Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Frank tinkles the ivories

A weekend of being fed, again. Frank served up delicious curries on Saturday night, followed by fruit, and Lorraine did a 'Spanish'-style dinner in honour of our departure and P.'s birthday on Sunday night. She also added to our store of gadgets with an Italian version of a mouli, plus some flash new blue silicon mitts, that look a bit like. . .well, better not mention. She ended the meal with beautifully cooked figs with raisin icecream.

On Sunday afternoon, P. and I went off to St Francis' church hall in the city for an Ensemble Gombert fundraiser. There were a soprano and baritone, who did the opening scene of Marriage of Figaro, preceded by Frank taking part in a duet version of the overture. The first half finished with more Mozart 'standards' and another duet, then the second half consisted of some musical numbers. Unfortunately, when you start with Mozart, move onto Cole Porter and Frank Loesser, and finish with Lloyd Webber, it's downhill all the way. But it was very enjoyable, and the Gombertians turned on a very impressive arvo tea not seen since Dibley.
After all the effort, they probably would have done as well or better by asking all attendees for a donation towards the overseas trip, without all the trouble. But it was a fun event.

Now, back into trying to finish off things. Darby is nearly there, Warlukurlangu is racing along, and the novel is shaping up. Home stretch indeed. I'll send off a reminder tomorrow to the dilatory W. participants, and see if that has any effect.

Frank is coming for tea tonight. P. started making a delicious-looking smoked fish salad last night (with eggs, beetroot and potato). Today I made some blackberry/raspberry icecream, as the ginger and lemongrass has all gone. Sigh!

Oh, and Mr I've-Been-to-Bali-Too has started an Abbotsford blog. I've declined to participate at present (too busy) but the two addresses are:

Not to be confused with mine:

In a serendipitous burst, it turns out the Abbotsford/Bali Blogger is the son of someone both Frank and I know independently. The world of Blog is a small one, indeed. At least in Abbotsford.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Lamb, glorious lamb

The last few days have been uneventful. Lots of tidying up loose ends on everything: the endmatter for Darby has come for a final, comprehensive check, lots of corrections and additions flooding in for the Warlukurlungu Art Centre Book. One report done for a publisher, and another (monster) one to go, and, of course, The Novel, which has received scant attention the last couple of days with all the other things happening.

I'm setting myself to finish all work off by the end of next week, giving me a week's grace. I probably can't do it, but I'll try. Then there'll be a week to do all the tidying up before heading off to the 'bright lights shining in a bad Old World'. The good news is that Polly M. has confirmed she will meet us in Avignon for a couple of days. She is staying in a hotel around the corner from us, the Hotel Splendid. I've checked on the internet, and neither of the hotels looks particularly Splendid. They have something in common though: rather garish Provencal bedspreads.

Wednesday night was a quite good roast lamb, to make up for the awful one a week or so ago. It turned into a shepherd's pie for Thursday, which lasted, with other leftovers, for Friday tea. I feel like a good, economical little housewife.

Today, off to the dreaded Victoria Gardens for shopping with Frank, and off to Frank's for tea tonight.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


For the last couple of days, emails have been pinging backwards and forwards with corrections for Darby and comments on Warlukurlangu, from everywhere from India to north America and all parts round Australia. It's good to see some action, and some chance of getting it all together before leaving for Europe.

Frank came for tea last night: P. did a v. nice pork dish from Stephanie (with prunes and redcurrant jelly) and we finished off with passionfruit icecream. Frank's dinner on Sunday night was an Iraqi potroasted chicken with rice and spinach. Yum to both! On Monday night, I did boring old fish curry, but it was very nice, and I used our homegrown chillies.

A brief pause from the above two books to receive more pingpong this morning: the French Valkyrie texts and the opportunity to do a bit of work on a novel, which has been waiting for a small space of time. Now for something completely different.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Interlude with the swans

After a fairly tedious Meanjin board meeting, I hastened off to the Botanical Gardens for lunch with Alexis W. We sat by the lake watching the swans and seagulls and had a coffee and a good chat about all sorts of things to do with our various occupations. She starts fulltime work on Monday, so will be even busier from hereon.

On Saturday, after the shopping, P. and I went off chez Teresa P. for a very pleasant lunch with Adele H. and Ralph McL.: sitting in the backyard munching on good food, quaffing champagne and righting the world. Our own little patch of Utopia.

Meanwhile, back at the desk, checking the Darby proofs continues, with other bits and pieces. On the way back from Teresa's, we purchased a Barcelona guide and a useful phrases book, in the very likely event that our Spanish is deficient.

