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On the making of spirits

In an article I perused recently on the making of whisky, the writer described the manic way that whisky makers choose a cask in which to mature their spirit. “It’s a mania that takes many forms, from tracking the oak from source to final cask, to insisting on the wood from a particular part of…

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The Year of the Pig

Happy Chinese New Year! Hurstville today is all aflame with red lanterns and golden pigs, and all in expectation of a year of wealth and happiness. For that’s the hope: a time of adding money to one’s “piggy-bank”, and the wish of putting more spring in one’s tail, and the thought of having a crackling…

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Under the Jacaranda

I love to rest beneath it – that magnificent Jacaranda that sits in its gilt-edged pot in the Queensland Art Gallery. I’ve always loved it, and was recently able to see it again in all its lavender glory. Little did I know that the tree in the frame pictures a tree that actually existed –…

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Dreams

A philosopher had a dream in which he saw the secret of the universe revealed. He wrote it down on a piece of paper, and when he woke in the morning found that he had written: ‘A strong sense of turpentine pervades the whole’. How often I’ve had the cousin of that dream, where I’ve…

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A thesaurus for Christmas?

I’d be lost without my thesaurus. Or should I say, stumped, restricted, even handicapped. It lets me replace a mundane word like ‘tinsel’ with a spectacular word like ‘glitziness’, and helps me discover new ways to disguise important repetition. It is one of the more valuable buttons on my tool bar, and a veritable treasure-box…

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And

My English teacher would have had a fit, and picked up her red pen. Eight consecutive sentences beginning with the word ‘and’. According to one authority, “In formal writing, coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) are disapproved as sentence starting words.” But there it is. Eight ‘ands’ in a row! And in…

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The watermark of heaven

I knew what he was doing. He was looking for a watermark. The Post Officer held up my daughter’s birth certificate to the light to assess its authenticity. It’s funny really. A stronger proof was standing right before him. Her father! I was there at her birth, and could attest to the spelling of her…

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The cowpat and the cat

Max Hastings, author of ‘All you need to know… World War 2: A brilliant account of the most terrible event in human history’, describes the awful plight of the Poles who were invaded at the start of the war by the Germans, only to be rescued at the end of the war by the Russians….

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The retrograde life

What a colorful collection of cosmic cousins surround the planet Neptune. Fourteen of them, and all with their own shapes and sizes, and all in orbit around our solar system’s eighth planet. And yet one of them stands out from the others. Triton. The other thirteen move in the same direction as Neptune’s rotation, but…

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Y

So close, and yet so far! American crime-fiction writer Sue Grafton very nearly made it. Many years ago she embarked on an ambitious project, the alphabet series, which began with ‘A is for Alibi’, then ‘B is for Burglar’, and ‘C is for Corpse’. And so she continued with ‘D is for Deadbeat’ all the…

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