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Today's quote:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Smooth and satisfying


I knew this header would get your attention. Smooth and satisfying "International Roast", offered up in industrial catering-size cans, was an institution in every boarding-house in Australia in the 60s.

And so, on the odd occasion when I do take down that small 100g-sized tin and have another look at its 'Best before end July 2016' use-by date before scraping another blop of solidified instant coffee powder into a cup, I think of Barton House in Canberra, the grand old mansion at the bottom of Blues Point with its views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Oriental Private Hotel at Cremorne, and the Majestic Hotel in St Kilda.

And I remember the best cup of coffee I've ever tasted when I was sailing way offshore from Port Moresby back in 1974. I was the internal auditor for AIR NIUGINI, and when I wasn't flying to one of the country's remote airstrips, I would take my sixteen-foot Corsair out for a spin on Fairfax Harbour (it's a three-handed racer but since my days in Honiara where I owned my first Corsair, I'd been sailing it single-handedly).

On this particular occasion I must've dozed off because, before I realised it, I was well past Gemo and Lolorua Island. And then it happened! My dinghy capsized! Now, it's normal procedure in such a case to climb onto the upturned hull, grab the centreboard and, with your body acting as a counter-weight, ever so slowly pull the dinghy upright again before the sails have become too water-logged to make this almost impossible.

Trouble was there was no centreboard! It had slipped through the slot and was dangling from its halyard somewhere deep below the upturned boat. I'm no diver but when the only option is to dive, I dive! And so I dived into the tiny airspace of the upturned cockpit, and somehow managed to push the centreboard back up through the slot and wedge it in place just long enough for me to climb back onto the slippery hull and do the counter-weight bit. I don't remember how I did it but I did because otherwise you wouldn't be reading this now.

So where does "International Roast" come into all this, I hear you ask? Well, I had lost all my provisions, I was hot and thirsty, and extremely exhausted, and all I could see through my saltwatery eyes was another island some distance and even farther away from my point of departure. I promptly headed for it, sluggishly because the dinghy was still water-logged, and by the time I pulled up on the beach of what turned out to be Daugo Island, I was totally knackered and very, very thirsty.

Then I saw a group of locals sitting by a camp fire brewing what smelled like coffee. I asked for a cup of it and, although it wasn't "International Roast", it was the smoothest and most satisfying cup of coffee I've ever tasted. Amazing what memories a simple cup of coffee can bring back.