Thursday, June 19, 2014

Munson’s Big Adventure

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This is the story appearing in that’s life! (Australia) today, on pp58-59. I’ll update the image here with a higher resolution (ie legible) version when this issue is replaced next Thursday. [Done!]

The photos used in the story (clockwise from top left) are taken from the following posts :

  1. Ferry to Isle of Wight: March 2013
  2. Munson’s Cafe (unposted pic): March 2013
  3. Monastre de Grande Chartreuse: December 2010
  4. Mirador del Estrecho: September 2012
  5. Enmore Park: December 2013
  6. Rock of Gibraltar: September 2012
  7. Amsterdam: June 2012
  8. North Wales: October 2010
  9. Cologne Cathedral: July 2011
  10. French farm: December 2010

Monday, June 16, 2014

Now We Are Nine

Munson, Mike and Bondi - Sydney Park 2009At the end of May, El Loco & El Lobo slipped quietly into its tenth year with 1725 posts, and close to 12,000 photos. In 2010 a Facebook page was established to complement this site, primarily to make sharing of links and photos easier for readers.

This week we’ll be appearing as a feature story in (this year’s) issue 25 of the Australian weekly magazine that’s life! to be published this Thursday June 19.

To those new readers, welcome, and to those loyal fans of Bondi and Munson who have followed us over the last nine years, thank you. A malamute-sized hug goes out to those that supported us through Munson’s cancer surgery last year; there’s a big love-beast with his mojo back out to save the world because of you.

I still remember the day I turned nine. I was beginning the fourth grade at school in the small fishing village of Urunga on the north coast of NSW, and I’d just been given my first wrist watch (a J Farren-Price as I recall) as a birthday present from my parents. I didn’t have far to walk to school, but I must have raised my arm a hundred times to stare at it, to make sure it was still wound, to make sure that not more than ten seconds had passed since it was last admired. Exciting times must lie ahead.

Exciting times did lie ahead. Across twenty five years - a fathomless gulf to a 9 year old – I was now living in the United States, the same age as my father had been when I was given that watch. This particular day in December was even more memorable because an eight-week old malamute puppy called Bondi came into my life and changed everything. The companion that Bondi became made all the adventures in this blog possible.

Bondi passed away in 2009, a few months after the photo at the top was taken, passing the torch to young Munson who is now six years old. In 2010 I made a short tribute film about my life with Bondi which you can find here.

Stay a while and click through nine years of life on the road with two wonderful dogs. Make yourself comfortable with your own furry friend of today or maybe the one you cherish from when you were nine.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sydney old and new

20140525_144907-14 Dawn Fraser Pool
After watching an episode of the BBC program Coast -  now turning its attention to Australia – we were inspired by its Sydney episode to go looking for the Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain. Although I’ve passed by here many times, I wasn’t aware that the baths were an enclosed harbour tidal pool until seeing this program. When you’re in a country that takes plentiful swimming pools for granted, there’s nothing in a name that will lure you to make a special visit.

While we’re enjoying a decadently sunny autumn – one that seems to get warmer as we get closer to winter – the baths are closed from April to October. Approaching it via Elkington Park we passed a group of people picnicking by the harbour, with a Munson-coloured malamute lying on its back, paw in mouth, enjoying the sun. Oh that Munson had been with us for this outing!
20140525_145042-48_stitch Dawn Fraser Pool
Scouting for coffee after this we avoided downtown Balmain’s spreading network of parking meters and looped back to Chippendale. From there we walked up Broadway to look at the new Central Park urban village development. We’d had a brief look at it in November on a wet and windy day – this time with Munson in tow – and had not had the opportunity to look inside ( that Sydney limiting factor of having a dog ).
Central Park or Centra Park?
In my first year out of university I lived a few blocks away from here when the site belonged to Carlton United, with the smell of malt from the brewery carring up Broadway and Parramatta Road.

The old brewery building remains with its internal workings restored and space given over to a combination of energy generating facility and public space. Around that is a belt of parkland, and a major retail and apartment development wrapped in living vegetation – the world’s highest “green wall”. This sits directly across Broadway from the brutal monolith of UTS (University of Technology, Sydney) which may be cloaked in even more futuristic fashion in a few years.
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The inner commercial space is still a work in progress, and far from busy on weekend afternoon. There are video walls, eccentric spinning chairs and a skylight washed in water to create a dappled light on the foyer floors below. What I did like was that you could stand in the central open space and look out through a number of windows of the encircling shops and see sky and greenery.
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Also facing Central Park is a new UTS Information Technology and Engineering (ITE) building enveloped in perforated aluminium screens. For anyone who has not seen this southwestern approach to the city in a few years, the combination of new structures will come as quite a surprise.  In Google Maps you can currently make a quick comparison, by starting here to see that stretch of Broadway in recent months, and then moving a little to the left and seeing the original view.
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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Park portraits

2014-05-17 Munson at Sydney Park
Late afternoon light spilling off a cloud shaped like a bird in flight turns it into a phoenix … and a nice opportunity to capture Munson on the grassy slopes of a Sydney Park hill.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Autumn on the beach

