milling till dusk

I didn’t even know what a grinder was and now I can wield one, if not like a pro, then like a very helpful girlfriend…And drilling? All over it.

My man wants to build a wooden seat overlooking the sea at Stony Point, on the Mornington Peninsula. He wants to use cypress and as it happens his sister’s brother-in-law had just felled a cypress.

Now, he is a relative newcomer to the world of Alaskan sawmills but had already constructed one using a Stihl 066 and a smallish bar plus some youtube videos, a ladder, and a level to construct a very impressive contraption that slabbed a Gum tree down on the peninsula.

Upping the ante, a 42″ bar was ordered online and duly arrived. Apparently alloy tempered steel does not allow for drilling through the bar to attach to the (and here I am going to use French teacher/food writer AKA not technical language) gadget that guides the bar through the log for milling.

So after a bit of mucking around on Sunday, and an eventual conversation about clamping versus drilling, we got over early to Lilydale on Monday to mill the tree. These things always take longer than anticipated and the set up of the aforementioned gadget took all day, including me making the acquaintance of the grinder and the drill. So we only got to mill the top off the log after the sun had set and Venus had appeared in the sky but this is such an impressive set up. It had been explained it to me but it’s not until you see these things in action, you think, wowsers. This man. He blows me away.

Relationships have lots of aspects you never consider until you enter them. Learning, all the time learning; about myself, my guy, nature and possibilities I didn’t even know were there.



The hipster has become a much-vilified figure; a mythical figure who has allegedly wrought havoc on our coffee presentation, brought about a decline in men’s razor sales and created an over-inflated appreciation of the kale chip. But who are these hipsters and are they really to blame?

We all think we know what makes a hipster. From the outside, we seem to think it’s a bit like the rules of Fight Club.

  1. You do not talk about being a hipster.
  2. You DO NOT talk about being a hipster.
  3. You’re a graphic designer. Or a barista. Or you’re studying psychology part-time and waiting tables at night. In cool restaurants. Where diners aren’t sure what the ingredients on the menu actually are and surreptitiously look up google under the table.
  4. You look like a lumberjack but you’ve never lifted an axe.
  5. You order deconstructed single origin long macchiatos.
  6. You ride a fixie. Or a skateboard.
  7. You only shop at organic supermarkets.
  8. You have a worm farm on your balcony and don’t generate any rubbish.
  9. You have ironic tattoos.
  10. And wear cardigans.
  11. And what about the waxed moustache.
  12. Or the thick rimmed spectacles.
  13. Or the dapper cheese cutter cap?

The thing with defining hipsters is that they can’t actually be defined. Because then they would fit into a category and in so doing, become mainstream. And hipsters are not mainstream. Hipsters are complicated.

In the face of all this vagueness, the question must be asked then, do hipsters even exist? Have we, as a society working through gentrification, the rise of the middle class and the avalanche of choice in all domains, used the hipster as a scapegoat.

People in society label others various things for a variety of reasons. Usually it is because we have a tribe mentality that pushes us to shun those that are not of our tribe. When it comes to the practice of labelling a portion of our community as hipsters, perhaps it is more about deflecting attention away from our own insecurities regarding the influence of ‘cultural capital’, to coin a phrase from renowned sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu.

If we were to distil Bourdieu’s extensive studies down to their essence, it’s all about taste. His epic piece, “Distinction,” published in 1979 is an explanation of how admiration for art, appreciation of music, even taste in food, came about for different groups. Distinctions of taste become the basis for social judgment.

In a society such as ours where we have incredible access to knowledge, food, and opinion at every turn, taste, moreover good taste, becomes a commodity we can trade in. And sometimes it overwhelms us and we need to blame someone.

Solomon’s claim in Ecclesiastes that “there is nothing new under the sun” is a concept we constantly seek to repudiate. We have a stream of iPhone updates, hybrid foods, and new ways of drinking coffee passing before us every second of every day. And we want to keep up, be abreast of the trends. We want to know everything. In fact, we believe that we do. We are all food critics and fashion experts and social anthropologists.

