Sunday, April 28, 2013

Breaking news

In a piece of small tragedy, The Commoner, our favourite eatery, had a fire overnight on Anzac Day. No one was hurt as it was closed, but it will be shut for at least a month for repairs. We wish them all well and hope they recover quickly.

A week's worth

Oops! No posts for a week. I've been busy working on the government job and other fun activities. On Monday night, we had a very good meal chez Frank, then returned the deal on Wednesday with the addition of Marg and Clive from Yanakie. We haven't seen them for ages so it was good to catch up. I made a David Herbert lamb shoulder casserole with canneloni beans which seemed to go down well.

On Friday, I had a catch-up lunch with Jo and found out that she and Dad were going to the opera in the evening, which we were too. It was Verdi's A Masked Ball which we all enjoyed with a uniformly good cast and an innovative production which put the 'grand' back into opera. We had a Southbank food court meal beforehand which was...adequate.

On Saturday, we tried a new car, Arianna the Yaris, from Fitzroy, after the Convent market, then met my sister Julie and her partner Ian at Backstreet Eating again. It was a good lunch and Julie filled me in on some of the intricacies of the DNA test she has been encouraging us all to have (DNA 101). More to follow. It seems the Churchill line (my mother's) is very high on the Neanderthal count. It makes sense. My aunt and I share very high as Neanderthals. (Mind you the evidence on Neanderthals is a bit thin on the ground.)

On Sunday, after the crossword, P. went shopping and I met him at the Recital Centre for the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra who did works by Beethoven and British composer Douglas Weiland (his clarinet concerto, superbly played by David Griffiths). The whole concert was a pleasure expecially in the good acoustics in the Recital Centre from the intimate third row. Now to Frank's for dinner again for a bit of Tasmania nostalgia, scallop pie!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Busy Saturday

P. and I picked up Harley the Corolla and did the mall shopping, then went to Kew to visit Noel T. in rehab. He is looking much better and walking for small distances without aids, longer distances with crutches or walking frame. He might be home sometime in the next week, a bit early as he is making good progress.

We then had a good brunch at Backstreet Eating, which is consistently good with friendly staff. In the evening, we joined Frank at the old standby, Yoyogi, then went to the Recital Centre for the last Metropolis Concert. Thomas Ades certainly gives good concert. This one included cellist, Steven Isserlis, in two items. First up, a truly splendid piece by Italian Nicholo Castiglioni, Inverno in-ver with very inventive invocations of various wintry scenes. A Mark-Anthony Turnage memorial piece with solo cello followed, not quite as good, but impressively played nonetheless. Then a Kurtag solo cello four pieces, impeccably played, but brief.

The concert premiered a new piece by Australian Lachlan Skipworth which was crisp and nicely atmospheric, then Ades own dances from the opera Powder Her Face, very jolly and energetic. The whole program was varied and hugely enjoyable. We'll now enjoy a quiet Sunday.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sondheim and technical troubles

Well, what a week we're having. Last night, P., Frank and I went to a new group, Watch This, present Assassins by Sondheim and Weidman at fortyfive downstairs. It was a sold-out performance, and deservedly so. Very well-sung and played and making much more sense than the 1995 MTC Australian-premiere performance. There were many outstanding performances but the crazed Sara Jane Moore of Nadine Garner was priceless (made her Doctor Blake role look insipid). This production worked in spite, or perhaps because of, minimal sets and relied on the text, music and performance.

My only gripe is that again we had the rather pretentious we-must-do-this-in-one-piece to maintain the dramatic tension. No, folks! Audience attention wanders anyway and a break gives everyone, cast, musicians and audience a much-needed break. I suspect this trend is to save on overtime as much as for dramatic reasons, but even so, knock it off! Two hours is too long to sit for anyone, even with an excellent show.

Today, I woke to find the internet not working, but by 1pm Iinet had a technician here who, I hope, has fixed everything and streamlined my system. More work on the government job which is, at last, getting close.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

More culture

On Tuesday, I picked up Harley the Corolla to go and visit George P. As always, it was very good to see him. The hostel is providing good support but I think he could do with more visitors.

In the evening, P. cooked a delicious Karen Martini pork belly recipe with fennel and potatoes, perhaps a little salty (a tip for next time).

