Category Archives: Guest

Guest bloogers who have been invited to write a post

Misogyny

This week, a guest post from my uncle Bernard Mendis written in Marcoola, November 2015.

Contact me on roshan@roshansramblings.com if you wish to submit a guest post of your own.

Misogyny…It’s still a man’s world

I don’t write in defence of or in deference to women

Yet I cannot help but muse about the all too unsubtle pejoratives used

To describe and differentiate but not distinguish males from females

Applied rigourously by males in a variety of our world’s societies and cultures

Corporate structures large and small, bureaucracies and political parties and …

Organised, established religions and sects perpetuate the problems

Of servitude and sexual submission, discrimination and diminution

Faced by women on a daily basis on our crowded planet

Whether it be on a suburban train in Cairo, a boardroom in Brisbane

Opening a bank account in Lagos or drawing the dole in Santiago

Becoming a futures dealer in Wall St, New York or a pilot with China Airlines

There are slightly more females than males in the world right now

Yet, males dominate in a preponderance that is illogical and perverse

Women – it seems – just can’t win … former PM Gillard being an example ..

If you complain, you are playing the victim

And if you don’t, you are the victim

If a man has many women, he is admired as being ‘lusty’ and libidinous

(and if he’s a Muslim or a Mormon, all the more strength to his…)

A woman is variously described as lewd, vulgar, a strumpet, wanton, a vixen, loose

Licentious, transient, indiscriminate, casual but most commonly promiscuous

Polygamy is okay, polyandry isn’t … yet males ignore the double-standard

Domestic violence is raging in our own society at the moment

Tocsin’s are being rung … hands are being wrung … in anguish for each new victim

76 women have died at the hands of their male spouses as of this year

Despite the best efforts of the protectionists, the perpetrations persist

Female genital mutilation occurs worldwide in Muslim societies and the world over

Aided and abetted by older women, ignorant and steeped in religious custom and culture

Amnesty International highlights the plight of Asian women rapaciously plundered of …

Their basic human rights, their virginity, their dignity by cruel Saudi male (and female) employers

Mothers’ in Buenos Aires contemptuously disregarded or threatened by lawless junta’s …

For daring to ask about their ‘disappeared’ husband, son or daughter thirty years ago

Chinese women forced into unsafe abortions or sterilisation for exceeding their baby quota

Women in India immolated by their husband’s family for not providing enough of a dowry

A Nigerian woman under a Sharia sentence of death for converting to Christianity

Pakistani aid workers innocently innoculating infants against polio being killed by Taliban militants

By subtle or brutal means, women are penalized for the biological state of being women the world over

Surely, that’s inhumane and has to be a crime against humanity …

Regardless of how, why, where or when it begins, whether it’s in a home, a culture or a country

I agree enlightenment and emancipation can be achieved by education rather than empathy

But are males prepared to share their selfish, spoils with their female counterparts?

I’m sanguine that the more males, who set an example to their male progeny, will rectify this problem

That has beset and robbed the planet of more than half of its logical and intellectual might

And that this first century of this new millennium will see a vast shift from wrong to right

Where misogyny dwindles into being the exception rather than the rule

 

A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, part 3

This week’s guest post is from my cousin Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts- here is the final part.

Anyway, the Bedfordshire countryside looked far better from over the dope and linen covered half wing of this vintage aeroplane and I imagined myself flying to Paris where a champagne and caviar dinner by the banks of the Seine awaited me. After all, this is the only way to fly to France, what a thrilling prospect. After twenty minutes, the familiar grass strip of Old Warden came into view as the pilot set a landing course.  At about 800 feet or so he yanked up the handbrake lever to full, releasing the almost redundant flaps.  He throttled back and the engine note receded to barely a whisper and then we glided over the perimeter hedge and touched down smoothly on the all grass aerodrome that was Old warden.

