I’ve been making batts for throwing these last couple of days. We lost all our batts in the fire, so new ones are required before I can start making sericite single stone porcelain again. Single stone porcelain is so floppy on the wheel that it is quite difficult to pick up off the wheel head after throwing by just lifting with your fingers in the ‘normal’ way that potters do it. So flat wooden platters are used to make the pots on. Potters call these platters ‘batts’. They can then be lifted off without distorting the soft, delicate, wet pot. Having tried lots of different materials over my time, I had settled on a product called ‘WeatherTex’, a compressed and baked wood pulp material that is strong, waterproof and very flat. It used to be called ‘Masonite’ when I was a kid, and was made in Burnie in Tasmania. God only knows where it comes from now, but I’d have one good guess!. This new version even comes painted with a white primer on the front face, which is remarkably tough and durable.
The slight drawback to this stuff is that the stronger 9.5mm thick version is not stocked anywhere that I could find, so had to be a special order. No problem, it just takes another 10 days to get it in. I haven’t made batts for a few years. These are my first in a long time, so my batting average is going up. You cant make bowls without batts, so my bowling figures will be improving along with my batting average!
This job gives me a chance to get out my old high school tech drawing kit. I haven’t used these since the last time that I made batts and needed to mark out the circles of various diameters. This draught-mans compass set and adjustable set square was much better than anything required for a high school class. I bought these professional items with my own wages from the part time job I had as a trainee draughtsman when I was 15.
I used to work in the drawing office of an engineering works called ‘Mole Engineering’ in Brookvale when I turned 15, I worked there over the school holidays initially, just as a cleaner, but when they discovered that I could draw. I got promoted to the design and drawing office. When school went back after the holidays, they kept me on working alone in the drawing office at night when the factory worked back doing overtime. I got there at 4 pm off the school bus and had 1 hour with the boss before he went home at 5. Got my instructions and then carried on.
I did 3 nights a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4pm till 8pm and Fridays from 4 till 6. I worked there for 3 years, from when I was 15 to 17. It allowed me to have some discretional income. I bought these beautiful tools first, so that I could work more efficiently, but then bought my first electric guitar and amplifier, and later a sitar. I learnt a lot and have used these skills that I mastered early on for the rest of my life. Drawing my own home building plans and also drawing kiln plans that I sold for many years. These beautiful objects of geometry no longer see the light of day very often because 30 years ago I converted to CAD/CAM drawing on my Mac.
I made 83 batts, So my batting average for this year is 80!
Geordie called in and cooked us dinner, as the restaurant is now only open Fri, Sat, Sun, due to lockdown restrictions on travel.
He cooks us some beautiful lamb that he brought, we provided the carrots, parsnips and broccoli fresh from the garden. I went searching in the cellar, under the floor of the old school and found this superb bottle of 1990 John Riddoch Reserve, Wynns Coonawarra Cab Sav. It is now 31 years old and drinking perfectly, it had an excellent nose and still retained good fruit, with beautiful soft tannins. Completely mouth filling with great structure and a very long lingering finish. I vaguely recall that it cost me $40 back in 1991 or 1992, when it was first released. It seemed like quite a lot at the time, but turns out to have been a very good purchase.
Geordie makes us a lovely desert of banana tart tatin.
He also brought us a gift of half a black truffle. It’s so fragrant and at its peak. Winter is the peak time for black truffle. We have it for breakfast thinly shaved over our own beautiful chicken’s scrambled eggs.
Janine matches it with our Purple Congo spuds and a few slices of Yucan – Peruvian Ground Apple. Janine has just dug up this years harvest and this is the first meal from them this year. Yucan is an interesting vegetable/tuber. It has a crunchy texture, not unlike an apple, as the name implies, perhaps a little like a nashi? But only in texture. Any flavour is almost absent, but there is a hint of sweetness that is amplified when pan fried. It also works grated in a salad. So if you want something that has no flavour and is used more or less only for texture, then this is the tuber for you. It’s peasant food. Easy to grow with no pests or diseases that we have noticed. Both the potato negra or purple Congo spuds and the yucan are sort of dull fillers that feed the bacteria in the lower bowel. They’re probably good for us in that way. Clever of Janine to pair these ‘quiet’ veggies with something so overwhelmingly aromatic and luscious as scrambled eggs with a generous accent of black truffle. This is all part of our attempts at living a self-reliant life. Luckily we have a very talented and generous son to provide some little treats for us and enrich our lives. We have been so busy working that we forget to spoil ourselves every so often.