More work on the government job, then, in the evening Frank and I went to see Syzygy Ensemble present two short operas for the Metropolis Festival. Both were pretty gloomy. Peter Maxwell-Davies 1974 piece was about Miss Donnithorne, crazed ten years after having been left at the altar. Then Barry Conyngham's 1978 The Apology of Bony Anderson, a very grim account of the life of a convict. Both pieces were beautifully played and performed with the ensemble playing parts in the show as well as playing very demanding scores. Judith Dodsworth excelled in the first piece, and Christopher Richardson did the same in the second. The only pity was that it was only for two performances.

We then had a quick bite at the successor to My Mexican Cousin, next door. It doesn't live up to its predecessor in any way.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Music in a chamber (nearly)

After a good day's work on the government job, P., Frank and I went to a chamber concert at fortyfive downstairs in Flinders Lane. Beforehand, we went to nearby Wagamama, a UK noodle chain, for a passable meal of things including Singapore noodles. It is a kind of slightly Westernised version of various Oriental cuisines, not too challenging but with a bit of taste and zing.

The concert by the Streeton Trio was wonderful. In the smallish space of fortyfive downstairs, things like the deep notes of the cello were clearly audible and the personalities of the players emerged. Works by Haydn, Schubert, Kats-Chernin and Mendelssohn were all well played with guest Elena Chena replacing the usual cellist, injured in a bicycle accident in Berlin, particularly outstanding.

The success of the venue is attested by the fact that we are returning later in the week for Sondheim's Assassins.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A lot of indulgence

On Friday night, for P.'s birthday, we were joined by Frank and Lorraine for dinner at Cocoro Pottery Cafe in Smith Street. It is described as Japanese home cooking and has the twin virtues of good food and a very quiet venue. Even though it was moderately busy, it was very quiet. There is also the unusual bonus of a lovely mini Japanese garden on the way to the loo which in most eateries is normally a wasteland (or piled with cooking supplies). Highly recommended.

Normal shopping on Saturday with a farmers' market, now getting very busy. I hope it doesn't become unbearable. P. got a luscious-looking pork belly for later in the week. Then we lunched at the Robbie Burns spanish hotel in Smith Street. The food was very good for all of us (very different things) and excellent desserts.

In the evening, P. and I went to A Clockwork Orange, a touring British production. It was a crisply-told version of the book (originally written by Burgess, the author) and much more coherent than the film. Complaints that it is hard to follow were totally wrong, and it was a well-directed and absorbing production. The Malthouse has altered its food menu to include more antipasto things, so you don't have to have a BIG meal, very welcome.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Very cultural day

On Wednesday, I had a meeting with the government agency. We're getting close to the end of the project which seems to be shaping up quite well.

On Thursday, P., Frank and I piled into Carmelita the Yaris (the new car near the Collingwood Town Hall) and headed down the freeway towards Frankston. We stopped at McClelland Gallery which (although it was a bit drizzly so very unsuitable for the sculpture garden) had some very good exhibitions inside. Contrary to my expectations, it was quite busy on a weekday with school and tour groups. There was a travelling exhibition called 'Made in China' made up of some quite interesting work by Chinese-Australian artists including old favourites like William Yang and some new people (unknown to me at least).

The other main exhibition was 'Momentum' with various artists depicting the body in space. Patricia Piccinini was disturbing (and whimsical) as always. Unfortunately the Callum Morton had been removed due to vandalism damage and was being repaired. Both exhibitions are on till 9 June and are worth seeing.

Then on along the freeway extension to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. Three very fine exhibitions jostled for space: a touring one of children's book illustration with some very fine work (including our friend Leigh Hobbs), photos of Australian sheds by Monash lecturer and architect, Ross Brewin, and three generations of artists relating to Shoreham, Hal Hattam, daughter Katherine Hattam and her son William Mackinnon. Their work is absorbing in very different ways. All exhibitions close on 21 April. We concluded with a good lunch at DOC Mornington, though parking at the Mornington shops is affreuse!

In the evening, after a cheap and  cheerful meal at the new and very busy Malaysian at the QVB, we went to the Recital Centre for our first MSO Metropolis concert hosted by Thomas Ades. It was an absorbing concert with very mixed ensembles of varied work from Stravinsky's jazzlike Ebony Concerto, through Knussen's Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh to some works of Ades' own. Especially good was soprano Hila Pitmann (ex-Israel, now London) who superbly sang (and acted) the Knussen and Ades Life Story, based on an hilarious piece by Tennessee Williams. The premiere of an Australian work by the diminutive Jeanette Little punched well above her weight.