And sometimes we are not. Sometimes a photo goes up on Instagram and has something to do with salted caramel and desiccated Amazonian grapes and bagels and ice cream all thrown in together and it’s a breakfast dish. And there are emojis of joy and statements of desire in response. Bloggers and Instagrammers use all the filters at their fingertips to extol the various virtues of these creations when really it might just be a case of the emperor’s new clothes.

The hipster didn’t create the deconstructed coffee or the doughnuts spelled donuts with syringes in them or queues for croissants, we all did. We all did when we demanded that our coffees be made in a way other than the trained barista makes it, with hot water and hot milk on the side because we have issues with proportions and we know best. We all did when we accepted paying $21 for a piece of toast, a poached egg, half an avocado still in its skin and a sprinkling of pink Himalayan salt deconstructed on a piece of wooden floorboard. We all did when we appreciated the craft and the inspiration of the chef and then elevated him or her to the status of a god. Until the next best thing came along.

If anything, those we refer to as hipsters, tend to be more economically and environmentally viable as a tribe. They are often seen wearing vintage and op shop inspired fashion, they encourage recycling and reusing and use public transport or cycle to get around. They work in collectives and encourage artisan industry. They are not racist or sexist. They are calm and collected, they believe in their choices and they just get on with their lives.

And maybe that’s why we are so confused.

life lessons

Sometimes we make mistakes. Well, not so much mistakes, because I have become kinder on myself in my forties. Sometimes we enter into life lessons. Unwittingly. Yet thankfully.

I have moved in with my boyfriend/guy/partner/lover. Who knows what I should call him at my age. He’s great. I’ve moved in with a real person who listens to me and allows me to be me in a way no other boyfriend/partner/husband/lover has done. Big statement. Yet true.

I was given the job of finding the abode. It was kinda short notice. At least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. We are renting. It’s European. Not because we can’t afford to buy. At all. Not at all that I’m anti flipping a property. I’m just a dreamer. I’m all sourdough starter and bed and breakfast in the country. And those things aren’t for now.

Anyway. Long story short. Chequered love history. Met The Guy. He is cool. He’s his own man. He celebrates me being my own woman. He makes me think. I look forward to ever unfolding conversations about unfathomable subjects. And he is handsome. Lucky me.

Anyway. He trusted me with the abode. And I failed. Miserably.

This is disappointing in a myriad of ways. I don’t like failing. But really. I was seduced by fresh paint and floorboards.


That’s it.

He, in his bewilderingly trusting my judgement way, signed the lease without checking. Then we signed, got the keys, and went to the hellhole as I am now going to refer to it. Man eyes saw EVERYTHING. Beautiful floorboards AKA gaps under doors and cold. Unit AKA we hear EVERYTHING. For us, this means a chronic cough the neighbour has. For them, well…

We are stuffing blankets under gaps under the doors and hanging other blankets over the doorway which is romantically sans door. I’m having flashbacks to student days.

Last week I came home after work, went to the toilet, flushed and watched as the water rose, and rose, past the seat, over the seat and all over the floor. There is nothing more disturbing. OK. There are many more disturbing things, but this is my reality. And I’m going with it with all the hyperbole necessary.

The plumber came. “It’s a machine job,” he said after some investigation.

A machine job, for those who are unacquainted with such formality, means NO TOILET AVAILABILITY until the next day when this machine comes and does its thing.


Now I love camping and al fresco as much as the next person, but you have to understand, because of all the moving and decisions and so on, I am now in an altered state where EVERYTHING THAT CAN GO WRONG WILL GO WRONG. I’m willing it. Without even wanting to.

So the next morning. Well, let’s just say, there was a rose bush, a loss of balance and blood was drawn.

So now we are moving.


And it’s funny. In one of those hysterically funny moments where we will look back on this with a glass of wine and laugh, we are moving back into the building I moved out of. I mean, we couldn’t have lived where I lived when I was there, it was a tiny studio apartment. And clearly we needed a life lesson first.

I love life lessons.


Bill Henson talks about Oneiroi, his photographic exhibition featuring pieces from The Benaki Museum in Athens on loan to Melbourne’s Hellenic Museum.

