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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

Putting up the Xmas Tree

When I moved to Delhi and our first Christmas came around I remember asking a lot of people where I could get a tree from and no one really knew. There were plenty of artificial trees but I have never had one and somehow I was not quite ready to make the switch. I dont know if going from a real tree to an artificial one is like going from a real book to a kindle - there may be some interesting similarities here, but I digress. Having searched high and low I ended up going to a nursery and buying a tree in a pot which I brought in every Christmas and then looked after for the rest of the year in the garden.

This year I went along to my local shopping area and there was a whole shop dedicated to trees and wreaths, mainly real, but some artificial ones, thrown in for good measure. There was a whole catalogue of what was available thin ones, fat ones, tall ones, small ones. I chose a small one, on the grounds that the price was high enough as it is and my space was limited so off he went to collect it. The trees come from a sustainable source and when we are done with them Brisbane City Council collects them to prop up areas of erosion. Carpets were removed and a through way was made to the living room where we rearranged the furniture to give it centre stage. His instructions however were to put it in water and this is sensible enough bearing in mind that this is Australia and the temperatures are in the 30Cs.  But how do you prop a Xmas tree in a bucket of water without it tumbling over which it did on two occasions? We wedged it, propped it, poked it and lodged it, we brought cartons and cardboard, we contemplated sand and dirt, we cut templates and we rummaged around in the garden for rocks that we could shove either side of the bucket to keep the tree upright. The physical effort was entirely his but I was the underling who fetched and mopped, shifted and held it from toppling on his head. After some considerable physical exertion we managed to prop it up and I brought out all our lovely hand painted Indian baubles with their golden threads and pompoms and tied each and every one to the tree. It was completed with one of my son's sparkly drawings, a mix between an angel and a Commander of a ship and of course the most precious bauble of all, my golden glass case which had been flattened by Tara chewing on it as if it were a bone, teeth marks and all.
The lights were switched on and I stepped back in some awe. The room was flooded with the unmistakable smell of pine and and the lights lent a soft golden glow to where I stood. Yes Christmas is special and I am ready to gather my flock around me. Wishing all of you out there the peaceful sight of bats flying out at dusk, or the gentle silent dusting of snow on the ground, wherever in the world you might be, with time for thought, sharing and a deeper understanding of what we can do for one another. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Climate Change Agreement

Our lives can be as broad or as narrow as we chose them to be. Today we have our street party but it is raining so will it still go ahead ? Th rain however is welcome, for the garden and for the farmers in the Queensland hinterland who have been suffering the terrible drought that has decimated their farms over the last few years. A woman got bitten by a taipan snake, one of the most venomous snakes here, when she went to check if her Xmas lights were on. At 6 am we woke to the news of a Climate Change Agreement in Paris. 

So this must be where the small and the narrow turns into something massive and universal with 195 countries committed to even making that half degree change in global warming. "No country shall step back" were the words that stuck in my head and the message from Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister is that for the first time there is a general recognition that action must be taken. It will be a particularly interesting one for us living in Australia where they have been so dependent on mining coal. 

The first mark of change is an announcement already today that the Turnball government has lifted the ban on wind turbine investment. Perhaps there are more changes to come. So it is important to recognise the significance of this and the collective agreement of 195 countries after years of sometimes frustrated and difficult negotiations. 

Given the season, I am therefore celebrating the announcement with nature's answer to Xmas  colours and decorations. Candelabras on trees- only this time they are in situ and we can all enjoy them without turning on a socket and available at any time of day. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Storm Season

December 1st is the official start to summer but also the time when storms become more frequent in Queensland. There are posters and advertisements constantly warning people of the dangers and how best to protect themselves and their homes. There was a big storm on Sunday just as we were heading out - lashing rain and strong winds. This is what it looked like.

Today the rain came down slowly and gently and the sun is just setting as the bats head out over the sky to find their dinner. It was so stunning I thought I would share some of the photos with you.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Norfolk island - the lay of the land

Its hilly and undulating, precipitous and vertiginous but so pretty and perfect you would be excused not to relate what you see to any of the awful penal history of the island.  It boasts one of the finest churches anywhere, St Barnabas Chapel with stained glass windows by William Morris.

It is part of the Commonwealth of Australia and yet you have to show your passports here. They dont pay water rates, nor it seems income tax, they dont pay council rates as there is not much street lighting or refuse collections and all funerals are funded by the community who all volunteer to lay a fellow islander to rest.  They have a form of self rule which is like to change in the next few years and there is some disquiet on the island about what Canberra might have in store for them. 

