along the winding road that traversed through the Dorrigo National Park. It rained for most of the journey, the visibility was compromised by cold and misty air outside the car, and as we hugged the sides of the road around every corner we would drop down a gear and pray that there wasn’t a car travelling in the other direction. Fortunately, we encountered very few other cars along the way.
Our next destination would be the nursing home in Lismore where we arrived in the early afternoon to visit my mother. The nursing home was on high alert due to the rapidly rising daily Covid-19 numbers, and it was here in the carpark of the nursing home that I conducted my first Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), a negative result being a necessary condition of entry. It was a relief to see only one red line show up under the fluorescent blue light. It was to be a quick visit before we headed off again to our home away from home in Ballina where we would stay for the next few nights. We had spent a lot of time here over the past year and as we drove in passing the Big Prawn it felt all too familiar. Feeling tired and exhausted we rallied ourselves to pop over to the Ballina RSL for a quick bite before heading home to our hotel to retire for the evening. The highlight, as always, was the view over the tranquil river and the backdrop of interesting cloud formations tinted by the pink sunset.
On each subsequent visit to the nursing home I would conduct the RAT test. This would go some way to reassuring me that the staff were taking all possible precautions to protect the residents. It was disappointing that they would only allow one visitor, as this necessitated us organising an outing with mum to Summerland Farm where she could also enjoy the company of my significant other. It was always lovely for her to leave the home for a change of scenery and to encounter some new faces.
In the evening we would return to Ballina to dine at a restaurant overlooking the river where we would bid farewell to the year that was, and welcome in the New Year which we hoped would be a better year than 2020. The next morning we would wake to view a video of the New Years Eve fireworks on our phone and that concluded our New Year's celebrations. It seemed like a fitting end to a less than spectacular year.
On the way home we dropped into Port Macquarie to visit an old work colleague and dear friend who had many years ago left the fickle world of merchant banking to pursue his dream of becoming a fireman. Whilst his career had been satisfying, his home life had not, and after his wife left the marriage some time ago he’d had to endure many years of living frugally whilst paying child support for his three children. As a result he’d had little money leftover to enjoy a social life and having recently paid his last support cheque was quite excited to be enjoying a night out sharing a pub meal and a few drinks with us. It was a great night, and just like old times we reminisced about the fun times of our youth, had a lot of laughs and were the very last patrons to leave the venue. We vowed to do it again next time we were passing through Port Macquarie.
Arriving back in Sydney it was a stinking hot afternoon and the humidity was stifling. The first thing I tended to were the plants on my terrace garden. After a few hot days, they were all looking a bit worse for wear, the sweet peas vines were scorched yellow, however were plentiful with pods that I would collect to plant the seeds from come Autumn. I retreated inside putting the air conditioner on to try and reduce the humidity and then after unpacking the bags proceeded to do a load of washing. The washing machine coughed and spluttered, then died. I think it had caught Covid, or at least that’s what my significant other exclaimed in good humour. Omicron was now running rampant throughout the community and this explanation seemed fitting.
The week turned into a rather lazy one, as one holiday necessitated another in order to recover from the first. The news cycle was dominated by headlines about RAT’s, PCR’s, long queues, no queues, and rising numbers, the supermarket shelves were empty, whilst others were intrigued as to whether tennis’s number one men's player, villain and most prominent anti vaxxer would make it into the country to chase another title and record at the Australian Open. When Novak Djokovic announced via a social media post, with a conniving smirk on his face that he had been granted a medical exemption to play in the tournament, there was an almighty uproar on news channels, Twitter and throughout the general population, especially from people that had sacrificed so much during the pandemic to try and keep the community safe. It was not surprising that the saga continued when he arrived a few days later at the international terminal in Melbourne only to have his visa rejected by the Australian Border Force. It will be interesting to see how the drama plays out as a legal challenge is being mounted as I write. Maybe a little side trip to Christmas Island pending his appeal as he awaits the outcome? The fact that his father is hailing Novak as the new Spartacus and leader of the free world just makes me cringe. Whilst he has had the opportunity to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and chose not to, many people in poor countries do not even have the same opportunity available to them. This hardly qualifies him to be a leader and symbol for the poor and oppressed. In my opinion, whilst making this choice and putting other people's freedoms and lives at risk, qualifies him to be little more than a self-entitled idiot that happens to be a great tennis player.
On a lighter note, and still feeling quite lazy and in holiday mode, today I discovered a fun little word game to play each day whilst I’m not doing much else. Wordle, as the name suggests, is a word game that was invented by a guy to pass the time with his girlfriend during lockdown. The premise of the game is to guess a five letter word generated for that day. You start off by entering any five letter word, and then by obtaining clues about whether any of the letters are in the ‘days’ word or the correct position. Any revealed hints must be used in the next guess and each player has six attempts to see if they can guess the correct word. Whilst I was not successful on my first attempt, my two adult children were. They are both keen to challenge me again tomorrow and I am only too happy to oblige, unless of course I am doing the washing.
Wordle Day 200
Back in the hood the sun's out, the skies are blue and it’s time to leave the house and go for a walk. The beautiful gardens of Milson Park beckon and watching the boats bob up and down on the water around Neutral Bay is always pleasant and meditative.
Milson Park, Kirribilli
Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable. I hope 2022 is kind to you.