Monday, April 30, 2007

Quiet weekend

The most exciting thing in the last few days was a visit to the hospital to give blood. This was to prepare for a renal visit on Wednesday. The Royal Melbourne vampires are efficient and painless, and a visit there provides an excuse to go past Parisienne Pates in Carlton and get one of their great onion tarts.

Otherwise, there was a Slow Food market as part of the Saturday shopping. This time the bath milk people were there, so we're milked up for the week, and buttered up with 'face' butter. (These are unpasteurised products, not suitable for human consumption therefore.) The delicious leg of lamb from the market was shared with Frank on Saturday night. Apart from the Market and shopping, we were mostly at home with the rain pattering on the roof.

This week's work is a fullscale attack on proofing the AIATSIS handbook, punctuated by a foray to Penguin to the archive boxes.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Alexis Wright

Shortlisted Miles Franklin author with butterfly at Melbourne Zoo.
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The blessings of the butterflies

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So far, so good Maps to Success

I don't seem to have achieved much this week. Perhaps having Dead Diggers' Day jammed in the middle of it didn't help. Teresa P. asked P. and I to come to the Peacock Hotel in High Street, Northcote, for their free barbecue, which they have on all public holidays. It's a great idea, in a pleasant beer garden, with assorted Greek gents, obviously impoverished locals and others enjoying the sun and the free salads, snags, steak and shaslicks. A very convivial atmosphere.

Otherwise, the usual trip to Penguin, where I discovered a letter to Sid Nolan, offering him 25 Pounds for a cover for a Patrick White (much better than the later U.S. atrocities which covered the books). The proofs for Maps to Success arrived, and I've made a start on them. They look sparkling, and Mouli, the designer, has fitted the 22,000 words plus pics into 112 A4 pages in a miracle of design compression. She even needed an extra page. I've got a bit over a week to get through them. It's a big responsibility as I'm the quasi-author as well, though I have a steering committee of six and 14 participating organisations also checking the proofs, though for different reasons.

Frank came for tea on Tuesday, and P. made a chili con carne with veal which was yummy, and we broke out the brandied cumquats with homemade vanilla icecream for dessert. Mmm. Basil pesto and pasta last night with more cumquats to follow. They definitely rate you above .05.

Carpentaria has been shortlisted for the NSW Premier's fiction award as well, with the same shortlist as the Miles Franklin, plus two. The end result of all this shortlisting is that Alexis is travelling almost non-stop till July: next week Tasmania. Even if she doesn't win an award, the extra exposure is significant and well deserved.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Great Ocean Road

From Urquhart's Bluff
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Peter at Point Addis

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Anglesea River

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Great Ocean Road

The first part of the Great Ocean Road was our destination in the weekend. Our place of rendezvous was the point at Torquay, where P. and I (in Millie the Mazda) met up with Dad and his cousin, Ada. In pouring rain, we sloshed through the mud to the rocky seashore and sent Mother's ashes off into Bass Strait. The tealights stayed alight for about 5 seconds, but I did manage to get all three lit at once. After lunch in the Torquay pub, we parted and P. and I headed for Anglesea.

On the way, we diverted to Point Addis, a very attractive coastal heathland reserve, with a glorious seascape, and the first of the William Buckley trail notices. The Koori Heritage walk was too muddy and slippery to attempt. Another time.

The motel at Anglesea was basic but comfy and we had superb whiting dinner at Pete's Place, a local eatery, which exceeded expectations. On Sunday, we headed for Lorne via Airey's Inlet. Lorne is bustling as ever, though the new foreshore development is a tacky money-making scheme called Mantra, with health studios. Definitely built for economy in construction, it should not be on the foreshore taking up what should be public space.

The Erskine Falls were a bit damp but beautiful with the bush looking very fresh after the rain. In spite of the weather, a large number of obviously foreign tourists were braving the Ocean Road. Except at Airey's, the occasional rain didn't harm our weekend much. As we hit the top of the Otways, a fine mist shrouded the hills and valleys.