The display was good, and we were expecting to see the ‘Edwardians’ take to the air. This was a name given to vintage aircraft up to the end of the WW1.  The collection included a Bleriot, and a Blackburn monoplane amongst several others.  These had 3 cylinder Anzani engines whose horsepower was about as much as the HP49 that we’d just started. Consequently, they were only risked in fair weather conditions, and then only in a short hop up and down the runway. It might be said that the mere flapping of a butterfly may cause grave concern for the pilot and so we all held our breath, and other less pleasing eructations, lest we unseated the occupant. Today the windsock was mostly horizontal and regrettably these aeroplanes did not take part. However, we did have the early warbirds, including the “Brisfit” which always impressed.  The ‘balloon run’ and the ‘limbo dance’ which followed also provided some entertainment, owing to the potential for low level mishap; nothing too dangerous or massively life threatening I would hasten to add, but perhaps just the odd busted propeller and a shattered collarbone – a thoroughly gentlemanly injury to relay to the grandchildren at a later time.

After the Edwardians we settled down on the grass for half time corned beef sandwiches, cherry beer and a splendid bottle of Rioja.  This could have been something out of an Enid Blyton novel – ‘Three go mad at Biggleswade’ perhaps?  The Rioja proved the perfect accompaniment to the throbbing beat of a meaty Merlin as a Spitfire and Sea Hurricane tore up the strip.

The Sabre jet display was the last of the delights and we decided to head homewards soon after. The journey back was uneventful save for one dramatic lapse in concentration that Sean made at the wheel of the 730.  As if drawn by magnetic attraction he let the car drift onto the oncoming lane at the very moment a Ford Fiesta was coming the other way.  The Fiesta motorist took frantic avoiding action causing his car to skid headlong towards a pair of hapless motorcyclists who were parked by the side of the road for a freebie air show.  The accompanying screeching of rubber and dust kicked up by the tyres must have given them a very nasty brown trouser moment.  Their sphincters wouldn’t even have had time to pucker up.  These were the kind of skid marks they hadn’t anticipated!  The rest of the trip went peacefully enough though.

Related posts: A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, Part 2A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, Part 1

A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, Part 2

This week’s guest post is from my cousin Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts- here is the second part.

Our first stop was the RFC camp and field dressing station where everyone had dressed up in their army fatigues, and hobnail boots just for the weekend. Fearsome infantry weapons were on display causing my fevered imagination to go into overdrive. “Sir! Your helmet and entrenching tool are enormous!” “Never mind your ankle puttees Graves, just feel the width of my bayonet.”  “Would you like a Satsuma sir, before I drop down and give you twenty?”

Then there was the re-enactment of a WW1 dogfight and the exchange between an RFC pilot and his rear gunner.

“Did you get the Kraut?

“Yes saar”.

“Did you see him smoke”?

“Yes saar, and some flames too”.

“Good show Douglas, very well done, so we’ve bagged a flamer after all”!

Further up the field, pleasure flights in vintage aircraft were on offer. This was an opportunity not to be missed and very soon we were shoe-horned on board the tiny cabin of a De Haviland Dragon Rapide biplane. The pilot was a chunky untidy chap who wore an eight o’clock shadow.  I felt he needed a touch of the cold steel and the badger.  He fired up the Dragon Rapide’s ancient Gypsy Major engines, which popped and crackled, before bursting into life and then settling into a heavy, steady thrum.  The whole airframe shuddered in sympathy and I hoped like hell that the glue holding the tiny two by one cross members making up most of the cabin structure would hold.  The pilot had to wait for a landing Tiger Moth before he had the all clear.  I had a good vantage point just behind and to the right of the pilot.  He gently eased the throttle forward and the elevators back.  It took a while for the tail to lift and soon the aircraft was on rotation point waiting for a bump or a slight gust to make the step from ground to air.  At this point the pilot gave quite a hefty tug on the control yoke and we eased upward.  It felt and looked like he was driving an old Route Master bus.  After a gentle climb out towards the South, the pilot levelled out at about 2000 feet and throttled back to 1900RPM.  It must have been the cruising speed and I could now see the silvery shadow of the whirring props.  My seat was directly in line with them and I found this slightly unsettling. It was probably the memory of a detached propeller slicing through the cabin, in the re-make of ‘The flight of the Phoenix’, that came to mind.  I could see the headlines: Degenerate civil servant dies in a freak prop accident.

