Vale Julieanne Ford

Julieanne Ford, 2031-2012
Julieanne Ford, 2031-2012
Julie-Anne Ford, 1931-2012, had a long career in ABC Radio drama and features and was its director from 1985-89. This department, now defunct, produced plays, features and serials for all ABC networks from the 1930s, and Ford was a key member in what was perhaps its most creative period, the 1970s and 1980s.(from the «Sydney Morning Herald» obit column, written by Rodney Wetherell and Ron Blair.)

Julieanne appointed me to run Radio Helicon from 1987 to 1988. It was the most rewarding work I have ever done. Now, programs like Radio Helicon and other radio features and plays have been dropped from ABC radio forever, to make way for cheaper talk and chatter shows. We are the poorer for it.

The Headband

HER: And when I’m wearing this little blue band on my head… his… uh… his brainwaves tell me what to do, like… like point at the phone. I’m pointing at the phone, see?

HIM: …how do I get outta here?

1991 interview

Newly available 15-page interview, with photos: John Tranter, in conversation with Stephen Craft and Helen Loughlin, for «Hermes» magazine, Sydney: The University of Sydney Union, 1991. See below.

At work on the interview, Stanmore, Sydney, 1991: Matthew Karpin, John Forbes, Helen Loughlin; photo John Tranter
At work on the interview, Stanmore, Sydney, 1991: Matthew Karpin, John Forbes, Helen Loughlin; photo John Tranter

«It’s not true that the way we dress or eat or go to the movies is a language. It’s not. Language consists of words and a coat is not a word. There is a word “coat” that refers to the object occasionally, but a shop full of clothes is not like an anthology of poems, for example. That’s an interesting idea, but to build a theory on a metaphor as thin as that appears to me very silly.»

Photographs added and some interpolations made in 2013 by John Tranter.
Read the full interview here.

Me or the Ant

Me or the ant

“Look, I gotta eat. It’s me or the ant — and I’m bigger than the f***ing ant, okay?”

Photo from “Photo of the Day for 1-23-2013” photograph “Apple A Day” by Steven A Sweet

La Mama, 1974

I have recently posted to my Main Site a piece by Melbourne poet and Collected Works bookshop maven Kris Hemensley: “The Beginnings — a note on La Mama” (1974) which has obvious historical significance for the bright young things rewriting Australian poetry at present (yes: I mean you!). Photo, below: Two Buddhas: Kris Hemensley in his Collected Works bookshop in Melbourne, 21 December 2010, photo by John Tranter.

Kris Hemensley
Two Buddhas: Kris Hemensley

The Plumcot

l to r: My cousin Mary Peters, and a younger me, John Tranter, in the apricot tree, Kiora, Christmas 1955
l to r: My cousin Mary Peters, and a younger me, John Tranter, in the apricot tree, Kiora, Christmas 1955

We had a huge old apricot tree in our backyard that fruited generously. It was fun to climb, too.

I remember my mother telling me when I was still a child that my grandfather (or grand-uncle) was a great botanist, and that he had grown a citrus tree that had oranges on one branch, lemons on another and grapefruit on a third. That was a simple grafting trick, and lots of home gardeners had tried it over the centuries. But he also developed a plum-apricot cross he called a “plumcot”. I realised decades later that he had probably been influenced by plant breeder Luther Burbank, an American who died in 1926. He had been the first person to successfully cross plums with apricots in the late 19th century, releasing a handful of half-plum, half-apricot hybrids which he called plumcots.

Three organic apricots, two large red plumcots, photo by John Tranter
Three organic apricots, two large red plumcots, photo by John Tranter

Some sixty years passed without my ever seeing a plumcot until early in 2013, when I bought some deep red-coloured apricots (with yellow flesh) from fruiterer in Rozelle in Sydney. At least they looked like red apricots; the flavour, though, was intense, scented and exquisite, with a hint of sweet plum. Sure enough, they were plumcots (see photo).

A little searching on the Internet led me to Chip Brantley’s article in Slate magazine. He says:

Floyd Zaiger [now, in 2013, in his late eighties, born in Nebraska, raised in Iowa, resident in Modesto CA] and his breeding company, Zaiger Genetics, used Burbank’s work as a foundation for much of their own experimentation with plum-apricot hybrids. In the 1980s, they released two 50-50 plumcot varieties, Plum Parfait and Flavorella. But plumcots suffered from a bad reputation among stone-fruit growers for being tough to grow, harvest, and ship, and while Plum Parfait and Flavorella were much tastier than some of the older plumcots, they were still temperamental.