Tonight, off to Frank's for tea.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

In the Chair, Papua Merdeka and so on

Most of the week has been spent in various ways in Yuendumu, proofing Darby and getting together the text for Warlukurlangu (are you getting used to it?). A very good piece arrived from Nancy Munn, the US researcher, who was there in the mid-50s about the shift from traditional iconography (i.e. sandpainting and so on) to paper based art which later became the famous acrylics. Warlpiri live 'on the ground', said one man, while Whitefellows live through 'pencil and paper. They only own the little space on which their houses are built.' True enough!

A dose of reality at the dentist on Tuesday, with an extraction and clean. He's a very good dentist (at the Royal Melbourne) and it was pretty painless and very well done. However, he warned if I need any front teeth extracted in the future, it's hyperbaric treatment for me!

On Wednesday, the Writers' Festival again, which is proceeding slowly but well. The next meeting is the last before heading off o/s. From there, I went to the Free Papua meeting at RMIT. Good speakers including Kerry Nettle with a good joke about the standoff between Downer and Vanstone over the Papuan refugees: a competition for the heavyweight Adelaide title. But the whole situation is no joke. Her film of the new internment facilities on Christmas Island for 800 was truly shocking. Where are these 800 coming from? Are they us? And the situation of the Papuans back home is no joke either. As some speakers pointed out, it's East Timor all over again: similar scenario, same problems, probably same result. But how many will die in the meantime?

What kind of bizarre cruelty could pick up the Papuans from Cape York after five days at sea, then fly them at huge expense (special Hercules) to Christmas Island, where they find they are much closer to Jakarta than Australia? And, as intended, off the radar of Australian public opinion. Perhaps the idea is that the Indonesians invade Christmas Island (not hard) and recapture them.

Though the RU486 decision was a minor victory for commonsense, the decision on these refugees is just as important. Where are the pro-lifers when West Papuans are shot?

No time to linger: tomorrow morning, Meanjin meeting and coffee with Alexis W.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

So busy I haven't blogged

The Tax Office were a laugh riot: we had discovered that for us, it cost more to work out the GST than we paid to the government, and, lo and behold, the same story was true for Maria's shop across the road. However, we will await with interest to see whether my father's cogent arguments about it have any effect. I doubt it.

On Thursday night, I toddled off to the Sleeper's publishing Almanac launch at Dante's in Gertrude Street. Some unexpected meetings with Rosemary from the Writers' Fest. and John Lelleton (Shop Maria's son), and a very pleasant champagne and chocolate launch. Sadly, the book doesn't seem to measure up to the pizazz.

On Friday, I had lunch with A. Nauthor, back from China, and his tales of change in China were fascinating over a very good yum cha. We also discussed the title of his new book, and amendments to his new novel, then had a coffee in Bourke Street.

Meanwhile, Keren L. was winging her way from Sydney to stay in Melbourne with us, to go to a friend's sixtieth. It seems to be that time for many of my friends and their friends. We had dinner at home with Frank, and the old Stephanie onion soup, with quiches from the French deli, and blackberry/blueberry and strawberry icecream. More on icecream anon.

Shopping as normal on Saturday, then delicious Cypriot dinner chez Frank followed by his homegrown stewed quinces, while Keren went off to her party in Carlton. On Sunday, a bigger than Ben Hur event: Frank's friend, Tat, took P., Lorraine and I (and Frank) to Bendigo, where we met Ann de H. at the Art Gallery to take in the Beaton and Mackintosh exhibitions. Both were worth seeing, though their previous Cartier-Bresson exhibition was better in my opinion. The Beaton pics were stylish and theatrical, with lots of drama, but missed a bit on the personalities of the sitters. Some good ones were Betty Battenberg at 16 (before she became sour-looking), and a portrait of David Hockney and his lover with a painting of Isherwood and Bachardy in the background, with a (woman) fashion model centre stage. The Mackintosh was a bit thin, but interesting. We had a good lunch and mag at the gallery cafe.

Keren gave me a Mezza Luna cutting implement for dicing and chopping (parsley and the like), and on Sunday Lorraine turned up with a high temperature basting implement and a new type of icecream scoop. I am dripping with implements and feeling very well supplied.

Meanwhile, new Darby proofs arrived, so I'm working through them. Phew!!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

State Library Earns Its Keep

P. had a rostered day off yesterday, so we hiked off to the State Library to see the exhibition which Lorraine recommended: Found by Peter Lyssiotis and John Wolseley. It is a result of their Creative Fellowships with the Library, and showed that the fellowships are well worth it. The Wolseley pieces, centring mainly around birds, were truly beautiful as were Lyssiotis' takes on the ancient world of ruins and monuments.

