Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Three meals and 'early' music

On Sunday night, P. and I went to Noel's for a chili pork casserole and icecream and fruit dessert. It's still a bit of a battle for Noel, getting used to his new leg and rehab adjusting it to fit properly as he heals and the shape changes. On Monday night, Barry D. dropped in for dinner (beef burgundy) and to discuss a meeting we have together this week (highly classified information but the Napthalene government should be trembling). Then last night, P. and I went to the Tallis Scholars at the Recital Centre. Although they mainly performed hoary old chestnuts like Allegri's 'Miserere' (good chestnuts), they sang beautifully. A grouchy man behind us said they were 'too pure' for him. It occurred to me during the concert to wonder why it is called 'early' music. Surely early music is where Neanderthals sat round the campfire singing or beating their thighs or whatever they did. The concert was excellent, the crowd (suspiciously Anglophile) went wild. If they'd done a quick chorus of 'Rule Britannia', the audience might have roared. We preceded the concert with a good meal at Blondie next door. They've extended the inside menu outside which creates big logistic problems which the staff are coping with valiantly, especially as last night it was very busy, more with MTC patrons than Recital Centre people. Now, back at the ranch, I'm ploughing through a lot of work: the Chinese translation and the autobiography in tandem.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

So what's new? A meal and two plays

On Friday, P. and I had dinner at The Commoner with Lesley P. and Louise L. It was great to catch up after such a long time and also hear the news of Michael in Hobart. The meal, like last Friday's, was excellent, though I think we'll avoid Fridays in future as it gets a bit noisy later in the evening as people get more pissed. After shopping and a good brunch at Madame Sousou's, we went to 'The Shadow King' at the Malthouse. It's an Aboriginal reworking of King Lear, still about two warring families but this time they are fighting over mineral royalties. Gloucester is an old lady, guarding the ancient ways. The trimmed down version, in various languages, but mostly Aboriginal English, works very well dramatically, is well staged and acted. Tom E. Lewis is co-writer/adaptor with director Kantor. Today, we went to the NGV for ever-so-tasteful lunch at the Tea Rooms (those crustless sandwiches get me every time), then to the Art Deco fashions and photos, then to something completely different, the Belarus Free Theatre doing 'Minsk 2011', an agitprop piece against the dictatorship which has imprisoned or harassed all of the cast. It was powerfully and wittily done, very moving. The two shows showed what theatre can do when it is engaged.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Retirement function

After a fairly heavy working week (the autobiography and the translation from the Chinese), I went last night to Bob Sessions' retirement drinks at Old Customs House (the Immigration Museum). In the capacious upstairs foyer, there was a large crowd for drinks, nibblies and an excellent speech by Julie Watts, well-researched, witty and kind. I caught up with lots of old friends, some of the old Penguinis and a few I really didn't want to see. There were some people there I hadn't seen for twenty years, so it was good to catch up with them. Now back to work, and off to Beijing (metaphorically).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Australian premiere

After the crossword and good brunch (eggs, polenta, sage, capers etc.), P. and I went to the Grainger Museum (Uni. of Melbourne) to a concert put on by the Robson Quintet. It was the first performance of Robson's arrangements for quintet (sax, pocket/trumpet and trombone, keyboards, drums and bass) of some folk songs collected by Grainger. It was absorbing and very atmospheric (Alister Spence on keyboards used Grainger's own harmonium for some of the pieces). The jazzy arrangements were hugely effective at containing the tone of the originals.

Melbourne Ska

Last night, the Melbourne Festival, in another piece of inspired programming, put on A Celebration of Melbourne Ska at the Festival Hub, a somewhat ramshackle collection of prefabs by the privileged boatsheds just over Princes Bridge. We had a meal from one of the pop-up eateries, a quite good curry from White Boys Do [sort of] Thai, although one of the very hard workers was definitely not a 'white boy'. Unfortunately, on Saturday night the venue was crowded so eating was not easy or comfortable. The actual concert was great: The Ska Vendors, the thirty-plus year-old Strange Tenants and two original members of The Caribs, who settled in Jamaica from Melbourne fifty years ago, appeared with a scratch band. The Strange Tenants have been going so long that two of the players' sons have been enlisted on drums and guitar. I loved their 'Clouds Over Collingwood'. It was a great night and congrats to P. for spotting it.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Three good meals