The original conception of the idea happened a year or more ago and I allowed it to grow. I kept thinking about the pieces in the Benaki Collection and I was draw to the more intimately scaled objects, particularly the gold jewellery and the pieces from Ancient Greece. The idea is very simple, as they often are. Realising isn’t always simple but I just thought why don’t we put them back where they were originally designed to be on the human body. A very simple idea. Then there’s the whole thing about how you use a living person but keep them at a bit of a distance so that they are a bit of an armature for the jewellery, so it doesn’t turn into a fashion shoot for a jewellery house. You want to keep the intimacy and the tenderness of the living form with these ancient pieces of jewellery so that the jewellery could seem to be almost on a statue. The next part of the project was about finding the right sort of model. That didn’t take too long. And then working out how to navigate that model so they were there but they were aloof or distant, rather than having the sense of the person as an individual.

That really ties in with what I do anyway. I’m interested in handling the intimacy and the tender proximity of the human form and the closeness of that but at the same time having this unbridgeable gap, this unknowable thing happening. You retain intimacy but you don’t have anything anywhere near familiarity. And that’s a very important distinction for me. This was another chance to investigate that, which was interesting for me.

Apart from having the luxury to control and create the environment, in terms of light and colour, there was also another experiment I decided to conduct on the Hellenic Museum and myself and that was to frame the works quite differently. The great challenge in anything in contemporary art is that when you introduce something a little different, is that it doesn’t collapse into novelty. The great problem is when people try things that are obviously very different from what they normally do in terms of the physical construction of the work or the way it’s framed or packaged or any of that is that it can tip over into novelty. In other words, the form that you choose still has to be balanced perfectly with the content. That was the other experiment I was interested in trying out for better or worse and I’m pleased with the way that has turned out. The frames are unique in terms of my activity.


There is such a twilight beauty to this collection of photos. There are two landscapes at either end of the room which bookend the exhibition and even they seem otherworldly.

A bit of a dreamscape. Well, they are all to some extent meant to be archetypal. It’s a picture of a particular mountain on a particular day but it should suggest more generalised notions that we get from the Alps and Olympus. The same with the sea, the importance of the sea; when you read Pindar’s Odes, there is the whole connection to the elements, the culture being inside nature. I felt that just having the jewellery on the model was too sealed, too hermetic and I wanted to open that out a bit and let some air in. That’s where the landscapes came from.

Do you have a story in mind when you prepare for an exhibition?

I don’t. I tend not to think in terms of linear narrative progression. I tend to think in terms of objects. The most important thing for me is the power of the object and the way the object makes you feel something. Because if you feel something, then you go off on whatever tangent you are able to and then reflect on that. I deliberately enjoy the ambiguity of not having a narrative. I like the idea that it should mean different things to different people.

We’re all conditioned to see a photograph as proof of something specific, objects in space, events in time. There’s the proof. So we come to every photograph preconditioned to see certain information and I’m very interested in the idea that you can hang onto that power, the power of evidential authority and at the same time suggest or universalise the subject and turn it into a kind of a suggestive instead of a merely prescriptive experience which is how we normally approach photography. So I’m very much more interested in creating a kind of wonder or causing people to ask questions,” what is this place, what does this mean?” That’s more interesting to me. The best experience is going away with more questions than you came with.




The Cambridge dictionary defines hiatus as, “a short pause in which nothing happens or is said, or a space where something is missing.”

In light of this explanation, I’m not sure I can really describe my lack of attention to lyttelfishbigpond as a hiatus. Certainly outside of the blog, a lot has been happening and much has been said. It has just been about and for other people and publications. So in that respect, perhaps I have created a little space, or lyttel space, if you will, where something is missing. So it might be time I came back.

When talking the other day about the end of daylight saving time and the creeping in of autumnal chilliness, I asked as so many do, “where does the time go?” And I was answered with complete and bewildering logic, “into the past.” Which it does. My sage friend then continued, “but that’s not a bad thing, as long as you have no regrets and fully enjoy the moment.”


