Friday, December 31, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 32

Flutter By
Two nights ago a moth fluttered around my light. It was persistent in its attempt to become amorous with the light, flying nearer and nearer, then in an almost flirtatious manner alighted on the opposite wall as if to say, "Light, chase me!" The light didn't reply. Again and again the moth crept nearer only to retreat. I became a tad annoyed. I was trying to read a book and a moth fluttering around my hair was a hindrance to becoming absorbed in the story line. Switching off the light I scrambled out of bed and opened the door in the hope that the moth would take a hint and vacate my space. That moth was dumb. He flew around and around the darkened space. More drastic action was required! I shut the door, firmly, switched the light back on, found a magazine that I rolled up and swished it suddenly onto the moth capturing it within the magazine pages, and with a quick flick I deposited it outside … back to my book.

The following night I had a visit from it's twin! As large as a 20cent piece, dark murky grayish brown, with white markings on its wings, as similar as two peas in a pod to the intruder of the previous night, this moth performed an aerial swoop of my room as if he was looking for his brother. This time I wasted not a moment, but grabbed my shower cap from behind the door, deftly encompassed the night flier, before tipping it out into the corridor. Those little incidents gave me cause to wonder why is it that moths, creatures of the night, and butterflies, their first cousins who prefer sunlight, evoke different reactions. We gaze in wonderment at the beautiful markings and brilliant hues of a butterfly, yet show little interest in the moth.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 31


Over the past two or three weeks the mosquitoes have hatched and in the evening stillness their buzzing advertises their presence, their unwelcome presence, in my room. I swipe my hand in the direction of the invading unwelcome bloodsucker. I invariably miss and two seconds later a bite on my arm announce that they have struck. If it finished there all might be well … but no … I swell up and itch and the unsightly red blotch does nothing to my appearance.

Last weekend they struck in the dead of night. In the morning my eye was swollen, and upon glancing in the mirror thought I had been in a war. Red blotches in the corner of my eye, another on my cheek, and all around was unsightly swelling. I peered in the early morning light and tried not to touch. In the dining room I imagined everyone was staring and wondering if I would come up with the old excuse as to the swelling, "Oh, I just walked into a door". Sad fact is I hadn't. I pretended nothing was wrong … that way I needed make no excuses or offer any reason.

We had a few nights of cooler weather and winds sprung up rattling the door and threatening to lift the roofing iron on the balcony roof. The clanging noise may have helped keep the mosquitoes at bay, or more likely, it was too cold and windy. My face cleared up … they took three days to disappear and the vague itching persisted another day. I almost forgot about mosquitoes.

Until … last night! The army invaded again, stealthily this time. They did not make the buzzing sound or if they did I was sound asleep. I woke this morning and there on my arm were the telltale red blotches accompanied by that old familiar itch. Tonight I will once again spray my door surrounds with fly spray, deadly to insect fly spray!

This hotel is almost a century old and it has gaps at the bottom of the door … gaps that could let in ants if I kept food lying around. I am wise; I use a refrigerator. In cold windy winters evenings the gaps let in cold air, and in the height of summer dry hot air from the desert drifts in making the air conditioner work twice as hard. I have sprayed once before and if it wasn't the appearance of colder nights that made the mosquitoes hibernate, then it worked.

Cue does have an army to fight the onslaught of the mosquito in the shape of a small truck that drives around the streets on dusk spraying in its wake a cloud of kerosene impregnated smoke that creeps into any mosquito breeding homes, and which is supposed to obliterate these pesky pests.

The first time I heard this 'exterminator truck' I thought a small single-winged airplane was circling the town in an effort to find a suitable landing place. We do have an airport on the outskirts, but a vivid imagination working over time envisioned a serious medical emergency necessitating an immediate touchdown as near to the scene as possible. I remember hurrying to the window and in the twilight I thought there was a fire, so dense was the smoke. I peered and noticed the smoke moved. There were no flames … there was no fire! Bushfires are commonplace in Australia, and thankfully I have never seen one, nor do I ever want to. Smoke billowing from behind a small white truck was a novelty, and once the purpose was explained I relaxed. That truck toured the town weekly last mosquito season. I hope it does it job a little better this season! I do not like the raised red blotches and the itching that is part and parcel of a mosquito bite.

Of course I could spray my bare skin with a spray that keeps insects away. Have you ever smelt that spray? It stinks! People who spray their bare skin with that particular insect repellent smell not nice. I think I will keep faith with the spray truck and in a positive frame of mind will knows that the mosquito problem will be reduced, or completely stopped within a week or two.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 30

Citrus Tang

It’s been a citrus couple of days. For a moment imagine me wandering through a citrus grove. [Now isn't grove a wonderful word … so close to grope, which is not exactly a wonderful word or its connotations are not wonderful, and glove, which conjures up a picture of a cold wintry day, one's breath spilling from mouth and nose like steam from a kettle, except steam is hot, and the breath instantly turns cold.] I have never wandered in a citrus grove. I have leaned over a boundary fence and accidentally knocked some luscious ripe lemons onto my side and thus, with a clear conscience turning away from the possibility of stolen fruit, I have picked them up for culinary purposes. I have seen orange trees growing in a neighbourhood, but I have never wandered in a citrus grove.

