Monday, October 30, 2006

Pleasant weekend in the sun

On Saturday, Jill dropped me at the Alice Springs Desert Park where I spent a very pleasant four hours avoiding the Yanks and the Germans as I trawled through the aviaries and other enclosures, plus rambling through the pleasant bushland. It was quite a privilege seeing two raptor displays in a week: one in Healesville and another here. The barn owl, hobbie, frogmouth and black kite all did their stuff en plein air.

On Sunday, Jill took me for a drive in the West Macdonnell Ranges to a few of her favourite spots including some great views over the valley and Ellery Creek Rockhole. The bush was dry but beautiful with the Sturt desert roses in full bloom.

Today, it's back to reality in the office with the Papunya Tula Artists book. Yuendumu is still a possibility on Thursday: we'll see.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A town like...

Safely arrived in Alice Springs after an (almost) smooth Qantas journey. I've had a good chat with Jill and Peter W. at their new abode in Gillen, and spent the morning at IAD Press. Their new office overlooks the Todd riverbed, dry of course, but has position, position, position with the Macdonnell Ranges glittering in the bright sun.

I'm yet to negotiate getting to Yuendumu but progress on books at IAD is going well, and the new designer is doing a great job. We'll deal with contentious issues like the vast index for Papunya artists next week. Meanwhile, I'll soak up the sunshine.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wombat at Sanctuary

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Healesville hotel

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Badger Creek reserve, Healesville

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Tarrawarra Gallery Healesville trip

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Frank is back

Tonight, Frank came round for tea: roast lamb a traditional Australian thing for his return, with strawberry icecream. The trip seems to have gone very well, except for a Budapest which is a little on the sleazy side, but the rest from the Highlands to Berlin to Prague and Vienna seems to have been very enjoyable.

In other news: Millie the Mazda has gone off to the knackers with one of the worst-tempered pick-up men in history. He seems to be destined for a heart attack in the not-too-distant. So now we are truly dependent on Phoebe the Yaris from GoGet. I think it will be a rewarding relationship.

Tomorrow, Mr Roof is coming to do some renovations out the back. Some mass movement of potplants and garden implements will probably be necessary.

All-in-all a very productive time before heading off to Alice Springs, where Mr Walsh seems to have scored a job as an all-driving, all-talking tour guide. A perfect job for him.

I just need to get a few things sorted before departure, but one thing I can't sort: the furore over Alan Jones and whether Chris Masters' book is homophobic. Come off the grass: Alan Jones is a complete arsehole. He has proven this time and time again: this mealy-mouthed worry about whether it is right-line or not to 'out' him is neither here nor there. I've heard some of his foul-mouthed slagging of other people. Why is he suddenly deserving of defence. If he had ever 'come out' (some hope) there would be no issue. The more gays who are honest about it, the better the world is, for heterosexuals as well. Nothing vitiates prejudice more than discovering that this 'ordinary' girl or guy is actually gay. Now, off to Alice Springs, thence to Yuendumu, with luck.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Highlife in Healesville

On Saturday morning, we picked up Phoebe and headed for the hills. After a quick brunch in Yarra Glen, our first stop was the Tarrawarra Museum of Art which has a very interesting exhibition of up-and-coming artists which restored my faith in contemporary art with its overall good quality. Then on to Healesville and the ever-pleasant bushland of the Badger Creek reserve. After a walk through the ash forest, we checked into the Healesville Hotel.

Dinner, part of a staying-overnight package, was superb. P. had oysters to start, with gazpacho garnish, I had a yabbie bisque with squid-ink tortellini. I know it sounds wanky, but it was delicious, the best bisque I have ever had. We followed with duck and duck merguez for me and Yarra Valley salmon with peas and tiny broadbeans and a thin duck egg omelette for Pierre. My dessert was an apple icecream with shredded apple in a delicious sauce, and P. had a linzertorte. All excellent, with wines which were not too expensive but perfect. We can thoroughly recommend their stay-and-dine package for Saturday night. Its only disadvantage is that the old pub rooms, though very well appointed with cosy beds and real plunger coffee, do not have bathrooms, so you have to trundle down the hall for those middle-of-the-night calls of nature. It is more than made up for by only having to fall upstairs to bed after a magnificent meal.

In the morning, we had breakfast at a local eatery then headed for the Sanctuary. The birds were the best deal: as usual the raptor display was thrilling, and we had a close encounter with a lyrebird, which came up (almost to P.'s lap) and scrabbled for worms right next to where we were sitting. The orange-bellied parrots were fine too, fleeing the clutches of conservation minister Campbell for the safety of the Sanctuary. We hadn't been for a while: there are a number of new buildings and rearranged exhibits, including an animal hospital where you can see operations and autopsies through glass (we didn't see either, fortunately).

