thief of time

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Raspberry Memories

I was off browsing the net and came across a site where the author talked about taking her Granddaughter out picking raspberries (

It brought back quite a few memories of my own raspberry picking days, not all of them wonderful.

<>My parents were very much into growing everything they possibly could and freezing and preserving whatever wouldn’t keep. We only had a typical quarter acre block, but it’s amazing what you can fit on a quarter acre, and most of it totally designed to ruin the life of any self-respecting teen hoping to avoid anything that looked remotely like work. <>

We would usually visit my mum’s family at the old family farm every year or two for a summer holiday which I thoroughly enjoyed. One year, however, my aunt took us out to her raspberry patch. I’m sure everyone knows the scene in Crocodile Dundee where Paul Hogan says “Now that’s a knife”. Well, that’s sort of what happened at the farm. I suppose my aunt thought we city slickers would enjoy getting back to nature. Coming from a town of 4000 people, I was very much a slicker, though perhaps not exactly “city” and I quite liked the comforts of town life.

Instead of lounging in the shade with a book, we settled in for several hours of serious picking. If I had thought it was tough in our own patch, I was clearly mistaken. They had insects on that farm that I’d never seen in civilisation and far more ferocious. Industrial strength insect repellent had to be used and it didn’t keep them away from your mouth or your eyes.

<>We finally reached the end of our day and took our buckets of berries back to the house. Most of them were destined for jam, but my Aunt asked if I, the oldest granddaughter, would like to clean some for dinner

I think I would have been in my early teens, at the age when “near enough is good enough”. I got to work and had soon filled a crystal serving bowl with lovely fresh red raspberries. They were sprinkled with some sugar to draw out the juices and set aside for dessert.

When we came in for dinner, the berries were quite a sight. It wasn’t just the juices that had been drawn out. Waving at the top were lots of little white worms, waving frantically, probably in distress—almost as much distress as I felt. I’m sure you can imagine the almost horror movie effect of it all, plus the gross teenage embarrassment at being caught out.

I’m not sure what happened after that—I think nature sometimes blurs these horrible memories, though I’m sure I had to get a spoon and go fishing.

After that, there was no one who was more meticulous with raspberries than I was. I would look inside every single berry, no matter how many there were. In fact, it got so that I wouldn’t trust anyone else in the family to do the job properly. Now that I’ve reached my parents’ age myself, I realise that I was probably wise not to trust middle aged eyes to the centre of a dark raspberry.

Unfortunately, now that I live in Sydney, there are no such things as raspberry patches, so my kids have missed a lot of the joys and character building that I went through.

Raspberries are so dear I even miss the raspberry patch. What a difference a few years make.

Sunday, August 15, 2004


We went out shopping the other week and were sent home with our tails between our legs, firmly chastened.

Firstly, I should mention that we live in an old house—not “old” as in old and gracious, possibly colonial, or well-kept Victorian, but “old” as in well past its youth and mildly decrepit, with middle age spread and bits falling off (and that is literally, not figuratively).

A lot of the appliances in our house are, or were, in the same state. Our fridge, which was about 25 years old was finally gotten rid of, thanks to a nice department store with an interest free period.

Our stovetop and oven, which are even older, are similarly under threat of replacement, but it’s something I keep putting off because it means doing something with our kitchen to make things fit in, as our stove top is a three burner (actually 2 and sometimes 1, grr) and slightly oddly shaped, which means modern stove tops probably won’t fit in properly. Financially speaking, the thoughts of having to do something to our kitchen is not appealing at all. In addition, the oven spot will probably fit a modern one, but I’m really hesitant about getting a new one because, as poor as it is, after 20 odd years, you get to know its idiosyncrasies and bake accordingly.

Never mind. One Saturday after one of my burners died again, I told my husband that I was afraid we’d really have to get serious and start looking around. We’d looked half-heartedly for some time, so we knew in a vague way a few of the brands that were about, but decided the best thing to do would be go to one of leading retailers who would be sure to have a bit of a range to look at, because a lot of our department stores are pretty limited as to the stock they carry.

I have a feeling that the person we came up against was the manager, just because of the way he carried himself. There was a certain air about him. When I explained what we were after, he took us immediately to the top of the range that they sold, European, of course, with a price that took our breath away.

After admiring the stove, which really was fantastic, I asked if they had something else a bit cheaper. Well, yes, they did have and he directed us there. These apparently were suitable if we were renting a place and wanted something for the tenants—mustn’t let the tenants get too uppity, I guess.

Then he asked me why in the world I had gone from the top of the line to this, when it was for our own home. I didn’t hardly like to tell him that I couldn’t justify paying that amount of money on myself. I’m afraid if he’d seen what I’d been cooking on for these last five years or so, he’d have shot us out of the store as totally unsuitable customers. It’s sort of the feeling you get when you drive through a place like Double Bay in a rusty VW Beetle, which I’ve done.

We're still looking for a retailer whose expectations we're not too far below.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Presenting the Right Image

I passed by McDonald’s today to grab a quick cup of coffee on my way to work, and as I popped in, I noticed a man sitting on the outside bench looking rather annoyed.

On the way back out, I noticed him looking at his watch and looking even more annoyed and more than just a little bit impatient. “Oh, oh”, I thought. “Someone’s going to cop it.”

That’s when I noticed where he was sitting. It was the Ronald McDonald bench, and Ronald was sitting beside the man, with arm passed companionably along the back of the bench, just behind the increasingly cranky man.

It tends to ruin the image of self-righteous indignation when you’re sitting beside an eight foot tall, brightly-coloured, smiling clown. One needs to be taken seriously when one is on the high moral ground.

Maybe I should have warned him to find a different seat, just to avoid the chance of ridicule when his long lost rendezvous finally showed up. I know if it was me, I sure wouldn’t have been able to avoid making fun of someone presenting themselves to me as such an open target.

I'm afraid I have a very cruel nature.