Wednesday, June 06, 2018

A hat on a chair

Interior with chair and hat
I am taking an art class at the local art Centre, partly to connect with a few more members of the community, but also to practise working with a palette knife.

Today's effort frustrated me so much I scraped the whole thing off then drew into the mess left behind with the knife and a wet rag. I enjoy scratching away with a palette knife.  Tonight I decided to draw into it with Indian ink but discovered that my bottle of Indian ink has long since dried up. Tomorrow I will buy a new bottle.

Addendum (next day) I discovered today that Indian ink is no longer sold as people use it to tattoo themselves. I will have to check art shops because surely it is still needed for Calligraphy? (The man from the office supplies shop told me that typing fluid is also no longer sold as it was being sniffed. It made me wonder how many other products have been disappeared for our own good.)

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Electric winter

Knitted wool jumper - old now, but warm
I am not keen on the idea of electric blankets, that is, I not keen on the idea of lying on an electric current all night. Every year I say to myself that a hot water bottle will be a good substitute this year, and then June arrives. My house is an icebox in winter and the bedroom the coldest place of all, being on the south-side and (I am guessing) having no ceiling insulation. 

Once again I have succumbed, the electric blanket is on the bed. I switch it on in the evening so I have a warm bed, but switch it off before climbing into bed. I still don't fancy lying on an electric current all night.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Yulianna Avdeeva in Sydney

Riveting. That is the word for Russian pianist Yulianna Avdeeva's performance in Sydney last week. Not showy, not flamboyant, but so persuasive that she captured her audience from the moment she began playing. 

In Sydney last Monday a lot of the audience had autumn sniffles but there was not a movement or a cough during Avdeeva's entire performance, such was the entrancement. Avdeeva won the International Chopin competition in Warsaw in 2010, the second woman to win this coverted prizde (Martha Argerich was the first) and has built a solo career since then. I had the feeliing that she played exactly as the composer would have played. The last time I had that sensation was listening to Sebastian Knauer playing his Wilhelm Kempf tribute and it is a sensation one doesn't forget..

Avdeeva played Chopin then Liszt, in an intelligently curated program, with one piece melding into the next where that was fruitful. I could have listened to her all night.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Neighbours are a treasure

My neighbour ordered some bulbs and this evening she came over to offer me some. It is just the right time to plant bulbs and I am delighted to have some to plant out in the autumnal sun. They are just ready to sprout. I think I'll plant them in a pot so I can retrieve them more easily post flowering.
Pot of bulbs

My mother planted a great paddock of daffodils that flowered every year. Remembering this, I planted some daffodils in the lawn one year but they didn't thrive, flowering only one season. My mother's soil was temperate clay and fertile, while I live on an almost tropical sandbank.

Addendum (next day):
They're in the pot, watched over by Ms/Mr Kiss
The bulb container watched over my Ms/Mr ­čśś

Selby and Friends, in Turramurra

Concert sketch: Lepp├Ąnen, Selby and Valve
Kathryn Selby is a fine pianist who chooses excellent musicians with whom to play. On Sunday it was Vesa-MattiLepp├Ąnen who is concert master for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Timo-Veikko Valve who is Principal Cellist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. 

Hearing these exceptional musicians in an intimate setting (the Uniting Church hall in Turramurra) is a special pleasure and word must have spread as the concert was well attended. Several attendees were in wheelchairs. I hope if I ever need a wheelchair I live near a venue visited by such wonderful musicians. 

I went with two people who are seated much more often on bicycles than concert chairs. 
The were captivated and commented,  "Oh they are so completely in time!" and 'What fun they are having - they obviously like playing together!' What fun to experience the concert through their eyes.

Selby and Friends are playing in Melbourne, Adelaide and at the City Recital Center in Sydney this week.  Catch them if you can.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Nicole Car and the Australian Chamber Orchestra

Nicole Car: songs of suffering

If you sing songs of desperation and despair, and so many opera arias are, you look like this even when, like Nicole Car, you have a winning smile and graceful deportment.

Today Nicole sang songs of Mozart, von Bingen and Beethoven in a very cleverly curated Australian Chamber Orchestra program that included not only the three composers mentioned but Handel, Puccini and Verdi. It was a real treat.

