Tuesday, June 28, 2005

More Medical

This morning, I trundled off to the Health Centre to renew my prescriptions (which the efficient pharmacists Le and Katrine said were about to expire), and to renew my sickness benefits certificate. Dr Ben did a thorough job and sent me off with my new form. The saga begins. I went off to the Fitzroy Centrelink in Johnston Street to find it was closed, and was redirected to Victoria Street along with some other customers. Guess where it is? Nearly opposite Victoria Gardens, my favourite mall. It has been relocated to probably the most inaccessible spot in the electorate. The old one was bang in the middle of several public transport routes; this one is on one. There isn't even good parking available for those few customers with cars. It is a disaster. However, I duly lodged my form and got some dodgy advice about lodging profit and loss statements like 'Put in the June one now' before June is even over.
Home again, after a four hour odyssey and six legs of public transport. Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of work done today.

Monday, June 27, 2005

New nose

A very quiet Sunday was spent just doing the crossword and generally tidying up. Today after a bit of work, I went off to the hospital to see Greg, the prosthetician. He had a brand new nose with a better fitting which he cleaned and stuck on my glasses. It feels like a lot better fit, and I tootled home for an arvo sleep. Meanwhile, P. was at the quack's himself with his bad cold and has scored Tuesday off as well. So far I seem to have escaped the cold.
The Premier's Award books are gradually making their way to the out pile, though the proportion of good to bad is still very high. The outstanding are still quite sparse.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Boulevard Delirium

Last night, P. and I went to Boulevard Delirium, performed by Paul Capsis with a five piece band at the Malthouse. It was a very lively audience; the Malthouse is looking up under new management and feeling like a live place. Kathy Hope and Tim Coronel were there, and Leigh and Dimitri. The show was very powerful and subtle as Capsis worked through various pop divas. The show, on at 9pm, makes a good companion piece for Chambermade's Recital, on earlier in the evening. It is hard to say what Boulevard means in very simple terms, but it resonates well on issues of celebrity, sexuality and gender. That sounds very cerebral, but the show was quite visceral. It was hard to 'come down' after getting home, so I watched a less-than-inspired Taggart that I had taped while we were out. P. has a cold, which I am probably getting, so went straight to bed.
Today was very conventional shopping at Victoria Gardens, welcome to the 21st Century, and we had lunch with Frank at home to try to use up the monstrous amount of leftover corned beef. We made a good effort, and now, after a lazy afternoon, Pierre is making Stephanie roast chicken, a perennial favourite. A night by the fire with The (endless) Bill and Doctor Which and the return of those tin cans on wheels. Exterminate! Exterminate!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Head down . . .

Thursday was spent busy at work on the Singaporean memoir, and I met with the author this morning and gave her a detailed report. I am confident she will be able to grasp it with both hands and FIX IT! It has been a pleasure talking with her, and I look forward to her revised draft.
P. was home sick today so we enjoyed his mushroom soup leftovers for lunch, with a baguette I got from Brown's in Carlton on my way home. Am now returning to the Chinese novel, all three versions, and enjoying it in between dipping into the Premier's Awards material. I've got a couple of residual things from the Writers' Festival, so I've got plenty to read, fortunately all of it pleasurable.
Sadly, the travels of Michael, Lesley and Louise are nearly over. It has been fun reading the daily alternative versions of their travels: L & L think the ponds on Hampstead Heath are lovely, Michael thinks they are rank, and points out that none of them were willing to dip in them despite the heat. Accounts of high prices (17 pounds for entrance to the pool and three burgers), street violence (kids vandalising a car with lumps of wood) and appalling public transport make it sound like less than nirvana in Merrie Englande. And it's still class ridden: there is a new expression "chav" for working class youth wearing Burberry. "Don't get above yourselves, peasants." The fact that Betty Battenberg costs every single Briton 61 pence per year doesn't make it sound any better. However, it is quaint, I'l grant it that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Happy Hospitals