In the last three days, we've had three good meals. First was dinner on Thursday night chez Noel T., roast lamb followed by fruit soaked in liqueur with sour cream. On Friday night, P.'s old friend Jan was visiting from Brizzie for a conference, so we had a superb meal at The Commoner. We started by sharing a dozen oysters, then had lots of little plates including a special prawns with burnt butter and finished with three superb desserts. After the shopping this morning (and getting pills from the Health Centre and paper from Officeworks), we revisited Backstreet Eating, which is just near where Melbourne Harley is parked. I had the special omelette (caramelised onion, potato and goat's cheese); P. had the bangers and mash.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Just when you thought it was safe...

On arriving back from NZ, I thought I had a clean slate. Now the tidying of books and papers has had to take a back seat as, within a day, three jobs have landed on my desk (or more accurately my computer). There is an autobiography, a popular history and a translation from the Chinese. Oh well, life is not dull. I've started on the two which are the more challenging. The third will not be ready to go for a while. I hope at least a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Boy Castaways

Last night, P. and I went to the Melbourne premiere of the film 'Boy Castaways', directed by Michael Kantor, the very experienced stage director. In a piece of good programming by the Melbourne Festival, the film was paired with a concert downstairs in the Forum by three of the cast from the film, Tim Rogers, Megan Washington and Paul Capsis, singing mainly songs from the film. The film was compelling but opaque, though every arts maeven in Melbourne seemed to be there and loving it. I had anticipated a bit of a hole-in-the-corner show and instead copped a major event. The concert 'Songs of Wrack and Ruin' was excellent. Afterwards, rather hungry after a program lasting from 7 to 10.30pm, we had a good, tasty supper at Movida Nextdoor, which was indeed next door.

Monday, October 14, 2013

NZ - Waitomo, Hamilton

Another fine drive from Rotorua to Waitomo took us to our chalet accommodation at Kiwi Paka with a great view across the valley. We went to the Ruakari Cave with a very long spiral walkway down to the cave getting up close and personal with some glowworms (really maggots, but that's not so glamorous). More fush and chups for dinner, and next morning we did the Glowworm Caves with a partial boat trip curtailed by flooding. Also, because of flooding, we could not do the adventure caving with abseiling, tyre floating in the dark etc. What a shame! Moving right along, we went to Otoruhanga (?) which has a splendid bird park with kiwis, keas and kaka among a lot of other birds. A keeper fed the keas and kaka with lots of food, and us with lots of information. We went on to Hamilton for a good brunch (thanks again Lonely Planet) and a visit to the Waikato Museum for more Maori and Pakeha history and some local art of both sorts. On to the airport and an excellent flight, this time with Emirates in a huge plane with good food and service which trumped Qantas several times over. Home again, and back to work.

NZ- Rotorua

By now I was realising that ALL drives in NZ are very attractive. From Napier to Rotorua was too and before reaching Rotorua, we stopped at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, a very impressive walk through bushland and bubbling, steaming thermal activity which reached a beautiful small lake. When then went to our hotel and in the evening had a very enjoyable Mitau Cultural Experience at a nearby Maori Village. They did a Maori performance of dancing and information with warriors in a waka, followed by a Hangi dinner (perhaps not too authentic) then a walk through the forest with glowworms and into a bird park for glimpses at keas and kiwi in the gloom. Next day, Friday, we did the Waimangu Experience, another thermal area, which included a boat trip around another small lake, with lots of steaming and black swans. The guide was knowledgeable and pleasant. We were his only two customers on a slightly showery day. They provided a light lunch on the launch. We dined that night, not too badly, at the Sudima Hotel by the lake after a very satisfying and soothing bathe in the pools at the Polynesian Spa with people of many nations and many colours (shades of Bette Midler).

