Friday, May 31, 2013

Good dinner, brief concert

Last night, P. and I met Lorraine E. at Movida Nextdoor where we had an excellent meal, just the kind I like, with lots of little things. I had mushroom croquetas and achovas, then a delicious scallop dish with tasty sauce then a lamb shaslick with spicy seasoning. Along with glasses of spanish manzanilla and wine, it was very satisfying. The service was brisk and friendly. Long live the Irish diaspora.

We toddled down to Hamer Hall for Renee Geyer and an excellent 28 piece band. All was going well with both new and classic Geyer songs (Difficult Woman was sung with heartfelt power). After about an hour into the concert, it gradually became clear the Geyer was having difficulty, possibly with a bad back and with breathing. The show ended abruptly after about an hour and fifteen minutes (it was scheduled for two hours). We had extremely good value up till then, though there was some anguish in the performance. I hope she recovers quickly.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Musica Molto

On Tuesday night, P. and I went to the Recital Centre to see one of the farewell performances of the Tokyo String Quartet. This virtuoso and longstanding group (their first Musica Viva tour was in 1980) performed Quartets by Sculthorpe (16), Bartok (5) and Beethoven (14). They were all enthralling. Unfortunately for the group, when they retire they have to surrender their Stradivarius instruments to the Japanese bank to which they belong. I hope another quartet will get the use of them. Goodness knows what they're worth in money terms, but their true worth is being played and heard.

Yesterday, I picked up a car and Noel T. and we went to ANAM to hear Thomas Williams play a piano recital (prefigured below). He played a musical journey from Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor, Haydn's Piano Sonata in E flat major and Rachmaninov's Etude no. 5 in E flat minor, completing a series in E flat. A quick and unusual change of costumes from tails to jeans and shirt took us to Westlake's Piano Sonata no.1 in a very robust performance. Lots of rabbit's friends and relations were present for the morning performance with an audience of about 60.

In the afternoon, I went to the Asia Centre for a talk and questions with Dr David Tittensor who gave a lucid account of the Turkish ruling party AKP in the context of Turkish history and the place of Islam. It was an interesting talk and the discussion revolved around whether the party was moving towards an Islamic state. Dmetri K. was also there and contributed to the discussion. The talks I have been to at the Asia Centre have been distinguished by a lack of academic or postmodern jargon and gobbledegook. This was no exception except for one questioner who obviously liked the sound of his own voice.

Now back to work on the novel that turned up this week.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

One Man, Two Guv'nors

A fairly normal day of shopping with a Convent market and mall. Because P. was feeling a bit crook, we forwent lunch and spent the rest of the day resting.

In the evening, we went to the above play at the Arts Centre. It was a bit like being transported back to 1963 in every way. The whole thing was a little dated but kind of funny. The best bit was Frank being hauled on stage for some audience participation. His stage debut. When I said beforehand that we were near the front, P. said, 'I hope there's no audience participation.' There was. The cast looked as though they could do it in their sleep after a very long tour. The real way of seeing whether the gaffes were real or not was the reaction of the band. If they reacted, they were real.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

P.'s Day Off

On Friday, P. had a rostered day off so we had an 'art' day. First up was the Potter Gallery at Melbourne Uni. which had several good shows, soon to close down. The best of a good bunch was the exhibition of post-WWII Polish posters (mainly theatre and opera) from the Uni. collection.  They were vibrant and innovative, obviously a subterranean revolt against the regime. Then there was a show of botanical and bird prints of Australian subjects ranging from the Goulds to Aboriginal barks. On the top floor was a splendid collection of images of Melbourne from early prints to modern paintings and sculpture. The less said about the downstairs films and videos the better.

Then it was off the Monet show at the NGV. It surpassed expectations with a fine collection of pictures from the Musee Marmottan. When we went there only a fraction of these were on display so in a way it was better than the 'real' thing. As well there were audio-visuals. One, a 'Cinerama' presentation of a day at Monet's garden at Giverny, made up for the day we went there when it was closed and we could only view it over the wall! All in all, the pastiche Monet experience was very satisfying.

We preceded it with lunch at the Tea Rooms in the gallery. I love the crustless sandwiches. The Tea Rooms is obviously designed for 'ladies' but who cares? There was a group of  German (?) tourists having a special Monet arvo tea. It looked very lavish, though at the price, it should have been.

We capped it off in the evening with an Aust. National Academy of Music trip. Visiting cellist Johannes Moser joined the students for a thrilling concert including Shostakovich's Sonata for cello and piano, the shattering Lutoslawski Cello Concerto and finishing with Shoenberg's youthful sextet, Verklarte Nacht (1899), a Viennese fin-de-siecle mood piece. Standing ovations were in order and delivered. Afterwards, we couldn't get into the nearby Thai for dinner so went to our old standby Wasabi who stayed open to cater for us. Thanks.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Religion in Java

Early evening last night, P. and I went to the Asia Centre at Melbourne University to see a film The Java Spirit: religion and spirituality in Contemporary Indonesia. It centred on central and eastern Java and one of the makers was academic Thomas Reuter who was present and with a panel discussed the film afterwards. Covering such a large topic in a film of less than an hour is obviously a big ask, but the session gave a glimpse of what is happening in Indonesia (or at least parts of Java) at present.

