Category: Strine Tucker

Feel That Groove….Or, Don’t

I’ve struggled to adjust to the realities of life over the past few weeks, but waking on this holiday morning and seeing tiny spots of green sprouting up where my lawn used to be has raised my spirits infinitely, even if not leaving me quite as chilled out as a kangaroo playing air guitar.

While on the topic, I’ll stick with the good news. The onerous (and highly costly) process of getting an Australian passport for my daughter was finally completed. Even then it had been a bumpy ride, fighting with my daughter over instructions to fulfill the extremely demanding requirements, then clashing with Canberra after they refused the submission my daughter made and the embassy had accepted.

When I pointed out to Canberra that their allegations of where the submission had fallen short were completely groundless, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they agreed and had approved the application after all. (The application process started off a series of bike bad luck, losing my rinko bukuro, Wahoo mount and light during the trip, all of them parts for a Brompton, which is never cheap, let alone while trying to fight a 60% pay cut). Anyway, it’s done.

Then, Mrs. Kangaeroo discovered Latte Graphic.

I was delighted upon arriving there to learn that it is part of chain of coffee shops influenced by the Melbourne coffee scene.

I left Melbourne in the 1980s, well before the coffee culture had truly flourished (though it was already big then among the Italian community in Lygon Street and surrounding areas), but am always pleased to be reminded of my home city.

Although we had to wait an hour to get in and the service also unfortunately mirroring Australia (i.e., borderline abysmal, but at least with friendly smiles in Japan while being ignored), the food was sensational!

I had a chicken parmesan and a lamington for dessert.

Neither was presented in the traditional style a la pub or cake shop, but both tasted authentic and were deliciously scrumptious.

And that’s about where the good news ends. Cue a tale of woe and misery hereafter, so a good place to stop if not seeking bleakness.

For the past decade or so, the cornerstone of my life has been a 12-step program to deal with my recovery from addiction. It’s not working for me anymore. The program had always provided hope of something better. And it had always delivered. Even as my life started unraveling again toward the end of 2021, I could always drop back a gear and be thankful that the program would get me through. It has stopped doing that.

DBs! An iconic Aussie footwear of the ’70s

The 12-step program no longer provides me hope for progress and I was becoming a toxic presence for others, so have stepped away. My experience has been that those who relapse step away from the program, but I have also seen many others for who that has not been the case. I am not as talented as those people, nor as young or skillful or grounded. But as long as I am harmful to others, it is best to stay distant.

Ready to rumble!

Annual holidays were a mess as I spent them racing to and fro among various organizations in a vain attempt to ward off the impending pay cut my boss had decided to impose on me. I had to sign on to the deal because I learned the cost of fighting would have been even greater than what I was losing and with little prospect of “winning,” even if I did come out on top. The first work day after the new contract came into force, the boss announced there will be a significant increase in duties. A colleague is also leaving and unlikely to be replaced. I immediately applied to join a union. Fuck them.

Cycling has been a huge part of my life in recovery. And, as noted above, things haven’t been going too great in that field, either. The Death Machine has continued its track record of being finicky, but most tragically for me was the demise of my Trek FX3.

Last ride for the Trek

She had served me brilliantly for several years, being my daily commuter from 2018 to March 2020, when she was replaced by Belladonna and I discovered the delights of road bikes. Even then, the Trek was faithful for shopping trips, carrying loads and wet weather riding. She had been expected to weather the demands of the climate and always come up trumps. Then, on the way to Latte Graphic, we stopped briefly at a bicycle parking lot. When I took the Trek out, I noticed that the bike was “bouncing” with each pedal. The chain had sometimes slipped on this bike and I thought that was what was happening, but close inspection revealed that wasn’t the case. When the problem didn’t go away, I got off the bike and examined it closely. I was shattered to discover that the frame had broken apart. It was a death sentence for the poor bike. Ironically, it came just days after Belladonna was somewhat resurrected as a trainer bike after she, too, had cracked and was rendered too dangerous to ride outside.

Couldn’t be arsed

Paws and Reflect

Possibly the most meaningful part of my Australian seeds experiment arose today when I transplanted my kangaroo paw seedlings.