Work continues on the government job, and we are off for a Japanese dinner for P.'s birthday.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Home again vagabond shoes

On Sunday, we got Harley the Corolla (shades of Tasmania) and did the shopping to stock up again, then had brunch at Ici (also near the new car spot). It is a bit dark, claustrophobic and crowded unlike Backstreet Eating across the road which is light and spacious and pleasant.

On Monday, I went for a blood test, then on Tuesday to Eugenia my nephrologist. Everything is fine and my biopsy was clear. All my indicators are on line.

Frank came for a roast lamb dinner and it's now back to work after a good break.

Great time in Tasmania

Please note: if you left click on any pictures you get a bigger version.

On 31 March, P., Frank and I set off for Hobart, ferried to the airport by my father, thanks Dad. We arrived at the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel and found a very spacious two-bedroom apartment with all facilities. We were soon off to the Art Gallery and Museum, recently renovated and re-opened. It has learned a few lessons from MONA and had a very good history and natural history collection which gave a good introduction to Tasmania, especially exploding some myths about the Tasmanian first people (who had boats, implements and houses, in spite of the vicious rumours). We dined in a winebar, Grape, in Salamanca Place, and had delicious tapas.

The next morning, we caught our boat to MONA which lived up to expectations. P.'s tour is available online if anyone is interested. There are no captions and a handheld device records everything you look up (and what you don't, which you might have seen anyway). We broke for a snack lunch, then ploughed on, fascinated.

The view from the top of MONA across the Derwent. Pic. P.

That evening, we had an excellent fish dinner at the Tasman eateries at the Grand Chancellor Hotel (which looks like a hospital). Next day, Tuesday, we picked up the car, a Corolla like Harley at home, and headed to Bruny Island, picking up some food on the way. We also stopped on Bruny, after catching the ferry, to pick up some more food from various places like The Smokehouse (where we got quail and smoked fish) and the Bruny Island Cheese Co. which is a real treasure. We also stopped at Get Shucked, which I thought might be an eaterie, but was, in fact, a caravan with an excellent woman who sold us fresh oysters at a dollar a pop.

We arrived to the superb view at Bruny Island Beach House, after an eleven km drive along a dirt road which was well worth it.

Pic. P.

We feasted on our scallop pies and artisanal sausage rolls (I know, how pretentious). Next day, we drove along Adventure Bay and along The Neck, which joins the two halves of Bruny, north and south. There is a memorial to Truganini here and a splendid view.

The Neck, Bruny Island. Pic. P.

We then went on a magnificent rainforest walk, Mavista, and had lunch at the Alonnah Pub, which was very many cuts above a normal pub. lunch. We then went to the southern tip of the island (or the one accessible by road) to the old Lighthouse.

Frank, ascending to the Lighthouse. Pic. P.

The Bruny Island seascapes are superb and, contrary to expectations, the island is mercifully not overdeveloped yet. There are few eateries and no large developments.

Next day, Thursday, we crossed to the 'mainland' in the ferry, and had a splendid drive through Cygnet and the Huon Valley to Geeveston, where we did the forest airwalk. It was wonderful walking through the treetops and looking down at the forest floor and the Huon River.

Pic. P.

The walk is managed by the Forestry Department which loses no opportunity for propaganda. Unfortunately, on the way up to the walk, I spied down a side road what looked suspiciously like clearfelling. On the way back, we found it again, and it was. A thin ribbon of forest concealed utter decimation. The Foresters had provided numerous examples of forest regenerated after clearfelling, but this splendid forest did not deserve this.

We finished up at the tiny town of Dover and had a splendid dinner at the old Post Office. Frank and I had the scallop, cheese and bacon pizza to share, and P. had splendid and superior fish and chips. The desserts were great too.

The quaint church at Dover, with headstones. Pic. P.

Next day, Friday, we drove south to Southport and the Hastings Caves. We didn't visit the Caves but went on a glorious rainforest walk with lots of birds and a beautiful stream. Back to Hobart, we dropped the car and met Michael Podesta, at University in Tasmania, for a truly great meal at the Henry Jones Hotel eateries.

On Saturday, we went to the Salamanca Markets which are a victim of their own success and much too crowded to be pleasant and full of tat. We escaped to Battery Point which was amazingly quiet, and then to the Botanical Gardens which were even quieter and very pleasant indeed. Then it was back to Melbourne after a glorious week.

Arthur's Georgian Circus in Battery Point. Pic. P.