Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Ringtone Cycle and Cumulus Up

After a very quiet Good Friday, P., Frank and I went into town to find an eatery before going to the Ringtone Cycle, part of the comedy festival. We lobbed at Cumulus Inc. but it was full so we went to the new Cumulus Up upstairs. We just managed to get in, feeling very trendy, and had an excellent meal, though it wasn't cheap. My oysters and a very superior version of steak tartare were excellent, as were icecream-filled profiteroles with a luscious chocolate sauce. Peter and Frank's offerings looked just as nice.

The show, at Forty-Five Downstairs, conveniently downstairs, was captained by Damian Cowell (ex-TISM) in his group DC3 (two guitarist/vocalists). It was only tangentially related to Wagner's Ring Cycle but was quite amusing. The toilet-roll decor was especially effective. I felt totally in tune with Cowell's politics and worldview, but the whole show could have gone up a notch or two in wit. With the excellent meal, though, it turned out to be a good night.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marvellous Mavis

After a day doing mainly various domestic things, like going to the health centre to top up my drugs and doing a little work, I headed to town to join Lorraine and P. for the Mavis Staples/Bonnie Raitt concert. First, I checked out Flinders Lane for places open on Good Friday night for eating, then headed for Movida Nextdoor where we planned to have dinner. It was closed for renovations till 3 April. We repaired to Chocolate Buddha where we had an excellent and efficient meal and made it to the State Theatre just in time.

The Arts Centre and the MTC both let you choose your seats when booking which is an excellent policy which could well be followed by behemoths like Ticketmaster who put themselves ahead of customers. So we had good seats. The amazing Mavis Staples is still belting them out at 73 with aplomb and gusto (even though she needs a few breaks filled out by the instrumentalists). I wasn't feeling the best, having stupidly forgotten to take my pills before leaving home, so I went home and was glad I did as I mainly wanted to see Staples anyway.  Lorraine and P. said that Bonnie Raitt was very good (she went till around 11pm).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

At last, a biopsy

Yesterday, I headed off early to the Melbourne Hospital for my fourth try at a kidney biopsy. This is a routine check twelve months after a transplant to check that there are no signs of rejection and that there is no toxicity from the medications. I was gowned up early and was treated to two doctors, a senior one and a junior who was learning. The procedure was quite easy as all I felt was a very small pinprick from the first local then zilch. It took three tries to get a piece of kidney (the first two only yielded fat!) but it was fascinating to hear all the to-ing and fro-ing between the doctors as it was partly a training exercise.

Then came the hard part. I hard to lie down for four hours on my back without moving too much. Then one hour sitting up and I could go home. It was very boring as I couldn't read and couldn't sleep as the woman in the bed opposite in recovery talked non-stop with her two daughters. The younger doctor cleared me to go, and Frank came to take me home. So all was well and P. and I had leftover roasts for dinner.

Now back to work on a very hot day.

Monday, March 25, 2013

False alarm and good weekend

On Friday night, I had a fairly high blood pressure reading, so checked again in the morning and it had gone up to dangerous levels so I hightailed it to the hospital. Emergency was quiet and efficient, but in four blood pressure readings I was better than normal. Go figure! They said my BP medicines had probably kicked in and it was quite normal to have fluctuating readings.

The hospital was so efficient that I got home in time to go shopping with Frank and P. then we had brunch at Backstreet Eating again. We all had different things, all good. For the whole weekend, P. and I had either vego things or fish, so we feel very virtuous. We'll break that with roast lamb tonight from the market.

