Thursday, December 27, 2007

Eleven things I've learned over the last few days


1) Buying a new Christmas tree ornament guarantees that you'll break one of the old ones while you're decorating the tree.

2) The unexpected sight of your mother's handwriting,

also while you're decorating the tree, can still bring tears to your eyes eight years after her death. (I expect this to go on indefinitely.) It says 'Pearly bells & icicles'. You can see a few of the icicles and one or two bells in the tree photo if you look hard enough.

3) Even if you don't put the tree up

till Christmas Eve, you'll still be really glad you did. Especially when you see that for the second year in a row, the presence of a non-organic stylised metal Christmas tree suggestive of Leunig's Mr Curly has excited no interest from the cats at all, and it is therefore still up and uninterfered-with.

4) If you are making custard from eggs and cream and have the heat up any hotter than a small candle while you stir and wait for it to thicken, you will end up with a suspension of scrambled eggs in cream. If you attempt to remedy this with a sieve, you will end up with a suspension of finely pulverised scrambled eggs in cream. I had already learned this and forgotten it several times. New Year's resolution: buy shares in Paul's.

5) I can still remember (as I learn from singing along with the carols from St Paul's on the teeve) the first two lines of Silent Night in German, from lessons at Adelaide Girls' High in 1966.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Alles schläft; einsam wacht ...


6) No matter how much seafood sauce you make to dip the prawns into (homemade mayo + Beerenberg Hahndorf Tomato Sauce + Tabasco), it will be perceived as not enough.

7) In a family fight, presenting the assembled multitudes with a solution to the problem -- even if it is a solution that all of them accept -- is a waste of time. They don't want a solution to the problem. What they want is to go on fighting.

8) If a cat is given a special present by one of her servant's doting sisters,

there's a slim chance that she might accidentally play with it by mistake.


9) The alpha tortoiseshell is a mighty hunter before the lord.

She can manage with one swipe of an elegant yet powerful paw what it took the Australian people over eleven years to achieve: rodent extermination.

She didn't eat it; she is pictured here nudging the already quite dead varmint to try to make it get up and run around so she can chase it some more.


10) Taking a week off is dangerous. Last week was the first week since Boxing Day last year that I did not read and review four novels, and now I'm having hell's own trouble getting up into fourth gear again.

11) One of the boys I was at school with 40 years ago (a category that includes former Senator Nick Bolkus and Greig Pickhaver aka HG Nelson, among others) has not lost his sense of humour.

I learn this while getting the email up to date and reading the December newsletter of my old school's Old Scholars Association. I've written on this blog and in various other places about the crucial importance to me when I was at school of being surrounded by European fellow-students, particularly my Greek mates, from whom I learned that there was a world beyond the Adelaide suburbs. The aforementioned newsletter contains the text of a speech given by Dr James Katsaros, in 1967 the Head Prefect of Adelaide (then Boys') High and now a distinguished plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and Patron of the Adelaide High School Old Scholars' Association. And I'm fairly sure he won't mind me quoting a bit of his speech to Adelaide's Lord Mayor and the assembled Table Captains at a planning gathering, in the Town Hall, for next April's Adelaide High School Centenary Dinner, at which I have already secured my seat:

"When I read ... that our old scholars hold positions of prominence in business and society in South Australia and Australia, I could not help thinking about the likes of Greig Pickhaver, better known as HG Nelson. I wondered how did he develop that passion for Greco-Roman wrestling which we enjoyed so much during the Sydney Olympics? And the answer is, of course, that he feasted daily on the sight of a seething, brawling mass of boys with names such as Koutsamanis, Kari, Finocchio, Zacharoyiannis and Zinghini."


Bernice said...

Ah ha - I wondered why your reviews were absent from last week's Herald.

& re the sieved custard mix - add two further eggs, half a block of soft tofu, & a generous handful of coriander leaves - scrambled eggs the next morning. Provided you hadn't added either sugar or vanilla.

genevieve said...

Oh, mighty tortoiseshell indeed. Love the HG story.
I do so wish families would not bother with Christmas if they require to play 'games' - they have all year to fight. Can't go near mine in festive season for fear of it at present. That makes me all funny about mother's writing too.
But good on you for attempting a solution anyhow.

fifi said...

Lovely post, the writing on the paper, such things remind us that we are not always prepared for what emerges at each bend of our river.

My cats smashed all my decos too. I went to Target and bought millions on Boxing day last year, so except for three, none have any meaning whatsoever.

I did not make my own seafood sauce, and now feel guilty.

Love the HG comment...

Zoe said...

Oive got two words for your custard: Le Crueset.

No doubt shares in Pauls would be cheaper.

(From one who has just made rice custard without her Le Crueset and been asked by a 5 year old if she'd put burnt toast in for flavour).

Merry Christmas Pav, and a very happy New Year to you.

Andrew said...

In the absence of snazzy french cookware, a simmer pad might help.

That and the patience of a saint, which I generally don't have. I did restrain myself from cranking up the gas on the gravy on Boxing Day. I wouldn't want to bugger it up in front of such a large Audience of Aunts. I'd be reminded of it regularly, as my uncle is reminded of misunderstanding a waiter's question and thus asking for his fish 'medium rare' on his first date with my aunt. It was ten years ago.

Our Christmas tree is about 20cm high (plastic) and sits on top of our bookshelves (ie. above my head). It's the only place it fits, it sits there all year, and the baby can't get at it as a bonus.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Bernice: back this week, ie tomorrow. Alas, the cucky was already vanilla'd.

Genevieve -- I don't think they'd actually planned to fight; it was just one of those things that was brewing.

Fifi -- I have several meaningful decos including two I bought in Edinburgh and another ditto Vienna to take home for my ma for the family tree, and which reverted to me when she died. I also love the crystal cat and the rocking-horses.

Zoe -- dear Zoe, long time no blog, I do miss you, and a very happy New Year to you also -- the sales are on. Perhaps I shall lash out.

Andrew -- I do in fact have a simmer pad, but I knew that would mean six or seven hours (well, you know) standing stirring at the stove, and it was late and I was tired. V V bad state to make custard in.

Pen said...

Yes, I think we learn number 7 every year. Sadly.

Sorry to hear about your custard. It is a task only to be attempted when in the full bloom of calm.

genevieve said...

Relieved to hear that PC - wouldn't wish that scenario on anyone. Hope it gets sorted quickly then.

lucy tartan said...

or you can dump in aonther egg yolk and some cornflour, and whisk it, then a heap more sugar, then just throw it in a jug anyway. It will still be curdled but the sort of riff-raff we get around here don't know the difference.

my custard was buggered in a cast iron pot too (not le creuset, the other one -- also begins with c) so that's not actually sufficient foolproofing.

Susoz said...

re 2: it does go on indefinitely - I'm coming up to 20 years and still have that experience from time to time, especially in old recipe books.

kate said...

Having maintained that I'd never change my surname to the Bloke's in the event of us making it all legal, I inadvertently seem to have changed my first name to his on your blog.

Not Andrew, Kate

phil said...

Loved the tortoiseshell reference, loved the greco-roman wrestling story.

All the best for 2008 (and beyond!).