Wasteage and Recycling

I’ve just watched the first episode of Craig Reucassel’s “War on Waste”, and it’s got me thinking… about how complacent I’ve become with not.

When I first arrived in Melbourne, in halls of residence, I was shocked at not having a separate bin for food-scraps. Quite a few of us were, actually. “Why can’t we compost it? There’s a garden – why not?”

An OH&S issue, apparently, but that was three and a half months ago and somehow, over those three and a half months, I’ve become okay with the idea of putting food-scraps in the same bin as all the non-recyclables. I don’t have to think about it anymore. In the first few weeks, I had to pause every time in front of the bins and work out where to put things. Now it’s just automatic.

At home, most of the food scraps were fed to the chooks; and anything that wasn’t was composted. Here, they just go to non-recyclable landfill where, according to Craig, they produce more methane than cows (or some similar statistic).

Two weeks after arriving, I had a slight meltdown on FaceBook about plastic bags. That’s definitely a state thing, because in South Australia, we haven’t had plastic bags since 2009. Yes, you can still pay 10c and get a biodegradable plastic bag, but we’ve been using cloth “green bags” since I was 13. My entire adult grocery-shopping life as involved green bags, brought along with you and filled to the brim by the checkout chick.

Then I arrived in Melbourne, and not only were the bags plastic, but only one or two things was put in each bag. My brain boggled. My brain couldn’t handle it. My quieter, less hurried South Australian mouth couldn’t speak fast enough or loud enough to ask the cashiers to do something different.

Bolstered by the assurances and suggestions of my new friends in Melbourne, I started taking me green bags along with me and asking the checkout chicks to fill those instead. I still have to repack them myself, because they still don’t know how, but at least I’m not getting any more plastic bags. I only got them for two weeks, and I’m still working through the pile of them as bin liners.

Two weeks’ worth of plastic bags. Three months later.

There are other things. I’m throwing out paper. I never did that at home. It all went on the fire, in one form or another, to keep us warm.

I have a box full of plastic containers and glass jars under my bed, because my brain can’t compute throwing them out.

Watching “War on Waste” has knocked some sense back into me. I don’t know how long it will last, because nothing’s going to change here, and my new environment will no doubt desensitise me again soon enough.

But watching the show has reminded me about just how shocked I was by all the waste when I first arrived her. It’s given me back, once again, just a little bit of the shock I had three months ago at the food-scraps going to landfill and the plastic bags carrying the shopping…

… and all the perfectly-shaped, perfectly ripe fruit and veg that means I don’t get the choice I’m used to having about the size of the fresh produce I buy because, at Foodland, all that “special” food that Coles and Woollies won’t sell is just in with all the rest of it.



Clearing Misconceptions: Christmas (Carols) Edition

This is a new genre of post I’ve just decided I’m going to do which aims to dispel certain misconceptions. Not just any misconceptions, but the ones which are so particularly ignorant that a little thought immediately before saying them might have caused them to be a tad less offensive to the hearer (that would be me). On the other hand, they might not seem immediately ignorant, but were definitely offensive in the way they were conveyed. This one, for example, has been stewing for months, and is therefore about a month late to join that flurry of Christmas-themed posts which hit the blogosphere in early December. It’s possible that these posts won’t end up just being rants.

Picture, if you will, the scene almost three months ago, when myself and the chaplain with whom I work were sitting down to nut out the details of Term 4. Given that, after working around all the various activities the school was holding for the end of the year, we only had about six or seven weeks in total with the kids, the choice of theme was obvious: Christmas.

The chaplain had decided to take it upon herself to educate the children in Christmas carols. “Australians don’t know their Christmas carols,” she told me, “Not like we do in England.”

She’s English, by the way. I wonder if being from Yorkshire is a stereotype of brusqueness, or whether it’s just her? I haven’t met many people from Yorkshire.

“I know Christmas carols!” I protested. “I sang Christmas carols as a kid!”

“Yes, but your father’s English. It’s part of your heritage.”

I should probably make some comment about the majority of the school populace being white and it therefore being their heritage, too, but in this area, it’s just as likely that they’re of German extraction. Perhaps not at an Anglican school, though.

But that was where the conversation was left, because I couldn’t think quick enough to think up a comeback. But it was also the bit that particularly stung me.

Because, what made her think that two Christmasses (one that I can remember) with my tone-deaf father’s side of the family had more influence on my musical heritage than every day with my mother’s?

My mother’s Cornish-Australian side of the family, at that, and Cornish-Australians were the ones who invented Carols by Candlelight, a tradition which the ever-reliable Wikipedia assures me doesn’t occur outside Australia.