It was fascinating to see individuals (mainly clerics) talk about their beliefs and aspirations in settings which were mainly holy springs, forests or shrines, places of pilgrimage. However, this diversity is only very tiny compared to mainstream Islam. Someone asked the awkward question, 'How could the simultaneous upsurge of religion in Indonesa be reconciled with increasing corruption?' The panel couldn't really answer it.

The Asia Centre has another session next week: this time on the Turkish government and Islam.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mao and Dick

Last night, Frank and I had a cheap and cheerful at Shoubu in Smith Street, then headed to join P. at Her Majesty's Theatre for Nixon in China, presented by the Victorian Opera. It was an excellent production though publicity had not sufficiently alerted some of the audience to the fact that it was a modern opera. I think some were expecting Richard Nixon: the musical. A man behind us said he would rather have been at King Kong, with the big gorilla. Perhaps it was fellow feeling.

A uniformly good cast and fine conducting of a very difficult score was very pleasing. Less pleasing was some of the audience behaviour. Some people seem to think it is all right to natter during the loud bits or crunch on potato chips (rustle, rustle). Frank and I borrowed Julie Bishop's death stare to hush them. I am sure, however, that the Vic. Opera was glad of the near full house (though a few left at interval). While I'm whinging, I also mention men and women who wear their hair up (or worse, hats) at the theatre. 'Excuse me Sir, would you mind removing that top-knot?'

Though the opera was long (around three hours), it rarely palled and the large chorus (many known to Frank) performed with gusto.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Good drama

On Saturday, it was only mall shopping, no markets. Afterwards, we tried to get into Bayte, the Middle Eastern place in Johnston Street, but they had an exhaust malfunction and weren't accepting customers for a while. We decamped to Backstreet Eating for brunch. For some reason, perhaps the onset of winter, all the indoor eating places were very full, but we had a delicious brunch at the bar.

In the evening, after a snack of smoked salmon and P.'s wonderful garlic and walnut dip, we went to the MTC for the first of their Neon independent theatre series. The only one we are booked for is Menagerie by the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble. After a slightly shaky start, it settled into an absorbing 'cannibalisation' of aspects of the life and work of Tennessee Williams. Very well performed and staged in the small Lawler theatre space, it was quite short so we went for dinner afterwards at Blondie (in the old My Mexican Cousin space at the Recital Centre next door). This time, they seemed to have got their act together better with good service and food. I had fish ceviche and steak tartare with a side of chips, P. had fish in broth and mushroom arancini and shared the chippies. We retired pleased.

Now for a quiet Sunday doing nothing much at all.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Social week

Most of the week has been spent on the government job. Fortunately, they have offered to pay extra on it as it has turned out to be more mammoth than when I quoted. The edit-as-you-go procedure has been more time consuming than I imagined and there's still the checking and amendment to go from all the participants. Phew!

On Tuesday night, we had Frank for dinner: roast lamb with mint sauce, gravy and roast vegies. Then on Wednesday, I went to dinner chez Noel T. with Tom, a pianist. The dinner included some blackened chicken with a delicious spicy gravy, plus Noel's progressive winter soup. We'll probably go to see Tom's solo recital in a couple of weeks.

Last night (Thursday), Frank, P. and I went to the Recital Centre to hear Camilla Tilling, a Swedish soprano accompanied by Anthony Legge, sing songs by Zerlinsky, Schubert, Grieg, Sibelius and Strauss. She has a great voice and was much appreciated by a big crowd. At the end, she thanked the audience and congratulated us on having such a fine hall. It is. She also had a good frock with great bling.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quiet weekend for once

This weekend, there was a Farmers' Market which is becoming hugely popular. It still hasn't got to the point where it is uncomfortable and impractical like the Salamanca Market has become in Hobart, but it is heading that way. If it does, it will be a shame, though no doubt good for the Collingwood Farm which I hope makes money out of it. We got some good produce which will feed us this week.

After the supermarketing, we had a good brunch at the Johnston Street Foodstore, where we hadn't been for a while. It was so good that we all (P., Frank and I) agreed that we only needed a light dinner. It didn't turn out that way for us quite, as we had oysters, tortilla (cooked by P.) and garlic prawns. Oh well!

On Sunday, we had a visit from Dad, then a quiet day at home with the crossword, then a good dinner at Frank's place with a market pie (very tasty) followed by homecooked quinces and icecream.

