Thursday, August 31, 2006

Slightly frantic

With the help of several other people, I set about organising a Melbourne wake for Sasha, which took most of Wednesday morning, then was notified that there was a need for a chair on Thursday (today) at 1.30 for the Melbourne Writers' Festival in a session with Inga Clendinnen and Roger McDonald. Trouble was, though quite familiar with Inga's work, I hadn't yet read Roger's Miles Franklin-winning novel, and it is over 600 pages. To make timing more difficult, last night was the Ned Kelly awards which we were attending to accompany Rochelle J. who was shortlisted. Nothing daunted I read the novel between the cracks and arrived today to chair the session, not well prepared, but prepared enough.

Clendinnen and McDonald each spoke for half an hour (very well) so there was only time for a few brief questions from the audience. My pearls, apart from the introductions, were not used. Probably just as well.

The Neds were a lot of fun, even though Rochelle didn't win. The debate (Crime is better than Sex) was very entertaining, Jane Clifton was an effective MC (asking everyone their porn names) and even Attorney-General Hulls wasn't too boring. It was good to meet Rochelle's family too, and Billy's carer, Fran.

After the Writers' Fest., I headed off to the hospital to visit Mother, then Frank came for tea, which mercifully P. cooked as I was exhausted.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Vale Sasha Soldatow

Sasha died this morning after a short period in hospital. He will be missed by all of us and his passing marks the end of an era of sorts. There will be a Melbourne wake to his memory at Artery, 87-89 Moor Street, Fitzroy (off Brunswick Street) at 6pm on Sunday 3 September. Please bring Sasha photos or memorabilia, if you have any.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Gloriana and a novel event

On Sunday arvo, P. and I went off to hear Tat and Frank sing for Gloriana, the small choral group, who did an excellent program of French masters, including hoary old Dufay, Gombert and Josquin Desprez, then in the second half Poulenc's Sept Chansons and Frank Martin's Mass for Double Choir. The last two items were particularly impressive, and though both items are getting on for 100 years old, they still count as 'modern', I suppose. It was a very pleasant way to spend Sunday afternoon.

Less pleasant was the news that Sasha S. is in hospital in Sydney, gravely ill. The thoughts of all of us are with him in the hope that he'll pull through.

Also on the hospital front, out to see Mother at Warringal this arvo. She is now eating some watery, mushy food to test out her renovated stomach, and when I arrived she was having a stroll around the passages (admittedly with a walker on wheels and with great difficulty) but it is good to see improvement, albeit slow. I'll bet she can't wait to have some of that yummy sustagen.

And a new novel arrived around lunchtime: a Melbourne author, first novelist, and it looks very interesting. If it turns out to be as good as it's touted, I'm in luck. THREE good novels to pass across my desk recently. Meanwhile, it's on with the non-fiction history book: quite absorbing and reading very well, with very little work from me beyond a bit of polishing. Can't I have something really BAD to fix? I don't really mean that.

Now it appears that I can go to the launch of When Books Die in Braidwood, so I've booked air tickets. Curiously, the Virgin fare on the way up is $101 all in, the Qantas frequent flyer on the way back is free plus $51.92 in charges and taxes. I thought free meant free, but it doesn't. What a fool I am! It will also give the opportunity to catch up with Jo and Trev. in Canberra and attend Michael's twelfth birthday party: a bootcamp at a gym. I trust there'll be some cake and lollies as well. How times change. I'll also get to meet the folk at the AIATSIS research project, the Aboriginal Studies Press staff and the designer on Warlukulangu, all of whom are in Canberra. In fact, it's looking like a busy four nights and three days

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Writers' Festival takes off

Yesterday, P. and I whizzed out to the hospital after the shopping. Mother is improving daily. The epidural has been removed, and she is now allowed to sip a little iced water, but it will be a long, painful haul back to health. Clearly, the Albury/Canberra trip is off as Mother will be not long out of whatever rehab. she needs by the proposed date.

Then, off to the packed opening of the Writers' Festival. The first full day seemed to go well, especially as it was mercifully sunny. It is a big program: stretching the times and number of days. I saw Rochelle J. doing a vox pop for the ABC, and had a drink with Bryony and Philip before her session (on very late at 9.30pm). The tents outside seem to be working for the club and the bookshop. Caught up with a few people at the opening bash which was a huge crush. So far, so good. The numbers seem to be holding up well.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Middle East the up side

Last night, Frank and David came for tea. Because I was busy yesterday, I did two of my standards, onion soup and passionfruit icecream (not together). P. was more adventurous and tried a roast lamb recipe with root vegetables and a middle eastern spice mix, baharat, which is delicious. The recipe is from the Malouf book, Moorish, and is definitely worth revisiting. It was also good to catch up with Frank again before his trip to Europe, and David, whom we hadn't seen for a while, who is opening a new studio.