Stay tuned next week for part three…

Related posts: A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things

A Day Out for the Boys- Old Warden and other things, Part 1

This week’s guest post is from my cousin Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts- here is the first part.

We had planned this trip for a while now with little success due to a variety of reasons; lack of time, bad weather, a nasty outbreak of swine flu and matrimonial quibbles.  Well, quibbles is a euphemism really, just like saying the Holocaust was due to a minor gas leak.

July the 5th was a beautiful Sunday and everything coalesced to make it happen.  Michael arrived at 11am in his beautiful ’67 Karman Ghia, resplendent in its recent bare metal re-spray in pearl white.

I had gone to Halfords to buy a quart of oil and also to check out a young Ishmaeli girl at the sales counter who was particularly un-phased by the sledge-hammer wit and charm that I was busily doling out.  Still, it saved me from a night out, five pints of Stella and a dollop of Chlamydia!

After packing a small picnic we left Wembley at 12:30pm.  We dusted the covers off the ageing but eager BMW 730, and despite the inconsequential oil leak, headed up the A1 in the direction of  Biggleswade and Old Warden.  I had remembered to pack a can or two of amber nectar and a very nice bottle of fermented grape juice. Nothing goes down better than a day out in the sun with pickled senses and raddled flesh I thought, as I imagined stretching out on the grass with the eager anticipation of an early liquid lunch and the sound of supercharged Merlins overhead.

Soon we were out in the open country and things started to fly by as we let loose the Bavarian beast  and beat up the A1. We weren’t going to let the price of petrol and a maniacal control freak spoil a good weekend.  I was already buoyed up by the news that our ancient Triumph 5T motorcycle had passed its MOT. The old boy who was overseeing this (over seventy now and still going strong) was a delightful chap called Bill Cosby who had been in the motorcycle trade ever since its inception, or so it seemed. One of the nice things to look forward to during a visit to his ‘Alladin’s cave’ was a freebie coffee, whilst he ragaled us with stories of building race bikes, founding the London Motorcycle museum, and general deeds of derring-do.  It’s a shame he was long on the stories and short on the maintenance.  However, it was turning out to be a good weekend for the boys. Things were starting to happen at last.

We arrived at Old Warden aerodrome at 1PM, an hour before the air-show was due to begin. It was already a hive of activity. I expected the car park to be full of crusty old codgers in their equally crusty old classic cars.  There seemed to be a lack of it this time.  Just a smattering of Bentleys, the odd Jag E-Type and an immaculate Vincent Black Shadow – restored to within an inch of its life.  It was truly in concourse condition. Maybe the credit crunch had taken its toll and the old Bristol or Healy had been moth balled for less parsimonious times.

Stay tuned next week for part two…

Snowdon- an adventure, Part 3

This week’s guest post is from my cousin’s TW and Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts- here is the third, and last, part.

On the summit we tucked into an eclectic meal of barbecued chicken, sandwiches, falafel, hot coffee and delicious vine leaves.

We returned down two different paths; Sean and I came down the Watkins to get the cars and meet the others who were making their way down the Penny Pass.

Eastward Ho

At the hotel, we met back up with Mira who had returned from Carnarvon and also visited Gelert’s grave.  I had told her of the story earlier.  How Prince Llewelyn had left his trusted hound Gelert in charge of his baby whilst he went on a hunting trip and that on his return he found the baby missing and Gelerts muzzle covered in blood.  In a fit of rage he had slain the dog only to find his baby safe in his cradle a little way off, next to a huge wolf with several mortal wounds – the result of a fight to the death with Gelert.  Llewelyn returned to his faithful hound who licked his hand and expired on cue.  Unfortunately I burst her bubble by telling her that it was really an apocryphal story, although dog lovers would know doubt be delighted to hear this. Someone described Beddgelert as “a few dozen hard grey houses … huddled together in some majestic mountain scenery” and possibly traders made up the story to lure visitors to the mountain village.