Shashi is an excellent cook

Shashi is an excellent cook. She is also a Brahman widow. And for the Brahman of Rajhastan, especially in the rural areas, this has ramifications.

Shashi was born in a small village in Rajhastan, in the north of India. Like most girls in that part of the world, Shashi was trained from an early age to cook and run a house. In other words, to be a wife. When she was in her early twenties, she entered into an arranged marriage with a man from Udaipur and had two sons with him. When Shashi was 31 and her sons were only young, her husband was murdered by his business partner.

“As a widow,” Shashi says, you are already suffering. “As a Brahman widow, you are made to suffer more. It is almost as though it’s your fault.” For 45 days, she had to remain at home with her head covered, wailing during the day. Other women from the village joined a roster to join in the wailing. Once the sun set, she was allowed to eat but could not eat or drink during the day. Once the 45 days had ended, Shashi was able to stop wailing but had to remain at home, still with her head covered for a year.

Brahman widows can never remarry. They are not supposed to do menial labour. Life was tough for Shashi and her young sons. She started taking in washing from hotels, but had to do it secretly. Then she started cooking in a local restaurant.

An Irish tourist complimented Shashi on her food and way with flavour and asked if she could teach him how to cook the dishes he had enjoyed there. Shashi spoke no English and couldn’t write Hindi. She taught her first lesson with shaking hands and says with a laugh that she ended up spilling a lot of hot food, her hands were shaking so much.

I had never heard of Lonely Planet. But now I know that Lonely Planet means busy.

From that first lesson, came more. Five years on, Shashi has quite a following, with glowing reviews on Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet and a full diary. “I had never heard of Lonely Planet. But now I know that Lonely Planet means busy,” she laughs. She can speak English fluently enough to deliver a six-hour class of masala chai, pakora, the magic sauce curry base with variants, biryani rice and a range of breads, with jokes in between. She can also translate the ingredients and methods orally into French for the Francophones, not to mention Swedish and a smattering of German.

Her son, now grown up, helps out and is joined by his new wife, deftly cutting herbs without a board, just a sharp knife and great technique.

Entering Shashi’s house, you learn a lot about spice. You also learn a lot about feeling the food you’re making and working the chapatti or parantha dough until it’s ready. And then there’s the other stuff. You learn about triumph in adversity and about seeking opportunity. Perhaps you learn that where there’s light, there’s hope. But also, you learn to be thankful for the situation you are born into and grateful for people like Shashi who are willing to share their experience and also their craft with you.


Click here for Shashi’s website





Writing about my recent trip to India is not easy. Not because I didn’t have a good time, because I had an incredible three weeks. And not because there is nothing to write about. That’s just it. There is so much to write about and a raft of far more talented people than me have already done so. Beautifully expressive phrases as well as the more clichéd variety, ‘it was an assault on my senses’, or ‘I was in sensory overload’, have all been used before. How can I possibly convey the Indian experience with words?


Even taking photographs was, in a way, disappointing. A picture may well paint a thousand words but it falls short of conveying the vastness, the intensity of the colours of saris, peacocks, spices, rock; the proportions of forts and temples and wide open desert; the backing track sounds of a multitude of horns, temple bells, cows, dogs and people that accompany any view. Or maybe I just don’t have a good enough camera.


Regardless. The fact is, India, or more specifically, Rajhastan, surpassed all my expectations.


I expected a lot of colour. But I hadn’t counted on how much colour there would be. Saris of all colours, vibrant and rich, at times sparkling with gold or silver thread were everywhere. Western fashion has not reached the villages and towns of Rajhastan. The women all wear their saris with pride, often with a colourful veil covering their heads. And they wear them all the time. Obviously, perhaps, but I hadn’t expected to see such vibrant and beautiful attire being worn to dig ditches at the side of the road, to pass bricks up along the chain to build houses, to walk barefoot down the road with a bundle of branches on their heads or a basket full of dung.


