Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Farewell sweet friend of mine...

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We met in 2006. You arrived just when I needed you. Bringing comfort and support, giving me space, complimenting me perfectly.

Together we toiled 7 days (and nights) per week at the Edge where the stars trod the boards 10 minutes apiece in efforts to prove their potential fame and entertain Newtown's masses. Incognito, we melted into the black drapes just as we were supposed to, strangers in the night, moving this and that this way and that. Stuffed with importance you were just what I sought.

Soon after we would head for deserts red, dust covered fields we would tramp toger, up and down, up and down. Rising early to face another day's hard work as dirt from the nation's corners settled in our cracks. Pushed to the limit, with wristbands and torches and scissors and spillages and searing sun and rain. Not to mention our fellow staff... The year ended brutally for us both and we sought comfort in life's pleasures, in leisure soon to come.

So we were city bound for a time and you joined me for wide-eyed, dry-mouthed Great Escapes as we danced pushed up against hippies and children, beautiful women and sweaty alcohol-drenched men. But you were faithful, sticking to me throughout this foray into fun. We leapt and bounced and shook and ran with old friends and sisters, new friends and lovers.

You were a constant, dear friend of mine.

It seemed life was slowing down...time for retirement? But I kept you on your toes with the occasional odd job. We took on poorly matched pink t-shirts as thousands crossed Our Bridge in commemoration. You felt redundant though in shiny 4WD, when on January 26, crewing meant following a GPS and trundling through the city on wheels. Pockets included. Mud minimal.

I missed you so took you out one night, and in some serendipitous wonder you were so very needed. An unfortunate digestion of a little something someone found on the floor left me sprawled on another's lap all night, unable to move. But you were there, as always, to protect my dignity. A Kooky turn of events.

These past months we have climbed mountains, passed under waterfalls, tramped through cities we'd never heard of before now. Your retirement seemed complete.

But no, I have brought you here and you have said Bonjour once more to bon travail. Salut mud and heavy lifting. You are torn and smeared, ripped and covered in unidentifiable matters.

And I think this may be your final resting place, this Island Home (as sung Christina Anu when you came out to Aurora and we worked behind the stage the only ones not sporting tails and gowns.) You shall rest here, broken as you are, and sleep at last.

I doubt I shall ever truly replace you.

RIP beloved.

- One pair black cargo pants: $40 from leichhardt market place
- Thread used to constantly try and fix numerous holes in said cargo pants: £1 in Edinburgh
- Three years of damn good trouserage known by many names (short&sweetpants, crocpants, crewpants, theatrepants, festivalpants, practicalpants, movingdaypants, farmpants):...


Saturday, 15 November 2008

the day-to-day today

I am content.

I wake up in my cottage with a red door. I'm all covered with blankets but I get up and shower while it is dark. Breakfast is at 8 with coffee-in-a-bowl comme d'habitude and muesli laden with nuts. Then it's to work.

I can bike ride to the greenhouses, down narrow hedge-lined roads that criss cross the stunning green island. There are no cars here. It's a while since I've ridden but riding a bike really riding a bike. If it's raining or I am lazy I can ride on the tractor. Nicolas drives and I sit on a metal platform above the wheel making sure my gumboots don't touch it. Aurelie rides a bike as she spends half the day working on a boat collecting oysters and needs to be able to travel to the south side. Temptation to make Tipping the Velvet references: high.

There's much to do to prepare for winter and next year's harvest. Also, there was a fire in the greenhouse a month ago and there's still lots to tidy.

Pulling up nettles, rearranging equipment, picking peppers, repotting thyme and mint, putting potatoes in the compost, realising they were not meant to be in the compost, standing knee-deep in the compost picking out the good ones, weeding, realising I can roll tubing the same way that I roll theatre electrical cords and that that means I have a skill to contribute (mine are the neatest coils), hanging chilli plants to dry, dragging heavy dirty stuff this way and that, avoiding spiders because I forget that I am not in Australia and they will not be poisonous, once again forgetting that I am not in Australia when I am scandalised that Nicolas pours a bucket of water on the ground - one look at the clouds tells me I needn't worry.

