Sunday, August 24, 2014


Tonight (Saturday), P., Frank and I went to 'Norma' by Bellini after a quick meal at Yoyogi. It was a concert performance at the Recital Centre, but didn't lose much by having no sets and costumes, but gained a lot in sound quality by being at the Recital Centre in a better acoustic and smaller hall. The orchestra (Victoria) and the chorus were excellent as were the principals. Conducted by Richard Mills, the whole thing was splendid even if Mills got a bit overheated.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Chinese and Roman Empires

Last night, P. and I went to the University of Melbourne for a lecture, part of the Arts Dean's series, called 'The Long Reach of the Ancient Past: China, Rome and Modernity' by Professor Walter Scheidel of Stanford University. It was a wide-ranging talk, to say the least, but the gist of it was how China had sustained a large and coherent empire into the twentieth century and the old Roman Empire had broken into bits, fuelling the 'advances' of the industrial revolution. Perhaps. But it was all food for thought about how these governing mechanisms work. As well as food for thought, Dream Large had a reception first, possibly funded by the conference for which the lecture was the keynote. Good plonk and canapes (and the lecture) were all free. We went home for some Vera Bolognese in our attempt to clear the fridge.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Getting busy just as we go away

Yesterday, I picked up the final (I hope) amendments to the government job. However, I won't be able to check and make them until we return from Tasmania. In the meantime, I've done some work on the comments on the new novel. Last night, Frank came for dinner for P.'s excellent slow-cooked pork belly.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Intimacy with Michelle Ryan

Last night, P. and I went to 'Intimacy' in the Tower at the Malthouse Theatre. It centres around Michelle Ryan, a prominent dancer who was diagnosed with MS at thirty. It is a very brave and moving theatre piece which illuminates in very dramatic ways the dilemmas which face her. With music by Emma Bathgate and Simon Eszeky (Lavender Vs Rose)and devised by Michelle and Torque Show with them, it uses audience participation in things like helping Michelle to do a costume change. It only has three nights to go in Melbourne and shouldn't be missed. Apparently, they are taking the show to England as part of an international tour. Bravo!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A very social day

Yesterday, P. and I picked up Harley then went to pick up P.'s large etching of the Utrecht Dom, now restored to something like its former glory. It's now back above the fireplace, a fitting tribute to the Ronge family. We then went to Heidelberg to see George P., who was in good spirits. We had a few good laughs. P. and I then lunched at Backstreet Eating, very tasty as usual. In the evening, we joined Frank to go to Noel T.'s for his usual fine dinner, this time a tasty meatloaf with chocolate mousse to follow. Noel is going as well as can be expected with his new leg, but not going out much. Today, I did some work cutting the biography which is being sent off to various publishers and tomorrow have a meeting on the government job and with any luck will have some time to work on the new novel, to make some suggestions to the author which I hope to finish before we head to Tasmania.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Australian String Quartet

Last night, after a quick meal at Yoyogi, P. and I went to the ASQ at the Recital Centre. Their program described it as 'a good old-fashioned string quartet program'. It was including Haydn's String Quartet in G major op. 77, no 1, Beethoven's String Quartet op. 95 Serioso, and Bartok's fiendishly difficult String Quartet no 5. It was a very impressive performance seen from quite close quarters though it wasn't packed out as it should have been.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ol' Man River

Yesterday, after doing the Sunday crossword, P. and I went to the Production Company's version of 'Showboat'. Rather cleverly, they used a scaled-down version of the show from Godspeed Theatre in the US combined with a reworking of the original score by musical director Kellie Dickerson. A virtue of these Production Company shows is their use of Orchestra Victoria to provide a lusher than usual musical sound. Less desirable is their overuse of miked performers who sometimes are unintelligible because of the high volume. However, the production as a whole was a triumph with universally good performances from principals and chorus, playing various smaller parts. The small chorus of 'coloured folks' was a very racially mixed bag indeed and certainly justified the opening line: 'Coloured folks work on the Mississippi.' It also managed to walk a very fine line between keeping the racial themes of the original and keeping up with modern mores. Well done. We went home for some very nice soto ayam, even if I say so myself.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Walking into the Bigness

