Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mossman Gorge

Lots of people were swimming in the icy waters of the Mossman River (picture: Peter)
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Daintree River, crawling with invisible crocs. (picture: Peter)

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Daintree Delights

On our last day in Cairns, we took off north via Port Douglas, which features the Christopher Skase Mirage resort. There was a quick visit plus morning tea to Habitat World or somesuch, which had lots of birds. We then went to the beautiful Mossman Gorge, soon to have entry controlled by electric bus to prevent congestion. The rainforest there is beautiful.

Further north to cross the Daintree River (see pic above) and into the rainforest again where we had a stylish lunch at a beachside resort then on to Cape Tribulation for a short walk through the forest and along the beach. We finished with a boat trip along the Daintree River to see a few crocs in the wild, with a laconic commentary about how they would kill you as soon as look at you.

Back in Cairns, we had a search for edible food in Cairns city, settling on a Japanese 'cafeteria' which had very good bento boxes, but good food is in short supply in Cairns, as is good coffee.

Next day was an endless plane flight back to Melbourne, via Brisbane, where thankfully my Dad met us at the airport and ferried us home.

A fairly normal Sunday followed with washing and tidying, ending with a very nice dinner chez Noel T. with Lorraine, which was good as we didn't have much food in the house. Tomorrow, back to work.

Peter with Parrot

South American Sun Conure at Birdworld Kuranda. (photo: Bruce)
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Heavy duty tourism

Today was our first BIG tourist day. We first went on the old Railway to Kuranda, then poked around Kuranda Village in a desultory fashion, having a mango smoothie, as one does. Then we DID Birdworld, which had a very good selection of local and exotic birds.

Then we went off to a tourist theme park, called something like Forestation, where we had a quite creditable buffet lunch. By now we were associating with touros from Leeds and Hawaii. The Yanks seem especially good at piling up the plates at buffet lunches, then hoovering it all up.

Next was a trip by Army Duck through the rainforest and over a pond, viewing natural phenomena from turtles to dragons to very large trees. This was followed by Aboriginal dancers and demonstrations of boomerang and spear throwing and didgeridoo, just the kind of thing that they did in the Melbourne Zoo in the nineteenth century. Meanwhile, some folk had their pictures taken with koalas and crocs (freshwater), while we contented ourselves with simply viewing the wildlife, which was obligingly awake, including quolls and koalas.

A spectacular finish to the day was the Skyrail back to Cairns, skimming over the top of the rainforest and stopping for breaks at Barron Falls and a rainforest (real this time) walk. The bus dropped us exhausted back at the hotel, where we are too tired to go out and just veged here. Tomorrow is another marathon: the Daintree. However kitsch it all sounds, it was a surprisingly enjoyable day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two days in Cairns

Yesterday, we headed off early to Green Island on the Big Cat. A journey of an hour and a quarter found us on the coral cay which has a tropical rainforest built up from (basically) bird droppings. It was very pleasant walking round the island (which takes about an hour) which is also populated by a lot of little rails, ground-dwelling birds, who usually live in swamps, but who scavenge in the rainforest and off tourists.

We also did the mini-submarine and glass-bottomed boat tours of the reef and saw giant clams, turtle (one) and lots of colourful fish. We didn't take the snorkel option. We did the 'granny' trip. A buffet lunch on board was what you might expect. At least it was edible. Back to Cairns for dinner at the 'resort' and a swim.

Today, we went into the 'city' and did the galleries. The main public gallery had the usual community-based stuff (landscapes of the Atherton tablelands) and photography exhibition from London in the 60s, 70s and 80s by Kenneth McMillan (now a Cairns resident) and a pop art exhibition from Queenslanders. Then we went to the contemporary arts gallery which had an exhibition from Billy Missi of the Torres Strait Islands. I bought one of the smaller linocuts for Abbotsford, arriving soon. They also had a photography show. Both were good.

We used our bonus lunch for a buffet lunch at the Casino. (Sorry, mother.) Again, it was okay, the roast pork was all right, but it was not to die for. Neither is the Casino, an example of architecture which is eminently missable. Back to the hotel for an arvo snooze and then a swim and dinner.

Tomorrow, we do Kuranda: train, skyrail, Aboriginal stuff and more rainforest. In a few days, we will be rainforested out.