Lunch is at 1pm and we eat like kings. Veges and fruit and nut and seeds. Big salads and ratatouille crusty bread. Nothing is wasted and last night's dinner is reheated with some extra rice or herbs that change the flavour. And tea. Lots of tea. Oh and of course the chocolate and pear gateau we made yesterday.

And the cheese. Oh the cheese...

...pause for small cheese related taste bud orgasm...

We get back to work, strapping a massive plastic sheet to the tractor to take back to the greenhouses. My French is getting better every day (slowly returning to my former glory) but I still don't quite know what this plastic sheet is for. Sometimes instructions are clear, but their aim is not. But I assist nonetheless and enjoy the mental effort of trying to keep up with the slang-heavy conversation.

Dinner is excellent much like lunch. I learn an important lesson when Francois insists that I wash the tomatoes very well. In broken English (he speaks in English when he thinks something is very important for me to understand) he tells me that the little bits of black stuff might be rat shit. 'This is ok. But it might be plastic sheet bits from the fire. This is not ok. Shit ok. Sheet not ok.' I wash them well not really wanting to consume either.

We sit next to the fire and afterwards Francois, who owns this farm gets out his ukelele. I play guitar and sing The Waifs and Tracy Chapmen as that is still all I know how to play. He joins in while Aurelie and Nicolas read. When Nicolas takes up the guitar we have a slight difference in taste until we are able to settle on Leonard Cohen and we sing 'the partisan song' in French and English.

We talk and they make fun of my inability to pronounce 'tout,' a ridiculously overused word. If my French accent is as wonderfully comical as their English ones, having me around must be great.

Early to bed of course.

And that's just today.

After 4 months of holiday I decided it was time to be of use to someone. I have heard a lot about wwoofing on my travels so decided to give it a go. The deal with wwoofing (worldwide workers on organic farms) is that you pay 15 euros for a massive list of host farms in a particular country. Then you go work on the farm and they give you board and food. This farm, Kervillon, is my first go at wwoofing. It is on the lle de Brehat in Bretagne and it is pretty damn gorgeous.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Good Times, Cheese & Swissbians*

* Please note that not all the lovely Swiss citizens I hung out with were lesbians, it's just that swisstrosexuals doesn't have the same ring to it.

I arrived in Bern after an epic journey (well epic if compared to getting the train from newtown to central...not epic compared to, say, the odyssey.) I caught two overnight trains in a row, mainly because I wanted to get to Switzerland quickly, but also I think just to see if I could. One sets oneself funny tasks when travelling alone. And one starts to refer to oneself as one so as to give the impression that everyone behaves exactly as one does. Yes.

So I caught first an overnight train to Vienna from Romania and had the good fortune to be sitting in a carriage with two large, suit-wearing Romanian men who saw fit to have lively debates all through the night and ate very smelly sandwiches in the morning. One of them was very well-endowed. I know this because he was sitting opposite me, with legs very wide apart so that said endowment was very much on display through aforementioned suit.

I spent a day in Vienna (see photo album: one day in vienna) and then had a very stressful time trying to find Stian who was in a hotel on the longest street in the world, a street I powerwalked up and down searching for the hotel. When I found it I was informed that were three hotels with this name and that my friends were not in this one. By this point I needed to go catch my train.

I was not pleased to discover that this time I was accompanied by two laptop endowed young men who also chatted, despite having aforementioned laptops to entertain them. I had also been seated in a carriage with people who were not, unlike me, going all the way to Zurich. This meant that every few hours I had to return my seat to the upright position and shuffle around so they could get off the train and be replaced by other people also only going short distances so not requiring peace and quiet.

You can imagine my joy when I arrived (unshowered for quite some time now) at Susan's charming flat in Bern, to be greeted by offers of laundry facilities (one adores laundry facilities) and tea. I love staying with lesbians; they always have such a wide variety of herbal teas.

That day I went to the Einstein museum and fell asleep during the little film. I may need to write a Note entitled Stupid Things I have Done when Ridiculously Tired.

But when I met up with Susan and Amanda after my ill-fated sight seeing in Bern (I was also very distressed by a caged bear) they were lovely and took me for nice coffee and then there was the supermarket which I always enjoy and a nice dinner with them and Susan's remarkably well-behaved son, Noam, who I later sang songs to before he went to bed. He liked the songs but was a little annoyed that they weren't in German.

And so began my preference for just hanging out with Swiss people rather than seeing their rather famous sites.

Oh, I tried, I really did but I kept getting set back. Fog on the mountains, rain in the valley, missed trains and later on the beginnings of a cold which led to the entire photo album of flowers in Montreux - I was a little delirious. Not to mention the fact that they turn off Geneva's world-famous fountain at night. Well I think they do because after a fulfilling day of museumage and a UN tour, I bought a felafel and strolled down to get my token photo and it was nowhere to be found. I looked for some time and felt like I may be crazy as I had seen it from a distance earlier in the day...

But enough complaining, I did see some very pretty stuff. The day I went to Gruyere with Cosette was wonderful. Perfect weather, charming old town with the same name as the EXCELLENT cheese it produces and a HILARIOUS audio guide in the Gruyere Museum (which gave you 3 pieces of cheese as a ticket! Anna - I think it is the museum for you!!! Well actually it is the country for you but this is a blog not an email so I will tell you about it later.) There was a quaint restaurant with flowers on the balcony, where we had a large fondue followed by ridiculously over-the-top sundae*... Birds were singing and the sky was blue, children were laughing, people were getting married and even that couldn't kill my mood. And then my camera ran out of battery before I could make a record of it all. VERY UPSETTING.

* I don't know why neither Cosette nor I remembered that you should NEVER eat ice cream after fondue. Eating cold things straightaway can harden the cheese in your stomach into a 'cheese ball' that you can't digest. Now, we weren't whisked to hospital for cheese ball removal but we did feel mighty ill for quite some time after. Worth it though I think.

Where was I? Ah yes, providing no information about Switzerland for my eagre readers, just nattering on about nice people you don't know. It is just that I am getting to the point in my trip where I may just have seen enough churches, old cities, castles and museums about WWII.

And so it was that the highlights in Switzerland included exquisite homemade fondue, long chats, silly dancing and music tips with Susan and Amanda, hot chocolate with Cosette and Charlotte when the other young things were partying and drinking beer, and also dinner on my last night when both Charlotte and I were sick and so I made soup.

And I read a lot. And was entertained by getting trains between French and German sections of the country and hearing them change the order of announcements from French then German to German then French.

The moral of the story is that Switzerland is fabulous, its people are charmng and one day I must go back...when it is not Autumn. Pretty much any season but Autumn would do the trick.

Love Maeve

p.s. random fact: Apparently all Swiss residences have to have a bunker in case of attack.

p.p.s. random fact 2: They have some crazy political system with 7 rotating presidents who do a year each or something. It was very hard for me to understand.

p.p.p.s. Bern, Switzerland's capital only has like 120,000 people. Wonderfully small! And lots of them ride bikes. And the public transport is STILL better than Sydney's.


The Blurb

For maevegobash: yeah, I just like thinking/writing/talking about myself. That's what blogs are for, right? For vegepalooza: I have been vegetarian for 25 years now - so that's always for me. My mothers cooked a storm up in the kitchen and I am carrying the torch filling my friends bellies at every opportunity. I love food and want to share my recipes, tips and tricks here to encourage creative vegetarian eating. There will also be a lot of vegan recipes for my friends with more willpower than me (sorry kids, I just love the cheese). Anyway enjoy, feel free to criticise and most of all Happy Eating!