My mother’s side of the family, with whom I heard and sang “The North Wind” and “The Three Drovers” and “Six White Boomers” and “Christmas in the Scrub”, and who I watched sing “Orana” in four-part harmony. (Or do I just imagine I watched that because Mum talks so much about how it used to happen before my grandmother’s lungs packed up?)

Because Australians do sing Christmas carols. Or, at least, they have songs which they sing at Christmas, because “Six White Boomers” and “Santa Wear Your Shorts” mightn’t be about the Christmas story, but there are carols in the mix, too.

And yes, maybe it’s not “Little Donkey” and “We Saw Three Ships” (both of which, incidentally, I find insufferably annoying), and maybe pop artists over here don’t release a pop Christmas song every year like they do over there, but Christmas carols are sung.

It might be that they’re sung more by some segments of the population than others. I know, for example, that the chaplain in question spent most of her time in Australia before moving to this area two years ago in a part of the city that the rest of us think of as – how shall I put it? – a bit bogan. I also know that it’s the area where most of the Ten-Pound Poms ended up, so if the kids in schools up there didn’t know their Christmas carols, it’s their English immigrant parents who are at fault, not their Australian-born identity.

So, I have to agree. Singing Christmas carols is part of my heritage. But it’s almost laughable to imagine that it’s part of the heritage given to me by my father, whom I’ve only ever heard sing a carol occasionally at a carol services. No, it’s part of the heritage given to me by my mother, who sings at the drop of a hat (or the verbalisation of something that resembles a song lyrics), whose family have been in this country for six or seven generations, and whose ancestors were part of the culture which made Australia’s carol tradition what it is today.

It’s that part of my heritage that walked along the main street of the village singing “The north wind is tossing the leaves, the red dust is over the town” with my friends as we walked through the sweltering midsummer heat to a picnic.

It’s that part of my heritage that spent long summer evenings sitting on the local school oval, getting rashes from the grass and bites from the mosquitoes but watching small children dressed in tinsel singing “Deck the shed with bits of wattle! Stick some gum leaves in a bottle!”, joining in on the chorus of “Six white boomers, snow white boomers, racing Santa Clause through the blazing sun!”, and waving the glow sticks which at some point during my childhood replaced the tea-candle-in-a-jar arrangement I can remember.

It’s that part of my heritage which, several years ago, posted a post with YouTube clips of some of my favourite carols you won’t find in any other country in the world.

It’s that part of my heritage which, a hundred years ago, held up its Christmas carol tradition as a political battering ram and then, twenty years later, shared it with the nation.

And it’s that part of my heritage which was upset and offended at the suggestion that my knowledge of carols has nothing to do with this continent at all.


Or, as said ancestors might have at one point said,


I should stop it there, but there was a similar sort of ignorant and rude comment from the same person a few weeks later. Christmas Day, actually, as we discussed the meal awaiting for us after church. We both had hot meals (which is something I will blame on my British heritage), and she said, “Oh, yes, I’m doing the full English thing: turkey and lots of Brussels sprouts!”

Seriously, what is the English obsession with Brussels sprouts at Christmas? Dad says it’s because they’re in season, which is fair enough, I suppose, but… They’re not in season over here! I haven’t seen them in the shops for months! Where does she even get them?

“We’ve got a duck,” I said, by way of return, “We haven’t enough people for a turkey.”

“A duck!” she said scornfully. “That’s not British!”

Since we were on the receiving line after the service, we had to move on fairly quickly, and I managed to get in, “Well, we wanted a goose,” as my sister and I went on in something of a huff.

That’s true – we had wanted a goose, which is something which my grandfather – who lived in Hampshire by the time I knew him – had most Christmasses. But geese cost about $150 apiece here, so that wasn’t happening and it’s at Hills tradition to have duck instead (according to the local shops, anyway), which are much more reasonably-priced around the Christmas season.

“A duck’s more British than a turkey!” I said to my sister. “Turkeys are American!”

I won’t say people should forget their background, heritage, and traditions when they immigrate to a new country, but… they should at least shed the idea that theirs are superior.

Don’t interact with the traditions of the locals of your new country in an, “Oh, you do that, do you, you ignorant savage? Let me tell you how it’s really done,” sort of way.

Instead, when one of the locals presents you with something you think is a bit odd, approach it in a more, “Oh, that’s interesting, I hadn’t thought it could be done like that. Here’s how we do it,” sort of way.

Mind you, I can say from my own experience that if an Australian went to the UK with the same sorts of attitudes about Australian Christmas traditions as the woman in question has about “British” ones, the response from the locals there definitely would be, “Oh, you do that, do you, you ignorant savage?”



Broad-beans are, in my opinion, the blandest, most useless, most time-consuming waste-of-space disgusting vegetable there is, and it is a mystery to my why anyone would eat them, let alone plant them.

