Saturday, October 31, 2015

Good munga and wine and good theatre

On Thursday night, P., Frank and I went to Pope Joan in Nicholson Street where we were joined by Kit and Ben B. down from Sydney. Scion Wines and the inestimable Rolly had organised a splendid dinner in cahoots with Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan. After nibblies, we had rabbit schnitzels, then mushroom and clams (very spicy), then slow-cooked wallaby, followed by a very tasty dessert. A good time was had by all (cliche, cliche). Next night, P., Frank and I had a quick meal at Tiamo (quite tasty; they've lifted their game) then went to the Courthouse Theatre where we were joined by Kit and Ben again for Noel Tovey's farewell performance(s) of 'Little Black Bastard', his one-man show. I'll believe the farewell when I see it, but this version was especially poignant and harrowing. Now settling in for a quiet weekend to recover from my bad cold.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boys

Yesterday, I did some more work on the Chinese short stories (did I mention those?). Then P. and I had a nice lunch at the Farm Cafe with Kerry B. with lots of reminiscing about Parisian delights. In the evening, we headed off-piste to South Yarra where we had an okay Japanese-Korean dinner. We then headed for Chapel-off-Chapel where a trio of drags performed 'Bugle Boys' a salute to the Andrews Sisters. It was a good romp for a bit over an hour, sung not mimed. Michael Dalton, Jon Jackson and Andrew Dessmann might not have been too good-looking in drag but sang well to live piano and backing track, with an hilarious trumpet solo for the title song.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Day with The Greens

Yesterday, P. and I got up early to go to The Greens office in Brunswick Street to catch a bus for the day-trip organised from Adam Bandt's (our local member) office to Toolangi to view the part of the proposed Great Forest Park which the Labor Party promised then unpromised before the last election. It was a very well organised day with talks after we arrived at Toolangi from local activists and Green pollies. Then a very good lunch (with very politically correct labels, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and so on) followed and we rejoined the bus or climbed into pooled cars to voyage through the forest and stop at logged coupes (depressing), failed regeneration coupes (even more depressing) and very lush forest (inspiring). It was a very good day in spite of the leech which sucked me and a good opportunity to study Greens at close quarters. They must have noticed we were studying them as they exhibited signs of slight paranoia and also the first pollie I tackled bristled at any sign of being lobbied. I thought that's what they were for. Never mind. It was a splendid day and I will certainly lobby our non-Green local state member for establishment of the park.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fly Away Peter

Yesterday, P. and I and Delila did the shopping without Frank then had a good brunch at Backstreet Eating, though my first two choices were 'off' as the kitchen was still preparing them. Oh well! In the evening, we went with Frank for a quick meal at Yoyogi then went to the Fairfax studio to a very good rendition of 'Fly Away Peter' in the presence of the author of the novel, David Malouf. The show and the production were both breathtakingly good. It took a long time to come down afterwards, a good sign. Whoever was responsible for bringing this good work to Melbourne from its Sydney season deserves a medal. Thanks Melbourne Festival for redeeming Wednesday night at 'The Bacchae'.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dynamic Duo

Not Batman and Robin, but Merlyn Quaife and Sally-Anne Russell, accompanied by Andrea Katz as Songmakers Australia. This splendid concert was part of the Melbourne Recital Centre's Local Heroes series which is proving to be a do-not-miss. Hour-long (or thereabouts) concerts from some of our leading musos. The perfectly matched voices of these two (how I would love them to do some numbers from 'Cosi Fan Tutte') did a varied program from the jauntily hilarious to the absolutely deadly serious: some Britten songs based on Purcell and some of his own originals, some breathtaking Shostakovitch based on Jewish folk songs, then some Wolf and Brahms songs finishing with a rollicking Rossini. I'd like to say don't miss it, but like most of these shows it was a one-off. Blink and you miss it. Afterwards, we had a quick and good meal at Blondie, surrounded by artiness. At one next-door table, an Asian man was pitching to some arts movers-and-shakers, and at the other, the artists from the concert.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gullible reviews

