Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wales, Burma and the Fifteenth Century

On Monday, the CD of the layouts of the AIATSIS policy paper arrived from Wales. Yes, Wales, where the designer is working at present. Actually, most of the work was done while she was travelling in France. I don't think I could force myself to the computer while travelling in France, but she did. I proofread, collated the corrections from various sources and sent it all back to Wales. That's it. It will be resent to Canberra, where it will have its final proofing and printing.

The rest of the week was spent marking Assignment Two for the Melbourne University course, and finishing off with some time on the Imparja manuscript, whose author has broken her wrist in a fit of very bad timing. However, she has manfully gone on to finish her revisions of the ms. and send them on to me.

Meanwhile, a group of old Penguinis had dinner at a Burmese restaurant to remember the death of Trevor Glover, from cancer, last week. The choice of Burmese was unfortunate given the slaughter in Myanmar this week, but the restaurant owners still have to survive. It was good to reminisce about Big Trev, and even though the food was not very special, the company was.

Last night, I took myself off to Melba Hall for an Early Music Festival performance of Plague and War: musical pieces from the 15th and 16th century, some choral, some vocal solos, and some instrumentals. It was a superb concert in an intimate setting, with sound that was clear as a bell. Loved those sackbuts.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tarra Valley Ferns

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Peter with bacon and eggs by the beautiful Tarra River. Note the motorised salt and pepper mills and the local Tarra Valley worcester sauce.
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The Falls

Agnes Falls, between Welshpool and Toora. Photo: Peter
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Rainforest and lyrebird

On Friday, off we went in Phoebe the Yaris to the power-generating, greenhouse gas producing Latrobe Valley, thence to Yarram and the Tarra-Bulga National Park. We stayed at the Best Friends Caravan Park, so called because it is designed for dogs, with fences around the cabins for Man's Best Friend. However, the cabins are very well equipped and cosy with good heating, necessary in them thair hills on the border of the park.

On Saturday, on the hosts' recommendation we had breakfast at the next caravan park, Fernholme. Set by the Tarra River with tables in the valley, it would have to be the best setting for breakfast in the world. Freshwater crays nibble around the rocks in the stream, while you munch on your eggs, bacon and toast. On the drive up to the park, a lyrebird flitted across the road in front of us, our sole sighting of the bird, prolific in the area. There were lots of other birds though, including the superb fairywren.

The Tarra Valley rainforest walk to Cythea Falls is truly splendid. Wet and vividly green, the path winds up the creek to the falls which, while not spectacular in a time of reduced water, are still very comely. We also did the suspension bridge walk at Bulga and the scenic ridge walk, all well worthwhile.

On Sunday, we went to Agnes Falls near Welshpool on the way home where we had a little picnic, and stopped at the Toora pub for the recommended scallops which were delicious. It is a long drive down to the depths of south Gippsland, but well worth it for a refreshing weekend. Pictures to come. Now back to work.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Crossing Live

It was a quiet weekend except for a toddle up the road to the Collingwood College, where I taught at the Alternative School in the late '70s (how far away...). It was their 125th anniversary and they had a creditable spring fair and launch of a (not bad) history of the school. It was classier than your normal run of school fairs with a gourmet sausage sizzle and homemade icecream for starters.

After a stint in Camberwell at the Penguin archives, off to the Malthouse to Chambermade Opera's Crossing Live, a sort-of-satire on commercial current affairs shows. It was Chambermade back in form with a well-staged and dramatic show taking the piss out of the likes of Naomi Robson. Music-theatre rather than opera perhaps, but who's arguing. It was a very entertaining piece with a cameo from Evelyn Krape (non-singing).

Wednesday brought a visit to the deathly Priestley building, Deputy Vice-chancellor's floor, where a funeral would cause excitement. It was for the Meanjin review committee, which was amiable enough, and clearly is trying to find a sensible solution for the magazine. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

The thankyou

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Beattie's swansong

Handing the prize to Alexis, one of Beattie's last acts as Premier, followed by a big kiss.
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Alexis Wright wins Qld Fiction Prize

At long last, victory in Queensland

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Phew! Semester break

A fortnight without classes is a relief, though by early next week, assignment two will start flooding in for marking which will keep me busy for a while. Also, the policy paper for AIATSIS (remember that) will turn up for proofing this week in its laid-out version all the way from Wales and France. How exotic.

The ABC rural and regional short story competition entries turned up this week, and I have sorted into a longlist and potential winners. All I have to do is finetune into a shortlist and it will be done. The stories coming from RARA (rural and regional Australia, a common mantra these days) display a lot more compassion and feeling than the present government which claims to represent it. There are drought stories, sagas of dismal relationships and lots of heartwarming. The standard is really quite high, and people can pack a lot of narrative into 800 words or less.

In other good news, Alexis Wright's Carpentaria won the Queensland Premier's Fiction Award, which bags award number five. Well deserved. It was presented at Peter Beattie's swansong as Premier of Queensland. Alexis gave him a copy to read in his retirement. I hope he enjoys it.

