Friday, May 26, 2017

Autumn’s Last Hurrah and Anyone for Real Tennis?

A glimpse of St. David's Park which was once a cemetery
It’s late in the season but Hobart is finally getting its Autumn act together. There is now a glorious show of colour in its parks and gardens and the weather bureau has promised us at least one nice day, the first one in ages, where it isn’t showing the sun as a fried egg sitting on a cloud with rain drops under it.

On the other side of the road in Davey Street is a quaint Hobart institution
Meanwhile, I have discovered Hobart’s Real Tennis Court and finally worked up the courage to peek behind its sandstone walls. This was the original form of tennis which is believed to have evolved around 600 years ago, possibly in Basque country in the south of France or even in England. Either way, Henry VIII brought it over from France again in 1529 and established a real tennis court at Hampton Court.  Though its rules – more complex than those of lawn tennis, its strangely bent rackets not racquets, and even its balls -handmade and more like a baseball, differ from conventional tennis, all other forms of the game evolved from this in around 1870. Read its history here. Nevertheless, there are still 46 courts like this around the world - England has 24, the USA has 9, France has 2 and Australia has 3, though ten of these were only built in last twenty or thirty years (not sure where the others are, though there‘s definitely at least one in the Netherlands). In the USA it is known as Court Tennis. In Australia it was previously known as Royal Tennis, but the name was changed in 2002 to bring it in line with the UK definition. The Hobart court, built in 1875, remains the oldest in Australia. The real question though is how did it come to be in Hobart at all? 

Insignia of the Hobart Real Tennis Club
  English merchant  Samuel Smith Travers, who had been an avid tennis player in England  before coming  to the colony, thought that what  the place needed most to keep him from getting bored was a Real Tennis Court and consequently built it on one of the main  thoroughfares between the Methodist Church  and a government training school for girls. Though the training establishment is no more, the Royal Tennis Court still stands unobtrusively beside the church on one of Hobart‘s main arteries behind a somewhat forbidding stone wall. 

Another of Hobart's little secrets
 Beyond lies a modern reception area which has its own ‘professional,’ clubrooms and a view of the court. The professional is busy on the phone and doesn't seem too excited to see me, so I just have a little poke around. I learn that the club currently has about two hundred members. A thick vine growing over  the  entrance  was  planted during the club’s centenary by Pierre Etchebaster, a Basque, who was world champion  for 26 years, from 1928 – 1954.  Alas, the two players on the court are just leaving as I get out my camera, so I don’t get to see them in action, but it’s a fascinating glimpse into an arcane world hiding among the office towers. To see what the game actually looks like click here, but to find out for example, what a ‘chase’, a ‘poop’ or a ‘bobble’ is, or what the dedans and tambour are all about, click here.
The Club's' Professiona' is busy on the phone so I take a look around at pictures of the founder and former club members

Here's an image of the rackets
The now vacant court
Looking around, I get the distinct feeling that this club would not necessarily want me as a member - there are strict rules about behaviour, but then would I want to be a member of a club that actually wanted me as a member? (As Groucho MarX said first).
The park is probably more my style, but at least it's another mystery solved.

Some Autumn Favourites

At a time when little is flowering this Matisse -like garden is a treat
Mysterious Hellebores
Another view showing an overgrown fountain

Monday, May 22, 2017

Going Bananas over Food Waste

My new toy/experiment -still bit expensive, but read  why almost every home should be a have one

I did say food waste deserved a separate post. Well this week,  Craig Reucassel of Chaser
fame, has beaten me to it, with the first of his excellent  TV Series “The War on Waste”
The good thing  about having a well -known comedian do it, is that it is also thoroughly entertaining, so catch up on it if you can and watch out for the other two episodes which haven’t been shown yet. 

Australians currently waste about 38 million Kilogrammes of food each year, about one in five shopping bags worth and that’s growing by 8% a year. At a time when many countries are experiencing famine  – Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen, and some 2 million people in our own supposedly affluent country are going hungry, that is not only indecent, but nothing short of a crime. 

Food is wasted all along the food chain – from harvest to the end product that winds up in your fridge or rubbish bin. One of the things which really shocked me in the video was that great mountain of bananas being thrown out on a banana plantation simply because they were too big, too small or the wrong shape to meet the exacting standards demanded by supermarkets. Supermarkets in turn say that they do this because that’s what their customers want.
This may or may not be true. I suspect that it has more to do with minimising the cost of packing and shipping and having a predictable unit cost and margin at the end. This may seem incomprehensible in places where production and consumption occur close together, but the vast distances between farms and our cities make the cost of sending imperfect or non -standard fruit and vegetables to market prohibitive, especially if they may not be acceptable to consumers or end up spoiling the batch.
Nevertheless, Woolworths which together with Coles control 70% of food sales in Australia, have begun trialling sales of “The Odd Bunch” –fruit and veg that are not the right size or shape but are thus considerably cheaper. I scored both apples and pears this way on my last visit. Since these  outers were half empty by the time I had walked around the store, I don’t think given the opportunity, the problem necessarily lies with the consumer. Obviously this is a good choice if trucks have spare capacity, especially if it enables people who wouldn’t otherwise buy fruit to do so, but less so from a business point of view, if thereby the main stock remains unsold, but  it's definitely great news for those who can’t buy much at all. Long may it continue!

Well patronised - Woolworths new  Odd Bunch section

I didn't buy the "awkward avocados who dream of dancing their way into a salsa" yet as there were a few too many for me, but I did enjoy the names

Meanwhile charities such as OzHarvest and Food Bank are doing their best to salvage food at all points along the food chain - including restaurants and private homes, for redistribution to the needy. Call them if you have anything surplus to requirements. Here is the list for those near you including those outside Australia.
Can’t help  thinking that both of these these initiatives will only make  a small dent in that banana mountain and how great it would be if that waste fruit could be distributed to schools or we could dry it with say, a mobile dehydrator to make a lightweight, high energy food for famine relief, not to mention possible commercial applications such as banana powder for use by bakeries or pudding  manufacturers.