Now back to work.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Off the air again

Last night, P. and I went to Noel's for an excellent dinner. The outstanding hit in a splendid feast was the blood pudding, potato and pear combo. for second course. Noel is still having physio. and seems to be gradually and slowly improving after his surgery.

Before we went out, my internet and email went down (or rather the connection did). It still didn't work when we came home. This morning I rang Iinet and their helper in Perth was very thorough. Too thorough to the point of exhaustion. After nearly an hour and a half, it became obvious that we couldn't do it over the phone, so I ordered a tech. visit. Again, he came promptly at 3 this afternoon and I was back online and could catch up after 3.30.

Fortunately, I can work in Word without the use of a net connection, so I was able to get some work done.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Culture Fest

On Tuesday, I had my monthly visit to Eugenia, the nephrologist. Last week, when I visited the vampires for my blood test, I continued my conversation from last month with the nurse, who is not a fan of modern art. She is, however, visiting Heide this weekend, so the argument is not pointless.

Eugenia pronounced the results of the bloodtest near perfect and my next appointment is five weeks away.

In the evening, P., Frank and I went to the Aust. National Academy of Music, after a good and quick meal at Wasabi, our regular in Clarendon Street. They performed a splendid Beethoven Clarinet quintet for piano and winds, an unusual combo, then their guest Finn Paavali Jumppanen played a fourhander by Mozart with Jacob Abela, one of the students. They finished with their new orchestra of incoming students and Paavali playing Beehoven's Piano concerto no. 2 with great vigour. Interestingly, now a lot of the brass are women, though in spite of nearly all the violins being women, the concertMASTER is a man. Perhaps it's just a case of talent and aptitude.

Next day, apart from some work, I had a pleasant lunch with Sal at the Farm. In the evening, P. and I had a 'cheap and cheerful' at Southbank, then went to the State Theatre for Opera Australia's Partenope. Reports on it were mixed, but I found it absorbing. I might have cut many of the baroque repeats of Handel to reduce the three hours, twenty minutes running time. Emma Matthews gave a fine rendering as Partenope and the rest of the cast were good. As one might expect, the overall level of singing was not world-class but more than competent. The production was excellent, and I doubt that one would find better performances anywhere. It was a very enjoyable night with a difficult-to-stage opera.

Now, back to work on the never-ending government job.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Quiet week then weekend away

Most of the week was spent on the government job, with a few detours. One to a meeting at the Convent about their landscaping plans, a suprisingly civilised and cooperative meeting with wine and cheese. A landscape planner will produce some options for a future meeting.

On Thursday, I  popped in on convalescing Noel, who is proceeding reasonably. Sam S. also appeared while I was there, before heading overseas next week. In the evening, Frank, P. and I went to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Hamer Hall. In a varied program, they performed Berlioz' Beatrice and Benedict overture and orchestra member, Ji Won Kim was the soloist in Mozart's Violin concerto no. 5 in a very spirited performance. They finished with a hall-filling rendition of Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra. It was all conducted by Andrew Davis. (He is a 'Sir' but it seems like they give them away like lollies to any old conductor or rockstar.)

On Friday, we headed off in Errey the Yaris (after I had an inability to start the promised Mini; the electronics defeated me) to Hepburn Springs. We had a good lunch at the Mill Cafe in Ballan, a real surprise in a former wasteland. Then we booked into the very comfortable Bellinzona in Hepburn Springs and had a good three-course dinner there (there was a lot of eating in the weekend, especially as breakfast was included in the hotel deal).

Kooka on the roof at Bellinzona. Pic: P. (Left-click any pics for larger version)

Next day, we did a round trip via the Chocolate Mill where we indulged in delicious chili and chocolate drinks and bought up big on their homemade chokkies. It advertises as a chocoholics delight and it sure is. Then we popped by Lavendula farm for a wander through the lavender fields, via a memorial to the Loddon Aboriginal Reserve near Mt Franklin. I recall it was another of those reserves which was becoming successful agriculturally, so was 'resumed' by local farmers.

P. at Lavendula. Pic: B

We returned to the hotel for an indulgent swim, sauna and spa, then had a reasonable dinner (main course only as we were feeling rather full) at Cosy Corner Cafe after we had oysters and pork rillettes at a nearby bar/eatery (the oysters were on a special deal of $1 each).

On Sunday, the hotel was rather busy with leftovers from the wedding the previous evening. After breakfast, we went through Trentham and the falls (the only local watercourse with any water in it), through Kyneton to Malmsbury, where we had (guess what?) another good lunch at a converted Presbyterian church called Small Holdings which sounds like a vineyard, and indeed does sell wine. I had a fine egg and bacon pie, and P. had very substantial lamb chops. Then home to Melbourne and rack off pork for dinner (instead of rack off lamb). We're a bit bloated though we did do a bit of walking through the forest here and there.

The five-arched Viaduct from Malmsbury Botanic Gardens Pic: P.