Feed your family… Italian style

Thursday 19 May 2011

You’re not my friend any more Curtis Stone.

I’ve been following your “Under $10” recipes since the very beginning and, while they’ve never cost less than $15, I’ve enjoyed them immensely. I felt you were teaching me to be both frugal and flavoursome, taking me on a journey through the marvels of budgeted home culinary. I felt, perhaps, you understood me.

So I hope you understand why I say this: Baked Rigatoni with Tomato and Sopressa Salami.

I wrote the ingredients out carefully and trotted to my local Coles with green bag in hand. First stop the deli for the pre-sliced ingredients, and the first sign of a chink in our friendship. My Coles had none – NONE – of the listed ingredients: not the 150g Sopressa salami, not the 100g Delre mozzarella, and not the 1/4 cup Coles Parmigiano Reggiano parmesan cheese. “Fine, I’ll buy it from fridge section,” I said, but the salami comes in packs of 100g, so I had to buy two, and the mozzarella and parmesan in lots of 250g.

So your “$9.97” meal, including the herbs, ended up costing $32.95!

Having spent three times what you reckon this meal was going to, I started preparing. It was here our friendship completely fell apart. It was a small issue, as most friendship-enders are, but I’m sure the reason why a lot of people have stopped being chummy with chefs. It appears time and time again and does nothing but frustrate the amateur cook.

It’s the half a small brown onion.

Why must you include such a ridiculous ingredient? What’s wrong with a full brown onion? You know everyone’s going to include the whole onion – who keeps half a brown onion? – so why specify such a measurement? Really Curtis, do you seriously think any of us, no matter how many episodes of MasterChef we’ve suffered, can tell the difference between the taste of half and a full brown onion? And what am I supposed to do with the onion’s other half? The baked rigatoni serves 4; single me will be eating this the better part of the week!

And don’t get me started on the 350g of Coles rigatoni pasta. Why – WHY – stipulate 350g when pasta comes in bags of 500g? What am I supposed to do with the other 150g? I had to buy a grater for the 1 small carrot; must I purchase a set of kitchen scales as well?

So I’m sorry Curtis but I can’t be friends with you anymore, it just makes me too upset when I attempt your recipes. I hope you’ll understand and perhaps one day we can laugh about this.

However, I must say that the final result was pretty tasty, even if I did forget to include the basil.


2009 NaNoWriMo – Day 4

Wednesday 4 November 2009

My rabbit ears broke on Monday night, just before Media Watch. I was so peeved. I like Media Watch, it speaks to my Gen Y, inner city, capital “A” Arts supporting, anti-tabloid, self-indulgent pretensions. I’ve read the transcript but it’s not the same.

(Must get myself a copy of the 2010 Men of the ABC News Desk calendar. I understand that Tony Jones is Mr August.)

So I finished the first run through of my script instead. I’ve cut 145 pages down to 107 – that’s over 25% gone! My supe had told me it had to be under 110 and I reckoned I would slice 25 pages easily, but I was still a little shocked how easy it was to do so. I then wrote a bit more for NaNoWriMo. Finished the chapter, so that’s at least a good thing. Down on the word count but it was late and a good spot to bedwards head.

Tuesday ran the Melbourne Cup sweeps (I have it down to a fine art after all these years) and was lucky to win a second place (can’t even remember the name of the horse – it was brown). Been moved up to the Executive Assistant’s desk for the next month while (a) my boss plays Acting Director; and (b) the EA is away. Was buggered by the end of the day, and the searing temp and the FUCKED UP TRAIN SYSTEM didn’t help matters. I had to walk home.

Boss had given me a jar of her superb chutney, plus a purple cabbage the weight of a lawn bowl from the veggie patch. The chutney I gulped down on Monday night (Please don’t tell anyone but I knocked back the entire thing right there and then with a parfait spoon, I couldn’t help myself), and dined on half the cabbage Tuesday. I should do some NaNo writing, I thought to myself afterwards. So I went to bed.

