Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dance a cachuca

On Saturday, I rushed into town and got halftix for The Gondoliers matinee. Frank, P. and I and my Olds went into Southbank for lunch then toddled off to the State Theatre. It was, as I'd anticipated, an excellent production, especially good musically and a lot of fun. Frank came back after a late shop for roast lamb dinner.

Sunday lunch was with Ian H. and friends: it was a very good lunch, lots of talk with an odd collection of two bureaucrats, two artists, a teacher and me. We got on very well, I think, for a group, some of whom knew each other of old, and others who didn't. In the evening, RJ came round for tea: this time P. did his famous Vera Bolognese, followed by new strawberry icecream. Good to hear about R.'s new projects: book contract and all. An amazingly social weekend.

Now it's back to the Western Desert and 200 artist biographies.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Art coming out my ears

It's been a busy week with the art books, but fun. I enjoy the fiddly parts as much as the more substantive issues of form and structure.

As well, caught up with an author post-launch of her novel, and had a good mag about Helen Daniel who was a mutual friend. Made a commitment to myself to explore a Best of Helen Daniel project. A few preliminary skirmishes found a title even: Literary Derro, from a talk she gave at La Trobe on public intellectuals. We'll see whether I have the staying power.

This morning, a much more interesting Meanjin meeting about future directions and structures. The last issue (the Blak issue) was very good. Still haven't finished it, there's so much in it. Plus the reading for the Premier's Awards continues to be absorbing. Life's not dull, before a very social weeekend.

Meanwhile, back to the fiddly bits.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Boyd at knockdown price

The Boyd house at Bacchus Marsh was definitely worth a visit yesterday. It is a treasure, which includes veranda pillars which double as water tanks and sheds. The main house was sold for a bargain 1.2 million dollars. The associated library and studio and the 'dower' house for parking mothers-in-law were sold separately. Unfortunately, the buyer does not look like an arch conservateur, but who knows? It should have stayed in public hands as a writers' or artists' centre or something similar.

After 'inspecting' the houses for sale, we had a yummy picnic: Sal had brought a quiche and P. his famous Summer Chicken, with salad. The view at Merrimu picnic area was splendid; the biting wind was not. But we enjoyed our picnic.

In the evening, after a recovery nap, we went to Frank's for the usual delicious dinner including his homemade quince paste. Mmmm!

Today, back to the Western Desert where I'll be for the next few weeks, if not months.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Possum patrol

One possum at least has exited through the 'one-way' door, but there seems to be at least one still in the roof from the occasional dim scrabblings. We'll wait till Monday morning to try and see what's happening before recalling the Possum Man.

I've sorted the Premier's Award books and now feel happier about the giant task ahead. This year there seem to be fewer standout books, and hence a lot more contenders. It will certainly be a pleasure to read a lot of them, which is a relief.

Some more work and discussion on the big ms. I should get to talk with the author on Monday, which should resolve a lot of queries: then I hope it's full steam ahead.

After shopping today, and very satisfactory lunch with Frank at the Gypsy Bar in Smith Street, Lorraine came round to do some checking on the computer for her trip early next year.
The woodman brought a new load of wood: lots of carrying and stacking. P. is off tonight to the Pocahontas movie, a lengthy saga, with David and Frank, and tomorrow P. and I are off to Bacchus Marsh to see a Robin Boyd house which is for sale. To SEE it, not to buy it. We are taking a picnic as there are probably slim pickings in BM.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Deep breath

Now I've recovered from a momentary panic about having too much to do. I know that I'm really busy, but it's manageable. Having looked through the Premier's Awards books and had a comforting phone call from the convenor, I feel that I can manage that, and having worked through the long manuscript, I have got a handle on that, as they say, and can see how to tackle it: and it will be a superb book, and, as the publisher says, quite accurately, one that we won't see the like of in our lifetimes.

On a much more mundane note, Peter the Possum man has visited and set up the one-way possum door through which the possums will exit and not return. At least, that is the theory. So far, I've seen the smaller possum exit, but not the larger. P. the P. man says that either the possums will go crazy because they won't go out the 'trap' ("That wasn't there before") or they'll get out and not be able to get back, and will go crazy over the roof at dawn. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

All hell breaks loose

After a fairly easy day of tinkering with Warlukurlangu and finalising some details, I was notified that:
(a) 160 odd books from the Premier's Awards will turn up tomorrow; and
(b) a very large ms. will turn up for quoting tomorrow.

Suddenly I go from a quiet entry back into work after The Trip into extreme busyness.

Fortunately, I think I'm up-to-date at the Writers' Festival, in terms of books read, so won't have the additional burden of too much to read from there in the next few weeks, I hope. One author I really recommend is Celestine Hitiura Vaite: her (now) three novels are a delight, sharp, funny, incisive, yet full of humanity. What more can you ask? Some of the other offerings from there are less than delightful. No names.

On the tragic front, the man-across-the-road has died after, as they say, a long battle with cancer. The cancer might have won but I am sure his spirit lingers on in Abbotsford Street. The nuns will make sure of that as he had worked for them for over thirty years. I might even go to his funeral mass on Friday as it's just around the corner to farewell the old bastard.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mothers' Day

Yesterday, my parents and sister and her husband came for Mother's Day lunch. We had a by-the-fire wintry-style lunch: pea and ham soup, venison bourguignon followed by hot fruit tarts and icecream. Everyone seemed to like it, and P.'s variation on an old Stephanie recipe was rich, warming and tasty.

