Sunday, June 29, 2014

Convent Lunch

After doing the crossword (not too hard, except for 'divination by fingernails', very hard), P. and I joined Frank for a roast lunch, part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival winter roast series. It was put on by Bursaria, who run the catering at the convent. They had canapes and mulled cider on arrival, followed by roast pork with mainly root vegetables with a pear sauce, then a pear flan for dessert. It was a very good lunch. The pig was from our old friends from the convent market, Gipsy Pig and was very tasty indeed.


Yesterday, P., Frank and I went to the market at the Convent. I shopped for things we needed like some meat (yummy lamb chops to have with caponata), fish (flathead) and cavolo nero (for croquettes with prosciutto). Around lunchtime, I went to the East-West Tunnel demonstration outside the State Library where I ran into Louise L. and Lesley P. who will be more directly affected as the government has now decided to allow an open-cut part of the freeway through Royal Park (euphemistically called an 'aboveground tunnel'). In the evening, Frank came over for P.'s magnificent Malaysian snapper, spicy and tasty. Frank brought a magnificent bottle of red from his recent delivery from Scion winery in Rutherglen.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Melanie and Agnes

On Thursday night, P. and I had leftovers for dinner (corned beef and horseradish sauce), then headed to the Recital Centre for a concert by Melanie of Woodstock fame. The Recital Centre had hung red curtains in her honour but there was enough wood left for her to say it felt like singing in a tree. She performed with her handsome son, Beau, who was the archetypal American boy (in fact he is 34) with fresh face, a big false smile and mop of unruly hair. He was big and boofy and looked a lot like Li'l Abner. They also had what I suspect were three very good Australian session musicians. Melanie did her greatest hits and some new songs in a very good show. The old girl went for two and a half hours solid apart from one guitar solo by her classically-trained guitarist son. Some of the audience were semi-demented Melanie fans. On Friday, we did the shopping, P. and F. bought heaters in Clifton Hill and we had a good brunch at Rubber Duck with my father who joined us. In the evening, we did Agnes Varda no. 2, 'Les Creatures', a rather weird movie about a writer who fantasises about the lives of those around him. He also has a mute wife (a result of the trauma of a car accident), so Catherine Deneuve did a lot of emoting, but little speaking (a bit like Euridice in the Woodend Festival opera). On the way home, having failed to get into Movida Nextdoor (no great surprise on a Friday night), we ran into Lesley and Michael Podesta at the tramstop. Michael has just arrived from Tasmania for the holidays. We might catch up next week, but if not during our trip to Tasmania later in the year. Home then for hearty minestrone.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Flower Drum and The Club

Yesterday, I had a strange visit to The Club (which is what Noel T. and I call the Royal Melbourne Hospital). It was an amazingly efficient visit. When I arrived (a bit early) for my appointment (which was really about the loss of hearing in my left ear), I was whisked off by the audiologist for a hearing test, which proved what I already knew: my left ear has severe hearing loss. Then the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor examined me (with the audiologist's report) and said he could see no damage to my left ear, but perhaps my ear infection (post-China) might have thickened the eardrum. As there was nothing visibly wrong, the only thing to do was wait six months, do another test and see whether it improved. End result, no result. By way of compensation, Frank, P. and I went to the Flower Drum restaurant in the evening for another winter roast 'special' as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine roast festival. This was a magnificent meal with the best roast duck we have ever had. There were also pork dishes (two) and a delicious Singapore fried noodles accompaniment, followed by dessert. The point of all this was to prove what I said in Beijing, that the Flower Drum outclassed the Peking Duck we had in Beijing. It did.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Baroque bouquet

Last night, P. and I went to the Recital Centre for a one-hour concert by Latitude 37 accompanied by mezzo-soprano, Fiona Campbell. Latitude 37 plays on harpsichord and organ, viola da gamba and violone and baroque violin. They performed 17th century Italian works, some instrumental, some with vocals. The whole concert was a delight with very clear singing from Campbell and virtuoso playing by the trio. Home for merguez frites. Also yesterday, I began rereading the revised biography after a couple of days on the autobiography and also booked travel, accommodation and oration for our visit to Canberra next month, partly to see various museums and galleries and hear Sara Dowse deliver the Emily's List Oration for 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Varda number one

