Sydney drivers are bamboozled by rain

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What is it about a splash of rain that makes Sydney drivers wet their pants?

A spot of rain and Sydney drivers act like a new life form has arrived on our shores, specifically our roads. Rain takes on biblical proportions, it’s like a plague of soggy locusts teeming down on all the land, which must be defeated by Team Australia, car by car, windscreen wiper by windscreen wiper.

When it rains Sydney motorists, with their sad wet weather faces (a cross between dentist appointment face and airport queue face) take driving to new passive aggressive heights. They slow down, then weirdly speed up. Like they think the weather will be better on the M2 if only could get there by driving fast through puddles.

Windsreen wipers sound like some kind of manic water feature. At traffic lights you can see a little windscreen wiper malfunction action going on, as drivers, try to find which wiper does the back windscreen.

As for buses, a little rain and they get even more bumfuzzled than usual. They drive aggressively past entire bus stops filled with umbrellas but then they approach roundabouts slower than a wet week.

Of course, you can try to pretend that everything is fine, and turn on the radio. Only it doesn’t help. In a stroke of breathtaking originality, Sydney radio stations play any song mentioning rain on high rotation, just in case you hadn’t noticed IT’S RAINING!

There’s only so many times I can listen to Belinda Carlisle’s Summer Rain. There’s only so much a girl can take of It’s Raining Men. Especially when I have on my wet weather face combined with my rain hair, which I have to go and fix up now. But that’s a whole other blog.

 

Ground down and queued up at Alexandria

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I read recently that the insanely popular The Grounds at Alexandria is expanding and will soon have a cider bar, burger bar, child minding, a children’s cinema and woodchopping. This is on top of the potting shed, chickens, artisan bakery, coffee “research” facility, barnyard kitchen, waffle stand and free yoga.

They could have just stuck to being a pie factory.

This restaurant, which is a smidge bigger than Rooty Hill RSL, bills itself as serving consciously evolved fruit and veg (sorry, holistic produce), and hand-raised Mayan chia sourdough. The Grounds wants us to be so flaming rural that, by heck, we’ll find a haystack in our underpants. It wants us to hold a flaky apple crumble in our hand and see a house on the prairie wrapped in a rainbow. It wants us to do a happy dance after spending $72.38 on a slice of Himalayan yak jerky.

There is no seating, which will lead to enlightened conversation with fellow customers, huddling with plates on knees by the piggery.

“I’m having the dandelion milk fed organic, hand-raised cow called Hendrick. He liked listening to Gregorian chants.”

“Oh, really, I’m eating Hendrick too.”

In real country life we’d be getting up at 4am to shoot some sheep and skin them with our bare hands then clean out the blood from all the pigs we castrated in the pig pen. We’ve all seen the movie Babe.

But still that hasn’t stopped Sydneysiders. They are prepared to queue all morning and twice on weekends just to takeaway a slice of country life. And a waffle. And a hotdog and some “researched” coffee.

Confession: I’ve never been to The Grounds. On the grounds that I don’t want to spend three hours queueing for a bit of bread, however hand-embroidered it is. I’m not in any particular hurry to go, it seems like a kind of theme park for people who haven’t set foot outside the inner west.

Besides, I have my own garden, sorry, house-grown organic holistic produce. Excuse me, I just have to go and accidentally eat a caterpillar.

 

Jackie Lambie is no package deal

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Jackie Lambie does a spot-on impression of a bull terrier when she talks tough. Which is all the time, as she is always angry at something whether it be Tony Abbott, tax breaks for millionaires or kale.

Without doubt some people find her a bit scary, loud, bogan, bossy or aggressive. She is no shrinking violet, she’s certainly not waiting around for Edward from Twilight to come and rescue her. Instead she will bear her teeth and kick some butt-ugly butt to get stuff done.

She’s an easy target to lampoon, now that we don’t have Pauline Hansen any more. Jackie Lambie with her 200 hi-vis yellow scarves and her unfiltered and unfettered thought bombs. Her radio interview about her ideal partner being built like Thunder Downunder with a bank balance of Clive Palmer was roundly ridiculed. Her statement that Tony Abbott used his daughters politically was accurate but she was demonised anyway and her other statement about him being a political psychopath was put down by the press corp, they were probably just jealous they hadn’t thought of it.

The press corp don’t really know how to interpret her. They don’t want to be seen to be too sexist, too boganist or too Tasmanian-ist. After all, she knows how to use a gun. They want to be mean, but not too mean, after all she is a PUP, and the media are enthralled by Fat Clive.

