Monthly Archives: November 2014

Melbourne Musings – a Tale of Two Hamburgians

Let’s call him Horst. He was a bright, lively, lithe young man who was the sole soul behind the counter of the Crocs retail outlet down in the basement of the new Emporium complex. This aggregation of shops is to be found in the stead of the old Little Bourke Street Myers. As a retail venue it was recommended to us by our mate Brother Jim as a must see for our recent visit to Yarra City. For my tastes, initially, it looked too upmarket, but Darling Loving Partner was keen to visit its shiny interior. And inside, to my delight, we did find a cornucopia of delights.

SONY DSCSummer Crocs Display

Apart from a few old favourites, the centre of Old Bearbrass has held little appeal for me in terms of its offerings for shopping, particularly now as Hobs has had for some time its own JBs. It’s full of the same global franchises to be found in any capital on the planet. No, this shopper has always preferred the more eclectic appeal of the strips such as Acland, Smith, Brunswick and Clarendon/Coventry for his retail kicks. But once inside the Emporium that changed. Sure the same generics were there, but it, together with the accompanying Strand, seemed both less pretentious and frenetic than its rivals, two qualities off-putting for me. We were soon spending money. We were also impressed with the fit-out that has occurred across the road in the old GPO to accommodate the behemoth that is the Swedish experience H and M – worth taking in for the visuals and the accommodating pricing.

But back to the Emporium where the Croc Shop really caught my eye – mainly because of the display of unCroc-like sandals on show. Soon DLP was in there trying on summery foot attire. And this is where Horst came into the frame. Once DLP had made her choice, she and Horst teamed up to work their considerable combined charm on me. ‘Come on, you know you love them,’ they cajoled in unison. I have been a recent convert to the comforts of Crocs so, once a generous discount was on offer, I was putty in their hands. DLP purchased a pair featuring real leather for me.
She is so generous my love.

As you do, because the little outlet was hardly flushed with customers, we got to chatting with Horst. He hailed from Hamburg, was studying in Oz and very homesick – seemingly at odds with his professed urge to get out of Germany for a while. He was enjoying Melbourne, but reckoned Byron was the place to be for him. He was underwhelmed by his visit to Tassie -‘down there the people don’t talk to you.’ he opined. Eventually other potential victims to his talents entered and we made our departure, delighted with our purchases and that we’d come across such a charming chap.

Let’s call her Helga. She was bright, lively and lithe. She served us our tucker at Clover and Rye, an eatery on Bridge Road (410) in Richmond, again recommended by Brother Jim. And a fine recommendation it was too. I’d read that this area, a haven for DFOs, was struggling. But on a Friday eve the restaurants in this sector of it seemed to be thriving. In the case of Clover and Rye, its popularity was certainly because of its very fine fare. The paella delivered to me by the fair Helga was ace. DLP and Brother Jim were similarly complimentary about their chosen dishes. And the lovely Helga was certainly an attractive asset to the place as well. She was in the early throes of working her way around Oz and was looking forward to experiencing my island’s wilderness. But first she had to earn some dosh to make that possible – thus her presence attending to our culinary needs. She’d been to Sydney already and found the Emerald City very much to her liking – but as for Melbourne? So far it wasn’t too positive. She was underwhelmed by her time in the city on the brown river- ‘Here the people don’t talk to you.’ she opined. Then she let slip she was also from a certain German city – and DLP’s eyes lit up.

SONY DSCHelga (left) with colleagues

My wonderful lady couldn’t help herself. She described, in most alluring fashion, a certain young man we had met in the bowels of the Emporium and hinted that maybe the fair Helga should seek him out. DLP was matchmaking. When Helga asked her to repeat exactly where Horst was to be found, DLP knew she was on to a possibility.

Of course we’ll never know if that will actually happen – whether she will take the Number 48 into the city and seek him out. But my DLP is content in the knowledge that there is a remote chance of two Hamburgians finding happy ever-afters thanks to her assistance.