After a quiet Saturday, P. and I went to the first of the Agnes Varda films at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. It was 'Le Bonheur' (Happiness) about a happy husband with two lovely children who acquires a mistress at the post office. The film is, I think, really about male self-centredness (the 'hero' is happy so everyone else should be). Unfortunately, the wife suicides when she finds out about the girlfriend. All this to rather beautiful music by Mozart, mainly the Clarinet concerto. Beforehand we had a very good meal at Chocolate Buddha, though we were lucky to get in as the City Square was jampacked with Winter Light participants.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Friday as usual

Yesterday, we picked up Howell the Yaris and did the Mall shopping then had brunch at Madame Sousou's with the new menu. It was good value as usual. In the evening, we went to Frank's for casserole with dumplings and yummy dessert. Now for a quiet weekend, with any luck.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Off to the Midlands

On Tuesday, I picked up Harley the Corolla and Frank, then went home to pick up P. and we headed off in to Ballarat. We stopped at the Art Gallery to see its VAST exhibition on the Scottish in Australia, though there was a lot of same-same: large portraits of worthy Scotsmen (and a few women). However, there was also a lot of fascinating material, including about Scottish contact with Aboriginal people, most of it very unflattering to the Scots who often had a penchant for slaughter. Then on to Clunes, where we stopped at David G.'s new house, which none of us had seen. P. and I booked into the Poplars, by coincidence run by Maureen who had been a life-model for David back in his art student days. We had a very delicious meal that night chez David and a good night at the Poplars. Next day, we went to Avoca and the wineries in the vicinity, Mt Avoca and Blue Pyrenees, followed by an excellent pie lunch in Avoca (real kidney in steak and kidney). Then on to Taltarni and Dalwhinnie. Frank and P. stocked up on reds, while I, as designated driver, viewed the scenery. (I find winetasting a bit boring anyway.)That night we stayed in a cabin at Warrenmang which also provided an excellent dinner and breakfast, then home to Melbourne via the Maryborough station (deserted) and Castlemaine for variation. In the evening, I went to a Penguini dinner which was enjoyable despite a few absences due to illness and travel.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gay History Walk

This morning, Frank, P. and I went to the Farmers' Market. Because we did our shopping yesterday, we only bought a few treats like proper milk, rhubarb and pastrami (for lunch). Then we bused into town for a Gay History Walk in association with the NGV. The inestimable Graham Willett was the guide, starting at the floral clock opposite the NGV, St Kilda Road, which was on the old 'chicken run' in St Kilda Road. My favourite story was about 'Zasu Pitts' assisting a suicide on Queen's Bridge, maybe. Other less pleasant stories (Zasu was acquitted) included cases of up to ten years hard labour, plus three floggings, for homosexual acts, a sentence handed down by Redmond Barry. We then proceeded up Swanston Street to various famous and infamous sites, including the cathedral chapter house which hosted the first Melbourne meeting of CAMP. Other highlights included the Matthew Flinders statue outside the cathedral (were he and Bass an item?) and Val's coffee shop opposite the town hall. The original Society Five offices and the offices of Gay Community News followed. We concluded at the State Library and brunched very well at Mr Tulk's. Now for some down time at home.

Bach's Mass in B Minor

After a meal at the ever-reliable Yoyogi, P. and I went to St Paul's Cathedral (masquerading as a public toilet with no toilets) to see Bach's Mass in B Minor performed by Gloriana Chamber Choir and Orchestra. It was a splendid performance though the size of the cathedral proved a little daunting for all concerned. There was a good roll-up, so I hope that this twentieth anniversary performance made lots of dough. The natural horn performance by Mark Papworth was a triumph. I was surprised to be told (in the program) that the nearest toilets were in Fed. Square. Obviously, there is little provision in the cathedral for incontinent Anglicans of which there must be many.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Part three Lennane Trilogy

Last night, P. and I finally made it through the queues at Mamasita in upper Collins St. Verdict: the food is excellent, the service is excellent, but because it is full and wooden, the noise is appalling, the lighting requires boosting so that you can read the menu and there are too many cornchips for anyone. Perhaps young persons like the low lighting and noise, and there were few patrons of a certain age (like ours). It's a pity, because the food is well worth it but the disadvantages, as well as the queuing make it rather a trial. The third Lennane play, 'The Lonesome West', was more farcical than the others but still had murders and suicides to keep it morbid. The best play and performances was definitely the first one, but the other two had their very good virtues. The trilogy was absorbing, well-performed and directed and a bargain at $84 for three per person. Today, we did the shopping and had the usual excellent brunch at Backstreet Eating.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Home work