So, the media do what they do – pounce on statements about big packages and bank balances, find every utterance she makes about the “puppies”, every barb about Tony Abbott and dress it up as politics when its just run of the mill argey bargey. If she wasn’t Jackie Lambie saying these things, say if it was someone tedious and unknown like say, Darren Chester, it wouldn’t be news.

I get the feeling I don’t fully agree with some of the things Jackie would do if she was Prime Minister for a day. But I do think she should be judged on policies not her sound barks.

And so what if she thinks kale is a carseat or likes big packages, let’s get to policy first before the hi-vis scarves.

The fable of the giant canetoad and the fat man

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When Tony Abbott gets into his jim jams at night and hops in the sack, he must surely dream of a time not so long ago, when he made the government look ridiculous.

Those halcyon days when he was Opposition Leader.

Nowadays he is making the government look ridiculous for another reason. He’s in government and the no-surprises-no-excuses government has turned into a big fat disaster. With him at the helm.

The Liberals certainly have kicked some home goals (I’m talking paid parental scheme, GP co-payments, ill-advised winks), but they couldn’t have known that Fat Clive would mess with them so much.

Tony Abbott must be having nightmares about a fat cat in a blue and red checked loose shirt, who despite being a shirt size of XXXXXL is so politically nimble he outmanoeuvres the government at every turn.

No matter what the policy, even the ones Clive Palmer actually likes (free M&Ms to mining magnates for instance) there’s another false start and another rabbit comes out of Clive’s Big Bag of Tricks. He scoffs, he rails, he gives an interview, makes a folksy joke, walks out of another interview and generally throws magic dust at the media.

Meanwhile, the Liberals, Tone E. Abbott, in particular, are looking weak and King Clive reigns over all of us.

It’s surreal to watch the Liberals look chastened. They who looked so masterful and in control the last election now appear to have the political nous of parsnip and are attempting to govern as though they are starring in a Lego movie and Everything is Awesome. The budget is resembling a limp lettuce sandwich and only now, months since the budget was handed down, are they realising they need to sweet-talk the crossbenchers after all.

I do not mean to sound in any way judgemental, but a reasonably intelligent labradoodle could have done a better job at selling the budget.

But, as usual in this wide brown land, we get the government we deserve. If the voters thought that Tony Abbott, with his cane toad eyes and Medieval policies was going to be any good, they too must be dreaming.

 

Restaurants hardly provide soft furnishings

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Every time I go to a restaurant I feel myself becoming more and more like an old person yelling. Restaurants are now louder than Clive Palmer’s ties (and that’s a Julie’s Rant Fact).

Gone are all the stuff that makes you feel at home: carpet, curtains, wallpaper, comfy chairs, paintings and a working toilet. Instead there are concrete floors and walls, aluminium benches and tables, mismatched cutlery and the occasional potplant about 20 metres up a wall (I mean who is going to water that? Hagrid?).

But still I go out, as it beats cooking. And come back with a cricked neck from leaning forward to hearing what gem of wisdom my dining companion has to say (usually complaints about the noise) and from shouting my order at the waitperson. It goes like this:

Me: I’d like the pork and a salad

Waitperson: You need another fork and a side of lard?

This was an actual conversation apart from the bit I made up.

I don’t know who started this minimalist trend. Did it start in a zen garden (no, zen gardens are quiet!). Or did it start by some evil superchefs who wanted to punish people for not pronouncing jus? Yes! Or did it come from restaurants wanting to save on carpet cleaning costs? Yes!

I think we should only go to eating establishments with carpet, curtains and tablecloths and matching crockery. Oh hang on, that’d mean eating at home.

 

 

 

 

How to get ‘em queueing

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It’s easy to make money in Sydney. All you need to do is not do anything people actually need and instead buy a struggling old business, do a Mexican streetfood refit and then advertise your new eatery.

There are virtually no post offices, old-school garages and butcheries left in this town, they’ve already been transformed into The Garage, The Butcher’s Block or La Stazione or Il Postino. Bookstores have already turned themselves into cafes, and next will surely be newsagents and banks.

Meanwhile the owners of the themed cafes are laughing all the way to the bank. People are queuing up faster than you can say doppia macchiato to get a slice of contrived action.

As for menu, well, basically sorted. Pepe butter, Sonoma bread, Hanks Jams. There must be macaroons, vine-ripened tomatoes and hay-fed pork sausages from Bangalow. And it must be overpriced.

Then – cue stroke of genius – the business doesn’t take bookings, giving the impression that they are really popular, cool, hip and in demand. And sit back let em queue, let ‘em queue and sit back and walk to the bank. Hold on, it’s already a new cafe, La Banque. Heard it’s good.

