Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More medical matters

Yessterday, I went to my renal specialist, Eugenia (call me Genie) who was very interested in our travels and asked for a list of all the good places we stayed. I'll do that. She also said my blood test from last Friday was 'perfect' and so was my blood pressure. My mother was right: I am perfect. Unfortunately, my stock up on pills post trip was made a bit more complicated by federal policy to use generic drugs only. This is probably good policy, but in the short term I have to adjust to a slightly different formulation of tacrolimus, which means an extra blood test and extra visit to Genie. Ho hum!

I then went to look in on Noel at the hospital across the road. He's looking quite good, and they are not sending him home, but have changed their minds and he'll go into residential rehab (somewhere). He should still be at The Club when I go on Thursday to pick up pills.

Work is very busy. Tomorrow I go to the government mob to check on progress with their writer-in-residence. His ongoing material is very good.

Monday, October 29, 2012

'Normal' weekend

We have settled back into our 'normal' routine. It was convent market day on Saturday, so we got the usual things from the market: fish, lamb for roasting, milk and vegies. Then Frank, P. and I picked up Vincent from Brunswick Street and 'did' the Mall, Victoria Gardens, then had very nice brunch again at Madame Sousou's. After that we voted in the local council elections: the result (since tentatively announced) for our ward was one socialist, one Green and one Labor, a quite good result to keep everyone on their toes. The Green is our neighbour, Amanda Stone, who is very alive to local issues and very sensible.

In the evening, on the closing night of the Melbourne Festival, we went to a show from New York, We're Gunna Die, in which standup and singer, Young Jean Lee, told of death and near death experiences in her life and finished with the audience singing along with 'We're Gunna Die'. She had a moderately skilful backing band (one played the ukelele like a guitar hero, which was vaguely ridiculous). I'm not sure that quality of the show justified bringing five people from New York but it was enjoyable enough.

On Sunday, P. and I visited Noel T. in hospital. He has recovered mightily from his hip replacement. He was sitting up, dressed and putting on a brave face. I should see him again on Tuesday when I visit my renal specialist across the road.

Frank came for dinner and I made biftecks as the chook was getting a bit old to roast. We had an overload of food for last week from a miscalculation of mine of the number of meals we needed. We should be back on target this week. Six weeks of not shopping has made us out of practice. We watched Mystery of a Hansom Cab, which probably cost a lot, and the money was wasted. It was a pretty poor effort, not even matching the school production I was in in 1965, a musical version. The highlight of the high school production was when Felix Rolleston sang Come into the Garden, Maud and a peanut thrown from the audience (we did it as a melodrama) lodged in his fly for a few minutes. The audience went wild.

Now it's back to work on a very busy day with lots of visitors (Dad, Jo, the cleaners) and lots of things to do as well as phone calls about the seminars. Busy, busy, busy: why am I wasting time blogging?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Musical Feast

Last night, Sally gave me a lift to South Melbourne where we were joined by P. for a meal at the ever-reliable Wasabi restaurant in Clarendon Street. We then went to the Australian National Academy of Music for a concert led by violinist, Anthony Marwood. The works included Bartok's Divertimento for Strings, Vasks Concerto for violin and string orchestra and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It was a rousing performance with the young musicians obviously enjoying their playing and delivering that joy and passion. Vasks is Latvian, and it seems we are hearing a bit more about them since the Iron Curtain lifted. The Captive Nations speak again. His was a wonderful and moving piece played with great skill and sensitivity by Marwood.

The energy which went into the Beethoven was exhilarating, and the players were obviously enamoured of what Marwood had communicated to them. Now back to work and there's plenty of it.

Plus the tree removal man is about to arrive to quote on our fallen photinia.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Settling in

The potential new client had got another editor while we were overseas. Ah well! I've had lots more administrative work to do this week (liquidating my travelcard etc., updating medications) but I've started in on the work projects.

On Monday night, P. and I went to Noel's for dinner, delicious curries. He goes into hospital on Thursday and is having preparatory medication. I'll pop in to see him on Friday and have my blood test (the first in about seven weeks).

Last night, I cooked trout fillets and broad beans, which were very tasty, with baby cheeses to follow. We have nearly finished the travelling washing, so we're really settling in.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More or less normal

On Sunday we started The Age large crossword, and felt we were home again. Then Sal dropped by for a catchup and a coffee and later in the day, my Dad dropped by to fix the sticking door which now closes properly. Thanks Dad. Frank came for tea and I cooked a roast roll of lamb from the butcher at Victoria Gardens which was tasty and tender (even if I do say so myself) then soused strawberries and cream. I'm in the first stages of making strawberry icecream, so all's right with the world.

