Long weekends · Uncategorized

Getting Away and Slowing Down in Tasmania

My last couple of blog posts have been a bit gloomy  So this is one is a bit more upbeat involving things that I love; travelling, my husband and good food. In order to celebrate a big wedding anniversary, we decided to go to Tasmania for lunch.

And no ordinary lunch. We’re big fans of The Gourmet Farmer – Matthew Evans. We have followed his adventures on TV for years and when he began doing lunches at Fat Pig Farm I was determined to go. Our initial idea of Just Lunch turned into a long weekend, a weekend of eating, drinking, gazing at views, seeing old friends and slowing down.

Getting off the plane in Hobart, I sniffed. Clean air, despite the jet fuel! The terminal is one building. Coffee in the city at the quirkily named Bury Me Standing Coffee Co was followed by a  quick visit to the Female Factory at the Cascades. If I search back in my family history I can find a female convict. And although she was in Georgetown, that doesn’t lessen the impact of the Cascades. Yes, it’s a ruin, but a ruin full of evocative memories and sadness and I’ll say it- ghosts.

On D’s bucket list was the Willie Smith Ciders. Another big old shed with a Museum of Cider, tasting room and a cafe. Had the best pea and ham soup. It’s full of nooks and crannies. Magazines to read as you slurp your soup. Divine cakes.

From there a quick stop in Huonville where I investigated the op shops and fell in love with the old Hydro Electric building.

Our Airbnb was on the shore of Glaziers Bay. A converted apple shed built on stilts over the Huon River.

IMG_9964
Photo Erica Murdoch

Our, hosts Jed and Ursula showed us the place, a labour of love for Jed’s dad who has been renovating the place for years. Our room was upstairs – an attic where you bumped your head if you weren’t careful. In the corner was a turntable with a stack of vinyl. A wee kitchenette and a sofa in front of the window looked out on the river. Downstairs was a living room, music room and kitchen and deck where you can sit out and gaze at the water.

IMG_4559
Photo Erica Murdoch

Instead, we drove into Cygnet, walked up and down the street had a drink at the bottom pub and got pizza from Royz Bitz of Old Pizza. Surprisingly, the pizza was pretty good despite the odd name. Two local boys with a love of twisting the pizza name vernacular.

We ate our pizza on the deck, no sounds except for the lap of water against the building and a fish jumping.

The next day it was the business of lunch. We deliberately had a light breakfast and went for a drive over the other side to Franklin. We visited the Wooden Boat Centre and dreamt of owning a wooden boat. We thought of driving further south, to Dover, but lunch was fast approaching and we had a big hill to climb.

IMG_9993
Photo Erica Murdoch

As we reached the farm entrance we were greeted by Sadie wearing a pair of gumboots and a cheerful smile. I’m here to direct traffic she told us as she waved us down the hill. We joined a throng of people on the deck- there was an air of excitement and anticipation. From conversations with other guests it transpired, we’d all come from as close as Hobart and as far away as England.

I’m not a food blogger such as my dear friend The UrbanNest, so I can only report that lunch was everything we expected it to be – and more. Each course was accompanied by a spiel from Matthew and his team about the dish. The care and love that goes into the cooking at this place is evident. Although we were paying guests, we felt like we were at a very wonderful luncheon party among new friends. We were foodies all united by a love of good tucker, companionship, and love of the farm to table concept.

IMG_4569
Photo Erica Murdoch

The afternoon was rounded off by a walk around the farm with Matthew and Sadie and meeting some very important pigs. We also met their head gardener,  who talked to us about the principles, challenges, and joys of farming.

 

IMG_9990
Photo Erica Murdoch

We didn’t join the throng of people lining up for Matthew to sign the merchandise. Too shy. Instead, we walked slowly down the hill pausing every now and then to enjoy the view of the river valley below, and in my case take a couple of photos of interesting looking letterboxes for my Instagram.

IMG_9965
Photo Erica Murdoch

That evening, full of good food and wine, we nibbled on cheese, pate and biscuits and listened to jazz records on the ancient stereo in our room. It was all a weekend away could be.

IMG_4559
Photo Erica Murdoch

Except there was more. The next day we made our way back to Hobart hugging the coast all the way to Bruny Island popping into Eggs and Bacon Bay, Verona sands and Deep Bay. Sandy beaches fringed by gum trees and just us and a few fishermen.  We trundled over on the ferry and drove straight to Bruny Island Cheese for a late lunch. Founded by Nick Haddow, this cheesery has morphed into a food destination. Highly recommend the pizzas, the toasties and the beer on tap. There’s a great produce store and we came away with jam and cheese and snacks for the road.

IMG_4576
Photo Erica Murdoch
IMG_0017
Photo Erica Murdoch

The afternoon ended with our friend, Catherine. We were in the same mother’s group in Melbourne and she relocated to Tasmania- back home. Our children are now in their twenties and it seems like a lifetime ago that we were on school fete duty. As we ate homemade scones we listened to her dad tell stories of his boyhood in England. A few hours later over dinner, Catherine told us that he had been diagnosed with MND. At the same dinner we met up with architecture friends and the crochet extraordinaire, Lucy 

IMG_0026
Photo Erica Murdoch

Life is all about small things really. The long lunch,  the chats and companionship. We can do all these things at our home base but when we’re away we slow down and have time to appreciate these small things – the little drops of pleasure from a long weekend. Sure it can be a decadent long lunch, a long walk, mooching around bookshops or just exploring a different part of town.