After I'd done a bit of work on the memoir, my father came round and we headed off to the hospital for a pleasant lunch, discussing various financial matters to do with the end of the financial year. Then we waited for the renal clinic. Conclusion: over the last twelve months my kidney function has decreased slightly, but my health is good, and my blood is worth bottling. So one of the pills which might be affecting kidney function is going west, leaving me with four to take daily. It was quite pleasing in total. Back in October for the next round.
Then off to the Melbourne Writers' Festival meeting, which is one week away from finalising the program. Still no keynote speaker though. Any suggestions welcome, however wild.
Also got tickets for P. and I for Boulevard of Dreams with Paul Capsis on Friday night at the Malthouse. Only two left, but front row in the firing line for all the spit and sweat as the box office lady engagingly pointed out. All reports on the show are very positive, and it is coming back for a reprise in November.
Tomorrow will have to be a heavy working day, as I am falling behind with several things.

Blood and Requiems

Back to the hospital yesterday, clutching my bottle of piss, only to find as they started to prepare for the bloodletting that I was supposed to have fasted for chlorestorol and sugar testing. After discussion, it was decided not to bring me back for the third day in a row, but take it anyway, then tell the kidney quacks that it was without fasting. We'll see. A comedy of finding the vein followed, so it was all a lot of fun.
Meanwhile, I'd managed to get halftix for Verdi's Requiem last night, so met with P. and Frank and we had a very pleasant snack dinner in a little bar in the 'city square'. The performance was excellent in the Town Hall with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonic choir (full strength) and impressive soloists including Rosamund Illing, who was outstanding. While not the greatest musical work, it is nevertheless stirring with such large, powerful forces in play. Giuseppe should have had a mate telling him when to stop though: the last few minutes could be safely omitted and the ending would be less strident but more powerful. But those nineteenth century composers had to do BIG.
Today, it's back to the hospital again, this time to renal for the results of all the tests. As I've said before, it's a lot of work being sick.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Still busy

After Sunday morning conquering the Sunday Age crossword, P. and I went off to Ian Harrison's in Kew for lunch, with Damien. Damien, who works for Centrelink, confirmed all that I had supposed about the place, and that I am doing the right thing. He starts at a new office on Monday so I hope that works out for him. It was a lurvly lunch, and we staggered home around 5pm and had soup for dinner as we were so stuffed.
Today I had a trip to the hospital to see the vampires to give blood before Wednesday's renal appointment. I didn't realise they wanted an overnight urine sample, so have to go back tomorrow. However, I saw Greg of the cobbler elves, who took a silicon impression for an adjusted nose which should be ready next Monday. In the last 18 months or so, there has been some change to the shape so it needs a slight adjustment. He'll also do a new paint job.
Meanwhile, I have to piss in a bottle tonight and for some reason they want to take blood at the same time. Well, not exactly the same time, but more or less. All this stuff is very mysterious, and I hope there is some logic to it. But I am very, very grateful to the prostheticians/cobbler elves, who are nothing but outstanding in their service.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Busy Saturday

After a quick run over the Saturday Australian, I got the bus and tram into town to Halftix. Both contained people talking loudly to themselves in languages I could not understand, as was a man at the opera in the evening. Is this a trend? Contemporary loneliness, having conversations alone. I found it a bit unsettling as I wanted to get involved but had no idea of the language.
I arrived late home, after very bad connections, clutching tickets for The Marriage of Figaro, so we deferred shopping with Frank and whisked off to Montmorency for lunch with my parents, sister and brother-in-law, which included some discussion of family matters, including a projected Canberra meeting. It had to be quick to get back for shopping, which was zippily done at Victoria Gardens, then a quick snooze and soup and toast for tea.
The opera was most enjoyable. St Martin's Theatre is small so a full orchestra and less-than-top-drawer singers sounded very good, though Gary Rowley was first-rate as Figaro, and the others were not bad, specially the Count who was genuinely sleazy. Outstanding was the Susanna of Anna Margolis, with a clear, pure tone and excellent acting. The only problem was she is about half the bulk of the Countess, so even her little finger would have given away the difference. No one could make a mistake.
The production was minimal but straight and worked well with some nice small touches. There were very few cuts, so it went from 7.30 until 11, but never palled. The major peculiarity was doing the arias in Italian (with surtitled silly synopses) and the recitative in English. It was a sort of bilingual basketcase, and would have been better all in English (or Italian) or even Swahili. Because we took the car, we were home quickly and in time to view the taped Doctor Who for a not-so-complete change in tone. I think Mozart would have liked the Doctor. The current story has fart jokes, after all.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Woodcutter and the elves

