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Published on December 15th, 2017 | by Ken Gargett

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Partagas Serie D No. 4 | Four Pillars Negroni Gin

Did I mention I like travelling? Talk about that I should know better than to open my mouth too soon. Though in fairness, I don’t really consider the annual weekend away for Mum and the family, “travelling”. We normally find a farmhouse or something of that ilk (and apologies to those curious members of the forum for whom the word ‘ilk’ apparently has evil connations, though I have no idea why it should) and spend three or four days there. Always nice to get away with the family.

This time, a spot on the Mary River near Kenilworth, a few hours north of Brizzy. One sister had the bright idea (she swears it was recommended by a friend, though I suspect that if such person really was a friend, they would have been saying, ‘run for your life’) of lunch on the Friday at something called the Blue Teapot (something like that) at a place called Amamoor? Turns out to be nearly an hour north of where we are staying, and of course, with organisation being completely lacking, there are five cars for 8 of us.

It would be unfair to say that the staff were unfriendly, but warm and cuddly they were not. Helpful, also, was a foreign concept. The place was nicely set up, gardens with tables (rickety chairs and local dogs that the staff seemed to think you would want under your feet).

I arrive and say I am with the such and such group. Woman looks at me and says nothing at all, but clearly she is thinking ‘why would that be of the slightest interest to me’. Eventually, I find them, out in the gardens. There is apparently no table service, although no one actually tells you that. You have to go back to the counter. I go back in to the counter.

“Wrong counter”, I am told. I move the four feet to the “other” counter. Seriously. They are not endearing themselves.

“So, what have you got?”

“Whatever is on display”.

“Where?”

“At the other counter”. Back I go. She stands unmoving. After all, you would not want to make the staff shift a few feet!

“So, bacon quiche and pumpkin quiche?”, I ask, looking at the last two remaining slices in the display case, both of which look as though they might be up for long service leave. “This it?”

“We can do a ham and tomato toasted sandwich”. Oh good, I’ve driven nearly three hours for a ham and tomato sandwich.

“I will have that”, I say, thinking I might have dodged a bullet, looking at the dregs of the quiche. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. If Lillee don’t get you…

I also splurge on a small bottle of reconstituted orange juice (in fairness, the label said only 99% of it was reconstituted – the rest was Lord knows what). The place clearly stays afloat thanks to dills like me who come past once. They would not need many of us to pay the costs!

The sandwich arrives, though we needed to check closely that it had – the phrase from Monty Python, “wafer thin”, was made for this. It tasted more microwave-nuked than toasted, but I was beyond caring.

I ask where are the facilities. “You can go over the road”. I kid you not. A paddock? Am I missing something? Enough. I ask, as loudly as I can, why on earth a place like this would be allowed to open. Apparently, that makes me the bad guy in the eyes of the family, who are all scurrying for the cars in a hopeless attempt to pretend they do not know me. This place was dreadful and they should be told. But as I have learnt from being in the naughty corner of the forum for telling the truth, I bite my lip and head to the car. There are no fond farewells, though I did notice the staff look at me and then the tip jar, in an act of optimism that must rank alongside that expressed by Nev Chamberlain as he set foot back on the UK.

Anyway, to the farm. There are two roads, so I thought, back to the farm. I take the longer, tourist route, so the others, who have the keys etc, can open up. But when I get there, I spend half an hour on the grass reading my book. Seems there was an even longer way and the family found it.

Place is nice and my nephews argue over who is the FireMaster (it turns out neither, they are both thrashed in the fire making stakes by their sister, which is a bit embarrassing). I pull out a Partagas D4 and the Four Pillars Negroni Gin.

Not for a Negroni but a fine G&T, with a large slice of lemon from a fruit pulled from the tree next to the house, moments earlier. It is a good match. Well, it is a very good G&T and the cigar, in front of a fire with a good book, works perfectly. Hard to imagine a cigar which wouldn’t. There are toasted notes, nuts, stonefruit and even a little orange rind/citrusy touch, which is ideal for the lemony flavours of the drink. Both are smooth as a lying politician (apologies for the tautology). It works.

