I’m gonna stop now.

I’m getting shortlisted for jobs but unfortunately I’m bombing out in the interviews. Next week is my last job interview. I’ll be retiring after this. It’s too hard to keep going.

What friends and family fail to understand is that I’m really terrible at Vivas. I seem quite robust and confident, but I panic when spoken words are required. So interviews, which are vivas for jobs, do me in. I can’t think on my feet. I respond to fairly asinine questions with even more asinine answers, and don’t even ask me to tell you a story about how magnificently I managed something. I won’t remember it, thus will panic and relate instead some terrible unrelated story.

I can’t remember my value proposition, and I think I’ve reached the end.

I’m done now.

Also, I think I’ll take a little break from this blog. If you’re all still interested in my renovations you can access my other blog The House That Jess Built at brisvegashome.wordpress.com, in which I chat about the endless house painting I seem to do.

Thanks so much for reading and sharing my research journey and other life events with me. I have really valued the small community I joined, your kind words and commentary, and camaraderie.

Take care.

 

 

Wayfaring: a ranty rant about urban planning

So yesterday I decided to WALK to work. It’s about 6 kms away, but the sky was lovely and overcast, the weather a perfect 22 degrees centigrade, and I had new walking boots I intend to wear in NY. It would take me a little over an hour and I needed to increase my exercise regime from one paltry PT session per week.

I googled my walking path and noticed a thing. It’s an actual problem thing. Brisbane has nowhere nice for people to walk long distances. I live inner east. I’m not too far from the Brisbane river, but in between my house and the river are several main roads that are actual arteries to get into town. These roads are 6 lanes wide, that sort of thing. They are not pleasant to walk along. They are noisy, I am increasing my CO2 and toxic metal levels simply by being near them, and I really just want a nice walking path into town. Do you think I could find one? NO.

Here’s the screen shot of what Google thought would be several good ways to get into town:

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The blue path is a major arterial road. So is the second. The third way, I kid you not, involves a fucking ferry and 2 river crossings. I have, in my desire to get some exercise, stumbled on what I believe is a significant issue facing Brisbane. We’re fat fucks because there’s nowhere to WALK. The two shorter options are major arterial thoroughfares for CARS. They are not easy walking options. Also, Norman Creek (that wibbly wobbly green thing bifurcating my walk at the right of screen) has about 1 human-crossing bridge available along its length. So in effect I’m stuck walking along a stupid fucking main road OR I can tack across some fields in the vain hope that I’ll find a river crossing to get to the main river.

This is a tragedy. Also, the pretty walk along the river doesn’t start until Kangaroo Point cliff walk because there are no boardwalks between Hawthorn and Kangaroo Point, but do you think there’s a pedestrian crossing on Leopard Street from East Brisbane? NO. I have to risk life and limb trying to navigate across this really busy road when there’s also a SCHOOL nearby without access to a pedestrian crossing. I cannot tell you how pissed off I was trying to simply navigate through town on foot.

This is why Melbourne wins the best city in the world for liveability while Brisbane is shit. Cities like Melbourne, Paris, even London and NY, recognise the need for traversing spaces for pedestrians. There you can walk along the rivers to get into town and you don’t come across a fucking Maritime museum with barbed-wire fencing as you approach it from the south. I’m not holding Melbourne up to perfection but at least they have boulevards and beautiful walking paths nearly every direction you approach town from. You can walk along the river in either direction, you can walk along St Kilda Boulevard (cars are set in the centre lanes and there are TREES), you can approach from the north via Royal Parade (same deal). In Melbourne it’s pretty and lovely to walk in, and right now, with blisters on my heels from boots that were clearly not made for walking and a sense of impotent rage about this city with its heat and humidity and my incapacity to deal with either, I’m not in the best mood about Brisbane and its shit urban planning.

 

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee (or a brew), I’d be inviting you to sit with me on our small enclosed porch, which I’ve recently dressed with some fresh greenery and new cushion covers. It’s amazing how awesome a nook can look with some palm fronds and a pot plant or two. And a stray climber to add some hipster greenery chic. (No, I’ve not done that deliberately: it grew all by itself.) Sorry about the image size: WordPress used to have small, medium and large sizes but they’ve taken out the medium one. Bad, bad WordPress.

