Lunch with Ribena Oresum
I may have mentioned that my personal assistant, Trudy, is a singularly shy and withdrawn person. She is also an accomplished young woman and is, as you may have gathered from previous posts, a highly skilled exponent of the art of wrestling. If you met Trudy Festival without prior knowledge of this expertise, you would never guess she possessed it. It was my good fortune to have hired her as a result of my friendship with her father, Mordechai, plumber extraordinaire and all-round bloody good chap.
It would not be entirely untrue if I said that Mordechai and I have enjoyed more than an odd bottle of vino from my abundantly stocked cellar. I have had an opportunity to learn much about what it is to be a decent human being from this unassuming man. Though quite adept at observing, sadly I have yet to master all the bits necessary to become good myself. You dear reader would have already established, empathy has been somewhat delinquent in my personality. Consequently, it is at the feet of others I sit to master this apparently necessary skill. Two important aspects of my relationship with Mordechai have been made clear to me, particularly by my wife Dymphna. One – I am a slow learner and two – not a great deal of plumbing takes place.
Trudy is one of the few people I have felt a warm affection for and out of concern for her I asked Mordechai over one afternoon when she was out with Dympha on one of her shopping sprees. He was summoned under the guise of fixing something or other of a plumbing nature about which Racine, interminably complains. Fortunately, Mordechai was able to apply his skills in the kitchen with ease in less than 30 minutes and joined me in the cellar for a tasting.
‘That Racine is a very strange fish, mate.’ He said.
‘Mordy, You have a remarkable skill for accuracy in regard to character assessment and I venture, a corresponding talent for understatement.’ I said as I opened a bottle of Château Margaux, Pavillon Blanc, Médoc 1995 I had been meaning to taste since its arrival from France the previous month. This vintage departs from the Margaux appellation directives quite significantly and as such is of much interest to the connoisseur. We sat comfortably in the cellar and I decanted this so-called ‘strange’ fruit of the Médoc.
Mordechai looked at me as if he had something to add but decided against it, took a sip and with the aforementioned understatement remarked, ‘A good drop alright FU.’
‘Those frogs have to be good for something eh. I spent some time in France in my youth but alas it didn’t end well’ I said. ‘Anyway, I just wanted to talk to you about Trudy. She’s a dear girl and Dymphna and I have a lot of time for her but we are concerned about her almost clinical reticence.’
‘She’s shy FU, I’ll give you that.’ I guess not having a mum around and me being a bit that way myself’ He trailed off.
‘You mentioned something before about the absent mother.’ I said. ‘Where did she go?’
‘Just shot through when Trudy was about twelve and the girl took it hard. It wasn’t a good marriage from the start and she showed little affection for the child.’ He paused a moment. ‘Trudy is not my blood FU.’
I was a little taken aback by this revelation. I have known them both since Mordechai came to us as a result of an urgent drainage issue. It was school holidays and Trudy accompanied him. Dymphna loved the girl immediately, took her out and spoiled her as if she were her own. I being me displayed my usual attitude to humans under a certain height and paid her no heed. She was about thirteen then and on Dympha’s insistence became a regular visitor as did her father.
‘Her mother Esther told me she had relations with a guest at a hotel in Sydney where she worked as a housemaid and Trudy was the result. She enjoyed telling me how obviously rich and clever he was. She just grew to despise me because I didn’t live up to the promise of my youth I guess. I had aspirations like all young men but…anyway it didn’t work out to her expectations.’
‘That sounds a bit harsh, to say the least Mordy.’ I said.
‘Trudy was a delightful child in everybody’s estimation except her mothers. In an attempt to placate Esther I invested in a printing business in Marrickville on a promise of a very profitable re-sale to overseas investors but the thing mysteriously burnt down and the devious bastard who had organised the deal and in whose name the business was in, collected the insurance but neglected to pay back the investors. This creep entered state politics a year later. The law finally caught up with him or so I am given to understand. Makes you wonder about politics mate, they let someone like that in.’ I nodded with commiseration.
‘Anyway it was the last straw for Esther and she pulled the plug. Packed her bags when I was at work and Trudy at school and we haven’t heard from her since.’