Floyd Zaiger
Floyd Zaiger

Also, as a rule, the term “plumcot” referred only to half-plum, half-apricot hybrids. So as the Zaigers began backcrossing plumcots with plums to create more complex hybrids (with varying ratios of plum to apricot), they wanted to market them with a different name — one that wouldn’t be tarnished by the notoriety of plumcots. Zaiger thus trademarked the name pluot (pronounced plew-ott) in 1990. (They renewed the trademark in 2007.)

As the Zaigers have continued to cross and backcross their increasingly complex hybrids, they’ve released dozens of pluots, each with a slightly different lineage. While it’s surely true that one variety’s family tree shakes out around 75 percent plum to 25 percent apricot (or even 60 percent and 40 percent), it’s not correct to say that all pluots are three-quarters plum and one-quarter apricot (or three-fifths and two-fifths). Best just to say that pluots are mostly plum and leave it at that.

I read in the Huffington Post that “Zaiger and his staff make repeated and complex crosses in successive generations to make a bridge between two species. Their low-tech methods are painstaking and methodical. He collects pollen with an eye shadow brush from a tree chosen for its flavor, then brushes it on the flower pistil of another tree chosen for its durability or resistance to disease. Each of the 150,000 crosses currently in the orchard has a number to trace its lineage back to its great-great-grandparents or longer.”

To my eye (at least in photographs) pluots look like plums (see photo above, of a knife cutting a Plout), with variegated colour and glossy skins. My plumcots from Rozelle look like apricots with dull red skins. They cost more than your plain old apricot, but the taste is, as they say, “redolent”. Redolent of what, you might ask. Redolent of heaven, in my book.

Read all about it on Wikipedia here.

A more useful Main Site


Encouraged by a visitor who just couldn’t find any poems on my Main Site, I have made the design of the Homepage a little less obscure and I hope much plainer and more helpful. You can find a direct link to it (and thus to hundreds of poems and so forth) near the top of this page, behind the link labelled “My Main Site”.

The top right corner of my Main Site homepage now looks like this:


Portrait of Alexander Pope, studio of Michael Dahl, oil on canvas, circa 1727Alexander Pope.
Portrait of Alexander Pope, studio of Michael Dahl, oil on canvas, circa 1727

When we find him [Pope] translating fifty lines [of Homer’s Iliad] a day, it is natural to sup­pose that he would have brought his work to a more speedy conclu­sion. The Iliad, containing less than 16,000 verses, might have been dispatched in less than 320 days by 50 verses in a day. [That is, in less than a year. Pope took five years, from age 25 to age 30. — J.T.] The notes, compiled with the assistance of his mercenaries, could not be sup­posed to require more time than the text. According to this calcula­tion, the progress of Pope may seem to have been slow; but the distance is commonly very great between actual performances and speculative possibility. It is natural to suppose that as much as has been done today may be done tomorrow, but on the morrow some difficulty emerges or some external impediment obstructs. Indolence, interruption, business and pleasure all take their turns of retardation, and every long work is lengthened by a thousand causes that can, and ten thousand that cannot, be recounted. Perhaps no extensive and multifarious performance was ever effected within the term originally fixed in the undertaker’s mind. He that runs against Time has an antagonist not subject to casualties. (Dr. Johnson, Lives of the Poets, Pope.)

Confession: in the late sixties, in Geoffrey Little’s English Lit III class at the University of Sydney, I handed in (and read out, as seminar top-dog-of-the-week) a paper on the topic of the week: the poetry of Alexander Pope. I had written it in heroic couplets. I remember I was given a good mark. Good boy! Who was to know how irrelevant heroic couplets would become? Moi?

Poached peaches

January is mid-summer in Australia, the season of shark attacks, murderous heat and bushfires. It’s also stone fruit time in the fruit shops. Recently Lyn made a dessert of white peaches with sugar and lemon zest poached in Prosecco with added raspberries. Let’s see what Wikipedia says about the wine:

Poached peaches and Prosecco ready to cook
Poached peaches and Prosecco ready to cook

Prosecco is an Italian white wine — generally a Dry or Extra Dry sparkling wine — normally made from Glera (‘Prosecco’) grapes. DOC prosecco is produced in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy […] Prosecco is known as the main ingredient of the Bellini cocktail and has more recently become popular as a less expensive substitute for Champagne. […] Compared to other sparkling wines, Prosecco is low in alcohol, about 11 to 12 percent by volume. The flavor of Prosecco has been described as intensely aromatic and crisp, bringing to mind yellow apple, pear, white peach and apricot.
Poached peaches and raspberries
With raspberries added

Unlike Champagne, appreciated for its rich taste and complex secondary aromas, most Prosecco variants have intense primary aromas and are meant to taste fresh, light and comparatively simple… Most commonly Prosecco is served unmixed, but it also appears in several mixed drinks. It was the original main ingredient in the Bellini cocktail and in the Spritz cocktail, and it can also replace Champagne in other cocktails such as the Mimosa. (Wikipedia)