The great experiment, which I expected would result in me proving to have a green thumb and presenting all my gardening mates with exotic plants has proven only that I am all thumbs.

I’ve killed nearly everything I planted, even the everlasting daises and golden everlastings that appeared to be growing so well.

I bumped them off by putting them in a hothouse on a boiling hot day, then giving too much fertilizer to the plants that survived.

A desert pea also looked promising, but I over-fertilized that, too.

I have a tray full of dwarf wattle ready for transplanting, a single honeysuckle banksia that can probably be nurtured under growth lights a little longer and a heath banksia that appears doom after being affected by mold.

Given the nature of my blog persona and the role of kangaroo decorations in the garden, though, it was the kangaroo paw that I most wanted to succeed.

It’s a pretty ominous role to be assigned, actually, because every plant in Kangaeroo Corner that I have most wanted to thrive–tree fern, jacaranda and mature versions of kangaroo paw planted when the garden was started–have all died or struggled.

Anyway, I started today by placing a layer of stones at the bottom of a pot, covering it with a layer or nutrient-rich potting mix bended with peat moss and then covering that with soil especially for Australian native plants.

I then gently removed the kangaroo paw seedlings from the growth pods where they had thrived over the past few weeks.

With customary clumsiness, I managed to kill off a couple of seedlings along the way, but eventually planted them all in the same pot.

I then gave the pot a good dose of water and left it in the sun with lots of prayers for success.

Last year, I killed the kangaroo paw in the garden through over-watering amid the summer humidity, only learning later that my treatment was almost the guaranteed method for ensuring the lovely flowers from Australia’s arid regions would wither and die. Oh, well. Live and learn and sorry to the adorable plants.

Potting the kangaroo paws topped off an absolutely outstanding day that would have been perfect had I been able to spend it with Mrs. Kangaeroo, but it still came bloody close to perfection anyway.

I woke early, cleaned and oiled my bike and headed off at a fierce pace, backed by a gentle tailwind.

I made it to Tokyo Tower where I met many old friends for the first time in years and had a wonderful surprise of having a packet of Iced VoVos waiting for me: a gift from a Melbourne friend who has since headed off to a separate part of the country.

Later, a group of us went off to the nearby ANA Intercontinental Hotel and had an enormous buffet breakky, where the interesting and enjoyable conversation continued.

We spent a couple of hours reminiscing, but then had to go our separate ways.

I wanted to get home quick as the dinosaur was in her cage and was probably itching to get out and about, and I was still a couple of hours away.

I rode back in the delightful spring sunshine.

Fortunately, there was almost no wind, which was a blessing as we have had strong winds daily for weeks now.

As I rode along Koshu Kaido, headed for home, I realized I was looking at a record unique for me.

My average speed for the ride was exceeding 30 km/h.

It’s not unheard of for me over short distances, but I was still over the 30 km/h mark with more than 50 km ridden.

I only had 20 km to go on terrain I knew well and felt confident I could maintain the speed.

I’ve never maintained such speed over such a distance, my most notable record of sustained pace being a 180 km-ride at about 28 km/h a few years ago.

But that was when my cycling was thriving.

The past couple of years, my cycling ability has declined thanks to injuries, illness, aging, priorities, weight gain and opportunities, to name a few factors.

So I felt chuffed to be presented with this chance.

And the glorious sunshine was making it even more appealing.

An amazing, unseasonably clear view of Mount Fuji threatened to thwart my attempt at this record, though.

As I hit the Tamagawa Cycling Road for what I regarded as the home stretch, I stopped to take a photo.

There will be other chances to create cycling records.

Seeing Mount Fuji with the opportunity to take a photo is a rare blessing that demands addressing.

So, I stopped and took some shots.

It was totally worth it.

And when I got back on the bike, I got to maintain the speed I’d been looking for.

It was a delightful reward when I got home.

But not as delightful as the pleasure-filled greeting the dinosaur gave me when I got back and let her loose.

We spent the next few hours playing together, vegging out and eating.

I’ve even managed to save a couple of Iced VoVos for Mrs. Kangaeroo (but probably only because I managed to pick up some Choco-Chip GariGarikun, which I hope might be the seasonal flavor for the early summer).