On Sunday, we went to hear Gloriana sing the Allegri Miserere among lots of other things: Palestrina's Stabat Mater in a very crisp version, Herbert Howells' Requiem which was superb and pieces by Lauridsen and Ireland which were well performed but not so good as the other works. The St Marks Fitzroy church was packed so they might need a new venue next time.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nostalgic slide night and health news

On Tuesday, I fronted the hospital for my third try at my kidney biopsy. The biopsy is a routine test taken one year after a transplant. The first was aborted because no one had told me I needed a special blood test (coagulation and sugar tests) beforehand, then on the second try, I was asked to defer because of two transplants needing attention. On the third try, I was gowned up, the ultrasound operator had located my kidney and I was ready to go when my blood pressure went up. I was wheeled out again, given a fresh blood test (because it was more than a week since the last one) and a patch to lower blood pressure. But the doc. decided that it was too high to proceed so I was deferred again and given extra blood pressure pills and a tranquiliser to take next time I come in case it is 'white coat' syndrome. I am rescheduled for next Tuesday. Meanwhile I'll monitor my blood pressure carefully.

This meant that in the evening, I could go to the Gay Archives Slide Night, presented in conjunction with the Queer Film Festival.  It was held in the Beer Deluxe Bar in Federation Square, arguably the worst bar in the world but the event turned out to be inspirational. After a very good meal at Chocolate Buddha with P. and Frank, we went to the bar which was quite busy, but the staff didn't seemed at all fussed by that, but proceeded in an orderly, unhurried fashion to dispense drinks and food. Six speakers, including Noel Tovey, presented pictures of their past (or other people's past) with a strict five minute limit, enforced with a bell by MC Daniel.

The cumulative effect of these six, very varied presentations was stimulating. Dennis Altmann gave a good, if necessarily brief, account of gay bath houses. We also caught up briefly with Gary Jaynes and Graham Carbery.

Last night, P. and I went to Frank's for dinner. A delicious dish of lamb, Middle Eastern style was followed by quinces and icecream. It's that time of year. Frank promises more Middle Eastern dishes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bell Shakespeare

After normal mall shopping with P. and Frank, P. and I (Frank has another engagement) went to Backstreet Eating (corner of Kerr and Napier Street) for lunch. It's an offshoot of Gertrude Street's Birdman Eating (which is impossible to get into for Saturday brunch) and near the parking pod for Harley the Corolla, which we had for the shopping today. It is a very pleasant place, not too crowded on the day. P. had the mushroom special which looked good, and I had the regular menu item, blood sausage with eggs and rosti. The only fault was that the rosti was meant to have fennel in it, but it was undetectable or perhaps very subtle.

In the evening, we went to Bell Shakespeare's Henry IV, which is a bit of a marathon at 3 hours 20 minutes (including interval). It's a conflation of Henry IV parts one and two and worked very well. Bell directed with Damian Ryan and it was a uniformly good cast. In spite of the length, it rarely flagged and was a gripping night in the theatre. Highly recommended!

We ate at home (oysters and scallops in white wine and butter) beforehand, then the bus didn't turn up, so we cabbed it in the rain. It showed that it's safer and less fraught to go into town for tea. At least then you are there.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Penguini dinner

Last night, we had a small-scale Penguini dinner as the numbers were almost evenly split between two possible nights. However, we wound up with five starters and had a good meal and a good mag in spite of Qan 88 being quite noisy early on. It quietened as early diners departed and we had a good gossip.

Back at work, I've finished the latest draft of the government job, which is close to being finished apart from the final edit. It has been intriguing putting together a book progressively as the material becomes available and never being quite sure where you're going. However, the structure which I dreamed up early in the piece has so far held good and there is not much more material to come. It will be intriguing to see what my 'employers' think of this latest draft which is probably as long as it needs to be.

My biopsy has been deferred again to next Tuesday, so my valiant efforts to get the draft done today (before the proposed biopsy tomorrow) proved unnecessary. Well, at least it's done now.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Weekend away

P. had last Friday off, so we had a four-day long, long weekend. I picked up Drew the Wagon and we headed to Yea via the beautiful drive from Kinglake to Yea. We were astonished at the new developments on the road from Greensborough to Whittlesea.  We had an undistinguished lunch in Yea then went to Yarck where we stayed at one of the Yarck churches converted to B&B accommodation. We dined at the Tearooms of Yarck, an Italian-type eatery where we had the chef's special menu. And special it was. We lost count of the number of small dishes, including three desserts (one was technically an amuse-bouche) but all were delicious, washed down with a local riesling and a Sardinian red. The church was very comfy too.

