Saturday, 24 January 2009

Christmas reading

Back before we had kids, my parents used to rent a house at Yallingup (near Margaret River in WA) for a week or 10 days over Christmas. We did this for a number of years. It was a short drive to the beach, but utterly remote from everything else. It had a winery on one side and a national park on the other, so we never saw another soul. At dusk, we'd sit on the balconey and watch the kangaroos emerge from the bush in the valley that we overlooked, and have a drink or ten.

There was no TV or radio reception, and no mobile phone reception. We gave the landline number to no one. There was a small TV upstairs with a VCR, but we never turned it on. We spent a week snoozing on the couch in the afternoon, doing jigsaw puzzles, reading and body surfing. And cooking up fabulous meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea.

My family are a rather bookish crowd, and we generally give each other books as presents. Going away as a family with a pile of books was always a wonderful occasion - we'd open the presents on Christmas Day, then rush for the comfy sofas and steal each others books. I read this stack (and more) in one week.

  • Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain. Since then, I have bought another of his books, plus his cook book. Neither were as good as Kitchen Confidential - still the best book by a chef.
  • Cooking Spaces - my brother was designing his house at the time, so we read a lot of architecture those holidays
  • Measuring America, by Andro Linklater. A book in the vein of "Salt" and "Nutmeg" and so on. It was very good. It was all about the surveying of the US.
  • On food and cooking, by Harold McGee - a very good read for anyone interested in food, and cooking.
  • War Without Blood, by Russell Schneider - a book about Fraser as PM
  • The Last Diaries, by Alan Clark - still the most stunning set of diaries that I have ever read. A must read.
  • The art of kitchen design
  • Mitchum - a biography of Robert Mitchum. Paco would love it.
  • The Forbes - about the family. Don't remember much about this.
  • Wellington, by Richard Holmes. I loved this book - couldn't put it down. A great book on the Peninsular Campaigns.
  • I think the blue book is on icecream manufacturing, and the one under that is something like "Nutmeg".
The jigsaw that this pile is sitting on contained about 5000 pieces. We'd buy one and give it to Mum for Christmas, then spend the rest of the holiday piecing it together.

Each day would go something like this.

Get up at dawn, go to the beach for a swim.

Have breakfast, discuss which wineries we should visit that day, then flop on the couch with a book. At the end of each chapter, do a bit of jigsaw for 10 or 15 minutes. Sleep. Read some more. Go outside and look at the sky and chat about whether it was nice enough to spend a few hours driving around the wineries. Argue about whether we should visit the gourmet icecream factory to buy icecream, or make our own (my brother always took his icecream maker on these holidays). Read some more (from a different book). Nick someone else's book when they are doing the jigsaw, and refuse to hand it back. Argue about the best way to put a page marker in a book. Decant wine for dinner - should we have Grange, or something else? Fight over book that you nicked, and has been nicked back. Sleep on couch. Invite friends over for dinner. Sleep some more. Have another swim. Sit on the balconey with a beer, watching the sun go down. Go inside when the moths appear. Eat, drink and collapse on couch with a book and a glass of plonk. Snore. Loudly.

Repeat each day for a week.


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