Then, off to Gulf Station, the National Trust property at Yarra Glen, which has a monthly market and wine tasting. For those of us spoilt by the Farmers' Market down the street, the range of stalls was a bit disappointing, and some had sold out by the time we got there. We bought buffalo sausages in a roll for lunch from the same folk who come to the Farm, and some wine jus (a sort of version of red wine vinegar) to keep up our pretentious credentials. Then home down the endless Maroondah Highway.

Because we didn't do any shopping this weekend, P. made some scratch Rigoletto pasta to go with Operatunity.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tidying up

Had a pleasant lunch on Wednesday with Margaret G., though the pies at the Convent bakery are not up to the standard of their baguettes, then on Thursday morning took Phoebe out to the Olds where my Mum is taking copious medicaments which is a fulltime occupation. On Friday, did a few hours trawling through the Helen Daniel archives, and a bit more on the novel and the handbook. Generally, just getting things in order before going off to Alice Springs.

But before then we have a weekend in Healesville: dinner at the H. Hotel, Tarrawarra Museum of Art and maybe Gulf Station. It will give me a chance to ponder what to do with my time next year: the research project is part of it, but what else?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Today P. had an RDO, so after a morning's work, we set off for the Vue Cafe at Vue du Monde with Lorraine E. We tried their lunchbox, recommended by Kit, and it was indeed good value. A terrine, a waldorf salad, a croque sandwich and a mudcake for $15. The suits from the legal end of town were in force (sometimes I wonder why anyone would employ them) as well as the handmaidens from the offices around. P. and Lorraine continued on to ACCA while I came home.

The work on the Handbook is going well. Now I need to crack the novel.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

At the movies

After a pleasant Sunday morning doing The Age Sunday crossword and having delicious scrambled eggs and bacon made by P., we made the huge trip to Carlton to see Prairie Home Companion. It's an entertaining film with a good cast but in the end doesn't amount to a hill of beans. Thanks for the country and western, but a bit more profundity wouldn't have gone amiss. Then off to the Potter Gallery at Melbourne University for very good exhibitions by Destiny Deacon and a collection of bark paintings. The exhibition of paintings on loan from the Vizard Foundation collection was less impressive.

We have a fridge full of leftovers, so made a dint in it tonight, but have at least two more meals to extract from it. A busy week to come: Mother makes a start on chemotherapy tomorrow, so I hope that goes well, and Nick, Kit and their families are back home again. Before I go to Alice Springs, I have to make a big dent on the one novel on my desk at the moment, and come up with some good ideas for the handbook. That'll keep me busy.

Market Day

Yesterday was market day (the second Saturday in the month), but before then Mr Roof came to quote on fixing up the spouting, veranda roof and toilet cladding out the back. He has done work for us before. We almost thought he was psychic as he quoted almost exactly the amount we have in the house fund for such things. Roll on eucalyptus colourbond and spouting.

The market is flourishing: we did the usual shop for things like extravagant olive oil, nice cheese, some good vegies and venison sausages. Then we had a change of routine: because Phoebe was unavailable we picked up Lizzie the Echo from the Fitzroy pod. We now know where it is, and where its companion, Richard the Wagon, is located, should we ever need a larger vehicle. We then did our shopping at Piedmontes, always a good alternative, especially for Italian deli items like pancetta. Then we began a long search for a new shower rail to finish off Nick's repairs. Three hardwares later, we got one in Kew, so now the shower functions perfectly again. Lizzie went back to her pod.

For dinner last night P. did Stefano di Pieri's chicken with olives and tomato, with asparagus and baked beetroot. Mmmm! Meanwhile, I'm pondering the handbook for successful Indigenous organisations: quite a challenge that one! Though every time I read the field studies on which it is based I feel inspired and tired at the same time. I wonder why? Finding a structure and format that is useful and non-patronising is going to be quite a feat. Fortunately, the designer is good at this kind of thing, so between us we should be able to cook up something that works, but getting a basic idea that doesn't read like a government report is quite difficult. I suspect narrative is the key: I'll just have to keep going through the source material till something flashes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Editing real life aka research

P. and I had dinner with the Brown clan at the local pub on Wednesday night, including a game of pool and several of Hive, a fun game, a bit like chess. Little Ben is very good at it. I saw them again at the Olds last night before their departure today for parts north. They seem to have had a good time holidaying in St Kilda and doing some of Melbourne's tourist things. Kit also discovered that Vue du Monde has a $15 lunch box that is well worth it. She has a good nose for both fine food and a bargain.

