Saturday, July 29, 2006

Speaking too soon

Just when I was sure the Tax Return was safely lodged, Centrelink sent a new statement: we were wrong, they said. So a revision has to be lodged. How can they be wrong? It all doesn't make sense, but we will duly lodge an amendment and let the ATO worry about it.

Last night, P., Frank and I did the Melbourne Symphony again, this time with the centrepiece being the Alpine Symphony by R. Strauss, a very all-stops-out work, with full orchestra and a half, preceded by Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini, and an Australian Nocturne by Graeme Koehne. All-in-all a very good concert with much panache especially from Russian pianist, Dmitiri Alexev.

Today, we had our first GoGet carshare experience. After a minor glitch, when we couldn't find the box for the key for Phoebe the Yaris (it was on a lamppost about three cars away), we set off in our new (borrowed) car to do the shopping. Everything worked well, so it bodes well for a very zippy weekend away next weekend. Collingwood Council hadn't used the car for about a week, so poor Phoebe was a bit lonely but responded well. We'll make her feel loved.

A very social week coming up with a lunch visit from Rochelle tomorrow, and old friend, Jo U. on Wednesday night. Not to mention a guest appearance by Frank tonight. Goodness, we haven't seen him since lunchtime!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Low key week

There's been a lot of tidying this week in between work on the AIATSIS project and a novel. Also, my father finished my end-of-year accounts for Centrelink and the Tax Office, so thankfully that's all lodged.

As well, today I put in a couple of hours on the ongoing Helen Daniel investigations at Melbourne University Archives. Her papers are a treasure trove, as I don't think she ever threw anything out. Today I discovered that she shared her matriculation year at Camberwell High with Elijah Moshinsky who pipped her for the Literature prize (but she won Modern History and Latin). In 1991, she wrote a piece for Camberwell High about her experience there which was a real find as it gives her foundations in literature (such as they were).

Also, her MA preliminary thesis on William Golding with the academic reports on it, grudging in their praise for her intellect and critical of her flights of extravagant language and theory!

What is amazing is the amount of work she did on book reviews: reams of notes on each book for about 800 words of review in the end. Three boxes down out of 36, so there's a long way to go. I suspect it will take about three months of spare time to get through it all, especially as it's totally unsorted. The third box today contained records of the secondhand furniture and book business, irrelevant for my purposes, but still fascinating, right down to the cheque stubs.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Que soiree, soiree

On Saturday, Frank had a soiree which consisted of Amanda doing a number of arias by Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Handel, Bizet and others, and Kate and Frank playing a number of piano duets, mostly by Dvorak. It was very refreshing and intimate entertainment to a small but appreciative audience, with wine, coffee and bikkies.

Sunday brought a visit from Alexis and Toly and a copy of the long-awaited Carpentaria, which looks splendid, chunky and well worth the wait. Over 500 pages, if we were waiting for the great Australian novel, this is it.

Thence off to the wilds of Dandenong for lunch with my sister and the Olds. By a strange coincidence, my brother-in-law was driving near Broken Hill last week and heard me on the radio spruiking the ABC short story competition.

Nearly all is completed for the accessing of GoGet cars, so our first adventure will be next weekend, just locally, then away the following weekend to the Grampians.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Go go GoGet

Yesterday, I had a quite good phone hookup/conference about a non-fiction book in Canberra. A very cooperative sortout of some difficult problems. It was good to come at them this early in the writing of the book, rather than a rescue job at the end. It is the writing up of some lengthy research in two parts: one an 'academic' paper, the other a more accessible handbook.

As well, I've signed up for GoGet sharecars. The idea is that you book your car on the internet then use it for that period, then take it back. Our nearest 'pod' is right at Frank's place so it's not far to go (8 minutes walk, according to their site figures which corresponds to our many times walking round to Frank's place). We'll have a trial going to the Grampians for the weekend on 4 August plus a couple of short local trips first.