Captain Cook landed on the north coast where there was a beach which was reachable. The island is what is left of a number of volcanic eruptions many years ago. Philip Island just off the coast is a nesting site for seafaring birds. There are lots on the island as well, terns and noddies, frigate birds as well as the very colourful crimson rosellas. There is also an endangered green parrot and we saw it on our last day there - in fact four of them, in the National Park. It's Botanical Gardens are beautifully organised on boardwalks and well worth a visit. 

For the rest, the island is full of feral chooks- chickens to you and me, which must be some of the happiest chickens on the planet. They roam the fertile hills and even the cliff faces and they are colourful and clucking with not a care in the world. The cows are plentiful and they chomp the grass and take a break under the lovely shade of the majestic Norfolk Pines, some of which are hundreds of years old. 

The Hundred Acre Reserve is where this picture was taken as we sat on the edge of the cliff and watched the sea birds and a pod of dolphins. We walked a number of trails in the National Park with the most awesome Norfolk pines with old man's beards,  hanging off their branches, the real sign of a clean atmosphere.

The beaches - there are two main ones I would say, Emily Bay where we swam to a raft, just like in my childhood in Famagusta, and  the other one is Anson Bay which was also very beautiful but down a fairly long path.Turquoise waters and soft off white sand.
 Emily bay and the lone pine which stands on the edge of the bay.

Anson Bay
The blue trumpeter fish which the fishermen caught and were filleting on the wharf to the delight of the bronze whalers below who feasted on the carcasses.We had delicious fish and chips.

 The figs were exceptionally large, snaking in and out of other trees they found in their path.
One of the sunsets from our lodge.
Mount Pitt, one of the highest points on the island from where you can have a 360 degrees view of the island. 
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments was having a Lava dinner at the "Bounty", where food is placed in a pit of hot stones and cooked in banana leaves by descendants of the mutineers.  The people around our table make the essence of Australia. Paulo whose father came over to Australia from Italy after the war, his partner Judy of mixed Samoan, Irish and Scottish ancestry, John a £10 Pom and his wife Faith of Convict and Free Settler roots - and us - a Londoner and a Cypriot. A veritable feast of real live roots and stories for many an evening.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Terrific Tradies

Touch tardy with my postings ? Yes, guilty as charged but I have been developing a deep and lasting relationship with a variety of Australian Tradesmen, "Tradies" for short, who are busy preparing my home for the "relies" - read extended family, who are about to descend on us for a real hot Aussie Xmas.

Two major jobs and two very different outfits. Renovating our pool, a long and rather tortured saga with one lone ranger who, though unsupported by his superiors, soldiered on through, saying how lovely our neighbourhood was and how we all looked out for one another. He has lovely sideburns and wears a singlet and shorts and always the standard Aussie workman's boots, with protective covers over his ankles and his big hat. This man has single handedly ripped out our fibre glass frame, chopped it into manageable pieces and bob catted it up the neighbours drive and has been happy and pleasant throughout. 

The concrete was laid and then everything came to a halt for all sorts of reasons. Suffice to say there was plenty to do on the premises as Phil is also an expert snake catcher so he came in very handy when a carpet python appeared yet again. This time we tried to put it into a small case, to move him,  but the snake would have none of it so Phil put it into my bin, strapped it down and took it home with him and then sent me a picture of the snake in the rafters of his shed, captioned "Python's new home." The next day he sent a message to say he had lost the python and I said it must be making its way back to this very pleasant neighbourhood as apparently they have a memory and can find their way back. No sign of him so far. 

Teams moved in and out, some larger than life. I went to talk to the tiler who did the pool surround and asked him if he needed anything. "Yes" he cheekily replied "The Winning numbers to the Lotto!"
A little later I went back to ask him when he was planning to finish and he said - 
"Well it depends, what's for dinner?"
The most unbelievable team of young guns came to pebble crete the pool. A thin layer of concrete with small pebbles which creates a non slip surface for the pool. These are new terms that I have learnt.  The truck was immense, the operation large and it involved extending pipe work down to the pool, pumping the pebble crete and then working under shade and very fast. I felt I was in some science fiction movie with creatures about to emerge from the depths of the pool. 

The joy of seeing the water go in was incredible and the final bits are all being completed we hope in the course of this week and then all will be revealed. 

The house extension has been finished before schedule, and with a great bunch of guys working solidly for several months to transform a dead space on our lower ground floor to a new laundry area, a new bedroom and ensuite bathroom and a new larder while giving the TV room a makeover. 

