Sunday, December 31, 2006

Two days in Canbergen

We're back from a couple of days in Canbergen. The first was spent at the Museum, pondering again the subtle changes which have occurred since the Howardisation of the institution. There is still a lot to enjoy and admire, though there has been a lot of tweaking. Statements have been qualified with things like: 'A lot of Aborigines say...' and so on. There was a good, but not very interesting exhibition on the surflifesaving business, and an excellent rundown of the best cartoons of the year. We had dinner at a Kingston Vietnamese before retiring to bed at the Brassey Hotel.

Next day, we walked to the Library and enjoyed the Donald Friend exhibition to mark the publication of the fourth and final volume of his diaries. Then we trudged over to the gallery for the Egyptians, which was packed out, then did some of the rest of the gallery including the Grace Crowley special exhibition and the Russian modernists. Crowley had a great quote. She was an early Cubist, who had studied in Paris. On return to Australia she was little understood, and exhibited in a lowkey way. She said she was one of Australia's most extinguished artists. We also revisited some old favourites (Grace Cossington-Smith etc.) Cultured out, we retired to Lesley and Louise's for dinner and a good mag.

Today, we did the Botanic Gardens which had splendid displays of kangaroo paws, then Old Parliament House and the Portrait Gallery. A Virgin ride back to Melbourne somewhat footsore after much tromping around.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


We spent a very laid back Christmas Day with Stephanie's roast chook for dinner. I did quite a lot of work on the research project because it was so quiet. I'm powering through the years (I'm up to 1992 by today from 1960). The National Library listings for Penguin become increasingly patchy over the years, so I'll have to crosscheck extensively when I finish this round.

On Boxing Day, P. and I made coleslaw and potato salad (from The Perfect Cookbook, ever reliable), then headed to the Kew Boathouse where Nick's family, my parents and sister and her husband arrived for a picnic lunch. Father brought cold chicken and sausages and we scored a picnic shelter, so intermittent drizzle didn't interfere. My sister rounded it off with a cheesecake and Kirrilly brought some Christmas cake and coconut balls, so we were stuffed by the end. It was a very pleasant gathering. We felt a bit tatty with our makeshift picnic. The people on the table next door had eskies on wheels and full matching picnic gear. How pretentious! Home for leftovers for tea afterwards.

Tonight, Frank is coming for dinner (more chicken, this time on skewers) bringing his leftover summer pudding. We also have a frig full of dessert (icecream, strawberries and rhubarb from Saturday's Slow Food market). Tomorrow P. and I head for Canberra for various exhibitions, including Egyptian.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Boring Barry

We had our first chance on Saturday to go to the new Slow Food Market at the Convent. It doesn't have as much veggie stuff as the Farmers Market, but has lots of good things, including more meat things and prepared produce. Some good bargains, like bunches of leeks for a dollar. Then we took Phoebe off to the mall for the rest of the shopping to keep us going over Christmas.

In the arvo, one of P.'s workmates had given him freebies to Barry Humphries' show Back with a Vengeance. I'm glad we didn't pay. Les Patterson was okay, Sandy Stone was limp and very tame, and the second half was all Dame Edna dragging people on stage with very unfunny setups, like Edna Idol. I almost got my arvo sleep in the theatre. After Tomfoolery the other night with a full band, it was a bit cheap filling the State Theatre with audience and providing a piano and canned music, plus four danseuses/chanteuses as backup. However, I'm full of admiration for a performer who, at 72-odd, can do two shows on a Saturday.

Today, Nick and David walked around the Merri Creek from Brunswick to visit. They are here from Nowra with the rest of the family for Christmas. We had a bite at the Convent Bakery, then they were picked up and went off to the zoo.

Tonight, P. and I are off to Frank's for his yummy pizzas, a good way to spend Christmas Eve. Ho, ho, ho.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New directions

After a meeting with the author on Monday to hand over the Berlin novel (still untitled), I've been trawling through the years of the research project, compiling a more-or-less accurate publication schedule for Penguin from 1965-95. I'm up to 1976. It is a very interesting exercise, finding what worked and what didn't over the years. If I can do two years per day I'll finish it early in the New Year.

As well, I've started work on the Handbook on Successful Indigenous Organisations. A draft is due by the end of January, so I can't drag my heels on that. It is not an easy job, getting the tone right and preventing it sounding like a government report. However, I don't think AIATSIS will take kindly to too many jokes.

Dinner tonight with Frank and David at the local, and we've still got lots of food in the frig. Christmas is coming and we haven't got any geese.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Another arty weekend

There was normal Saturday morning shopping, though the Mall is obviously hotting up for Christmas, as it was harder to get a park than usual. Then Phoebe whizzed Frank, P. and I to Smith Street for an excellent brunch at the Gypsy Bar. It is usually good, but yesterday it was superb: mine had crispy bacon, juicy tomato, runny poached eggs, salad and (ssh!) hash browns. P.'s Texas Burger had so many chips even he couldn't finish them with help from Frank and I.

Today, after the usual crossword, Phoebe, P. and I went out to Heide to see the renovations (finished since July, so we've been slack) and saw the recreation of a 1954 Tucker/Nolan exhibition in Rome (their only joint showing) and a big swag of Nolan Neds from over four decades. I can't say that either artist is among my favourites and both have a tendency to muddiness in some of their work which doesn't appeal. However, both shows were interesting and well done, if you like that kind of thing. The Heide 'retrospective' in Heide II had a number of very good modern pieces, and Heide I was closed for some reason.

The additions are less extensive than I'd imagined but made the place more usable and comfortable, and lunch at the eatery was tasty, prompt and cheery (which made a nice change from some of the service in the past). The 'Japanese' chips with wasabi dipping sauce were very moreish, though probably owed more to KFC in style than Japan. P.'s salmon sandwich and my chicken and pea pie were excellent and good value.