Something began to make me mildly uncomfortable about this sad story but I couldn’t put my finger on it. We talked of other things while we polished off the Margaux and my friend, now with a decent buzz on, left to deal with what sounded like a rather nasty backflow issue in Matraville.
The next day…..
‘Racine, being aware of the imminent arrival of my luncheon guest, what deliciousness have you in mind.’ I said as I walked into the kitchen. He seemed as usual a little over-cooked and the nasty little cuisiner gave me a look that would turn the most robust turnip to mush. Oh fuck, I thought, what is it this time.
‘This plumbera he say to goa essy on ze enzinkerator , he say I no puta too mucha ina ze hola.’ He points at the sink as if it has leprosy.
‘Well Racine he is the plumber, he is saying it for a reason. I have no knowledge of such things but I imagine you can over-indulge the thing with items that may be inappropriate for such a device. I believe feeding it oyster shells may not be good for its digestion.’ I said, peering into its hellish maw.
‘Ha! he knowa nothinga,’ the rancid little lardon remarked with an indignity that belied his status.
‘You know Racine, I have it on good authority that officers of the department of Immigration are roaming the neighbourhood looking for illegal culinarist’s, you simpering twat!’
‘What’s for lunch?’
‘Ah, we hava ze Trevally fish from ze Northern reefs.’ He said with oily braggadocio.
‘I see, I trust it will be up to the usual standard.’ I heard the crunch of gravel heralding the arrival of my guest and decamped to the foyer to greet her.
Ribena Oresum is a splendidly immense whale of a woman of 60 years who has accumulated vast wealth by selling iron ore and coal to China. When she is not squabbling with her spoilt children over her late and devious father’s complicated trust fund she removes vast quantities of iron ore and coal from the ground and sends it to China. It appears that digging up Australian dirt and selling it is very profitable.
‘Hello FU, we have met haven’t we? She barrelled through the door as Ferdinand the gardener tried to communicate unsuccessfully with her chauffeur in regard to parking arrangements. As I closed the door their conversation was about to go septic.
‘Yes we have, it was some soiree in Surfers Paradise if my memory serves me correctly. I recall the state premier was bending your ear about the necessity of paying royalties and offsets or some such. I had no idea what he was on about and apparently neither did you. In any case come in Ribena please and welcome to my humble digs’ I said.
She glanced around as I ushered her into the dining room. She was encased in a white wool dress that had the effect of explicitly conveying the detail of her impressive bulk. She sported a jaunty hair clip that might have looked very charming on a child of no more than five.
‘Not so humble but yes I concede it is a little cramped.’ She said in her girly, finishing school voice. She has an uncanny knack for being charming and condescending at the same time. I notice she also possesses an ability to look straight at you with a smile on her lips and the eyes of a hungry alligator. She had a kind of dusky tinge to her skin but on closer inspection I have to say she looked a bit grimy. I wondered at this point if the school had ensured she had been completely finished.
‘I hear your chef is a master of nouvelle cuisine FU.’ She said. I pulled out the arm chair for her and she experienced a moment of difficulty. I had a notion to push her down into it from the shoulders but our sparse level of intimacy forbade such a gesture.
‘Indeed he is Ribena but with an unsurpassed unique flair.’ Clearly the dreadful little man’s ears were burning because he materialised as I seated myself at the dining table. He was followed furtively by our dear Trudy laden with the two dishes she placed before us. Racine perched a folded card upon which in perfect copperplate the following legend was inscribed.
A Selection of Barilla Bay Oysters
2 x Besan battered
2 x Truffle anchovy butter
2 x Au Natural with sun-dried tomato and shredded celeriac salsa
Each large oyster was resting on its own silver plinth. A reptilian glance from my guest at both the dish and the snooded barrel in the shape of my chef elicited a look of mortal terror from him and I swear one of the not entirely deceased ‘Au Natural’s’ quivered in its shell. Racine departed hurriedly, hopefully to titivate a Trevally while Trudy retired to the sideboard to prepare the wine.
As we tucked into the Barilla Bay’s the wine was delivered in a sweaty golden bucket and our glasses were filled.
‘This is a white Piquepoul de Pinet from the French Mediterranean Thau Lagoon Ribena…enjoy.’ As she sipped the crystal clear nectar a sincerely greedy smile graced her face and she squirmed a little in her seat. Her eyes momentarily whited out. It is not possible to drink this appellation without practically reaching orgasm.