Staff at Clover and Rye with ‘Helga’ on the Left

DLP chose the city on the Yarra rather than the city on the Harbour for our pre-Christmas excursion to the Mainland. She’s grown to appreciate its attributes in recent times, plus there was the chance to catch up with some of her mates – Brother Jim and Judy. The former took us to his Hawthorn (pity he’s Collingwood through and through) community and we were privileged to view his stupendous place of worship. It was quite gobsmacking. Later we dined with him again at our regular haunt, the Spaghetti Tree (59 Bourke). For me it has just great lasagne served in a lusty amount. This Saturday night the place was pumping. Yes, the music was a little loud, but at least it references the classics rather than thumpa-thumpa.

Our other dining experience was Tsindos (197 Lonsdale) and in deference to DLP, I will not go into too much detail about the attractive elan of our Cypriot-Pakistani waiter – except to say he was outstanding in attentiveness given the place was extremely busy. The fare here was also great. My mixed grill was almost heaven. DLP’s calamari was indeed so.

I did enjoy this trip across the Strait. As well as luxuriating in DLP’s presence at my side, our hostelry in Little Bourke Street, the Mercure, was adequate. The room came with a great view down the guts of China Town and that was a plus. The twin exhibitions of Jean Paul Gaultier and David Shrigley, at the NGV St Kilda Road, were both ultra-impressive for very different reasons. They are well worth a visit if Melbourne is a destination over the festive season. Acland Cakes (97) tempted DLP with one of its luscious treats and we discovered a very fine pub in our wanderings along Smith Street, the Grace Darling (114). If a visit to the South Melbourne Markets is on your itinerary when next in that part of the world, try breakfasting across the road from it at the retro Bunyip Café (313 Coventry).

For DLP and I it was a hectic four days in Yarra City. We were both relatively stuffed on our return. We are starting to know the importance of pacing ourselves but, that being said, I can’t wait to get back there in ’15. And maybe, just maybe, ’15 will be a very romantic year for Helga and Horst.SONY DSC

The new Melbourne Emporium  =

Clover and Rye =

The Grace Darling =

The Bunyip Cafe =

The Spaghetti Tree =

A Mistress at the Library

He wrote of her:
‘The day when a woman who passes in front of you and gives off light as she walks you are lost, you are in love. There is only one thing to do: think of her so intently that she is forced to think of you.’

She wrote of him:
There can be no happiness greater than that I enjoyed this afternoon with you, clasped in your arms, your voice mingling with mine, your eyes in mine, your heart upon my heart, our very souls melded together. For me there is no man on earth but you.’

On a chilsome winter’s afternoon I turned a page in my daily Age and there she was – a glorious woman staring back at me. I was taken by her and went to the words to see what she was about. Alas she was only mentioned in passing – she was a great man’s mistress. It was all about him, the subject of a new exhibition at the State Library of Victoria. I took, as is my wont and pleasure these days, to the ether to discover more about the dazzling creature that captured my eye that afternoon. So, loving that Yarra City repository of books, I contemplated a jaunt to Melbourne to view yet another showing within its walls.


Victoria’s premier library is a fabulous place to be. From its expansive portico it is possible to sit and relax, observing the passing parade up and down the top end of Swanston. It is in its interior that the treasures lie – books ancient, our infamous criminal’s armour and the marvellous reading room. The latter, viewed from above, is indeed one of the city’s best sights. In total the contents can hold one in its thrall for hours. But sadly, in the end, I decided against yet another trip to Old Bearbrass. It would be silly to initiate a venture on the single etching of a comely illustrious man’s lover!

reading room

The centrepiece of the exhibition, featuring her, contained a French national treasure, rarely leaving that country – the original manuscript to Les Misérables. That very production was concurrently running on a stage somewhere in the metropolis – a double-header then perhaps? No, I’d viewed a local effort, which surprised me by being remarkably entertaining – but I am not big on iconic musicals, so again the notion was dismissed. The great man referred to is of course Victor Hugo. His story has been told countless times – but what of this woman who careered into his orb and knocked him for six?

