Sunday, January 29, 2006

Nothing But Eating

After a few bits of work this morning, and a start on the crossword, we went off to Kent, Wendy and Ty's place for lunch. Kent kindly picked us up in his Kentmobile, and on the way we paid homage to his shed which is located not far from their place in the back of a rented house. It is the deluxe shed-of-sheds of a husband's dream. It will feature in a book one day: it has a kitchenette, and bathroom with shower. You could easily live in it.

Lunch was equally impressive. After delicious bruschetta, we had kangaroo which was as tender as it could be. Followed by cake and cheese. We hadn't seen them for a while, so there was lots of catching up in between munching. Like little porkies we staggered home, where P. finished off the frig defrosting (far less glamorous).

Then, before you knew it, off to Frank's for another instalment of his delicious pizzas followed by fruit salad and yoghurt. How does he do it? Mmmm!

And it's still too darn hot!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Topical Tropical

Melbourne seems in the grip of a dose of the tropical: intermittent heavy downpours and monsoonal heat. It is wearisome trying to open the windows and doors to let in a hint of a cooling breeze, then closing them all again frantically as the downpour starts.

It was time for a Brunswick shop this morning. The bulk olive oil had run out. Off to Mediterranean Wholesalers for various Italian supplies, then to Barkly Square for the supermarketing. BSquare is less than impressive, but its Safeway at least did not have long queues. The possibilities for lunch were even worse than Victoria Gardens. Still, it does the soul good to experience Mall culture at least once a week. Lord knows why. I suppose it keeps you in touch with some kind of reality.

Tonight, P., Frank and I are off to ACMI to see Dr Strangelove on the big screen.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Eastern Rosella: nice Australia Day pic after Liberal horrors below (photo: Frank)

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Scorching Australia Day

It's no news to anyone in Victoria that today is very, very hot. So P. and I just stayed at home and puddled around with work and on the computer.

Last night, Rochelle J. came for tea. It was a very pleasant evening hearing all the goss. from her writing and various media jobs, freelancing. She is adjusting to being on the loose and on the run between her different occupations and workplaces, but seemed in good form. Activities resulting from the Billy Longley book are tapering off, but still pop up from time to time, including giving out the prizes at a boxing match.

Almost no one of our acquaintance made the Australia Day honours, just a few authors I've worked with or met like Inge Clendinnen and Doris Pilkington. And the departed father of our production person on Darby, Carmen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What can he do to Defence? Tremble.

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Australia Day Special Our Leader

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Business as Usual

We finished up the leftovers on Monday night with rabbit casserole, then Frank joined us for tea on Tuesday for the conventional roast lamb. For those envious of our menus, I can report that the meat was tough, the carrots undercooked, but we still had a good meal, rounded off with mango icecream. Tonight, Rochelle J. is coming for tea, and it is prawn laksa deluxa from a Herbie recipe.

A mammoth meeting this morning on Darby with the author, designer and production person tied down a lot of detail. There is still a bit of apparatus to come: captions, copyright and photo credits; project participants and sponsors, but we are close to the finishing line.

The luxury of Australia Day off is not to be, I suspect, as the deadline for the Warlukurlangu Art Centre Book looms. In any case, it's going to be a stinking hot day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ann, Joe and I in the Murray (photo: P.) Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 23, 2006

Swanee! How I love ya...

The weekend in Swan Hill went very well. The 'train' trip up was by bus from Kyneton onwards, because of preparation for the almost very fast train, but was cool and efficient. Joe B. picked us up in Swan Hill and whisked us off to Nyah West, where we spent much of the weekend on their leafy veranda because of the heat. On Friday night, there was an all night blackout because of an electrical storm and huge downpour, but by Saturday all was clear again, and the power was on.

Our only excursions were down to the river for a very cooling swim on Saturday evening, and into town for lunch and a visit to the Art Gallery on Sunday morning. There was a very good travelling exhibition of Bruce Postle's photography, and among the prints from the gallery's collection was a beautiful Yankirri Jukurrpa (Emu Dreaming) print by, guess who, Darby Jampijinpa Ross!

The trip home, on a very hot day, was fine except for a half hour wait to get into Southern Cross (Spencer Street) Station, caused by, the conductor told us, a traffic jam, at 7pm on a Sunday night!