Yesterday, P., Frank and I did normal mall shopping in Harley the Corolla (good to see him again after being unfaithful with Marion the Librarian). In the evening, P. and I went to the Malthouse for Richard Frankland's 'Walking into the Bigness', an autobiographical play which was superbly performed and very moving. It must have been emotionally draining (to say the least) going through the deaths in custody interviews and encounters. The staging and set were very impressive indeed. Today, I've just completed the arduous task of the annual tax return. I was going to begin learning how to work in Excel but the tax return rigour was too draining. I'll just take a rest now.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The pictures and Oriel Gray

Yesterday, P. and I went into town to do a bit of business (at banks and my super fund), then went to the Potter NGV gallery to two very good exhibitions: David McDiarmid and Sue Ford, the photographer. Both exhibitions were of interest as much for their historical content as their art, though that was good too: Ford for her participation in early feminist collectives and the Barunga promises which never materialised, and McDiarmid for his immersion in the early days of the AIDS disaster. His was a very moving exhibition but was also in some ways triumphal. In fact, both were triumphal in their own ways. In the evening, after an excellent and tasty meal at Wagamama, we went to 45Downstairs to see 'Oriel', a reading of a play by Merrilee Moss. It was a very well performed, and moved, reading of the play about the life of leftwing dramatist, Oriel Gray (who also wrote for 'Bellbird').

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Collingwood Historical Society AGM

After a good meal at the Leinster Arms in Gold Street, P., Frank and I attended the Historical Society AGM, delivered with despatch in about a quarter of an hour. It was followed by President Karen Cummings giving a talk about six of the people on the Outstanding Notables list being compiled by the Society, a project in progress. They included an early trade unionist who was a founder of the Seamstresses' Union, Helen Robertson, an artist, May Vale, and Max Kreitmayer who, among other things, owned a waxworks and 'freak' show in the city. I also caught up with Bob Condon who was my boss in 1971 (!) at Melbourne University.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lots of visitors

Yesterday, I got nearly halfway through the new novel which I'm reviewing. No comment yet until I finish it. There was some movement on the government job, now over a year and a half old. It might be finalised next week, though will have to wait until our Tasmanian trip finishes. My father brought my July accounts around (thank you) and stayed for a quick lunch (shepherds' pies from the Convent). In the evening, Frank and Barry D. came for dinner: I cooked roast turkey with trimmings, then P. cooked a yummy lemon delicious which was consumed with gusto. Plenty of turkey was left over for lunch.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Looking at houses

After a welcome Saturday at home (except for a short excursion to the Farmers' Market round the corner), on Sunday P. and I picked up Marion the Yaris and went on a tour organised by the Boyd Foundation of houses nominated for Victorian architecture prizes. We visited six of them, all inner city. The house in Fairfield was built along the lines of a modern version of a typical suburban house (front yard, back yard). It was a no-expense spared house going on the fittings, but very comfortable. The next few had various faults. The Alfred Crescent conversion of a two-storey terrace had up-and-down spiral staircases which would be very hard to negotiate after a few wines, and the children's rooms were upstairs. It had nice views across the park though from the front rooms. The Rathdowne Street house had the living area and kitchen upstairs which seemed impractical. The North Melbourne house was on four (!) levels with only a room or two on each. Ditto impractical. The Commons units in Brunswick were in many ways good, but were right next to Anstey station, and the units in Hanover street were fine but very squeezy, especially for more than two people. We missed the one in St Kilda, which according to Sal and Roger was the best. Oh well, you can't do everything. We also didn't have time to do the three Peninsula ones. In the evening, P. and I went with Lesley P. and Louise L. to dinner at Shu. It has rather eccentric decor which is quite appealing and very good food including fish spring rolls and dumplings. We'll be back.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Simone Young and shopping

This morning, P., Frank and I picked up Marion the Librarian, oops Yaris and did the normal shopping, then went off to Montmorency to drop in my accounts at my father's place, thence to the nursery in Heidelberg to get plants for both houses. In the evening, P. and I went to the ANAM Simone Young concert at the Recital Centre (a meal at the ever reliable Yoyogi first). The redoubtable Ms Young had been rehearsing the ANAM students for a week and welded them into a wonderful ensemble. They performed works by Messiaen (L'Ascension), Brett Dean (Viola Concerto) with him as soloist, then Brahms' Symphony no. 4. The whole concert was in honour of Peter Sculthorpe, whose demise Simone Young tearfully announced at the beginning. The Messiaen was a fitting tribute. The concert was a triumph. So two nights in a row the Recital Centre scored very well indeed.