Some time ago several kilograms of limes were ordered. We do not know why as there is really little one can make from several kilograms of limes. They sat in a cardboard box high in the cool room. The catering had long been completed and not one lime was used. Since then the person who ordered those limes has departed from his employment at this establishment.

We found the limes one day. I picked one up and examined it, having only ever seen pictures of limes. They varied in colour from a deep dark lime green to a lime green such as was the fashion colour many moons ago [lime green, shocking pink, and burnt orange … one day those colours will return … perhaps under another name, but basically still the same colours].

When I discovered Roses Lime Marmalade I thought it the most wonderful marmalade ever made. Only 'Roses' … no other brand came a close second. As winter cut cold and harsh into the bones the light at the end of the tunnel appeared in the shape of Roses Lime Marmalade. Even the jars were distinctive! I saved those jars and used them for storing coffee and other stores. A row of Roses Lime jars with a kaleidoscope of ingredients transformed what would have been a mundane kitchen shelf into something almost reaching exceptional. [Remember that jars can, of their own free will, fall from shelves and break … these were at least cheap and easily replaced!]

The other day we discovered, or remembered, the limes again. We looked. A discussion took place. How to use them up before they passed their use-by date, made obvious by brown marks appearing on the surface. Two were added to the evening meal, unnoticed by diners, while the rest lay less than resplendent in their cardboard box high on the coolroom shelf. Yesterday another discussion occurred. It was decided … make lime marmalade. Instantly the taste of Roses Lime Marmalade gripped my taste buds. I volunteered to make the marmalade. Truth be told, if I didn't no one else would!

After cooking breakfast I settled in the dining room with the cardboard box of limes, some with telltale brown markings on the skin that indicated time was of the essence if we were to salvage these limes. I set the box on my right-hand side, first rolling back the tablecloth.

After all if I cut up limes, washing tablecloths would fall down the list of needs-to-be-done. Morning TV blared in the corner … weather and news, gossip from Hollywood, advertising, a little chat amongst the announcers, weather and news, gossip etc.

To my left I placed a small plate … for the rubbishy parts … those little brown marks. Directly in front I set down a plastic cutting board judicially placed on a larger tray, in case of excessive juice. In my hand, dangerously, I held a sharp black-handled steak knife. For decades I have found steak knives to be the best blades for cutting all types of materials … fruit, plastic binding on cardboard cartons, carrots and cauliflower, and for peeling cooked potatoes for a salad, and slicing unsavoury pieces from food. Not necessarily unsavoury because of age, more likely unsavoury because they were items I did not like.

I cut and sliced, sliced and cut. Slivers of lime covered the board. I tipped them into a large bowl. Thank goodness for weather and news, gossip from Hollywood, advertising, and a little chat amongst the announcers! My sanity may have otherwise been seriously challenged. Almost two kilograms of limes I cut and sliced. My arm ached and my shoulder was a smidgen from contracting RSI. There were two limes left in the box. I discarded them … already the brown colouration of the skin made them unsavoury in appearance. Two tossed out would not unbalance the budget. I measured water and poured it over the cut and finely sliced limes, and topped the whole shebang with a clean tea towel, clamping that in place with a tray before placing it in the corner of the storeroom. [Soak overnight the recipe stated.]

This morning I fed the hungry, and with a great burst of early morning enthusiasm tipped the cut and finely sliced limes, along with the covering water, into a large pot, placed them on the stove and lit the gas. Boil for one hour or until skins are soft, read the recipe. I boiled and a wonderful citrus aroma filled the kitchen and drifted out to the dining room. The hour passed quickly. I tested the skins and they were soft. Now it was time to measure the sugar into the pot, stir until the mix came to the boil, and wait until it jelled. In twenty minutes the lime marmalade was ready for bottling.

Sadly I had no Roses Lime Marmalade jars available. We did have some large, very large, glass jars, with lids, that had once held gherkins. I had saved these for months in the sure and certain knowledge that one-day they would come in handy. Two were already in daily use … as containers for the ice cream mix for the soft-serve ice cream. I warmed the jars, waited a short time for the marmalade to cool, and proudly poured the lime marmalade into the jars. They are now stored on a high shelf in the cool-room … except for a liberal serving ladled into a container for breakfast toast.

To while away the cooking time I imagined a walk through a citrus grove. Blue skies, the glowing orange, lemon and lime green of oranges, lemons and limes, incandescent in their bed of shimmering deep green leaves and emitting an aroma designed to tempt the senses … every time we spread the lime marmalade onto our morning toast a little journey into a citrus grove will be ours … if we so wish.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 29

Bottlebrush and Animals
It is spring … we had a substantial fall of rain on Monday with an equally substantial drop in temperatures that necessitated my placing the inner back into my duvet, commonly known as a doona here in W.A. Why a doona? I don't know. This part of the world has some strange words … doona for duvet; donga for transportable rooms, Blue for a redhead, and other colloquialisms that escape my mind at the moment.

