Score for Drought Central

LG mainWho would have thought that we could buy a major consumer durable item like a washing machine cheaper from a Longreach shop in drought-stricken Western Queensland than from a bigger town or a major capital city? But today we proved it and here’s how it went.

We needed a new front-loading washing machine because our old one (at least 10 years old) was showing strong and certain signs of conking out. As managing director Pip had pointed out during the old machine’s descent, the washing machine ranks alongside the oven and cooktop as the most important appliances in the modern home.

So up the main street of Longreach we went to Leading Appliances and they had two on offer: a Simpson and an LG. After dutifully inspecting the merchandise and the product guides, and quizzing the staff, we chose the LG and arranged delivery for this afternoon (it would be about 500 metres’ drive in their little truck). Total price: $799 + $20 delivery = $819.

Now, because I run this shopping blog, I couldn’t resist the urge to test the market and see how much more or less we might have paid shopping either online or in Brisbane. So here are the results, based on identical products, real-time online shopping and delivery prices tested today:

LG offered the machine we bought, the WD12021D6, on their website for $969, not including delivery. That was a pretty clear result.

Harvey Norman, $749 + $199 delivery (nearest shop is in Emerald, four hours east) = $948.

Good Guys, $698 + $550 delivery (looks like the nearest location is in Rockhampton, eight hours east) = $1,248

BiRite (nearest shop is in Blackall, two hours south-east), $798 + $49 delivery = $847.

So there you go, little old Longreach and Leading Appliances … score for you today! Now if only they sold wine? :-(

Hay stories on the Day of the Cup

ON THIS Day of the Ponies (Melbourne Cup Day if you’re outside Australia!) here’s a yarn about mountains of hay.

One is moving east to west from the coast of Queensland, and another is about to start moving south to north from New South Wales, and both have as their targets the drought areas of Longreach and Aramac in the parched north-west.

The first, a mountain of freshly-mown north Queensland hay, is slowly making its way like a tide, from the wet tropics of the Pioneer Valley west to our drought-stricken savannahs.

In less than a year, 800kg bale after 800kg bale of pasture grasses from cattle properties along the Great Dividing Range have been cut, trussed and loaded on semi-trailers.

The latest count is 3250 bales, roughly 2.6 million kg or 2600 tonnes of cattle and sheep fodder.

Think of a mountain of hay like a pyramid 20 metres wide, 20 metres long and 150 metres high into the clear, blue Outback skies … that’s how much hay has been shipped so far, and there’s more on the way.

And at $50 a bale (before shipping) that’s a donation of over $160,000 from coastal farmers to Outback graziers.

The jaw-dropping beauty of this exercise is that the farmers in the east are the same ones struck by Cyclone Marcia around Rockhampton earlier this year, Cyclone Yazi in 2011 and Cyclone Larry in 2005.

“I guess they know a disaster when they see one,” said Longreach Rotary President and agricultural scientist, Dr David Phelps.

“Our friends in the Pioneer Valley Rotary Club came out west early last year and after one visit they decided to organise the great grass giveaway,” said Dr Phelps.

“Our local Rotary Club organises the transport and the State Government rebates the freight, freeing up Rotary funds to be redirected into other charitable uses-like helping school kids travel for sport, Scouts and dance, or for giving farming families Christmas hams and hot-cross buns at Easter”.

Dr Phelps, a friend of mine who is also known as “Dr Mitchell Grass” for his work researching how to improve the native grass pastures of western Queensland, calculates the 150 metre high grass pyramid as providing the same amount of feed for cattle and sheep as about 5,000 hectares in a good Longreach season.

“It amazing to think that 5-50ha paddocks up around Mackay are providing the same amount of feed as 5,000 ha out west — it’s enough to feed one property’s worth of cattle for a season!”

“It is being spread pretty thinly across the whole district, so it’s not perfect, but when we have what we call Hay Days at strategic points in the district everyone gets something and something is definitely better than nothing!”

The second mountain of hay, according to our friend and Aramac grazier Jenny Todd, is a result of the hard work of the NSW Burrumbuttock Hay Runners and looks like setting a world record with more than 100 trucks loaded with the stuff. It’s backed by Rotary too (disclaimer: Pip and I are both members too).