Most of the morning was occupied by a Meanjin board meeting. It went for so long that effectively it wiped out the rest of the day, what with an arvo nap and the soup-making. However, I'm back into the non-fiction ms. with renewed energy, and it should be all that I've got on my plate for the next week (apart from leftover lamb and the odd visit to the Writers' Fest.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A book, a book

Popped out this arvo to see Mum in hospital for the first time since her op. She's quite good, all things considered, though very frail and plugged into tubes everywhere. She'll be in hospital at least till the end of next week, but seems to be improving slowly.

Tonight, P. and I made the quadrella of arts events with Cosi Fan Tutte, the first full production by the new Victorian Opera. It was a creditable production, made better by being in a smaller venue (Her Majesty's Theatre). The cast were evenly good, though the tenor was a bit on the quiet side, and the direction was better than usual, though veered a bit more toward the buffo than I would have liked, always a danger with this piece which has to be funny and serious almost simultaneously. But it rarely palled, and that's a good test.

AND When Books Die has arrived. It's a book of fifteen essays by Finlay Lloyd, a small new Braidwood press (yes, I said, Braidwood) in which Julian Davies is involved. One of the essays is mine, and the payment (as well as some royalty eventually) is two prints, one by Julian and another by his mate, Phil. They are very fine, and the volume looks good. They are selling it firm sale only to selected bookshops. It reads very well, and the contributions including mine are a little batty, or put more politely, eccentric. But that's book people for you. The launch is in Braidwood on 15 September, but I doubt I can make it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mountains of vegies

I forgot to mention: on Monday, I had lunch with an author. Where to go on Mondays? Our local convent has now got an eatery (as well as the one in the farm, which is only open Wednesday onwards). It's called Lentil as Anything, and is vego and has a peculiar policy: you pay what you think is justified. I had the regular pea and potato curry (a favourite of mine) and the novelist had the day's special, pumpkin curry. They came with a mountain of nice rice and a turkish bread envelope filled with caramelised onion. Far too much for me for lunch, though the novelist did a good job of cleaning hers up.

Time comes to pay and we both only have $20 notes. $40 seems too much, so we pay $20 and vamoose. Later, she emails me to say that she has returned after feeling guilty on the way home, and inserted another $20 in the box. Probably, the 'real' price should have been $30, but they got an extra 10. I suppose if we are regular customers, you could run a revolving credit/debit system.

Also, as a tribute to the food: one of the other diners I spied was Saint Stephanie! Is this a sign that she likes the munga, or is she just saving for a rainy day? In any case, the food was very good, so it's an addition to our repertoire, especially when we want vego food.

In a few weekends, it's time for the Slow Food Festival at the convent. I can't wait for the freshly shucked oysters, if they appear again.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Much more manageable

What was looking like a chronically unmanageable week has become (almost) pleasurable. All projects are proceeding according to schedule, and I can see my way clear to having 110 000 words of art book checked by Thursday (round three), and 80 000 words of history well on the way by Friday (round two).

Meanwhile, my mother's operation seems to have been successful, though she'll be in hospital for about a week, so there will be some visiting. The op took longer than expected, but prognosis is good, and she is now attached to numerous drips, drains and other devices. It will take a while for her to recover fully. She now has a lot less stomach but no bleeding ulcer.

I went off today to Ear, Nose and Throat at the Melbourne Hospital for the usual quarterly routine, and was poked, prodded, felt and examined under bright lights, given a koala stamp and sent on my way for another quarter. Waiting time accounts for nearly an entire novel (a short one). Who said we were becoming over-medicalised?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Even more culture

After Saturday shopping (the usual), P. and I went off to the MTC to see Festin. It's a dramatised version of the Danish fillum, and is not bad: hardly a cheer-up as the members of a family tear each other apart, but well played and compelling, with some stellar performances from the likes of Julia Blake, John Stanton and Bob Hornery. A pity that the MTC persists with its policy of having to have 'celebrity' stars to pull in the audiences. However, it was well worth the visit, especially as it was a freebie which unfortunately my olds could not use.

