I am in Perth, which is slightly farther from my home than New Zealand. The up side of Perth is that my sister and her husband live here, and my grandpa, and an aunt and uncle who I very rarely see (with the especial feature that my uncle is Indonesian).
On Wednesday night, having discovered that my 90-year old grandfather had never eaten Indian food, my sister and brother-in-law took him out to “Spicy South” in Subiaco. I was lucky enough to be along for the ride.
None of us like our food super spicy, but that wasn’t an issue. We had butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, some kind of spinach-and-potato thing, pappadums, and two serves of naan bread (butter, and garlic).
Every bite was infused with spices and creamy deliciousness. Grandpa loved it. I worked out by a long process of elimination that the ultimate mouthful consisted of butter naan with butter chicken.
During the dinner, Grandpa mentioned he was seeing the aforementioned aunt and uncle for lunch the next day, and I invited myself along. We went to Jetty’s buffet restaurant in Hillary’s. Jetty’s costs rather more than I’m used to – but then, I’m not used to filling up with fresh prawns, either (there were about thirty dishes from lasagna to mussels – not counting sauces or desserts). Hillary’s is a very popular tourist trap with a man-made harbour, a small amusement park, extraordinarily tacky and overpriced shops, and large boats for sale.
Hillary’s also has a cold rock ice cream shop – which, sadly, we were too stuffed to visit on this occasion.
And we arrive neatly back at Bill Bryson’s history book, “At Home.”
“One early type of shower was so ferocious that users had to don protective headgear before stepping in lest they be beaten senseless by their own plumbing.”
Trust the Victorians to make a shower dangerous (baths sometimes blew up, but that’s another story).
1851 was the year of the Great Exhibition, which any Victorian student knows all about. It took place in the astonishing Crystal Palace (the most original and stunning building of the age – designed by a gardener), and was a roaring success. It was all about the rise of amazing new technologies.
“Almost 100,000 objects were on display, spread among some 14,000 exhibits. Among the novelties were a knife with 1,851 blades, furniture carved from furniture-sized blocks of coal (for no reason other than to show it could be done), a four-sided piano for homey quartets, a bed that became a life-raft and another that automatically tipped its startled occupant into a freshly drawn bath, flying contraptions of every type (except working), instruments for bleeding, the world’s largest mirror, an enormous lump of guano from Peru, the famous Hope and Koh-i-Noor diamonds, a model of a proposed suspension bridge linking Britain with France. . .”
You can see why steampunk holds such fascination. The simple question, “But what if it all actually worked?” is enough to launch a thousand novels.