She should be home any minute now and I am looking forward to seeing her.

Sodden But Sublime, Pigging Out in Yokohama

Gundam Factory Yokohama

Rain continued throughout the weekend, barely stopping from the time it began on Friday afternoon. This made me miserable at a time when I was in the mood to celebrate, but the weekend turned out to be a ripper one anyway as we hit the streets of Yokohama.

Teddy bear on sale in the hotel….there are probably cheaper ones around

I’ve always had an affinity for Yokohama, as it’s a sister-port to Melbourne (my hometown), and I arrived in Japan at the same time as Aussie Bowl ’88, the last VFL footy game in the code’s Japan experiment, was played in the city in October 1988.

But the weather was bleak and cold and I didn’t want to go out.

Mrs. Kangaeroo loves Yokohama, though, and had arranged a weekend away for a celebration.


Rain, not getting my own way, and being unable to cycle had me sulking. It got worse when I had to catch a bust, then a train.

I despise public transport (even when it runs like clockwork as it generally does in Japan), but I shut up and made an effort to avoid spoiling the time for Mrs. Kanageroo.

We got to Yokohama, left our luggage at the hotel and headed into Chinatown for lunch.

My poor mood was worsened by an absolutely obnoxious group of 70-somethings seated beside us. Two of the group of eight had extraordinarily loud voices that resonated around the restaurant and made conversation for anybody else essentially impossible.

The sublime food soothed my irritation. The nine-dish course was filling, tasty and affordable, even if the other guests left a bitter after-taste.

Despite the lousy weather, the heavy meal convinced Mrs. Kangaeroo that we would be better off walking to our next destination, the Yokohama Air Cabin.

The ropeway crossing part of the port area was a fun, but quick ride lasting less than 10 minutes. It offered some wonderful views of the Minato Mirai district and was great in spite of the rain.

Yokohama Minato Mirai area

We had a quick saunter around the area and strolled back to the hotel along promenade forming Yamashita Park.

There is a flower display going on in the park and the cherry blossoms are blooming, so it was still nice.

We stayed at the gorgeous Hotel New Grand, a stately old dame dating back to 1927. The art décor hotel maintains much of its original flavor and is serviced in the manner that Japan is renowned for.

We dropped off our luggage in the room and got ready for dinner, Mrs. Kangaeroo looking absolutely gorgeous.

Not even the magnificent surroundings and sublime dinner were a match for her beauty….but they tried their hardest.


Dinner was Italian and exquisite. Despite the huge, late lunch and lack of exercise, there was no way that every morsel of this meal could not be enjoyed.

After the meal, we strolled through the exquisite garden, adorned with fairy lights and a beautiful fountain in its center.

Scenes from the Hotel New Grand in Yokohama

By this time, I was exhausted. As I age, I find the low-pressure systems that bring rain have a debilitating effect and sap whatever energy I have. Riding often overcomes this, but no ride and eating all day knocked me out prematurely again.

Today started extremely early, as is often the case when I sleep at a preschooler’s bedtime. I woke way too early, as it turns out, as it would be several hours before Mrs. Kangaeroo would rouse herself.

In the meantime, there was cake to be eaten and coffee to be enjoyed, which I did fully. And just as well, too, as I decided to eat a continental breakfast, which to my horror, I discovered consisted of just two slices of toast and jam, albeit sublimely tasty orange and pineapple spreads.


They were filling, but not enough for my brain.

We got to eat with a glorious view of the port and could see the machinations from the Gundam Factory Yokohama across the water. But the weather was too unfriendly for any sightseeing, and we had a dinosaur waiting at home, so it was back to Kangaeroo Corner.

Nonetheless, the weekend was absolutely delightful. A nice, slow, easy time spent with my best friend in the whole world and gutsing ourselves almost incessantly in the most opulent surroundings conceivable.

Saving Things For a Rainy Day

The magical beanie given to me by the wonderful folks from Four ‘N Twenty Japan

It’s drizzling and miserable weather today, which provides a wonderful opportunity for an update as my customary lunchtime ride can be substituted.

Lots has happened since my last post, but there’s little time to write about it, so this is a bit of a summary of the past couple of weeks.

