Ham and pineapple pizza is a breakfast food
and four other things you didn’t know about me, until now
Update, 2020: In 2007 the five things meme was whipping through the world of blogging, giving each blogger a chance to expose a little of themselves outside their blog persona. You would write your five things then tag a five other people, and so on.
Sally Lomax has included me on the five things meme — where you write five things about yourself that your readers probably don’t know. Sally, of course, told us her five things. And four of the five people she memed also told us their five things. Finally, in no particular order, my five:
1. One hand for you, the other for the boat
I like boats. Some of the happiest times of my life were on boats, especially as a child. It was a strange relationship — my Dad and my Uncle Phil were friends of Alan Taylor — Skipper to us, Rusty to everyone else — owner of (in my lifetime) Taymacand III and later Taymacand IV — two quite beautiful motor cruisers.
The Skipper’s philosophy was that the best way to look after something was to use it. So every time he couldn’t the boat — which was every second weekend — we did. (To put this generosity into perspective, Taymacand IV was a sister ship to the boat in the picture, above. We could have filled the 3000 litre fuel tanks and gone to New Zealand… and back! The nearest equivalent boat now would be the Fleming 55, which costs as much as a pretty decent house in Sydney, where I currently live.)
Every fortnight we would pile into the car for the fifteen minute drive down to Bobbin Head and a day (or sometimes a whole weekend) of the millionaire lifestyle. Sometimes our next door neighbours on land met us on the water too — first in the legendarily small and legendarily painted pink Sydney to Hobart racer Lollipop — and later the white paint and varnished old lady of the same race, Sea Bee.
I remember my brothers and I walking carefully out onto the pitching and rolling foredeck with Dad as we ploughed through the big rollers in Broken Bay, to lie down on the bow — holding on carefully with one hand for the boat at all times — and look down at the dolphins surfing in our bow wave. I remember the thousands of jellyfish that used to drift into Broken Bay, and the day we saw an albatros. There were Uncle Phil’s many girlfriends, then the one who became Aunty Kath; rescues of people’s lost dinghies; and thousands of waves and greetings from passing speedboats — sharing the joy of being on the water.
In 1977 the Queen visited Australia as part of her silver jubilee tour. We set off early from Pittwater to be on Sydney Harbour the next day as one of the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol’s marker boats on the harbour — maintaining separation between the spectator craft and Britannia. We wore our khaki school uniforms, and the black woolly jumpers that Nanna knitted for us, because they matched the khaki Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol uniforms and black woollen jackets of Dad, Uncle Phil, The Skipper, Uncle Andy — and some others, I’m sure. I am told we got our own personal wave from Her Magesty, but I’m not convinced. We did see the sun rise at sea, however, and that was unforgettable. Almost as exciting as the day we pulled up beside a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat, and I climbed a rope ladder up the side (strange to find a boat taller than ours) to receive an ice-cream and a tour around the deck by an off duty sailor wearing a white singlet, underpants and a bushy beard.
Update, 2020: I later learned that the sailor went on to become Cmdr Peter Ballesty before his untimely death in, I think, 1986.
As an adult, I sailed a Jeaneau 36 in the SASC Friday twilight races on Sydney Harbour. We all had nicknames. Mine was Helm Hog, because I would jump behind the steering wheel at any opportunity and not let go unless levered away with emotional blackmail and threats of violence. Although among the crew, and ultimately, I suspect, the other racers, I earned a reputation for threading the needle more finely than anyone else. Some may interpret this as madness. (You are threading the needle when all the boats are heading across in front of you and you have to steer a wavy course through them — ahead of some and behind the others. There are tricks to working out whether you’re going to hit the other boats or not, and once you know them you can scare the bejesus out of them my sailing straight at them, and passing astern at the last minute. If you go so close that the boats touch, you’ve gone too close. If you don’t make them nervous, you’ve wasted time and boat speed by not going close enough.
Boating opportunities in London are rare, but I have paddled a kayak on The Regent’s Canal. As a result of the kayaking I have also swum, in an impromptu manner, in The Regent’s Canal. I do not recommend swimming in The Regent’s Canal.
Update 2020: after writing this I took up ocean racing and spent many weekends on cross-channel races to Brittany and The Channel Islands, as well as competing in two Sydney to Hobart Yacht Races, one Fastnet Race, several Sydney to the Gold Coast races and a few off the coast of Sydney.