Nicole  got a very enthusiastic reception as did Satu V├Ąnsk├Ą who played a short solo on her new violin which has the most remarkable clear sound. I am sure you have to be a virtuoso to elicit this sound from a violin but I was captivated and astonished by this instrument in her hands.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ayse and friends at the Sydney Opera House

'I learned on my trip to Turkey last year the ability of the Turks to create joy through the appreciation of simple things, even in the midst of  life's difficulties.'

The speaker is soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal who together with three fellow musicians (kemane player Ali Y─▒ld─▒z, ba─člama player Deniz ┼×im┼ček and pianist Ashley Hribar) gave a wonderful and wonderfully heartfelt concert 'Anatolia', at Sydney Opera House Utzon Room on Sunday. They were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of a migration agreement between Australia and Turkey with a concert of Turkish folk songs.
From left: Ali, Ashley, Ayse aand Deniz
Personally I had a multicultural experience that evening such that few cities can offer. I was there to hear a group of gifted first and second generation Turkish Australians play Turkish music, but before the concert I stumbled on the 'Lighting of the Sails', an Aboriginal inspired light show with projected images on the smaller opera house sail. It lasted 5 minutes from 6pm. I was joined by lots of Asian tourists who all recorded it on their phones, so it is probably a much uploaded travelogue entry.
Lighting of the Sails

Then I met a Chinese tourist who was also attending the concert I was seeing. On discovering I paint, she showed me (on her phone) her personal collection of art works. They included some astonishing needle-worked art that she said were very expensive (artist unknown). This was her third visit to Sydney but her first to the opera house.

My other neighbour at the concert was a Turkish woman who was an avid opera fan and who spoke excitedly of the many operas she had seen at the opera house or on the harbour.

The day had been much hotter than usual in April and I had almost left my woollen shawl at home. However, I was very glad the hot weather had not diverted me as the venue was cold then even colder. As the concert progressed my shawl crept over the knees of we three women and my two neighbours were as grateful as I was for the warmth. Being linked with these women in such a way made me think of  Ayse's words about deriving joy from small things. 

If you use Facebook, the concert (part 1) can be viewed here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Hamilton Gardens in 2018

The Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, NZ, are remarkable. I visited for the first time in 2014, but they have expanded in the four years since then and the new gardens are just as innovative. There is a Tudor-inspired garden, Alice in Wonderland make an appearance and several new additions are based on directions in modern art.

In the Concept Garden: a nod to conceptual art
Pan plays his flute

Mad Haters tea party: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
Answer: "There is no answer."
Tudor garden - keeping the hedge clippers busy
An explanation of the mounds in the Maori garden tells us that Kumera (New Zealand sweet potato)  rot when too wet so they are planted in mounds and then stored in a dry place such as this food storage building.
Food storage house
Fence and Kumera garden

Wednesday, April 04, 2018


Yesterday I visited Hobbiton near Matamata, a pretty town in the Waikato region of New Zealand.

Hobbiton probably needs no introduction because, as I discovered, it is still wildly  popular. Tours were setting off every 10 minutes the day we were there and some of the more popular tours with food included  were booked out months in advance.

My travel buddy got the last two tickets to a lunch-included tour a month ago because the tour which included an evening ''banquet' was book out. (Yes, she is doing nothing by halves and I am swept along for the ride, which I confess to finding very interesting, if just to experience the enthusiasm of the fans. ) I was rather afraid the food might be substandard bain-marie fare, but it was very tasty.

A friend who majored in sculpture at art school spent time in Matamata last year painting the hobbit house doors and props and I must say she's done a fine job. They look just as they did in the Hobbit movie.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Huka Falls, NZ

The most tranquil of water will turn into a torrent if you force it through a narrow enough channel and so it is with placid Lake Taupo which turns into a heaving tumult as it passed between the narrow gap in the rocks at Huka to flow on as the Waikato River, feeding power stations on its way to the sea.