Friday, January 20, 2006

You heard it here first

Well, the focus group for Disability Pensioners was a step further on from the Vicar of Dibley vestry. We were a motley lot ranging through HIV+, recovering junkies, bad backs and other more mysterious ailments. The funniest anecdote came from a man with one of those Les Tanner throat talkers who was directed by a Job Agency to seek a job in a call centre. I'm not joking!

I didn't need to be a stirrer with this mob. A more cynical bunch of been-through-the-Centrelink-mill activists, you wouldn't find. I suspect any random group of Centrelink 'clients' would be much the same. The government's new rules for Disability were treated with the cynicism they deserved. "They're just trying to get people off benefits."

The way it is to work is that when your next review comes round, every two years, you will have to see a "professional" job assessor. If they opine that you can work for 15 hours or more per week, you will be transferred to Newstart, and all that entails (jobseeking, mutual obligation). The 'new' range of assistance to find work, and get support, didn't seem at all new, and participants reported on their tawdry experience of such (mostly privatised) agencies.

We were all given a 'gift' of $60, which doesn't have to be reported as income, because it's a gift (a tip there for the hapless Australian Wheat Board: their kickbacks to Saddam were just gifts, not bribes).

And there was not a word about confidentiality.

Meanwhile, in the real world, P. went off to the physio. for a good workout of his crook knee, which is much better for it, and was given an exercise regime. Frank came for dinner (Szechuan chicken with snap peas) followed by more of P.'s delicious peach melba. It's a real hit.

Today, off to Swan Hill for the weekend to see Joe and Anne in Nyah West.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Clinic capers

Yesterday, after a morning working through Darby, I was off to the Renal clinic. With characteristic efficiency, my results from the Vampires on Monday were on the computer, and, lo and behold, my kidney function is stable (i.e. not deteriorating) and my blood pressure is PERFECT! 110 on 80 or somesuch. "Come back in four months" and before you go overseas it might be good to check with your GP. I will.

As well, I got a call from Centrelink's marketing people. Seems they are thinking of changing the names of some benefits, and would I come to a focus group to discuss it. Will I what? So I'm off today to the home of PR, South Melbourne, for a couple of hours to be subversive. Like Pauline, that scourge of jobseekers in the League of Gentlemen, I'll take my own pens. They promise a CASH payment of sixty dollars for my trouble, but didn't say whether I had to declare it to Centrelink. I tell you all this now, as I'll probably have to sign a confidentiality agreement when I get there, in case of terrorists. Heaven knows what damage they could wreak if they knew the new proposed names for benefits.

Meanwhile, I'll get on with some work, though it's hard not to think of bright new names for the Dole and Disability. Something like The Fabulous Fortnightly Payment! or the Bop-Till-You-Drop Pension.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Market bounty

P.'s knee is still playing up, so yesterday he went to the doctor, who despatched him to x-ray, then to a physio. on Thursday night. Maria-from-the-shop has weighed in with the card from her acupunturist in Victoria Street.

In spite of this, he produced a magnificent dinner, nearly all from the Farmer's market last Saturday. A delicious pesto (basil and garlic from the market), with a watercress and orange salad, followed by poached peaches which were turned into a Peach Melba with rasberry sauce and icecream, the genuine article. The balance of the goodies, the radiatori pasta (which looks just like little radiators, good for catching the pesto) and the grana padana were from Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick.

To top it all off, the information has arrived on how to pick up the key for the flat in Vejer-de-la-Frontera. The only difficulties left are accessing the Granada Alhambra site to book, and waiting for the Villa Borghese to allow April bookings (they only work 2 months in advance).

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How do you get to Pompeii?

Last night, had a fine meal at Frank's (various curries, mango salsa and fruit with icecream, not all together). Tat came for dinner too, and in between various TV offerings, we discussed travel plans (ours in March, theirs later in the year). Issues included how to get from Rome to Pompeii without being robbed and monstered, overnight trains in Spain and other useful tips.

My father visited yesterday on various accounting matters, and we trooped off to the Vampires at the Royal Melbourne, thence to Readings where he spent his voucher from the Philosophy class at the U3A. Back into the proofs for Darby with a vengeance, and they are looking good. More of that for the next few days, though I will try to get more done on the art book as well.

