Friday, August 29, 2008

Flying Dutchman and junkies

Most of this week has been spent trawling through Jessica's excellent fiction files from Penguin and working on the Tasmanian ms. A minor diversion was going to the Melbourne for a confirming hearing test after the Alfred Hospital had 'failed' me. A very nice audiometric person at the Melbourne did the test which was, as I expected, near perfect. 'A few tones missing in the left ear,' she said. My father said his deafness was probably a result of training in noisy planes in WWII. Which caused me to momentarily wonder that if the Pacific War had not ended when it did, none of this might have happened.

Sal came for roast lamb on Tuesday and, as she left, we discovered a car sitting, lights on, motor running, wrong way in the intersection of Paterson and Abbotsford Streets, with two comatose people in it. Sal suggested calling the cops, which we did. On arrival, the police were exemplary. They searched the car, called an ambulance to check the comatose folk were okay, then parked and locked their car and left them in the street. They had a brief argument about whose fault it was, tried in vain to break into their car, then left. The car was gone in the morning.

Frank came on Wednesday for P.'s chicken with a lot of garlic (forty but who's counting).

On Thursday, I dropped in briefly for Jessica's poetry launch at the Brunswick Street bookstore, and received a bottle of wine and very nice card for having helped. We tagged Ivor Indyk, the launcher, as a serial launcher, though rivalled by Antoni Jach who claimed four launches in the last month.

Then it was off to the Arts Centre for a very creditable concert performance of The Flying Dutchman. It was uniformly well sung and played, though the elderly man next to us, who had been attending opera since he was ten in Bucharest, said the soprano was a halftone out in last aria. The full orchestra and HUGE chorus was a wall of sound, and, given the absurdity of the plot, a concert performance was a good solution and well worth it.

I was distressed to find yesterday that George P. is still in the Western hospital after TEN weeks. He might be moving to assisted accommodation this week. I'll try to go and see him over the weekend.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Clearance sale

I've spent a lot of time in the last couple of days at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Referred by the Ear, Nose and Throat to the dentist who referred me to the oral surgeons who referred me to the professor of prosthodontics. At least they're thorough. The rather jolly professor decided that I needed a 'full clearance' so I feel a bit like Harvey Norman. However, his arguments were compelling. Less compelling was his idea that I would have to be toothless for up to three months for thorough healing. However, he claimed the difficulties of that would not be great and anyway, 'because you have a beard, no one will notice much'. We'll see.

Next week the saga continues. Because the hyperbaric folk at the Alfred claim my hearing in one ear is deficient, I have to do another audiometry test at the Melbourne Hospital. Thoroughness again. Then I have to go back, in a full circle, to Ear, Nose and Throat for the results the week after. The Melbourne, in its renovations, has moved the cafe to share it with the adjoining new Women's Hospital, and it's not bad. So at least the many visits to the Hospital are accompanied by passable food.

Meanwhile, I have finished transcribing the Tasmania tapes and sent the result off to the author for checking. Now for some work on the research project files.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our Occasional Cat

is Platto the Gatto. His real name is Plato, and he lives in the flats above Maria's shop. But he does the rounds of the neighbourhood in search of food and warmth, so is attracted by our fire. He is a very independent cat, but likes company, and comes to the back door, oddly enough only when the fire is lit and usually on cold days. He has singed his tail by trying to get closer to the fire. We don't feed him, but he is reputed to cadge food around the neighbourhood.

Platto the Gatto

Pic: Peter
Posted by Picasa

Falls again

Posted by Picasa

Steavenson Falls, Marysville

Pic: Peter
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Indulgent weekend

We picked up little Phoebe the Yaris on Friday and headed along the new Eastlink to Ringwood, thence to Tarrawarra Art Gallery, which had a fairly missable exhibition. Much better artworks were had at the Healesville Hotel bar for lunch. P. had superior fish'n'chips with pea puree and I had a wine and beef pie with mash and peas. Fortified, we continued to the Healesville Sanctuary. Though it was a bit drizzly, this meant few visitors, so we got good views of beasties like bilbies who are normally elusive. The raptors were, as always, spectacular, including the intrusion of a wild wedgetailed eagle warning the young one on display away from its territory. We also had a very good look at the lyrebird as it was fed worms by the keeper who gave an informative talk. We stayed overnight in Healesville at the motel, where we had a creditable pasta dinner.

Next day, on to Marysville, and a slightly damp walk to Steavenson Falls which was nonetheless impressive, then lunch and checking in to the major indulgence, the Duck Crawl Convention 2008 at Marylands Guesthouse. After wine tasting of pinot noirs in the afternoon, dinner was a six-course duck and pinot extravaganza with warm truffle duck egg salad, Asian scented duck broth, duo of duck liver, duck and cranberry sausage, peppered duck breast and duck egg bombe alaska. Each course was accompanied by a taste of two pinots, except the last which was Domaine Chandon Cuvee Riche. It sounds excessive, but it was quite manageable, though one course fewer would have sufficed. The logistics of the huge dinner were flawlessly carried out by the staff, both in the kitchen and on the floor.