Laila had wisely bought a packet of Radox muscle relaxant which did the rounds like a well rolled reefer, as we desperately tried to get some relief form the aching limbs.  Somewhat refreshed by this elixir, we decided to meet up in the village at seven thirty.  We met at The Tanronnen Inn, as much for a change as to get away from the Fawlty Towers that was The Saracen.  It was Pirate’s Night in the pubs of Bedgelert and I fancied a beautiful bird on my shoulder.  Instead I had to settle for Laila, a well scrubbed brunette with all the sex appeal of a second-hand jeep, who was now walking like John Wayne.  We were tired and hungry but plans at this point became a little blurred and we were in danger of splintering.  Laila and Felicia considered a pizza but for starters whetted their appetite at one of the best ice cream parlours this side of London; at the Glaslyn Ices and Glandwr Cafe. Michaela and Karen wanted to wait it out at the Tanronnen, in case a table became ready.  In the end it was left to Sue to sort out the disparate elements and rein everyone back into a group.  We ended up back at Fawlty Towers.  I was relieved, as I had a long awaited date with a Frenchman by the name of Monsieur Stella Artois.

The meal was more relaxing this time, as we knew what to expect.  We settled into good humoured chit chat.  Sean told us that the waitress at breakfast kept brushing her ample bosoms against his cheek every time she served him.  “You mean you were knockered” asked Felicia in broad New York tones.  “Yes” stated Sean, “but I told her to do it with feeling the next time round”.

Karen by this time had set upon our young waiter with gusto and decided he needed mothering.  She wanted to guide him in waitering, finesse his social skills, make sure he passed  his GCSE’s  and practice tantric sex with him into the small hours of the morning.  Or so I imagined in my cynical mind.  Poor boy he had a lot to contend with.  However, as with the previous night, we tipped him well for the inconvenience.

After the meal we headed back to the hotel, stopping off for a well deserved night cap suggested by Sue. “Let me give you a fine brandy to take that nasty taste away from your mouth and warm the cockles of your heart” Felicia said enthusiastically.  The warm encouraging liquid flowed smoothly down, creating a warming fire in my belly.  Before too long I had drained the glass and wanted another.  A few brandies later and we were ever more relaxed.  Sean thought Kevin resembled the actor Robbie Coltrane – probably not the wisest thing to say to a six foot Geordie after a few pints of lager.  He took it in good humour thankfully.

We made our way back to the hotel by what was now a well worn path under a billion stars.  The whole Milky Way was now suddenly above us, or so it seemed twinkling and beckoning:  Ursa Major, The Plough, Orion’s Belt, and anything else we imagined.  We even saw the odd satellite, traversing the inky sky at break-neck speed. It was a helluva thing, a truly awe-ful sight.  We then discovered that Felicia had picked up a straggler and a Spurs supporter to boot!  She tried to shake him off, but he was sticking to her like the proverbial to a wet blanket.  When we got back I found that the events of the day had taken there toll on me and I immediately settled into a deep and unshakable sleep as my head hit the pillow at Bryn Eglewys.

We met again the next morning for our final breakfast, with a combination of relief and mixed feelings, I felt.  The long trip back to London was only a few slices of marmalade and toast away now, and the holiday was nearly over.  Felicia had a plane to make.  At least we weren’t getting up to a marathon, I thought, like some of the other poor suckers in London; subjecting your body to a grueling regime, only to risk shitting yourself at the end, as Felicia so aptly put it.

The journey back was measurably quicker.  We took the M1 home, stopping briefly for a coffee and a leg stretch at the services. “Of all the gin joints in all the bars in all the world you had to walk into mine”.  Coincidentally we met Kevin and Sue who had stopped for the same refreshment, having been scared witless by a nasty lorry experience.

I pulled into the driveway at Ennerdale at precisely two thirty pm……and so ended a memorable short break.

Related posts: Snowdon- an adventure, Part 1, Snowdon- an adventure, Part 2

Snowdon- an adventure, Part 2

This week’s guest post is from my cousin’s TW and Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts- here is the second part.

