Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Merrily we roll along

On Sunday morning, we had a quick visit by one of the ex-wives who is in Melbourne for a 100th birthday party. Then Father picked us up to head off to my sister's place for my brother-in-law's birthday. It was the usual extravaganza of many courses, including a delicious paella and my sister's famous pavlovas. In between, among other things, there were oysters kilpatrick, so it was oysters two days in a row. Delightful!

On Monday was the second in the Sondheim series, Merrily We Roll Along. It was a better show than the first (understandably as the first was his first) and tells the story of a composer backwards, starting at the height of his fame and working backwards to his college days. There are many memorable songs and the performances were good. Next week it's part three.

Beforehand, we had dinner at the Chinese dumpling shop in Swanston Street: very tasty.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Town Hall Hotel, Fitzroy

The Town Hall Hotel's take on pavlova and pear. The following day we were treated to my sister's magnificent pavlova. Oysters and pavlova two days in a row! Pic: Lorraine E.
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

New eatery

After the market and shopping, P., Frank, Lorraine and I went to the Town Hall Hotel in Johnston Street. It has had several incarnations including McCoppin's and Griff's Wine Pub. It's relaunch is very stylish and comfortable with carpet in the dining rooms and lots of space between tables. Because it was Grand Final day and most people were elsewhere, it was surprisingly quiet for somewhere which got a favourable write-up in Epicure this week.

The food was as good as promised. I had three oysters (Tasmanian), an onion soup with poached egg, then beef carpaccio. The others' food looked just as good and was given hearty endorsements. It was very difficult to choose between five dessert choices, so we chose four, a different one each. My bombolone (cream-filled donuts) with honey icecream were delicious, but Lorraine's take on pavlova took the prize, I think. It looked luscious.

The menu has a good range of choices, from small, through medium to large dishes, so you can make your choices according to your appetite and budget. Recommended for a return visit to attempt a closer survey of the menu. The service was friendly and efficient though wine prices are a bit on the steep side.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sashimi and scan

Last night was a somewhat attenuated old Penguini dinner at that Melbourne standby Kuni's Japanese restaurant in the city. Several people couldn't make it at the last minute, all for good reasons, but the remaining attendees had a good time. I had sashimi for entree and mains with miso soup, and very nice it was too. Everyone else's meals looked just as good. It's nice to see such a longstanding eatery still producing well.

I had to get up early this morning to do a change before heading to the hospital for a CAT scan on my heart. It was very quick and efficient but it took three tries to get the cannula inserted. The first nurse said, after two tries, 'I'd better get someone more experienced to have a go.' Hear! hear! A doctor then came and got it in relatively easily. It will be interesting to see what new information, if any, this scan yields and whether I can proceed with angioplasty number one.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Medicalised medicaments

Despite my best efforts to NOT become medicalised, this morning I was occupied completely with it. First, I went to the Health Centre for my fortnightly Aranesp injection (to strengthen the blood). I also picked up some pills from the pharmacy there. It was all very quick and efficient, but still took nearly an hour. Then: off to the hospital to pick up four doses of Acetylcysteine (not for injection!) which I have to take before and after the CAT scan tomorrow. Again, it was very efficient as the pharmacy at the hospital had already filled the scrip, given them by the renal registrar yesterday. But by the time I had done all this and come home it was midday. Basically, it was a whole morning chasing after medicaments.

On the journey, however, I got a couple of French tartes from Parisienne Pates in Carlton by way of compensation. Last night, we had more of the Stefano de Pieri minestrone, then P. made Margaret Fulton's fried rice and atlantic salmon. All this compensation will make me fat!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And now for more CAT

The new CAT scan has been scheduled for Friday morning. Renal has ordered some vile tasting medication which I have to take before and after the scan to minimise its effects on my kidney function. I've had it before and it's not too horrible. Presumably this means they are going to inject some kind of radioactive substance before the scan: not something I look forward too.

By way of compensation, last night we had aged steak for dinner (to keep my protein up, but really because I'm greedy) with anchovy butter and French mustard.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Angioplasty interruptus

I went off today for the preoperative screening before tomorrow's angioplasty. It was the usual tedious business of ECG, blood pressure, blood taking etc. from a very competent nurse, then off to the doctor, who, again, was very thorough and checked everything carefully. Arrangements were made about doing dialysis in between procedures and while in hospital overnight.