 

 

writing

For the love of writing

 

I’ve got writer’s block and I need to do a blog post; not a good combination. I have a few half-written things that could do the job, but I don’t like any of them enough to and press Publish. Throw into the mix the 22-week-old puppy who is as demanding as a three-year-old child, a hot day and a keen desire to do anything but write and you see my problem. Continue reading “For the love of writing”

Uncategorized · Wedding

The Wedding

Winnie told me to do it. ‘On the day, go to the Lovers Rock up on Bowen Road and touch it. It will bring you good luck, lots of children.’ She had cackled and dug me in the ribs. Taoist mumbo-jumbo hocus pocus I had thought at the time.

But for this day, my day of days when I long for my mother’s voice and the touch of her hand, touching something resembling an Earth Goddess might have to do.

Looking down to my right I see the snaking traffic on Queens Road East and the neon signs fading out. Makes no difference that it is a Sunday – every day is a working day in Hong Kong. Even the day I get married.

puk-patrick-191909-unsplash
Photo by Puk Patrick on Unsplash

I reach Bowen Road as it runs along to Magazine Gap Road. Incense sticks seep smoke at the small shrines that line the roadway, and old men amble along, passing the time of day as they criss-cross each others’ paths. Some men kick their legs out as they walk- dressed in the uniform of old Hong Kong men; baggy grey shorts, white singlet, and Kung Fu slippers.

Under the banyan trees in the sitting out area a group of ladies practice tai chi. One of them has brought a portable cassette player and the crash and wail of Chinese opera drown out my thoughts. Mum used to do tai chi – until she got sick.

I hit my stride, breathing deeply and get all caught up with a group of Hash House Harriers, gweilos, training for next years Trailwalker. I use them as a front-runner clipping at their heels. I envy their rise and fall, their unity and their business.

I reached Lovers Rock. I usually run the other way so have never seen it before. But I recognise it. A giant penis-shaped piece of granite covered in daubs of red paint and prayer papers. In a crevice under the rock are Chinese god ornaments arranged in a small shrine. I bend to read the sign. I am at the Home of the God of Love apparently. Nearby two women pull oranges out of a striped bag and place the oranges next to the ornaments. An old man is setting up a card table and pulls out a sign in English and Chinese reading “Fortunes told.” I am not sure what to do. Winnie hadn’t gone into detail about that. I go up the steps and pat the side of the rock. Stuck on the side of the mossy surface are fragments of incense sticks and ash. There are yellowing photos of happy couples wedged in a crevice. I wonder why they left them there.

So that’s it I think as I turn to run back. Job done. Good luck won.

shuja-zed-1195502-unsplash
Photo by Shuja- Zed  on Unsplash

Back at the apartment, my fiancee wanders around in a bath towel.  Our flatmate offers to make me tea. I ask for a gin and tonic – a double. She understands. She is Scottish and it is my day, and if I want to drink gin at 10am -that’s fine.

Later. Out on the street. Heart pounding as we hail a cab, me clutching the last minute bouquet with the tinfoil from the florists still wrapped around.

We arrive. Remember it’s the day of all my days. The wood panel walls of City Hall smell of polish and age and privilege.  Mix in the smells of designer bags and shoes, and the new suit scent of the nervous grooms. Funny, I am noticing all this. I should be looking at him only, him across the room pacing and looking at his watch. One of the nervous grooms. He laughs at something Nick says in his too loud English accent.

My girlfriends push and pull me. Photo here. Touch up there. Smudge the lipstick here. ‘Your hair is messed up,’ says Therese. ‘Let me fix it’.  I breathe deep. I look around. I see it. A door. A room just for me. Brides Room. The sign says so in English and Chinese. The glass on the door is frosted. I imagine what’s inside. Minions. Comfortable chaise lounge. Grapes. Pedicure. Glass of champagne for the blushing bride. MTV. It will be my room and my time.

I open the door. Inside there is nothing. Just a giant powder room with royal red carpet and mirrors down one wall for the prink and the fix. No minions and no chaise lounge and no champagne. A faint whiff of old carpet and I hear the whine of the air conditioner and the distant sound outside of Nick haw-hawing.

A knock on the door.

‘Are you OK in there?’ says my beloved.  ‘I think we are up next.’ I look in the mirror and my mother’s eyes look back at me. ‘Coming,’ I say.

Epilogue

Twenty-five years later we’re in Hong Kong on holidays. Some friends still live there, others have flown in from  Auckland and London. We’re reunited for a fiftieth birthday. And on our first morning, we walk past City Hall and there are the brides and the nervous grooms just like us a quarter of a century ago. We eat dim sum at Maxims with Nick(our best man) and Tania, our Scottish flatmate, and Dominque, the birthday girl- who were our witnesses. As the dim sum carts trundle past we toast our long friendship, our looming wedding anniversary and plan the next reunion for another fiftieth birthday in two years time.