Back at the ranch, it looks as though novels are giving way to research. The Canberra mob want me to write the handbook they have been researching for two years, and the go-ahead has been given for the ARC research grant on literary publishing, which won't start till next year. As well, I am still puttering through the Helen Daniel papers at the rate of about three boxes per week. They are fascinating: yesterday I found Helen and Margaret's tax returns so I now know how much they each earned from the secondhand shop (books and other bric-a-brac) and writing and associated activities.

I've still got one novel on the go, and two others in abeyance while the authors redraft, so overnight I've gone from fairly quiet to busy, but not unreasonably. There are still the two art books that come and go at intervals as well. Both of which will occupy a bit of my week in Alice Springs.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Back to work

At last it can be revealed. Kit, Neville and Ben were in Albury not long after our arrival, and we dined at the Bullring. They came separately to Melbourne, and yesterday we met up for a 'surprise' visit to the Olds. My mother had already worked it all out using her witch-like prescient powers. We had a pleasant lunch, I returned my father's car and got a lift back with the Browns.

After all this frollification, today is a work day after five days of diversion. Back to the novels. Too much real life is a dangerous thing: though there will be more social activities with the Browns before they return to Sydneytown.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Two days, to Albury and back

On Sunday morning (was it only yesterday), we headed off after a cooked breakfast (to keep us going) of snags, bacon, eggs and beans with Nick to Albury. We stopped at Grass Tree roadside park for a pee and in Benalla for a pie and and made it to Albury and the FABULOUS Siesta Motel. It has a Sombrero Spa and a Lagoon with Grotto and Spa. The kids (who had arrived from parts north) loved it and had a swim in the (very cold) water and slide, and the do-not-bomb-or-dive jumping rock. Then we had a quite passable dinner from the Bullring Restaurant and settled in for the night. The breakfast in the Cactus Cucina was very good also, though the coffee at dinner and breakfast could be improved.

Then the kids returned for more swimming, jumping and spaing, and headed off for their resort in north Albury. We headed for Melbourne with stops on the way at the Albury Gallery (with very good drawings by Nora Heysen, Judy Cassab and Margaret Woodward) and the always reliable Benalla Gallery. Lunch at the Jumping Jumbuck in Euroa was fine as always, then home to rest up after two days of constant 'action'. Who knows what the week will bring?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Bussed in

Up early this morning to pick up Nick from the bus, which arrived like clockwork at 6.45am at Southern Cross bus terminal (aka Spencer Street). He came back home, then later we went out to Montmorency for lunch with my parents. Another lunch tomorrow, then off to Albury on Sunday. My father has kindly lent his big car to make the journey easier, and P. has the day off on Monday and can come too. We should be able to catch up with Nick's family, who are coming down from Moss Vale to meet up with friends from Hay in Albury.

Peter is making his fabulous prawn and couscous for dinner tonight and Nick has been practising his handyman skills in the bathroom. We honestly didn't invite him here to fix the bathroom, but it is welcome.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fiction, fiction and more fiction

But first, some real life. Yesterday, I dropped in to visit George, Helen and baby Tallulah, who is getting more and more gorgeous every time I visit. (Nothing to do with my visits: she just is.) They were in good spirits. How could they not be, with such a gem in the house. Thence to another author, to return a novel and have a cup of tea and a chat about placing it with an agent or publisher.

On Tuesday, I had my first meeting with another author, which almost didn't happen as I mistook the venue. I went to Tiamos; he was waiting at Trotters. But we did connect at last and had a good, if by then, hurried chat about the novel. He is off to redraft and it will reappear in due course. And at lunchtime today, a final draft of another novel was dropped in. My life as fiction will take a dive for a few days as various family arrive to visit Melbourne.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Curator in Wonderland

On Sunday, we headed off to the Potter Gallery (NGV) for the Charles Blackman exhibition. It is a splendour of colour, though there is no mention of the wrangle between the gallery and the curator of the exhibition. The newspapers, on the other hand, are not so coy. They seem fascinated by the dispute: perhaps because it has a homosexual angle to it. We also saw a fine millinery exhibition (Harrison hats) and a Melbourne fashion photography exhibition. We were underwhelmed by the Clemenger prize exhibits on the whole.

In the evening, Sal and Lorraine came for a very nice tea: the bean and chippolata soup, Peter's lamb, fetta and mint dish (very popular) and strawberries and cream. Among other things, we discussed house repairs and fixings, from heating to the backyard. Action will follow. This was all prompted by the hard rubbish collection: you know, where you put stuff outside and it is instantly snaffled by someone with a passing trailer. Excellent recycling or one person's meat...

This week will be focusing on novels and Warlukurlangu (new chapter), with lots of little excursions. Nick arrives on Friday for the weekend: which includes going to fabulous Albury and the amazing Siesta Motel, with its South-of-the-Border theme including a grotto with waterfall. I'm hoping for a vision of the Virgin.