Perhaps most important is the passage of the first anniversary of my garden, Kangaeroo Corner, earlier this week. Amazing Alex, his mate, Mrs. Kangaeroo, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law built the garden as I was out with a broken leg at the time. It has since become one of the great joys of my life.

In some ways, Kangaeroo Corner is thriving. But I have to admit to a tad of disappointment. I have messed up every single one of the plants that I most cherished when we first put them in the ground: the kangaroo paw (because of the kangaroo connection), tree fern (because it is such an iconic presence in the Dandenong Ranges) and jacaranda (which Mrs. Kangaeroo specified because she strongly associates the tree with Australia) are all apparently dead. Might be a bit early, based on last spring’s late flourishes, but I’m not holding my hopes too high.

That leads to the next event: seeds. I planted a pile of seeds that I brought back from Australia last year in the hope of being able to grow them. I’ve had them in humidity pods with constant light (and heat in half of the pods) since mid-February, with the exception of some everlasting daisies that I took out after they germinated and transplanted into pots. (And subsequently killed more than half of by putting them in a hothouse in the middle of an unseasonable stinker).

Growing numbers of seeds are starting to germinate. The golden everlastings have sprung up, as have a couple of native wisteria, many dwarf wattle, a honeysuckle banksia and….hope beyond hope, lots of kangaroo paw! For the time being, I’m leaving all of the little seedlings in the pods. With the exception of the golden everlastings, none of them look particularly robust. And the transplanting process is messy and cumbersome, so I need more dexterous hands than I’ve got, so it will take a dual day off with Mrs. Kangaeroo to get this going properly.

Speaking of which, the Kangaeroos got to go into town together for the first time in ages earlier this month, and got to celebrate the occasion with a visit to an absolutely amazing gyoza restaurant, Kofuku Gyoza Sakaba in the central Tokyo district of Uguisudani. For just 1,180 yen we got all-you-can-eat dumplings served with side dishes of pickled cucumber, kimchee and salad. The dumplings were huge, juicy and utterly delicious. Despite having an appetite that is ravenous pretty much all the time and a gullet with seemingly endless capacity, I couldn’t get through the entire meal. Simply scrumptious!

Work has been an ongoing nightmare, more because we are so busy than anything else at the moment. I fear that the staff shortage we’re facing may be by design.

I got to take a long-awaited ride with some Strava mates last weekend. The people I met have been long-time associates and always highly supportive. I’ve always wanted to meet and finally got to do so. As just about everybody I have ever met through cycling has been, they were excellent people, indeed! We had a wonderful ride to Yokohama, a great feed at Yokohama Zebra and parted with promises to ride together again more often. I really felt blessed.

Finally, cherry blossom season is upon us. The blossoms have bloomed at a record speed this year. They’re not quite in full bloom in western suburban Tokyo yet, but with near-constant rain forecast for the next four days, I got out this morning to take some pics in anticipation of not being able to do so during this year’s season.

Sweetie Pies!

Meat pie

Australia doesn’t really occupy a prime place in the mind of most Japanese people’s eyes, and the same goes for Australian cuisine. But for a short while, meat pies here were, well, the flavor of the month.


Meat pies are, of course, probably the Australian national dish, or at least an iconic item on the everyday Aussie menu.


They’ve been pretty hard to come by down through the years, though. My first memory of Aussie pies in Japan came from watching a World of Sport segment on Channel 7 in the 1980s which showed Four ‘N Twenty pies being sold at a stall in Ginza.


By the time I got here, though, there were no more Aussie pies around.


Then I made it to Tama Zoo, which a couple of years earlier had scored some koalas and opened an Australian animal section and featured Aussie critters heavily in its marketing. A kiosk outside the zoo sold Aussie Beef Pies, which were sort of like a meat pie, but good enough for the deprived. I also found the same pies at an expressway service area around the same area, but forget the details now.


For years, I couldn’t find pies anywhere, but rapidly gobbled down any I could when I did manage to get my hands on the dish.


Villi’s pies were sold early into the millennium, then disappeared again.


And that was the state for me at least through the Noughties and into the Twenty-Tens.


A chance mutual acquaintance, though, took a huge move and started Punk Doily, which makes Japan’s nicest Australian pies and other tuck shop favorites.