Wednesday, today, I had arranged a flex so I could have the entire day to enjoy a clean read of my script and to catch up on my NaNo writing. And then I got a phone call; it was Boss. “What are we going to do about those papers for Friday’s meeting?” she said. “Shit,” I said in return. So I went in.

Home and now finished the other half of the cabbage. I must give you the recipe:

–+–

Cathryn’s Purple Cabbage Dinner Salad

  • half a head of Spanish garlic, minced (that’s right – half a WHOLE head. Always go for Spanish as it’s not bleached and a lot tastier)
  • olive oil
  • bacon (I had 150g of rindless from the deli)
  • pepper
  • a good dollop of butter (I reckon I used somewhere between 50-100g. Now THAT’s a good dollop)
  • half a purple cabbage, preferably from your Manager, sliced thinly
  • 100g walnuts
  • croutons

Fry up the minced garlic in the oil, then add the bacon. Fry that up too for a bit. Add some pepper, then the butter. Stick the lid on, let that sauté till you’ve done whatever it was that you were doing in the other room.

Add the cabbage and stir through. Cook for a bit, letting it wilt, with the lid on, giving the occasional stir. Then add the walnuts, stir through and give it another minute or two.

When ready, add the croutons and stir through again. Dump on a plate if using as a side dish, or in a bowl if that’s the whole meal. Enjoy, preferably with a glass of something.

–+–

Incidentally, yes, I am procrastinating. I could read through the script but I’ve made up my mind not to do that till Saturday – the break will help me re-evaluate. There is one scene which I’ve had a thought about and want to re-write fully (got to get a way for the window to develop a fracture) but I might do that tomorrow night. I could finish listening to the second act of The Pirates of Penzance (Tarantara! Tarantara!), or… well, there’s a hundred other things. Already worked out my Ikea shopping list. Socks are all rolled. Email mailing lists cleared. I could do the dishes but I’m not that desperate.

Oh well, it looks like it’s come down to just doing some writing.

nano_09_blk_participant_100x100_2.png NaNoWriMo 2005 progress graph. 2009 NaNoWriMo

Thanks to Caffeinated Bliss for the word count utility.


Less Sleaze – Week 5

Saturday 29 August 2009

After last week’s threat for drastic measures I did bugger all. Walked home four times from work (was a bit too tipsy on Friday night). Also this week had my last yoga classes for the month, I’ll need to re-enrol if I want to keep going (presently I’m sitting on about a 60/40 swing towards the affirmative compared to leaving it for a month).

Friday’s class was pretty hard – I don’t know if it was the early morning starts had finally got to me or all the walking but I had no centre of balance with my widdle wegs wobbling and wavering away. It’s never a good sign when you spend the entire class watching the clock – “15 minutes to go, 13 minutes to go, 10 minutes to go…”. At the very end when we are supposed to be relaxing (or “focussing on our awareness within” – gees yoga instructors come up with some rubbish expressions), with our legs up the wall with two bolsters under our backs, my leg muscles kept pulsating in complaint. I tell ya – at one point I just thought “Right, I’m not going to work today, I’m just in too much pain!” Of course, by the time I was back home, everything was all right but my legs didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day.

Did make a very nice beetroot soup which turns out to be a far better cold soup than hot one. Hot it lost all its texture and became overwhelmed by the sour cream and embellishments; cold the flavour came intense and the weight of the soup coated your mouth. Delicious!

–+–

Beetroot Soup with Creme Fraiche and Chives

From Delicious Magazine, April 2008

Serves 4-6

  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 desiree potato, peeled, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 litre chicken or veg stock
  • 450g can baby beetroot, drained and roughly chopped
  • creme fraiche (or sour cream), croutons and finely snipped chives, to serve
  • extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle.

Heat butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook stirring for 3min for until slightly softened. Add the potato and cook, stirring for a further 5min. Add bay leaf, stock and 1 cup water. Increase the heat to medium high, bring to boil, then cook for a further 5min or until the veg are very tender. Add the beetroot and simmer for about 3min.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then discard the bay leaf. Using a stick blender, blend soup until smooth. Season soup to taste, and warm through over low heat if necessary.