Munson at Silver Beach, Kurnell (2)
We found Silver Beach at Kurnell two months ago and Munson romped with para-skiers and pelicans. You’d hardly know we’ve moved from summer into autumn, although none of the other dogs playing today seemed to take to the water as much as Munson.
Munson at Silver Beach, Kurnell (1)Looking across Botany Bay to central Sydney

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Strictly Benjamin

Ben at the piano - Concert HallA couple of years ago Ben made his backhoe debut on the French farm, and it is with nearly as much excitement that Gustav and I took our seats at the Sydney Opera House this evening for his concert debut at that venue. The program “Strictly Luhrmann” was principally comprised of classical pieces featuring in Baz Luhrmann’s films, with some suites of soundtrack edits rounding out the mix. Ben’s major contribution was as pianist for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as used in the score for The Great Gatsby – both here and in the actual soundtrack.

Reference score Ben soothes the savage beast
Ben stayed with us for his first few days in Sydney, moving to hotel digs closer to the Opera House for his final nights. On Saturday I found a set of his scores left in the guest room, and brought them along to hand over post concert. When he and Leah visited Sydney last year we hadn’t yet moved back into our house and couldn’t offer them accommodation, so it wasn’t till this week that Ben got to stay with us again, and adjust to seeing the farmhouse furniture in new surroundings, although of course with Munson still on the sofa.
Artiste and familiar in repose
Earlier in the week I had a dinner out with Ben and conductor Matt Dunkley at a great Thai restaurant in Newtown. Not only does the Thai Pothong have a wicked menu, but it has a gift-shop with scrap-metal recreations of Alien, Predator, and Optimus Prime. I’d not met Matt before, but over dinner conversation learned that we shared a common experience of listening to Rick Wakeman’s prog rock keyboard music in our teen years.
Matt and Ben with fellow lifesized monsters Gustav, Daniel & Aaron at Opera House bar
Back to the concert – while settling into our complimentary box seats, a look at our Facebook feed revealed that some friends, Aaron & Daniel were also at this concert, and by the angle of the stage photo they’d posted, not far away. I took a look over into the next box, and sure enough, they were only sitting a few metres away. This was great for Gustav at intermission, as chatting with them helped fight against his jetlag from his Copenhagen to Sydney flight yesterday.

After the concert, Ben had other musical duties, having arranged to participate in a free post-concert program in the northern foyer. This SSO Night Lounge event began with some works that Ben had commissioned years earlier, followed by a movement from Brahms’ Piano Quintet (below), and then a recomposed version of  Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherezade with DJ JayKay Mystery.

Ben and SSO members play Brahms Piano Quintet

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hakuna matata doesn’t mean no mopping

loungehound
I’ve got a big week ahead – our friend Ben arrives from the UK tomorrow for a short stay while concertising in Sydney, Gustav returns from a month in Sweden a few days later, and I start my first five day week of a new job that I’m very excited about.

Taking those in reverse order : I started working at the University of NSW two weeks ago, with a gentle introductory period due to a number of public holidays, so I began with a four day week and followed it with a three day week.  Gustav being away at this time was actually a small help in that I was able to practise my new commuting schedule without getting in his way. I’m really happy with the new environment – it’s exactly the sort of position I’ve been seeking since returning to Oz - and my new colleagues have been uniformly helpful and welcoming. There are even Moomin fans amongst them!

Ben was here exactly a year ago, but didn’t stay with us as we hadn’t moved back into the house at that time – not to mention that we had a further two month wait for our furniture to arrive! This time he gets proper hospitality as in France, albeit without the tractors and chickens. I had the piano tuned earlier in the year so that his ears wouldn’t be offended by it being at least a full tone out of key.

I spent a good number of hours today vacuuming and mopping the house – Munson’s normal month-long moult has turned into a multi-month marathon this year while his metabolism wakes up to the fact that it’s back in the southern hemisphere again.

With the floors drying, and a slow cooked pork shoulder sinking into a bed of fennel in the oven, I whisked Munson off to a Sydney Park for a final weekend frolic. Well…

It’s been wet today, possibly the first day that Sydney’s autumn has actually felt autumnal. Munson descended from one of the park’s hills into the central play area to play with a new mate, ten month old Louie. So far so good, they played very well and very energetically together … and then they discovered the tasty muddy puddles…

Munson and Louie  Munson and Louie
Within fifteen minutes about ten more dogs arrived, and they all raced around and around together. I was ecstatic because this has been the most energetic that Munson has been in the six-plus months since his surgery. While the spirit has been willing, the removal of so much flesh from that leg has not been good for his stamina and has reduced his appetite for vigorous play. Today’s enthusiastic romp gave me confidence that he’s continuing to mend.

hakuna matata

Of course there’s swings and roundabouts to this. On the very day I get the house cleaner than it has been for months. Munson discovers his inner warthog, or more accurately, his outer warthog.
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I’ll deal with the dirty dog in an hour or so, but for now look at that grin and look at him go!
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