On arrival home, Dr Sam rang to say he had examined my CT scan and decided that the procedure was possibly 'too dangerous' and ordering a further, more detailed, CT scan to have another peer at my coronary arteries. We await with interest and I'll reorganise the next few days, assuming that the CT scan will result in the procedure being postponed until at least next week.

Sondheim part one

Last night, P., Frank and I went to the first of a Sondheim triptych: three concert performances of little-performed Sondheim musicals. The first offering was Saturday Night, his first musical, which didn't appear when written because of the death of the producer. It's a pleasant but fairly flimsy piece. The play on which it is based must have been as light as air. It was given a very good but minimal concert performance with few props, a projected back screen for some atmosphere but with spirited performances, especially from the supporting cast.

A near capacity audience obviously enjoyed the show and, predictably, there were more gays per square inch than anywhere in the world. If the next two offerings match up to the competence and well-rehearsed nature of this one, the enterprise will be well worth while. It was not at all distracting having most of the cast holding scripts or being supported by merely a three-piece ensemble.

We had a very good and cheap Japanese meal in the city beforehand.

Monday, September 20, 2010

More moments musicaux

Last Friday, P. and I went to the ANAM concert at the South Melbourne Town Hall. There was a new piece by their resident composer, Anthony Pateras, who also conducted it. It was more of a soundscape than anything but very enjoyable. This was followed by Bartok's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta which seems a lot more modern than its composition date (1936) and again was superlative. We preceded the concert with a quick dinner at Wasabi, across the road, where all of the diners were going to the concert, so put the kitchen under a lot of pressure to be out by 7pm.

On Sunday, it was the recital centre for the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra with a splendid concert of two Beethoven romances, a 1992 piece by Douglas Weiland and finishing with Mendelssohn's violin concerto in E minor in a spirited performance by both the band and soloist William Hennessy. These MCO concerts have been great value.

Our Saturday shopping was very straight, followed by brunch at the Johnston Street Foodstore, which was very tasty.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Angioplasty scheduled

After a long delay, cardiology is now moving fast. I've been scheduled for next Wednesday for insertion of one stent, the second to follow four weeks later. So I have to go for a pre-operative appointment on Tuesday. I have to stay overnight in hospital after the procedure. Fortunately, all of this doesn't coincide with anything vital, though I might have to miss an old Penguins dinner on Thursday night.

Creepy theatre atmosphere

Last night, after a bowl of hearty minestrone, P., Frank and I toddled down to the Convent to the Peepshow theatre production, The Lost Story of the Magdalen Asylum. The show was perambulatory, through various buildings of the old laundries and dormitories, not yet used as part of the convent restoration. It is impossible to be in these old spaces without feeling the ghosts of the girls who laboured in the laundries where conditions must have been horrific. At one stage, the laundries were processing the linen for most of Melbourne's hospitals.

Using a combination of very physical theatre, puppetry and a fine sound and lightscape, the two performers brought the atmosphere of the convent buildings and its 'fallen' girls back to life. It was a good example of what live theatre should be, rather than 'dead' theatre behind a proscenium. I had fears beforehand that it would all be a bit avant-garde, but the production was engaging and absorbing. Be warned though: the convent can be very cold on these spring nights, so rug up.

We went home for some warming wine and dumplings after a splendid and rewarding experience.

Monday, September 13, 2010

American Music North and South

Saturday was a farmers' market with all the usual, then mall shopping and nursery shopping in Brunswick Street, followed by brunch there, a pretty pedestrian affair. In the evening, we had our fish booty from the shopping: oysters, followed by spicy sardines a la weekend magazine. Thanks David Herbert; they were delicious.

Yesterday, I went to the Gloriana concert at St Mark's Fitzroy. It was a combination of music from north and south America, mainly modern. It was very refreshing to hear new music with a very full audience. It was good to catch up with Margaret and Dick, before Margaret G. heads England-wards to visit her new grandchild. Frank came round for dinner afterwards which P. had made: a very nice Stefano di Pieri pork belly recipe.