We also took in the Library's collection of historical paintings (and COLOSSAL, their word, marble busts) of worthies of yesteryear, landscape, townscapes and some fine portraits of Victoria's artists and writers, including the portrait of Frank Hardy on the front of the book P. bought me for my birthday. Then we trudged round the heights of the Domed Reading Room for the exhibitions on The Book, and the history of Melbourne. We must return as there was too much to absorb in one visit. Particularly interesting was a set of dioramas of Melbourne at different periods in its history.

Then off to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to collect my old marriage certificate so I can get divorced. A very efficient system produced a piece of paper in no time flat, in spite of the fact that I couldn't remember the exact date. Part of the tidying up process before heading overseas. The Will comes next.

Today, the visit from the tax office, sandwiched in between a bit of work on Warlukurlangu.

Frank came for tea last night: Stephanie's roast chook, cooked to perfection by P.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lazy Days

Apart from a small amount of administrative trivia and correspondence, I took the weekend off for my birthday. After shopping on Saturday, P., Frank and I went off to the Fairfield boathouse for birthday lunch with my parents, sister, brother-in-law and their daughter, Nyssa. My sister and Nyssa have just had birthdays too. It was a sunny day, and a very pleasant lunch as it always is. Because the boathouse charges cakeage if you bring-your-own, we retreated outside their borders for a birthday cake with a musical candle that plays happy birthday.

On Sunday, we went off to Michael H.'s new place in Northcote for a lunch consisting of Stephanie's Asian chicken and a yummy fruit salad with lemon sorbet and cream. Many hours later after sunning ourselves on the back veranda and magging about all sorts of things, we headed off home in the tram. Marc was at a family do, so we were sorry to miss him. The new household is very comfy, and P. was shocked to find that you could see the floor in the upstairs bedroom.

Back in earnest to tidying up before departure on all sorts of fronts, plus finishing off work things.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Object of Study

Having been solicited as an informant for Centrelink and the Australian Tax Office, now I'm being sought as an informant/researcher for a research project. Details are hush hush, but, if it comes off, it's a three-year project looking at literary publishing in Australia (whatever that is). It sounds fascinating, and involves looking at the figures and less tangible factors (like the zeitgeist). It would involve some writing. I hope it does work out.

Having had an intense two-hour discussion about the above project, I went off to dinner with the old Penguinis at Ablas, that worthy Lebanese eatery in Carlton. It was a very pleasant evening (almost a focus group for the research project!). The only problem was that Abla has extended her banquet menu to cover Thursdays as well as Friday and Saturday, so there was far too much food. But it was very tasty and the company was good.

After all this 'glamour', it's back to the hard grind. Various work tasks are coming together before our departure o/s, and Centrelink has this morning sent a letter giving their permission for me to go. However, I cannot 'receive a Concession Card while you are outside Australia'. As I already have one current till next February, that seems a bit irrelevant. Perhaps they'll strip it off me at the airport in a moving ceremony, just after they make me take my glasses off to inspect my nose cavity in case of concealed leprechauns.

The 'real' world is assuming a surreal quality. Any and all kickbacks from the Federal Government will be welcomed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What's All the Fuss About?

Last night, P., Frank and I toddled off to see Brokeback Mountain. It's a pleasant enough film: nice scenery of the natural and human kind, but at least half an hour too long, with a plot that is so linear and predictable that the only twist and surprise was that it finally ended. Why anyone would give it five stars or gasp about a perfect film, I don't know. And as for the film being Marxist or homosexualising America - dream on! I suspect part of its 'appeal' is its fairly graphic and gutwrenching depiction of homophobic violence, far more graphic than any of the meagre sex scenes. If it's news to anyone that gays are beaten and killed, they might need this movie to alert/remind them.

The Warlpiri people, who are the subject of two books I'm working on, are sometimes described as the most studied in Australia. Well, I'm feeling the same way. After my brush with Centrelink research (see below), now the Australian Tax Office wants a piece of me. Next week, someone will actually visit, and pay me $100, for my opinions on simplifying the GST. My father, who is also my accountant, is curious to see what this little exercise is about, so he'll be in on it too. The ATO says they might even send two people. I can't wait.

Meanwhile, the work is going well and is, at least, producing something more than opinions. The Australian, having argued during the IR debate that fairness should not be a factor in wage setting, is now lambasting education and history academics who believe in social justice and equity. Don't these ingrates realise that dog-eat-dog is the prevailing ideology and they should hop on board. And that market forces will solve everything.

I'd better start compiling my list of community service activities for when someone demands it. Now, this afternoon, I'm off to the Melbourne Writers' Festival programming committee . . .