Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nearly there

The very large manuscript (now not so large) has been sent back to the author for checking. I will finish checking it and editing when I return. Meantime there has been a flurry of banking, packing and so on, and we are nearly ready to go. P. has been off work for a couple of days to facilitate preparations.

Warning to would-be burglars: the house will be occupied during our absence.

I'll try to post on either facebook or this blog when we have access to the internet, but P.'s new mobile phone is just that: no fancy-pants add-ons, just for emergencies. So news will be a bit sporadic depending on when internet cafes are available or the hotel provides internet. These days probably most places. Soon, it will be hello Bangkok (briefly), then Istanbul, Turkey and the Greek Islands in proximity, Burgundy and New York.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Last night, P., my sister and I went to the Victorian Opera at the Recital Centre. They were presenting two one-act operas: Manuel de Falla's Master Peter's Puppet Show and Elliott Carter's What Next? The de Falla was a lot of fun, with interesting music and a surprisingly postmodern plot for something premiered in 1923. The Carter was a bit harder going: a very percussive piece with an enigmatic 'plot'. However, it was never dull. Carter is now 103 and the program rather pessimistically said that it was unlikely he would write another opera. It is terrific that Vic. Opera isn't just serving up hoary old chestnuts, but challenging us from time to time.

We had a good meal beforehand at My Mexican Cousin next door. P. and I had the lightly seared kingfish while my sister had the beef cheeks.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New Japanese find

It's hardly a find really, as it has had a mention in Epicure, but after the Saturday shopping we went for lunch at Aka Siro (on some websites it's called Aka Shiro, don't know why) on the corner of Cambridge St and Peel St, Collingwood, under the Dame Edna glasses.

The food is very unlike the formula Japanese at most restaurants. There is only one fish dish, and no sushi or sashimi, or California rolls. Instead there are a number of pork dishes (P. had one of those) and I had the mixed plate with some omelette slices, eggplant with delicious sauce, carrot and a bean dish. It all came with rice and miso soup (yummy). At present they have various soft drinks including a good Turkish lemonade, and their homemade lemonade is very good. When they have a liquor licence, they will open in the evenings as well as for lunch.

It is a tiny place which one reviewer said reminded them of Japan, so get there early.

Later, we went into town and P. bought a mobile phone for the journey. We enter the twenty-first century.

Friday, August 17, 2012

More MSO

Last night, P. and I went to the second Melbourne Symphony Orchestra back to Hamer Hall concert. It consisted of a spirited rendering of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, then a concert performance of Act I of Wagner's Die Walkure. The Wagner was very well sung by Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Meagan Miller, a U.S. soprano, and Daniel Sumegi (Hunding). For a while it seemed as if Skelton and Sumegi were playing 'I can sing louder than you'. A concert performance avoids some of the grosser adsurdities of a staged production, although as Hunding was threatening a stoush next morning, I couldn't help visualising the rather portly male singers facing off. The whole performance received a rousing reception.

Beforehand, we tried the new Hamer Hall eatery, Trocadero, which had no room in its dining room, so we had a bar meal which was quite good, anchovies to start, I had kingfish tartare and P. had a minute steak, then dessert. However, it was a bit pricey for what it was, compared, say, with Huxtable in Collingwood. But then, it is prime real estate with a good view of the river and city skyline. Its layout doesn't make for efficiency, as it is very long and narrow (by necessity), with the kitchen at one end. The waitstaff are run off their feet, and cannot provide really good service.

At second visit, the new Hamer Hall performed well, though it seems that the foyers are more cramped than before. It is quite difficult to negotiate a path to the loo.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Social weekend

On Saturday, it was market day at the Farm, so we shopped there, went to the Mall, then had lunch with Frank at Charcoal Lane. We had their two-course lunch special: I had oysters and tiramisu, P. has fish and tiramisu and Frank had 'roo and then rhubarb crumble. It was good and good value. To compensate, in the evening we had leftover roast lamb and veggies.

On Sunday, it was Liz Kelly Memorial Lunch day. We went to Sally's, who had prepared a wonderful spread without all the food that the visitors brought: P. and I brought veg. and lentil stew (courtesy Claudia Roden's Middle Eastern Food and orange and pondweed salad (it's not really pondweed, it's really watercress); Rennis brought a yummy quiche and Polly a delicious cake with maple syrup and cream. We finished with Sal's cheese. As Rennis said: why go to a restaurant?

Frank has sussed out a new cafe opening at the corner of Vere and Nicholson Street, opposite the local pub, The Park. His friend, Ian, who has a cafe in Johnston Street, plaintively posted on Facebook:  Just what we need, another cafe. However, if it is somewhere nice, it will be good to have just around the corner.

