|At some point this week,everyone I know in Sydney woke up and decided to arrange breakfast, lunch or dinner with me over the coming days. I'm concerned that within a week, my fingers will be too pudgy to blog legibly. Some meals take their toll more than others: my solicitor Adrian and I have a long lunch every six months or so when I'm in town, and yesterday's 3 hour effort at the Dolphin Hotel wiped me out for the rest of the day. Or maybe it was my dental checkup just prior to lunch, with the good news that a 20 year old filling needed a $800+ replacement to see me into my 60s. Any more costs like that and I'll be munching soup through my dotage.|
I had another festive hour in my storage locker shuffling dusty furniture and rates from one side to the other as I sought my framed Master's degree certificate, my PADI diving accreditation and some other odd pieces. Miraculously my 1987 PADI card turned up amongst a 20 year-old rats-nest of business cards, movie tickets and other desk drawer fauna. I also tripped over my great-grandmother's 1908 lifesaving medal and her son's from 1925.
This evening was set aside to dine with some uncles & aunts, one pair of whom surprised me with a bag full of memorabilia belonging to my great-grandparents, including:
Dinner itself was a raging success. I always enjoy dining with my extended family, and the meal from the Razor's Edge in Enmore hit the spot with everyone. My aunt Marie said I "was getting more and more like that guy who did The Ideal Husband."
"Oh, Oscar Wilde" I say, hopefully.
"No, the actor"
"Rupert Everett" oh well.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Long gone are the days when Claire & I would flash our titties at each other in the women's toilet of the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel during an office Xmas party. A decade later, she is a self-respecting mother and pillar of the community, and I'm an international vagrant.
However, being a mother of two, she does have interesting toys like a robot raptor. While the raptor may be steered remotely, its speed and turning ability are not brilliant on carpet or polished floor. It's best to leave it on demo/roam and let it seek out things in your living room. Putting cat scratching posts or sock-puppets in its peripheral vision are good ways to elicit a response.
Friday, September 22, 2006
The week has zoomed past with not a huge amount to show for it. A day and half went into getting my phone re-activated, due to an all around unimpressive showing by many Telstra departments.
I spent half an afternoon digging through my storage room for documentation to support my visa applications. There was a scary number of boxes marked "unread books" - all very heavy, and for some reason, sitting in front of my document boxes. Floating high above the boxes is a wooden row-boat that migrated from a backyard in Palm Beach to a Marrickville kitchen, then rested under a tree in a Seattle backyard for 4 years, and finally returned to Sydney. At no point did it touch water, though it was shipped across the Pacific Ocean twice.
I wound up down at Bondi Beach (obligatory photo above) around midday yesterday, one of the many loci for my Sydney orbit over the years. I had a strange feeling as I turned from Hall Street into the beach-facing Campbell Parade: "what am I doing here? what do I expect to find here? do I expect to find anything different perambulating around the other end of the world? where do I belong?". As I navigate its streets, parks and seaside paths through memory, all of the vital connections with Bondi people are long gone: 12 years since I lived there, 16 months since my last visit. Since then it's been replaced with other streets in Paris, Salamanca, London, Wigan, San Sebastian, Amsterdam, Seattle, and fragments of dozens of other high streets around Europe.
This is my 3rd or 4th "return" to Sydney after a long overseas sojourn, and visiting Bondi and other places each time re-imprints them. I lived in 5 different country towns while I was at school, but none of them feels like my home-town to the degree that Sydney does. Rural life was regularly punctuated by long drives to Sydney for seasonal and family gatherings. Each of those towns has its memories, but rarely anything that evokes nostalgia for them - I just realised that I tend to remember the books I read in each town, the authors and places released from small libraries into my care.
In Gosford, where I began reading I have dim memories of different picture books, or of re-reading The Tale of Samuel Whiskers. Queanbeyan gave me The Wind in the Willows on my 6th birthday, preparing me both for the weasels of industry, the joys of the Open Road and associated riparian pursuits.
Bourke, the beginning of the outback, yielded Mumfy, The Tree that Sat Down, The Hobbit, The Little Grey Men, Narnia and Little House on the Prairie. Snow-covered fantasy-lands and American frontiers were both still worlds away from dry, red Bourke. My first pocket-money - 40 cents/week - was enough to buy a cheap book from the newsagent each Monday, perhaps an Enid Blyton, or a tiny transcript of an American cartoon telemovie of The Fantastic Four, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or The Arabian Nights. By this time I was also immersed in the dusty, but comprehensive eccentricity of Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopaedia, and some other smaller but more modern reference sets.