About the time of the pandemic, though, the iconic Four ‘N Twenty suddenly assumed a more prominent role in Japanese retail than ever before.

しかし、コロナ感染拡大が起こった頃、日本の小売業では、「Four ‘N Twenty」のアイコンが以前にも増して重要な役割を担うようになりました。

You could go to your local 7-11 convenience store, which are almost ubiquitous in Tokyo, and get a meat pie for about 340 yen. They were on sale in about 3,300 stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area from June 2020.


Costco Japan sold six-pack boxes of Chunky Angus Beef pies…and cheaper than those in Oz!

コストコジャパンでChunky Angus Beef pieの6個入り箱が売られていた!しかもオーストラリアで買うより安い。

Costco food courts even offered an Aussie Beef pie as part of their regular menus (but they were gross and resembled the true meat pie in half a name only).


Gyomu Super, possibly Japanese bargain hunters’ favorite supermarket chain, carried beef and cheese pies.


And Hanamasa offered Garlo’s pies.


From 2019 until the autumn of 2022, it was finally pretty easy to pick up a pie in Tokyo.


And then they disappeared again.


Purely by coincidence, I attended an Aussie Sports Day last month, and was surprised to learn it was sponsored by Four ‘N Twenty Japan, which suggested the pie company still had a presence in Japan.


Not only did I have a pie, I was impressed by the golden beanies the company was using for promotion, so fancied getting my hands on one.


I contacted Four ‘N Twenty Japan through their website to ask about the hats, and also figured I’d kill a couple of birds with one stone by asking how I could buy myself a pie on a regular basis again.


The company got back to me really quickly, letting me know that new packaging negotiations had postponed pies’ appearance on Costco shelves, but the Gyomu Super pies were also from the same company even if not under the same brand.


As a frequent Gyomu Super user, this was music to my ears. My local store, however, was not keen on carrying the pies. And though online sales were possible, they were only available by case, which is 12 boxes of 8 pieces apiece and we just don’t have the refrigeration storage space for that.


But I was onto something. And I found out the actual pies are made just down the road from me. Thinking I might be able to buy a packet directly from the producer, I contacted the company, Passport, which runs a number of Gyomu Super franchises.


I told an employee my dilemma and asked if it would be possible to buy individual packets of pies from the producer. She asked me to wait and said she would call back.


To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything.


Imagine my surprise, then, when the lady from Passport rang me back.


“Kangaeroo, the Hino Mogusaen store will have meat pies waiting for you on Saturday. Thanks for using our services.”


Can you imagine my delight? I went to the store as soon as I could today and thanked the store staff, asking that my gratitude also be passed on to Passport.


And look who followed me home this morning? Can we keep them? Not for long, I reckon.



Just a week after this post came out, the Australian Financial Review did a ripper story on how meat pies are making their mark in the Japanese market. From my experience, with the service that goes with their sales, it’s little wonder the humble Aussie pie is carving its own niche here.

Why Japan is tucking into Aussie meat pies

Smashing Smashed Avo!

What’s for tea?

Kangaeroo was extremely fortunate to get to pig out on Aussie food while surrounded by kangaroos and koalas, all in the east of Tokyo!

Restaurant Ensemble on the second floor of Tokyo East Side Hotel Kaie has been holding an Oceanian Cuisine Fair as part of its World Buffet Dinner series since April 1, 2022, and it will draw to a close on June 30, 2022.

The food was fantastic, featuring such menu items as smashed avo, baked whitehead, roast lamb with rosemary sauce, fish & chips, whitebait fritters and chicken parma, all available in unlimited quantities.

Desserts were also exquisite, highlighted by the appearance of lamingtons.

The lammies were delicious, but perhaps not quite the taste of Australia.

They were more like coconut-covered brownies than the sponge cake and jam filled Australian staples, but delicious nonetheless.

Ensemble was also wonderfully decked out in lots of Australian and New Zealand-themed decorations and flags, adding to the flavor.

There was also some facts and figures about kangaroos for the kids who visit.

Thoroughly good time and an absolute delight!

The next theme in the series will be Thailand and Vietnamese cuisine, starting from July 1, 2022.