Aussie Winter Olympics Coverage: s’no good

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If Channel Ten was hoping to inject a little snow magic into their Winter Olympics coverage, it’s more like a whiteout. With the exception of Roy & HG, the TV coverage is a 50-shades-of-bogan medley of skateboarding on snow and moguls. These are sports where Australia actually has an entry. Then Channel 10 tries to make it seem like this person is a star and relentlessly shows said hopeful eating cereal, hanging out with granddad, walking along the beach at sunset and answering questions like “Would you like to win a gold medal for Australia?”

Said hopeful will then finish say, 15th, and the commentator will say “they have put the world on notice”. I am not making this up. Then there are repeats of the top 15 performance. Note to Channel 10 – top 15 is not a medal! Note to taxpayers – we are funding this!

Meanwhile, back in Sochi, there are some fabulous events going on, with good-looking men in lycra, and we are seeing bugger all of it, due to there being no actual Australians who can ski downhill fast.

I’d like to see more ski jump, downhill and skating. More scenery and more Scandinavians in lycra. That’s what I call viewing gold.

American diner food is a real cheek

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It’s ironic that for years we have pilloried American food and now in Sydney, American diner food is the new hip food at any half-trendy restaurant.

It’s hard to swivel sideways in a Sydney nosherie without seeing corn gritts, pulled pork collar butt (I am not making this up), waffles, wings, sliders, ham slow-roasted in Coca Cola, Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Whooppee Pie.

If you go to the site www.thisiswhyyourefat.com compare it with Sydney’s haute, hip cuisine, you’ll see it’s basically the same thing. KFC Deep Fried Soup featured on This Is Why You’re Fat will be Sydney’s next go-to dish – you heard it first here!

I could care less (as the Americans would say) but it’s just so weird. Since when did hot dogs become hip? What was wrong with the foam of 2009? Or the tonka bean of 2010? Why did we have to go to the pulled pork butt cheek? I know most chefs are whackjobs, but they are on way too many drugs this time.

Some might say it is a nostalgic return to the Yankee comfort food of the 1950s. I reckon it’s junk food for grown ups and a nice little earner for restauranteurs – how expensive can corn with a side of mayo, Mac ‘n’ Cheese and miniature burgers be?

All I can say is, please stop! And next time I see a piece of meat infused in Coca Cola with a $45 price tag, I’ll pull my own pork cheek.

An epic listicle of expressions I hate

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Inspired by Adam Zwar’s excellent paid rant in the SMH the other day, I’d like to knock off some of Adam’s pet hates and contribute a few of my own thoughts on expressions that should henceforth be banned.

  1. It’s all good – no it’s not. Sometimes it’s bad or ordinary. Besides, if Gwyneth Paltrow’s book title is It’s All Good, then you know you should never use this expression again.
  2. Epic – this word is doing the rounds in epic, sorry, very large, numbers. Everything is epic, including restaurant dishes, holidays, parties, movies. The only thing it is not applied to is people’s waistlines, which is the only epic thing I’m seeing post Christmas.
  3. Pulled pork – what is this? Isn’t it just meat?
  4. Listicle – sounds like some icy, bright-coloured treat, but it’s just an ordinary old dot point list.
  5. Selfie – I would like this to go back to the place it came from, which I highly suspect was KRudd’s media advisor (aka KRudd).
  6. Reach out – what happened to just talking to someone? It’s not a North Carolina Jesus Convention. It’s just talking.
  7. All corporate speak. All of it. You know who you are: have a conversation, with respect, outcomes, tasked, incentivize – it’s all a bad listicle of euphemisms for getting the sack, more work or an epic please explain.
  8. Twerking. I have no idea what this is but I do know Clive Palmer should not be doing this in public.
  9. Onesie – nuff said.

Image: Sue and Steve Show

Small bars; big price

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If you are looking for a butcher, post office, garage or corner shop, chances are it has been converted into a too-cool-for-my-pinot wine bar.

Of course, Melbourne has had small bars for a while, but Sydney has embraced it like it was all its idea the whole time. Small bars are liberally sprinkled in the city and inner west and now they are sweeping the north shore, like an out-of-control bushfire. Or herpes.

Small bars always have a bit of a theme (even Granny’s boudoir would do), a bizarre wine list, miniature food portions and hipster waitstaff from the inner west on temporary protection visas.

Then there’s the price. A quiet drink at a small bar is likely to cost the same as a big night out. These small bars don’t get out of bed for less than $10 a glass of wine, with some bars charging as much as $18 a glass.

Food is around $12 a plate for a few morsels, so let’s do the maths. For two drinks and two tasting plates and we are up to $40. At least. And if you want dessert, you may need to sell a kidney or two.

I’ve got nothing against small bars, they are cute, safe and don’t televise sport (hooray). But it’s an expensive way to eat and drink – and that’s no small matter.