After two years in Bourke, it was off to the little fishing village Urunga where I was introduced me to the Moomins, tales of young settlers at Sydney Cove, and my first glimpses of volumes of Thelwell and Ronald Searle. A large volume on geology produced by Readers Digest, and given to me by my father to celebrate coming top of my Year 3 class was especially prized. By the time I reached Temora at the age of 9, I was ready to haphazardly work my way through the children's and adults' sections, fiction and non-fiction, of every available library in town.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Yum-cha in Marrickville with Phil, Michael & Eamon. We wander down into a street festival, where a presenter proudly extolls the "multi-diversity" on show. God knows, a single diversity is rarely enough.
Afterwards Phil, Michael & I retired to the bar across the road, joined by Jason, Jill and Michael Tyack (musical director for the show). Jill is about to set off for a tour of the Greek Islands (which I've dubbed the Jilliad), in particular following in the footsteps of Gerald and Lawrence Durrell.
|Still later, our core trio moved up to Chinatown for a midnight dinner. I tried to recall previous appearances of Murray Bartlett (who played Peter Allen's lover, and is an old acquaintance of mine), one of which was an awful movie about a squid (probably adapted from a Peter Benchley book) and which I tried to summon up as "The Squid's in the Picture" or "The Karate Squid". Needless to say, the conversation sank to sub-oceanic depths as we vied for steadily worse squid-inflected movie and song titles: "Butch Calamari and the Sundance Squid" etc. I'll spare you..|
Saturday, September 16, 2006
On the plane ride I listened to an (obscure) disc of "improvised early music" by ensemble L'Arpeggiata, lead by harpist Christina Pluhar, and featuring Gianluigi Trovesi on clarinet. It took a bit of hunting down, but I dug up a copy at HMV. It's a real find, and thank you to Paul Dyer from the Brandenburg Orchestra for drawing attention to it.
Responding to a text message, I walked down to St Vincents Private Hospital, to visit my friend Steve, hospitalised after months of reactive arthritis with a herniated disk. We threaded together a conversation through his morphine until the latter done and I was ejected from his room.
Spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through Paddington weekend markets, enjoying the sunshine. It's not yet Spring and Sydney's been walking that deliciously cosy line between cool and warm.
Another Steve Irwin joke: why didn't he wear sunscreen to protect him from harmful rays?
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
My first view of daytime Sydney since May 2005. Walking up to Newtown, I suffer an intense flash of homesickness as I look out at the intense blue skies, hear the local bird song, watch a snail ooze over the footpath before me. At Vargabar, I bookend my time away with a fantastic Flat White coffee - as I did just prior to leaving. The barista smiles to see me, asks after Bondi.
Phil appears, fresh from gym, as I down a lovely Sydney breakfast: poached eggs on rye with asparagus and grilled mushrooms, dusted with parmesan. Fresh, inexpensive and rarely seen north of the equator.
Drop into Elizabeth's bookshop where I worked part-time prior to my European adventure. Liz is in town (normally looking after the Perth base of her empire). Also stop into So/Odeon, one of my favourite music stores: they've got Eleni Karaindrou's new ECM concert recording: Elegy of the Uprooted. This 2CD set knits together music from her previous recordings into under the theme of the title. Reading a review of one the Theo Angelopoulos films she scored - The Weeping Meadow - this phrase caught my eye: he continues to find such haunting beauty in scenes of merciless despair. Perhaps Angelopoulos should be hired to direct some advertisements for flying cattle-class across ten time-zones.
I'm dropped off at the Broadway mall so I can visit a Telstra shop and get a new SIMM card for my phone. It turns out after some time that my number has been deactivated, with no reason offered. Later that afternoon I spend a few hours trying to get the number reactivated. Telstra, being the large telecommunications congomerate that it is, can't explain why it stopped debiting my bank account, or why it didn't phone me or email me to indicate that my number was to be deactivated, prior to handing over the small sum owed to a debt collection agency. My number hasn't been reallocated, but I'll have to stay home all Monday to sign for the delivery of a new SIMM card. Naturally, there is no option to just pick the card up from a Telstra shop. The last person I spoke to at Telstra is very helpful, but I can sense him squirming under the anti-customer hopelessness that is Telstra. I'm sensing another Angelopoulos project.
Walked into Sydney CBD and then along Oxford Street to surprise a few folks. Every one seems to be away, except in Elizabeth's other store, I see Rachel, and then Liz turns up with Anita. Anita and I sneak off for a coffee, and then - feeling my batteries expire - continue on to King's Cross to pick up a rental car.
