Monday, July 30, 2007

Socialising weekend

After a quick foray to the Slow Food Market, I had lunch at Qan 88 with Father and Jo B. We spent a lot of time going through the Penguin figures, so it was very much a working lunch, with a bit of socialising thrown in.

In the evening, off to Noel T.'s with Lorraine for dinner with him and Suzy B. As usual, the food was excellent and a good time had by all (I think). Turns out that Suzy is the mother of Ben Ball, the putative publisher at Penguin. What a coincidence. She's doing a book, for another publisher at Penguin, so is busy writing away.

On Sunday, Sal and Frank came round for dinner mainly provided by Sal (rabbit sausages with trimmings). We had chicken and pistacchio terrine (from the market) for firsts, and rhubarb and apple crumble to finish. Tonight, I'll have to have a severe cleanout of the frig to rid it of things which have been there for too long.

And today, Joe B. visited. He's in town from Nyah to organise things for the Pioneer Settlement in Swan Hill and see his daughter, at Melbourne Uni. Joe and Ann are off to Turkey and Greece in September.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to get some work done.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Halls of Academe

The first two classes at the University of Melbourne started this week. There are 14 students in the Wednesday class and 9 on Friday. The Friday class is unique in the Publishing and Communications program in having more men than women in the class: an almost bewildering array of Asian, sub-Continental and Heavy Metaller. The women are mostly very Waspish but bright.

After the sometimes Kafkaesque tasks of getting swipe cards for entry to tutorial rooms and signing contracts, I'm now in business with Melbourne Uni. I'm reminded of how much time two two-hour sessions take, both in preparation and simply getting to and fro. It's definitely not worth the money, so let's hope there are other rewards.

Frank came for a pleasant meal and teev on Thursday, and this weekend is going to be very social. Just as well, as I'm missing Peter in Queensland a lot.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not so quiet times

On Saturday night, after the shopping, Frank came to dinner for P.'s farewell dinner. P. did his version of Stephanie's magnificent roast chook, then next day packed all his goodies and headed off via Virgin for Dizzy Brizzy. He is now in his mother's place in Morningside in somewhat warmer climes.

Meanwhile, the ABC short story competition sprung two more early morning interviews: Illawarra and Townsville, which required getting up at 6.45 and having a quick coffee before trying to sound inspirational.

As my father said, when he came for roast lamb dinner last night, he can tell when I'm busy because I have gaps in my blogging. True indeed. Yesterday was taken up with a foray to Penguin in Camberwell and further refinement of the McPhee Gribble figures which have lead to the inescapable conclusion that they made lots of dough for Penguin.

Today is the beginning of teaching for second semester at Melbourne Uni. and I am more or less prepared to go in and sign on and start teaching like a steam train. Or perhaps more like a push bike.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Out in the Cold

On a week which was the coldest in Melbourne for ages, it would have been good to stay home by the fire. Instead, various appointments meant I was out every day this week. On Monday, I went to interview Rosanne Turner, the erstwhile Education Sales Manager at Penguin, about her work during that time. Rosanne, otherwise known as Sister Rosanne (because of her religious affiliations) or Sister Rosita, because of her central American connections, is a mine of information. The followup on Tuesday was to Penguin, Camberwell, to the archives. Meanwhile my Dad had produced the contribution figures for Penguin and McPhee Gribble fiction, which provide much food for thought. I think the research project has had its money's worth this week.

On Wednesday, I popped over to Footiscray to see George P., who has moved into a newish house/unit there. It's quite comfortable, if a bit bare yet, and George is in quite good spirits, though a bit isolated in his new location.

On Thursday, off to the Health Centre for pills and Melbourne Uni. to get ready for next week's start of classes. Unfortunately, neither the sign-up papers nor the course booklet were ready, so I'll have to fly blind next Wednesday.

Today, Louise and Michael were visiting from Canbergen, so we went out to Heide Art Gallery. They have a very good exhibition on thirties modernism in Melbourne. It was very interesting, and demonstrated that things probably went backwards in the fifties.

Dinner at Frank's on Thursday night, completed a busy week, preparatory to P. going off to Brisbane for three weeks to 'look after' his ailing Mum. Her partial hip replacement seems to have been a success, but now that she's home, it would be good to have someone else in the house during the day to see that she's all right. It will be very quiet in Abbotsford, but at least I'll get a lot of work done.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bastille Day Feast

Those who say I write too much about food: stop reading now! The Bastille Day dinner at the Terminus Hotel was a triumph. There were 10 courses (who's counting) of new twists on traditional French dishes, well-paced and sized enough to leave one feeling replete but not stuffed at the end. It started with a small service of Tartare made from Waygu beef with a piquant salsa. Then a seafood terrine, the favourite of many diners, followed by hot entrees: Coquilles Saint Jacques, then Snails. The cold entree was a very nice piece of Foie Gras (sorry to the goose) in truffle brioche, before we got to the soup, traditional French Onion. If this wasn't enough, there were two mains: the roast pork belly (which was my choice for the best of the evening) and Confit de Canard with puy lentils. The pork was a delicate but rich piece, with crispy, crackling skin and deep flavour resting on a celeriac puree, with cider and green peppercorn sauce (very spicy).

To refresh the palate, a lemon sorbet, then a plate of four pastries and desserts. We exited, very happy with a superbly planned and executed meal. We'll spend Sunday resting.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Allons enfants de la patrie

For French national day, I sent off the AIATSIS Policy Report for design and layout. No connection whatever; it just happened to be the same day. Peter and Sal celebrated by going to the open day at the new Alliance Francaise building in St Kilda, which was packed, and tonight, Peter, Frank, David and I are off to the Terminus Hotel for a French 8-course degustation menu, which will do no good at all for our chlorestorol.

