Shirley Harring

writer, farmer advocate, madwoman

Dining Alone

February 18, 2017

It was the woman in red dress that decided my restaurant choice. Or, perhaps I should say, it was her face. Behind large wooden doors pushed open to the night breeze were couples and candlelight, and I thought… no. But something caught my eye. Yes, it was her face. At the time it was upturned, with eyes closed, unmoving.  In her hand an empty soup spoon poised somewhere between mouth and bowl. It hung in the air like a comma, waiting.  I, too, found myself unmoving, holding my breath. She …

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Room Service -a short story

August 14, 2016

The single glass of champagne wept tears of condensation, pooling on the white cloth marred only by the soft smudge of the spreading damp. Framed by yawning doors opening to rooftop terrace, the sunset cast a soft orange glow, catching rainbows in the glassware and rendering the suite quite beautiful. Beside the glass, an array of dishes carefully selected weeks in advance, each ingredient, each dish, each course so imperative to this occasion that the choice of hotel had fallen wholly and solely on the reputation of the chefs and …

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The Joshua Tree

March 21, 2016


Joshua’s father and stepmother lived across the road from us. Like us, they were renovators, people who liked to tinker and do up old homes. They were about 3/4 of the way through their substantial renovation and had been in the street for around 2 and a half years when we arrived. They were excited to meet us when we moved in, and once discovered we had many common interests we became firm and fast friends. Like me, Mrs Neighbour was a devoted foodie masquerading as a teacher. She was …

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Where I am from

September 14, 2015


I am from dressmaker’s thimbles, from Metters’ gas stoves and days of endless sunshine. From cicadas tick-tocking through  hot, dry heat. I am from the old red brick house built by my grandfather, yellow sand and bore water, the mulberry tree that stained our fingers blue. I am from the warm eggs fresh from the chook pen, the lupins in the park, the cat who had kittens under my bed when I was just 10. I am from Nanna Duff’s Christmas lunches and GG’s plastic cockroaches, from Joan and Ray …

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How to Kill Backyard Poultry

March 29, 2015

killing a chicken for food

Shirley chats about giving a chook the chop. There are two campsites in the paddock. In one, the occupants vow it is cruel and unethical to raise and kill animals for food. In the second, consumers champion their right to eat what and when they want, and at the most economical (some would say, cheap) price available. However, there is a third campsite out there. In it, happy little campers regularly discuss the raising of meat in natural surroundings; and practice employing natural farming methods that nurture the health and …

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Taking the Plunge

February 5, 2015


I remember my first time. It was a little crisp, no too cold for that time of year, considering. And it was early – much earlier than I would usually rise on a weekend. But there I was, donning something tight and red, and secured with laces so tight, my ribs creaked.  He talked, a soothing voice. Don’t worry, he said. I‘ll talk you through it. It’s perfectly safe. I could see the glint of sunlight on metal, the misty steam rising off the concrete, foggy windows evaporating moisture in …

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Florence Francis Onions

December 11, 2014

    Her name was Florence Francis Onions and she was 33 years old. She was fond of the water, which became her downfall, since she chose to take the route through Brentleigh Park that night – presumably to take in the last of the lake views before the sun disappeared altogether. She wore contacts, mildly tinted to enhance the blue of her eyes. She was allergic to cats – or, more accurately, cat hair, it seemed – and she shaved, not waxed. She had her hair coloured regularly – …

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Are You Dense?

November 20, 2014

“If you could just lean forward a bit… yes, that’s it. Now, head back – let’s just move this shoulder back. Can you put the other arm around the machine? Like you’re hugging it? Yes, that’s it. OK, I’m just going to slide this bit around a little more, and wedge it under here. Lean forward? Back a bit… to the right… no, your other right. That’s it. Hold. Now don’t breathe for bit….”   Mammograms are essential. Most women procrastinate about them. Most women hate them. Most women roll …

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The End of my Life

September 9, 2014

People become old. People who partied and laughed and danced and sang now creak and shake, the façade crumbling and drooping under folds and sags.  Their eyes crinkle under furrowed brow as they try to remember that elusive little detail – that name, that place, that ‘you remember when…?‘ I look at photos. Photos I only took a few years back – only that can’t be right, because my grandmother has been gone – oh 11 or 12 years now, and my son – the one who finishes high school …

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Breakfast Cookery 1940

November 28, 2013


I’m meandering through another vintage cookbook. This time, it’s ‘The Commonsense Cookery Book compiled by the Public School Cookery Teachers Association of New South Wales’. Settle in, for I’m about to cook you breakfast. Beverages first. Cocoa,  Sir? Madame?  Please note we only serve real cocoa here, none of that sugary powdered drinking chocolate you’ll find in the next Century. Even good old Bournville will contain additional ingredients once it’s acquired by Cadbury. Need more of a caffeine hit? Of course, Sir. War rationing has commenced, so we are supplementing …

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