Friday, August 10, 2012

MSO back in Hamer Hall

Last night, P., Frank and I went to the first concert by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the refurbished Hamer Hall. There was a huge traffic jam in the downstairs foyer as there were delays in opening the doors. First night hitches, I suppose. The new hall is a bit more userfriendly: escalators crossways rather than down the middle; better, bigger bars, but most of all, better acoustic. The sound is infinitely better and clearer, even though we were in the sixth row and it should be.

Principal cello, David Berlin, had the unenviable task of coming on, alone, to open the concert with the cello version of Ross Edwards' Winter Spirit Song, but the unaccompanied cello demonstrated the improved acoustic very well. Thomas Ades' Polaris, composed for the opening of a concert hall in Miami, was next; a pleasant enough piece with totally banal and superfluous visual projections.  The main game was the monumental Mahler Symphony no 3, conducted and played with gusto by Marcus Stenz and the orchestra. Stand-in mezzo, Karen Cargill, a braw Scottish lass, sang well, though it must have seemed strange to travel so far for one verse. The choirs sang well, and the posthorn (twice in a week) performed well. A rousing Keating experience indeed.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Lorca reworked

On Tuesday, P. and I went to the Malthouse production of Lorca's Blood Wedding, directed by Marion Potts and adapted by Raimondo Cortese.  It was a good opportunity to see this unfortunately seldom performed classic, with as many pitfalls for directors and actors as King Lear. The audience included a lot of fairly mature schoolchildren, who were fairly well-behaved, though they giggled a bit at things I couldn't see were amusing.

This production skirted around the pitfalls quite well, and there were wonderful performances, especially by some of the strong women. The show used the 'metaphor' of water very well, with banks of fridges full of water bottles, and spraying water during the wedding scene (!). It brought to mind our moving visit to the Lorca house in Granada a few years ago. It was left almost as Lorca left it, dragged out by Falangist troops to be shot, as the servants had lived there for over thirty years, keeping life going as if nothing had happened until the new Spanish state took it over as a museum.

Afterwards (as it was a 6.30 performance), we dined at My Mexican Cousin (again), and it didn't disappoint: I had the boudin balls and soft-shelled crab, and P. and I shared a chili chocolate mousse dessert.

By the way, blogspot is not letting me revise entries for some reason, and I can't fix it. Please excuse the odd typo. which I can detect but not amend. Back at the ranch, the big manuscript is going well. I am up to 90 000 of the required 120 000 words, so I can only use a quarter of the remaining original manuscript. When that selection is done, I have to check the lot, perhaps delete some more and add some of the rejected parts, then edit the lot. I suspect I will finish the selection before we head overseas, but not the editing.

Monday, August 06, 2012

More culture vultures

On Friday, P., Frank and I had a quick but good meal at Wasabi in Clarendon Street, then went to the Australian National Academy of Music in the old South Melbourne Town Hall for an turn-of-the-century program, starting with the wonderful Siobhan Stagg singing Ravel's Sheherazade, then conductor Paul Daniel lead the large orchestra in Debussy's La Mer, followed by Stravinsky's Firebird ballet suite (1945 version). It was a splendid concert which the orchestra obviously enjoyed.

After shopping on Saturday, we went back to Marmalade and Soul in North Fitzroy for the usual splendid brunch, they provide. In the early evening, P. and I went to the launch of Alison Ravenscroft's The Post-Colonial Eye at the Alan Gilbert building in Grattan Street. The launch included Philip Morrissey and Alexis Wright as speakers. Clutching a copy of the book, which might go above our heads, we headed into the night after stirring speeches.

Sunday was quiet and domestic, and Sally S. visited with a nice-looking piece of lamb from the butcher near my father's place, and Frank came for dinner. My goat curry was a bit tough (maybe the goat was tough, or maybe it needed longer cooking), but P.'s strawberry in jelly with REAL custard more than made up for it. He did say though that he understands why our mothers used custard powder.

Friday, August 03, 2012

More Mozart

Last night, P. and I went to hear the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's all-Mozart program at the Recital Centre. We dined first at My Mexican Cousin next door, and had a good dinner, though probably a bit pricey for pre-concert fare. Then it was into a fairly lightweight Mozart program, very energetically played by the MSO. The posthorn Serenade was, according to the program, Mozart's first essay into heavier stuff, whereas I felt if it were any lighter it would have floated away. The playing was superb, as was that in the Concertone for Two Violins, which featured the leader of the orchestra, our friend Wilma, as one of the soloists. The piece features many solos from various members of the orchestra and is a good virtuoso piece, but of little musical weight. It concluded with a dance from the Idomeneo ballet music, again hardly world shattering. The conductor, Reinahrd Goebel, is professor of Historically Informed Performance at the Mozarteum Salzburg. He was a good showpony, but I think the orchestra was doing the hard yards.