Tonight Frank is having one of his famous soirees, which is long overdue, so we'll have an early dinner.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I've been everywhere...on the radio

It's been a week of publicity for the ABC short story competition, so as well as doing Ramona's Book Show on Radio National on Monday, I've since been to Gippsland, Cairns, Broome, Geraldton and, today, Broken Hill. Unfortunately all only on the radio, though perhaps in some cases that is fortunately. They are all very quick bursts, not more than five minutes, so it is weird to be immersed in one of the entries from the Vic. Premier's Awards, have the phone ring and launch into 'how to write a good story in under 1000 words', then after a flurry of questions go back to the calm of the page.

Carmel B. dropped by yesterday for a coffee after various errands. It was good to see her, and, from her shopping, she left a gift of some hot continental sausages, which will make a nice dinner. It was a relief to be talking to a real person, rather than a distant ABC presenter, like Leonie, Natasha, Ben or Penny.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Cold, wet weekend

and very quiet. Just normal shopping on Saturday at Victoria Gardens for our weekly dose of mall culture, then dinner on Saturday at Frank's. Roast chook followed by apple and quince crumble. On Sunday, it was time to return the parents' car to Montmorency. Because the old Mazda had been sitting for some weeks, it made a valiant attempt to start, then conked. Twenty minutes of waiting on the phone for the RACV to answer, then they took less time than that to arrive and we were off, homewards after a very competent technician did some tinkering.

The new TV setup is working well, though there is often some weak signal on the ABC UHF channel. Some wicked plot by the government to keep them under control, no doubt.

Today, I went in to the ABC to do an interview on The Book Show about the ABC short story competition with Ramona Koval. It seemed to go quite well: short and pithy.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Allons enfants de la patrie

The doctor shortage hit home today. I had an appointment at the Health Centre (just to renew prescriptions) and after an hour wait, I was told it would be another hour. They are short of doctors, so as it wasn't urgent, I made another appointment. Things are crook in Tallarook.

Not so at the Parisienne Pates in Lygon Street, where they were singing the Marseillaise as I arrived to buy some French goodies for Bastille Day. Some pate, little rabbit pies and goats cheese tart later, I headed for Abbotsford. I told them if they were really good, they'd know the words to the second verse. They didn't, and they're French.

All this carryon meant that work time was very restricted today, though I am making progress on the Premier's Awards. The final five are going to be a tough ask with a number of very good books (and authors) competing.

On Monday, interviews start to publicise the ABC Short Story awards. The kick-off is the Ramona Koval book program, so I'd better think of some good short story stories before then. It might be time to give a plug to the fabulous late John Morrison, and have a swipe about the disappearance of cross-subsidy principles in publishing (as in telephony, plane flights and everything else). Then on Tuesday, it's back to the Kimberley, and the fabulous Kimberley breakfast show. At least the two-hour time difference means it's not so early.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tallulah's books

Today, I took over some books from Magabala for George P. and Helen A-S's new baby, Tallulah. She seemed to like them, as she gurgled and smiled a lot. Apart from that, there were lots of bits and pieces, including an incredible rigmarole over 'activivating' a replacement credit card (you try to remember the password you told them years ago!) and a delivery of wood for our ecologically unsound, but very comforting fire.

Work continues in bits and pieces too, with a deal of administrative trivia, plus sample settings and drafts coming from all directions. Last night, I had another try at the sweet chilli sauce, vanilla icecream and mango. It was less excoriating, but still powerful. P. says it might be worth trying with fresh mango, rather than tinned, as it has more flavour to counter the torrid taste of chilli.

The Writers' Festival is drawing to a close: the making of the program, that is. Now it is tying up loose ends and publishing the final draft. Looking good.

Frank came round for tea tonight, and we had the venison steaks from Saturday's market. Meat with four veg, followed by more lemongrass and ginger icecream. Much less confronting than the chilli stuff. Tomorrow is Bastille Day, so we'll have to do something French.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blistering icecream

On Saturday night, P. and I went to Frank's for tea. He made his delicious pizzas, which I followed up with a try at a newspaper recipe for sweet chilli sauce, vanilla icecream and mango. I was a bit too enthusiastic with the chillis in the mix. The recipe didn't say to remove them, so I didn't, and probably simmered it a bit too long. The end result was memorable. We struggled through, with extra icecream to cut the heat, and removed the chilli pieces, but the result was still very impressive. I'll try again with fewer chillies.