Yesterday, I had to knock back an interesting sounding job (sob!) as I couldn't be sure of finishing it before we left.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Les pavlovas

On Sunday, my parents came round and we all trooped off to the wilds of North Dandenong (my sister's place) where my brother-in-law turned on one of his extravaganza lunches. The guests were mainly people from various bat groups, and other greenies. This time included two French tourists who had made contact enquiring about green matters. It was a very lively lunch, with prawns done every which way, and crayfish, and lashings of delicious salads. And that was only the first course.

My father did the barbecue honours, and more food appeared, followed up by my sister's famous pavlovas (one with a banana filling and one with pineapple). We staggered out some hours later like little roly-polies.

There was lots of conversation, centring around 'green' topics, including a revelation to me: How careful such groups have to be to ensure they are not infiltrated by anti-greens. Indeed! It's a jungle out there.

Meanwhile, I've finished Rossalie Ham's Summer at Mount Hope, a very interesting novel. It's kind of Jane Austen via the Australian bush at nearly the turn of the nineteenth century (into the twentieth). Depression, the rise of feminism and increasing mechanisation are the themes, but central are the dilemmas and delusions of the heroine, Phoeba. Not quite with the finesse of Austen, but still a very good novel: the mother (in the throes of 'The Change' and the father, a slightly drink-sodden vigneron) could be straight out of Austen.

Today: back into the proofs, with, on the side, a visit to the vampires at the hospital.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

To market, to market

To my surprise, the Farmers' Market was on in January, so Sal came round and P. and I toddled off with her and our flash new red jeep (shopping, that is, not the Brian Kinney variety). It was a gloriously sunny morning at the Farm, and we shopped for lots of good things. Sal seems to know everyone in Melbourne, so it was a slower shop than usual.

The bunny man was there from Ouyen, so we've got rabbit with prunes on the menu tonight. P. got some luscious watercress which is rapidly becoming orange and watercress salad. It is peppery and almost like rocket. Some basil, cheeses, olive oil and sourdough bread completed the purchases.

This meant that we were a bit restrained when we picked up Frank and went off to The Mall for the supermarketing and Toscano's fruit and veg. Back home for leftover lunch (the remnants of the shepherd's pie), then P. and F. went for a walk by the falls.

Sandy dropped in the next colour proofs for Darby this arvo., which look superb. I'm looking forward to going through them carefully.

Tonight, Frank is coming round to join in the bounty. We'll probably add tiny boiled potatoes.

Many meals out

On Monday night, it was Lorraine's birthday, so we headed off to Oriental Spirit in Victoria Street for more Thai delights, with her and Frank. It is consistently good and reasonably priced, with less of the cheap and cheerful atmosphere of many of the Victoria Street establishments. The crockery for instance does not look like it came from a jumble sale, like ours does at home.

On Tueday, P. Frank and Tat hiked off to Victoria Gardens for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which they quite liked. I passed.

On Thursday, P. had an RDO so I worked in the morning, then went off to Fed. Square for a seafood lunch sitting watching the river. He went on to ACCA and the Botanical Gardens. I went home.

Then on Friday, I had a very nice lunch at the Kew Boathouse with Julie W. whom I hadn't caught up with for ages. We only had rolls and frittata (respectively) but had a great gossip about the publishing world, past and present, and our parts in it.

Meanwhile, I got all the bits and pieces of A. Nauthor's ms off to its publisher, and Darby's publisher was confirmed at last (watch this space!) The next set of Darby proofs arrive today, so I'll be very busy.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Storm cooking

All the guests seemed satisfied with the weekend meals. It was good to catch up with Holly and Ricky (Peter's young nephew), about to become parents. We had a good mag and caught up on the Brisbane Ronge family gossip.

Next day, we were five for lunch, and again had a good memory trip back to the seventies. The old Liz Kelly group household was the subject of nostalgic and risible revisiting, amid gazpacho, cajun chicken salad and spinach tortilla, followed by berries, fresh and icecream.

Today lots of Darby endmatter, with a break in the arvo. for coffee with Andrea Goldsmith. We changed the world over an iced coffee, but strangely the world seemed much the same afterwards.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Usual Routine

On Thursday, we had our first programming committee meeting for the Melbourne Writers' Festival. The new Director is settling in well, and it seemed very productive. Some new ideas are emerging for this year's Festival to give it a newish look.