To serve, divide soup among bowls, and top each with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream. Scatter with croutons and chives, then drizzle with oil.

Personally, I reckon chill the soup and skip all that decorative crap and let the texture of the soup speak for itself. Be a great summer meal.

–+–

Suppose I better go climb on those scales, hey? 85.0

Week
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Sleaze
87.3 86.3 85.2 85.8 86.0 85.0
-1.0 -1.1 +0.6 +0.2 -1.0
-1.0 -2.1 -1.5 -1.3 -2.3

Well, that’s good news, isn’t it? The lowest ever, can’t be upset by that.

Still, though, to inspect the teeth, at this rate I’m probably not going to get to under 80 by Sleaze, which is a disappointment. I suppose it’s all got to do with my commitment.

No, No! I’m committed to the cause. Positive thoughts – I can do it I can do it I can do it. I will cut back on the amber and vino, up the vegies and put on those gym shoes and get out in the sun.

Might just have a nap first, and something to eat. I think there’s some bacon in the fridge…


What I did on my holidays – Perth

Friday 3 July 2009

On my last journey I broke both a window and a friendship. The window was easily mended but the friendship has shown to be beyond repair, though I have tried on a number of occasions. The most recent attempt was two days ago when I rang to see if he would like to meet when I’m in Melbourne. He politely said no then hung up. Oh well, I thought, that’s that then. I’m still to be punished.

This trip I’m also staying with friends. Let’s hope I’ve learnt my lesson.

–+–

All packed, I left for the airport at 1pm, 4 hours before my flight. I like being at the airport all checked in – there’s nothing else you can worry about, it’s all done. You’re stuck till you get to your destination so you might as well relax.

I started my book – Moby-Dick (incidentally did you know that only the title is hyphenated? The Great White Whale itself if always written as two words – how about that!) and was over 120 pages into the 634 by the time the flight was called. Great story, considering nothing’s really happened so far, but it’s kept me page turning. Some great moments of comedy too. You can sense the excitement of the chases that are to follow.

Why didn’t someone tell me that Perth was so far away! Stupid Me for not being able to count. 3 hours time difference between take off and landing + 2 hours time difference = 5 hours. I had it burnt into my brain it was only going to be 3 hours (I forgot the time difference). It wasn’t till I was sitting on the plane in a chair that would only stay upright, with an overhead light that didn’t work that I realised the difference. And then, due to on coming winds, it was a further hour before I landed – 6 hours! At least I got lots of reading done.

At one point a flash of brightness out the window caught my eye. First I thought it was a light on the wing of the plane but on closer viewing there was Zeus lighting a patch of clouds in the near distance. I watched mesmerised as the clouds sparked with neon light, giving body and magnitude to their size. The plane was above the clouds and I realised that while the sky was ink blank, the clouds themselves were a deep purple, like an eggplant that has lost it’s gleam. Slowly the plane past by the electrical storm and was lost in the shadows of the wing. Zeus will have to play without an audience. I went back to my book.

Writing this, about half hour from Perth, I’ve finally put the book down at the end of Chapter 40. I think I’ve read enough about Cetology for one night (Chapter 32: 16 pages – 16 pages!!! – on the descriptions of the different types of hunted whales!). Moby Dick (the whale – note no hyphen) is about to make his first entrance into the story, so I thought this a perfect place to stop – something for next time.

Arriving I was a little sad to not find Anita waiting for me. Damn it, I said, I’ve told her the wrong date! And here’s me without her number in ready reach (it’s safe on the laptop). But before long there she is – I was just being a Silly Impatient Billy (and SIB, not an SOB – bit of a difference). After hugs I grabbed my bag (“Is that all you’ve got for 2 whole weeks?” Anita said) and we headed back to Anita’s home and my base camp for the next week. A really nice place, I was well impressed. John (A’s hubby) made us each a tea and we chatted for a while before realising that with the 2 hour time difference it was now past 1am Sydney time – no wonder I was so tired. So off to beds we went and a very good night’s sleep.

