Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Other Place

On Monday, P. and I took advantage of a Melbourne Theatre Company special offer and went to see The Other Place. Catherine McClements gave a superb performance in the very intense lead role. The company is in a real bind because to reveal the theme of the play would dilute suspense in the first third of the play and anyway is box office poison (no, I won't reveal it). The rest of the cast of four provided able support and the set, direction (by Nadia Tass) and music etc. were all very good yet simple. Unfortunately, it finishes at the end of this week, but is highly recommended.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A busy time

Last week was mainly spent working on the government job and a private job, the first still in progress and the second now back with the author, who had with great accomplishment solved all the problems I threw at him.

On Friday, by way of recreation, I had lunch with Rosanne T. We enjoyed duck soup in honour of guess who? then went to see Searching for Sugarman at the Kino. It's a splendid doco. about singer Rodriguez whose albums flopped in the US but were hugely successful in South Africa during the apartheid era and beyond (and also in Australia, though this wasn't mentioned in the doco). It's a movie not to be missed.

The Convent Market was on Saturday followed by lunch at the new, 'hipper' Red Tongue, with much the same menu. In the evening, we went to the Victorian Opera Gala Night introducing Richard Mills to the baton. It was a great night with mainly old chestnuts, but very well played and sung by artists of the calibre of Lisa Gasteen, Jose Carbo and Liane Keegan with some very capable young singers from the company. The chorus sang very well also. We briefly braved the crowds at White Noise or whatever it was called then escaped on the train back to Abbotsford.
Ted Baillieu opened the concert with a speech which didn't know when to stop. He got applause by announcing Richard Mills, but instead we got a portly attendant removing the mike and lectern. He got more applause than he probably deserved for this feat.

On Sunday, a quiet day at home doing the crossword was followed by Sally S.'s birthday bash at the North Fitzroy Star. It was a very pleasant function catching up with some of Sal's newer friends and some from over 30 years ago (you know who you are). The Star did the food and wine unobtrusively and impeccably, It can be recommended as a venue for this kind of thing.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Good weekend

We started with a quick trip to the Health Centre to top up our drugs, then did the mall shopping and had brunch at Bayte in Johnston Street, Collingwood (opposite the old TAFE, soon to be Circus Oz). It is food with a Middle Eastern flavour and reliably tasty. Frank and I shared a mixed breakfast with dips, bread, shaslik, eggs and kibbeh, while P. had the three-egg omelette. Yum!

More yum in the evening with a very tasty dinner chez Noel, including his Jamaican chicken ('Jamaica?' 'No, she did it herself.'). He is slowly recovering but his feet are quite painful still.

Today, P. and I went to the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra to hear first a Concerto for Strings by Nino Rota, an Italian composer, famous for film music but who also wrote for orchestra. Then Merlyn Quaife sang Britten's Les Illuminations as though they had been written for her. It was a breathtaking performance. The Orchestra (augmented) rounded off with Beethoven's Eroica played with enormous energy and panache. As director William Hennessy said after interval, thankyou for coming even though both works before interval were 20th century. Last season, I wrote to them asking for more modern works and more Australian works, so I might be getting at least part of my wish.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Off to Tasmania

No, not us, but Michael Podesta. We had a very good dinner last night at The Commoner with Frank, Lesley, Louise and Michael as a 'punctuation mark', as Michael has left today for university in Hobart (Business/Law). It was also close to Louise and my birthdays. We were in the little room upstair, the Rabbit Trap, which was good for talking, which we did a lot of.

The Commoner did it's usual good munga; we had many things including cheese croquettes, stuffed zucchini flowers, fish in various guises (ceviche, roasted), steak tartare and pork belly. Too full for dessert after all that, which is a pity, but we didn't want to wind up like little porkers ourselves.

So Louise and Lesley become empty nesters. As Lesley said, 'It only seems yesterday that he came home from the hospital.' Well, it has been a few yesterdays.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

More art

Tonight, before dinner, I went to the Arena headquarters for the launch of an exhibition called Flow of Voices of works by Jacky Green (Garawa) from the Gulf of Carpentaria and photographer and multimedia artist, Jessie Boylan. Green gave an eloquent speech about his paintings, which take as subject the mining by companies like XStrata on his land. They are more political paintings than pure art, and as Green said, "I can't read or write, so I can express myself through painting.'

The launch was also interesting as I caught up with old friends, some of them from forty years ago. It was good of Arena to put the show on and reiterate one of the many scandals caused by mining in Australia for greed. I am very tempted to buy one of the paintings, but even though they are much more reasonably priced than the Fred Williams (see below), I perhaps should be prudent.

An arty day

Yesterday was P.'s rostered day off, so after I went to a meeting at the government agency I'm working with, we went to Niagara Galleries in Punt Road to see an exhibition of Fred Williams early work. It was for sale, and half had sold in the first week for prices ranging from 50 to 500 000 dollars, a bit outside our price range, unless we wanted to sell the house and live in a painting. The exhibition is very good and worth a visit.