Last night, P., Frank and I went to St Kilda where we had a good meal at Cicciolino's, always reliable. I had kingfish ceviche and the ravioli special followed by 'bombe' alaska with quince icecream. The other offerings looked just as good. We then went to Theatreworks to the much praised 'The Bacchae'. It has had at least three rave reviews including one from Peter Craven whose credibility is right down the toilet after reviewing the new Channel 9 panel show describing it as 'the voice of the people'. It is worth wondering how media tarts like Mark Latham and Anne Henderson can be described as 'voices of the people'. The play was packed so obviously it was the must-have Melbourne Festival ticket. To pinch Paul Keating's aphorism, it was 'all tip and no iceberg' or, my own variation, all image and no meaning. If reviewers had said that the show was a reworking of 'The Bacchae' by a young group which displayed a lot of theatricality, talent and flair, it would have been fair enough. It was not, however, a contribution to any kind of debate or change of perspectives on any serious issue.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

At home, mostly

The last few days have been at home except for a quick trip by P. and I into the city to sign more forms about share transfers at my sister's work. Otherwise, I have now sent the stories to the author for checking and done a few administrative chores.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Quiet weekend

Because P. had his U3A film session on Friday we went shopping on Saturday in Delila without Frank (who was on the wireless). After the shopping, we took our proofs of identity out to my sister, who needed them for a share transfer from my father's estate. They thoughtfully provided lunch at Dandenong before we trekked back to Abbotsford. We had a fish dinner: oysters to start, then salmon with tartare sauce. On Sunday, it was a quiet day again and in the evening we met up chez Frank where Dmetri K. joined us to go to the old favourite, Quan 88, where the food was excellent and cheap. As P. said, 'You couldn't cook it yourself for that price.' It was also good to chat with Dmetri. Now back to work.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lotsa Monteverdi

On Wednesday, I worked in the morning on the short stories, then joined P. for lunch at the NGV, St Kilda Road. Because it was pensioners' day, the tea rooms were full, so we lunched at the Persimmon Eatery which was quite good, if a bit slow. The staff had got dithering down to a fine art, walking across the large floor, then retreating to retrieve something they had forgotten. We then went with Frank to the Hermitage exhibition, which is about as close as we will ever get to Vlad the Impaler's Russia. It was a fine opportunity to see some works never before seen plus some amazing bling. We then went (via a quick gin and tonic at Traffic) to 45downstairs to see the first of two Canzone concerts based on the works of Monteverdi and artworks by Angela Cavalieri. The first concert was with musicologist and harpsichordist John O'Donnell and singers Jerzy Kozlowski, Dan Walker, Michelle Clark and Christopher Roache performing authentic Monteverdi works (minus a few viols). The next evening, we went for the contemporary concert, reflecting on the heritage of Monteverdi with modern rearrangements performed by Press, Play with soprano Tabatha MacFadyen, mezzo Alexandra Sherman, Sonya Lifschitz piano, Laila Engle flute and Callum Moncrieff percussion. Both concerts were magnificently performed. After the first, Frank came to our place for roast lamb, and after the second, P. and I went to Frank's.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

China and Spain

Last night, P. and I went to the University of Melbourne to hear Carmen Hsu from the U.S. talk on how Spain viewed China in the 16th century. It was a rather esoteric topic but fascinating. The Spanish writers whose information was second hand, never having visited China, nonetheless presented glowing accounts of Chinese education and ways of looking after the poor as a reflection and commentary on their own society, a kind of subdued and covert version of More's 'Utopia'. The 'real' China was, of course, rather different. We had a good, quick meal at Trotter's afterwards. Then at home watched the TV program on Denton, Corker, Marshall which was an interesting addition to Sunday's concert.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Musical feast

On Sunday, in the afternoon, P., Frank and I went to Canning Street Carlton for part of the Haydn Open House part of the Melbourne Festival. This is performances of Haydn Quartets in various plush houses. This one was the Schwarz residence (Anna and Morrie). Facing the street is their garage housing a large Range Rover and Jag to advertise something through the glass window. Inside the house is impressive, designed by Denton, Corker, Marshall, but hardly cosy and inviting. It was a good venue for this function, with nibblies and Pommery bubbly followed by short talks by Ms Schwarz and John Denton on the house and artworks. Then the London Haydn Quartet gave good performances of nos. 47 and 65 with helpful commentary. It was, as Frank said, a pleasant Sunday afternoon. In the evening, we had a good meal chez Noel T. A large irony was that the flash surrounds of the Haydn concert were not far from where Noel and his sister were taken into custody as abandoned children many years ago. On Monday night, P. and I went to the Recital Centre for part of their Local Heroes series, this time Continuo Collective joined by Tommie Andersson from Sydney. They performed trios and one duo on romantic guitars from the turn of the nineteenth century with works by Diabelli, Rung, Sor and L'Hoyer. The delicate sonority of these period (and reproduction) instruments was very impressive and a far cry from the shouting of a modern guitar. Home for potato and leek soup and some nice cheeses from Milk the Cow, a flash cheese shop, sorry fromagerie, and eatery in Carlton.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Run Rabbit