Next morning, breakfast consisted of various duck terrines, duck a l'orange, duck herb omelettes, Peking duck and so on, as well as normal breakfast fare. We walked it off on a short walk behind the hotel to a place called something like Fairy Dell, a fernglade in the rainforest. Then back to Healesville, after a detour to Buxton to pick up some fresh trout, where we had a light lunch at the Innocent Bystander restaurant, always worth a visit. I had oysters and a pate, while Peter had ham on Turkish bread with a fennel salad.

Back to Melbourne, where we gave the muddy Phoebe a quick wash, then went to Frank's for dinner: roast chicken, followed by an apple pastry. I'll have to make up for all this with a frugal time tomorrow and lots of work. We'll have the trouts for tea tomorrow night.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Going diving

Last weekend was normal shopping plus a wood delivery, so we should now be supplied to the end of winter, though it is so cold that keeping the fire going might use it all up before spring arrives. Rochelle J. came for lunch on Sunday: winter velvet soup (parsnip, potato and leek), Spanish baked eggs and saffron/vanilla pears with passionfruit icecream. She was bearing a copy of her new book, Inside Their Minds: Australian Criminals, which looks splendid. Unfortunately, we'll miss the launch, as we'll be in Healesville/Marysville for the weekend.

Most of the rest of the week was spent transcribing tapes from Tasmania, and I'm still only one third of the way through, so it will take at least another week to finish the job. Then the new bits have to be artfully inserted into the existing manuscript. The Broome manuscript will be sent off today.

As part of our project to find the coldest places in Australia for touring, we are going to the duck and pinot weekend in Marysville this weekend, and to Tasmania in September, where this week roads have been closed because of snow.

On Tuesday, I went for assessment at the hyperbaric unit at the Alfred Hospital. Before having dental work, and because of previous radiotherapy, a course of hyperbarics is recommended. This involves four weeks of an hour and a half to two hours in an oxygen chamber to promote growth of blood vessels to aid healing. Then the dental surgery, and another two weeks worth of oxygenation. You can read and write in the chamber, but getting there will be a nuisance. Plus the unit apparently often runs late, thus wiping out a morning. Every morning.

On the bright side, Frank came for tea on Tuesday, and we had venison osso bucco, followed by rhubarb and apple crumble.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Northern Tasmania

After a smooth flight (via Virgin), I picked up my little Mitsubishi Colt and headed for Hadspen. Unfortunately, I ignored lunch offerings at Longford, thinking I would find something later, but all places I encountered later only had greasy spoon takeaways. The Holiday Village was surprisingly cosy, though very quiet. I couldn't see my author until 3.30 the next day, so I became a tourist, visiting 'quaint' old towns of Newbury and Deloraine with a magnificent bakery, then heading on to the Mole Creek Cave of King Solomon's Mine which was very impressive.

When we finally got to it, the author and his wife were extremely hospitable and fed me dinner for two nights. We did a lot of recording and filled in the gaps in the manuscript, which are now safely sitting on my computer. I caught a slightly earlier flight back on Wednesday as we had finished our work well on time even after I dallied a bit in another olde worlde village.

I was pleased on return to find that Steven Conte's The Zookeeper's War was shortlisted for KRudd's fiction prize (I edited it). We also had a very pleasant Penguinis dinner at the All Nations pub in Richmond (thanks Dad for the lift). It was great eating in a place with carpet where you could hear yourself talk.

Today was the shortlist announcement for the Vic. Premier's Awards. Lynne Kosky, as Arts Minister forgot her transport woes to distribute largesse on our behalf to 38 shortlisted authors, though the real largesse happens in September when the winners are announced. The usual canapes, tea and coffee and juice attempted to make it a bit festive. Now I have to extract the bits I need from the recordings and transcribe them. It will be no mean feat from 4 and a half hours of recording.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Leaving on a (little) jet plane

The new washing machine is installed and is working well. Hooray. There are a bewildering array of options but I like express wash the best. It will remember your favourite programs. It's a pity that the television doesn't do that instead.

Frank came round for tea on Thursday to polish off the rest of P.'s vera bolognese, which had spiced up nicely after 'resting' for a few days. The hot pancetta really came through. For Friday night simple tea, we had prawn bisque beautifully made from the leftovers of Mure's fish place in Hobart (okay, so it's Friday tea and premade is okay) followed by merguez frites. Very simple fare for simple folk.

Because Tasmania is likely to be a culinary desert (at least where I'm going), P. shouted me brunch today at the Commoner after the shopping. He had the Turkish pancake special with lemon curd and passionfruit and I had the special of the day, charcoal roasted carrot with a lightly poached egg, aioli, dukkah and spicy tomato relish. Yum! I am being spoiled again tonight with Stephanie's roast chook, one of P.'s specialities. Tomorrow, off to the land of parmigiana and steak and chips. Optimism says that I might be pleasantly surprised.

Also, my Broome author has posted the remaining bits of her manuscript, so they should be waiting when I get back from Tasmania with any luck bearing digital recordings of the bits to fill in the gaps in the Tasmanian manuscript. It feels a bit odd working on tales from diagonally opposite sides of the continent.