I kept waking up through the night but realised I was still on Sydney time so would roll over and get a few more hours sleep. I finally arose and left the house about 10.30 – perfect holiday getting up and about time. Anita had given me basic instructions to get into the city – just go that way, then turn left – and it was as simple as that. 20 minutes’ walk later I was in the city – three cheers to Anita and John for such a great location! First things first I popped into the tourist centre, picked up some brochures, and booked my ferry to Rottnest. The lady behind the counter was a little hesitant with my chances for getting to Rottnest – the weather hadn’t been the best. “Good luck” she said in not the most encouraging way as I made for the door.

The rest of the morning was a “getting to know you” stroll around the city centre and down to the wharf to find the ferry point – not that difficult, they’re all at the same spot. Walked past the bell tower (might go back later) and the ferris wheel (it seems that you’re not a city these days unless you’ve got one of those bloody great things on your water’s edge) then back to wander around the malls. There’s always a sense of comfort when you realise that all malls, to an extent, all look the same. I idled my time visiting all the regular shops I would normally visit when in the city, then went looking for a food court for lunch. I enjoy food courts; there’s something so cosmopolitan about them – all these national gourmets all side by side and being dished out on cheap crockery. But half an hour later… no food court. I ended up settling on a very nice Asian place that did a yummy-ish BBQ pork and noodles, plus a glass of wine – my first since arriving.

Still early in the day so I thought I’d visit the Art Gallery of Western Australia. An hour and a half later I left the gallery, every piece of art viewed. Can’t say I wasn’t disappointed, but there were some lovely pieces there that I knew, and they have an interesting complete gallery exhibition concept (each room being themed, such as the body, the line, etc, so that different eras sit together on the one wall) and it’s a very nice space too (circular around a spiral staircase) but there was nothing that stole me, nothing that sold itself as truly “Western Australian”. NSW has Brett Whitely and Sydney Nolan and Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith (and there was some Nolans and Prestons and C Smiths on the WA walls), and Victoria has the Heidelberg Collective and JohnBrack (and there were examples of both on display here), and Queensland ‘s got Ian Fairweather (and there many of his here as well!) but here was nothing that I learnt to be WA’s grand artist. I thought this was very disappointing and a little sad. Everyone needs someone to promote.

Actually, thinking about this later, I think the problem is that the Gallery is only half a gallery. It’s a modern gallery only. What they need is another space for the 19th and turn of the 20th Century works. There must be some old building they can find to slap a coat of Federation paint on to hang the huge European landscape canvases. I reckon they do that… International standard!

I came back home, picking up some milk at the local IGA on the way. I also found out where the gay bar is – The Court. I had walked past it on my way into town and not realised. I didn’t go in, there will be plenty of that next week. It was also, on the way home, that I remembered it was my birthday. I’m now 36. I felt ever so slightly like Nick Carraway, but while I remembered my birthday while purchasing a three litre container of milk, he had just been in attendance to a wild party. Now that I think about it, I’m nothing like Nick Carraway at all.

For my birthday dinner, Anita and John took me to the Little Creatures Brewery down in Freemantle for the most sublime bowl of chillied muscles, my main after the shared nibbles of skewered kangaroo served with a tomato relish(more please), prawns in something delicious, pork belly all mouth meltingly wonderful, and a bowl of perfect chips accompanied with the creamiest aioli ever – ended up eating it with a spoon. I was in heaven. Our fourth dinner guest, Julie, did say that the aioli at Flipside was better, so I jotted that down for a later treat. Greedy me then deserted on waffles with poached apple and rhubarb drizzled – drizzled! – with maple syrup; all washed down with an assortment of Little Creature beers. They needed to roll me back to the car for the journey home. A great way to end my birthday night, but a great night all around, beginning with my pares ringing to wish me a happy day. I was very touched.

Back home, and after a tummy-settling cup of tea, I took Moby-Dick to bed. Didn’t read a page.