She is described in an account of the times as a ‘...delicate beauty; the nose chiselled and of handsome outline, the eyes limpid and diamond bright, the mouth moistly crimson, and tiny, even in her gayest fits of laughter.‘ She was also a most mediocre actress, but it was her reputation as a fashion plate, in the manner of today’s supermodels, that set her apart – that and her succession of lovers. Of these there were too many to count – and that gilded her reputation, for better or worse. On an equal footing with the beds of her enamoured beaux, she adored casinos and thus was constantly in debt. She was quixotic. She was quicksilver. She was Juliette Drouet. And here’s what the ether told me of her.

Julienne (she tweaked with her given names to suit her purposes) was born in humble circumstances in France, in 1806. She was soon to be separated from her parents, Julien and Marie Gauvain, Raised by her uncle, René Drouet, she changed her name to his as her stage fame grew. She was described as an intelligent but precocious child with teenagerdom finding her a stunning and vibrant beauty as well. At a very tender age she caught the eye of sculptor James Pradier who became a father figure to her, as well as her first known lover. She posed naked for him, inspiring much of his oeuvre. But when life became far too tiresome for the worldly miss, he encouraged her to embrace acting to gain a focus for her energy. She was a shocker at it, she truly was – but her radiant looks ensured her continuous parts – as well as many shared beds, particularly if their owners could enhance her prospects. She believed it to be far too beneath her to be loyal to just one paramour – she had them simultaneously – all over Paris.


Toto, her nickname for Hugo, first came across her in 1833 when she was cast in his stage adaptation of the story of Lucrezia Borgia. Juliette still retained her plebeian enunciation of the French language and couldn’t act to save herself – but Hugo saw the way her very presence lit up his stage. She was hypnotic and thus he was soon besotted. He’d just discovered his childhood sweetheart and now wife, Adele, had done the dirty on him and so, poor man, he was very vulnerable. Juliette saw her chance and took it. She was also besotted, not by him so much as his fame – at least initially.

In her welcoming arms Hugo felt newborn and soon his ardour was being passionately reciprocated. First she fell for the trappings, but was soon truly in love. She became the epitome of the kept woman. To indicate what this meant at the time, there is much parallel between her situation and that of Dicken’s mistress, Nelly Ternan. The recent movie ‘The Invisible Woman’ describes Nelly’s lot once she, too, became ‘kept’. It could be a stultifying, desultory existence. Drouet bore it all to have time with Hugo.


He set her up in a residence near his family home, a place she never ventured from unless accompanied by or to meet her man. This they would try to do daily at a tree halfway between the two abodes. In it letters were left when it was impossible to have a face to face encounter. Fortunately many of their epistles of devotion to each other have remained for posterity. She went with Hugo on his long literary tours in the guise as his secretary, so it wasn’t all bad. Later in life Juliette accompanied him into exile in 1852, to the Channel Islands, when Victor chose the wrong side in one of France’s frequent political upheavals. Unfortunately she’d also given her Toto a taste for affairs so he was not faithful at all to her. They also quarrelled incessantly over her profligate spending – he was quite thrifty. But for Juliette Hugo remained her ‘perfect man’, her ‘...marvel of all the ages.’ She remained the ‘…lowly woman that adores you.’

Drouet died in Paris having attained the age of seventy-seven. Two years later her Toto passed. Six months before her demise she wrote to him – ‘I do not know where I will be this time next year but I am happy to sign my life certificate for 1883 with this one (sic) word: I love you.’


Juliette in later life

State Library of Victoria website =

Growing Old With Sam de B and The Judge

My Darling Loving Partner has done a wonderful job, over the years, transforming our house by the river – new roof, new floorings, new carpet, new built-ins – all done with her impeccable taste, made possible by a perceptive eye for colour and detail. Why, she’s even created for me the pure joy of a man cave, to make my life totally complete. And she has not finished. She has plans. The rear of the kitchen is in her sights. It is to be extended out to add some spaciousness. Then there’s the bathroom – but that does have me a tad concerned, dear reader.