Back at the desk, a new project looks like coming good: a non-fiction book, and I have finally made contact with the executors of Helen Daniel's estate, so that project is underway with some prospect of success. Melbourne is bleak, cold and windy: depths of winter territory, so it is good to be sited near the heating and computer.

Tomorrow, I'll have to venture out for the last meeting of the Writers' Festival before the program is published.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Little Britten

Last night, P., Frank and I went to the first in our Melbourne Symphony Orchestra series. It was Midori, the diminutive violin diva, conducted by Mark Wigglesworth, the diminutive conductor. There were two Mozart symphonies, plus Britten's violin concerto and Sinfonia da Requiem. An excellent concert, preceded by tapas at Southbank, with very indulgent maple syrup pancakes. (Victoria Roberts in today's Australian has an appropriate cartoon: Gather ye pikelets while ye may.) Midori is an extraordinarily calisthenic violinist, but she sure makes good sounds, and the orchestra was augmented for the Britten pieces, and produced a good supporting sound.

Meanwhile, I've completed the report on the non-fiction ms. and am still ploughing through the Premier's Award Books. Unfortunately, no comment is possible, though I can say that the long shortlist contains some gems. It will be an interesting feat getting down to a shortlist of five.

Today is overcast and, of course, market day, so we'll add the Farmers Market to our shopping routine, as well as the vet. for Pushka's new gold-plated kidney-helping catfood. Maybe I should have some too.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Glittering prizes

Most of this week has been spent on the aftermath of a meeting of the non-fiction judges for the Vic. Premier's Award. We made up a long shortlist and are now working through those books. It is quite an impressive list which will be hard to get down to a shortlist of five and a winner.

The Writers' Festival programming is in its final phases: only one more meeting to go after this week, and then it's go, go, go.

And a non-fiction ms. has arrived for report which will require a few days' concentrated work.

It is pleasing to know that Frank's Pushka is not at death's door, poor old thing, but needs some special dietary requirements.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Healesville, Heart and Mind

On Sunday, P., Lorraine, Noel T. and I all went off to Tarrawarra Museum of Art to the Heart and Mind exhibition, which consisted of works by Rick Amor, Melinda Harper, Jenny Watson, William Kelly, Jan Senbergs and others. It was a varied, as one would expect, show but with lots of treasures: my favourite being a Kelly print of Cologne Cathedral. The day was overcast and drizzly, so the Yarra Valley was looking very Elioth Grunerish and beautiful.

We lunched at Healesville. The H. Hotel was jam packed so we went on to the Grand, which was not, as far as food was concerned, but friendly and warm. Then off to Noel's for dinner: delicious pasta and chocolate mousse, and his famous champagne cocktails. And his marvellous stories.

Back to the desk, and proofs have arrived for my contribution to the Reading Book and the books from Magabala for baby Tallulah.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Crystal clear

Off with Pushka, Frank's little cat, to the vet. this morning for a battery of tests. It's probably just age (she's over 15) but the test results will be back on Monday.

Then, while Frank and I did the shopping at gorgeous Victoria Gardens, the tellyman installed in sequence a new UHF aerial (pointing at Como), a new power switch (whatever that is) and a set-top box, so we have entered the Helen Coonan digital age at vast expense, but with a crystal clear picture and the 'bonus' of the ABC and SBS second channels. It'll take a long time for our eight cents a day bonus to make up the difference but, and I hope I don't speak to soon, at last the problems seem to be solved.

Speaking of which: awards are due for clairvoyance to Alan Jones' lawyers for knowing that they will sue over something they haven't even seen, and an award for spinelessness to the ABC for acting on what they knew from the very start: that Alan Jones might sue. The Jones case and all the carry-on with the Channel Nine memos, and suppression thereof, shows how far the law can be stretched, if you have enough dosh, to try to keep things quiet. Unfortunately for the perpetrators, their public reputations are left in tatters anyway. So what have they won? Temporary notoriety, a small twinge of self-satisfaction. Given leakage and the very porous electronic media these days, we, the public, know anyway!