Yarck Church accommodation (pic. P.)

Pic. B
Next day, it was downmarket but with a lovely drive to Eildon via the Skyline Road and a drive around the lake, then to Mt Pininger Lookout, recommended by the tourism office in Alexandra. It was a grand view with the added visual of a group of Muslim men in shorts and their wives in full black coverup with just an eye-slit showing. This on a thirty-two degree day on a very exposed mountain.

Pic. P

We had stopped in Alexandra for the market and a walk in the lovely park which started a theme of the weekend, lots of bird sightings.

We stayed overnight in Thornton, at the Rubicon Hotel/Motel which should be preserved as a fine example of 60s motel architecture. It means that the rooms and bathrooms are not pokey as they would be today. The meal was less impressive. In spite of the kitchen being staffed by orientals of some type, the chinese meal was far from authentic. It also harked back to the 60s as did the nearby table with the men at one end and the women at the other.

Next morning we had another 60s throwback, a big breakfast at the local cafe. Then a great drive to the Cathedral Ranges State Park with views of the range on the way. We went for an hour and a bit walk in the park quite early to avoid the worst of the heat and saw lots of birds, including some lovely yellow-tailed black cockatoos, screeching and pulling off bark.

Pic. P. Cathedral Ranges creek
We lunched at Marysville patisserie (very good) and mistakenly walked up to the Steavenson Falls in the heat. They were spectacular, but the effects of the fires are to be seen everywhere including the site of the Marylands guesthouse where we have stayed a couple of times, now a redevelopment site.

On to the Black Spur Hotel where we have stayed before. They do a creditable meal including an entree platter of local goodies, goat's cheese, smoked trout etc.

Next morning we went on to the Healesville Sanctuary where among many other things we were rewarded for being early by seeing both Mrs and Mr Lyrebird. The new platypus show is also very good. We headed home bearing gnocchi and chicken korma from the Healesville takeaway.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Lucky Melbourne

I had a busy working week, mainly on the government job, and had to defer a small rereading until next week, so I was glad to go out on Friday night with P., Frank and Michael H. to the Australian National Academy of Music. We had a good cheap and cheerful at Wasabi first. Other patrons included Sal and Roger so it was very cosy.

The concert was the first for the season and was free and packed out. The ANAM orchestra now includes the full complement of brass and percussion and the first item showcased the percussivists (?) who performed Steve Reich's Music for Pieces of Wood (for six pairs of tuned claves) where they were joined by artistic director, Paul Dean. Works by Britten, Lutoslawski and Shostakovich followed. The new batch of students lived up to the passion and enthusiasm of the old in a splendid concert. I saw Hilary McPhee on the tram on the way home who was also at the concert.

We had normal shopping on Saturday and then were joined by Frank for the Melbourne Food Festival's special at Charcoal Lane. I had three courses: two entrees (kangaroo tartare and fish ceviche with a wicked chocolate dessert). Peter had the kangaroo main and Frank the salmon, plus dessert. The new wait team were very good, and it was very pleasant. Good to see two large tables of women enjoying themselves.

In the evening, P. and I went to the Malthouse to see the revival of Stephen Sewell's Hate with William Zappa and Sara Wiseman in the main roles, directed by Marion Potts. It was a good production, and good to see a 25-year-old play revived which is still very relevant today. Shades of the Joh for PM campaign but the current Liberal crop are not much better (think Cory Bernardi, Matthias Corman, George Brandis, the list goes on.) Unfortunately, the Malthouse has had a glitch with the licensing police on a technicality and the bar was temporarily closed. I thought the Baillieu government was going to cut red tape. We had an adequate meal there though, both having roast pork with lemon, lime and bitters like a host of other patrons.

We are very lucky in Melbourne. ANAM is not the Berlin Philharmonic and the Malthouse is not the Royal Shakeseare Company, but they present very high quality and imaginative work.