Dashed home to see if there was news of my luggage. There was, and I was given a 3 hour time window for delivery, but as I struggled to stay awake, it turned up 30 minutes after the promised time. Everything intact, but I hoped that the bag might have gone shopping on Orchard Road and brought back some extra goodies.
Determined to stay awake this evening, I introduce Phil to my DVD set of the short-lived TV series Action. Enthralled, he watches the first 6 or 7 episodes with me. Made it through to 11.30pm, but I still only slept till 4am.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
At Sydney I'm through immigration very smartly (dang - forgot to get them to stamp my passport, to prove to UK Home Office that I left the country) but waste nearly an hour staring at the baggage carousel. It turns out that my clothes and toiletries (aka Nivea Explosives Kit) are still in Singapore, and have to be requested. So then it's off to Phil's place and a half-night's sleep.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I'm called up 1/2 an hour before boarding and get a relatively decent aisle seat. I notice the ticket holder pack has some flying suggestions, like "treat yourself to moisturizer" - not updated for the days of fluid-less flying. I wonder what reaction I'd get if I set up a rack of test-tubes on my meal-tray and pretended to mix up some high-altitude explosives using sachets of toothpaste, moisturizer and shampoo.
The 12-odd hours of flying are relieved by 35 sudoku puzzles, several movies and some TV documentaries. No chance of sleeping while the girls sitting between me and the window are up and down like incontinent jack-in-the-boxes, and meal-carts rattle past threatening to shatter any part of my leg that slides into the aisle. The in-flight video taunts me with in-seat exercises to prevent deep vein thrombosis, all theoretically possible if I had room to lift my knees which are either wedged into the forward seat, or splayed to the side and regularly grazed by passing aisle-traffic.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Dropped Bondi off at his boarding kennel. Returning to the car, I could hear from amongst the general dog-chatter, a single gut-wrenching howl. He knows.
This will be our longest separation - even when he went through 30 days' quarantine entering Australia, I was able to visit him a few times per week.
I heard the first first Steve Irwin joke: Steve is asked what his favourite childhood television program was. "Thunderbirds was the best, but Stingray always has a special place in my heart."
|All packing and no play makes Mike an over-organised boy, so luckily I'd secured some free tickets to see England's Queen of Country Music, Tina C audience recording for a future Radio 4 broadcast of her State of the Union Tour.|
|These broadcasts (@ 11.15pm each Wednesday from Nov 8 - Dec 13) allow Tina to present her Tennessee-bred opinions of different EU nations to the UK. So Chris and I had 2 hours to luxuriate in timeless country classics like If These Walls Could Speak (They'd Be in Therapy), You Put Me on a Pedestal (To Look at my Panties) and I Made Your Bed (and then You Lied in it).|
Sunday, September 10, 2006
|The next few days will mainly be spent packing for my trip back to Sydney, where I guess I'll be for 4-6 weeks working on a better UK visa. It's getting very wearying getting the third degree from the Home Office every time I come back into the UK because my passport is neither stamped on the way out, nor is it stamped on the way into other European countries.|
| Consequently they assume I've never gone for more than a day. It's amazing that I have to fly half way around the world just for some ink on paper to formalize me as a tourist or possibly skilled migrant worker. But apparently lack of exit control at UK ports won't be rectified for a couple more years. Continental Europe isn't much better - French and Spanish embassies demand that Australians fly to Sydney/Canberra for a very brief interview for even an extension on a tourist visa.|
So, anyway, Bondi goes into a boarding kennel on Monday, which I'm already very sad about, and I'm sure he will be very sad about too. We've been living like siamese-twins for the last few years, and we've never been separated for this long in 8 years. Of course I will be sad to leave Chris as well, but at least I have had a couple of months to explain why I'm gone - not something I can do for Bondi.
On Tuesday I hope to get a standby flight through to Sydney, and ultimately arrive on Thursday am, Sydney time. Besides twiddling my thumbs during the visa process - and of course seeing friends & family - I hope to spend some time clearing out my storage locker, and doing some family research in local libraries. I hope I can get access to the trunk of my great-grandmother's effects to garner some historical detail for a book being written back in the UK
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Friday, September 08, 2006
| I loved John Waters' film Hairspray from 1988, and was fortunate to be in Seattle when the musical version premiered three years ago, with Harvey Fierstein taking on the "Divine" role of Edna Turnblad. Now John Travolta dons wig and a family-sofa's worth of stuffing for the movie of the musical of the movie. With any luck it will not succumb to the fate of Mel Brooks' The Producers where brilliant movie -> soso musical -> I really don't want to see the movie of the musical.|
The photo above from the blog of the movie of the musical of the film. Maybe someone should do a blog about the powder on the nose of the lady of the harem of the Court of King Caractacus.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
|After wading through the Simmons epic, I've been happily tossing off a set of faster non-fiction volumes of varying quality:|
Also finished off Ken McLeod's Learning the World, a "scientific romance" of first contact with aliens (except humanity is the more technologically advanced species). Jonathan McCalmont's review hits the mark for me.
