there’s no sense in nonsense especially when the heat gets hot

The idea of travelling back in time to rectify mistakes, change the course of events, say the thing you really meant to say, ask the question whose answer you will always wonder about…It’s compelling.
But we can’t change what has gone before. We can only look back, nod to the past and the people we were at that time, take a deep breath and strike out on the path under our feet, one foot in front of the other.



Does spelling matter? Many would say no. There have been emails circulating since 2003 citing apparent research which shows that as long as you get the first and last letters right, the reader can understand what you mean. The obvious flaw in the evidence provided was that the writer didn’t stick to the first and last letter rule anyway and the obvious lie in the evidence was that it wasn’t evidence at all, given that NO SUCH RESEARCH EXISTED.

Does spelling matter, given that we have spell checkers? And does spelling matter more than creativity? There is a rag-tag fleet of educational reformists who claim that insisting on correct spelling stifles the creative process and that it is far better to allow the flow than to get caught up on the correct orthography. I frown at this. Is there not such a thing as a creative writing process, whereupon the creative cherub is free to flow wherever they like and record their incredible thoughts in one big long word if that’s what gets their juices going? Is this not, perhaps, a draft? And then could we not then later, once the cherub is lying spent on the floor, dripping with the emotional perspiration that only comes from unchecked creativity, correct the spelling?

Maybe it’s me, but I’d be thwarted from full appreciation of the cherubic creativity if the words with which this creativity is expressed are wrong.

I can already sense (even in this as yet unpublished thought) the heckles rising on the backs of my readers’ necks…”who does she think she is?”…”what a snob”… Sure. I know. Spelling is tricky. Some people just can’t spell. Heard it. I know.

But I’m sorry. Spelling DOES matter. In my examples below, of course I understand that the Amphitheatre referred to in the sign is the Northcote Amphitheatre. After all, it’s in Northcote. Does the fact that it is spelled incorrectly impede my progress to the Northcote Amphitheatre? Probably not.

 And, well, what can I say? Attached is a hard word to get right…lots of other people on the internet spelled it this way, it’s not only the of City Port Phillip who have an attachment issue. There are a lot of entries in Urban Dictionary where all sorts of attachments are referred to and they all have an extra ‘t’, like a judeo-christian flourish in the apex of the word. 

Then there’s the old apostrophe s. It’s a tricky rule. I understand. But basically, if there is more than one parma, and the word becomes plural, you just add an ‘s’. Pretty much the same as steaks on the sign on the right. Perhaps it’s the fact that parma is an abbreviated form of an italian word…would that make an apostrophe an appropriate choice? Um. Let me think about it. No. Unless the parma is owning something…the parma’s crust was particularly crunchy or the parma’s fat content was enough to make a grown man cry, then there should be no apostrophe. Or if the parma is going to do something and you want to shorten ‘the parma is going to give me a heart attack’ to ‘the parma’s going to give me a heart attack’, then you could use an apostrophe. But I don’t think that’s what is going on in this sign. What I especially love about these signs is that the people went to the signwriter, paid him or her the money, the sign got made into a weather-proof, enduring canvas-type advertisement and everyone looked at STEAKS (with no apostrophe) and PARMA’s (with an apostrophe) and thought, great job, she’ll be apples. Or she’ll be attatched to apple’s somewhere in the norht…

Spelling matters.


Spanning three states, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, the Murray River is the third longest navigable river in the world, after the Amazon and Nile and measures 2520 kilometres from its source in the Upper Murray. Home to mobs of kangaroos, pods of pelicans, cacophonies of cockatoos and also to koalas (there is no collective noun for koalas as they are solitary animals?!) and to some very large cod, the calm, softly-moving Murray River, or Millewa, as it was originally named, is a rich and soul-filling experience. 
Answering nature’s call in a hole in the ground behind a tree is not the most soul-filling of experiences for the French teacher accompanying a class on an Outdoor Education camp, and nor is a half hour walk turning into a two and a half hour walk in the midday sun when the guide wasn’t sure of where he was going. However, these things are all part of the experience, and getting back to a real toilet, a hot shower and an icy cold beer are all the sweeter.

three score years and ten

Queenstown, New Zealand, backdrop to a seventieth birthday. Nature joined in the celebrations with a show of all the extravagance she could muster…rain, snow, brilliant sun, all in the space of a couple of days.

In the words of Mark Twain on his 70th birthday: “The seventieth birthday! It is the time of life when you arrive at a new and awful dignity; when you may throw aside the decent reserves which have oppressed you for a generation and stand unafraid and unabashed upon your seven-terraced summit and look down and teach- unrebuked. You can tell the world how you got there. It is what they all do. You shall never get tired of telling by what delicate arts and deep moralities you climbed up to that great place. You will explain the process and dwell on the particulars with senile rapture. I have been anxious to explain my own system this long time, and now at last I have the right…and when you in your return shall arrive at pier No. 70 you may step aboard your waiting ship with a reconciled spirit, and lay your course toward the sinking sun with a contented heart.”