Well, not quite. We followed up the chimney sweep's visit with the first wood delivery for the year. Trouble free, except it started to rain as soon as the woodman had dumped his load, so to speak. I had to stack the wood in the slight rain to avoid it getting wet. Other fairly humdrum events were getting pills from the health centre and going to the Writers' Festival meeting. The program is coming along well; next meeting or two should knock it off, and it's looking quite interesting. Haven't found a spot for the vampire panel yet.
Minor shopping and a bit of work completed the week. I've started in on reading and examining the entries for the Premier's Awards, and it looks as though it will be quite a rewarding task, if a bit lengthy.
Peter made poached Atlantic salmon (really probably from Tasmania) with a pesto-type sauce, which was absolutely delicious. My mixed grill with chops, chips and sauce tonight will hardly measure up. The Halftix that we wanted for tonight were not available, so (sob!) it will be a night for cuddling up by the fire. What a shame! Like two pussycats, as P. said.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Amor vincit omnia

The Rick Amor exhibition at the McLelland Gallery was really impressive. Consisting of more recent paintings from (mainly) private collections, it was a vivid look at his work and included a video which illuminated the painting, for a change. The sculpture garden was a delight as well, including ducks, very different from Bali ducks. And the lunch was very good. P. had smoked salmon and roesti, I had a platter of cheese, salami and assorted goodies (artichokes, pepper, almonds, figs and so on). In the video, Amor remarked on what a trek it once was from Frankston to town. Ditto in reverse, but it was worth it.
At home, P. made classy fish fingers and chips for dinner.
Today (Tuesday) it was like Bourke Street here. Joe Blake from Nyah West popped in for a visit, my Dad came to pick up accounts and the chimney sweep came for a long overdue clean of the fireplace. Then the coup de grace, six boxes of books for the Vic. Premier's Award, non-fiction. There are 148 books in this section, but a lot of gems, so it will be hard to make a shortlist of three, let alone pick a winner. I have my secret favourite already, but we'll see on closer examination. There are some splendid art books, but of course the text is what you have to go on, so we'll see. I'm looking for the book that really surprises and thrills with the unexpected.
Tomorrow I'll really get into it, and start organising my time to cope with ongoing work and the Premier's prize. Not easy!
It was Frank's birthday today, so he came for dinner, roast lamb with the lot, followed by tiramisu cake, that P. bought. A very nice night followed with the first fire for the season, which was (is) very cosy.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Naughty monkeys at Tjampuhan (look closely) Posted by Hello

Me in pool at Hotel Tjampuhan Posted by Hello

More ricefields Posted by Hello

Ducks on the move Posted by Hello

Bird walk in rice fields Posted by Hello

Bach into it

After arrival from an overnight flight, we both had a recovery snooze, before a bit of shopping for the larder. By Sunday, we were back in action, going to Gloriana, Frank's choir, at Saint Mark's Fitzroy. They did all six Bach motets, and a splendid performance it was. Accompanied by organ, cello and bass, the choir was in good form, and for once there was a good audience, nearly a sellout. We were an enthusiastic audience, clapping away until the choir repeated part of the final "Allelulia".
Dinner at Frank's, lamb tagine, followed with a viewing of Hitchcock's Family Plot, which lived up to my initial assessment of it as one of his good movies. The heisting of the bishop in the cathedral is a great scene.
Today, we're off to Langwarrin to the Rick Amor exhibition.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The verandah over the Campuhan