 

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I’ve been doing some cushion updating recently. Diabolical for my DH, who thinks the following scene is an appropriate reminder of what I’m doing to him:

I think they look quite nice but I concede I may have reached the limit:

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The stabby Ben Stiller limit. The truly sad part is that the old cushions are still on the bedroom floor awaiting repurposing!

While I’m waiting for my job interview, I’m doing some soft furnishing upgrades. I’m not yet ready to start painting the interiors again but it’s getting close! In the meantime, I’ve created rooms of colour stories. The master bedroom is and will be a combination of soft blues and greys, navy and white soft furnishings married with warm antiques and soft white walls. The lounge room is the winter room, best enjoyed with a comfortable rug and a glass of red wine. It’s warm reds and autumn colours married with dark wood furniture. The kitchen has splashes of red but I’m not being precious about the colours there. The dining room is a bright mish mash of primary colours, turquoise, orange, blues, greens, pink and yellow. It sounds too much but they’re mostly paintings and glassware, riotous pops of colour. I’m loving colour right now, but it’s best enjoyed with bright white walls and that means house painting. Not yet.

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’m rather enjoying some home time right now. I’m cooking a bit more; I’m baking, I’m loving the chookies. It’s easy in my household to be so outward looking that we don’t get to spend time making our home lovely. The DH, who it must be said is not a homebody, has finally mown the front lawn and we’re slowly cleaning up the garden in preparation for some landscaping. This morning DH cleared away a garden disaster zone near the house in the backyard and I have a cunning plan to level the area and pave it, giving us a bit more usable outdoor space while we wait in vain for the next lot of funds to renovate the remainder of the house.

As the wife of a VIP who runs a music school, I reached my functions threshold this week. Last night, to be precise. Sometimes I just need some quiet nights at home and this week was one of them. Never mind we’d been out Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings! This weekend is an ensembles festival. I begged off. Hubby has in no way tried to persuade me to accompany him, luckily.

Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day in Australia. I’m truly hoping I get to wish my mum a happy day, because it’s all getting a bit difficult to stay in touch from far away. You’d think birthdays and special occasions would become more important away from family. Truth is: life gets in the way and I often forget to plan for special times. I always swore it was due to busyness. Nah. I’m just forgetful, and the birthdays and special moments just seem to get closer and closer these days. The older I get, the faster they go by.

Screw you, old age.

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Nah. Seriously. Have a great day, ladies. May your young children give you a piece of pottery they made in Art class; may your teenagers do the dishes, laundry, wash the floors and clean the bathroom and kitchen; may your adult children give you something really really special. Like a gift card for a massage or something. And champagne.

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This post was brought to you by Diane, at Part Time Monster. There’ll be a linky very soon!

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Holiday FuntimeĀ 

DH and I are on hols right now, although it doesn’t feel very holiday-like to me. Last Friday we flew south to my home town Melbourne for my son’s engagement party on the Saturday and I’ve been schlepping about so hard I’ll need a holiday to get over the holiday. 

Friday am we arrived and promptly went to bed for a bit, because I’m tired all the time. In the afternoon we dragged ourselves into town to visit Whistler’s Mother, which (who?) was on show at the NGV International. Then it was an early dinner at a Korean diner before 2 comedy shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Folks, there were 500 shows at this festival. Unbelievable. Then cocktails at my favourite little bar Double Happiness, which is quiet yet buzzing. Not too loud and shouty there. 

   
 
Saturday was the engagement do, but not before DH and I went back to the NGV to see Warhol and Wei Wei. An amazing exhibition. Then it was a delicious Mexican lunch at a great place on Chapel St before seeing another silly show at my favourite venue Chapel off Chapel. This time it was Songs for Sarah Connor, terminated. Not as original as I’d hoped: I wanted more original songs rather than rewrites of well known show tunes. 

Then, Sunday morning after the engagement party we borrowed my sister’s car and headed to Aireys Inlet for a brief respite from the world. It’s quiet here and you can hear the ocean from the house. 

  
Then on Tuesday I headed back to Melbourne for my sister’s PhD graduation. Very proud. We now have 2 doctors in the family, neither of the life-saving kind. 

  
Of course, a real doctor would have come in handy for when my newly minted Dr sister decided to have a mild allergic reaction to the shellfish at lunch and get an itchy redness. I didn’t leave town until well after 7pm, so am in bed today recovering. 

Tomorrow we must leave my favourite place but I’m pleased to announce that not only am I writing a cabaret but I’m also starting my crime fiction novel. At the moment I’m just writing a bunch of disparate scenes to see how I write fiction. There’s no plot yet. Mostly descriptions of Brisbane. I think I haven’t read enough crime fiction set in hot climates; mostly the books are set in temperate zones or cold climates. Time for some steam heat. 

Friday Filibuster: From little things big things grow. Some Australian protest songs.

From Little Things Big Things Grow is a song by my favourite muso and serial adulterer, Paul Kelly and his mate Kev Carmody. It’s about how one man’s actions can galvanise a nation into shame for its appalling treatment of indigenous Australians, and begin a “reconciliation” (given that we never had a conciliation in the first instance I’m not sure how we can be reconciling, but whatevs), a recognition of wrongdoing, where a People’s country can be returned to them in a gentle, yet powerful ceremony that is both as profound and as prosaic as pouring earth into a person’s waiting hands.

 

Given the current parlous state of Australia’s ethical and moral stance against refugees and asylum seekers I’m hoping that some small Australians, those ordinary people who work in hospitals and banks and schools and police stations and offices, will rise up and say to our two major parties (Liberal National Party and The Labor Party) that enough is enough. Stop treating these people as criminals. Be humane. Be mindful of international law. Follow that law. Actually, they are doing this, but the right wing goons, who are a small but self-important bunch, are holding the parties hostage. Here’s a song by our beautiful Missy Higgins called Oh Canada that evocatively illustrates the plight of refugees and asylum seekers everywhere.

 

 

Another great artist, Tim Minchin (composer of Matilda the Musical), has written an angry song about our Cardinal George Pell, who seems to have become strangely too ill to travel to Australia to answer a Royal Commission into the Catholic Church’s years of wanton cover up over a string of appalling paedophilic priests who ran rampant around Australia. Heads have rolled over this one but more will roll as more is uncovered.

 

Anyway. This post wasn’t going to be about protest songs. It was going to be about weight loss. Hah. Got you! So it’s just that I’ve started going to the gym every day, swimming. I swim for 30 minutes, or 14 laps of a 50 metre pool (yes, I know that’s super slow. I don’t care). I swim breaststroke, and today it took me a little while but I finally got into a beautiful Zen state, where time disappeared for a while. As I say to DH, it’s my daily meditation, swimming.

I’m back to calorie counting, but not too much – I’m not cutting out carbs and I’m being more circumspect about how I count those calories – in other words I’m not sweating the small stuff like I used to. I’ve also cut out snacking and most sweet foods. It seems to have worked: I’m already down 500 grams in 5 days. A nice start. Tomorrow I’m going to a proper gym class at 8am (yuck), followed by a swim to cool off.

So, from little things big things grow. A daily gym routine to get me out of the house, more thought about WHAT I eat, and the results show that little things can have a big impact. Go little me.

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Getting Gritty with it: the real thing

So here’s a thing. I’ve begun some long overdue editing work. It’s kinda boring, because it’s editing, y’all, but I discovered something. In doing this, I want to start writing again. The editor of the book is a personal friend and writing colleague, and the book is about a particular form of qualitative research called Narrative Inquiry, which is my thing.

Narrative Inquiry methods “story” the data and findings. In lay terms, we make meaning of social science research by putting raw data into a readily readable narrative for humans to connect to. In true terms it’s of course a rather messy and frustrating approach to analyse data but in meaning-making it beats most quantitative studies in the social sciences, because in the end quantitative researchers, with all their numbers, still have to put their discussions of the findings in ways that make it meaningful to humans. In narrative form. Often in the form of storied case studies, that sort of thing. Which Narrative Inquiry does from the get-go. Does it make the research any less rigorous? No, however, there may be ways of interpreting the research that quantitative researchers find using other means. Now, remember folks, I said the SOCIAL SCIENCES. NOT medical or earth sciences, or biotech or any kind of tech, really. Medicine and biological sciences need quantitative data much more than, arguably, the social sciences do.

