Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dry, dusty, style city

We've just got back from a couple of days in Melbourne, Australia's most stylish city, but also its driest and most smoky. Eighty klms out of Melbourne on the Hume highway we saw stark evidence of the 7 Feb. fires - with about a 15klms section burnt to a cinder on each side of the highway. The city was in a sober mood with the big memorial service on Sunday at the Rod Laver Arena. We guiltily took advantage of the free public transport provided to visit the Arts Centre and St Kilda Beach markets on Sunday. Everyone on the trams was talking about the fires, the weather, the heat, the drought.

St Kilda was lively, the streets crowded with a big kids' triathlon event and the Esplanade Markets. All the grass in the esplanade parks was like straw and even the agapanthus beds were dying! The kids at Luna Park looked happy enough though.

We caught up with Rob's friend David T. in Melbourne, spending a lot of time in restaurants eating wonderful food and catching up with David's very eventful life. We met up with him and some friends on our first night at the wonderful Neil Perry's Rockpool Bar and Grill on Southbank. We gave the carefully aged beef dishes a miss (a pity in a way because this is what the restaurant is famous for!) but enjoyed its exceptional seafood. I loved the visual impact of the smoke filled evening sky as we walked back to our apartment in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Sunday night we enjoyed wonderful Vietnamese food with David and his three gorgeous girls (and S-I-L Steven) at Richmond. Monday we did a long yum cha lunch at the Shark Fin Inn on Bourke St and Tuesday (yesterday) an even longer lunch at the stupendous Flower Drum in Market Lane. It didn't leave us very much time for other explorations of Melbourne!

We managed to squeeze in an afternoon in Fitzroy, wandering down the hip and happening Brunswick and Gertrude Streets. I found an old favourite: The Artist's Garden, still going strong and still with some wonderful ways of combining art in courtyard gardens.

It was 35oC in Melbourne this afternoon so we had to make a long stop in the beautiful old Provincial Hotel on Brunswick street for a long cool beer.

I was intrigued by the plaques on quite a few of the public buildings in Fitzroy describing their connection with the local Indigenous population. I discovered that they were part of the Aboriginal History of Fitzroy Plaques and Places Project, launched early this year. Another little link in the reconciliation process.

We drove back to Canberra today. The smoke haze followed us to Gundagai. The $800million Hume Highway upgrade is very impressive, especially now the Albury Wodonga bypass is complete. However the 150klm of remaining roadworks under construction makes for a slow trip in parts.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Black Friday

Jody got her first day's relief teaching last Friday. We were over at J&J's by 7.15am to ensure everything was as relaxed as possible for Miss E as her Mummy got ready to "go and teach those kids". As Rob and Ella were saying their good mornings Rob sat down on their glass coffee table, which gave way under him, in a spectacular fashion. Luckily no one was hurt, but it frightened the s___t out of all of us, especially Ella, who had never seen or heard anything like it before. She spent the rest of the day, being quite wary of what Rob would do next!

Jody approved some Play School watching time (only a little bit!) for Ella. Rob and I enjoyed catching up with Play School again after a 25 year break. Benita and Noni have long gone but I do like the current batch of mixed race, beautiful (young) live wires. I was a bit surprised to see them do the Cinderella story, but at least the women in it were depicted as being very strong.

We know we are so lucky to have had such a gentle week with so many of our fellow Australians suffering so much. The situation in Victoria is so much worse than I realised in last week's entry. Everyone here is overcome by it. It took days to get a line through to the Red Cross to donate money, the Blood Bank has been inundated with people making appointments to give blood and our workplace is loaded with bags of clothes, toys and non perishables waiting to be picked up by Allied Pickford, for fire victims in Victoria.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


It is pathetic complaining about suffering through four days in a row of above 37oC heat (just under 40oC yesterday and today). South Australia and Victoria have suffered much worse: terrible fires raging NW of Melbourne, resulting in up to 40 deaths; loss of animals, wildlife, homes and vegetation.

We're just inconvenienced: kids starting the school year in hot airless, classrooms, shopping malls, picture theatres and galleries crowded with people escaping the heat. Dendy Cinema was overflowing last night with queues of people and Oscar nominated films. We joined the longest queue to be transported to the casual brutality and beauty of Mumbai by the extraordinary Slumdog Millionaire. Outside, the rest of Canberra was wilting at the huge Food and Wine Festival opener to the annual Canberra Multicultural Festival.

Our favourite farmers at the Southside Farmers Market this morning were talking worriedly about fruit being cooked on the trees/vines in this long hot spell. Later we made our way to the Kingston Bus Depot Markets, hoping its multicultural focus would lift our spirits. These two young Indian dancers were spellbindingly beautiful. I like the way they are contrasted in the first picture to the mature aged Aussie square dancer!

It was back to school week for everyone and back to part time work for me too! Ollie started preschool successfully and Jody is gearing up to start casual teaching one day a week. Rob is still practising being retired! We had a play date with Ella on Friday morning to practise for when her Mummy is working. She interacts, plays, paints, draws, explores with great concentration and joyfulness. We had a ball. the only thing we will do differently next Friday is not get out so many play dough colours.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Incomparable Leonard Cohen

He's now in his 70s and his concert last Wednesday night in Sydney was just superlative! A Jewish boy from Montreal, fringe dweller of Andy Warhol's New York Factory crowd in the 60s, inspiration for Lou Reed and Bob Dylan, a Buddhist monk, poet, writer, and author and powerful performer of the incomparable Tower of Song, Hallelujah, Chelsea Hotel, Everybody Knows and the familiar Suzanne. He performed for well over 3 hours.....elegant, gracious, sardonic, mesmerising, foggy voiced and generous, sharing the stage with his 9, just as superlative accompanying musicians. Rob and I floated out of the Sydney Entertainment Centre, enraptured by the show.

We spent some time with Miss E. yesterday morning, marvelling at her increasing capacity for thoughtful, considered play, artistic expression and interaction. The current spell of high temperatures is a great excuse for indoor pursuits.

Miss E always has to do an inventory of my handbag each visit, which usually involves applying any lipstick she finds. The photographs I take on these visits always show the signs of these obligatory make up sessions.

It is really obvious that she gets very involved with story and picture books. One of her fascinations is with hats and helmets. This is her sign for the helmet or hat reference.

But she is entranced with all aspects of the story.