“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” – Julia Child

Chef Frederic is passionate about cooking and about sharing his knowledge. A trip to the Bastille market, a selection of ingredients, an upstairs apartment and beautiful food.

Caramelised endives in a roquefort cream sauce

Duck breast with honeyed fresh figs and redcurrants

French (brioche) toast with salted caramel sauce and raspberries

And then a walk along the Saint Martin Canal in the parisian sun to walk it all off before 24 hours in the plane.

“Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Julia Child

twin pillows of delight

Lladuree, founded in 1862. Pastries cakes and macarons. In fact, it is known as the inventor of the double-decker macaron, fifteen thousand of which are sold every day. They are still one of the best known makers of macarons in the world.

Blood orange ginger
A rush of juicy orange with a zingy after taste of ginger. Light as a feather
Violet marshmallow
Chewy Marshmallow between subtle violet sugary pillows
Ghana chocolate
Wow. Chocolate chocolate. Melt in mouth cliché. No other way to describe it!
Salted caramel
Saved the best til last. Perfect.

The Loire Valley and its castles

Chenonceau is breathtaking. Right from the approach, a stroll down a wide path lined with trees with the majestic castle ahead getting ever closer. Chenonceau is the castle that straddles the Loire River. the reason it was built across the river was to make it easier for the king to access both sides whenever he felt like hunting. The castle has been extremely well maintained. I wandered from room to room taking it all in with wonderment and awe, often with a big smile and sometimes with an audible gasp of pleasure. There was so much beautiful stonework and woodwork and opulent fabric and rich colours. The castle dates to 15th/16th century and is a resplendent example of the renaissance appreciation of life and good things. The philosopher, Rousseau spent time at Chenonceau and it was here he had an epiphany about bonheur and bien-être or happiness and well being (I, of course prefer the alliteration of the French version of the epiphany). Rousseau reflected and wrote about the importance of being  IN and appreciating the moment. He was ahead of his time in renouncing fancy dishes and imported delicacies and rich sauces. He proposed eating locally and seasonally and savouring flavours for their own properties rather than hiding their light under the bushel of sauces. He also had a lot of sensible things to say about education and the need to cultivate a thirst for learning in the student; to facilitate an understanding of WHY he or she should learn about the world rather than just providing the content to be learned. 
Even the scent of Chenonceau was captivating, a not too sweet woody fragrance floated in the rooms with the entrancing ability of transporting me back to the time when Diane of Poitiers and Catherine of Medici would have swished across the floors. Both these women, rivals in Henri II’s affections lived at Chenonceau and exerted their influence at different times. 
From Chenonceau, the drive to Azay-le-Rideau should have taken 40 minutes, but riding on misguided GPS-less intuition and a very lacking in detail map from the hotel, I enjoyed a 2 hour drive through the Touraine countryside. And just when I’d almost got there, I ran into army training and had to do a big detour. 
The village of Azay-le-Rideau had its own charm, little cobbled streets and half-timbered houses. The castle, another of ‘the’ castles to see, was beautiful from the outside and had some stunning features but perhaps the 2 hours it had taken to get there, dulled my appreciation. Or maybe seeing Chenonceau first was always going to make it hard for the other castles. It had also got pretty cold by then. 
So, fortified by a salted caramel cake in the form of a crown and a pot of tea, I set off for Ussé, the sleeping beauty castle. Another stunning exterior and beautiful gardens. The most expensive of the castles to visit, and the most poorly maintained of the three. The fact that they were riding on the sleeping beauty connection, a tenuous connection, in fact, given that it is only supposition that Charles Perrault based his fairytale on this castle. There was a lot of brainwashing going on to this effect with the Disney soundtrack to Sleeping Beauty being piped throughout the castle and rooms set up with costumed mannequins recounting the story. Sigh.

rivers and chestnuts

The  Ardèche, wild backyard of Provence.  <!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"MS 明朝"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:595.0pt 842.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:35.4pt; mso-footer-margin:35.4pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;}Ardèche is the name of both the departement, itself, and the 125km long river that runs through it.

People have been living in this area since the late Stone Age, around 35, 000 years ago. The region is dotted with caves where flints and tools and cave-drawings have been found which date back to this era. Cave-drawings such as those found in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave which was discovered in 1994. These are some of the earliest cave-drawings ever found and, not only that, their artistic mastery is impressive and they reveal hunting habits and fauna which were not known about until the discovery of the cave. Rather than depicting the herbivores usually seen in cave art, the examples in Chauvet show predatory animals such as cave lions, hyenas, panthers and bears, as well as rhinoceros, which is particularly rare in this area. The cave has been shut off to the public since its discovery, although Werner Herzog gained exclusive entry to shoot his 3D documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and so helping us understand the magnitude of this hidden treasure.

The Ardèche may be one of the country’s most poor regions, with a great many more people moving out of the region than into it, but it is a region rich in mountains, rivers, gorges, perched villages, chestnuts, fruit trees, nougat, charcuterie and mushrooms.

Beautiful. You can breathe in the Ardèche.