2. I have helped the deaf to hear
My most frustrating job and my most enriching job, were the same job — R&D Technical Writer for Cochlear — the world market leading manufacturer of cochlear implants. Bionic ears to you and I, now that I’m a civillian. Among other things, it was my job to assemble the massive suites of documents that we sent to the FDA to get clearance to sell in the USA. It’s no big deal to you, but I believe (the FDA told us) that I wrote the first real-time 510(k) approval submission ever, and I have been hired by other companies to do similar work since then. Only my first application was not approved first time. When I started there were about 300 other people in the company, and every week we helped deaf people to hear. It’s very satisfying being one 300th of a miracle.
Cochlear implants are a politico-social minefield, with one elderly, newly deaf woman describing her device to me as, “a lifesaving device — because I talk all the time and I’m too old to learn sign language. I was cut off from the world and I wanted to kill myself.” At the same time some groups of deaf people see cochlear implantation as a threat to their very strong and independent culture, reducing the need for deaf children to be taught to sign (because you can ‘replace’ their hearing), decimating the community of signing people and thus destroying the tight-knit deaf community.
Personally I think you should give children every possible opportunity to be the best that they can. If having an implant is one of those opportunities then go for it. The problem is that you can’t wait to let the child decide for themselves because speaking and listening are learned processes that happen early in life, and the ability to learn them diminishes with every year of life, up to about the age of 14.
But we should teach them to sign too.
There are too many poorly educated deaf people out there because everyone in the past concentrated on teaching them to lip read and speak English — to hide or compensate for their deafness — instead of maths and geography. The world would be a better place if that trend were reversed. I don’t approve of deaf children being encouraged to hit implanted children in the head to break the implant — rare, I know, but it did happen, and worth mentioning because the implants are stronger than the heads they live in. You will usually break the bone before the implant, and killing your schoolmates is not cool.
3. Ham and pineapple pizza is a breakfast food
It is, really it is. It has to have a thin base, good ham and have been in the fridge from the night before so the pineapple is cold, and the base chewy. It sets off the saltiness of the ham and the tart tomato sauce perfectly.
It can be followed by chocolate mousse if required.
Once, in my bachelor days, I mentioned that I had finished off some leftover chocolate mousse for breakfast. A hungover work colleague looked up as he walked past and said, “You are a hard man. A very hard man.”
On occasion, I have taken advantage of two pizzas for the price of one deals to buy a breakfast pizza with my dinner. Mrs Albion would like you to know that she has not been present at any of these occasions.
4. I have been wearing a tie since I was six-years-old, on and off
I wore my first tie as part of the school uniform at Prouille. I still think they are pointless — except in winter when a good silk tie keeps you as warm as an extra layer of clothing — and have spent most of my working life trying to avoid wearing one. When I do wear one, I try to wear nice ones. And I do keep an emergency tie in my office drawer, for impromptu meetings with investment banks. So far I have not worn it, but have lent it to others in need.
5. I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like
Nothing terribly expensive. It started with my Nana, who had some very good paintings and works on paper in her house. The best of them had been bought my my grandfather’s mother — Ma — and included what is possibly the largest Henry Fullwood watercolour in existence. Ma’s brother worked at Lawsons sometime between the 1920s and 1950s, and would tip her off about good buys. She generally spent modest amounts of money, and created an insurance nightmare for her descendants as the art increased in value. Like Nana’s art, most art isn’t insured, because, “If you don’t tell them what you’ve got, nobody’s going to come and steal it.”
I don’t have any of it — so no problem there. When I moved into my first flat, I headed off to Lawsons myself, and bought a bunch of small, cheap artworks for my small, cheap walls. When Mrs Albion and I moved in together, we headed off to Lawsons and bought some more. There were pictures there going for hundreds of thousands of dollars, we bought the ones that went for hundreds.
Our favourite painting is the one by the least known artist. At least she was unknown when I bought bought her painting. Lizzie Simunovic put her first collection together when she was on maternity leave with her first child. I bought her abstract desert landscape for Mrs Albion’s birthday. A year or so later, Lizzie came to visit and her son shouted, “Mummy!”, ran over to the painting and tried to hug it.
Whenever we have moved house, the painting has been one of the first things to go on the wall. And we have never rented or bought a house without knowing where we would hang the painting before we signed the deal. The sky in the painting is an Australian sky, and whenever we have it on the wall, we have a little bit of home in our home away from home.
Copyright © Damian Clarke 2020. First posted to the Our Albion blog, July 29th, 2007.