Plan for the next day is the Eumundi Markets. Personally, that sounds like hell on earth but happy to go along with whatever the family wants. Eumundi is a small town which kicked off a craft and produce market a squillion years ago, before they were the done thing. Now it is one of the biggest in Oz. I realise I am in a small minority not to get enthused by such a place – it would be okay to spend an hour about once a decade – but it strikes me as though the place is wall to wall trainwreck, with an even split between ferals and grey nomads. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Despite deciding this was the plan the evening before, the family then spends 90 minutes the next morning going over it, preparing, changing their minds, pfaffing about. Drives me insane. Eventually, plan confirmed (seriously, my family would still be trying to work out if D Day was a good idea). We sally forth! I am in the back of the car driven by my sister.

We agree on which way we should turn out of the driveway. That is pretty much the last thing we agree on. First corner. I think we should go one way, she thinks the other. I suggest we use the GPS. “I didn’t have time to set it up”.

Yes, I know I should have said nothing. “So, in the hour and a half we have wasted doing nothing, you had no time?”

Now, my sister (I have two) is no fool (about most things). She has a PhD, lectured at universities, authored papers and has presented to conferences around the world. She is a year or so younger than I am, but in the brief blink of an eye between when I started school and she started school, someone had the bright idea to go all ‘new age education’. I remember this because, even though I was only five or six, it did not sit well with Dad. Some bright spark (a consultant?) decided that spelling was superfluous to the needs of the day’s youth. So, my sister never learnt to spell. I’m sure she learnt many other things, but if any educator is wondering whether or not failing to teach kids the basics can have a lifelong impact, this is the perfect example. She might have a PhD, but she still can’t spell. What, you may be wondering, does this have to do with the markets?

She tries to put in “Eumundi” in the GPS. I swear I am not making this up. “M”.

“No, it is not M”.

“M”.

“No, not M.”

Okay, she now realises her mistake and starts again. “U”.

“Not U”.

This goes on for some time and eventually we get it right, though we are destined for the Eumundi Aquatic Centre rather than the markets. Close enough.

I point out that it appears that the GPS says we should be going the opposite direction.

My sister assures me that if ‘she’ (please note that the GPS machine is apparently a “she” and please note that I make no comment) wanted us to be going the other way, ‘she’ would use the voice to tell us. Six kilometres later, ‘she’ does. Now I know that the swifter among you have already ascertained that there are two courses of action possible here. I could lower myself and do the ‘told you so’, routine or I could take the high moral ground and say nothing. No prizes for guessing which route I took. It did not go well.

Anyway, we eventually made it and found a carpark and headed off into the seething mass of humanity, with both the hoi and the polloi. Endless shops of tie-dye shirts and hippy dresses, carved driftwood, really awful but colorful art, banana leaf gift cards, every conceivable type of tat and dross and stores galore of home-made ginger beer and every imaginable food group, most of which make McDonalds look like fine dining and/or the healthy option.

I did come across one interesting bloke making guitars with cigar boxes (the boxes being the fat bit at the end you play – yes, I’m sure there is a musical term for it). Have suggested he contact us as he does not smoke and needs to source boxes from mates around the globe.

The markets? It was all too much. Went down the road to a good bookstore and found a huge guidebook on every Aussie bird – $2. A bog average coffee cost me two and a half times as much. Where is the justice?

As I am paying for the book, I am waiting in the queue. A well-dressed elderly gentleman in front of me reaches the counter and asks the nice young girl if she can find any books by David Irving for him. “A wonderful historian” he assures her. He has looked without success. She checks the computer and nothing but she suggests the second-hand shelves. He trundles off.

Seriously? Where on earth am I? David Irving? But my time in the naughty corner of the forum has taught me (Rob will be so proud) that merely because people are monumentally dimwitted and want to expose themselves to the world, it is not incumbent on me to assist them in doing so. After all the fun with one lot of deniers (how is that climate going?), I bite my tongue and say nothing about this bloke. But all I can think of is that scene in the ‘Blues Brothers’ – “Nazis! I hate those guys”.

So, I do not say what should really be said and I can neither confirm nor deny that someone may have suggested he look in the fantasy section. As he toddles off, I do tell the girl who and what Irving is (a ‘wonderful historian’ is not what springs to mind). She is outraged. “And he thought we’d have books like that?” I can see that if he returns to the counter he is not going to receive the same polite friendly smile. Time for me to leave.

My work is done.

KBG


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