I expected a lot of new sounds. But I hadn’t anticipated the incessant sound of beeping horns. And when I say incessant, that’s exactly what it is. Not only do they sound their horns as we might to alert people who are pulling out without looking and to avert accidents. But they also sound their horns when they are coming up behind a cyclist, or pedestrians walking along the road with their backs to the car, or to trucks they’re overtaking, or to buses…just because. Then they toot to say thank you once passed or they might give more of an angry toot if the original toot had no effect. Often it’s not only one toot, but several. A lot of the trucks have a tune toot. Incessant.


Another constant was the sound of bells, drums and singing or chanting at certain times of the day. These came from temples, be they large community temples or smaller family places of worship. These calls to worship and sounds of praise and offering became familiar and almost comforting, as they represented faith, family and a history stretching back over centuries.


I expected to smell a lot of different scents. To be honest, and I’m ashamed to say this, I expected India to be a lot more dirty than it was and I expected I would smell this imagined dirt. I didn’t. Exhibit A; the 30km cycle tour we did in Udaipur, cycling through the town, and out around the lake and through rural villages and farmland. The aroma of chai being brewed on the side of the road, the spices mingling with the almost burnt milk. Incense being burned in tiny roadside temples. Floral scents from vines and flowers growing. The sharp smell of cow dung. And then the most delicious scents of curry simmering and chapatti being cooked over the flame.


I knew that cows were sacred and revered. But I had no idea of the status that gives them in realtime. Cows wander freely in cities, villages, countryside and across roads. Completely unperturbed, cows wander across the road, taking their time and in no way concerned with holding up traffic. Gods exist within the cow, which is why Hindu culture do not kill cows for meat. Another more earthly reason is that cows provide milk for drinking and cooking and in so doing provide a lot more ongoing sustenance than killing a cow for meat would yield.


I knew that the curries would be authentic and better than I had tasted elsewhere. But I hadn’t anticipated loving them so much that I’d be happy eating curry at breakfast, or at least a masala omelette or Indian breakfast bread. I didn’t get sick of the curries once and was constantly wishing I could have the recipes of the dishes I was eating.


Then there’s the history, the architecture, the vast landscapes, sweeping skies and the warmth of the people who want to know where you come from and how you’re enjoying their country.


India. Incredible.

everything can be fixed. remember that.

Last night my mid-life crisis racing car red couch broke. I’m not going to go into details. A leg gave way.
I love this couch. It represents a breaking away and a new start and it has served me well since 2007. That’s not to say its time has come because it is now somewhat lame. I’m just acknowledging its goodness. Although, it is just a couch. And, as I was reminded, everything can be fixed.
This is becoming a theme, this idea that I don’t need to catastrophise, as is my wont, and that there is a calmer way of acceptance and solution and moving on.
Imagine that.
I recently heard a definition of parkour that took my fancy. Parkour is that crazy movement which quite often gets mashed up with free running. You may have seen it in such films as District B13 and Casino Royale. It’s all that running up sides of walls and scaffolding and jumping from building to building with seeming fluid ease in order to get away or escape danger.
According to the strictest definition, parkour is the act of moving from point “a” to point “b” using the obstacles in your path to increase your efficiency.
It has a lot to do with thinking positively, with the idea that practitioners of freerunning will sometimes fall—largely because they think they might. If they keep propelling themselves forward, using their environment and the aforementioned obstacles as assistance, they will succeed.
For me, it’s about perspective. The way we, or let’s not beat about the bush, I see obstacles or situations that arise and how I then deal with them. I can stand on one spot and allow my mind to race away on it’s own less than sweet path until my head explodes. Which hasn’t really ever proved helpful as far back as I can remember.

