Saturday, December 26, 2009

Denim the Wagon

Today, nearly all the GoGet cars were booked for Christmas, so I snaffled Denim the Wagon (sorry, Roz the Yaris) and headed off to Northcote to see George P. He is working away in his bolthole at the 'special care facility' with all the inconveniences which that entails, but is doing quite well. It's always good to catch up with him. Then I went to Smith Street for a small amount of shopping to tide me over. It is very strange driving the very large station wagon after little Roz.

Tonight, Frank is coming around to help out with the leftovers before I fly off. This is good of him, as he has lots of leftovers himself.

Ho ho ho

Christmas Day started with a breakfast chez Helen B. in Fitzroy. She had turned on a great spread of scrambled eggs, fruit, salmon, ham, toast and champagne and orange. There were lots of people there and after such a nice brunch I just felt like retiring for the rest of the day to rest.

But it was on to North Dandenong with my father to my sister's place. I took leek and potato soup for entree, and Ian had cooked a magnificent turkey with roast veg. for mains. Father supplied his delicious microwave pudding. I came home for a nap, followed by a light tea. SBS seems to be running an Audrey Tatou festival: the other night they had He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, where she is typecast as woman with a psychotic fixation on a heart surgeon. Last night's effort was a not-bad movie called The Spanish Apartment about a French student joining a mixed household in Barcelona. Both he and Barcelona were very picturesque; Audrey was the peevish French girlfriend, to no great effect, and she was too old for him!

Michael Podesta has joined the ranks of the grown up with his first job, at Maccas. Well, we all have to start somewhere. Congratulations, Michael. I loved his mother's Facebook friend who reminded him he now needed a tax file number. What a killjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The geese are getting fat...

On Wednesday, Barry D. and son, Louis dropped in for a quick coffee in the morning, running late because of bad traffic. They collided with my father, here to whisk me off to Sally's for lunch, which included Julie Eagle's Pacific fish stew, very tasty. Thence to the hospital, where I had a very enjoyable chat with Professor Becker in Renal. However, he couldn't give me any results for the many tests I have had over the last few weeks because the computer said, 'No!' The hospital computer had been down all day and there was no back-up. So, back in February, on my birthday, for the news. However, Prof. Becker seems to think that nothing very drastic will happen in the meantime.

So now it's back to the quiet with a quick visit to the Health Centre to top up the pills for the holiday season (all this health stuff is getting boring) and a bit of cooking for Christmas lunch tomorrow. Sorry, no goose!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quiet in Abbotsford

The last few days have been very quiet here, with P. in Brisbane at his Mum's place. On Sunday afternoon, Lorraine E. dropped by and left a wonderful pressie, Movida Rustica, much more than a cookbook. It does contain lots of recipes, but it also contains information about some of the different regions of Spain plus tips for travel. 'Don't eat,' it advises, 'near any of the pilgrim places in Galicia. The food is awful. Go further afield and the food is splendid.' I can't say I've read all of this massive tome, beautifully designed, but I've certainly sampled a lot of it. Can't wait to cook some of the dishes or better still, go back to Spain.

This has not kept me from doing some more work on the memoir (now up to around 6,000 words) and notes on the thriller for Brisbane.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


This is the Investa building in Johnston Street, viewed from upstairs in our house. It was completed six months ago and has been for lease and empty ever since. Even though at five storeys it is completely out of scale with everything in the neighbourhood, it is within planning regulations. Perhaps its vacancy is a result of the GFC, or just bad planning. Pic: Peter
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

I picked up Frank this morning and we went to Victoria Gardens for the usual shopping. When we got to the supermarket checkout, horreur!, I had no wallet. This was particularly tragic because: I am about to go to Brisbane and need all my cards etc., I had no money AND the keycard that allows entry to Roz the Yaris was in the wallet. Scurrying back to Roz in the carpark, I passed a woman who asked, 'Are you Bruce?' She had found the wallet next to the car, where I had dropped it, and was off to have an announcement made on the mall PA. What a wonderful woman!

I celebrated by buying oysters and a cheap crayfish to console myself, and I'll be more careful with my wallet in future. We went up to Clifton Hill for a very pleasant brunch at a new place and saw the editor of The Age, who needs to lift his game, and an old fellow worker of Frank's. Tonight I'm off to Frank's for dinner, lasagne I believe, with Saturday night crime.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Powering along

This week, I finished off the essays and gave them back to the author who turned up today for a coffee to collect the hard copy for proofing. They were hard work but also a lot of fun and a bit of a technical challenge (Chinese in transliteration and characters, plus ample footnotes in both and English).

Finally had a fruitful discuss with the publisher about the thriller, so I now have to go through it carefully before visiting Brisbane to confer with the author. Will she murder more people? Probably not. Will there be more suspects? Definitely yes. And much more 'admosphere' and 'corroborative detail to give artistic verisimilitude'. The author will be soaking up the Queensland sun for the next few months in order to transfer it to the page.

P.'s new computer arrived and said, 'Yes!' It is up and running and connected to the internet via my modem and a wireless attachment. Yay! it was all surprisingly painless, partly due to the help of a man from Gizmo, who was only here for ten minutes, but worked wonders. It arrived in the nick of time, as P. has now left for Brisbane and the family.