Look out if you’re on the road … Jenny says the Hay Runners are coming soon.

Start up the MP3

Moski JoTell me you like Mumford & Sons, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and John Lennon’s Imagine and I’ll tell you to listen to new Brisbane start-up Moski Jo’s new album, which I purchased tonight on Bandcamp for a little over A$21.

Critically reviewed on Triple J as “one of the strangest music videos you’ll see”, it’s a refreshing dip into music history.

At 9:18pm last night they posted on FaceBook: “The Moski Jo Album. Out Now. We are goin’ travelling for a little while. Tomorrow Jaymee and Mikky head to Laos, Aleks soon to Denmark and Dave and Marc who knows where, strange, inspiring times.”

Main driver Michael Josephson (Mikky) thanks drummer/partner Jaymee and his Mum and sisters Sally and Alice, “and all my family and friends who have supported me”, including his Dad, our mate David who passed away: “And thank you Dad. I love you and miss you. This album is dedicated to you and I will make you proud in my life.” Together they hiked the Himalayas, now that’s a dad-son thing!

Jaymee is excellent on the drum kit, driving the songs through the night.

And just for the Old Dads …

Here’s a taste of Shopping News: global launch tomorrow at the Merino Markets, Longreach

France 020

The 13th century Basilica of St-Urbain, opposite the Restaurant de l’Etoile in Troyes

France 069

M. Mignot, notre boucher aux les halles de Troyes

France 065

At les halles, Troyes

In my new book Shopping News I visit les halles (markets) in the small city of Troyes (pronounced Trois) east of Paris and discover its range of meat, fruit and vegetables, seafood, cheese, wine and bread, as well as knick-knacks galore. My friends, guides and translators Matthieu Lardeau PhD and his wife Hind El Feghaly, introduce me to the butchers, the fish mongers, the bakers and the vegetable sellers they know from their weekly shopping trips. They tell me about a regional delicacy invented right there centuries ago. It’s a sausage called andouillette made from pigs’ intestines, the lower tract.

So I say: ‘Oh yes, I’ll have some of that.’

‘And you must have tête de veau?’ they urge.

‘Oh, sure, what’s that?’ Well, translated it’s ‘veal head’ but in practice they refer to it as the ‘face of the calf’.

So off we go to the centre of Troyes and in the shadow of the 13th century Basilica of St-Urbain come to the Restaurant de l’Etoile which specialises in these two dishes, and plough right in. The andouillette is served barbecued and alone on a plate, accompanied on a separate platter with a mountain of frites (French fries). The tête de veau, ordered by our colleague Laure Muselli PhD, but for me also to taste, is served as a casserole in a bowl with a very creamy, noticeably fatty sauce, and a side dish of steamed vegetables.

No ‘label’ accompanies either of these dishes: it’s unwritten tradition and word of mouth, mainly via my companions. The sign outside the restaurant is in French and if I need any more information, I can always ask the waiter … in French. But everyone in the region knows that andouillette is a ‘coarse-grained smoked tripe sausage made with pork (or occasionally veal) chitterlings, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings (and if you want the details and pictures, visit Wikipedia). Food writer Jill Dupleix has written that it’s a ‘pale, lumpy sausage made from pigs’ intestines that smells like a pissoir (a urinal)’. Other, more brutal commentators, say it smells like poo. Fortunately I disagree with both and thoroughly enjoy the sausages which arrive on my plate, perhaps not least because I have a glass of genuine local brut Champagne (for Troyes is in the heart of the Champagne region) to accompany my meal. The tête de veau is, if anything, a little more challenging, because of the image it conveys … the little calf’s face peering up from the bowl. But it’s a tender, melt-in-your-mouth morsel, very fatty as Laure had pointed out.

France 070

Hind El Feghaly in les halles, Troyes

Both andouillette and tête de veau, along with the alluring boudin noir (blood sausage, which is exactly what it says it is) are sold fresh in butchers’ shops in the Troyes halles, such as our provedore that day, ‘M. Mignot, votre boucher’.