Upward Bound

Most of us got up early the next day, probably in eager anticipation of the climb, or possibly because we were relaxed and on holiday.  “Green figs, yoghurt, coffee – very black” was not on the menu.  This had been a Bond breakfast request in a Bosphorous hotel room in From Russia With Love that Sean wanted to come true. Instead we were faced with orange juice, cereals and of course a big cooked breakfast to your liking.  I had orange juice to start, followed by an excellent plate of scrambled eggs on toast with grilled tomatoes and mushrooms.  At the table there was much talk of “will it be a long climb, how tiring exactly is it, and I hope it’s sunny at the top”.  Some of us were veterans having made the climb a half dozen times before.  Having said that, this was no Matterhorn, no K2, not even the Eiger.  This was a benign mountain, a hill trek, a walk in the park….or so we thought.

After a full breakfast we massaged our stomachs and our egos and were ready for off around ten.  The host gave us some words of warning and some cautionary tales from his search and rescue days, flying helicopters around the Highlands of Scotland.  “If you’re in any doubt at all come off the mountain” he said cautiously.  “Oh, and if you get into any trouble make yourself visible” he added for good measure.

The Watkins path lay ahead and we started our slow trudge in high spirits.  Mira had perhaps wisely declined the climb, making her way to Carnarvon castle on one of the rare buses one occasionally finds in this neck of the woods.

It started off well enough: the path was pretty flat and the sunshine helped to alleviate any tired muscles. The mood was gay and bright.  The hills were alive with the Sound of Music.  All we needed was a Julie Andrews with the Von Trapp family in tow.  As it happened, we got neither.  Sean, I and Laila had climbed Snowdon before.  The others were lulled in to what they would discover later was a false sense of security.   For the Watkins path was opened by Gladstone in 1892 and is one of the hardest of the six routes up to Snowdon, as you climb 3300 feet of the 3600 feet of the mountain.

The Final Push

As we neared the Summit the temperature got noticeably cooler and we paused for hats and gloves and a big slug of water.  At this point, the path becomes hard to follow and is across loose scree with steep drops.  The host’s words as we left Bryn Eglswys were now ringing in our ears “It is the highest in England and Wales after all.  Respect it” he had said admonishingly.  I felt a little concerned as Kevin had bouts of cramp and Felicia was not used to climbing.  Laila gave Felicia plenty of encouragement every time she scrabbled for purchase on the loose scree, her knuckles deathly white as her petite talon like digits tried to bore their way through to terra firma.

The group soon split into two.  Mich didn’t like heights and so wisely wanted to press on and just get to the top.  She was hard on my tail and I was pressured to perform – not for the first time when an attractive girl was hard on my case.  Behind her was Sue.  She slightly worried Michaela and me with her early confessions regarding her urges to throw herself off when confronted with steep drops.  Behind Sue, Karen was gambolling along like a mountain goat.  She had recently climbed Adam’s Peak and had clearly got into the mountain spirit.  I envied her, her seemingly boundless energy as I kept in front trying to look like I knew the path.  It seemed to be much steeper than on previous occasions and gave me pause to think.  Sean served as a link between the two groups, looking very much the experienced mountaineer.  He hadn’t been this high for weeks – not since his last powerful meditative experience.  As we reached the pinnacle Laila gave out a last triumphant sigh, a not so delicate feminine gasp that could only be described as Brian Blessed being butt raped.  We were all relieved to have made it.

Stay tuned next week for Part 3.

Related posts: Snowdon- an adventure, Part 1

Snowdon- an adventure, Part 1

This week’s guest post is from my cousin’s TW and Sean Mendis.

The story will unfold in three parts.

Outward Bound

The day for the long awaited trip to Snowdonia finally arrived. The Three Twenty Eight was fueled and ready. The oil had been checked and the tyres pumped. The ECM had been stroked lovingly and the injectors had received their French kiss. All nipples were greased and the flaps were set to thirty degrees!

We left Ennerdale at around two pm into glorious spring sunshine, Sean and I settling in comfortably to ‘The Eagles’. Mira had met us earlier in the day and had eased into the less than generous rear seat. The car was fairly laden and the rear suspension groaned in acknowledgement! I was glad for the extra horses I had got as a result of tuning the engine, but still, the Beemer pulled well and we soon forgot the extra weight.