Monday, March 24, 2008

FNQ Here We Are

We've arrived in Cairns after an extravaganza of Ronge family events in Brisbane. We had a picnic for Joan's birthday last Friday with nearly all of her large family. As usual, P.'s sister Marcia was a tornado of organisation, and though we brought fruit salad, a whole summer chicken and potato salad, they were hardly touched as Marcia had provided so much food. As a bonus, Christopher's older son, Sam, was there, with his wife Linda and two children from England. P.'s older brother, Christopher, made a very good speech in honour of Joan's birthday, and we retired to her place in Morningside to demolish the leftovers.

There was a small piece of drama earlier in the day. P. had the idea that it would be good to have a car to transport things like Joan's walker and picnic items. I didn't quite believe that my GoGet card from Melbourne would unlock a GeeWhiz car in Brisbane, but it did. The only thing I didn't know was that GeeWhiz cars automatically lock if you leave them for five minutes. This might be a sensible precaution if you knew about it, but I didn't, and the keycard was INSIDE the car. However, a quick call to GeeWhiz sorted it out with no trouble and we were on our way. Aggie the Waggie performed very well and she was really necessary to facilitate the picnic.

Saturday was an R&R day: P. and I went to the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art. There was a huge attendance, and the season has been extended by a fortnight. The show was good as was the whole gallery. After lunch at the 'main' gallery, we saw an equally good exhibition of watercolourist, Kenneth McQueen. In the evening, we had a long overdue dinner with Catherine and Sam Watson and got all the goss. The Chinese dinner was good too, in New Farm.

We'd also had an excellent Chinese in the Valley the night I arrived (Thursday) after installing ourselves in the very comfortable Terraces on Wickham. Unbeknowns to us, they are renovating the Terraces (they were meant to have told us, but somehow didn't) so on the day I arrived, Thursday, there was jackhammering above our room until 3 o'clock in the afternoon. As one of the workmen said, we were lucky it was Easter and the next three days were peaceful. However, the breakfasts were not special, but for conventional buffets very fresh and tasty. I love a cooked breakfast.

On Sunday, it was off to Morningside again for a day spent with Joan, and this time with only the Ronge siblings and family. Somewhat exhausted after this familial orgy, we were driven by Simon, P.'s brother, off to Susan H.'s for dinner with three of her friends, one of whom, Di, works for Lesley P. Small world. After a delicious dinner (cheese souffle, rabbit and poached fruit with custard) we headed back to prepare to head north.

The Palm Royale picked us up from the airport and we are now settled in with four pools and a couple of eateries and are preparing for various tours: the Reef and Green Island tomorrow, a lazing day on Wednesday, Kuranda etc. on Thursday and the Daintree on Friday. A bit busy perhaps, but we've never been here before. I'm looking forward to all of it.

But first, a dip in the pool, then dinner.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Loose ends

As I'm about to head off to Brisbane, I've been trying to finish off everything that needs to be done before then. P. went off to Brisbane on Saturday and arrived without any trouble and is settling in at his Ma's place. Frank and I did normal shopping and had a very nice brunch (finally) at Birdman Eating in Gertrude Street. On our way back to Phoebe the car, we found part of the crew of The Dirty Mile (see below) getting ready for the afternoon performance in the garage behind Rose Chong's shop (which is the necessary bolthole and headquarters for the on-the-road performance).

On Sunday, Lorraine E. came by with some gorgeous grey bowls, a birthday prezzie (she says they're green, but they're grey). I told her she was trying to drag us, kicking and screaming, up-market. Later in the day, the author of the art biography dropped in the remaining revised text, so I worked through it on Monday and got it back to her to do the necessary before my return from FNQ.

I've also made contact with my Broome author in Port Hedland and started reading the new biography, of which more anon. Plenty to keep me busy before packing the bags to head off on Thursday.

Oh, and I've had some very good feedback on my paper for the research project. On return, I'll do a redraft, which won't be too difficult given the quality comments I've received. I'd really like to be lectured or tutored by either Ivor or Jessica. They know their stuff.