‘Now Ribena.’ I said after we had collected ourselves sufficiently to support a conversation. ‘Are you familiar with the Great Barrier Reef?’
‘Can’t say I am.’ She said washing down the last of her molluscs with glug of Piquepoul.
‘In that case you might find this edifying’ I attempted an avuncular familiarity. ‘The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. It’s composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. It supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981. CNN labelled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world if you take much notice of what CNN says. The Queensland National Trust named it a state icon of Queensland. All very worthy I know but you get the idea don’t you?’
‘Actually it’s from Wikipedia.’ I said incredulously.
‘Now FU there’s no need for that sort of talk….isn’t that some kind of kiddie fiddling thing?’
‘Well, it doesn’t sound very nice to me.’ She said disdainfully.
‘Look Ribena, what I’m getting at is that environmentalists are concerned about the impact of dredging to setup a coal loader at Abbot Point. Your company seems to have got around the coal dust abatement stipulations as well.’
‘I’m glad you brought that up FU because coal dust turns out to be very good for your skin. My beautician despaired for my derma until I started rubbing the stuff on. It’s done wonders for my rather underutilized pudenda. I was positively blotchy but now…well you see the results for yourself. We are bottling it now. It’s going to be the next big thing. Anyway daddy runs the mining thingamajig…I haven’t the foggiest.’
Momentarily taken aback at the notion that she may have mistaken her genitalia for some less discreet part of her anatomy I soldiered on.
‘I thought that your father had passed away years ago Ribena?’ By now I realized that my guest was stark raving bonkers.
‘Did he?……O dear, poor daddy. I was very fond of him you know.’ She uttered wistfully.
A muffled commotion outside drew our attention to the French doors adjacent to the dining table. Ferdinand and Ribena’s chauffeur were engaged in a heated altercation by the pool. Clearly Ferdinand’s parking instructions were not adequate. The strange guttural angry-sounding Gallician accent is something of a mystery to all who have the misfortune to be exposed to it. My sympathies lay with the chauffeur.
We both chose to ignore it. I glanced over at Trudy indicating that an eye on the poolside proceedings may be warranted. She stealthily moved closer to the doors.
I had half a bottle of Piquepoul under my belt and what with a deranged conversation with a person who was clearly a congenital idiot I was beginning to wonder about my own sanity. Just as I was about to fake a matter that required urgent decamping to Auckland, Racine waddled in with the Trevally.
The rancid porcinity nervously placed the dishes down in front of us along with another card fished from his pocket describing his creation. Once again I was forced to reconsider my plans for the discreet murder of the ghastly little beast. Needless to say the discussion of the Insinkerator that morning had planted a seed in my overactive brain in regards to the potential disposal of a difficult to explain dead chef.
Blue Eye Trevalla with Herbed Crust
Steamed Green beans
Boiled Chat Dutch Cream Potatoes
Ribena again gave Racine the evil eye while I merely nodded my usual equivocal approval and he silently scurried back to the kitchen. Trudy interrupted her vigil to open another bottle of the Piquepoul and filled our glasses while we savoured our first mouthful of the fish. In a word; sublime.
‘Couldn’t poach that little fellow could I FU; he’s a marvel.’
‘Indeed he is but poaching is too good for him.’ I uttered.
‘Pardon?’ She said.
‘Never mind Ribena. How’s things with the kids?’
‘Only have one FU.’ She said with more than a little malice.
‘Ah yes, it’s a Ribenita isn’t it…..lovely girl. Clearly comfortable in her own skin that one.’
‘Dear little kitten she is but I wish she would stay away from those beach bums.’ She said with some concern.
‘I think you might find its Beach Boys Ribena but never mind.’ I said.
‘She’s itching to get a bit of the Coal dust action and I think she is mature enough to play a part. She has already come up with some marketing ideas.’ With this, she pulled out of her handbag a squat and square black bottle. A word in white printed diagonally across in an incomprehensible font on each side. I took a closer look and could barely make it out.
‘Soot?’ I said a little unsure.
‘Precisely FU. Isn’t she a clever one?’ She fished around in her bag again and laid a graphical mockup on the table.