This afternoon, we went out to the hospital to see my mum before her surgery tomorrow to remove a stomach ulcer. She seems reasonably calm about it (calmer than I would be) and suffering the enforced stay in hospital quite well. Then a quick visit to the Heidelberg nursery to get potting mix for the new bay tree.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Culture vultures unleashed

First Grainger, then Picasso, now Gershwin: a very enjoyable production of Porgy and Bess, touring from the US with a strong cast and a good, if somewhat dated, production, courtesy of Halftix. Next move, after art, theatre and 'opera' is to the theatre on Saturday to the MTC, probably followed next week by Cosi Fan Tutte with the Victorian Opera, if they're good enough to have Halftix. God, we're gagging on it.

Meanwhile, I've been working away on various things: a novel, a non-fiction work and another grand art book. Phone conference on Monday about the other art book. Never a dull moment here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Spring, spring, heigh ho to spring

Can't let Frank be the only one to have a spring pic. This is Grampians thryptomene in our own backyard while we're still in a Percy Grainger mood. Posted by Picasa

Picasso, picasa

On Sunday, P. and I went to the Picasso exhibition. My quote: "A bit too much Picasso." A woman said, "I'm so over those weeping women." But it was worth the visit, especially for a painting of a cat capturing a bird, and his very moving paintings during the French occupation of Paris.

Thence to Frank's for a good dinner and a nice night's entertainment of Dr Who (recorded), Bleak House, Mozart and home again for a very good doco. on Lewis Morley.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Peter at Picasso exhibition

Let's Dance Gay in Green Meadow

Not quite: actually Let's Go to a Free Percy Grainger Concert at Iwaki auditorium. Auntie ABC and National Library of Australia, all is forgiven. Endless quiz shows, an impenetrable website, all are redeemed by this splendid concert given by the Grainger Ensemble and Ensemble 21, with narration by Vincent Plush (wearing a tie like a technicolour yawn) and Mairi Nicolson (wearing a fetching red frock and black boa). A series of 'folk' songs from around the world, it was a delightful concert experience, live on ABC-FM (no coughing!).

After a quick dinner at home, P., Frank, Tat and I joined a near-capacity crowd to delight in some music-making which was enthusiastic, fun and, yes, different, unusual...There were too many highlights to list, but I particularly enjoyed 'The Lost Lady Found' (collected by Miss Lucy E. Broadwood from the singing of her Lincolnshire nurse, Mrs Hill). A couple of Zulu Chants and several Sea-Chanties (sic) later, the audience was captivated.

There was some discussion over dinner of F. and T.'s upcoming tour of Europe: some ancient monuments will never be the same again as the odd couple hit the high Strasse.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Let the old times roll

I did finish the first readthrough of the novel, and whizzed off a response to the author. It is very good: a compelling read with a subtext about intergenerational transfer and lots of other themes. Then off to the State Library to hear an ex-Premier (John Cain) and the Arts Minister (Mary Delahunty) announce the shortlists for the Premier's Awards. All fairly predictable, but I was very pleased to see Noel Tovey on the Indigenous writing shortlist, along with two books from IAD Press (Fabien Bayet-Charlton and Jared Thomas). Tara June Winch completed the quadrella.

Then, with great effort of will, I went to the Baillieu Library for another three boxes of Helen Daniel: I was pleased to find myself in her birthday book. There was some intriguing correspondence about Picador New Writing II and some interesting drafts of a project that never came off ("The Passage of the Dark Cat") because no publisher would ever bite.

Feeling a sense of achievement at getting a quarter way through the boxes (9 out of 36), in the evening went to Pat A.'s for a yummy dinner with the old Penguinis, now augmented by George (who now is a freshly old Penguin), Lou and Julie Watts. Pat turned on a magnificent spread, which has set a very high standard, and will inhibit potential other takers for a similar event. It certainly did for me. We haven't even got enough chairs for dinner for nine at our place, let alone enough floor space.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Piles of what?

Wood! Instead of piles of work, yesterday the woodman delivered our first tonne of wood. I discovered that there is room on the veranda for a tonne, but it took a lot of effort. Meantime, I managed to get to the piles of work as well, though today there were many (welcome) interruptions including a visit for coffee by Morris L., always entertaining, and a trip to the Warringal hospital to see my mother, who is in there for more tests. I didn't even finish making the pea and ham soup which was bubbling on the stove.

Dinner at Frank's tonight: a delicious chilli stirfry followed by berries and icecream, and tomorrow the shortlist for the Vic. Premier's Award at which I'll be rent-a-crowd. In between times, I am desperate to finish the novel I'm reading. The old plot junkie is enjoying it immensely and wanting to find the outcome. Any interruption is frustrating me enormously. At least I'll have some time in the morning to finish it, I hope.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Social day

First thing this morning I picked up Phoebe and we went off to my parents' place at Montmorency as my mother is not well. She's had a spell in hospital and returned this afternoon, so a visit was overdue. It looks as though all her problems are treatable, so here's hoping.

