Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Bit of This and That

A lot of the past week has been spent getting material ready for the first trip to Tasmania to interview/talk with the author and fill in the gaps and queries in the autobiography. As well, I've done a bit of work on the research project and some house'work' like getting another quote for the painting and attending to the ailing washing machine, which has resulted in the purchase of a bright new 'elite' model on special at the flash appliance joint around the corner.

Another trip to the hospital was with great trepidation, as I thought I'd be having extractions. Instead I got a dental assessment only, and a new nose! I now have to go to the Alfred Hospital hyperbaric unit for assessment before any extractions can be done. We'll see, but it looks as though some false teeth are in the offing.

By way of compensation for the projected trauma, we (P. Frank and I) had a delicious dinner chez Lorraine last night. The highlight was a sort of spinach soup foam (which doesn't do it justice), but the rest of the meal was equally splendid and just to my taste. The dessert was heavenly. Now back to preparations for Tasmania.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Crowded City

On Saturday night, P. and I went to Frank's for pizza dinner in front of his new HUGE television. Especially nice was the sardine and goat's cheese pizza, but as usual they were all good.

On Sunday, we joined Lorraine for the Melbourne City Open House, which proved to be much too successful. There were huge queues for most venues, so we saw the Plaza Ballroom (no queuing) which is one of those monstrosities which should be preserved in spite of being truly awful (except for the signs for the conveniences). We waited for a while for the Manchester Unity Building but when we found out the wait was likely to be two and a half hours, P. and I headed off for lunch, leaving Lorraine in the lurch. We had very cheap and cheerful Chinese in Corr's Lane.

Some other delights were P.'s fish fingers for adults with yoghurt and coriander sauce on Sunday, my steak and kidney pudding on Monday, and soto ayam (with Frank) on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the long awaited six-monthly Ear, Nose and Throat clinic. My swab turned out to be heavy flora, so saline washes were prescribed, and a new nose. Off to prosthetics to make a booking. Also, the very terrier-like surgeon arranged a dental visit next week for some overdue extractions. Not nice, but necessary. Back in six months.

On a brighter note, I've booked my first trip to Tasmania to work with the new author on 3 August. Hadspen here I come. I managed to get quite cheap flights, going on Virgin and back on Qantas, masquerading as Jetstar (or the other way round).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Medical marvels and the Miles Franklin

The trip to the doctor yielded lots of news. My chlorestorol reading, taken a mere four weeks ago at the hospital, was 6.00. Now it is 7.7. Go figure, as my diet has not changed a whit in that period, as regular blog readers will testify. Anyway, Dr Jenny persuaded me to try Lipitor, which will at least help to make Messrs Pfizer rich. I'll try it for six weeks and have another reading, barring adverse reactions, and we'll see. My urinary tract infection has cleared up. I've got an Ear, Nose and Throat clinic on Tuesday in preparation for which we did a nose swab. Sorry for all these rather unappealing details.

On a more positive front, today's shopping was varied with a trip to Brunswick and Mediterranean Wholesalers, where we ran into Lorraine. After various excursions to the La Mana fruit shop, Canal's fish shop, the Milawa cheese shop and Piedmonte's supermarket, we had lunch at the organic foodstore in St George's Road: Pierre had Vietnamese soup, I had a baked egg 'cassoulet' and Frank had a sweetcorn fritter with smoked salmon. It was a very superior brunch.

Later I picked up all the pics I left at Hogan's in Smith Street for framing, at long last. Now for the hanging. But that was deferred while I finished Steven Carroll's deserved winner of this year's Miles Franklin, The Time We Have Taken. It is the third in a trilogy which are all good, though the second has rather too much cricket for my taste. This one, the third, is a triumph of both the ordinary and the existential. Set in a suburb not far from the one I grew up in, and very similar (same plains, same thistles), it gives the lives of some very ordinary people in a way which gives them a weighty significance without being pompous or ponderous. 'We were there', 'we lived the days' is its quite soothing refrain. Two very good books in one week (Demetri's and this one) is a quite remarkable event.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Research plus

There's been a lot of activity on the research project this week. First, a trip to Camberwell to take part in an interview on Tuesday with the current educational marketing manager, Kristin G., who gave Jessica, Louise and I some intriguing insights into the use of Penguin books in the curriculum, particularly in schools. Then on Wednesday we had a Melbourne group meeting which was productive, organising our symposium in November and checking progress. It was followed by a very pleasant lunch at Cafe d'Italia in Carlton. I've been adjusting my paper a bit following feedback from some team members.