Finally, we lunched at Dean's Marsh, where a quaint spot called the Four Martians had very superior hamburgers and toasted sandwiches.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mixed bag

Another quite busy week, much of it spent on the research project, with a renewed visit to the Penguin archive boxes and the Angus & Robertson lists. On Wednesday, P., Frank, David G. and I had dinner at the Terminus Hotel (Victoria Street, Abbotsford) at their relatively new Bistro upstairs. The food was good, reasonably priced and the desserts to die for. (Well not quite.) We ordered all four desserts and wolfed them down between us. It was a celebration for P. and David's birthdays and was near perfect. The crispy duck which David and I had was very tasty. Frank had the salmon and P. the seafood Asian-style.

Sal came for dinner on Thursday, though the turkey piece was undercooked and had to go back in the oven. The apple and rhubarb crumble though was excellent.

On Friday arvo, I went up for coffee chez Helen B. and Jan McK., as Jean Bedford was visiting from Sydney. It was good to catch up as I hadn't seen her for years.

Various administrative matters like wills have been unravelled this week, and also on Friday, Father brought round Mother's car for us to head to Torquay today for the scattering of the ashes as per instructions. We'll stay down near the Anglesea heathlands, with any luck for some good bird viewing.

Bryony's book has been getting some good coverage, as well as good reviews, the latest in today's Australian. And, to my immense delight, Alexis Wright's Carpentaria has made the shortlist of four for the Miles Franklin. It is intriguing how many friends have (unprompted and unaware) picked up the book and said how much they have enjoyed it and regard it as one of the best books they have read in years. Here's hoping the judges feel the same way.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

On Friday, P. and I had a fairly subdued birthday lunch for him at the French cafe in the Athenaeum building. We'd been meaning to have a meal there for a while so he could try their bouillabaisse, which was very good. We shared a pate to start, while I had a delicious crab omelette for mains. We seem to have had a lot of seafood lately, with sour fish curry the other night, and seafood kebabs tonight as well.

Normal shopping on Saturday: Phoebe is back in action and her swipecard works again. There was also a very busy Farmers Market at the Children's Farm, though sadly the venison lady was missing this time, as was the bath-milk man. We miss that whole cream bath milk! There were heaps of other stalls though. We then went to Frank's for tea. He had done delicious roast lamb with a great self-invented sauce and the usual trimmings. Quince season has started, so we had quinces and cream for dessert.

On Sunday, after Sunday brunch and crossword, it was off to the North Carlton park for Julie Eagles' 50th birthday bash. We could only stay for a while, and as we sat there people kept arriving with more, and more and more food. By the time we reluctantly tore ourselves away, there was a banquet.

Then off to sleepy Camberwell for the launch of Bryony's edited collection of the letters of Barbara Blackman and Judith Wright. A very goodly collection of folk turned up, almost all of whom bought a copy. Lots of old friends were there, so it was a very comforting occasion. Phoebe performed well again.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A long time ago

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Vale June Sims

Mother died peacefully early this morning. My father was there as he has been keeping almost constant vigil for the last few days. Fortunately, she didn't linger and died quickly. She had determinedly made a trip overseas last year, their recent sixtieth wedding anniversary celebration (see below) and had made her wishes for her passing very clear. There will be no funeral.

I suspect she carefully didn't die on P.'s birthday. This is not the place for a eulogy, and she made very clear that she didn't want one. Her going makes for very mixed emotions, as during the last week, since her collapse on Tuesday, everyone has been hoping for it to happen quickly. Her spirit will reverberate for a long time.

Her last instructions to me were to keep blogging, and not to be sad.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mother's health

After arriving back in Melbourne, P. and I took Phoebe out to Montmorency to see Mother, where the Olds gave P. his birthday present for Thursday. It was just as well we went, as the next day (Tuesday), she had a bad turn and was back in hospital in pretty poor shape. I went out again yesterday and today in the morning. She was not much better this morning, though at least she recognised me today and managed to say (seeing my blogger hoodie) that I should keep my blog up, and told me not to be sad, as it was no good feeling sad. Dad is keeping a sort of vigil at the hospital, and will probably stay there overnight.