After a quick home stop to confirm the non-fiction job, it was off to Camberwell to the farewell lunch for George D. from Penguin after 33 years as a designer in various guises. The Chinese lunch was excellent and there were many testimonials from artists and writers (Michael Leunig, Paul Jennings and so on) plus a song from an unrehearsed trio written by Bryony to the tune of 'My Favourite Things', warbled (out of and in three different keys) by her, Julie W. and flat me. The present MD, Gabrielle Coyne, recalled that when she arrived at Penguin George told her it wasn't worth remembering her name, as marketing folk left very quickly. The whole thing was enjoyable and a fitting au revoir to George. And like old home week.

Also, Finola M. sent copies of her self-published book of poems/pieces, My Voice. It is very Finola, and a wonderful statement. I really appreciated the thankyou in it and will treasure it. She is off to a litfest in Perth, which is one of the reasons she produced it.

Now, back to the piles of work, fortunately all of it pleasurable.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Grasstree recovering

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Bushfire regeneration

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Victoria Valley from the Balconies (near Reid's lookout)

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Halls Gap (Budja Budja) from Baroka Lookout, morning

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Phoebe makes it to the Grampians

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Burnt to a crisp

Off we went to the Grampians/Gariwerds and lobbed at the Grand guesthouse in Halls Gap, which took great pride in announcing nearly everywhere that water storages were down to 8.5%, so SAVE WATER. But they had a really good dinner and warm rooms. In the morning, we headed up the road to the Reid lookout and the Balconies. The aftermath of the bushfires early this year were truly stark, but regeneration was occurring. The grasstrees were shooting new big spikes and the sundews were flowering whitely. We also went to Mackenzie Falls (don't eat the pies from the kiosk: microwaved, yuk! and the maggies and currawongs try to steal them.) and drove through Rose's Gap to Stawell, where:

We stayed with Bron N. and had a very pleasant time with her and her little black dog, Macduff. Her new house, right next door to the Eventide Homes (sic) where her father resides, is a brick venereal which conceals a cosy wood-panelled interior with a warming fire. In the morning, we went for a walk through the bush, full of the detritus of mining, then headed for Melbourne with a stop in Beaufort for a very good roast lunch at the pub.

Phoebe the Yaris performed very well over the 625kms we travelled for the weekend, so Peter vacuumed her out and she returned to her pod.

Today, I finished reading the non-fiction ms. (which is very good though has some big holes), did some shopping and wood buying, and life is back to normal. I did less than I should have today, in spite of being flat out.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Something old, something new...

On Wednesday, the researcher from AIATSIS came round for a chat about the project. It was very productive, and also good to put a face and personality to a name. It makes phone and email contact much easier later, so it was good of her to take the time.

In the evening, old friend Jo U. came for tea. We haven't seen each other for ages, and it was her who put us onto Vejer-de-la-Frontera as a good place to stay. We reminisced about Spain, our thirty-year-old foray into Morocco and much more. I'd completely forgotten the conceptual art in Paris circa 1975.

Since then, I've kept up my schedule of Helen Daniel boxes in the archives, received a novel for appreciation and assessment and a non-fiction work for quoting. Also, another Warlukurlangu chapter, laid out for checking. I'll be busy next week.

But before that, it's off to the Grampians and Stawell.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Phoebe (pinched from Frank's blog)

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What was that you said?

Sunday lunch with Rochelle was very enjoyable. We caught up on all the goss. and projects that she is involved with. She brought some yummy pumpkin muffins for lunch which went well with the chicken soup (thank you Carmel) and boston beans (thank you Maggie Beer).

Then in the evening P., Frank and I went to Lorraine's for dinner. Beautiful couscous and lamb shanks in Middle Eastern style, followed by a cheese platter to die for with baked pear and quince paste. A very fine end to the week.

On Monday, I picked up Phoebe the Yaris and drove off to my free hearing test. They said my right ear was deficient, and referred me to my doctor. Fortunately, I had an appointment to review prescriptions so got my ears checked as well. Barbara found that the ear was full of wax, so Helen the nurse syringed me out ("Very satisfying," she said, "like squeezing pimples."). Now I have to go back to the hearing place to see if that makes the difference. It probably will.

The downside to Phoebe was a huge downpour just as I wanted to return her, but it abated and cleared, so I was able to walk back in the clear. She is all set to go to the Grampians and Stawell in the weekend. Meanwhile, it's into the AIATSIS research project.