Still a bit of catching up to do, and I've got three jobs on the go: finishing the editing of the very large ms. which is now rather smaller (about a third the length it originally was), a project involving a government agency and a writer-in-residence (I get to edit his pearls) and an APA seminar in late November (lots of preparation and thinking). I've got a potential new client ringing this morning, so it's all go.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

South Pacific

P. and I went into town and had a pleasant meal at that old standby, Little Malaysia, our first SE Asian food since Bangkok. Then we went to the Princess for South Pacific. It is a production 'borrowed' from New York and is very good. They have restored some material on racism cut from the original. Teddy Tahu Rhodes was the best Emil de Becque you could ever hope to see, but what a waste of prodigious talent and voice. He could easily fill the Princess (quite a small theatre) but was miked like the rest of the cast. It is the kind of thing opera stars do at the end of their career and he is shortly going to NY to play Escamillo in the production of Carmen which we saw. I'm sure he will fill the Met. without a microphone.

The rest of the cast varied from adequate to very good though Eddie Perfect tried to give depth to a part which has none. Kate Ceberano was great as Bloody Mary, scuttling around on stage. Again, it made us quite happy to be at home, feeling like we're not missing out.

Back to more or less normal

This morning, Frank came round and we took off to Victoria Gardens (the Mall) for shopping. Not much has changed there. We first picked up Vincent the i30, who was looking a bit dusty and muddy. He obviously hasn't been washed for a while. After the (urgh) supermarket, we went to Toscano's for their usual good fruit and veg.

Then we dropped off the shopping and Vincent and walked across the road to Madame Sousou's for brunch and to remind us of France. I had a very good French onion soup (better than any I had in France), P. had eggs benedict and Frank had gnocchi with blue cheese, walnuts and spinach. Well sated we caught the bus home. After hanging out nearly the last of the post-trip washing everything is more or less back to normal.

Billy Bragg

It happened almost by accident, but we have two shows in quick succession on return. It means we hit the ground running and don't miss New York too much. The first was Billy Bragg's one-man tribute to Woody Guthrie. Holding the Hamer Hall stage for nearly three hours is a great feat. Many of the songs were from the Mermaid Project, an attempt to record some of Guthrie's 3000 leftover songs. With an excellent commentary (Tony Rabbit copped a couple of serves, Bragg knows how to push the right left buttons), he told the story of Guthrie in an entertaining and informative way. We (the audience) loved it and is was pleasing to see a wide age-range in the audience, not just old farts like us.

To get back into Melbourne, we had a cheap meal at Yoyogi in Swanston Street, and I found a new item on the menu to have as my regular feed there: a sashimi platter, which was better and cheaper than my one in NY. So there. It's good to be home.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vagabond Shoes

Well, now we're home. The strange Qantas practice of feeding you trans-Pacific dinner at 4am and 'breakfast' at 3pm seems to have worked and jetlag seems minimal.

The very busy catchup is nearly done (quite a lot after six weeks away) and by Monday I should be well back into work (overheard on a Greek-Turkey ferry: English lad saying something was 'well odd').

Last night, we had a nice catchup with Frank and Lorraine at Rita's, our local Johnston Street eatery. It's good to be home, though as I checked the ABC News whenever I got internet access overseas, I could only report back to P. that nothing was happening: though Annabel Crabb's comment that no one would now be having a marinara with Peter Slipper was worth reporting. The US was even more parochial: NO overseas news whatever.

We're keeping up the good work by going out tonight and Saturday night, and our first real inhouse meal will be on Sunday night. By Monday, we should be more or less back to normal.

New York

On our first day in New York, I think we overdid it a bit. We started with the fabulous Frick Museum which we thought would be a manageable beginning. It was, in a way. The trouble was even though it is relatively small, almost every picture is a masterpiece. The Vermeers were wonderful and the twinning of the Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell portraits a real coup. Old Frick might have been a worker-bashing bastard but he had good taste.

We then crossed the road to Central Park and had lunch at the Boathouse Cafe. It was, as our host Evelyn said, overpriced, but the oysters, crab cakes and the view were great. We then wandered through the Park marvelling at the squirrels and birds and finished at Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon memorial. In the evening we went to the end of our street and the fish restaurant and had Maine lobster. No wonder we went over budget.