As P.'s Mum will be having a picnique for her birthday on Friday, I've been trying to organise a GoGet related car in Brisbane on Friday, a kind of cousin of Phoebe. It looks like it might come off.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Not so gourmet

I was very grateful after a long day at Werribee Park with the sculptures that P. cooked dinner: chicken pieces with Indian spices. Over the next few days, I've been busy with the art biography but on Tuesday, P. reminded me of the rack-off-lamb. I tried Margaret Fulton's recipe for cummin-encrusted, and stupidly trusted her cooking times rather than my usual formula. If you can't trust Margaret Fulton, who can you trust? Wrong. It emerged barely cooked and had to go back, so everything: roast spuds and so on, was out of kilter. Tasty recipe but a disaster!

Last night, P. and Lorraine went off to Loudon Wainwright III, so I used up the leftovers in the fridge for a very creditable shepherd's pie, which will do duty while P. is in Queensland, before I join him. Tonight, Frank is coming for venison burgundy, a variation on an old theme. So far, it smells good.

Time is running out before departing for sunny (?) Queensland. Lots to do.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Peter doing the same

Experiencing the karmic flow from a sculptural experience (photo: L. Ellis)
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In the middle of a sculpture

Daggy photo doing as I'm told in sculpture (photo: L. Ellis)

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Sculpture with live toddler

Photo: L.Ellis
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Bird sculpture

A very imposing bird sculpture. Note the natural addition of birdshit around the eyeball. (Photo: L. Ellis)

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Helen Lempriere exhibition

Today, we picked up Keith the Wagon (to have more space) and headed off with Lorraine to Werribee Park for the sculpture exhibition. It was a very hot day, so we trundled round the grounds looking at the pieces in the morning, then had lunch at Joseph's Restaurant (the cheap special) which was enjoyable if undistinguished. I had scallops, followed by superior fishcakes which were, however, barely the equal of those at the Builders' Arms Hotel in Gertrude Street. Fishcakes seem to be becoming a theme.

A quick whiz round the Werribee mansion followed then home.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lots of Melba (peach, that is)

The novel for the Residential Editorial Program turned out to be rivetting. It is confidential, so not much can be said. Suffice to say it has one of the most memorable characters in a long time among a huge cast. I suspect this character will lend their name to a type of behaviour. More of this anon. It took barely a day to read this very large (430 page) novel, it was so compelling.

On Friday night, Teresa P. came round for tea: a fairly simple dinner of onion tart and salad, pesto and pasta. But the treasure was that P. made a proper Peach Melba with peaches poached in vanilla syrup. Yum. It was good to catch up with Teresa, whom we hadn't seen for ages and have a good mag about all sorts of things.

It was market day at the Farm on Saturday. It has become very popular, so it's just as well we haven't got a fulltime car anymore. We got some real treasures to stuff the overstretched fridge. Best was some great soft goat's cheese and the usual 'bath' milk, cubed venison (I'll try venison burgundy this week) and lots of fresh herbs and veggies.

In the arvo, Lorraine joined us at the Carlton Gardens for the dramatic performance The Dirty Mile by Ilbijerri Theatre. It consisted of a walking play taking about 50 audience from the Gardens down Gertrude Street (the dirty mile) to Smith Street, stopping at various sites of Koori significance on the way where historical scenes were acted out by the decade (the 30s, the 40s etc.) It was quite a compelling theatre event and the logistics mindboggling. Wrangling a browns-cows group of customers (keep to the right of the pavement, go round this tree, don't straggle, keep moving) plus keeping costumes, props etc. in play along a 'live' street was an amazing achievement, so criticism seems carping. However, it suffered from a common fault of telling the whole story over again, rather than concentrating on the local and the specific and dramatic. By far the best bit was 'parkie', Denise Lovett, telling the story of living in the 'gardens' at the Atherton Estate. A real story in a real spot. But the overall effect was bracing.

In the evening, Frank (back from Newstead) and Lorraine came for dinner. P. used the spoils from the market to make sorrel and potato soup (mmm!), I made Mr Herbert's fish tagine from the Saturday Australian Magazine and we had a re-run of the Peach Melba. Lorraine and Frank rolled off into the night.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Merrily we roll along...