We then had a pleasant brunch at the Richmond Larder and in the evening went to Paul Lewis, pianist, at the Melbourne Recital Centre (courtesy of Bryony and Philip who couldn't go. Thank you!). He played three late Schubert sonatas in a performance which thrilled all of us. He received a standing ovation. He is not a showy, rather an intense performer, but as the inevitable Barry Jones (who has just turned 80) said in the foyer, 'It was superb.' The man behind us said we'd never hear them played so well again (well, he probably wouldn't as he's getting on.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Healesville and environs

Last Sunday, P, Frank and I hopped into Drew the Wagon and went first to Tarrawarra Museum of Art to the Jeffrey Smart exhibition. It was a fine show with some of my favourites, plus some surprises. It was a very good retrospective and well worth visiting before it closes.

Photo by Frank, outside the Tarrawarra Museum

We then went into Healesville and had an excellent lunch at Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps. I had oysters, kingfish ceviche and rabbit terrine, while P. and Frank each had delicious pizzas (I tasted). We then repaired to the Badger Creek picnic area where we had a short wander amongst the magnificent trees before heading home.

Pic.: Peter
Pic.: P. Frank and I by Badger's Creek

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jersey Boys

After market day at the Farm and normal shopping, P., Frank and I had a good brunch at Madame Sousou's. We also this week tried a new local enterprise (for local people) called Abbotsford Wooden Box which delivers a box full of fruit and veg. every Friday, so you can plan a menu for the Saturday shopping. We'll try it for a bit and see how it works. It might encourage us to try new things or new recipes (e.g. this week included nashis, pawpaw and rainbow chard).

In the evening, P. and I went to Kuni's for dinner. We both had a couple of oysters with citrus dressing, I had a yummy crabmeat miso, and P. had noodles and duck in a fish sauce. All were good, but my sashimi was a bit tough. On complaining, they removed it from the bill. I don't know why a classy joint like Kuni's should have worse sashimi than a downmarket place like Yoyogi or a fairly house-run place like Wasabi.

Then we went, at last, to Jersey Boys. It is a good show, performed energetically by (I suppose) graduates of WAPA and VCA. How they do two performances on one day, I don't know. However, the 'book' was fairly vapid. P. described it as like Saturday Night Fever, a whole lot of goodish songs strung together by a slim plot. But perhaps that's most musicals. In any case, we enjoyed it, and so did the packed audience. One of the principals has been in the show since 2009. What stamina!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Power Outage and Centrelink

In these unrelated issues, today we are having our power off while a pole is fixed or replaced, so I'll be off the air for nearly seven hours.

Yesterday, I finally got onto Centrelink, this time with surprising speed, and sorted out any 'issue' with the Old Age Pension, of which I am a proud part-recipient. I think it will work out okay, but we'll see. I don't like the idea that the government can tell me to stop work when I'm 75. If I still can, I won't.


Last night, P., Frank and I went to Fidelio. First, we had a good meal at Bistrot d'Orsay, next to the Athenaeum Theatre.  I had the scallop entree followed by the goat's cheese souffle, then an indulgent rasberry icecream and chocolate dessert (burp). P. and Frank had a very nice looking charcuterie entree to share, then duck (Frank) and gnocchi (P.)

Fidelio was an excellent production by Melbourne Opera. It was updated to more-or-less the present and the entire cast were good, especially as the Leonora/Fidelio of Donna-Marie Dunlop was, for once, plausible as a man. Especially outstanding was Steven Gallop as Rocco, who nearly stole the show in a very good cast. Unfortunately, they played the Leonora no. 3 overture before the last scene, which holds up the action (and wasn't very well played to boot). It was Mahler's idea to do this: he never knew when enough was enough (a bit like his fan, Paul Keating).

Monday, February 04, 2013

A launch and two lunches

Last Thursday, P. and I went to the launch of Barry Dickins' new book, Lessons in Humility: 40 years of teaching at the Celtic Club. It was published by ConnorCourt publishing of Ballan, Victoria. Though they are a rightish publisher (of the likes of George Pell and Nick Tonti-Fillipini), a mainly leftish audience turned up who enjoyed Bob Sessions' launch speech and Barry's response. The Celtic Club food is pretty ordinary but we had lots of wine (and some had Guinness). It was a very pleasant event.

Barry Dickins and I at the launch (pic. P)

Normal shopping on Saturday with a good lunch at the reliable Marmalade and Soul in Fitzroy. Then on Sunday, my sister, Julie, had organised a family picnic at the Bellbird Picnic area near us, on the Yarra where the bats roost. It turned out to be very successful with many Coupers and Churchills turning up. She had an ulterior motive, we found, to get people to get their DNA tested to find out more family origins. I've already applied for the kit.

It was very good to catch up with many family members whom I hadn't seen for a long time, especially John Churchill and family, and the rest of the Churchills and Coupers who were there. There was too much family news to relate here, but it was good to hear how well Stephen Churchill is doing at university (co-compiling a book of essays on Sartre and starting a PhD). It was also good to hear how Uncle Frank's sense of outraged morality is continued with John who is incensed with people who start taking photos at accident or fire scenes (he's still a firefighter).

Replication of an old lineup of Gran Churchill's grandchildren. Missing are Terry Couper, Mick Churchill and Wendy Churchill (pic: Ian K.)

The (sadly depleted) older generation. (Pic.: P.)
I've now got a short break from work, waiting for more material from the government job, which should arrive soon, so I might do some gardening, if it doesn't rain. Today is my first day as an OAP (pensioner power, yay!) so I might try the impossible: getting on to Centrelink to ask a few questions about it.

A long, long time ago

In The Couper's backyard, probably around 1973, including some but not all of the people at the family picnic.