–+–

Today, Thursday, did the Western Australian Museum, or mUSEum as they advertise themselves which I think is a pretty nifty way of promoting a museum, and what a lot of fun that was! Best $5 I’ve ever donated. There is something quite enjoyable about looking at a display of stuffed marsupials; their stolen lives snarling at you though plastic teeth, glaring at you through marble eyes. I did also get a kick out of the hallways of butterflies, each jousted with a sewing pin right through their gullets. Admittedly, I did find them quite educational, but more for my screenplay than for their lepidopteral genealogical value – I’ve now worked out how I’m going to remove the secretary.

They’ve got a stuffed bison!

Are dinosaurs just the greatest thing ever? I stood aside, smiling, watching a school group of young boys all going “Waaaauuuuuuwwww!” Do young girls “ahhh” and “0ooh” at the site of a reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s skull? I hope so. I’ve always loved dinosaurs having several books as a kid (I do have a willy after all) and it was a ticklish delight to stand in the shadow of the immense skeletons and just be awed by their size. It was a great time.

Less involving was the Indigenous Collection of which I quickly glanced before moving on. I’m the same at the art galleries when it comes to Aboriginal work – I simply do not care. It actually makes me angry – not the torture “White man” inflicted, or destruction of cultures, or the “significance” of the dot and line paintings – I’m angry with myself for not even wanting to know more. I just think, So what? and move on to the Dutch still lives. Dinosaurs, meteorites, collections of Bakelite radios – tell me more! Aboriginal anything – tell someone who cares.

Presently at the WA mUSEeum there’s an exhibition on Nick Cave. Strange place to show an exhibition on a Victorian, I thought. Lots of Cave note books (which were interesting) and art works and collectibles (not as much). All very worthy, but he’s never done anything musically to me. I’ve just always thought him a skinny bloke with bad hair. Apparently he sings all right. So Cave’s importance was mostly lost on me. Now, Rick Astley – the Exhibition… that would be something.

Did you know that the Laughing Kookaburra is an introduced species to Western Australia? Neither did I. Turns out they were released form the Perth Zoo some time around the turn of the 20th Century and now inhabit the entire southern coastline. Isn’t that interesting?

For lunch I dined at the mUSEeum cafe on a very nice toasted chicken melt thing and the world’s largest coffee. They upgraded me from a mug to a bucket due to my long waiting time, which was nice of them.

Had my first beer in a Perth gay bar. The Court is right across from the mUSEum so I popped in for a soothing ale. Looks pretty much like every other gay bar I’ve ever been in. Nice flocked wallpaper though. After one beer (it’s only middies and pints here. I, of course, had a pint, though I do think they are a little too big for ease of drinking) and collecting the pink press (a monthly which probably goes to suggest the amount of gay life in Perth) I headed home. Anita’s throwing a special dinner for me tonight and a work colleague. Should be a night of quality conversation and delectable dining.

As I was peeling the potatoes I learnt that Mollie Sugden has died. I’m very sad.

Oh damn, a glass just smashed upstairs.

–+–

Anita’s Most Fantastic Kangaroo and Coopers Pie
(which started life as a beef and Guinness pie)

From Delicious Magazine, July 2009

Serves 6 (well, 4 plus leftovers for 1)

  • 1/2 cup (50g) plain flour
  • 1kg diced kangaroo (or chuck or blade steak)
  • 140ml sunflower oil
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 220g small button mushrooms (I wouldn’t ‘cos I’m anti-mushroom but most people like them and I couldn’t taste them anyway)
  • 2 onions, thickly sliced
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300ml beef stock
  • 300ml Coopers (or Guinness)
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • Leaves from 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce

For the Mustard suet crust:

  • 175g self-raising flour, plus extra to dust
  • 2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 40g powdered suet mix (you can get it at supermarkets)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (for brushing)

(You can use puff pastry instead.)

For the suet pastry, sift the flour, mustard and 1 tsp of salt into a bowl, then stir in the suet. Sit in 1/2 cup (125ml) cold water to make a soft dough. Tip onto a floured surface and knead dough gently for 1-2min until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap, then chill for 2 hrs.