Phillip and I had tickets booked for tonight's Proms concert, and so we decided to meet in town for lunch with a group of other Aussie visitors and expats, including Jonathan Gavin, who had recently completed a run in End of the Rainbow at the Edinburgh Festival. Both Phillip and Jonno have been catching up with colleagues like Helen Dallimore, who has made her West End debut playing Glinda in Wicked. Helen was one of the stars of Phillip's musical The Republic of Myopia. Apparently Simon Gleeson, one of her costars from Myopia is about to make an appearance on Eastenders here. Their services were all too expensive to be used as witches in Spamalot.
After a cheap and cheerful lunch in a Soho trattoria, we traipsed through the National Portrait Gallery and admired the entries in the BP Portrait Award 2006 exhibition.
Phillip had to meet with Stephan Elliott, writer/director of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert about the musical version of same. I think I probably met Stephan years ago in pre-Priscilla days of yore (being nearly exact contemporaries), but today we found ourselves at the same end of a table outside Cafe Boheme talking about Welcome to Woop Woop and .... malamutes - apparently he had one living in ... Bondi! Stephan's latest creative effort is the photo below:
After that it was on to the Albert Hall for Phillip and I. Prom 69's program was performed by the National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Tadaaki Otawa:
We had seats high up in the choir section: generally you need airplane tickets to reach this altitude. Still, the sound wasn't too bad, although there seemed to be some (un)sympathetic resonance between the horns and one of the drums that marred sections of the music.
There was nothing to complain about in Han-Na Chang's performance of the Shostakovich, written for her mentor Mstislav Rostropovich. The Rakhmaninov symphony is quite long at 60minutes, and I think needed some more vigorous shaping from the conductor in the slower sections.
You can tell the people who haven't heard the century-old symphony before, they wake with surprise with the appearance of the melody adapted by Eric Carmen as "Never Gonna Fall In Love Again". He also reworked a tune from Rakhmaninov's Second Piano Concerto for "All By Myself".
On the train I caught glimpses of an announcement - or simply further speculation - about Tony Blair's retirement date. My theory since May has been that he wants to hang around in number 10 until the celebration of the 300 year anniversary of the Act of Union between England & Scotland - and perhaps keep Gordon Brown out of the chair for that rite. The Acts were passed in May 1707, creating the Kingdom of Great Britain and so a Blair announcement on May 31 next year would be fitting.
Monday, September 04, 2006
By a miraculous coincidence, Phillip was spending his London sojourn with other Aussies in the same street as our friends Andrew and Garry, so was able to join us for a fine lunch at their new apartment.
After we'd stuffed ourselves with as much weight-reducing fodder as we could manage, we all took a stroll around Primrose Hill - Bondi's first visit since Xmas day last year. Among the many dogs enjoying the sun amongst the throngs of kite-watchers, was a pretty young Great Dane by the name of Garbo. The remainder of the afternoon's antics recounted here.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
|My great friend Phillip arrived from Sydney today for research and meetings on various musical/theatrical projects he has on the boiler. Since his daughter Phoebe is finishing up a postgraduate diploma here, the three of us met up near London Bridge to visit the Kandinsky exhibition at the Tate Modern.|
This exhibition focuses on his work up to 1921, tracing his evolution from landscape painter to abstract master. It was my first visit to the Tate Modern, and we cruised through some of the general collection (free to visitors). I missed seeing Roy Lichtenstein's Whaam!, which I'd knitted into a sweater (distributed between front, back and sleeves) about twenty years ago.
We had a very nice lunch at the restaurant up in the Oxo Tower Wharf, passing these stencils celebrating the Muses.
Phoebe suggested we drop into the Courtauld Institute at Somerset House to see the rather splendid small collection housed there, which includes some very well-known Renoirs, Degas (left) and even some later period Kandinsky.
I picked Chris up from work today, and happened to have Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to "A Fistful of Dollars" in the car CD player. He looked alarmed when it started, and I asked if he could place the music.
Well it sounds as if a famous guitarist has gone into a pre-school and the kids are allowed to bang on things...oh and the teacher can sort of play the recorder.... Now the strings are trying to play Scarborough Fair in the background.The upshot is that Chris now has the music imprinted on him as a production of "Ernie Morecambe's recorder".