France 036

My guides, Matthieu Lardeau and Hind El Feghaly

France 080

Right now Right now in New York New York

Intrepid Eat-Drink-Sleep-Shoppers Erin and Pip are in the audience at Matilda the Musical right now at the Schubert Theatre on Broadway, New York City … and this is what they see!

Earlier they visited the famous Brill Building, which in its heyday was home to some of the great singer-songwriters of the 20th century.



Inside, now (Picture: Erin Cokley)

matilda stage

Pictures: Erin Cokley

At the Brill Building, New York, yesterday

At the Brill Building, New York, yesterday


My, oh my …

Oh our bargain-hunting daughter Erin is a marvel … her dad (me) writes about shopping and she finds this wicked link!

Australian agroforestry movement gains momentum, farmers diversify into timber plantations @ABCRural

The golden rule for growth is diversification, as this report on the ABC last month demonstrates …

Australian agroforestry movement gains momentum, farmers diversify into timber plantations @ABCRural.

Word is spreading

Online Journalism Blog

We’ve been invited to have our worldwide launch of Shopping News at the new Merino Markets at Longreach, so thanks Sue Smith for this honour. It’ll be in August and we’ll let you know details closer to the date. Copies will be on sale and you can also buy right here right now (click the book cover on the right –>).

UK journalism colleague Paul Bradshaw has also kindly devoted some of his popular blog space to a virtual launch and guest post about Shopping News … you’ll find loads of other interesting stories there too. Just click the image at the top of this post.

And we’ve announced the date for our first TAFE Small Business Solutions business improvement workshop, also in Longreach. We start at 5pm on August 11 and seats are strictly limited so please, if you want a booking, my advice is to get in now.

Is this the only expanding shop in Longreach?


I walked into Leonie Huff’s little shop Nature’s Tonic just after Christmas and I have to say I was impressed. Packed shelves, fresh stock, friendly staff. It’s tucked away at the rear of the Merino arcade where our other retail mate, Sue Smith, runs Spinifex Collections (which we featured just before Christmas).

Six months later and Leonie has doubled her floor space by opening a juice bar across the arcade and filled it with tables and chairs. Now we hear that she’s become a magnet and other businesses are relocating to be close to this omen of success.

Sue, Leonie and other businesses in the arcade last month held a gala shopping night and the talk is there’ll be more.

Leonie might be the hot spot but Mike Lockrey’s “hydroponic fruit and vege factory” is also evidence of Longreach’s latest growth spurt.

This erstwhile pizza shop owner has branched out into hydroponic tomatoes, lettuce and cress and we’ve tasted them … they’re the best in town in our book.

If you’re a Grey Nomad or just a regular tourist who likes your veges fresh and not too expensive, he sells every weekend at the railway station but daily 10am-noon just on the north side of the Thomson River near the Golf Club at Cramsie. Here’s a map …

and his website

Don’t forget to buy my new book Shopping News online … where you can read lots of other ways to Shop Your Way to Success™ (soon to be a series of business seminars).

The story’s out


After 10 years of research, my book Shopping News is now available from Melbourne publisher Australian Scholarly Publishing. Unlike most books about journalism it’s priced way below $100 … only $A39.95, and is available both as paperback and eBook. As the back-cover blurb says, “Shopping News contains the keys to the next generation of journalism and news publishing, with 16 clearly explained practical models for reporters, editors and producers everywhere”. I have shopped and researched for more than 10 years, from Iran and India to the UK, from China, France, South Africa and Australia to the United States. <more from the cover…> “As he shopped, Cokley learned retail and manufacturing secrets, including the latest in network theory, to show how journalists and publishers can reach and delight more people, ultimately achieving that Holy Grail of everyone in business, customer satisfaction, without compromising ethics or quality. It’s a must-read for everyone in the media business.”

Special excerpts and value-add illustrations from Shopping News will be published here from now on, including our new toolkit for reporters, editors, producers and Internet Service Providers, the Audience Soundtrack Analyser, and a Chinese version as well, priced at only 99 cents each. We hope you like Shopping News — and yes, it’s for shoppers, small business owners and digital marketing readers too


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 869 other followers

%d bloggers like this: