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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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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.