Yesterday, P., Frank and I had a quick meal at Yoyogi (getting very flash with a phoney sommelier). Then off to the Playhouse at the Arts Centre for a Melbourne Festival production of 'The Rabbits' based on a book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan. Music was by Kate Miller-Heidke with assistance from Iain Grandage for arrangements and additional music (she also played a major role, the Bird). Text was by Lally Katz and the adaptor and director was John Sheedy. It was an impressive hour-long work about the clash between the marsupials and the invading rabbits (get it?). A small band and an impressive cast performed well to a full house. I'm not sure who is responsible for the short season but it probably could have been doubled. The show demonstrated what can be done with imaginative treatment of Australian work which does not have to be off-putting and boring. More please, Opera Australia, and have more faith in it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Water Pushes Sands

Last night, I went to the Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio, for a stunning performance by a combo of the Australian Art Orchestra and players from Chengdu, China, in a half/half concert of Western and Chinese instruments in a kind of jazz/Chinese fusion. It was a thrilling short concert combining video, voice, movement but mainly playing. More, more, more.

Friday, October 09, 2015


On Tuesday, we picked up Delila and headed for Dunkeld, stopping for a quick lunch in Skipton. On the way, we, with a local farmer, rescued an echidna from the road. We were booked into a cottage at the Royal Mail Hotel. The cottages are a few kms away at the Mt Sturgeon property and have peculiar bathrooms which look like water tanks but in fact contain toilet, shower and basin. They face onto Mt Sturgeon and have surrounding bush with lots of birds. Dinner (for which they do a pickup and drop) was a five-course delight with matching wines. Broth, fish, duck and lamb followed by dessert, with amuse-bouches and palate cleansers. Very luxurious. We had a hamper breakfast then went for a short walk along the Mt Sturgeon track and saw lots of flowers. Thence to Budja Budja (Halls Gap) with lunch at Brambuk and a short walk along the Sundial Track for more flowers. Dinner at the dependable Indian Punjab restaurant and a good night at the comfy Halls Gap Motel. In the morning, we went to the Halls Gap Gardens for more flowers then to Stawell to visit Bron N., who is well and whose dog Mollie is very lively. Back to Melbourne after an excellent break. Today we regot Delila for shopping with Frank and lunched at our local, Dr Morse.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Carnival of the Animals

Today, P. and I met in town (he'd been shopping) to see 'Carnival of the Animals' at the Playhouse, performed by Circa from Queensland. It adapted the music and did circus-type performance to a cartoon background. It was a lively show, advertised for three- to ten-year-olds but we enjoyed it too. There were a lot of other lone oldies there so that we didn't look like suspect pedos. The weather is at last a bit warmer. Now for cooking the roast lamb for dinner. Frank is coming.

Not so busy as constant

On Thursday, P. and I picked up Delila and headed to West Heidelberg to see George P. George is fine and full of energy though he said he was having a bad day for various unspecified reasons though it was obvious he had a misbehaving leg. We went home, collecting pies in Westgarth on the way for lunch. In the evening, P. and I had a quick meal at Yoyogi then went to the Fairfax (again!) for 'Songs of the Fallen' written by Sheridan Harbridge and with her as the main performer, ably supported by Simon Corfield and Ashley Hawkes. Steve Toulmin provided electronic music backup. The whole show, which was about 19th century courtesan consumptive Marie Duplessis (the model for 'La Traviata'), didn't seem to know where it was going (all my stories have a moral, but what is it?) and the songs were a bit weak on melody (and content). It was well performed, energetic but, in the end, a bit pointless. On Friday, Frank joined us for normal shopping and a good but noisy lunch at Bluebird Cafe in Johnston Street. On Saturday, Joe and Ann came round in the morning for a cuppa and a cake and we caught up after a very long time. P. made a good curry for dinner.