As I’m sitting here doing the editing (which has to be done in little increments because it’s impossible to focus for more than an hour at a time on the stuff without losing the will to live), I’m all fired up and excited about writing again. I’ve offered to write a chapter in the book – according to my friend the volume’s a little short, so I’ve taken the bait. I had originally offered to write something about 100 years ago but I wasn’t in a good emotional space to be doing that, so I never submitted an abstract. I’ve given myself a 2 week turnaround for a rough draft of 8000 words. This doesn’t seem overly onerous, but there’s a whole heap of extra research and reading to do.

For every article I reference, there’s about 5 I read and discard. So if I include 50 references then I’ll need to read up to 250 articles for this chapter. Luckily I already know the field so more than half of the references are stored away in my brain somewhere, to be dragged out as a hoarder drags out his favourite rusting, teensy doo-dad from under the piles of equally rusting detritus, which he kept just in case. I’m going to send my friend the rough draft in early March and she can make the decision as to whether it’s good enough for inclusion. It’s a tight turn-around but it’s doable. The review process might be problematic because it’s usually very slow but the editors will no doubt send it to someone in the field who is known to do things quickly.

Seriously. It’s not as if I have better things to do with my time.

On the the Live Below the Line thing. I’ve been having another think about my starchy foods, and I’ve taken a little inventory of the food I usually eat on a normal day. Toast, eggs, sandwiches, pasta. I’m thinking I could buy a loaf of day-old bread from the bakery (cheap as chips), and some ready-made pasta, and this will do me just fine for 5 days with the other things. I’ll need to get fighting fit for the challenge. Perhaps a 2-day challenge to see how I cope with no coffee and wine? Not that this will hurt me, as my girth is back to its old chubster state.

I’m thinking on it. As you may have noticed, I’m a problem solver and this problem is rather delicious to play with. Also worthy. And as a cis-heteronormative white woman living near the 1% dream, I have very few excuses to shirk my duty as concerned world citizen. šŸ˜‰

Sayonara!

Weekend Coffee Share (the day after)

If we were having coffee you’d notice me becoming increasingly agitated by my internet service provider’s shit service. Every few weeks the signal goes wonky for up to 5 days. Internet is interrupted and with heavy household usage we can’t send through big files when this happens or watch streaming TV.

F**K you, OPTUS.

Anyway.

So Valentine’s Day, huh? It’s a thing, I guess. I’m determined to train my hubby out of this one because sometimes I think there’s just too much emphasis on TRYING to be romantic when really you just want to eat dinner, go to bed and watch re-runs of The Good Wife.

If we were having coffee you’d notice we actually celebrated the stupid day a whole day earlier, by going out to an afternoon High Tea with Champagne. Which was lovely. And on the ACTUAL day it was negative-romance. In other words, we didn’t make each other breakfast in bed, we didn’t buy each other flowers, we didn’t go for a romantic walk by the sea. DH went to a concert (later reported he never wants to hear a certain type of piano music ever again), and my daughter and I went to see Deadpool. Fully sold out, it was a great movie. Violent, oh, so violent. And funny. Oh, so funny.

Last night I didn’t drink any alcohol. I was jittery. Not in a “oh my god I’ve got the DTs” kind of way, more like “oh. Forgotten to drink. A bit bored. Why am I watching renovation reruns?” kind of way.

If we were having coffee, or any brew, come to think of it, you’d notice I’ve gone and bought more herbs and hanging baskets and potting mix. Possums love certain herbs and I’m trying to work out how to hang them so the little wee beasties don’t eat my parsley, but we might be fighting a losing battle here. Anyway, I’m giving it a shot. It’s been hot as Hades, here in sunny Qld in February. February is long acknowledged to be the hottest month of the year in the southern hemisphere. And it is STINKING hot. I’m about to close all the windows and turn on the air-conditioning. After about 11.30am it’s horrible in the house if I don’t do this.

Also, if we were having coffee, you’d notice I’m quite tempted to do some volunteer work. I was thinking refugees. Because both main parties (2 party preferred gov’t system here with smaller independents keeping the bastards honest) are so reprehensively inhumane where our boat people are concerned I want to help in some way. I’m not a good advocate – I can do better things behind the scenes, like type and teach English, that sort of stuff.