This morning, cardiology rang from the hospital to tell me they had (at last) examined my scans and would insert two stents in two separate angioplasties: the first within the next fortnight. They will send an appointment. It is something of a relief to know that I don't have to have full heart surgery and going on my recent angiogram, it should be a procedure that isn't too difficult.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Historical Society looks at boot trade

Last night was the AGM of the Collingwood Historical Society. It was preceded by a pleasant dinner at the historic Retreat Hotel and was a very lively gathering. Then there was a talk by Ian Arnold, of the recently demolished Arnold Boot Factory on the corner of Gipps and Nicholson Street, soon to be units. He gave an informative and entertaining talk about the family business, started in 1914 and still running, though under different ownership. The very quirky characters involved, some of whom drank many beers at the Laird, down from the factory, gave a colourful picture of a very hard history of a trade eventually destroyed by the removal of tarrifs by the Whitlam government. Mr Arnold was remarkably sanguine about the ups and downs of the business over the years and was obviously a survivor against all odds, supported by good humour.

On Thursday, I had my postponed renal clinic visit. It seems that P. and my tissue matching is okay (we are compatible) but cardiology has still not decided what to do about my heart. Renal gave them a boot up the bum and said I should expect a phone call soon. It still hasn't come. I have to ring back on Monday if I've heard nothing. The wheels grind slowly.

River in flood

The Yarra in flood, early September 2010. Picture: Peter.
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Monday, September 06, 2010

Hey ho Heide

On Sunday, I picked up Dennis the Alto, then P. and Lorraine E. and we went to Heide. The main game was a fine and cleverly curated exhibition of the work of Carol Jerrems, photographer. To counterpoint her work, there were smaller showings of work by William Yang, Nan Goldin and Larry Clark. Some of the work, especially Nan Goldin's, was quite confronting and even depressing (such as the shooting-up scenes) but the whole exhibition was intriguing. Heide II now contains appropriately work from the permanent collection of Heide, and Heide I had a good exhibition of photos and artefacts relating to cooking and living in the old farmhouse.

We got a lunchbox from Cafe Vue which was good value and tasty (babaganoush, a rice dish, chicken roll and dessert) for $15 which we ate in the picnic rotunda near the new kitchen garden. Even though the weather was not perfect, we weren't rained on the whole time we were there. P. was intrigued by the black 'irises' in the Heide I garden. Later, he discovered on the internet that they were black flags, from South Africa. In some states (WA for example), they are weeds.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Don writ small

After a very conventional shopping day (mall, brunch in Smith Street), P., Frank and I went to the National Theatre to see the Opera School production of Don Giovanni. We had dinner beforehand at the ever-reliable Cinta Ria. I had crumbed scallops, P. had duck and Frank had mee goreng. All were very tasty.

The student production was very creditable. The 'orchestra' only consisted of one instrument for each line, but was surprisingly competent, if a bit thin. However, this helped the singers and, from our good vantage point in the front row, it was an absorbing and rewarding experience. Most of the cast were around 24 so their rounded performances were excellent and somehow a bit more credible than ageing, more portly performers. There is a great deal to be said for cut-down, more intimate performances of those operas which are far from grand, and focus much more on the individual.

Today, we're off to Heide with Lorraine E. It's not wonderful weather, but we'll survive.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Home fires burning

Another chilly week with the fire burning away. Thank goodness we got a new delivery of firewood last week. This one should last until spring takes hold properly.

I've sent the Paris novel back (temporarily) to its author with a few queries. We'll see what happens. It is a bit weird sitting in wintry downtown Abbotsford immersed in central Paris.

On Tuesday night, Frank came for dinner and we had roast shoulder lamb from the convent market which was very tasty, followed by a cheese course including some great goat's cheese from the lesbian goats at the market.

On Thursday night, I went to the launch of Ouyang Yu's The English Class at Reading's, where, as usual, they had good sangos. Nicholas Jose did the honours of the launch quite elegantly and eloquently, and I ran into Alexis, Toly and Lily. Tonight is the 25th anniversary party for the Melbourne Writers' Festival. I really hate that kind of thing but I'll go: partly in memory of Helen Daniel and partly to let the world know I'm still in business, a mixture of the sentimental and the venal.