To make the filling, place the flour in a shallow bowl, season with salt and pepper, then add the kangaroo, tossing to coat. Shake off and reserve the excess flour. Heat 1/4 cup (60ml) oil in a flameproof casserole over a medium-high heat. In 2 batches, cook the kangaroo for 8 min or until browned all over. Lift onto a plate with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

Increase the heat to high, add half the butter and all the mushrooms to the casserole pan and cook, stirring for 2 min until slightly golden. Remove and set aside with the kangaroo.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Add the remaining4 tbsp oil to the pan with the onion and sugar. Cook for 15 min, stirring until onion is caramelised. Add remaining butter and garlic and cook for 1 min. Stir reserved flour into onion, followed by the stock, Coopers, tomato paste, thyme and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, stirring, then return the kangaroo and mushrooms to the pan. Season, partially cover then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1.5 hrs or until beef is tender and sauce has thicken. Cool mixture.

Preheat oven 220C.

Spoon kangaroo mixture into a deep 2 lire pie dish. Push a pie funnel into the centre, if desired.

Working quickly as the pastry will become very soft when brought to room temperature, unwrap pastry and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to form a disc that’s slightly larger than the top of the dish (about 8mm thick). Cut off a thin strip from the edge, brush with a little water and press onto the trim of the dish. Brush with more water. If using a pie funnel, cut a small cross in the centre of the pastry and lay over the dish so that he pie funnel pokes through (Alternatively, cut a slit in the pastry to allow steam to escape). Seal pastry edges, trim excess, then crimp the edges to seal. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg yolk mixed with a little water. Bake for 30-35min until the pastry is crisp and golden, then serve.

Anita serves this with a hearty potato and sweet potato mash.

–+–

Chocolate Fondants

From Delicious Magazine, April 2008

Serves 4 (the recipe says 6 but who listens to recipes)

  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate (such as 70% Lindt)
  • 240g unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 30g plain flour, sifted
  • icing sugar to dust

Grease and line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Grease and line the sides of 6 (4) 4cm deep, 8cm metal rings with baking paper and place them on the trays. You can also use six 3/4 cup (185ml) soufflŽ dishes that have been greased and lightly dusted with flour (shake off any excess flour).

Chop the chocolate. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and allow to melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. Fold in the chocolate mixture, then fold in the flour. Pout into metal rings or souffle dishes and chill for at least 2 hours (this help fondants maintain their soft centre during cooking).

Preheat oven 200C. bake the fondants for 10-12 minutes until set – they should be cooked on the outside but runny in the centre (Anita did for another two lots of 5min before she was happy the tops had set).

Remove form the oven and allow to sit for a moment before turning out. If using metal rings, use a palette knife or spatula to carefully transfer fondants to serving plates, then remove metal rings and baking paper. Fondants cooked in souffle dishes can be served straight from the dish.

Dust with icing sugar and serve with a double cream and ice cream.

When Anita served these, they looked magical, and it was a sweet joy when you cracked open the outer cooked shells to see the gooey chocolately insides trickle out. A top marks sensational ending to a night.


Silver Anniversary

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Again, this is a very late entry, things just got in the way, and as this is a very special entry (my 50th) I wanted to make it a sort of review of what’s come before. I am hazarding that that is the reason it has taken me so long to finally put fingertips to keyboard and bash something out – one should look forward to the good times to come and not ponder the bad times before – but let’s just see how we go. I’ll try not to ramble.

it took me about a year of humming and ahhing before I finally sat down and wrote my first blog entry. You see, I’m not a great fan of blogs; most of the time I have trouble seeing their point. Some people keep blogs as if they are lockable diaries:

Susan’s Secrets
Dear Diary. Had such a great time at the fair today. Christine (you know, who I told you about) brought along her older brother Alistair – he is such a spunk though of course Susan doesn’t think so – she just thinks he smells. I think he’s dreamy. And he’s only in Year 12 so that’s not that much older than me. Anyway, we all went on the dodgem cars but there wasn’t enough spare cars and Alistair said that I could sit with him! SQUEAL! One time, going around the corner, he bumped into me and put his hand on my knee! He said it was an accident but I think he secretly likes me!

This was the last thing I wanted to do.