The rain was welcome. By Wednesday, when all trace had evaporated, the air was clear and the countryside smelt fresh and clean. Birds found puddles for drinking fountains and the three little rabbits that appear to live beneath the old bank on the corner nibbled on the green grass growing amongst the splits in the footpath. Several weeks ago I noticed two rabbits attempting to jaywalk to the shop. Huge road trains rumble by, but these bobtail bunnies, using road sense, and common sense, traversed the dangerous highway with ease. Now there are three little rabbits.

I was out the other day and began a conversation with schoolboys who were hungrily eyeing the rabbits. The suggestion that they feed them up with a little bread for a few weeks was rewarded with a knowing wink. I felt no guilt. Two rabbits six weeks ago can increase to untold numbers by Christmas, and out there beyond the black stump is a rabbit proof fence. Whether we are on the right side or the wrong side of that fence is debatable. A photo of little bunnies has not been taken as they scampered to hide … I wonder if they understood the words 'pan' and 'rabbit stew'?

At this time of year the native Bottlebrush is in all its full glory. Eight Bottlebrush trees grace our main street and all are in magnificent bloom. Brilliant red flowers catch the eye. If I recollect correctly this years flowers are considerably bigger and better than those of last year. What that foretells I am not sure, but there is bound to be some folklore associated with it.

The swallows are once again nesting, and hatching their young, in the rafters of the balcony of the hotel. Our two visiting dogs, Rusty and Sally [Sally Anne when she is naughty] delight in running along the balcony, their feet pitter-pattering as they anticipate a little game. During the night these little dogs share the room with their masters and the two resident Blue Heelers climb the stairs to sleep on guard. In the early morning I coax them back downstairs and outside, but once the canine visitors are sent outdoors, via the fire escape, they all delight in chasing the crows watching from the beer garden roof. I place the kitchen scraps in two bowls near the beer garden. Dogs have first choice, but the moment their backs are turned the crows help themselves.

Wombat, the 'senior dog' here oversees all food disposal! He is first. He has second choice … and third choice as well. Should he condescend to let another dog approach the bowl it is on his terms, which means he can growl and chase them away as he sees fit. And he often sees fit! I have been at the clothesline hanging out tablecloths when Wombat, who not five seconds earlier had chased [with vehemence] one of his kennel mates away, will bring a bone … with meat … to me, drop it at my feet, and expect me to pick it up and be grateful. He is presenting a gift! Which goes to show that he has me higher in his pecking order than the other dogs. Then again, he knows the hand that feeds him! Our Wombat is not silly. It could truthfully be said he is greedy and selfish and bossy … but he is also lovable, which is a redeeming feature.

Bear, the other Blue Heeler is content to wait. Somewhere in his past he has been unkindly treated and it is sad to watch him cower at any sign of confrontation, be it canine or human. He is the one who sleeps outside my door, and who, I like to think, would stand guard should trouble arise. Though that is one test I hope never arises.

Between four dogs, crows that hover, swallows that nest and hatch, and the spring flowering of the Bottlebrush, there is plenty to occupy ones senses. Soon the weather will warm up and we will seek the coolness of our rooms and the air con. Until then … spring is a-blooming fair.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Time in Cue ~ Part 28


At a recent meeting of the local Shire it was decided to do away with the overhead electricity wires that hog the skyline. At first I thought, 'Good, about time', but hadn't really considered how much blight on the landscape they were.

We get used to such blights. They become part and parcel of our daily lives. We find it easy to ignore their presence … until we stop and take a close look. I did just that. I picked up the camera and shot random shots. Everywhere the electricity lines were obvious. I have taken hundreds of photos of this town and carefully try to avoid placing the wires in the viewfinder as I consider them to be intrusive in an Outback landscape.

We have crows that live in the trees … that raid the dog food in our backyard, and perch, full of cheek, on the overhead wires. They will have to find a new perch! One persistent crow has begun sitting on the balcony rail. Should he encourage his feathered friends and relatives to do likewise I will need to strategize a plan to deter them! A row of crows would present an unwelcome appearance to prospective guests.

We are lucky that such a small remote town does actually have electricity. Cue’s little power plant is situated on the outskirts of town. The extreme distances involved makes it virtually impossible, and certainly impracticable and expensive, to connect to the national grid. I guess the fact that we do have electricity and do not have to rely on individual generators makes it easier to ignore the ugliness of the wires. Why we need so many criss-crossing every streetscape is beyond me. Their layout appears indiscriminate and perhaps it grew, like Topsy, as the need for electrical connections grew.

From all accounts the placing underground of electricity wires should take place in the next financial year. No doubt our streets will be dug up. That could well be a good thing for this hotel … as the workmen will need somewhere to stay. Everyone wins! The town is instantly beautified, some businesses will financially benefit, and the many tourists who stop to take photos of our town will have an unimpeded view of the historic buildings.