‘Genius!’ I said knowing that sarcasm would be lost on the deluded nitwit. Intrigued I opened the container. A repellent, oily odour emanated from the pitch-black contents which did not sit well with the Trevally. My stomach lurched a little and Trudy braced herself. It certainly looked like coal dust although my experience was limited.
Trying, with difficulty, not to give the impression that I thought she required immediate psychiatric assistance I continued.
‘But surely Ribena the other siblings would be overjoyed by this remarkable development.’
‘FU it is naughty of you to bring this unpleasantness up. Telemachus only communicates through his lawyer who my lawyer refers to as an ambulance chaser. I had no idea that was a thing; it must be extremely tiresome lawyering and running after ambulances…..why on earth would anybody do that FU?’
‘Anyway, he is continually banging on about a trust fund silly old daddy setup and goodness me Soshona is in rehab so no sense is coming from that quarter. I am completely puzzled as to what Kiki is doing, nor do I care though I heard something about her working in a zoo or was it a loo….dreadful creatures the three of them.’
‘You do have rather a lot of money Ribena, you make one million dollars every thirty minutes by my calculation, surely they can have a bit? They must be feeling positively orphaned.’ I said attempting to promote some compassion for the poor young things.
‘I need it all FU. Ribenita has such plans……’
I may not have mentioned it before but I suffer from a diverted septum resulting in an unpredictability of the sinus passages causing me some rather explosive distress. Whether it was the close proximity of the ‘Soot’ or just a seasonal thing but at the very moment Ribena was about to launch into a glowing review of her scion’s prodigious talents I sneezed suddenly and violently.
The immediate result of this impromptu exercising of my deformed proboscis was to spray half the contents of the beautifully packaged product and some unpleasant issue from my own person across the table and all over my guest.
Her, until now pristine dress and the exposed parts of her substantial upper body were transformed into an ill-defined black mass with two round sparkling eyes peering out of it like twin diamonds discovered in a nugget of coal.
Ribena stood awkwardly as Trudy alert and ready for action assumed the ‘offensive’ stance. There was a fearsome moan now eliciting from the black mass approximating my guest. With the chair attached to her still white buttocks, she made for the french doors.
Trudy in a bit of a panic opened the door proprietarily grabbing the back of the chair in an effort to rescue it as the now screaming Ribena attempted a panicked exit. This manoeuvre resulted in Trudy tumbling backwards onto the floor with the chair and the occupant being evacuated at speed onto the now grappling retainers and all three thusly propelled into the pool in a manner that could not in any way be associated with poise.
One would be quite within their rights to expect a litany of litigation to erupt from the poisonous events described above but you would be mistaken. Fate interrupted on my behalf once again and I escaped without blemish to my person or character.
So overcome was Ribena Oresum that following a rather indelicate process of poolside retrieval and resuscitation a discreet albeit damp relocation was provided to a facility for the emotionally distressed. A rigorous stratagem of therapy saw the lady restored to not quite her former self but something approximating that person. All memory of the incident at Chateau Unction was erased from her already addled mind.
The chauffeur and Ferdinand discovered they had a great more in common than mortal combat, eventually sharing a domicile and lived happily together with Ferdinands two cats until the chauffeur whose name, incidentally was Eric, died suddenly of anaphylactic shock. I know it’s very sad but there you have it. I believe it was the cats he was allergic to. Ferdinand was inconsolable for several months in a way that only a northern Spaniard can be (which is not very attractive) but still managed to prune my hedges adequately.
Trudy hurt her collarbone and wore a sling for a while but insisted that she did not need any time off. Mercifully Dympha was not exposed to these shenanigans. As soon as she heard I was having Ribena over for lunch she wisely decamped to a spa in the Blue Mountains for a few days with Celia.
So that’s that! Unseemly I know and some might say impertinent to even bring it up.
Trudy’s origins, I am afraid, hold some rather unexpected significance for yours truly.
It was a zoo Kiki was working in, by the way. She had a soft spot for Baboons apparently and some unkind person was heard to remark that she displayed a remarkable physical resemblance to the creatures.
Please feel free to comment and pass on the link to others who may be craving a diversion over the holiday period.