Others used blogs as more of a rant:

View from the Molehill
Now look at what the government has gone and done (link here, here, and here)! It’s bloody disgraceful! What right do they think they have to take innocent lives and use them in nothing more than some sort of gigantic game of political chess! It just shits me that these people, who we vote for, allow this sort of thing to happen in good solid honest neighbourhoods. I mean, my father was born here and worked every day for 47 hard years. You didn’t see him being a scab and I respect him for that. And that’s something the young people don’t get – Respect! They think they can just get it, not earn it. Well, I’ve worked for everything I’ve got in life and what have I got – nothing! And that’s the fucking government for you!

I never wanted that either, as tempting as it might seem. What I wanted to try was to challenge myself, to try something different; get out of my comfort zone.

When I started Clyde in August last year I was also beginning a university subject of Non-Fiction Writing in which, for homework, we were to write a series of short pieces – practice pieces – to limber our writing skills up. The second entry I wrote is one of these (and the fifth, and the seventh) and they sort of became the inspiration and direction I was wanting to take. 

If I was, back those months ago, to have sat down and written a manifesto as to what I was hoping to achieve with this blog, the gist (in bullet form) would go something like this:

  1. With the aim to upload a new blog entry every five (5) days, discover inspiration at the beginning of the five (5) day period, be it a short story, review, strange event, or surreal insight.
  2. Ruminate about this inspiration for a (1) day or two (2).
  3. Write about this inspiration with the intention to keep it short and clever. Allow to stand overnight.
  4. Review the inspiration giving the piece a good edit – a little snip here, an extra twist there.
  5. At the end of the five (5) period, upload this piece of, now quite remarkable, inspiration onto the blog.
  6. Sit back and bask in the international accolades that will surely pour forth after people read your quite most remarkable inspiration.
  7. Repeat.

You may guess, it didn’t really turn out that way.

Well, it sort of did. Reading back the first dozen entries pretty much stick to this procedure, though I did tap into past works, but to me that was all right. Clyde was to be a show of my best works so why not dig out the past good pieces. Socks is one of my favourite things I have ever written. Reading back those dozen entries my manifesto was on the right path.

Also in this first twelve, inspired by my non-fiction teachings, I had written a journal entry about attending a dance party, a piece I’m very much proud of. I think, though, this entry might have paved the way to too many Dear Diary writings, like Bushwalk, not one of the best. I also began using Clyde as a running diary of things I was doing (such as the Movember or Mardi Gras series) which, while nicely written, stray substantially from the original aims of the blog. One of these “What I Dids” even lost me one of my greatest friendships, and for that I am forever truly sorry. It makes is all so much worse that I had predicted it. I just hope that he can, one day, forgive me.

As the blog went on, climbing towards this remarkable Number 50, I tended to rely more and more on these “journal” blogs. This has not always a bad thing; if it’s an insight into an experience, such as Peppermint Magnum (a true story) or Woof Club – Hammer, then I think that’s all right. With these I’ve chosen to show the small moments – the quirks – that hopefully the reader will find interesting and enjoy. But all the Bill stuff – what was there, three main entries and another two he gets a guernsey in – as wonderful as he is… was it good writing? Was I sticking to my original aim? Was I complying with the manifesto? As much as I like writing about Bill, I would have to say the answer is No.

I do also wonder how much of the “journal” entries were simply written to shock – me going to a nudist camp for instance – but I can truthfully state that that was never the aim. I was, on the most, trying to be honest, trying to challenge myself to write about things that are not always comfortable. I don’t think I’ve done a exceptionally good job with this, mostly they come out sounding more like I’m a spectator than a participant, but this is one of my many down-fallings as a writer. I have a very particular voice, a rather skipping-along sound to my words. I don’t write sharp. I can’t do hurt. I’m even worse as lyrical. Now in uni we are attempting to create tones with words; for instance, consider the difference that can be suggested by describing a broken heart as:

gorged, collapsing within, forming a cavern in his chest that merely made his sobs toll like church bells lamenting yet another departed soul.

or:

punctured by that bastard Cupid, but now the arrow gone leaving nothing more than another scab to collect alongside the his loves once treasured, now lost, but never forgotten.