Next day, Monday, we picked up our tickets for the musical on Tuesday night, then wore ourselves out at the Museum of Modern Art which has a truly great collection, but huge! We had a French dinner at a local eatery. There were so many restaurants in the area that it was no problem finding somewhere good to eat within a few blocks.

On Tuesday, we decided to give galleries a rest and went on a Radical Walk in the locality (Greenwich Village) then visited the Highline Park, built on an old elevated railway in Chelsea. We then added to our types of eatery by having lunch at a diner in Chelsea. Huge servings of not very good food.

In the evening, we went to Once, a musical at the Jacobs Theatre. The theatre is very cramped on a small site. We were on the right of the theatre in the fourth row, but there were NO exits on that side. If there had been a fire we would have been burnt to a crisp. The show was great. Based on a film set in Dublin with Czech immigrants, it was a simple story but very effectively done. Set mainly in an Irish pub, when you entered the theatre, the cast and some of the audience were onstage, singing and playing with vigour. The audience members were shunted offstage and the show began. All of the cast played musical instruments so there was no other accompaniment. We went home elated, and had a Japanese dinner at a local eatery which was very good.

Next day (Wednesday), we deposited our overdue laundry at a bagdrop in the next street, then did the Guggenheim, a magnificent building. They had only a small part of the permanent collection on show, and two great temporary exhibitions: Picasso Black and White and Kandinsky. We had lunch at an uptown eatery (good but not brilliant), then dinner at the local Pearl Oyster Bar (I was having oyster withdrawal from having no oysters the day before).

On Thursday, we went shopping at a remainder shop near the World Trade Center site. I bought two pairs of jeans for $57 the lot and P. bought a new jumper. Seeing the site on the spot brings the reality of it home quite markedly. For lunch, we went to Niki E.'s recommendation, Bouley's in Tribeca. The doorlady quietly informed us that 'gentlemen' must wear a jacket, and when P. and I looked crestfallen, said that of course they could lend us one each. They did, and we had a truly splendid lunch of five courses, plus amuse-bouches (two) plus petits-fours, plus two extra courses with the chef's compliments. Yum!

In the evening, it was the Metropolitan Opera for Carmen. We had quite good seats at the front of the Grand Tier and got a good view and hearing of truly grand opera with a great set, playing acting and singing. Quite an experience.

On Friday, we wore ourselves out again at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We tried to restrict ourselves to a few sections, but the temptations are too great. They have an impressionist and post-impressionist collection not equalled almost anywhere except Paris, and so many pinched artworks and collectibles from round the world that it is impossible to see it all.

On Saturday, we did the Museum of New York City, which we probably should have done early in the piece. It contains sample rooms from NY's history and a good introductory video about the history of NY. We then had lunch at the Grand Central Oyster Bar (more oysters, they have a plate of 8 mixed oysters; we had one each), then we went to the NY Public Library, a grandiose building for a mean purpose, using their free internet. We had a very nice dinner at Home in the next street to Jones Street, Cornelia Street.

On Sunday, we visited the Whitney which was undergoing renovation of the permanent collection, but they had a very interesting special exhibition of American art around the time I was born. It was good to see artists like Pollock during their formative years. Then we went to Carnegie Hall to hear the Met. Orchestra in a concert of Wagner and Strauss (Richard). The acoustics are so good that you can feel the vibrations of the deep strings even in the balcony. We were in 'boxes' on the first balcony which had eight seats. The back seats were kind of high chairs with rests for your feet so you could see over the people in front. In the evening, for our last NY dinner, we had tapas in a very good Spanish bar round the corner.

On our last NY day, we took the Staten Island ferry across the Hudson and back for the views of Liberty and the skyline. We meet Elizabeth, a social worker, who is married to the Fire Island firechief, a woman and lives at Cherry Town on Fire Island. We had a good chat.