We met up with Laila, Felicia and Michaela en route on the A40. They were also in a BMW, also laden to the gunnels. It was a mixed group: young and old, slim and not so slim, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds – I think we covered the entire spectrum. For in those two BMW’s charging up the motorway was a microcosm of life itself. We pitted at Warwick services near junction twelve for a welcome break. A splash and dash – a skinny latte, samosa and some fuel.

Two or so hours later, and past Shrewsbury, the roads beckoned. Despite outward appearances of not really caring, there was a lot of not-so-hidden competitiveness between the two cars and their owners. The red mist slowly descended over Laila as she tried to assert her dominance over the driving, her car and impress Felicia. I could see her banging the gear lever into third, her eyes wild and fingers tingling on the wheel as she tried to keep up with my ageing but well maintained Three Two Eight. Her newer Three Two Five was quick, being supercharged by girl power.

Not being averse to childish pettiness, I too kept up the pressure, dropping the cogs and burying my right foot deep into the carpet. The motor obliged with only a slight pause before squatting purposefully onto its haunches and taking off like a wounded Cheetah. The Bavarian banshee was now emitting a deep guttural roar making the straight six sing and leaving the double Vanos chattering madly like a bunch of demented Welshman practicing close-harmony singing. I had no issues; I just wanted to win, plain and simple. I could imagine that Mira’s partly digested lunch was now in danger of re acquainting itself with her tonsils. The hard cornering, late braking and sudden acceleration that now was happening was taking its toll on her. Fearful of being either splattered, or an imminent and potentially very nasty brown moment on the Nappa leather seats, or possibly both I had to make a decision – fast. Given the options, we slowed to a more sedate pace giving Mira’s lunch and her frayed nerves a chance to calm. Although she said nothing she was grateful for the reprieve. The corners sighed “Araf” and the passengers sighed enough. Thence we ambled to our destination, Laila and I showing remarkable reserve in the face of inviting and beautifully tar macadam’d roads.

Evening Arrival

We finally arrived at our destination at dusk. Bryn Eglwys touts itself as a country hotel nestling in “one of the most enviable locations in the Snowdonia national park”. For the grandiose hyperbole you get a room at fifty quid a throw or more, and a mediocre breakfast – expensive for what is essentially a B&B.

The garrulous hostess, Lyn Lambert wasn’t there, perhaps fortunately. I had spoken to her some days before on the telephone, at some length, and after a few minutes of chat she “went into one” like I was an old friend. I had a dream of how the eventual meeting with her might have gone if we had met up………

“Hello, you must be the…”

“Yes I am Mrs. Lambert and I am the owner of the hotel. I hope your stay will be a pleasant one. I think we have the weather for it you know” she said cutting me off in mid sentence and with what I detected was a slight nod – the kind of nod that says “you’re going to get an extra herb sausage if you don’t watch out young man”. Or may be I was just reading too much into it.

I wasn’t averse to subtle innuendo myself, so I gave her one. “Will it be the full Monte breakfast tomorrow then Mrs. Jones…in bed…with some Welsh Rarebit…and the extra stuffed, herb crust sausage”?

“Oh anything you desire boys” she said in a wanton manner.

This was getting close to the bone and we had hardly passed the welcome mat. I decided I should not venture down this route of double entendre any further, so I whipped it out!

I snapped out of the dream and back to reality at hand. Her husband Kevin greeted us with pleasantries and answered all our requests patiently and with a dry sense of humor. He had the air of a military man, someone used to taking charge.

The Saracens Head

Having showered we met in the lobby and walked to the Saracens Head public House where we met Kevin and Sue who had both taken the day off and had made the trip up at a more leisurely pace.

We got a table quite late and we were all ravenous. The waiter was a young boy of no more than sixteen and appeared to have just started doing the job. Ordering the food was a protracted and drawn out affair, particularly for the vegetarians – Sean and Mira. They interrogated the waiter like a petty felon, although I hadn’t decided who was playing the good cop/bad cop part. “Was there garlic in the food, were the carrots organic and was the cabbage uprooted without suffering?” Dealing with a bunch of fussy Londoners was not what he was used to, particularly project managers. He had taken lessons from the Fawlty Towers school of waiting and was shaping up as a perfect Manuel.

Karen, the last of our party arrived in time for dessert and was very chatty. I guessed she was full of eagerness and possibly over-tiredness from the long, solitary trip up.

“Was their any Danish Blue?” she inquired,  expecting the answer “no”.

“Well we have some lovely Edam Miss” the waiter said, rather apologetically.

“No that’s fine, just some coffee please then” said Karen. ]

On the way back to the hotel we were accosted by an inebriated welsh choir on their way home and practicing their close harmony singing and sheep shagging techniques. “Men of Harlech tar tar tumpum…”, they roared. There was a booming baritone, a terrifying tenor and a squeaky ginger beer at the back who minced around with what I imagined was a nasty case of knob rot from a recent lost weekend.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2.

What Thermomix taught me.

Words of Wisdom from an anoymous guest blogger…

You’ve all heard of the Thermomix right? It’s the kitchen appliance of the moment and one that seems to have inundated my Instagram feed. It’s so popular among those that I’m following, that the usual pictures of babies doing things that only their parents think are cute have been replaced by pictures of food. Meals that have been weighed, chopped, cooked, stirred, and served by the Thermomix. All in under 20 minutes! Well, that bit isn’t always true but it’s not far off.

Given its popularity it wasn’t long before I was invited to a Thermomix party. You know the party I’m referring to. Friends and family are invited to view/road-test the products in the comfort of a home. You usually come away with a bunch of stuff you didn’t know you needed, but because of you, the host gets a free cookbook and a set of steak knives. Sounds like the perfect Friday night, right? Well, despite all of this I jumped at the invitation. Secretly I was just itching to get out of the house and catch up with my friends. There was definitely a part of me that wanted to know more about this kitchen appliance though.

Fast forward a few days and I’m in my friends kitchen. It was party night! We were all sitting around this shiny silver machine watching it do its thing. And then something that I had not expected to happen, happened.

“You can make your own mince in just a fraction of the time it used to take”said the host.

Did I just hear right? Make your own mince? Like the stuff I purchase at the butcher or in a wrapper at the supermarket? As the conversation went on it became apparent that people make their own mince. To avoid feeding any nasty’s to their children. Which is great. The best even. But for that split second my mind went to all sorts of dark and desperate places. I was overcome with mother’s guilt. My parenting skills were on the line here. If what I think is mince is not, then what are my children most probably eating right at this very moment!? Am I poisoning my kids? How did I not know this? Could I be the only one who does this? How will I find the time to make my own mince when there are days I barely manage dinner at all!?

In that moment I desperately wanted to call my husband. I wanted to scream down the phone, “Stop the kids from eating right now! I thought it was mince but it isn’t. I bought it from the store!” But I didn’t. Instead, I just sat there feeling like the worst mother in the world hoping they couldn’t notice I was different from them. Do you think they know I’m one of those? Those store-bought-mince mothers.

I didn’t buy a Thermomix that night. Not because I didn’t think it was worthwhile. It’s impressive. I can see why it’s revolutionising kitchens. But the Thermomix actually taught me a lot more about parenthood than it did food that night.

Being a parent is hard. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s 1000. And of course it’s worth it! But its times like my “mince moment” that make me question my credentials for the job.

Parenting isn’t a popularity contest. I don’t need to be doing the same thing as everyone else for my parenting to be validated. Sure when you’re uncertain, there’s a comfort in being the same. Strength in numbers and all that. But in the wise words of mothers all over the planet, “Just because they’re all doing it, doesn’t mean you have to!” That’s a lecture we’ve all heard twice over. And it ends with something about jumping from a cliff! I don’t suggest you do that! I do suggest that it’s ok to be different. Just like our children. Our shoe sizes, our hair colour or the way we have our coffee. Our approaches may not be alike, but our goals are the same. And that’s what really matters. Instead of focusing on our differences, maybe we should be shinning a light on all the important things that as parents, make us similar. I’ll start…we all love our children.