In his regular column for my favourite former broadsheet, Sam de Brito recently riffed on the displeasures of growing older in ‘The Humiliations of Ageing’. For those of us in the autumnal years, as if we didn’t already know, he considerately lists such blows to one’s already fragile ego as ‘…when you go for a haircut now, your barber asks you pleasantly if you’d like your eyebrows done as well.’ and ‘Glancing up, you glimpse a crusty old fat bloke looking at you from the adjoining shop window and jolt with the realisation it’s you.’ But for Sam de B, the ugly reality of advancing years is measured by the increasing difficulties associated with, in the bleary-eyed, possibly hung-overed early morning hours, of attending to one’s lower garments. In other words, getting them on. He refers to undies, boxers and shorts. S de B cites examples of some serious indignities, even injuries, occurring when misjudgements are made, due to haste and lack of balance, associated with the difficult manoeuvres needed to emerge fully clothed in the area of the bottom half. It is indeed, as he desired, chortle inducing reading – if only it wasn’t such a common affliction for men around my age.


But, proudly. I have that all sorted. My foolproof method – with heavy emphasis on the ‘fool’ bit – is to place said garment flat on the floor, then, one at a time, wriggle/creep each foot into each said opening, then reach down and pull up. Simple. It’s when jeans or trousers are involved that my method comes up sorely lacking. I had found myself regularly crashing into furniture or, worse, face-planting a horizontal surface formerly positioned under my feet. Socks provided similar consternation – and it was then I discovered the secondary usefulness of our bathroom’s basin/benchtop – thus my concerns at my gorgeous lady’s plans.

Now my DLP is not satisfied with this essential item’s height. In her reckoning it needs to be raised a good couple of inches so bending down, almost in half, before it is no longer a necessity. On the contrary, I find it just peachy when it comes to satisfactorily coming to grips with the problems two socks and long-legged pants cause me. You see, at its height now I can place my posterior gently on the lip of the unit, carefully leaning back into it as socks or trousers are raised up my two appendages. In doing so, all danger of toppling over is thus eliminated. If it was raised higher, then the snugness of the fit is lost. It would spell potential disaster. I would need to resort to adopting the ‘commando roll’ method Sam advises – and what a most unedifying sight that would make. That is not to be confused with ‘going commando’. I would never succumb to that temptation as it is the longer form of attire that causes most angst. But, I guess, as a foil to concussion, the ‘roll’ it would have to be. The problem is not going to go away, so for now I have a fall back plan, but what of the future?

That was bought home to me through accompanying DLP to view ‘The Judge’ – a very fine cinema piece currently on offer at most multiplexes. It features Robert Downey Jr in the sort of role he now has down (good play on words there) pat. He’s a smarmy, cynical, wise-cracking defence lawyer noted for getting the seriously guilty off the hook. His mother’s death sees him reluctantly returning home to Hicksville, USA to confront his past. Estranged for some time from his father, the town’s judge, he soon notes all is not as it should be with his old man. Age has seriously diminished him in more ways that one – and is compounded when he is accused of killing the local scumbag in hit and run style. As the crusty, newly vulnerable old bugger, Robert Duvall is mesmerising. In narrative terms the story has been done over and over – pretty soon you know how it’ll all work out and Hollywood doesn’t let you down. The magic of this piece is in the performances, particularly by the venerable Duvall. It is hard to imagine he’s well into his eighties now. We have all watched him age on screen over the years. It gives pause for thought to realise he might not be able to be up there for much longer. He still possesses serious acting chops, but then, as an ensemble piece, this movie takes a bit of beating.


There’s a blast from the past as far as Downey’s character Henry Palmer’ s love life is concerned with his high school sweetheart, Samantha Power, now quite the local entrepreneur out to charm and dazzle. She’s engagingly played by Vera Farmiga, an actress who, unlike the rest of us, seems to become more luscious as she heads towards her fifties and beyond. Very affecting are Henry’s two brothers, played by Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong – and Billy Bob Thornton is effective as the imported prosecutor. The whole shebang is quite superb, even given the predictability of the outcome.

But it was the scene where Judge Palmer loses control of his bowels, in his son’s presence, that really got to me with this movie. That, Sam de B, is the real humiliation of ageing. Is that me in times to come – is that what lies ahead?

