Sharing the love — little heart warmers

2016 has been a bit shit in a lot of ways, hasn’t it? Loss and meanness and downright ugliness. But, as Heart would say, or sing, rather, what about love?*

Well, recently my writerly community was gathered in Melbourne** celebrating their love of the written word, in various literary and visual forms, and my wife and I were off at the other end of Ballarat taking a quiet anniversary weekend out. Here’s a picture: let’s call it Love 1.

Worldmark Ballarat resort

If you like willows and lake reflections and red bricks against blue sky, you’ll find more pictures here.

On day 1 of the weekend, we ate dumplings at our favourite dumpling house (Fu Man Lou) and then went on a ghost tour***, the tickets for which had been given to me for my birthday. That’s love right there — a gift from someone who “gets” you. For the record, the tour started out pretty well, in a haunted Victorian-era bakery subject to flooding, but kind of went off the boil as the night wore on and the cold set it. Too much sauce, not enough substance — unlike the dumplings. Nom nom nom. Funnily enough, the site of the dumpling house was also the setting for one of the ghost stories. What the hell, Love 2.

The second night, we went to Catfish Thai. Oh my, times a bunch. Seven courses, each one delectable. We had a window seat looking over this old brick place and next to it a wall covered in winter ivy — noice. Wonderful restaurant, great service, divine tucker, with a bill best suited to special occasions. Love 3.

And then, as there are on anniversaries, wee small gifts of affection: a Plague Doctor Bird! My beloved secured this months ago, a fabulous work by KJ Bishop, a damn fine writer who also is a dab hand at gardening and sculpture. Round it out with a Batman mug: Love 4!****

Plague Doctor Bird

The weekend wasn’t entirely without its “literature”, of course. We slummed for a day and watched Anomalisa, a disappointing film from Charlie Kaufman about a dude not coping with his decisions in life and hurting everyone; the well-constructed and quite engaging, and infuriating, The Big Short; and a surprisingly entertaining Trainwreck. Claymation annoyance, effective rom com and political statement: Love 5. The wine and cheese gets the movie marathon over the line. Also, do check out a card game called Sushi Go! Great for pairs or groups, quick and easy but not without its strategy. It’s Australian, and, I’ve just found out, was the subject of an Indiegogo campaign: more love!

And, as readers of this blog might realise, I finished off that weekend by sharing that other love of mine: my vampires. But that’s enough about that.

As shit as it all gets, we’ve got nature, and art, and each other. It’s worth taking the time out sometimes to remember that. Love out.

* New album out next month! (New versions, a couple of new tunes *drums finger* still no Oz tour, but.)
** We missed youse all!
*** We did their Ararat ghost tour a few years ago and it was brilliant.
**** In return, there were poppets. We love poppets 🙂

Ballarat by the share plate: three great restaurants

The month-long Ballarat food festival is half over, but it’s a worthy occasion on which to suggest these restaurants at which a share plate is the way to go.

fu man lou restaurant in ballarat
Fu Man Lou is a dumpling palace in Camp St, close to the city centre, and parking’s not usually too bad. We go there a fair bit. It can be pretty busy; a couple of times we’ve landed about 8pm and pulled up a stool at the bar to snack away while we’ve waited for a table. I’m holding out for them to put pork buns on the regular menu, but the fare is wunnerful: a variety of dumplings plus other plates, suitable for fingers or chopsticks, and cider, too. They do takeaway as well. Friendly staff and attentive service.
>> Get the background at The Courier.

Cafe Meigas is a cosy Spanish restaurant tucked away in a lane near the Bridge St Mall (so plenty of parking nearby in the shopping centre), and it’s awesome. We’re repeat visitors here. The food is prepared according to family recipes, the staff are friendly and happy to give advice on the dishes; they do a mean sangria, too. Probably pay to book late in the week.
>> Read more at The Courier.

Cafe Merkama specialises in Ethiopian. We’ve only been there the once — it’s a little out of the way on Doveton St, opposite a swanky steak place, and it’s another labour of love. The tasting plate we had with selection of curries served with bread was damn tasty, and came with a nice tea, too. Service was very friendly but a little slow and far from pushy, so probably not the spot if you’re in a hurry; easy parking, though, and well worth a visit.
>> Get the skinny at The Courier