There is no prognosis from the doctor yet, but she is not eating, indeed cannot eat. She is refusing all treatment and has made that quite clear to the doctors.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Old newspaper office, Chiltern

For all those newspaper buffs, it's hardly The Age, but it did produce a goodly number of newspapers. The man in charge was demonstrating the linotype machine in great detail. Photo by Frank.
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Lake House, Chiltern

A National Trust property where Henry Handel Richardson lived (for 18 months) and set Ultima Thule.
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Gehrig's winery

A picturesque old winery run by five (?) generations of winemakers. Photo by Frank
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Where we stayed in Rutherglen

The Victoria Hotel, photo by Frank
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Monday, April 09, 2007

Rutherglen Reds

On Friday, we picked up Phoebe with her new swipe card, and Frank and headed off along the Hume. We had brief stops in Euroa (for hotcross buns and coffee) and Benalla for a pie lunch. The hotel in Rutherglen was pretty basic, but had very good food for dinner which we enjoyed after a saunter around Rutherglen (it doesn't take long). The pub was also a bit noisy at night from the bar downstairs (the maitresse d' apologised over breakfast the next morning).

Then off to the wineries: the pick of the bunch was Gehrig's with an attendant who was like the farmer from central casting, and it is a very beautiful old place. The majors did their stuff well (Campbell's, Morris's, All Saints) though because it was Easter weekend as the day wore on they became very crowded. We had a good (and cheap) lunch at the cafe at Rutherglen Wines and an excellent dinner at Beaufort's restaurant, a sort of fusion of everything cuisine which was very tasty. We didn't overbuy on wine, just a few choice items and a case of cleanskin red: a durif blend. P. and Frank tried a vast number of different durifs. As the designated driver, I had only the occasional sip.

The weather was superlative, and on the way home we sampled the historical delights of Chiltern, which if it got any sleepier, would disappear. We also saw some good (and bad) art at the Benalla gallery. An excellent weekend was had by all.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Nephew and great nephew

Peter's nephew Ricky with Ricky's son, Rileigh, one-year-old
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Peter's Queensland adventures

Peter's Mum and younger brother at Toonumbar Dam, near Kyogle. They did a car trip into New South Wales on a long day trip.
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Normality settles in

Not quite: but Frank came round for tea on Saturday for P.'s arrival, a very brisk trip from the airport by Skybus and cab that took less than an hour. It would have taken longer to drive. We had roast pork and icecream (not together).

On Sunday, we had a tidying day, though I had a quick trip to Readings in Carlton for the new Meanjin launch. Dinner was at Frank's with a casserole and a delicious self-saucing chocolate pudding (from St Stephanie) to follow. Unfortunately, Newstead at Easter has fallen through so I've had to investigate alternatives.

Mother was back in hospital with high temperatures and exhaustion on Monday, so I whizzed out to see her in the afternoon: she is not looking or feeling too good, so I'll head out again tomorrow (Wednesday). The quacks are giving her steroid pills to try to pep her up, but I think she might feel better off all medication for a while. We'll see.

This morning's foray to Penguin was a bit pointless as a number of our requested boxes of files had gone missing, so there wasn't anything very useful for me. I've now discovered three different ways of getting to Camberwell junction, so it's very easy, and quicker than driving. Well, not really, but less stressful.

We've been minding Phoebe, as GoGet cars have had a tragedy: three of the cars were pinched from their pods by crooks who broke into their key capsules. By the end of the week, all the cars should have swipe cards, which are harder to foil. It just shows that if a scam is possible, someone will try it. It's a real pity, as the whole system is built to some extent on honesty and cooperation. I hope Phoebe is up and running with her new card by the Easter break for our trip to Rutherglen (organised between the paragraphs).

The Premier's Literary Awards (non-fiction) section is starting up. Entries are due in by the start of May, and piles of books will start arriving in late May. I've contacted my fellow judges to propose a procedure, and three of four have already agreed, so it should run smoothly. It's a good bunch of judges: varied backgrounds, two accas, one journalist, a bookseller and me.