Remembering Jeff

It’s been a strange week. I finished assignments for the end of another university unit, happily getting back into the swing of music teaching for the year, was generally feeling pretty wired and as a result, hadn’t been sleeping well.

Wednesday morning I woke in the pre-dawn glow, thinking of a friend who has been very ill. I was probably dreaming about Jeff, he’s been popping up a lot lately. Anyway, I found out a couple of hours later that he passed away peacefully in his sleep around the time I was waking.

Jeff Weston was bigger than life itself and the world is a much duller and quieter place for his passing.

He was, like all of us, a mass of contradictions. Cantankerous, incredibly generous, brash, opinionated, thoughtful, loud, gregarious and possessed a truly wicked sense of humour. And he influenced so many people he met in his very long and full life.

There are many stories I could tell, in fact I think it would make a great book! As a very young man he walked the rugged south west of Tasmania, was a teacher, farmer, one of the original members of the United Tasmania Group, which gave rise to the Tasmanian Greens, he travelled overseas, married and had four beautiful and talented sons, he opened his farm and home to travellers and loved (and actively supported) creative arts and especially live music.

Last year, when things started to look bad, Jeff decided to have a “living wake”, so he could see his friends and say goodbye on his own terms. We had passed messages but hadn’t seen each other for a decade and typically, picked up pretty much where we left off. It was one helluva party and it was so good to see him.

But the story I’ve been thinking about most the last few days I wasn’t there to witness, but it touched me very deeply and gives at least an idea of the kindness of the man.

My elderly mother lived in South Australia and had recently moved into a nursing home as she was no longer able to look after herself properly. Jeff was travelling from Tasmania up to a block he leased in the Kimberly, in remote north western Western Australia, where he could spend winter in a more comfortable climate. He knew I was worried about my mum and she about me but with recent personal dramas, I simply couldn’t afford to visit her at that time.

So, without my knowledge, Jeff went out of his way to my home town, tracked down the nursing home, and not only introduced himself to my mother, but found a lovely bunch of home grown autumn roses to give her. He spent most of the afternoon with her and according to my mum, told her many things that he never said to me, but which put my mother’s mind at rest in that very difficult time.

Above all things, he was my friend and was there for me at a time when my life was very hard. For that, I will never forget him.

Vale Jeffrey Dubrelle Weston 1927-2016 ❤

Jeff, at the center of the action

Jeff, at the center of the action July 2015 


Telling the Truth – Why Racism is Alive and Well in Australia

Recently, a writer friend Nikki McWatters (author of One Way or Another and other books) poured out her shock on social media about a blatantly racist attack on a Korean-born couple who run a much-loved local store in the New South Wales central coast town of Terrigal.

Paul and Isobella, after months of vandalism and racist slurs decided to sell the business. They also decided not to press charges against the teenagers who attacked them – something I’m not sure I could do if I were in their shoes.

Things got much worse sadly, with local media writing what Nikki described as “the worst piece of newsprint I have ever had the misfortune of reading”, in effect enabling the racist attack and praising the main attacker for apologising.

You can read Nikki’s full story here, and I recommend it.

It got me thinking, particularly as the attack against Paul and Isobella happened the first day of the Australia Day long weekend at the end of January.

For those of you who follow my blog from overseas, Australia Day is an incredibly divisive event – most people seem to love it or hate it. I confess, I increasingly have problems with it and the sentiments some of my fellow Australians spout each year.

Essentially, it commemorates the landing and raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788, on a land that (to colonial English eyes) appeared barren and unoccupied. They didn’t consider the local inhabitants, who had been living there for some 40,000 years, counted or mattered. The English even called it Terra Nullius. And the irony that Captain Phillip was leading a fleet of eleven ships, full of convicts is not lost on me or many others.

Some of my aboriginal friends are pretty ambivalent about it, while others find it incredibly difficult and call it Invasion Day . On the other hand, many of my immigrant friends see it as a celebration of their new country – and good on them. As a white Australian, the third generation of free immigrants (read boat people!), I’d like to see the date moved, perhaps to January 1st to celebrate federation.

The thing is, we all need to have a serious conversation about how we treat each other, irrespective of where we originally came from, the colour of our skin and what god we do or don’t believe in. I’ve noticed especially the last few years, really insidious racist views paraded on television, print and especially online media. And it makes me fearful.

I’ve been abused on social media for not celebrating what I see as a colonial takeover of a country. It’s my choice not to do so but I don’t want to stop anyone else from partying. There’s room for different views but it needs to be offered with respect, not absolutes – and never with violence.

Australia’s a big country – my hope is we can all be big enough to live in it peacefully together. To do that, I think we have to be like Paul and Isobella – gracious and forgiving. And like Nikki – brave enough to call out racism when we see it.



Chinese New Year – Spicy Plum Sauce

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, it’s been quite chaotic! As we glide into the back end of summer here in Tasmania, I’ve been busy planning beds for winter vegetables, planting for autumn harvest, cropping the summer bounty, making feta cheese, dispatching the most recent rabbits (filling the freezer again!) and making sure our second doe (the beautiful Bella) is pregnant with another litter for autumn eating. My cupboards are full of cordials, flavoured oils, vinegars, dried fruit, and even home made Furikake, thanks to a brilliant crop of green shiso in the greenhouse this year. (Leave a comment if any of you are interested in a recipe for this).

Since the corner of shame has been revived, ready for a beehive later this year, the plum tree has loved all the extra attention and yielded a decent crop. As I write there’s three huge trays of plums in the dehydrator becoming prunes for use over winter and a couple more big bowls to do things with. Chinese New Year is coming up on Monday so I’ve decided to make Spicy Plum Sauce with 2 kilos of fruit.

I only make this every couple of years as my household aren’t big sauce or chutney fans but it’s a wonderful addition to stir fries, a marinade for barbecue chicken or rabbit and is fabulous as a dipping sauce with spring rolls, dumplings or just about anything! Also, we are all chilli lovers, so if you’re not as keen on the hot notes, adjust the number of chillies, remove the seeds, try a milder variety or even omit them altogether. Some of my treasured Habanero chillies got sunburn in the greenhouse while still green a couple of days ago, and this seemed an ideal use for them. I personally feel it’s important to make any recipe your own, rather than following someone else’s to to absolute letter. So this is my take on Spicy Plum Sauce this year – go and make it yours 🙂


Spicy Plum Sauce


2kg plums     1/2 cup soy sauce      1/2 cup Chinese cooking sherry   2 cups cider vinegar or white wine    1/2 cup brown sugar    1 red onion, finely diced    1 tab grated ginger      3-4 cloves garlic      6 habanero chillies, finely chopped

In a small square of muslin:  1 cinnamon quill    1 star anise     2-3 allspice berries   1 tsp cardamon pods   1 tsp coriander seed


Tie the spices in the muslin and hang off the handle of a stockpot. Halve and pit the plums, add them to the stockpot with the sherry, onion, ginger, garlic and vinegar or white wine. (If you like the sauce sharp, use vinegar).

Simmer it all together, stirring occasionally. Once the plums are starting to soften add the chopped chillies. Cook until the plums are falling apart. Allow to cool (I left mine overnight) and remove the muslin bag. If you like your sauce smooth, pour into a blender jar and blend thoroughly. If you like your sauce chunkier, use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon.

Reheat and pot up into sterilised glass bottles (or jars if it’s chunky) and process in a water bath for extended shelf life.


Meanwhile, have a wonderful Chinese New Year wherever you are 😀