VO and Bach

Yesterday, I did a bit of work on cutting sample chapters of the biography (quite a task as the author had only cut 1,000 words out of 33,000). In the evening, P., Frank and I went to the launch of the Victorian Opera 2015 season which looks good although there are only really three fully staged productions as far as I can see. One of them though is a spectacular 'Flying Dutchman' with 3-D projected sets. We'll see, I hope. Then P. and I had a quick meal at Blondie which was fine except for a pathetic attempt at Ham Hock Broth which looked as though the leftovers in the fridge had been thrown together, not very well cooked. At least they didn't charge for it after my complaint. Then into the Murdoch (Elisabeth) Hall for a fine performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor. The hall is merciless in its acoustic, but this was no problem for the soloists all of whom were good, but Christopher Lowrey (counter-tenor) was brilliant. The others Nicholas Mulroy (tenor), Siobhan Stagg (soprano) and Derek Walton (bass) were excellent. The smallish orchestra was also fine as was the MSO choir but their large forces were a bit exposed by the acoustic and the occasional (not too much) raggedness became obvious. However, they made up for that in power. It was good to see the work twice in a short space of time with two such different settings and forces.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Perfect and another Irish play

Yesterday, I went off to Eugenia, my nephrologist. She said my blood test from last week was 'perfect'. Thanks to her and to P. for his kidney. In the evening, P. and I went to the city and had a good meal in the bar at Pei (under the Sofitel in Collins Place). Then off to the magnificent 45 Downstairs for another Irish play, this time 'The Seafarer' by Conor McPherson. The play, about an encounter with the devil by a group of eccentric card players was gripping and very well performed. The Age review carped about the Irish accents, but I didn't have a problem with the wonderful performances. We also got a free drink courtesy of the management for our frequent attendance.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

National Capital

On Friday, P. and I were late going to Canberra as Virgin cancelled our morning flight and tried to put us on a late afternoon flight which might have made us late for our reason for going. They relented and we went early in the afternoon. Not a good start and a black mark for Virgin. We did get there in time for Sara Dowse's splendid Emily's List Oration. One of her main points, that the more Emily's List candidates elected for Labor, the better parliament will be, is obviously true. Also, she asked for a reduction in the role of unions in the ALP, in spite of being a lifelong supporter of unions, and for the party to stop treating the Greens as the enemy. For the next three days, we had plenty of time to explore the major institutions (some of them): the National Gallery of Australia, the Portrait Gallery and the War Memorial, not seen for many years. It was a smorgasbord of history and culture. The Gallery was especially fine for its new Indigenous Australian galleries and special exhibitions on the art of Bali and the Gods of Polynesia. The extensive captions at the Portrait Gallery were a test on our eyes and feet but very informative. The War Memorial was a slightly fractured history but fascinating. Who would have believed that we really lost the Vietnam War because of a change in public opinion? We also had lunch with Frieda and Bryony Cosgrove and dinner with Lilitu Babalon whom we hadn't seen for many years. The lunches at the gallery and portrait gallery were cheap and excellent. The War Memorial lunch disappointed badly. Their World War I refurbishment is running behind time. Perhaps Dr Nelson is asleep at the helm. Our hotel, Mercure Canberra (ex-Olim's and Ainslie Hotel) was comfortable except for the morning when the hot water did not work and the brekkie at the trendy Hotel Hotel was a taste of Melbourne in Canberra. Our return by Qantas went smoothly except for the snack which was like budgie food. The cabin attendant said, 'I understand. But we think it's good for you.' I didn't.