Monday, June 29, 2009

Dining out

On Saturday, it was slow food market at the Convent, so Frank and I went (P. is still abed with flu) and I got lots of goodies including a lamb roast, pasta and a steak and kidney pie. The 'bath milk' now comes pasteurised, so it seems the food police have won that one.

Then Ann de H. turned up from Castlemaine and we went in Roz the Yaris to Viewbank for a somewhat attenuated Liz Kelly memorial lunch chez Polly P. However, it was nice to catch up with Ann and Rennis as well as Polly and gossip about all sorts of things. Polly made her splendid vego lasagne and Rennis brought an apple pie. Ann and I brought dips for starters.

Sunday was a day at home (P. still abed most of the time) and in the evening I went to Noel T.'s for Sunday supper with his friends Ben and Tony, whom I've met before. We had a very pleasant dinner (soup, garlic chicken, apple crumble) and a lot of talk. Now back to work!

I've been making good progress on the research project, with some new figures (rearrangements of old figures really). It's amazing what a difference you can make by slicing the cake differently.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moments Musicaux

On Wednesday night, the soothing cooking bore fruit, as Carmel B. came for dinner. We had Stefano's minestrone, steak and kidney pudding and Carmel brought a passionfruit flan which we had with rich cream and P.'s lemon ice cream. A little too much chlorestorol methinks! However, we had a really nice night.

Next evening, there was a small concert at the Convent by the Streeton Trio, usually resident in Lausanne, but home to compete in the chamber music competition. They did trios by Beethoven, Smalley and Ravel in the old linen room at the concert, a very good space as it is, indeed, a chamber. The playing and the sound were superb for every piece, though the audience was unfortunately small for a splendid musical experience by three young players.

To follow up, next night Frank and I (P. was abed with flu) went with Ben, one of Frank's fellow choristers, to the Academy of Music concert conducted by British baton-wielder (though he didn't) Daniel Harding. A very crisp symphony by Hadyn was follwed by a French horn concerto by Ligeti and Sibelius' 7th symphony. Again (mainly) young players who attacked with enthusiasm. We were in the second row. Frank commented on how good the sound was, but then it would be from the second row. Ben said, 'Yes, but in which second row could you tell from the sound what brand of rosin the second desk cellos were using?'

Before the concert, Frank and I had an excellent and cheap dinner at Southgate before toddling to the Recital Hall. By chance, we were sitting with one of Frank's colleagues from The Age and some of his family.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bedside manner

This morning, I went off to the hospital to see Professor Prosthodontics and maxillo-facial about getting implants for my new teeth. They peered at my gum scan and seemed to think it was satisfactory BUT...the scan also showed what I already knew, that my sinuses are infected and to quote one of the docs 'full of shit'. They can't do the implants until the FESS procedure I've been waiting for since before Christmas is done and my sinuses are clear. Catch 22!

I had been thinking that I might, just might, be able to eat turkey for Christmas, but it looks like Christmas 2010, if that. The implants sounds a bit more serious than I had thought too.

Meanwhile, I had a coffee yesterday with Jan H. with whom I'm presenting for a session at the Cultural Awareness Training for Editors in August. We had a good natter and did some planning, which is continuing by email. I asked the quacks whether I would still be able to talk by mid-August (after the various procedures) and they said there was no way they would be doing their stuff before then (the implants). Roll on the FESS, as the sinus infection is becoming annoying.

I came home and consoled myself by cooking the steak and kidney for dinner and making chicken stock. It was very soothing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Social functions

On Wednesday, P. and I went, along with a lot of Frank's friends, to his mother Peg's funeral in Burwood. The funeral was well conducted by an Anglican priest, who spoke meaningfully of Peg's life. Afterwards, we all gathered for arvo tea in their nearby lounge.

David G. came with Frank for dinner afterwards and stayed the night. P. made a delicious moussaka which we had with Stefano di Pieri's minestrone to start, and David brought his homemade quince paste (delicious) to have with cheese afterwards.

On Thursday, P. and I went to Meow Meow at the Malthouse doing rearrangements of Schubert and Schumann in fairly melodramatic but effective fashion. The show, though short, only one hour, was extremely effective, though with a few sound problems. The ensemble from the National Academy of Music played impeccably.

On Friday, after coffee with Morris L. where we compared notes on our recent travels, I went to Camberwell for lunch with Meredith R. and Cate B. of Penguin and Cate's parents, Joe and Anne, who (as below) are about to head off to Canada. We had a (mainly) dumpling lunch at a nearby Chinese which was delicious.

This weekend has been so cold that apart from a brief foray for shopping, we've been holed up by the fire reading.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lots of socialising

As well as spending the week plugging away on the research project (I'm now up to non-fiction), I've been doing a lot of socialising. On Monday, P. and I had a nice dinner at Noel T.'s, who is recovering well after his surgery. Then Joe Blake and Anne came for tea on Tuesday at our place, before heading Canada-wards to see their son, Sam.

Frank came for tea on Wednesday, and on Thursday and Friday I had coffee with Jessica R. and Bryony C., then yesterday with Andrea G., whose new novel, Reunion, was published while we were in Europe.