Last night, I had dinner with the old Penguinis at the very pleasant Royston Hotel in Richmond. They seem to have higher expectations of my memoir than I can fulfil, but I'll plough on and try not to disappoint too much. Between the thriller and my memoir (not so thrilling), I'll be well occupied before going to Brisbane after Christmas. Also went this morning, after fasting, to give what seemed like buckets of blood to the nice vampires at the Melbourne hospital. These are more tests to see whether I can have a transplant.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More information

P. is now on holidays and today we went to the second information session on dialysis at the Royal Melbourne renal department. Again, it was well presented, including a personal testimony from a man who has been on home haemodialysis for three years who was very assured and great at building confidence. He didn't persuade me though that I could be sanguine (to coin a phrase) about putting two needles in my arm every second day. I got more information about peritoneal dialysis, which might be the better option, especially if I could manage to do it overnight (which requires you to be a fairly sedate sleeper). They also discussed dietary requirements at various stages (before and during dialysis) and some social aspects. They also served good sandwiches for lunch!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cheeky possum

One of our particularly cheeky possums, peering through the gloom of the much-munched photinia. Pic: Peter
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Heide after lunch

Bruce and Lorraine by the arid garden after lunch at Cafe Vue. Pic: Peter
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Newman College dining hall

On the Burley Griffin trail, a guided tour at Newman College. Pic: Peter
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Gallery opening

On Thursday, Sally S. picked me up to go to an opening of Morris Lurie's drawings in Prahran. These (mostly) brightly-coloured pictures were a delight. I hope he sells lots of them. Peter and Roger joined us at the exhibition.

Normal Saturday shopping with the farmers' market and the Mall, followed by excellent brunch at Charcoal Lane with Frank. I've been working hard on the essays and they are nearly finished. Just a quick final proofing and it will be done. They read well and it is good to have a quick visit to China (metaphorically). Some day I'll have to really go there.

Also I've booked a quick trip to Brisbane after Christmas to see P.'s mum, Joan, and work with the author of the thriller. I'll be in Melbourne for Christmas and Brisbane for New Year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Heide Garden

Sturt's Desert Pea in the arid garden at Heide. Pic.: Lorraine E.
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Splendours of Burley Griffin

Newman College, spires over the dining room. Pic.: Lorraine E.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Opera strikes twice

Last night, after dinner at Southbank, P. and I went to A Streetcar Named Desire, the new opera by Andre Previn. A uniformly good cast of both singers and actors, led by Yvonne Kenny and Teddy Tahu Rhodes, gave a fine account of the good score and very dramatic piece. Along with the recent, Cosi, and, on my father's account, a good Aida, the Australian opera is looking up. It was excellent to see a truly modern opera which actually worked on stage and held the attention for over three hours. Of course, the Williams original play is in fine operatic tradition with all the elements (except a chorus).

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Griffins

On Sunday, we picked up Roz the Yaris and Lorraine E. and went to Newman College for the first leg in a day touring various Griffin buildings in Melbourne, very well organised by the Robin Boyd Foundation. There was a talk at Newman and a tour of the magnificent dining hall. Then we drove around various houses in Kew, Heidelberg and Toorak where the owners had kindly allowed access. Some of the Griffin-designed houses were in a magnificent state of preservation, others were a bit the worse for wear and a couple were in the process of renovation to their 'original' state. All were fascinating. A regular feature were little nook rooms, ideal as studies, studios or just for relaxation.

We lunched at the new Vue Cafe at Heide, as it was fortuitously on the way, and though the snack menu food was quite good, the service has not settled into a working routine. The food took a long time, the wine had to be prompted and the wrong bill arrived, tardily, at the end. We'll return with a booking for the set menu and see whether things have improved in a little while.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Speaking of singing

From the recent visit to Healesville. Pic: Keren L.
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God made them that way

was how this production translated Cosi Fan Tutte. After a quick meal at Southbank, P. and I went to the Australian Opera in a very creditable production. The voices were not superlative but quite adequate, especially baritone Luke Gabbedy, and the high standard of acting made the whole thing credible for once. Some of the production was superfluous: endless wedding tulle and paraphenalia. The piece is about fidelity not marriage, two entirely different things. It was a very enjoyable experience, well conducted, and not, as one audience member opined, 'The most boring thing I've ever seen.' Perhaps she wanted more crinolines and powdered wigs.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Information sessions

By coincidence, the renal unit at the Melbourne hospital had two sessions this week: one on dialysis options and one on transplants. Peter and I went to the first, and my father joined us for the second. Both were well presented (plus sangos, nibblies and juice) and laid out all the options clearly. I wasn't aware that there were so many different ways of doing dialysis (peritoneal and haemo-, both at home or haemo at centres) or of the complexities of applying for a transplant. There were copious handouts which will take a while to absorb. Was it Frau Schmidt in Cabaret who said, 'My head is shpinning.'

Last night we went to Frank's for yummy dinner and watched the new series of The Circuit and The Wire on his big screen. Tomorrow, after all these distractions, it is back to the memoir. Still haven't heard from the publisher about the thriller.