NZ - Napier

The drive from Wellington to Napier is quite long but very attractive. We stopped at a tiny hamlet for lunch which had excellent toasted sangos. Our motel in Napier was a bit out of town so we had to try the local fush and chups for an inhouse dinner. They were good. Next morning, we did the Art Deco walking tour, run by the Art Deco society and recommended by the astute Sister Hope. It was indeed good and the guide was a real enthusiast without being a bore. We then watched a film about the Napier earthquake of 1933 (?). In the afternoon, in spite of occasional rain, we took a loop drive north of Napier over some gravel roads to three conservation reserves. In the last, which is an inland island devoted to keeping down the exotic pests, we were lucky enough to see a pair of kaka in the wild. We also visited a kiwi creche piece of land, but it was pissing down so we didn't venture far. I doubt the kiwis would have come out to see us. Just to be different, we took the advice of the Lonely Planet guide and had a rijstaffel dinner at an Indonesian restaurant run by a gay Dutchman (of course). It was delicious. Unsurprisingly, he had hired a couple of very handsome waiters.

NZ - Wellington

Last Sunday, P. and I left for the airport very early to get our supposedly Emirates flight to Wellington. It turned out to be a codeshare with Qantas who provided very lacklustre food and service along the way. We picked up NZ Harley the Corolla at the airport and headed for town. Our hotel, the West Plaza, was not flash but was comfortable and couldn't have been better located, around the corner from Cuba Street, the best eating strip and just down from Te Papa Museum which was why we'd come to Wellington. Next day, we saw the museum which is very fine both on natural, Maori and Pakeha history. It gave a good grounding for the rest of the trip. We also had two good dinners: one, for me, was a splendid seafood chowder and the second was in a Veneto-themed eatery where I, finally, had a fritto misto which was nearly as good as the one I had in Venice around forty years ago. Most eateries just do crumbed seafood instead of the real thing and call it fritto misto. In the afternoon, we caught the somewhat overrated cable car to the Botanic Gardens up the hill and had a pleasant stroll back down to town through an old cemetery.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Pudding fun

Yesterday, P. and I had a very nice lunch with Lorraine E. at The Commoner. I had croquettes, the special smoked eel crostini, then chicken baked potatoes and smoked salmon with trimmings. We all had some of their homemade lemonade with gin and soda. Thanks, Jo. In the early evening, P. and I and Ben O. (in place of Frank who is in Frankfurt) went to 'The Magic Pudding' opera put on by Victorian Opera. By Calvin Bowman and Anna Goldsworthy, it is a very jolly little piece, well produced and about to embark on a no-doubt successful country tour. It is a piece which is bound to endure, though with a largish band and cast of 10 it is expensive to produce for a kiddies opera tour.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Footballer coming out play

Last night, P. and I met after (his) work to see 'The Sheds', a Fringe Festival play at a bar and cinema, Longplay in St Georges Rd, North Fitzroy. Fortuitously, we met on the tram on the way there so weren't hovering on the corner of Holden Street waiting for the other. We had a quick, very tasty and reasonable meal at Malaymas next door to the bar, but we could have eaten at the bar itself which has a range of meals. P. had the seafood laksa and I had the roti and beef rendang. Both were good and the business was justifiably very busy. The bar, Longplay, is incredibly economical with space. There are two small bar areas, a kitchen, toilets and a small cinema in one shopfront. The play was a three-hander about an AFL footballer who comes out with dire consequences. There are a few shower scenes to add to the dramatic interest. Though it is quite a short play, it is powerful and though the show is supposed to be Fringe, there isn't a pomo moment in it. It could well be developed into a longer piece for mainstream theatre. Written and directed by James Cunningham, it has a strong cast.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Very social

On Monday night, P. and I went to Noel T.'s place for dinner, the first since he got out of rehab. In an amazing feat he produced a curry with rice and dessert, all delicious of course. It is still understandably difficult adjusting to his new leg but he is determined to put on his play in February in Melbourne and later in the year in Amsterdam. Triple bravo. On Tuesday night, Carmel B. came to stay overnight to be in Melbourne for an audition. It was very good to catch up with her face-to-face. Then on Wednesday was a farewell to Frank (off to Germany and the UK) at The Commoner. The standard there is very high. We shared three entree plates, had a main course each (mine was a succulent pork belly with black pudding), then three desserts, mine a mandarin concoction with milk sorbet. Up to its brilliant standard, we are going to the Commoner a few times in the next month.