Shake ’n’ bake

The sum of all hope – a late planting of cos lettuce and flat-leaf parsley

Nearly a whole month gone and not a post to speak of – shame on me. I put it down partly to that summer-weight waffle-weave blanket of gloom that descends once Christmas and New Year are over and you realise once again that if you’re not a kid, or you don’t have kids, there’s very little point to either, and they just get in the way of the summer holidays.

Second, the arrival to my living room of GirlsGeneration War and True Detective, plus nightly doses of QI, has rendered me in turn dazzled, devastated and dumbstruck in equal measure (the last due entirely to the near-incomprehensible accent of Matthew McConaughey and his hypnotic sibilance). The delivery of our new leather rocking chair and ottoman hasn’t exactly helped. Rock ’n’ loll.

But it’s not all soft leather seating and script-writing envy. The silver fox has completed another of his long-running household projects – The Wall. Not, I might add, a remix of Pink Floyd’s bloated opus, but a refix of our outside wall, once raddled and crumbling with damp. Which means that finally, after nigh on a year of neglect, our big, heavy planter pots have been returned to their rightful position and are now bristling with cos lettuce, spinach, rocket, parsley, basil, lemon thyme, oregano and rosemary. (I finally gave up on tomatoes when I discovered, after years of blaming possums, fruit bats, caterpillars and birds for the mysterious disappearance of my fruit, that Lucy the Labrador was partial to my cherry love apples – stop it! – after catching her red-pawed nibbling them straight off the vine.)

These lucky little seedlings have been treated to stinking-rich organic potting mix and a thick and fragrant matting of sugarcane mulch. Each morning and evening they’re cooed over and complimented and watered by yours truly, who believes fervently in the power of verbal persuasion when it comes to horticultural success. Yes, there may be many child-rearing professionals who are (finally!) beginning to refute the worth of constant positive affirmation for the optimum development of children into sane adults (although screaming at them like a banshee isn’t the answer, either, judging by psycho-mater next door), but it’s never hurt with plants as far as I can ascertain.

Simple White Bread from
a book I didn’t write, with tomatoes I didn’t grow

The growing of stuff always seems to have a knock-on effect on this helicopter gardener; namely, the making of stuff. So, over the long and lovely Australia Day weekend – which we spent in a resolutely un-Australian manner (that is, quietly, solitarily and soberly, with nary a lamb chop or prawn on the barbie, nor even a contract to dredge up an entire World Heritage-listed site or old-growth forest) – I dragged out Leanne Kitchen’s fantastic cooking tome, The Baker, from the top shelf in my larder and baked some bread. It was called Simple White Bread and it was good. I didn’t listen to Lorde on Triple J’s Top 100 while I was making it, however. For that I will no doubt burn forever in the fires of Hell, but it was worth it.

And now it’s the first weekend of February, and down at the Royal Botanic Gardens by the harbour, there’s been a weekend celebration of the tomato, called, oddly enough, the Tomato Festival, where all manner of red-tinted events have been taking place – from passata and chutney challenges to ‘best in show’ tomato growing competitions, judged by the Gough and Margaret Whitlam of gastronomy, Terry Durack and Jill Dupleix. Maybe next year – if I can gag the dog.

I wasn’t able to be there to enjoy it, unfortunately. I had other fish to fry. But not shark. I left that to Colin Barnett, whom I’ll doubtless soon be standing with at the gates of Hades.