A Tale of Two Coffee Grinders


It’s not that I’m a coffee snob, it’s just that I appreciate—and love—a good-tasting cup of coffee. Which leads me to the saga of finding the right grinder for the job.

Many years ago, in the days when I bought pre-ground coffee, I admired the antique coffee grinder that hung on my partner’s kitchen wall. It never occurred to me to actually put some beans in it and see if it worked. I just assumed it didn’t.

Years passed. We built a little cottage in the bush. The grinder came too and continued to hang on the kitchen wall.

Wishing to reproduce a decent espresso in my own home, I purchased an espresso machine. Success. Then I wondered if freshly ground beans would improve things even more and began researching grinders. You know—not electric, even grind …

Doug said: ‘I reckon I could get that old grinder going again. It used to be good in its day’. Now why didn’t I think of that!

Success, again. With its fine-tuned adjustment, I was able to produce exactly what was needed.

Wind the clock forward 10 years, and Doug’s cousin, Judy, was visiting. (They had actually been friends for many years before discovering they are related—but that’s another story.) She saw our grinder and said: ‘Dad used to own one of those! It was blue. I wonder where it got to’. They began reminiscing and discovered that both their parents had purchased their grinders at the same time, in Holland, in 1953.

Wind the clock forward another 10 years. Doug and I were walking through an Aladin’s cave of a second-hand shop in Yackandandah, Victoria (a very long way from home) where, screwed to the wall, was a blue coffee grinder, just like ours. I rang Judy. Did she want it? Yes!

Now, I know this is a long shot, but just supposing only two of these grinders ever made their way from Holland to Australia, and just supposing Judy’s dad sold it to someone in the second-hand trade. Wouldn’t it be a neat ending to the story, if it had come home?

Coffee grinder


The Rose

Today, I plucked a posy of small but perfectly formed roses and placed it in the centre of my dining table, just as my aunty and grandmother had done for decades. What makes this posy special is that it comes from the same plant that supplied their posies.

Cecile Brunner bud Cecile Brunner posy

Back in the 1920s, my grandmother, Mary O’Leary (yes, the same Mary O’Leary who features in my novel, Union Jack) admired a rambling rose grown by her neighbour and asked for a cutting. The Cécile Brünner grew, along with Mary’s children, and her house filled with the wonderful perfume of the roses.

Mary’s husband died—tragically and far too young; her eldest child left home, rarely contacting his mother; her two daughters married during World War II. My mother moved out when her husband returned at the end of the war, but my aunty and her husband remained in the family home.

During the 1950s, Mary sold the family home and my aunty and uncle purchased a new one, taking Mary and a cutting of the rose bush with them. Aunty Madge continued the tradition of cutting the tiny dark-pink buds which open to a full-blown pale-pink rose within a day. Whenever I walked in her front door, I smelt the familiar perfume.

Years passed. My sister, Beverley, and her husband were visiting Aunty Madge when David, admiring the perfect flower, suggested they should take a cutting—in case aunty’s bush died.

More years passed, and my own daughter set the date for her wedding. Beverley and I gave her a kitchen wedding shower, and Liane opened the useful gifts we all brought—we laughed at how boring most of them really were. Beverley disappeared from the room, then reappeared nursing a pot with a small rose plant. She had struck another from our grandmother’s Cécile Brünner.

All this time, I had loved the rose, but had never owned one myself. Twenty years after my daughter’s wedding, I took cuttings from her plant, and now have three healthy bushes of my own that reward me with posies for my dining table. My son, Glenn, and his family have just moved into their first home. This year’s prunings are in potting mix…

This story has one final twist. The neighbour who supplied the first cutting to Mary was the aunty of my children’s father.