I can identify the feelings, appreciate the moment, Parisian shrug it and move forward, sliding that particular lesson into my little Crumpler shoulder bag of life experiences and acknowledging the strength it gives me.

tight spots

Sometimes other people come out with things and I just have to nod my head and smile. That sounds condescending and that’s far from what I want to sound like. I’m in a state of admiration. These things they say are gold. And they just say them. Perfectly. At the perfect time. And it’s as though a whole new way of looking at things has opened up before me, debunking some of the ideas I previously had.
This one appeals to me because I have, I’m embarrassed to say, spent a long time fixated on my body shape. I do find it slightly hilarious that I’m a food writer these days, given my adolescent and early twenties’ relationship with anorexia. Perhaps it’s not so hilarious. I’m fairly certain that my family and friends found nothing hilarious about the skeletal version of myself I clung to for those years.
And perhaps it’s not such a stretch to be constantly thinking and writing about food as a food writer. Those with eating disorders expend a large amount of energy and time thinking about food; how to avoid it, how to get rid of it and what it says about them as a person if they give in to any sort of desire to eat what they perceive as bad food.
The difference for me now is that I enjoy food. It’s not the enemy. Well, for the most part. There are always days where that ugly creature guilt creeps up behind me unexpectedly and shames me. But mostly I love cooking and eating and sharing food-related experiences with friends and family. It’s good and it’s soul filling.
On one of those days where I was slightly wavering, I mentioned to a friend that I often wished I was thinner. It’s a stupid thing to say and an unfair thought to share. Really. What good can come from these statements? What I loved though, was, quick as a flash, he replied that, “the only reason you need to get thinner is if you are in a tight spot you need to get out of.”
And there it was. Brilliance.

time is like a river

“Time is like a river made up of the events which happen, and a violent stream; for as soon as a thing has been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its place, and this will be carried away too.” Marcus Aurelius

I like it when people remind me of a goodness I knew was there, but had temporarily overlooked.
Life is busy. There are challenges to rise to, people to see, places to go.  I live by a river. I appreciate that it’s there because of the greenery I look out onto from my window. Sometimes I walk or cycle along the path by the river to get somewhere. It’s lovely. But I hadn’t really stopped and thought about the river and really appreciated it for a while.
Last night I spent an hour by the river fishing. We didn’t catch anything but as I was reminded, it’s not always about catching fish. Being by the river in a city isn’t quite being away from it all, with the soothing sounds of the passing trams and cars and the occasional siren as background noise. But somehow at night, these seem more muffled. And down on the jetty, it was a little bit like being away from it all.
The Yarra is teeming with life. There are fish sliding by and insects dancing on the surface. A mother duck watched seemingly unconcerned as one of her 10 ducklings fell from under her wing and rolled down the bank into the river and then tried a few different ways of climbing back up the bank before reaching safety. A stealthy swimmer plopped in the water and torpedoed itself across the river. I wanted it to be a platypus. I’m fairly certain it was a rat. There were bats flying overhead, frogs croaking.
For the aborigines of the Wurundjeri tribe (part of the Kulin nation that had occupied the lands around Port Phillip Bay for at least 30,000 years) the Yarra River was a life-source that had been etched into the landscape by the ancestral creator spirit Bunjil – the wedge tailed eagle.
They called the river Birrarrung – “Place of Mists and Shadows” and it was the dreaming path they followed and camped beside through the calendar of countless seasons.
When white explorers arrived, they naturally saw the river as a means for getting what they needed, and not at all in the same way as the aboriginals saw it. For the white people, it was what made the land an eligible place to settle. They used it for drinking water, washing water, and a place to get rid of waste. It eventually provided them with gold during the gold rush years.
When John Batman met a group of aboriginals on the banks of the Yarra in June, 1835, he gave them scissors, shirts, tomahawks, knives, blankets and handkerchiefs, and in return, secured the signature marks of the chiefs on a grant of land.
As is often the case in such situations, there was a disconnect between parties in terms of language and cultural understanding. While Batman believed he was now the greatest landowner in the world because the grant of land gave him possession of 500,000 acres of land, including the Yarra River, the aboriginals believed they had taken part in a friendship ceremony that would allow Mr Batman temporary rights to cross through their country.
This riverside transaction signalled the beginning of the end of the traditional tribal life of the Wurundjeri.
I don’t know what we can do to change the many things that have gone wrong since then. I wish I did.
No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.
In a small way, and I understand, perhaps in a patronizingly white way, although that’s not how I mean it, stopping to appreciate the river and all that’s in it, fishing out an empty bottle to put in the bin and spending more time with it, might be a step in the right direction.
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home. “


Down by the river