You see what I mean? Anyway, I’m not very good at it (as the above two examples suggest. I had to write about an “elated airport” a couple of weeks ago and I was too embarrassed to read it out in class.) but I do like the rather casual way I write. It’s pleasant, it’s friendly. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever manage to knock out a thriller, but, at worse, I could always attempt a jolly piece of children’s fiction, though I don’t think they would take favourably to some of my subject manner. This has at times been a problem.

Some of the stuff I have written about has not always been, how you say, family friendly. Sometimes I shudder at what I’ve written. Do I really want my mother knowing that I were nearly caught by the sniffer dogs for sneaking ecstasy tablets into a dance party? Or that I used to work in a sex on premises joint? No, especially when I discovered that my infant’s school librarian (who has known me basically as long as my mother) also reads Clyde (and hope still does; I’m very affectionate about that woman). Still, it didn’t stop me talking about pissing on a feller kneeling in a trough, but perhaps it should have…

The thing is that, while alarming, and not always appropriate, they are the Truth, and by being the Truth they are in turn… Me; and you have to admit, as stories go, some of them are pretty good, at least original. This is off the track but many years ago I became an urban legend, a tale that was told by so many people that friends, when having been told of this event about someone’s friend of a friend of a friend, would delight in ever so casually being able to say, “Yeah, I know him. His name’s Clyde.” One desperate, drunken night I’ll retell it here and then you’ll go “That was YOU!?” But, back to the point, I’m not trying to shock but instead fulfil the manifesto – to tell about those “strange events” that pepper my life.

(Admittedly, I do at times go out of the way to find these “strange events”. I like to think of Life as a collection of stamps: a great big book full of beautifully delicate images, very much like the next great big book of beautifully delicate images, but somewhere up the back are those rare and valuable creatures that make the heart flutter of even the most Laodicean philatelist. I am always on the lookout for my very own “Inverted Jenny”.)

Also, I have partaken of the rant style of blogging, not that I’m overly proud of this, but I felt it was important for me to do so at the time. Take Says the Ranga Queer, for example: a woman I know was soooooo homophobic that I just couldn’t let it past, so I used Clyde as a vehicle to express my rage, and hopefully knock her back a peg or three. I don’t know if she even read it, to tell the truth, perhaps it went to dumb ears, but it made me (at the time) feel better. In hindsight was it the right thing to do? Should I have just confronted her in person? Is it my role – or the blog’s role – to condemn people for their own prejudices? I don’t know. I don’t regret what I wrote, and I think it was important that she knew how I felt, but in such a public arena… 

I mentioned because, as I said before, I lost a great friendship through this blog. Here I do regret – not what I still believe to be True, but for saying it out loud. I should not have said anything – not even to him directly – as it was my own thoughts, and thoughts are silent.

At such an early stage of Clyde’s life (50 is the new 35 I’ve been told) I ask have a achieved what I wanted from this blog? I don’t know how many people read it, but that doesn’t bother me (there are more than 200 million blogs out there, you can’t expect your own to be discover in a mere 50 entries), but I do hope that people who do read my blog enjoy it and learn from it, be it a recipe or of an event, or even just a little about me. Because that’s why I write – to inform and entertain. 

And I like writing.

Reading this entry back, it’s more a ramble than I had originally hoped for, but what the heck- it’s a blog! This may not go down as one of my greatest entries, but as least it was Truthful, and that’s all that matters. One thing though, I will try to get back to the original manifesto and knock out less of the Dear Diary pieces, but don’t think that’s going to stop me frightening you with the accounts of this event or that (like how at the Good Friday party a few days ago me and a couple others by the end of the night were… nah. If you weren’t there, you missed it! Ain’t that right David and Robbie!) 

So, on that note, I’ll just let you know that while I’ll eventually be returning to my 5-day turn-around rule, for the next little while I’ll be posting every day as part of my uni holiday assignment – to write the same beginning 15 different ways – trying to capture the same small turn of events from different perspectives, from different characters, from different approaches. I hope you enjoy.

And I hope you keep reading…