We then caught the lift to the top of the Rockefeller Centre which, again, we should have done earlier, although we couldn't pick out Jones Street from the top. We took a peek at the Radio City Music Hall, then picked up our bags and headed for the plane. Guess what: another traffic jam on the way to JFK airport, but the cab driver (who was moonlighting from his job with the NYPD) was very adept at slipping in and out of lanes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting back to Zurich

Before getting on to New York, a bit of a recap on Burgundy and the Jura. On Friday 5 October, we said farewell to Lyon. Though Lyon was easy to get into, it was a little more difficult to get out of. In the end, we got onto the motorway and headed west into Switzerland. The drive through the Jura Mountains was very beautiful through tunnels and viaducts until we reached picture-postcard perfect Switzerland. We drove on through the green fields through Gruyere. We intended to spend overnight somewhere past Berne to give a short run into Zurich the next day. After a bit of mooching around, we found the delightful Buren-an-der-Aare, a rather quaint old Germanic village where we stayed at the Gasthof der alten Post. It turned out to be very hospitable with a beer garden and a voluminous German dinner. P. had the venison local speciality and I got the chicken breasts which I couldn't nearly finish.

The town has one of those wooden-roofed one-lane bridges and a very quaint village square with fountain, cobbles and those high-roofed buildings with cranes on the top floor (for lifting heavy things).

The next day, we headed for Zurich following the Aare. Unfortunately, the carhire company didn't tell us that the day we were returning the car was also the start of the Swiss annual holidays and EVERYONE hits the road. We negotiated two traffic jams with complete lockdown and got to the airport just in time. During one jam, I got so desperate that I had to get out of the car and pee by the side of the road, much to the amusement of the Swiss drivers.

We then got a plane to NY. Our cab from Newark, guess what, got stuck in another traffic jam centred on the Holland Tunnel. Eventually we got to our Jones Street, Greenwich Village abode. Thank you Bryony for recommending it. It was a pleasant QUIET haven during our NY stay.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Sorry for the lack of communication but here in the city that never sleeps (it does) all internet cafes have disappeared owing no doubt to the ubiquity of iPads and other devices. I finally found that the public libraries are the only place providing the service so here I am.

As we are leaving on Monday and home on Wednesday I'll reserve telling you all about how wonderful NY is till we get back, but in the meantime, thanks to Noel for recommending Once the musical which was great, and to Niki E. for her recommendation of Bouley for their degustation lunch which was great (they even kindly supplied us with jackets which 'gentlemen' are required to wear) and very reasonably priced, though it has gone up ten dollars since she was here.

We've just returned from lunch at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station: we each had their mixed oyster plate, then I had Coquilles Saint-Jacques and P. had sole stuffed with crab. As you can see, we're really suffering.

Also, Carmen at the Met was a knockout, really GRAND opera.

I'll post more on New York when we get back to Oz on Wednesday 17 October.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Burgundy part two

Now I hope I have time for a decent post though I am doing battle with the French keyboard in the Hotel des Artistes in Lyon. It is next door to the beautiful Theatre des Celestins and is where the actors used to stay. They must have been tiny because the rooms are not very big but the hotel has location, location, location between the Rhone and the Saone. Our little car Aidan is resting in the underground park next door for a few days.

We started our journey at Zurich airport where we picked up Aidan and had an exciting time trying to find the Welcome Inn in nearby Kloten. We drove past it twice. The less said about it the better. It was very Swiss.

We then headed on the motorway to Basel and continued on minor roads most of the time. Our first stop was the tiny village of Baume-les-Dames where we stayed in a 300-year-old hotel which was very cheap. The village was charming.

Then we went to Dole and stayed in a hotel which Stendhal had stayed in, which was appropriate as P. was reading The Scarlet and Black. Dole was once the regional capital until it riled the French king and was replaced by Besancon.

Next day we drove to Besancon and took in their very fine Musee des Beaux Arts. Then on to Gevrey-Chambertin where our hotel was in the middle of the grapevine fields (they were harvesting) and had a view of the nearby church and chateau. We spent the next two days touring the beautiful countryside and visiting Beaune which has a very fine old Hotel Dieu, an almost intact mediaeval hospital.

Then on to Autun where we stayed in the Moulin Renaudiots with hosts Peter and Jan who produced a splendid dinner on the second night for the ten guests: four Australians, two Germans, two English and two Belgians. We spent one day in Autun, then the next in the beautiful Forest of Morvan and its Celtic ruins and very effective Celtic, Gallo Roman museum.

We were sorry to leave there but are now happy in Lyon with its gastronomic delights. We have jsut had a superb dinner at a nearby brasserie. The spider crab in gaspacho was to die for. We are here for one more day, then have a long drive over two days back to Zurich and on to New York.

Burgundy part one

This connection will only last a while so I will just say what a wonderful time we have had in Burgundy. Everything has been wonderful; the food, the hotels, the people. More soon.