Nevertheless, if you ever do find yourself in the situation where you have a couple of kilos of broad-beans to use up, here are a few hints on how to do it.

The first thing you should know is that a lot of raw broad-beans in a basket does not mean a lot of broad-beans on the table. I suppose that’s the one blessing in the whole situation.

Before you even start to think about cooking broad-beans, you need to prepare them. That means shelling them, blanching them, and peeling them. The steps are fairly simple, but time-consuming.

First, shell them in the same way you’d shell peas, except with a little more effort. While pea-pods just crack easily open, revealing the delicious, sweet, ready-to-eat peas, broad-beans need to be prised open reluctantly, and the individual beans (broad-peas) tugged from the fluff therein. 1kg of raw beans renders about 400g of shelled peas.

To blanche them, add a little vinegar, salt and lemon juice to the water. You don’t have to, but it’s best to begin instilling some flavour into the floury blandness as early as possible. Leave them for a bit and let them come to the boil for a few minutes.

Drain them and run them under cold water to cool them down so you can handle them. Peeling the individual broad-peas is fairly easy. Insert a thumb-nail into the fat, bulbous bit where it used to attach to the pod, and pull it away to create a hole out of which the actual meaty bit can slide. It will just pop out easily, especially with the application of a little pressure at the base of the pea. But it does take a while. It takes me about half an hour to peel that which was 1kg of raw beans – and it results in about 200g of beans.


the shells, the peels, and the final product


If you want, you can serve them like that – if you think people will appreciate the khaki-coloured mass with the taste and texture of a slightly al-dente, thoroughly disappointing overcooked pea.

I thought not. So what you want to do is season it. A lot. With whatever you want. Hugh Long-Surname of River Cottage recommends frying with spring onions in olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. Egyptians seem to prefer them with garlic, lemon juice and parsley. Something that went down reasonably well here was frying it with chopped spring onion, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a scoop of lemon butter, and some chopped green herbs. It’s really up to you, I think.

Of course, you could just not plant the silly things in the first place.

!פורים שמח

Happy Purim!


The Jews […] celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another.

And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews […] that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.

So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them, because Haman […] had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot) to consume them and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letter that this wicked plot which Haman had devised against the Jews should return on his own head.

So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur.

Esther 9:19-26 NKJV (paraphrased)





Bha còmhradh againn an seachdain mu dheidhinn ar lèithean-saora, agus tha mise air a bhith mu dheidhinn Ìosrael a ràdh.

Dè seòrsa aimsir a th’ air a bhith ann?

Tha an aimsir air a bhith uabhasach fuar! Tha uisge air a bhith ann h-uile latha agus bha sneachd ann cuideachd!

Dè tha thu air a bhith a’ ceannach? Aodach, prèasantan do dhaoine eile, càil dhuit-fhèin…?

Tha mi air a bhith mòran cuimhneachan agus prèasantan do mo theaghlach a cheannach. Chan eil – agus cha bhith – mi air a bhith aodach a cheannaich. Chan eil mi air a bhith càil a cheannach dhòmh-fhèin ach geansaidh blàth no dhà.

Cò ris a tha am biadh air a bhith coltach?

Tha am biadh uabhasach snog. Tha a h-uile biadh air a bhith “kosher”. Tha sinn air a bhith siùpear “basariy” ithead agus tha feòil ann, agus tha sinn air a bhith breacàist “cheleviy” itheadh agus tha càise agus bàinne agus ìm ann. Chan fhaod mi bànne no ìm no càise ith agus cha toigh leam breacàist an-seo a-riamh!

A bheil thu air biadh ùr fheuchainn no deoch ùr a ghabhail nach do dh’fheuch no nach no ghabh thu a-riamh roimhe?

04 - Hyssop

A’ deanamh labaneh (pizza Druze)

Uill, tha mi air “labaneh” fheuchainn an seachdain. ‘S e “Pizza Druze” a th’ ann agus tha iosop aig. Agus tha mi air a bhith mòran sùgh gràn-ubhal a ghabh.


Càite a bheil thu air a bhith a’ dol airson biadh ithe?

Tha mi air a bhith aig an òsdal a fhuirich agus tha breacàist agus siùpear ann. Tha mi air a bhith a’ dol dhan bùth falafal airson shuwarma airson dìnnear. Tha shuwarma ann an Ìosrael coltach ri yiros ann an Astràilia. Tha mi a’ smaoineachadh gur e “kebab” a th’ ann yiron ann an Alba. An e sin ceart? Tha feòil agus biadh-luibh ann àran-pìota.

Dè cho daor ‘s a than a prìsean air a bhith?

Glè dhaor. Tha a h-uile càil air a bhith nas daoire na tha e aig an taigh ann an Astràilia.