Friday night, P. and I went to Frank's for the usual delicious meal, with lemon delicious and icecream for dessert. The work front is very busy, with two bibliographies on the go at once, which is a bit confusing as their styles are slightly different. I think I'll have to finish one off before starting on the other. Today, we were emailing back and forth furiously on corrections to Darby which is beetling along furiously with an end-of-month deadline to printer.

To add to the freneticism, we've got a very social weekend. Peter's nephew and his pregnant lady are coming for roast lamb tonight, and the old Liz Kelly brigade (minus Polly from England) are having lunch here tomorrow (Sunday). After a mammoth shop this morning, preparations are well under way. The gazpacho is made, the salad only needs assemblage (with or without the cajun chicken for the vegos) and the frittata has to be made on the spot. Berries and berry icecream for dessert. Not sure whether we'll be five or six in total, but no matter.

The federal government is excelling itself this week. Not only is their new law (supported by Labor) banning any phone, email or internet discussion of ways of topping yourself now in operation, but they are busily specifying what wedding vows couples can make with civil celebrants. Apparently, spouse is an okay word, but lifelong partner is getting a bit suspect. Surely grownup people (they have to be to get married) can make up their own minds about what wording they want. Described by one letter writer as the zealous godly, the Christian right are getting closer and closer to the bedroom.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Go, go, go!

Last night, P., Frank and David and I went to St Kilda for a screening of Good Night and Good Luck, the movie about Ed Murrow and McCarthy. It was quite a good film, nicely made, though a bit linear, without very much ambiguity or complexity. Very nice performance by Frank Langella (an erstwhile Dracula) as the head of CBS. Director George Clooney also played Murrow's offsider in a performance which one website described as "Don't look at me, don't look at me."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, everything started to come together. A publisher has bitten on Darby, the publisher of On the Smell of an Oily Rag has approved the edited manuscript, and the Warlukurlangu one is off the blocks. We had a very productive meeting on Darby today with the designer, production controller and author and solved a few problems with a minimum of hassle. It is very pleasant to work with such level-headed people, focussed and competent. Leave the temperaments at the front door, please.

However, all this means a very busy time during the next few weeks to get the three books completed.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Wonderful Wallpaper

On Sunday night, P. used the Christmas Spanish cookbook to make a version of gaspacho that was a lot of trouble (try seeding a zillion tomatoes) but very flavoursome. A pity there aren't many leftovers.

For the New Year Day holiday, I had a day off, as Liam's flight was delayed from Central Australia. So, with a day up my sleeve, P. and I went off to the museum to see the William Morris exhibition. To my surprise, concessionaires (?) have free entry to the museum. The furniture, curtains, carpets, wallhangings and embroideries are magnificent. As one viewer said, "Those Barr-Smith girls had lots of time on their hands." Thank goodness they did, and that the Barr-Smiths in Adelaide had seven or so houses and lots of dosh to deck out the places in Morris finery. I wonder whether in a hundred years time, people will say the same about Kerry Packer. I doubt it.

There was also a very impressive underwater display, though you had to dodge toddlers and pushers to see it. And in the faux forest, we were treated to a (live) bower bird pair, several lizards, frogs and a tawny frogmouth (hard to tell whether it was stuffed or not).

Home for Stephanie's chicken which then became stock for soto ayam, and another icecream experiment: black- and blueberry. Today, full-on Darby in preparation for a meeting tomorrow.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

After shopping at Victoria Gardens, we decided to stay in the Mall airconditioning for a sandwich lunch. We succumbed temporarily to Mall culture, and pondered that, of the many passersby, more than half had voted for The Rodent, and nearly all the other half had voted for Mark Latham. In the words of Louis Armstrong, 'What a wonderful world!'

In the evening, Frank came round for a New Year feast: prawns with P.'s mango salsa (actually Stephanie's) and my seafood sauce (actually David Herbet's from The Perfect Cookbook). Then we followed with Cajun Chicken Salad (thank you Herbie) and finished off with blackberry and blueberry icecream. The only thing that prevented it being a normal Saturday night was that the ABC had cancelled The Bill, but SBS compensated with Rex - the early days, a splendid piece of mawkish kitsch and tomfoolery.

Then we trooped upstairs to watch the fireworks, as did the neighbours on Maria's upstairs patio.

Today is a matter of checking on the safety of those in the bushfire zones of Stawell and the Gariwerds, and waiting for the cool change.