Brian and Clint, one stocky long grey hair,  the other thin, tore things down, dug holes.They were at the door at 6 am and worked solidly until "smoko" time for a fag and a snack. They brought everything with them and when I asked Brian if he appreciated the scent of the orange blossom in the garden , he said "Oh is that what it is, I thought it was Clint!". They worked wonderfully together and cracked jokes all day long. Warren was the plumber and he had the task of taking a video of my sewage pipes for the Council. As an old toilet came up and a new one was put down, a towel accidentally disappeared down the sewage pipes, so the cameras had to be called in again to trace the missing towel. You might think I am making this up but it is the truth and thankfully the missing towel was hauled out before the Council could scream blue murder about it.  They built the walls, put in the pipes and John and Dave put in the electrical connections while Neil did all the paintwork and Ian the tiler ably assisted by Donna, the one and only female tiler I have ever met, are still busy putting the finishing touches to the path in the garden.

Ian and Donna 

Brian and Neil. 

All this motley crew were managed by the amazing RHF- Richard the Lionheart, to you and me who came twice a day and even three times to monitor progress, have a laugh with me, argue about my unreasonable demands and quote prices that were always tantalisingly appealing but terrible for our balance sheet. Jobs got added but not much got left out. We were never at odds or cross purposes and even when unwittingly we managed to put a set of lights behind a door - the biggest design fault of the project - he took one look at it and promptly came up with the answer and before I knew it, it had all being rectified.

Richard the Capable.

What have I gained - an ability to wake with the birds and the tradies.
To understand nearly all their jokes- well most.
To recognise what sterling work each one contributed to the project for which I know they get a decent pay and are well looked after and protected.
To have a vision and see it coming to fruition and to think they do this all the time. Do they get as excited as the owners ? Are some visions better then others I wonder ?
To know their world a little and to share some of mine at smoko.

To know that I can call upon any of them in the future whether to build, demolish or just catch a snake. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Do you know what a puggle is ?

Australia has some creatures which are unlike ones we have encountered - one such is the Echidna, also known as the spiny ant eater or to give it its proper name tachyglossus aculeatus - its lucky I speak Greek - this means a spiny quick tongue which is an accurate desctription of it. It looks like a hedgehog but in fact this strange little creature is a monotreme, a mammal that lays eggs. 

They are mainly nocturnal so since we moved here we have been hoping to see one on all our trips but failed to spot them until Carnarvon where we saw them on several occasions, digging for termites on a fallen log in the dark, and digging for ants around some plants in the day time. They use their long pointy snout to catch the ants and the termites which are definitely their favourite food. 

They have a lower body temperature then mammals and they have legs which bend outwards and forwards which gives them a kind of waddle when they walk. If attacked they roll into a ball or they try and hide, until the danger is over. They do hibernate so seeing them is lucky. 

After what seems a fairly long and elaborate mating the female lays one egg in its pouch and it hatches into a blind, soft, hairless little echidna called a puggle. It stays in its mums pouch sucking on  the milk patches until it develops its spikes and then it is booted out but will continue taking milk for up to six months. Spot the echidna ...

So there you have it - now you know what a puggle is. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Dipping in and out of the Carnarvon Rooms

Think of a long corridor and rooms leading off from the centre and you will have a good idea what Carnarvon Gorge is like. Every room - every separate part was a revelation in itself with history, art work, fauna and flora and above all the weathering of years. I spoke about the original and extremely old stencil art of the Aboriginal tribes and so today I will tell you a little about the other "rooms" we went into and admired. 

The serenity of the Rock pools, with Pretty Kangaroos grazing. They are actually called pretty. You can see why. The wonderful yellow bellied and Greater gliders launching themselves from tree to tree with their winged spans, gliding effortlessly and for long distances in the forest canopy. We were lucky to go out on a night safari and actually see them gliding. No pictures of them I fear, they are too quick for my camera lens. 

The magnificence of the sandstone cliffs. The way they have been sculpted and scratched, beaten and windswept and yet they stand tall, very tall towering over us walkers. 

The coolness of Boowinda Gorge where the water has shaped the rocks the way it flowed and the light peeks in from above. 

The lushness of the Moss gardens and the algae in the water turning streams blood red in Ward's Canyon home to the biggest ferns.

Everything about this Gorge shouts history and time, nature and colour. Our role as guardians of it all is to admire and walk gently among its fallen leaves.