The week was enlivened by a quiz night at the Celtic Club. It was organised by Wiley publishers to promote their Trivia Nights for Dummies tome. The author was the quizmaster and didn't do a good job of convincing me, as he was extremely irritating in a gladhand sort of way. They were very conventional questions (I was expecting book-focused questions and bombed on sport and recent pop songs). Our table (Monash Bookshop) came last, but the night was quite enjoyable because the table was.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Happy Birthdays

The Farmers' Market was glorious on Saturday morning. On a spring day with blossom glowing and all the geese, ducks and chooks looking glossy, it was very pleasant wandering around the paddocks collecting bath milk, barramundi and olive oil (in a recycled bottle). Very zippy shopping at the Mall followed, as P. and I had to make it quickly to George P.'s birthday party at the North Fitzroy Star. It was a very eclectic gathering of nice folk for George's 50th birthday. After lunch, there was a huge croquembouche, which was delicious, for dessert. George's old Cypriot mum was there from Sydney, a tear in her eye as George came in.

Then it was on to Jackie Yowell's 60th birthday in Glen Iris. Another very eclectic bunch of people gathered for a splendidly festive occasion in Jackie and Steve's beautiful garden for a feast of nibblies and curries and another splendid chocolate cake dessert. I caught up with some old and new faces. Jackie was, I think, aiming for a kind of 'salon' effect, and it worked, with a deal of mix and match among strangers or at least relative strangers. The speeches were very funny and affecting.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Vic Premier's Awards

This was mainly a working week: at the University, on the Imparja manuscript and a report on the 'crime' novel which turned up out of the blue.

The highlight was Monday night with the Premier's Literary Awards (Victorian division). Carpentaria by Alexis Wright won the prize for fiction (its fourth literary award). It was very gratifying to be thanked by Alexis for my help on the book. Our pick for the non-fiction award, Voyage to the South Seas, by Michelle Clode seemed to be approved, though there were mutterings on one table that it was because it was in association with a State Library fellowship. The State Library administer the awards. It wasn't because of that. It was entirely on its own merits. Weeks after reading the book, it still reverberates, which is a good test.

The meal was quite good (carpaccio of fish for entree, main course of spatchcock for the girls and beef for the boys in a grand old Aussie tradition, with the usual smorgasbord of desserts, which the literary locusts descended on as if they had never had a feed (or indeed two courses and nibblies beforehand). John Tranter fed the mind with a good speech, and Frank Moorhouse in accepting the award for a piece discussing an issue, delivered a fiery attack on the present Federal government's attempts to suppress free speech.

At a State government level, we 'enjoyed' a new Premier. What's the difference between Brumby and Bracks? Neither seem to be the book lover that Joan Kirner is. Answer: Bracks is taller, or Brumby is shorter. However, he did turn up for the awards. Many years ago, Jeff Kennett sometimes missed them, anticipating a hostile reaction no doubt.

The rest of the week consisted of familiar recipes though some of my favourites: P. did Stephanie chook to perfection and I essayed one of my standbys, Pesto. The basil was excellent and pungent, and because both Peter and I have colds, I loaded it up with extra garlic.

A busy social weekend approaches with two birthday parties on one day. More anon.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Father's Day

Very normal shopping on a non-market Saturday at the Mall, followed by a diversion to Brunswick Street for brunch, then dinner at Frank's for more of his delicious pizzas, followed by baked pears. On Sunday, my sister and brother-in-law went with Father, Peter and I to the Elephant & Wheelbarrow, in backpacker-land in St Kilda. My brother-in-law likes the pub because it has English ales on tap. The food is very pub-food but quite creditable. My steak and ale pie was delicious and very filling. For dinner, Peter made a very tasty dish from flathead fillets with spicy mash.

Tonight, hold your breath for the Premier's Literary Awards at Federation Square. New Premier, same old awards. But it's usually not a bad dinner. Obsessed with food, me?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Lots of good news

Another week spent mainly on Melbourne University, this time with a LOT of marking for the first assignment. But meanwhile, there were other occupations: a meeting with the Imparja author who has arrived back from Alice Springs bearing lots of photos and additions to the text.

As well, just as I was using the text of a bit of Darby in class, I was told by the author that it had been shortlisted for two awards, the NT history prize and another still embargoed. We'll see what other good news remains in store on the awards front. Awards are a form of public patronage, providing a bit of extra income for the author, plus some promotion which might in some cases increase the sales, if not the author's longterm prestige.

Peter still has a very bad coldy flu, and is still off work, so last night Frank and I went to the local pub for a good dinner because neither of us could be bothered cooking. P. raided the frig for leftovers.

Out of the blue, an embryonic 'crime' novel arrived, just as I had been reading Peter Temple's latest opus (which is a rivetting read). It is a good tonic to get my teeth into a genre which I have had little experience of but am a great fan of...