On Monday afternoon, I had a meeting with the author of the art biography. We exchanged bits and, on the way home, I picked up the huge novel from the post office for the Residential Editorial Program. It will take a few days to clear the space to get to it, or even put it down somewhere. The art bio. is going well, I think. Tightening up a bit and making sense (not that it didn't before, I hasten to add).

The new biography has been confirmed. The author says that it is 200,000 words. The publisher says that it is 150,000 words. It arrives in about a week (it will probably take that long to copy). I'm really looking forward to reading it, but though I might reach my target on the art biography before we head off to Queensland, only two weeks away for me, I will find it hard to get all the reading done before then. Novel first, bio. second. I have sworn to P. that I won't take it with me to Queensland.

Also the research project thunders on, well mooches on. Jessica, Louise and I had a good mag about it yesterday over lunch at Penguin Camberwell, and each has various tasks to do. Fitting that in as well will be difficult, but I am being paid to do it one day a week at least. I think I am well in credit with it anyway.

Last night's fishcakes turned out well. David Herbert's little Perfect Cookbook strikes again. The recipe was helped by being made up of the leftovers from P.'s fish baked with fennel, olives and tomato. But that's the idea of fishcakes. Tonight, roast lamb.

Monday, March 03, 2008


News arrived today that the Imparja launch of their new building, which A Remote Possibility was being published for, is now not likely until 22 May. Screech! After having worked our guts out, it turns out we had nearly three months extra. Well, at least it's done now.

Still the only response to my draft research paper is from, you guessed it, my Father. No one else has given any reply except for Jessica, who begged more time as she is just back from weeks in Mexico. We'll see.

Good progress is being made on the art biography. We're up to the last part for rewriting/revision and part four for editing. Once the whole lot is revised, I have to put it all together and do a final edit. It is coming along well.

And today the ms. for the May Residential Editorial Program at Varuna in Katoomba arrived. It is LONG, 438 pages, but I'm getting used to long. The art biography is over 200,000 words (to start with at least) and there is another biography in the offing of similar length. At least people think I've got stamina.

To make up for it all, tonight P. cooked whole roast snapper with tomato, fennel and garlic. It was delicious, but two fish were too much, so the remnants will become tomorrow's fishcakes.

An exclusive club

The launch of Successful Indigenous Organisations went very well. I got to see the Australian Conservation Foundation oh-so-green offices for the first time (exposed plumbing does not green make) and lots of nice things were said about my editing/organisation/writing of the booklets. A few people asked me for my card. Alas, I don't have one.

On Saturday, we did our shopping in Brunswick to get olive oil and parmesan from Mediterranean Wholesalers, which meant supermarket shopping at Piedmonte's, then brunch at the Organic Cafe in St George's Road. Quite creditable food and service. P. had the pick of the bunch with corn fritters and smoked salmon.

On Saturday night, P., Frank and I went off to a little performed opera, Erwin and Elmire, but on the way had a light dinner at Birdman Eating in Gertrude Street, at last. The food was excellent. We shared tapas-sized services of the prawn special, the duck sausage and lamb cutlets, followed by a shared dessert platter. It was very yummy. Fortified, we walked around to the Australian Catholic University Hall in Brunswick Street. It started life as the Hall for St Patrick's Cathedral, fell on hard times as a boxing venue, cinema and radio studio, then briefly effloresced as the TF Much Ballroom. It has been beautifully restored to within an inch of its life, and was used by Iopera (based from Trinity College) to mount this opera by Anna Amalia, text by Goethe based on Oliver Goldsmith, which has only been performed once since its first performance in 1776. We are now part of a very select group who have seen this opera. It was impeccably performed, in a rather odd production, but it was easy to see why it hasn't often been put on. The plot made a wafer look substantial. The music was listenable but undistinguished. It was an enjoyable evening and very good to see young talent (the singers and small orchestra) being put to good use beyond the standard repertoire.

On Sunday, P. and I caught the train to Williamstown, meeting Polly P. on the way at Newport Station. It was Rennis W.'s birthday lunch at a rather grand house in Willie, stuffed with antiques and antique features. There was lots of scurrilous Labor Party gossip. We had delicious middle eastern food (three of the party had just returned from North Africa) around a large dining table. We retreated just in time for delicious homemade pizzas for Sunday tea at Frank's. Thus stuffed, we collapsed into bed.