In other news, I've had a meeting with Mark, the course convenor, about the Melbourne Uni. teaching starting soon. I call it 'How to be a Publisher in 24 Hours', as I have twelve two-hour sessions, though the official title is Advanced Editing and Publishing.

The research project bumbles along, though the great efficiency of my father in Excel has yielded the first fiscal result: which is that Penguin fiction publishing from 1978 to 1995 actually made money. You read it here first, in this totally unrefereed blog-journal. I also had a good meeting this week with co-researcher, Louise Poland, the only full-timer on the project. She has just started, so it was good to have a good mag about it all.

Sal came for dinner on Thursday (a simple roast) and Frank on Friday, after Frank and I had been to Kings Artist-run Gallery for an exhibition by three young artists, including Jessica, the research assistant on the research project. Her contribution was a video presentation about suicide: hardly a cheery subject, about which you could chalk comments on the wall. I did.

Also on Friday, I sent in the report and results of the Premier's Award for non-fiction. Stay tuned for the shortlist (10 August) and the winnah! (3 September).

The Imparja (Alice Springs) manuscript keeps on going: it will be a relief next week to be free of the AIATSIS project and the Premier's Awards, and concentrate on Imparja and getting some more chapters back to the author. I think that doing three things at once is about my limit. Once it gets to four or five, it's a bit hard to juggle time and focus adequately on anything.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I've been to...

Orange, Dubbo, Bega, Ballarat, New England, Mount Gambier, Albury-Wodonga, Southern Queensland, Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie and everywhere else on Bush Telegraph. The ABC Short Story project is certainly getting its money's worth out of me, as I do interview after interview on the regionals and radio national. However, it's quite fun trying to be inspirational and interesting, saying the same stuff over and over. The test will be whether it provokes more entries than last year (about 1500).

Meanwhile, I'm trying to tie up the Policy Paper for AIATSIS, the Alice Springs ms. and the Research Project in between calls. So it's pretty humdrum work at the keyboard in between pretty humdrum talk to various ABC presenters.

On Sunday night, P. and I went to Frank's for a very tasty beef casserole, with quinces to follow and sampled his brand new couches. Very comfortable.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Plato the Cat

Last night, I finally caught up with Marta, the owner of the visiting cat. HIS name is Plato. They were looking for a name of a contemplative, because Plato, like most cats, sleeps a lot. They tried Buddha and other names and settled on Plato. I don't know whether Plato the Philosopher was slightly irascible and demanding, but Plato the Cat is. He loudly demands a lap on which to deposit himself. He also loudly demands food, but we have left that up to Marta, as we don't want to poach on her territory, or make Plato too fat.

After shopping yesterday, P., Frank and I had a very nice brunch in Brunswick Street, where we went to buy coffee. Mr Herbie, the spice king of Rozelle, sent us a free package of Super Ras El Hanout to celebrate their 10th anniversary. I made its prawn tagine recipe, which turned out to be delicious, though there was some doubt about whether the quantity in the recipe of spice was a tea- or table-spoon. We settled midway in between and it worked.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Another week indoors

Still wintry and wet in Melbourne so the week was mainly spent, head down, working. The cat (who it turns out is not Alice, but named after a philosopher, unknown, and is male, though neutered as philosophers should be) still comes every day to sit by the fire or on a lap, if available. Apart from a brief excursion to Penguin and the archive boxes, the week has been spent finalising the Premier's Award for non-fiction. We've got our final judges meeting on Monday which will be interesting. Some of the finalist books are very LONG, hence the time taken.

As well the corrections to the AIATSIS policy paper arrived, and have been duly incorporated. There were surprisingly few of them, so now it needs to be finally edited and sent off. The captions are the main task as they have to be checked and some rekeyed before they go off to some sylvan vale in Wales where the designer is holed up. Poor thing.

The Alice Springs report has gone with three sample chapters, cut and re-arranged and the author and publisher seem comfortable with the changes, so it's on with the rest of them.

As well, the ABC short story competition is inviting entries next week, so there is a round of radio interviews in places like Dubbo, FNQ, Kalgoorlie and New England, all by phone. It's hard to sound spontaneous saying the same thing over and over.

And teaching starts for second semester at Melbourne University in a couple of weeks, so some preparation for that starts next week, as well as getting a bit deeper into the Research Project. At least life's not dull.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Wintry and wet in Melbourne

This week has been mostly indoors by the fire, with intermittent visits from Alice the Cat, who curls up on the couch with great insouciance, as cats do. Our only excursions were for the shopping, and a very tasty Saturday brunch at Cavallero in Smith Street with Frank. As usual, we were the oldest group in the place, so felt alternately trendy and out-of-place. But the food is very good.

Frank also came for a Friday dinner of leftovers and tellie and tonight we are joining him in an outing to Lorraine's for dinner.

Otherwise, it has been a week of continuing reading through the Premier's non-fiction and preparing a report on the Alice Springs ms. I'll send it tomorrow and hope that it doesn't cause conniptions with the author. I doubt it.

I'm also anxiously waiting for feedback on the Policy Paper from AIATSIS which should arrive soon, and have finally (with Frank's help) got the new digital recorder to work, so can begin interviews for the research project. We should have a roundtable meeting about it in August (possibly now in Sydney) so I have to get my rollerskates on.