For entertainment, on Tuesday, P. and I went on Halftix to Guys and Dolls, by the great Frank Loesser. In a very good production, it held up well after half a century, though the acting was better than the singing. Ian Stenlake made a good fist of Skye Masterton and the female leads (Lisa McCune and Marina Prior) were less syrupy than they might have been. Their duet near the end, 'Marry the Man Today', was a gem. Other cast members like Garry McDonald were also impressive right down to the smaller parts.

On Wednesday, we had a good dinner at Frank's, which was reciprocated to Frank and David after the launch at Readings on Thursday night of Demetri Kakmi's Motherland. Arnold Zable launched with an excellent speech and reading. Ivor Indyk, the research group leader, is also the publisher at Giramondo. A huge crowd turned up. We went home for Venison Burgundy and a warm fire.

Earlier this week I gave blood to the vampires, this time at the Health Centre, so I go today for the results of various tests. Watch this space.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Even more opera

The last in our mini opera festival of five operas was the Melbourne City Opera concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio at Melba Hall last night. Again, the virtue of a small hall was evident with a sound wall which at times was even too much in the confined space. Nevertheless, in spite of some small glitches, it was a very good performance and well worth it. We did a count and Melbourne now has five permanent opera companies (though some are semi-amateur): the above mentioned Melbourne City Opera, the Melbourne Opera, Opera Victoria and Chambermade, plus the visiting Opera Australia. All of their performances are, at the very least, watchable.

Our operafest included a 400-year-old opera, Dafne, two new Australian Operas and two fine works from the standard repertoire. Not bad for a smallish town. We might try this week to complete it by stretching the definition to musical theatre with Guys and Dolls from the master of the genre, Frank Loesser. From the (semi) ridiculous to the sublime.

Last night felt like one of the coldest nights of the year, but we had an excellent day. After shopping we had a good brunch at The Commoner in Johnston Street, then went to an art opening at 69 Smith of 'new' artists, then popped round the corner to Birdman Eating for an excellent dinner before the opera.

On Friday, the judging panel finalised the Premier's Award for Indigenous Writing over a coffee at Melbourne Uni. One of the judging panel is escaping to Spain for a few weeks (nothing to do with the judging!). It was, again, a very good example of consensus at work. The announcement is not until September.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Opera binge continues

A week of mainly working on the research paper has been interspersed with a number of social occasions. Dinner chez Sally Morrison was very pleasant; she and partner Robert had prepared a yummy dinner and there was very pleasant conversation with Ric Amor and his partner Meg Williams, whom I discovered I worked with at Penguin years ago.

The Marriage of Figaro was preceded by Japanese dinner in Russell Street, cheap and cheerful, and was an excellent production in the Athenaeum. Again, it is good to see opera in smaller venues where lesser voices still sound good. It was in English, which makes the jokes work better too. Even the orchestra was (more or less) beautiful.

The Children's Bach on Saturday was also excellent: a good, comprehensible new opera based on familiar experience, well sung and able to be understood, with drama and good music. David G. stayed overnight from Newstead, and after the opera he and Frank came home for dinner, a chicken and herb dish from Jill Dupleix.

On Sunday, father, P. and I went off on the new Eastlink freeway (free for its opening month) to my sister's for an excellent lunch and viewing of their Kimberley photos on a large screen.

Yesterday, a health centre visit for more pills and followup on chlorestorol and antibiotics. Results will be known soon. Now back to the research paper.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

At home weekend

Apart from a brief foray to do the shopping, it was a weekend at home. Frank came for tea on Saturday night for P.'s splendid roast chook and my father came for lunch on Sunday for a steak and kidney pie (from the Convent market) and Karen Martini's rhubarb with vanilla, lemon and raspberries (also from the market).

At last I'm getting some more work done on the research project and its papers and today went to the first meeting for the judging of the Vic. Premier's Award for Indigenous writing which went well with a surprising consonance of views. We produced a shortlist and will meet soon to decide a winner.

Off to Sally M.'s for dinner tonight and tomorrow night, out again, to The Marriage of Figaro, part of our long opera binge.