We nearly didn't make it to Bali. I set my alarm for 5 p.m. instead of 5 a.m. Fortunately, Peter woke about a quarter of an hour before we had to taxi off to the airport, and we had packed the night before. We got to Tullamarine in plenty of time. Australian Airlines proved to be virtually indistinguishable from Qantas, except the food seemed slightly more edible. It was easy to find our luggage at Denpasar because our bags were among the few not shrink-wrapped.
We were whisked away by Putra of East Indonesia Travel to Ubud. We didn't take up his many offers of elephant rides, whitewater rafting or whatever.
The hotel Tjampuhan was welcoming at all times and we settled into our room looking over the Campuhan valley near the top of the opposite ridge, watching squirrels, bats and birds flit by. The week was spent going to the three art galleries in Ubud: Neka, the relatively new Agung Rai Museum of Art and the Museum Puri Lukisan. All three have beautiful garden settings and mixed bags of art, but much that is splendid.
A bit of research found eventually that Victor Mason's bird walk still existed and off we went, tromping through ricefields and ravines in search of the elusive Java sparrow. We saw lots of other things but not that! It concluded with lunch at Murni's Restaurant (inclusive), and lots of stories from the voluble Victor.
Did I mention food? Probably the best meal was at Aya Restaurant: the Balinese smoked duck which fell off the bones and was very tasty indeed. We had a lot of really good food, and really only one dud, at the Cafe des Artistes, run by a Dutch or Belgian gent who, late at night, was sitting at the front with his laptop helping a very attractive young Balinese man with his homework! The young man seemed to be consuming a lot of cocktails as well. The food was appalling, but that was the exception.
A few other little side trips and a dance performance completed the week. How lazy it was is shown by the fact that I read five books which for some reason had vampires running through some of them (Elizabeth Knox, the new Christos Tsiolkas). Much more incomprehensible was the Archeological Museum: more cryptic than The Da Vinci Code. The only thing I could say for sure was that it had some very old things in it as well as Peter and I.
Throughout the Balinese good humour and friendliness shone through: the Moon of Peceng, a huge temple 'drum' which was of tarnished appearance because somebody pissed on it once (a quaint legend).
The hotel swimming pool was a constant distraction, springfed and icy but a welcome contrast to the noontime heat.
The only blots really were the silly arrangement of the flight back being overnight. It gets in an extra day in Bali but ruins the next day at home. And Peter's painting being confiscated for fumigation. And going both out of and back into Australia, immigration insisted on me taking my glasses off, which, of course, means taking my nose off. Talk about zealous.

Back from Bali

Just a quick post to get back on the air. There was an internet place right across the road from the Hotel Tjampuhan, but somehow I couldn't, in the balmy air, muster the enthusiasm to go inside and sit in front of a computer. Not while I could sit by the pool or tramp around the rice paddies. A fuller report will follow, but Ubud was glorious. We arrived back this morning to a rainy, cold Melbourne ("We need the rain," the driver said, and that is true.)
Centrelink have not been idle in my absence. A cross check with DIMIA has led to a letter informing me that they KNOW I left the country on 2 June, and I'll be cut off if I don't explain myself. Hmm! Considering my last post, it's very strange.
All the other associated bloggers have had an adventurous time too. Our travels were trouble free until we got to baggage check and Peter's Bali painting had to be removed for fumigation. The very nice AQIS person found a very small live bug crawling across the wooden frame. It's a very reasonable $30 for it to be fumigated and sent on to us. Alexander Downer's travel warning's worst consequence was an encounter with a small insect.
More to follow, but it was a very restful eight days with lots of galleries and birds, swimming and walking. Oh, and not forgetting - eating!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Busy, busy day

First up, I went to Centrelink. Turns out (after an hour's wait) that they had sent me the wrong form. But it also turned out that owing to an error, they haven't been asking me for profit and loss statements for TWO YEARS. Easily fixed. But really, the system is completely useless if it takes that long to come up with an error message. And then diagnoses the wrong error. Anyway, henceforth they will have quarterly p and l.
A quick trip to Carlton to join Peter and Frank for the Israeli film, Walking on Water, a clever and absorbing film about the relations between Nazism and Israel and the Palestinians. A volatile mix. Lunch in Carlton followed by into town to get halftix to Black Medea at the Malthouse written and directed by Wesley Enoch, with Justine Saunders and Aaron Pedersen. Before that the Writers' Festival meeting which is getting close to wrapping up the program. The play was rivetting, as the Medea story always is. Its last incarnation we saw was Evelyn Krape. This one was just as compelling, even more so. A bit grisly and gut wrenching, but how can Medea not be. The notion of being in a country not your own was well used in this translation to Indigenous Australia.
Now for packing for Bali and an early start in the morning.