Friday, February 19, 2010

The City of Food, Culture and Writing

One of the pleasures of being in Melbourne for me is helping my daughter Kate and her family at the farmers' markets where they sell their beautiful organic produce. This picture of the Daylesford Organics stall was taken last Saturday morning at the Collingwood Children's Farm market.

This market is held on the second Saturday of every month. The fourth Saturday Bren and Kate take their produce to the Slow Food market at the nearby Abbotsford Convent.

Apart from the food and coffee there's plenty to love about the city. Last Saturday evening I went to the Gala Night of Storytelling that marked the opening of The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. In its own words the Centre is the centrepiece of Melbourne's UNESCO City of Literature initiative. I reckon it's going to be worth moving to Melbourne for.

The storytelling night was held at the Melbourne Town Hall and sold out weeks ago. Twelve writers talked about the power of stories, especially family stories. They were funny, profound, thought provoking, entertaining and moving. Paul Kelly ended the night with a story and a song about how many years ago his aunt's life had been changed by sleeping in. That made me tearful because my father has lately been talking about how a series of chance occurrences led him to meet my mother and how that made all the difference to his life.

Then on Monday night I went along to the first of the Wheeler Centre's Debut Mondays, where every second Monday Melbournians will get the chance to hear new writers read from their work. The four writers were fabulous children's author Andrew McDonald (pictured below); Bob Franklin, whose short stories were extremely well received; Sofie Laguna reading from her first adult novel; and Madeleine Hamilton whose book about pin up girls from the forties and fifties reminded me of seeing hordes of people on the beach to watch Miss Beachgirl contests when I was a kid. How quaint all that seems now.

Then last night I returned yet again to the Wheeler, this time for a party hosted by Scribe to announce the winner of their terrific new prize, the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for writers over the age of 35. (Cheers for us oldies!) The shortlisted authors were Meg Mundell, Jane Sullivan and Maris Morton. The winner was Maris Morton who is in her seventies, with this being her first published work. She made a touching speech about how vindicated she felt as a writer. I'm sure everyone present wished her well and hoped she goes on to write plenty more.

Phew! What a week I've had. I'll be pleased to be back in quiet Mole Creek though, to get some actual writing done, including working on a talk I'll be giving at The Sandybeach Centre on Wednesday March 17th.

I'll also be reading an extract from my book at a Debut Monday at the Wheeler Centre on March 15th. My fellow debutants on the night will be poet Ezra Bix, and writers, Christine Darcas and Damon Young. Never heard of them? That's the point. Here's your opportunity. Debut Mondays are free and include a glass of wine. Come along down and say hi.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Marakoopa Coffee

I've been dying to try out Marakoopa Coffee, Lars and Sarah Cooper's new coffee cart. They set it up in late December in the garden of their house, which is on Marakoopa Road on the way to the famous caves of the same name.

The location is ideal because the caves, which are fascinating and should be on every tourist's itinerary, attract hundreds of thirsty visitors, and Lars and Sarah's garden is a beautifully maintained oasis in the midst of mountains, bush and farmland.

As a Melbournian born and bred I'm a bit of a coffee snob, so although I knew the food would be good and the setting perfect I was a little nervous about the coffee.

We finally made it over there yesterday with our Canadian guests. It was a lot of fun. You stand up at the van to place your order of tea or coffee and try to resist the goodies that Sarah bakes herself.

You then carry these off to one of the umbrella-sheltered tables that dot the garden, breathing in the fresh air and savouring the view.

But the coffee, the all-important coffee?

Our international verdict was that it's excellent. The Coopers buy their beans from a small, specialised, Launceston coffee roaster, and even our table of coffee snobs enjoyed every drop.

Farmdoc and I plan to cycle there next time. That way we'll have earned our muffins and brownies.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fire, Fire

No photos for this post. Don't feel like it. Farmdoc is off fighting a fire not far from here. I'm worried about him and I'm worried about the fire.

Sharon, our share farmer, and I have just been on the phone discussing what we'll do with our livestock if the fire comes through here. As for our possessions, we both decided we'll walk out the door with almost nothing: for me it's my laptop and my new iPod Touch on which I am playing Scrabble with a stranger in New York. My opponent's in bed now. At least she's stopped making moves and it's late there, and I guess she's female, though why I say that I don't know.

It's not that I don't love all my old pottery, and the kitchen paraphernalia that used to belong to Farmdoc's grandmother, and all the other bits and pieces I've garnered over the years that tell so many stories. My father's rowing cups from before the Second World War, paintings, books, books and more books, my collection of enamel candlestick's just that I can't be bothered with any of it right now.

I'm just babbling. Call it nerves.

The other thing I'm doing at the moment, when I'm not compulsively typing, is cleaning. Farmdoc will be pleased. I NEVER clean. So far I've scrubbed the back porch wall and mopped the porch floor. Now I think I'm going to go off to sweep and mop the floors inside the house, and for some reason I feel like making jelly. Jelly? Who knows why? Childhood comfort food maybe.

There's very little smoke here so the fire can't be headed in this direction, can it? Though I know a wind change can make a huge difference. Last night's fires were deliberately lit. This one probably was too.

I don't want to ring anyone to talk about it because I don't want to worry them. And besides, there's nothing to worry about, is there?

The Tasmanian Fire Service website currently informs me about the fire at Liena Road, Mole Creek:
TFS and Forestry Tasmania crews are currently on-site, working to contain and bring the fire under control.

OK, which flavour jelly shall I make?