Mr de Brito’s musings on the pitfalls of the years passing, in terms of one’s battles with garments not really designed for those increasingly unsupple due to the ravages of lives well lived, is a delightful read. As for this scribbler – well Sam, I don’t really want to be one day like that dog you mentioned, farting and shuffling my way into the twilight and losing control. I want my sunset to be better than that. I suppose we all do.

Sam de Brito’s column =

Trailer for ‘The Judge’ =

One Summer America 1927 – Bill Bryson

Al Jolson, the American entertainer who put paid to the silent era on the silver screen, received his jollies by urinating on people. Didn’t know that, did you?


It was in the summer of 1927 that Jolson’s ‘The Jazz Singer’ electrified audiences in cinemas all over the US, thus changing the movies forever – and costing thousands their jobs as collateral damage. All this, as well as many more yarns; plus facts both weird, fantastical and world-shaping, are to be found in Bill Bryson’s latest which, month by month, takes us through an American summer like no other.

The recent, excellent television series, ‘The Sixties’, shown on SBS, looked at the decade that shaped the baby-boomer generation – to which this scribbler belongs. Of course, the stand-out year of that was 1968 – for us BBers a twelve month period never to be forgotten. With the Vietnam War at its bloodiest Nixon enters the White House after an assassination denied another Kennedy. Martin Luther King was gunned down, US cities became war zones and the Summer of Love was pronounced dead. Only the first Kennedy’s loss and the destruction of the Twin Towers can rival the events of that year in the consciousness of most Americans of a certain age – and therefore, by default, the rest of the world.

Now imagine all those happenings of ’68 compacted into just the few months of one summer – that of 1927 – and you get the impact that brief time had on a previous generation of world citizenry. In that time lay the foundation of the Great Depression and the following global conflict, the shaping of the way we now transport ourselves, the nub of modern infatuation with celebrity and our ardour for sport.


In ‘One Summer America 1927’, most of the seminal figures that did all this shaping are well known, but arguably the ones who had the greatest impact were not to me. Benjamin Strong, Sir Montague Norman, Hjalmar Schauht and Charles Rist got together on Long Island, meeting in secret in a tycoon’s hideaway. And what they decided changed our world forever. Those names do not resonate with us like Kennedy, Nixon or King, nor indeed the other icons of Bryson’s summer, but you see these guys were the heads of the largest world banks of the era. What this quartet set in stone at that get together caused the economic catastrophe that was to occur two years later. Of course it was all based on greed – and with the GFC, it shows we do not learn the lessons of history – never have, perhaps never will. This encounter, together with its its repercussions, are all dissected in layman’s terms by Mr Bryson, along with all else that was going on during those fateful months – May through to September. Had it all been fiction it would be impossible to believe. It wasn’t. It all took place.

This, as with most of BB’s oeuvre (with the possible exception of ‘A Walk in the Woods’), is a vastly entertaining opus. Recurring throughout are stories associated with the names that have, unlike the aforementioned four, survived, with an aura, down to our times. Here Billy B takes us into the worlds of Charles Lindberg, Babe Ruth, Presidents Coolidge and Hoover, Henry Ford, Clara Bow and Al Capone – all, in various ways, taking the globe with them on new paths that gobsmacked those who lived in those times. Back then the US of A was the world’s greatest economy, the farce that was Prohibition was in operation and the Dust Bowl was just around the turn of the decade. But that summer of ’27 must have been just the most remarkable time to have been alive to witness it all!


Lindberg’s barnstorming around the country, after his trans-Atlantic heroics, opened up the possibilities of commercial aviation to land/sea-hugging travellers. Ruth, the Bradman of baseball, along with a boxer called Dempsey, took sport into a new stratosphere. The libidinous Clara Bow became the first Hollywood sex symbol and the execution of two terrorists, Bartholomeo Vinzet and Nicola Sacco, highlighted the fact that home grown terrorism is nothing new. Bombs that summer were going off all across the country, but now those atrocities are largely forgotten. The electrocution of these two migrant Italians caused street demonstrations as far away as in Sydney, Australia. To find out why, do read this wonderful book.