Loved the crazy carrots ...
On the home front, I personally waste very little having come from a household where wasting food was regarded as a sin. Our Dad grew up in Germany between the wars and the Depression and didn’t even see butter until he was eleven. Many others whose parents (or they themselves) went through similar hardships such as rationing and the Depression will know what I mean. We use up leftovers and have  a long- standing tradition of market day stews or soups which use up any remaining vegetables, while things like overripe bananas go into smoothies, muffins or cakes.  

 I also like to shop on an almost daily basis like the French do, which is more expensive but allows me to buy fresh and only what I really need, as opposed to cheaper bulk buys, where much more is likely to go to waste. For those who actually have a job and don’t have to worry as much about saving money this is no doubt a bit of a luxury as they are much more time poor and stressed. Gone are the days when mothers could stay home and spend hours making delicious meals out of modest ingredients, or when households had the space to grow and store food. Urbanisation and denser living have also put paid to such things, unless people have made a deliberate lifestyle decision to say, support farmer’s markets or make their own food, both of which are generally more expensive as well as being more time consuming.

The 'peculiar' pears
Despite all this we still make our share of kitchen waste –potato peels, onion skins, wilted outer leaves of cabbage and so on. In landfill it turns into methane, which is a greenhouse gas three times  more potent  than carbon dioxide.When we tried using the neighbours ‘ compost bin  (we live in a kind of townhouse arrangement), they started to get rats, so I have just invested in a rather expensive Bokashi system. This is an indoor process favoured by the Japanese which uses benign microbes to ferment kitchen scraps -even fish and meat, without smells, flies or rodents. Afterwards, what remains can be put into the compost or buried in the garden or, as in my case, probably a flower pot, which would be OK to plant in two weeks later. I’ll let you know how it goes. For the Japanese there is also a spiritual dimension to this. Read about the concept of mottainai here, also the Swedish notion of lagom.

..and my  'abnormal ' apples which were indeed  'ridculously delicious.' I prefer the small ones anyway. Grab them while you  can and show  retailers that we can do with a little less perfection, especially if the price is right 
One last thought on this topic. Yes, it is wrong that so much food  is being wasted -according to Dr Karl  food waste makes up the bulk of US solid waste and we are surely not far behind . Nor is it much use telling one’s offspring how grateful someone on the other side of the world would be for those peas you have just had to throw out because  logistics are a big  part of the problem. It does however remind me of a lady I met once who was pondering what to do with an extra cabbage she had while people were starving in Africa . She hit upon the idea  of making soup with it and selling it at her morning church group. This went so well that she did it a few more times and was soon able to make a substantial donation. Perhaps workplaces could have a soup day like this once a month or even once a week.

The issue of packaging waste also came up in this program, but I will save that for the next post.

Another good use for undersized fruit seen in the local supermarket. How much  better than all  those strategically placed sweets and could stop the little darlings throwing a tantrum in the aisles too.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Time for a change?

Hi there everyone!

You may have noticed that I have been experimenting with different blog templates. I feel that this is a quieter time. All the bright buildings here have reverted to greys and whites and a particular shade of yellowish green grey. I do think the dark colours highlight the pictures better, though I am after a more subtle design. There are now so many competing blogs and so much busy, busy competing advertising. If you prefer the old design, let me know, if you can still remember what it was. Let me know too if you come across other blog pages which you liked whose design may be suitable for this one.

What about content? Are you happy that I write about things as I find them on a particular day, as I would have for newspapers, or would you prefer one blog for nature- based/ travel only, and that the other stuff - random events, recycling,  good ideas seen here and elsewhere, appear in a separate blog, or should I leave it as it it is, so if one post is not of great interest because you are unlikely to visit, another one might be? Is there something else you would rather see?

Almost impossible to find -  Bonsai and Ghost Patrol's "Weedy Seadragon" was one of the earliest public art projects. To find out what a Leafy Seadragon is. click here.

Meanwhile, I came across the above Hobart City Council sponsored Art Project while out with my son for some Mother's Day treats - lunch with two desserts, because I couldn't make up my mind which one to have - so decadent, and followed by a trip to the movies. My other son and his partner gave me a book I wish I had written - don't you hate that.
It's called "Atlas of Improbable Places" and I have at least been to one of them - Free Christiania, in Copenhagen. I am certainly looking forward to reading about and maybe seeing some of the rest - something to fantasize about while I can't get away.

A heart attack in every bite, but I always wondered what Banoffee was.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A gleam of Autumn

It’s Autumn - usually my favourite season when the days are clear and mellow, perfect for walking, and the trees put on their stunning colour display. Not so this year – it’s been wet or overcast and cold. Most of the leaves have stayed a muddy yellow green or have just turned brown and fallen off. I haven’t been able to do any walking either.

Not much autumn colour this year - Mostly everything looks like this

Only the reds have shown up clearly, like gleaming jewels, amid the browns and greens  and the berries have done well too. My son has a scientific explanation. The leaves have more anthocyanins and the plants are developing more sugar, but what does it mean? There are rumours of a warmish winter to come. Are the berries for the birds because they won’t need to migrate? Who knows, but it is different this year. 

There is almost nothing flowering, but there are lots of berries
Something for the birds?
Warm Winter? Cold Winter? What does the abundance of berries mean?

All is quiet and static as if Nature is holding her breath.

Children frolic among the fallen leaves