A very nice surprise was that the Lawrence clan were celebrating Ann's birthday at Heide, so we caught up with Caroline, Alex and Peter Lawrence and parents, whom we haven't seen for ages.

Tonight, Lorraine E. is coming for tea, another meal of cold collations in this hot weather.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Week in Berlin, mostly

Most of the week has been spent on the Berlin novel (with some time on Papunya Tula), but there have been some interludes. Polly Maloney dropped in for lunch on Wednesday (at the Convent Bakery) as part of her Melbourne jaunt, before she goes back to settle into her Sydney flat. On Thursday, Frank did the same (it was P.'s day off). In the morning, he'd had the sad task of sending Pushka off to cat heaven. Poor Pushka has not been well for a while. When we visited last she was stick thin. She's joined the old cats in the sky. Vale Pushka!

P. got halftix for the Tom Lehrer show, Tomfoolery, at the Playhouse. The songs, which made up the show, have hardly dated at all. Today they'd probably be a bit more risque, but not much. Very good performances, especially of the infamous old folk song, 'Rickety, tickety, tin'. Thanks to Andrew and Ann for the recommendation.

Back to Berlin.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Caramba, no veranda

After a very quiet morning checking the Papunya Tula layouts, I was just getting lunch ready when there was a screeching of brakes and a very loud crash. A BMW had swerved to avoid a car coming out of Patterson Street and demolished our veranda and the woodbox. In fact, the woodbox took the brunt of the impact and probably saved more damage to the house.

Fortunately, RACV house insurance is very efficient, and had a builder here by the afternoon to check the damage, prop up the veranda and clear up the wreckage. The driver of the BMW was from the nearby carwash, taking the car to park it. The owner was less than pleased. Now, we will probably have a long saga about whose fault it all was: the driver who came out against a stop sign or the driver of the BMW from the carwash who actually did the damage.

The police arrived and tried to make sense of it all, but no one, apart from the drivers, actually saw what happened. We'll see.

Suddenly, checking the Papunya layouts became very attractive. (Oh, and yesterday's lunch was very pleasant. It was a very hot day so cold collations were just the thing. Peter's provencal tomato and anchovy tart was a triumph.)

In medical news, my mother has some scans today to determine how the chemo is working. She'll know in a few days, and my niece is home from her op. and doing well.

Polly M. and Bruce at the Abbaye de Senanque

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Blue-tongue lizard

That's right: I think a blue-tongue scuttled under the swamp lily when I went out to the backyard yesterday, quite a plump little fellow. How it got there, I know not, but it fulfils P.'s dream of having wildlife in the backyard. Kangaroos next.

Last night, we went to Frank's for pizzas (postponed because of his burglary). As usual, they were delicious. We enjoyed Rochelle's Stateline round-up of 50 years of ABC Victoria, particularly the puff piece on the National Gallery from the time of its opening. Not to mention broadsides at Bolte, Kennett, Cain and Kirner. Hamer, rightly, emerged pretty much unscathed.

Frank was singing this morning, so missed a monster Farmers' Market and the usual shopping at Victoria Gardens, followed by lunch in Brunswick Street (we felt so trendy).

Tonight, Keren L. is visiting from Sydney, so we have lots of Market produce for tea, but all cold because of the heat. Frank is joining us, and tomorrow we have a Liz Kelly Memorial Lunch in honour of Polly M. who has arrived from England. We haven't seen her since Avignon, earlier in the year (boast, boast).

Friday, December 08, 2006

Busy social week

As well as working on the Berlin novel and proofing the superb layout of the first part of the Papunya Tula book, I've had lots of visitors this week: Carmel B., Jo B., Rochelle J. all popped in for tea, coffee or lunch. As well, on Wednesday, my Olds picked me up and we went to Station Pier where son Nick had arrived on HMAS Ballarat in full naval reserve whites, after a training journey from Perth to Melbourne. I was amused to see him saluted and called, 'Sir'. Sir, indeed.
Then on Thursday night, we had an old Penguinis dinner at the local pub which was most enjoyable.

Coincidentally, the same day I was connected fully to the old Penguin computer system so that I can access figures for the research project next year. I have to resist the temptation to spend all my time checking figures when I have other work to do. Today, a brief foray to the Melbourne Uni. archives to check Helen Daniel boxes again.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Arty Day

After brunch and the crossword, P. and I went off to the Potter Gallery at Melbourne Uni. for an exhibition of five Aboriginal artists and a small showing of cards and prints by Eric Thake. Both exhibitions were well worth the visit. Then on to Fed. Square, and the other Potter Gallery for the Howard Arkely exhibition, which was a knockout in its vibrancy and variety. It is certainly a highly charged exhibition.

Settling in now for a week of solid work, both proofing the Papunya book and close editing the Berlin novel. Had a good phone talk today with Mouli about the design and layout of the AIATSIS handbook as well. Mercifully, there won't be much to do on that till after Christmas. What: Christmas already?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ravel unravelled

On Friday night, P., Frank and I went to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra perform Ravel's 'L'enfant et les sortileges' in a very impressive performance with good soloists. The short opera seemed to last hardly any time at all. (The pre interval Toy Symphony was missable, and the Mozart Prague Symphony well done.)

Usual shopping on Saturday, with the occasional variation of going to Brunswick to visit the Mediterranean Wholesalers for supplies. Then the Olds whisked me off to Jo B.'s 50th birthday bash in Beaconsfield Parade by the Beach. It was a very pleasant afternoon with the Bramble Australian family (getting vaster by the year) and various friends.