The biggest grossing star of the summer was Rin Tin Tin, a sporting groupie called Claire Merritt Hodgson was ticking off the number of baseball superstars she had bedded and train travel had reached a degree of luxuriousness it is difficult to contemplate now. Sadly, for many of us who enjoy the slower pace of rail, it was a coterie of young men in flimsy flying machines that changed all that. It is, though, edifying to read the facilities and tucker that the great trains, such as the Union Pacific and the Twentieth Century Limited, offered in BB’s tome. This always accessible writer is even able to make baseball, a somewhat alien sport to us here in Oz, remotely interesting through the deeds of the Babe and Lou Gehrig.

These, as well as so many other larger than life characters, populate the six hundred or so pages of this seamless read. As a bonus, the author at the end takes the history makers through to their demise with a short biographical piece on each. It is instructive to see how Lindberg, in the end, became quite a reviled figure. There were also his late in life affairs that have only just come to light – all with German women. The book is fascinating, simply fascinating.

Now my own father, I do seem to remember, was not much of a reader, but he loved Zane Grey. You may think Hemingway or Fitzgerald as being the literary icons of the age – but their sales were minuscule compared to Grey. The former dentist from Ohio, who gave us ‘The Riders of the Purple Sage’, had a deep secret. He was an ardent outdoorsman, with his passion extending to taking what Bryson describes as ‘…attractive, high-spirited young women…’ out into the wilderness, photographing them naked or engaging in sexual activity with him – after which he would write his erotic adventures up in journals using his own secret code. From his writings in 1927 ZG made around $325000 as opposed to FSF exactly $37,599 – and who do we remember?


Bill Bryson’s website –

DO'N Gets Me Going With His Tucker Talk

He’s a big boy, is Dave O’Neil. When thinking of him, I am drawn to another large fellow, Sir Harry Secombe and his nick name,’Circumference’. I doubt DO’N will ever espy this so I won’t apologise for the analogy, but his recent musing in a recent ‘Shortlist’ supplement of the Age also had me thinking. It was on one of his favourite topics – tucker. And you can see this man enjoys lusty helpings. Like me, he’s no gourmand, but he knows what he wants and in ‘Why I’m Not Sharing My Food’, riffed away on some recent restaurant trends that have caused him displeasure. He rails about the sharing of courses, about tapas and whines about the new necessity of lining up for a table, rather than being able to pre- book. So let’s examine this complaints in reverse order.


Once upon a time one took up a phone, rang a restaurant, gave time and number of diners and an evening meal was assured. But another practice has now even reached my far-flung corner of culinary delights – here local eateries have, in increasing numbers, taken to not accepting reservations unless you’re a party of seventy-six or some such number. If we are a couple, or even worse, a single – then a gamble has to be taken. Yep, this involves lining up – or getting quietly sozzled at the bar whilst awaiting a placement. Neither are my idea of a fun night out. If I am away, in a mainland city for instance, I am happy enough, within reason, to get in a queue, as generally I am coming in off the street. In this situation a fullish establishment is usually a sign that the food is more than agreeable. It also gives me a chance to gauge what is on the plate. In the cut throat market that exists in Melbourne or Sydney, a meal provider with idle staff is patently heading for the rocks and there’d be a good reason for that.

In Adelaide, recently, my darling loving partner and I came in off North Terrace to sample a certain restaurant’s fare and ended up having a ninety minute wait before a harried, novice maitre d’ could seat us. In the end it turned out worth it as there was a quality waiter; as well as quality random fellow diners, (these almost seated up under our armpits – imagine if they’d been dicks) – and then added in was the quality of the dishes we ordered. Together these more than made up for the delay. It gave my lovely lady and I one of our best dining experiences in recent times. Jamie Oliver’s Italian was extremely busy that evening – a great sign considering it was a Monday night. It had a vibe and ambience that perhaps would not be suited to a romantic night out, but gee, if we ever get a franchise of it in Hobs, I’d be a regular.