Finally, I’m also thinking about doing a charity fundraiser this year: Live Below the Line. The fundraiser is through Oaktree, an Australian-based charity:

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Live below the line

The way it works is you only have $10 for food for 5 days. People sponsor you and the money raised goes towards education works in PNG, Timor-Leste and Cambodia. My sister did it for 3 years, and I think it might be my turn. It starts in May.

I’ve done a calculation on what I could live on for 5 days. It’s not pretty! The prices below are in Australian $.

250 grams salted butter $1.30

6 eggs $1.50

1 kg plain flour $1.00

2 onions .60c

1 can tomatoes .59c

1 sweet potato .50c

1 400 gram can tuna in oil $2.50 OR *edit 250 grams bacon $1.87

1 large carrot .30c

1 celery stick .20c

1 lemon .75c

1 packet 2 minute noodles .23c

*edit: 2 cups rice .75c

Discretionary: 1 piece fruit OR 400 grams milk OR 2 single cloves garlic OR spice mix OR 10 Lipton’s tea bags .39c

Total: $10.00 (based on current Aldi prices)

There is no cereal, no tea, no coffee, no sugary thing, no milk or dairy, no green food, no salt. The hardest part of this would be forsaking salt, my 4 coffees a day and my alcohol. I don’t have a very sweet tooth, and I can see how I’d really start to taste the sweetness in the onion and sweet potato.

The lemon is necessary – it adds amazing acidic zing to otherwise bland foods. The butter has to be salted: it’s my only source of added salt, and luckily butter makes everything taste great. The 2 minute noodles really ARE that cheap, and they come with pre-packed flavourings. I think I would be making this meal the lunch meal on the last day, out of sheer desperation for some flavour. Eggs and tuna/bacon are a great source of protein, and at this price, even though they take up 2/5 of the total cost, it’s about right for the amount of protein I’d need over 5 days.

So here’s how my brain is divvying up this meagre food. 1 kg flour (wholemeal, probably) is a good amount for 1 person, right? With the flour I can make egg pasta and some chappatis. For breakfast I can have egg, many ways, including in a wrap or on flatbread, or I can toast the flatbread with butter.

For lunch I can have a tuna wrap, or a sweet potato and fried onion wrap.

For dinner I can make a pasta. There are a couple of ways I can make the pasta sauce: 1 is as a napoletana, using the carrot and celery, and the other is as a tuna sauce. The tuna comes in oil, and is salty, which would save my otherwise tasteless bacon-free food. By buying a 400 gram can, it should feed me for 4 meals. With lemon, it will be a tasty, zingy treat.

Rinse, and repeat. The main difficulty will be finding new ways to prepare the same basic ingredients and managing mid-afternoon snacking.

For example, the sweet potato (which I’m having instead of white potato for added sugar, plus lower GI), could be boiled, roasted, mashed, fried, or prepared as a rissole, a dip, or roesti. It will have to serve at least 2 meals, which is where the dip comes in. The pasta sauces will have to be reused during the lunches for a sauce in the wraps, so I can’t reduce them like I usually do.

For me the cheat’s question is, can I use found food to add flavour to my meals? For example, I grow herbs. After the initial cost of buying the herbs, they are free. I have basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, dill, coriander, chives, oregano, mint, lemongrass, and vietnamese mint. Can I use these to enhance my dishes, or do I need to fling myself round the neighborhood to pinch some herbs hanging willfully over a fence? Rosemary is one herb where this happens a lot. If I’m able to use my herbs it will make a huge difference to the flavour of the food. Also, have you had sage butter pasta sauce lately? Delish.

ANYWAY. I’m just thinking about it, because I can’t afford to give money – I have to find other ways to give for charity. And that’s my Weekend Coffee Share. What are you up to?

*Edit. Last night I reviewed the price of bacon: from Aldi you can get it for $1.87 for 250 grams. That’s 5 pieces of lovely, salty bacon (this is why in the olden days people used to keep their bacon and lard drippings – too expensive to throw out). I’m rethinking my strategy regarding the tuna. Buying bacon I can also get 2 cups of rice, which will provide 4 meals, and still have enough money left over for spices/fruit/peanuts/tea bags. Also, I’m wondering if I can cheat and go into the local uni cafeteria to get me some single packets of salt and sugar. I’m pretty sure that’s what happens in real life.