Over the weekend, it was farmers' market, and it was good, even on a cold, wintry rainy day, to go back to the paddocks and get our supplies. On Sunday, P. went back to the farm for a composting workshop, supplied free, which he enjoyed. It's part of the Yarra Council's go-green initiatives. Our efenergy meter is still ticking away recording our (excessive) winter power use as part of their pilot program. We are making moves to get more blinds and curtains to cut power use a little. At the same time, Father dropped in with the Monthly and Quarterly Essay on Malcolm Turnbull which he says he enjoyed a great deal.

In the afternoon, we went to St Mark's to hear Frank and Gloriana in Rossini's Petite Messe Solenelle, which was great fun. The soloists, piano and harmonium and choir were all full of verve and it made a wonderful Sunday arvo's entertainment. We also caught up with the slow-blogging Anthony and Dennis at interval which was nice.

In the evening, we had a quiet birthday dinner with Frank at the pub: food good, though too much of it. On the way back I slipped on a piece of almost invisible plastic on the road. It remains to be seen how much damage it has done to my knee apart from a slight graze and bruising. Now back to the non-fiction.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Wintry fire time

Peter had two days off (Thursday and Friday), which gave him a five-day weekend. We had our first wood delivery for the year on Friday, so have been mainly staying at home in the warm by the crackling fire, catching up on reading. Our normal shopping on Saturday was our only excursion, apart from lunch at the new Victoria Institute of Technology site round the corner in the old pub. It seems to be a catering school, but they open for lunch with mainly Indian dishes. It is very good value, and we both enjoyed (guiltily) a bombe alaska which cost two dollars each. We made up for it with vegetarian curries for main course.

Frank came round for tea on Friday night and downloaded his pictures from the European trip, so we now have nearly full coverage. A selection of them is posted below.

In today's Queen's Birthday honours there is a depressing lack of prose writers. The only writer of any kind I could find was Geoffrey Atherden (Mother and Son and Grass Roots) which is a well-deserved award, but where are the other writers? The Rudd government seems to be continuing the good work of its predecessor in downgrading cultural achievement.

Friday, June 05, 2009


Atocha Station where we left for Toledo. More stations should look like this. There were even turtles in the pond.
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El Escorial

A rather more splendid cloister at El Escorial where things were done on a grand, solid scale.

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La Granja

An old Bourbon shack not far from Segovia. Another place with rooms full of bling and magnificent gardens.

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San Domingo de Silos

The monastery at San Domingo de Silos with its simplicity and beautiful cloister rivals the Abbaye de Senanque in Provence. This view from our hotel window.
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Bling! Burgos Cathedral had lots of it in every corner.

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The magnificent Guggenheim, Bilbao. Whichever way you look at it, inside or out, it's a knockout.
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Mont Saint Michel

Another long-standing ambition was to visit this monastic gem. Position, position, position.
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The Port at Dinan

Looking down at the port of Dinan from the ramparts of the old wall. Once all the goods imported to Brittany came over the little bridge over the river then up a steep, narrow cobbled street to Dinan.
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Les Volets Verts, Dinan

Our little house in Dinan. Frank slept on the ground floor, P. and I on the first (with shutters closed) and Polly in the little attic.

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One of my ambitions was to see the Bayeux tapestry. On our way to Dinan, from Rouen, we did. It is even more splendid than I expected and we were lucky to see it on a quiet day.
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Thursday, June 04, 2009


The streets of Rouen were quite operatic. You almost expected the Wagnerian soprano to appear at an upstairs window and start singing.
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Our hotel was right next door to the Place des Vosges which at different times of the day was either crowded or empty (almost).
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A bonnie brae not far from Fort William.

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Spring gardens at Hampton Court palace.

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The Vienna State Opera where we saw a superb production of The Barber of Seville.
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Peter in a typical canal scene. We visited the Dutch relatives and had a great canal tour with them in a 'tinnie' with electric power.
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Very 'feminine' Buddha at a neolithic cave site. Part of our Thai stopover tour near Khao Yai National Park.
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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A lot of hospital

On Monday, Frank arrived back in the country, so I went out to the airport to pick him up. The weather was miserable, cold and wet, and I couldn't bear the thought of him arriving with no one to meet him. In fact, his nephew was coming too, but was headed off by a text message.

As well as getting some work done on the research project, I've been spending a lot of time at the Melbourne Hospital. On Tuesday, I went to pick up Noel T., who was finally discharged, to take him home where he has to rest up post-surgery. When he was safely installed, I went into town for a CT scan on my upper and lower jaw to take to my next appointment with the implant people in late June. Then I had a regular Ear, Nose and Throat clinic at the Melbourne which was just business as usual. They noted I still hadn't had my FESS sinus procedure, first mooted before Christmas. In fairness, I have been overseas in the meantime.

Today, it was back to the Melbourne for the Renal clinic. I must have been doing something right in Europe because my kidney function has improved. It conceivably might have been less coffee and grog, I don't know. But the doctor was very pleased and so was I. 'This will buy you some more time,' she said, in a combination at once ominous and cheery.