We sat around my brother's house for most of today. We did a lot of sitting and lolling and lounging about - and eating. We read the weekend newspapers and we talked to and teased each other in a playful way. The way that families do. We listened to music and we even danced a bit. I got up and strutted my stuff. We were friendly and familiar. We were adults and children and we were all shapes and sizes and ages.
We were family.
A few of us had a very good crack at the cryptic crossword but we didn't quite finish it and I wasn't too confident on some of our words. We got creative after awhile and it wasn't easy. It was cryptic and puzzling. We drank juice and coffee and tea and we ate toast as the clan progressively woke up and found our feet this morning. I cooked a few batches of pancakes and waffles. I fried the batter in slathers of butter on an old copper-bottomed fry pan which is an old friend of mine. I added caramelized bananas and toasted shredded coconut and then I dripped them with Canadian maple syrup. The real stuff from Canada. I made quite a few of these.
They were popular.
They were wicked.
We hung around the kitchen at first and then we spread across the lounge room. After a while we moved and sat outside in the late morning sun.
We fired up the barbie for a late lunch around two o'clock when others rolled in. We cooked lamb backs on the flaming grill over hot charcoals. We seared them quickly so they were black on the outside but still pink on the inside. They were medium rare - the way lamb should be cooked. We grilled chicken and parsley and feta cheese sausages and a couple of pieces of rib-eye fillet steak as well.
On the bone.
Our grandpa in Adelaide taught us when we were boys how to cook the perfect steak. Grandpa barbecued a lot. The secret was to turn the meat just once and only once and then rest the meat well. Resting is required for at least half the time that the meat has been cooked. Steaks are at their most tender and juicy when cooked this way. It is not that difficult.
We learnt this young. Our grandpa in Adelaide taught us this and my brother and I always cook perfect steaks.
We ate our lunch with a little salad and lots of crispy crusted French stick bread without any butter. We added lots of salt and pepper and home made sauces and relishes and we had a tomato salsa and a mint and apple cider dressing on the side. We served it all up on white china plates with matching jugs and laid it out on the big pine tables that are on my brother's terrace. We set it all out and then we wolfed it all down. There were a lot us there for lunch. We were a pack. We were a carnivorous and hungry one.
The food disappeared.
Quickly and loudly.
We sat on benches and on grassy lawns and some amongst us sprawled on sun lounges - the canvas ones with adjustable back angles. We were spread beneath some snow gum trees on the terrace of my brother's house. The barbecue was on centre stage for a while.
My brother Richard's house is nestled high in the Dandenong ranges that overlook the city of Melbourne in Australia. He lives on lots of acres of Australian bush and his beautiful house is set into the side of a hill. I helped him build it. A family of wombats live on my brother's property. They live in a network of tunnels and warrens that they burrowed out of the dusty dirt. The wombat tunnels honeycomb my brother's land.
The wombats are a family of three. There is a Mum and a Dad and a baby.
Wombats are nocturnal animals that are unique to Australia. They live nowhere else. They live underground and only come out at night to feed on leaves and roots. They are vegetarians. They are vegans in fact because they don't do dairy either. Or fish. Wombats sleep a lot during the day and they don't attack or bite. They aren't dangerous or poisonous. Wombats snuffle around in the dark and are quite loud. I have seen and I have heard them at my brother's place. Wombats are slow moving and docile creatures and they are round and they are hairy. They are cute and cuddly and baby wombats are adorable. They are my favorite animal.
Here is a picture of two wombats:
The skeleton of a prehistoric giant wombat was discovered in July 2011 in the north west of Queensland. It was uncovered during a dig by archeologists on a site near the Gulf of Carpenteria. This is at the top end of Australia. The skeleton is believed to be up to two million years old. This giant prehistoric wombat was estimated at being fourteen feet in length and weighing up to three tons so it was not so cute or cuddly. Wombats are very much smaller nowadays. They have been around for eons but they have diminished a lot in size over time.
They have shrunk heaps.
Wombats are marsupials. Marsupials are a distinctive set of mammals that are unique to the Australian continent. They are distinctive because they deliver their offspring very young and they then succor and raise them in a pouch. The kangaroo is Australia's most well known and recognized marsupial and their babies are called joeys. Koala bears and possums are also marsupials and Wombats are too. The mummies of these species all carry their babies in pouches.
My brother told me that he doesn't believe that he owns the wombats just because they live on his property. He said that he doesn't think of them as assets and he is just sharing the turf with them.
While we were chatting and eating and drinking on the terrace of my brother's house I heard the birdsong of magpies and parrots and kookaburras. I heard squawking and screeching and trilling and amongst all this I heard the noise of cicadas too. Cicadas are the noise of an Australian summer. If you are Australian you will know this because you will have heard it before. If you are away close your eyes and evoke memories of long ago summers when you were lulled to sleep to the creaking noises that cicadas make and you will think of home in the Summer.
It is a constant cacophony of bird and insect noise up here.
It is delightful.
There are nothing but gum trees and tree ferns in my current vista - for as far as my eyes can see. The trunks of the gum trees are blue and white and a rusty red and their foliage is green and grey and white. There are splashes of yellow and red wattle amongst all of this. The air is perfumed with eucalyptus. There are little white puffs of a few clouds in what is an otherwise bright blue sky and the sun is yellow and it is warming. The hue of the trees and their leaves shift and change with each breath of the wind and as the clouds brush past the sun. I am witnessing an orchestra of dancing colors.
It is stunning.
I pointed to the trees and the birds and the breath-taking views and told my brother that I thought that to live amongst all this must be wonderful and serene. He shrugged his shoulders and he told me that it was and he said that they probably took it all a bit for granted though. Seeing it every day and living in it.
I told him that I understood and I told my brother how I thought that I might have a better appreciation of everything like this about home when I had been away from it for a while.
I am flying back to Singapore tomorrow where there are no gum trees or kookaburras or wombats on my back terrace. I don't have a back terrace and so I am appreciating what I have at the moment.
I am soaking it in and I am lapping it up.
I told my brother Richard that I thought that this feeling of greater appreciation was a natural one and it was to be expected. He told me that he thought he knew what it was that I was feeling and what it was that I was trying to say. He told me that it wasn't going anywhere either and that I could come back anytime that I wanted to.
I told my brother that I found this very comforting and that it gives me a sense of peace. I feel an anchor point knowing that all this is here waiting for me - for whenever I want to come back home.
Or just to visit.