Now I have a mate who uses a different system when he is away from home for selecting a restaurant to meet his needs. For him the tucker and the room’s fullness are secondary. He does his best to ensure that his choice is based on the number of attractive women it possesses as wait staff – and when you reach the age he (and I) are at, being attended to by a beautiful woman plying one with adequate fare is not to be sneezed at. For me, though, that would be a bonus on top of what is, in quality and amount, served up. I wonder if my pal’s methodology has ever entered DO’N’s head?

‘No, what I want is large, tasty servings on a normal sized white plate.’ states DO’N. I’m in agreement. A night of tapas or finger food delivered at intervals at a function where one is gormlessly standing around, racking the grey matter, searching frantically for something remotely interesting to talk to fellow invitees (most only remotely known) about, is, in my book, the pits. The weather is usually quickly exhausted, so then some subtle questioning needs to take place to discover if your fellow sufferer is into any topic we may have some inkling of in order to strike a chord. If it’s male, footy or cricket, even politics are options – for female, try books or movies. It’s hard work and rarely enjoyable as you struggle to get enough down the gullet to be remotely satisfied. More often than I care to remember this small-talkaphobe is stumped for said topic and I end up staring woefully into my drink. Now if one is seated at the table, with some relative unknowns, for a proper dining experience – well then the menu delivered will provide a most useful initiator for establishing common ground. Many, many times I have gotten quite ‘Mr Wobbly’ having the time of my life at a large table with people I’ve never met before, nor likely to meet again, having a hilarious time. With generous amounts of craft ale or luscious reds thrown in on top of great tucker – then these are simply the best nights. Nights that will linger despite one’s woozy state. I intensely dislike the notion of ‘circulating’, trying desperately to be jolly whilst furtively clock-watching, wishing the whole damn thing was over and I can get the hell out of there.

Now tapas. I avoid tapas bars at all costs. As DO’N says, export the bloody stuff right back to whence it came. The whole odious notion of the Spanish affliction put me in mind of similarly portioned, equally odious food fads of the past. Do you remember them – fondues and nouvelle cuisine??? I have recollections of, in pre-Maccas times, when these were in vogue and a night out, suffering through it all, required an obligatory detour to the fish’n’chippery on the way home. There is nothing remotely positive about fiddling around with cubes of bread and vegetables and a pot of molten lava like cheese. Neither is there any satisfaction to be attained with being served exquisite morsels of food the host’s wife or chef has spent a solid twenty-four hours straight preparing. The ‘n’ in ‘nouvelle’ could just as easily stand for ‘noxious’, ‘nauseating’ or simply just ‘nothing’. So please don’t get me started on today’s trendy diners that serve microscopic amounts of rare foods, admittedly as gorgeous looking as miniature art works, with smatterings of jus or foam, on plates the size of bathtubs – and charge exorbitantly for our displeasure. Quelle horreur!

As for food sharing, I do disagree with DO’N here to a degree – occasionally it can work if the proprietors of the restaurant are generous enough. A second Adelaidean experience saw my beautiful lady and I sampling Korean with another couple. Here the shared portion was ample in volume and delicious to boot. But usually I inwardly shudder when the suggestion to divvy up a number of menu listings is made by someone in our party – usually after I have already selected a couple of servings for myself from the bill de fare that already have my juices flowing in expectation. Then the dish turns up with an amount of offering that would struggle to get a Bangla pauper excited. Invariably the same person will suggest the cost of beverages are also shared, promptly ordering the most expensive bottles the venue’s cellar possesses. Generally I prefer an ale with my meal when out, solely because of the minuscule amounts of wine poured by drink waiters, these days, to ensure maximum profits will be made in keeping the customer well lubricated.

Yes DO’N, dining out in the modern age is a minefield, so when you (or I) find an eatery with your simple definition (‘…what I want is large, tasty servings on a normal sized white plate.’) then we should religiously frequent it, recommending it’s name to all and sundry so we do our best to keep it serving up great tucker. We must then stick to our guns to ensure those eateries that misfire (pun intended), in any of the above ways, have their comeuppance by going pork-belly up (tee-hee).

Dave O’Neil’s article =