This is hard. If I’m working this hard now trying to manage food for 5 days, what does this mean for all those poor sods who have to do this all the time?

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Hosted by Diane, at Part-Time Monster.

 

Australia Day: plainspeaking.

Retired Australian Army General David Morrison was yesterday announced as the Australian of the Year. This was 3 years coming as I think he couldn’t be nominated for this award until he had retired. The one great reason (and there are many more than this) is the following speech made to the Australian Army. It was a private speech, but it quickly went viral. What plain speaking can do, eh? This speech is worth sitting through for the plain prose and stark message, and its emphasis on diversity and equality in the workplace. I loved this speech when it came out and was uncertain as to why he hadn’t been nominated earlier. Anyway, the last two years saw an Indigenous AFL footballer Adam Goodes as Australian of the Year, and Domestic Violence victim, survivor and passionate advocate Rosie Batty. This year was an ex-army leader whose straight talking speech is something all (reasonable) Australians found compelling and honest. Enjoy the clip.

 

Another speech made by the wonderful and under-appreciated indigenous journalist Stan Grant also stirred Australians, as an impromptu speech he made in October did the social media rounds just now. This is the voice of desperation from our indigenous Australians, with a call to action: “we are better than that”. Australians (again, the reasonable ones that make up the majority vote, thanks for asking) have responded wonderfully well to this speech. Grant is characteristically humble about his speech and his role in advocacy for indigenous rights: he names many great advocates before him whose speeches are braver and stronger and better than his. However, this speech comes at a time when there is a sharp division in the media between the noisy right and the desire of the Australian majority to be better than our international image would suggest.

 

So today, on Australia Day, hubby and I will go to an Art auction. The auctioneers we know well, and lots of wonderful indigenous artists are represented there. We probably won’t buy anything but it’s good to value stuff for future reference. We have lots of cheap and cheerful wall art as we have bought at least 5 pieces from them, all under $1000 each. DH took two pieces to work as his workplace won’t release artworks they buy as there is a stupid loophole in Australian Tax law that says if you buy artwork for superannuation purposes it cannot be shown or hung in public spaces. For reasons entirely unknown to me. Anyway, it means we personally buy the art for the work space. Sometimes it’s bought back by the university as part of general decoration, but I think we own all the pieces there at present.

I love indigenous art: it’s abstract and non-figurative (mainly), but has a definite visual narrative that you understand as you get to know the artist’s vision. The works we buy are usually narratives of nature, place and country. Given the ongoing arguments Australians have about Australia Day, with its hellish history for our First Peoples, it’s good to be able to, in a small, entirely selfish way, give something back to the first Australians. And to those who may think these folk are being exploited: no. I did my due diligence. The artists are represented with dignity and their copyright and artist rights intact.

So off we go, to sit in a room and be yelled at for a few hours. On Australia Day I can think of nothing more fun. Happy Australia Day to you.

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Australia Day

In Australia we don’t really celebrate Australia Day, mainly because it’s the punctuation point for the end of the school holidays. And it’s hot. Most people are at the beach. Also, we have problems with it being kind of known as invasion day, because it marks the date of the first British landing in 1788 by Captain Cook or something. The indigenous Australians have a righteous grievance. 

Anyway, in the last few years the meat industry have been airing ads that promote both Australia Day and lamb, starring someone called Sam Kekovich. They are funny, irreverent and rude. Btw, lamb is eaten in large quantities here in Oz. I like a lamb chop myself, and lamb roasts are part of a long heritage of sheep eating. It’s a very strong flavoured meat, and to be honest sometimes I’m not fond. Goat is milder and not as fatty. But a good lamb roast will cope with very strong flavours and middle eastern cookery works a treat with the meat.

So for all my readers not from Oz, here’s a joyfully irreverent and slightly dodgy ad for your viewing pleasure. Sits alongside Ricky Gervais’ latest Golden Globes outing for eyebrow raising humour. 

Australia Day and Lamb