 The force of the water at Hula Falls has to be seen to be believed.
Lake Taupo at Hatepe

Huka Falls

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Trees in New Zealand

Trees in Taihape
There are some magnificent native trees in the North Island of New Zealand, those that survive. Most were cut down last century, leaving scared hills that tend to slip and slide. Coming generations will, I hope, take to replanting native bush .... once the colonial mentality finally fades.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hobbits and more

Dwarf from Lord of the Rings
I am travelling with a hobbit obsessed travel partner so we are going from one hobbity thing to another.

The WETA workshop has tours every half hour and they are very well attended. The level of interest in the art of film making seems to be high for every generation. The tour we joined was mainly over-60 year olds from Australia.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Retro comfort

The Cambridge Hotel is an upmarket backpackers/hotel in Wellington with a nice vibe, lots of wood and a lift like those you see in 1930s films, with an manually closing cage and outer door.
There are delicious aromas wafting out of the one man kitchen. Might eat in tomorrow.

Sign: enter at your own risk ...just possibly.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My little garden friend

It is autumn and the spiders are building huge webs to try to catch their local human. They are succeeding.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Plum cake

It is the time of plums, those little freestone sugar-plums, with their purple, white sheened skin and yellow flesh. They are perfect for plum cake (the German Pflaumenkuchen) and this year I made the recipe with cake mixture base instead of the yeast base. It rose and rose ... next time I try it I will half the recipe for the same amount of fruit.

The secret is to put as many plums on as you can.

Plfaumenkuchen (cooked).
A couple of years ago I painted the plums, but this year I couldn't wait to eat the cake.
Sugar plums and flowers

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Bibeau and his Bass

Maxime Bibeau's bass was built in 1581 and glows from the stage
Yesterday bassist Maxime Bibeau celebrated 20 Years with the Australian Chamber Orchestra by playing the most wonderful commissioned work by Missy Mazzoli called Dark with Excessive Bright. The bass is seldom seen at the front of the stage, but that may change as this Mazzoli piece is such a pleasure to listen to and may well become an orchestral favorite.

Another future favorite might be Tognetti's arrangement of the Brahm's Sextet #2 in G Major for 30 instruments. Students from the Australian National Academy of Music joined the ACO to play this arrangement and it was inspiring to hear them galloping along with the ACO.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Sydney Opera House in colour

Sydney Opera House in colour(s)
Before the advent of the Vivid Festival in Sydney it was unusual to see the Sydney opera house clothed in colour, but once you see the festival's startlingly vivid colours on the opera house sails, they are not easily forgotten.

I have been manipulating some opera house etchings made in Dunedin and the photo app on my phone has kindly made a collage of them for me (above). They are not as vivid (some would say garish) as the festival lights but there is something nice about a coloured etching.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

New studio space

This blog has been neglected of late for several reasons.

In early January I slipped (in Sydney) on an outdoor mat and fell heavily onto a brick pathway, fortunately not knocking my head or breaking any bones, but pulling some groin muscles (excruciating) and bruising some bones. I couldn't sit down for most of January and hobbled on a stick. I watched others walking, wondering at the ease with which they stepped over obstacles.  I also noticed how many people have limps. While incapacitated I read lots of books and overdosed on social media. I was extraordinarily fortunate in that my son had just arrived in Sydney on his way to my place for six weeks. I asked myself how others in similar situations manage at home.

While he was here my son put in a new back fence and converted my garage into a studio/guest room. It will be lovely space once finished, probably more livable than the house as it is so well insulated. The price of new windows ($500-1500) drove us to search local recycling yards and we found a window, bigger than those we priced, for $150.  There were a few delivery dramas but it did eventually arrive on the day my son was leaving, so he just had time to install it. Yay for that.

High ceiling

Another reason for my blogging negligence has been a manuscript I have been working on for ages and with increasing perseverance over the past six months. I finally submitted it to a publisher today and I feel as if I have been let out of school. Suddenly I can blog again and take up those many art or craft projects that have been waiting for action. By the time I hear back from the publisher (they estimate 3 months) I will probably have forgotten all about the manuscript.

Sunday, January 07, 2018


#redeyeman: Texter, ink and watercolour pencils

 A collaborative effort by my eight year old granddaughter and I.