Then off with Frank and David to Chambermade's slightly delayed production of Corruption. It was an energetic performance of music, movement and a lively set, but didn't quite come off. The shock effects remained slightly undergraduate, and very little shocking. Perhaps we're jaded old things. Afterwards we repaired to Frank's for some delicious goulash followed by David's yummy pecan pie with caramel sauce.

Well fed, nay over-fed, we're ready to face the week.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

To market, to market to buy a fat pig

Today was market day at the Farm. Sal dropped in after she did her marketing, then Frank, then Alexis and Toly. A., T. and F. went down with us to the market midst intermittent drizzle to get some food for Mothers' Day lunch and today's lunch. The market was quite crowded and lively; we viewed the plump chooks and ducks, and the very fat pigs, one of which was pregnant, then we came back for a soto ayam and nibblies lunch.

After lunch, we went off for the 'normal' shopping at Victoria Gardens, and provisioned up are now ready to face the week. Tonight was trout fillets and chips: that's right folks, fish'n'chips. And a frenzy of cooking for tomorrow's lunch.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Housekeeping and garlic chicken

On Monday night, P. and I had a very nice Japanese dinner with George and Lou, whom we hadn't seen for a good while. They are emerging from their renovations saga in the Haute Dandenongs to socialise a bit, and it was very pleasant to have some not-so-brilliant but okay Japanese food and lots of chatter.

Since then, I've been working away at various things and getting on with some overdue house fixing: the chimney man has restored the fireplace to working order which makes for a much cosier warmth than the gas heater. The chimney man says, without a blush of vested interest, that good burning woodfires cause less asthmatic damage than the residue of gas heaters. "The EPA have proven it," he says shamelessly. I'll search for the evidence as the local resident action group is starting to make noises about wood heaters. Stay tuned!

Also, Peter the Possum Man is on the way to evict the very nice but noisy and messy possums in the roof. Stay tuned for more on that saga. Apparently, having possum at the Koori restaurant in Sydney was not enough to put them off, and they are still squaredancing and doing God-knows-what in the ceiling, so their time has come to have a dose of the wild again.

I also had a very good phone conversation with the designer of the Warlukurlangu Book. After two hours, we hammered out a good deal of the remaining 'issues', so it's full steam ahead.

And last night, for dinner, P. did the 1001 garlic chicken recipe from Jill Dupleix who is ever-reliable on the taste front.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pissarro: don't miss it

On a very wintry day, which brightened up a bit later, P. and I headed off to the National Gallery of Vic. for the Pissarro exhibition, which was a splendid account of his life's work, though probably a bit short of his best paintings. Nonetheless, it was a good survey and showed up the links between him and earlier and fellow painters. Then we got a tram up to the Potter Gallery (University of Melbourne) to see whether they had anything new. They didn't, but it was nice to see some of the old Ewing Collection again.

On the way, the tram was stopped for a while by the May Day march, so we guiltily watched it march past. Sadly, it contained a lot of rusted-on old lefties and some firebrand young radicals, and not a lot in between.

Then after completing the Sunday crossword and an arvo nap, it was off to Lorraine's for tea, following a late cancellation by other guests. As usual, the delicious Lorraine cooking filled us up to pussie's bow. Tonight, it's out to dinner again: Japanese in Camberwell, so we're out three nights in a row, almost like still being overseas.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Not so normal

A DEPARTURE from the normal routine on Saturday. We headed off to South Melbourne for an early shop at Coles Clarendon Street, a very uninviting and cramped store, with a view to taking in the first heat of the semifinals of the Mietta Song Recital competition. The reason? Apart from being an excellent concert, Frank's friend Amanda C. is one of the competitors.

The four contenders whom we saw were all excellent: two baritones and a tenor plus Amanda's mezzo. The finalists will be decided at the end of today for a final tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it's off to Frank's for a lamb shank dinner tonight, and tomorrow might be an art gallery day, unless Amanda is in the finals.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blogs, work contracts and the courts

This appeared on the ABC website this morning. It raises interesting questions about the nature of blogging:
The gist is that some employers are thinking of including clauses in their work contracts either forbidding employees from mentioning their workplace in their blogs at all, whether they enter the blog at home or at work, and enforcing a ban on blogging at work, similar to bans on accessing the internet for non-work purposes.

It seems that blogs are entering the legal arena in a variety of ways. The basic problem is that a blog crosses the line between a private communication and a public one. Perhaps employers might like to ban 'pillow talk' or discussion over dinner about what happened at work today.

The continuing brouhaha about a (now deleted) entry on this blog, illustrates the point. Almost no comment is entirely without the possibility of someone taking offence at it, whether the offence was intended or not. Some sense of proportion is called for, or freedom of speech and expression will become a thing of the past.

Bingo: Michael P., same spot, different time

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Me, exhausted, at Park Guell, Barcelona

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Meals on Wheels

Sal came round for tea on Sunday night, and brought it. She brought a delicious chicken casserole because she still doesn't have dining chairs at her place. We were able to follow up with two lots of icecream to go with her cake: P.'s coffee gelati triumph and my more modest strawberry and cointreau.

Just to make coming home more familiar, this week has two regular items: a visit to the hospital clinic which was Ear, Nose and Throat this time, which involved a two and a half hour wait. The book I brought was not long enough. The good news was that they peered, and felt, and said come back in four months.

Today is the latest instalment of the Melbourne Writers' Festival. By the time that's over, I really will feel as though I'm back, though I'm still having dreams about travelling. Meanwhile, it is good to be getting back into home cooking after weeks of eating out. It was such a trial having to find a restaurant every night and choose what to eat.