The last few days have been spent on the big novel, which should be finished and off to the publisher today, tomorrow or Monday. We have also been eating at home with wintry meals like rack-off lamb and spicy pork sausages. We also have gallons of homemade minestrone for lunch. However, our sojourn by the gas heater ends tonight when we're off to the third play in the Lennane Irish trilogy. I'm looking forward to it after a day peering on the lookout for typos or inconsistencies in the novel.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Woodend Winter Festival for Betty's birthday

Yesterday, P., Frank and I picked up Howell the Yaris and headed for Woodend. We had a good brunch in the main drag at the Deli. Then it was off to the St Ambrose precinct. First, the church, a classic country Catholic church with awful stations of the cross, plaster statues and rather gauche stained glass. It needs a makeover. The concert by the Koehne Quartet of Vienna was excellent: works by Schubert (Rosamunde) and Brahms (no. 2). The daughter of an author I'm working with is in the Quartet but we missed each other as we had to rush off to the church hall to see Jacopo Neri's 'Euridice'. It is supposed to be the first opera still extant and also the founding work of recitative. A very good small band, led by John O'Donnell on THREE keyboards with two baroque violins, two baroque harps and viola da gamba. A uniformly good cast sang very well, though poor Euridice had not a lot to sing in spite of having the work named after her. She emoted a lot though. The production on stage by Rodney Hall made a good fist of what is a fairly static work. In the bravura finale, O'Donnell played two keyboards at once! A quick one-hour drive had us back in Melbourne for dinner.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Good munga

Last night, after a quiet Saturday, during which I checked through the stylesheet for the big novel, a tedious but necessary job, P., Frank and I went to Noel's for an excellent dinner. He had made a paella (sans oysters in deference to Frank) followed by soused apricots. Delicious. Today, we're off to the Sunday roast lunch at The Commoner. A big much munga methinks, but this one is duck breast with confit leg and beetroot and quince, so not to be missed. As indeed it was. I started with three yummy little oysters, then there was the duck with root vegetables with a side of duckfat-cooked potatoes. My burnt orange dessert was splendid and good after the roast duck. It was our first Sunday roast at The Commoner. We'll be back.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Double Orchestra

Yesterday was shopping day, and, as we were nearby, I dropped in the hardcopy novel to the author, then we did the Mall shopping and followed with brunch at the recently reopened Madame Sousou's; it has a new menu, slightly simpler, but still good. In the evening, after the usual good munga at Wasabi, we all went to the Australian National Academy of Music which was joined by the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra for a double orchestra concert. Ably conducted by Michael Dahlenburg, they presented two premieres of works by Gordon Kerry and Peter de Jager, as well as splendid older works by Swiss Frank Martin and Michael Tippett. Sadly, the concert was well attended but not chock-a-block as it deserved to be. Martin's piece, with a violin solo, well played by Doretta Balkizas, is about Christ's Passion, about which he (Frank Martin) said, 'perhaps for some people this music may be able to help them to recreate for themselves these images of the Passion: for others they will be pieces for solo violin and two string orchestras.' That was us.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Part two

After a quiet weekend, in which the only activity was a splendid meal with Frank at his place to view his renovated back wall, P. and I went last night to the second play in the Leeane Trilogy, 'A Skull in Connemarra'. It was a grisly, gothic piece about digging up bones to make space in the cemetery, but very funny nonetheless. Not as tightly acted as the first play but a wonderful piece as written. The season is apparently booking out, so good on them. Before going out, we had instalment two of P.'s very good paella. We have had an exceptionally good at-home food week: the paella, a wonderful sage and lamb pasta by P. (shared with Frank) and my long-awaited steak-and-kidney pudding. Yum! As well, I did my annual visit to Ear, Nose and Throat at the Melbourne. All was well with my nose, but I threw my ear problem at them. In a less-than-lightning-speed response, I'm to have a scan of my ear area and a full audiology test and back in four weeks. I hope my ear problem doesn't worsen by then. I think they hope it will recover. Meanwhile, the large novel is nearing completion. The author has to check it, corrections made, then off to the publisher. It is a wonderful novel; I hope it does very well.