You like homemade mince, I like store bought mince. Let’s call the whole thing off!

Belgium: On Exchange

Guest blog post by Steven Riddell- someone who knows a lot more about Belgium than I do!

A sea of faces greeted me as I passed through immigration and customs. The arrivals hall was packed with people waiting for loved ones, friends and newly arrived exchange students from Australia. Those waiting for timid and hesitant exchange students were brandishing placards with names to bring them forth into the arms of a happy new family for the next year. My host family had no such placard but I managed to recognise a man jumping up and down from the back of the pack, my host father for the coming 12 months.

So began my year as an exchange student in Belgium a travel destination that is somewhat misunderstood with tour companies crossing the country in the obligatory two hours, perhaps with a stop in Bruxelles to find the statue of a small boy taking a “piss” (Mannequin Pis) and the Grand Place (I use the French spelling) which are essential.

Are these the two things I would want to see if I was visiting Belgium for the first time. No chance. After spending a year there and many return trips, these tourist attractions are mundane and boring.

I lived in the small village of Dolembreux which is 20 km south of Liege. Liege is the largest city in Wallonie- the French speaking part of Belgium. In general, the population of Belgium is densely packed around city dwelling- Bruxelles, Liege, Antwerp, Brugge and Charleroi, among others. Within 10 km of leaving a city in Belgium you are thrown into evergreen country side, much of which is amazingly picturesque regardless of the time of year.

The two places in Belgium I would recommend to visit are Durbuy and Ghent. Many have never heard of Durbuy which is the smallest town in the world and a wonderful place to spend a day. Located on the Ourthe River approximately 45 minutes from Liege, small cobblestone streets wind through alleyways and around the castle which sits on the bank of the river. I visited Durbuy on a more recent trip to Belgium and was amazed that I had never been there before.

Likewise, much enthusiasm is pushed towards Brugge as the place to visit in Belgium. And while Brugge is a beautiful place (it also holds the only Michelangelo statue outside of Italy), head to Ghent- a similarly beautiful destination but without the tourists and tourist traps.

Geographically, Belgium is in an enviable position due to its centraliy and ease of access to other countries. Within a month of arriving in Belgium in 1996, I was taken on a day tour which started as breakfast in Liege, morning tea in Maastrict (the southern most city in the Netherlands), lunch in Aachen, a quick stop in Monchau (both located in Germany) and afternoon tea in one of my favourite ciites in the world to visit- Luxembourg.

So if you are new to Europe and have never been there before, tick off four countries in one day using Liege as your base. These places will not disappoint.

The Homestead

A poem from guest blogger Tony Stoddart

 

The old homestead is where you’ll find me

Away from the mischief and the tyranny

Where the blue gum and the kookaburra rules

Where still you’ll find a few of the bush ranger’s tools

 

Where the plains reach out to the old homestead

Where a family of Aussies were lovingly bread

Where the fresh mountain air resides

And the wedge tail peacefully glides

 

Where the black snake slides freely

Where if you wander late, you’ll cop the steely

Angry stubborn desperate stare

Of the long gone bush rangers there

 

The Kellys and the like roam freely in the woods

Chatting and reminiscing and comparing their goods

Where ghosts of the past rule supreme

And they wander the forest as if in a dream

 

If the old homestead could speak it would say

Come visit the bush get away today

Roam in the woods smell the mountain air

Discard the suit, do it if you dare

 

Come visit the homestead and sit with the crew

Sample bush tucker is what you should do

Take a walk in the woods and sit with old Ned

Yarn with the shearers in the old shearing shed

 

Walk on the plains and lay on the grass

Escape from the city don’t let it pass

Come sit with the family round the log fire at night

Let them share the good times misfortune and blight

 

Sit still near the trees and talk with the birds

Ride a bush pony and run with the herds

Smell fresh mountain air in the clear early morn

Fill your lungs with the healing of a brand new dawn

 

And when you return to your world over there

Think of the homestead and please don’t despair

Cause old Ned and friends, bush rangers and all

Will be wandering and waiting,,,, till you get the call.

 

C A J Stoddart 10-06-2014.