Dè seòrsa daoine ris a bheil thu air a bhith a’ tachairt?

Uill, tha a h-uile duine ann mo ghrùp às Astràilia no Sealainn-Nuadh, ach tha mi air tachairt ri daoine èile às na Stàitean-Aonaichte agus às Ìosrael-fhèin. Tha mi air tachairt ri Raghnaidh (Rachel) eile ann am bùth ann an Tel Dan. ‘S e ainm glè chleachdail a th’ ann “Raghnaid” (Rachel) ann an Ìosrael.

Ciamar a tha thu air a bhith a’ siubhal air feadh an àite? A bheil thu air na busaichean no na trèanaichean no tacsaidhean a ghabhail?

Tha mi air a bhith dol ri bùs comhla ris a h-uile daoine eile ann mo ghrùp.

A bheil thu air turas a dhèanamh ann an gondola no air druim càmhail?

Tha mi air càmhailean a shealtainn, ach chan eil mi air tùras air druim càmhail a dhèanamh. Ach mi air turas thairis an Loch Gailíl ann am bàta a dhèanamh.

Dè seòrsa àiteachan air a bheil thu air a bhith a’ tadhal? Àiteachan eachdraidheil agus cultarail? Eaglaisean no taighean-tasgaidh?

Tha mi air tadhal air mòran mòran àiteachan inntinnich – mòran àiteachan eachdraidheil agus cultarail agus Bìoballach. Tha mi air tadhal air Nàsairet agus air Ièriùsalam, agus tha mòran mòran eaglaisean ann an an Ièriùsalam.

Dè an cànan no na cànanan a tha thu air a bhith a’ cluinntinn?

‘S e Eabhrais a th’ ann an cànan ann an Ìosrael, ach tha mi air a bhith a’ cluinntinnn Eabhrais, Arabais, Beurla, Spàinntis, agus Rùssais.

A bheil thu air mòran Gàidhlig no Beurla a chluinntinn?

06 - Ireland

maoiseach Gaidhlig Eireann ann an Nasairet

Tha mi air a bhith mòran Beurla a chluinntinn – tha mòran daoine an-seo às na Stàitean-Aonaichte. Chan eil mi air Gàidhlig a chluinntinn a-riamh, ach tha mi air maoiseach anns a’ Ghàidhlig Èireann a shealltainn ann an Nàsairet.


A bheil thu air beagan den chànan ionnsachadh?

Tha, tha mi air beagan Eabhrais innseachadh. ‘S e “boker tov” a th’ ann “madainn mhath” agus ‘s e “laila tov” a th’ ann “oidhche mhath”. ‘S e “Shabat shalom” a th’ ann “Latha na Sàbaid math” agus “todah rabah” a th’ ann “tapadh leibh”.

‘S e “aniy lo medeberit ivrit a th’ ann “chan eil Eabhrais agam”.

No English translation this week. You guys have already read all this.

The Last Day – Bet Tzion (Negev)

Back on the bus, and after seeing a marvellous sunset which we totally failed to capture on camera, we were let in on the surprise we had been promised.

The truth is, most of us had a fair idea what the surprise was, but we hadn’t let on to Yuval and Tzion, and acted excited and surprised when they told us.

Discerning Hebrew-understanding readers will recognise that the title of this post, ‘Bet Tzion’, means ‘Tzion’s house’, and that’s where we were going!

Map - Bet Tzion

Tzion lives in a city called Ofaqim, about fifteen minutes from Ber Sheva, with his wife and two daughters. One was too shy to come down.

01 - Tzion's Family

Tzion with his wife, Tamar, and younger daughter, Shai. Shai is seventeen and goes to school at a kibbutz nearby. It’s more expensive but apparently the education there is much better. She speaks pretty flawless English, but with an American accent. She can speak with an RP accent but says she has to concentrate harder.

She’s pretty excited about her service next year and wants to stay on for longer and become “a warrior”. I think she might have translated that wrongly. Her older sister is 22 and finished her service a while ago. She wasn’t too keen on it and became a field nurse, and is now working in a hospital.

Tamar had put lots of snack foods and drinks out for us.

02 - Food

After staying for about an hour at Tzion’s house, and then left to make our way back to Tel Aviv.

Map - Airport

The trip to the airport took about an hour. I was a little worried about facing security again, but it all went smoothly, and we were in the waiting lounge for about an hour before leaving. I went and bought a bottle of water and a bar of chocolate. There were Ritter there, which is my favourite, and another group member bought a block, but I thought, “Why buy something here I can buy at home?” (and they didn’t have my favourite flavour), and bought some Israeli chocolate. That was a slight mistake, since apparently the Israeli taste in chocolate has been influence buy American chocolate, so it had that sour milk taste.

I later squished it by sleeping on it in Bangkok.