I’ve had a couple of trips across the Tasman and the first was when I was two years old when we moved to Sydney. I don’t remember that trip at all and I only have a few memories of the two years we spent in Sydney before returning to New Zealand for another decade.
I do remember the endless days of clear blue sky and the heat that came from a sun that was more powerful than the one we had in New Zealand and how hot it was in our leafy backyard. We didn’t have a pool, not many people did, but we were able to cool down by playing under the sprinkler. I remember not needing many layers. You could go out for the day in just a single layer and you didn’t need as much as a cardigan over your shoulders.
We had a big white Valiant Regal that wasn’t air conditioned (why would you need it), and my older sister and I sat in the back with no seat belts, and my younger sister, Em, traveled in the bassinet that sat on the back seat beside us. Not a problem.
We made friends with the family across the street as they had children the same age. One day one of them had a birthday and my big sister and I were invited to the party. I don’t remember the party but I do remember being given a little plastic basket filled with lollies to take home. It was only a short walk home but somehow I managed to eat all my lollies before I entered our house. My big sister proudly showed our parents all the lollies she had in her pretty plastic basket. She hadn’t eaten any, not one, but instead had saved them. Seeing her display of lollies acutely and promptly reminded me that I had none. My basket was empty. I burst into tears. ‘I don’t have any lollies’, I howled. My father said to my big sister, ‘Now you’ll share your lollies with Charlie, won’t you?’ And my sister reluctantly agreed and the tears stopped.
Two years later we were heading back to New Zealand. We had relatives in Sydney and one of them, my great-aunt, was a well known artist. She and her husband had us over for a farewell lunch and lined up against the wall of her studio was a range of water colour paintings. She told me I could choose any one I liked and have it as a farewell present. I stood staring at the paintings not thinking much of them. They weren’t pictures like the ones in my illustrated books. I couldn’t work out what I was looking at and none of them interested me. My father tried to guide me towards a wonderful water colour that was an excellent example of the type of work the artist had become well-known for. I shook my head. I didn’t like the colours in it. Knowing the value of the paintings my father again tried to encourage me to take the water colour he knew to be a quite valuable.
I shook my head. I didn’t want that painting. I had seen another and it had a lot of blue in it and blue was my favourite colour. I pointed to it. My father said, ‘Yes, that’s nice, but don’t you think you’d like this one more?’ And I again shook my head and pointed to the blue one. My great-aunt said I could have it and we walked out with the least valuable painting in her collection. I still have it, (it has appreciated), and today it hangs in my dining room.
We had friends drive all the way to the airport to see us off. They even brought gifts. I was in my father’s arms and Mrs Simpson handed me a present. I unwrapped it and it was a book. Beatrix Potter’s, The Tailor of Gloucester. I wasn’t excited. I actually was disappointed. The book was brown and there was a boy mouse on the cover not a girl duck. I liked Beatrix Potter’s books and my favourite was Jemima Puddleduck. I didn’t know the book about the tailor. I didn’t even know what a tailor was and that ‘Gloucester’ word gave me problems for years as it was not phonetic.
I looked at the book and then just stared at Mrs Simpson. My father said, ‘Say thank you for the book’, but I said nothing and just looked at her.
‘You’re not going to say thank you?’ my father tried. But I just wouldn’t say anything. Mrs Simpson said, ‘Oh that’s okay, she doesn’t have to say thank you’. And I stared at her disappointed that she didn’t give me the one with the pretty duck on the cover.
The Tailor of Gloucester was apparently the author’s favourite but I never did warm to it. However, just like the painting, it’s still in my possession.
Back in my Valiant Regal days my mother would cook a dish that was one of my favourites. Here’s my version of it…
Degree of Difficulty: 1/5
Cost: This is a budget meal and is great for using up a lot of what you have on hand.
- 2 tbspns olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 750g mince
- 2 tbspns worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup vegetable or beef stock
- 310g tinned corn kernels, rinsed and drained
- handful of chopped parsley
In a large saucepan, gently heat olive oil. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook slowly until onion is transparent. About 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add mince and cook until browned. Add worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and stock and simmer until liquid has reduced to desired consistency. Add corn kernels and heat through. Stir in parsley. Season. Serve with hot buttered toast. (I used sour dough ciabatta).
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