what I did on the weekend

Woke up on Friday to the radio broadcasting the dawn service at the War Memorial in Canberra. Sombre, reflective, and surprisingly Christian in its content. For some reason, I wasn’t organised enough to end up at a dawn service myself: maybe next year. Breakfast was after a ride in my brother’s new car, a walk around Cronulla, a couple of (decaf) coffees at Grind, and then a more substantial feed at a cafe I’ve long been meaning to check out.

Back home again just in time to pick up Kel’s uncle and take him to the airport. He told a few stories of things that his father (Kel’s grandfather) had been through in the war – stories I hadn’t heard before. It’s too easy to think of war as something that happens on the other side of a television screen, and not see the lasting impact that it had on whole generations of soldiers, not least the families of the ones who didn’t return.

Some happier memories were forged when friends who are expecting their fourth child in a few weeks called in for a quick visit – it was good to see how some small kids can mostly stay out of trouble in our house without having to rearrange things too much. Some quiet DVD watching was abruptly replaced with loud white noise – their youngest daughter was playing with the stereo, and had hit the wrong button. She looked terrified when I walked into the room to fix it, even running into one corner of the room, and looking back at me with a genuine fear. Maybe I don’t have a “baby whisperer” skill with all of my friends’ kids!

Before too long, it was time for us to head to the airport: Kel’s cousin was turning 21, and there was a Saturday night party to attend, and another family breakfast on the Sunday morning. Another friend had graciously offered us a lift to the station, and we made it with plenty of time to spare – their two kids were telling me about Horton Hears a Who – a movie review from an infants schooler lends a unique perspective.

After a pre-flight laksa, we took our largish carry-on bags, the two boxes of donuts, and boarded what proved to be an uneventful flight. Between the bags, and not wanting to inconvenience the other passengers, we were last off the plane, where M met us at the airport with her mum, and took us home. As I think about it, this was my third or fourth car trip for the day in the back of a car – at least it was a four door!

Friday evening was spent with M and T, catching up a bit on what they’d been up to on holidays; it was good to see them, and they were glad to see the donuts (and us, of course).

It’s a glamorous life sometimes, interstate travel. This particular trip, I’d stashed away some old clothes, so I could learn a little about trench-digging from T and his brother and dad.

The scene you see in the picture is the after photo: we dug out a 400mm wide, 20mm deep trench through clay as the foundation to the retaining wall that he’s going to build around his pool.

I learned how to use a mattock properly (which is good, as I bought one the previous weekend), and also a whole new appreciation for my desk job.

Somewhere in between there, I made a great many coffees – I still have a long way to go to get consistent results with milk, though I think the unfamiliar Queensland milk, and the unfamiliar machine may have had something to do with it.

We spent the bulk of the rest of our time with Kel’s family, in one situation or another. I even spent some time at a cemetery – something that I don’t often do. A sombre place, where I stayed quiet, listening to the way that the others were interacting – there was a lot of happy reminiscing going on, which helped me understand the reason for the visit.

Arriving back home, thanks to the GPS in M’s car, we trekked back to the airport, were fast-tracked through checkin, and made it back home just in time for kel to do the readings at night church. And so, in a flurry of activity, the long weekend was over.

Two Brothers cafe, Milsons Point

Paul Bassett coffee. 55 Lavender St, Milsons Point. A truly beautiful spot for a cafe – on a still day, you can sit outside, and look at Sydney harbour. The interior of the cafe doesn’t disappoint either: the indoor space is split between a modern kitchen, and a lucky few tables and chairs. The two brothers spend their time working here, and in their another cafe – Oven, over at Cremorne Point.

Coffee – I end up with a weak latte as the weekend patrons have decimated the supply of decaf – is really pleasant. There’s latte art, it’s not too milky, and the flavour is a worth compliment to the sandwich that I have.

It’s a little pricey, but when you factor in that a 3 bedroom unit in the building above the cafe rents at around $1800 per week, you can understand the need to pay a little extra. Open on weekends too.

Bar Bellaccino, Circular Quay.

Crema D’oro coffee. Next to the Marriott hotel, near Circular Quay. Unusually for the city, there’s a queue to order coffee here. Though the staff know all the regulars, none of them talk to each other: it’s strictly get the coffee and run. There are a few biscuits, and some banana breads on offer, but that’s about all you can find here.

Coffee – the large is absolutely huge – is really pleasant. Freshly ground decaf, and still a good temperature 15 minutes later, thanks largely to the polystyrene cup that it’s served in.

Update: coffee is Crema D’oro, not Piazza D’oro. Sorry!

Cafe Omelette, Surry Hills

Bun Coffee (roasted in Byron Bay). Shop 1, 99 Devonshire Street Surry Hills. Just a short walk from Central station, this little place proves popular with local office workers and hipsters alike. With a broad range of fresh, tasty-looking food that’s ready to take away, this would be a good spot to stop and recharge, or get pysched up for a day in the office.

Coffee is good: the decaf, really pleasant – hot enough to get stuck into on the train, with a pleasant, lingering aftertaste.

Buzz espresso bar, Cronulla

Campos coffee. Shop 6/28 The Kingsway, Cronulla. As you can tell from the photo, it’s pretty cramped here – one group of customers have a stroller with them, and so it’s a little tricky to move through to get a seat. Once seated, you will realise that it’s order and pay at counter, and have to walk back around to the counter, where the menus are – perhaps they should be available on the tables too?

The ambience of the place, though, and the food, and even the coffee, more than makes up for these inconveniences. A lot of character, and some quality fixtures and fittings have been crowded into this space.

Coffee is brought out, and passed across the divider that spreads this small shop into two columns by a friendly waitress. It’s a worthy cup of Campos decaf that’s brought out – the milkwork, the flavour, the aftertaste are all good, and the pancakes, too, are very tasty.

Oh, what a Bite! North Sydney

Caffe Di Gabriel Coffee. West St, North Sydney. This is a renovated sandwich bar where nothing is as you’d expect. The staff are friendlier, the food fresher, and the coffee is better.

I’ve never heard someone in a cafe say “bless you” to one of the customers – by name – when they sneeze, and especially not when the cafe is busy.

Coffee – a decaf – has swirling latte art, and is a pleasant decaf to boot (perhaps a little on the weak side). A diamond in the rough – look past its fittings, and try something!