Saturday, January 19, 2019

Pomegranate


I planted a pomegranate last autumn. It likes its garden spot and has produced a good lot of growth. Now it has a single flower.

Does a pomegranate need fertilising I wonder, or will this flower become a fruit regardless? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Another heat wave

Hotter than hot, that's what it is for most of south eastern Australia today. Luckily for me I live near the cooling coast but even here it is hot, not only hot but very humid which makes the heat oppressive. I don't know how folks without air conditioning manage. Sometimes they don't, mortality rates rise during heatwaves.

I write this at 7:30 am.  Fans are whirring, the breadmaker has been transferred to a shelf outside as it generates so much heat and I sit reading that insects are disappearing and wondering at the foolishness of the human race.
Breadmaker on a shelf outside

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Blueberries

Blueberries taste so sweet when they are from your own garden
My blueberry bush is still tiny, but over the past two weeks whenever I've walked by I have eaten a few blueberries. Today there was a whole handful ready for picking.

Small bushes planted on poor sandy soil can be  surprisingly productive. I planted a loganberry vine 18 months ago. Last summer it bore about 20 fruit but this year it was covered with fruit. I had so many loganberries I made a kilo of them into jam.
Loganberries
Loganberry jam

Monday, January 07, 2019

The lady with the brolly

The heatwave has passed thankfully and today is cool and wet. The lady with the brolly came for an early morning walk with me today.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Heat wave

It is 35.3C at 10:30am. What is this heat good for? Painting and varnishing picture frames, that's what. My frame dried so quickly I could rehang the painting within the hour.
Painted and varnished ...

... and hung.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Hug a frog (for good luck in 2019)

Everyone needs hugs, especially little plaster frogs that no one wanted during the Christmas game of Kris Kringle. I can't remember who eventually got little frog, but whoever it was left him behind, so I took him in hand and gave him a green coat and a cheerful yellow sign. Now he is happy again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Airport sketch


Airport
I had an hour longer than expected at Melbourne airport on my way home. Staff were hurriedly lining us up to board the plane before the threatening storm arrived but they weren't quick enough. The lightening alarm went off and we were grounded.The woman next to me in the queue took a quick look at the BOM storm app and said 'Well be waiting 30 minutes, or maybe thirty five."

  It was a short but violent storm with hail blowing in through the cracks in the door.
Hail coming through cracks in the door

I said to my neighbour that I was glad to be inside and not sitting on the plane we could see through the window, unable to dock as our plane was in the way.

'Spare a thought for those in the air circling the airport,' she said opening a radar app and showing me a tight bunch of  planes hovering over Melbourne. Turned out she had once worked at the airport. (Her estimate of a 30-35 minutes wait was two minutes short.)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Meistersinger in Melbourne

Kasper Holten Set his Meistersinger in a gentleman's club, and it works. The set for this production is a piece of genius, never intruding but always adding visual interest to the stage.


The singers and musicians (under the baton of the magician Pietari Inkinen) did credit to the music and the audience loved the whole thing.

Eva storms off the stage at the end, which I thought decidedly odd but then  I remembered this is an English gentleman's club that her Walter had been blackmailed into joining. I would have stormed off too.

(I couldn't help thinking about Brexit and all those Tory fellows in their clubs hankering after their colonial past.)

Darabin Parklands


After a few days in noisy city streets, how relaxing to be walking along woodland paths listening to the bees buzzing in the trees. Or was it flies in the undergrowth? It was difficult to tell.

Along the path there are benches and small plaques suggesting methods of contemplating life's problems. Sage advice: examine your problems, think about your support structures and about small steps to move along your chosen path. Then think about what you are going to do to take that first step. 


Unreal cakes

Cakes at Brunetti Cafe in Lygon Street
Real actually, not unreal. 


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Melbourne shopping

A book, all I wanted was a book.

I set off down a Melbourne street to find a bookshop, followed some schoolkids into an alley and found myself in 'the southern hemisphere's biggest under-cover shopping precinct'. It is a series of shops with pedestrian bridges across intervening streets. Mercifully no Muzak,  so it is relaxing, especially on an early morning week day.

I asked a passer-by where the nearest bookshop was and she scratched her head and said "Well there used to be lots, but the only one I know if now is right at the other end of this street. Just keep on walking and you'll find it."

So much stuff....
So walk I did, on and on past clothes and yet more clothes. No bookstotes and hardly even a shoeshop. Who wears all these clothes, clothes that are apparently out of fashion two months after they are bought? Someone must or these stores would go broke.
Three storey of clothes shops
I eventually found the bookshop. It was busy fortunately so there is still a need for books in Melbourne.  Just imagine though a city with as many bookshop as clothes stores.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Early heat

Sydney is breaking heat records with 37.5C today. Last night was one of those nights where you toss and turn, then finally at 2am you get up and change your bedding to summer weight.

Today was a scorcher and tonight will still be warm. Will we drop off from exhaustion or will we be still more zombie-like tomorrow?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Monday, September 24, 2018

It's windy though, said the pilots

Qantas pilots discuss matters arising
Waiting at Brisbane airport to come back to Sydney after Peter Grimes,  I visited the Watermark Books and Cafe for a Campos coffee. Next to me were three Qantas pilots discussing their flights.
"Weather looks alright," they said.
"Yes, but it's windy."
A friend said later that comment would have stressed her out,  but I was so busy trying to sketch the pilots without being obvious that I didn't really think about what they were saying
It was a bit bumpy in the air, but nothing like the lumps and bumps on the way up two days earlier. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Brisbane: cars roar and cars roar

Brisbane is a city for cars, noisy racing smelly cars. The roar of cars is everywhere, sometimes loud, sometimes a dull roar.  Two days here is plenty for me because I've been a pedestrian. It's like being a pedestrian on a race track.

I am staying not far from the cultural centre of the city, the South Bank. To get there I walk over a bridge dodging down an unmarked  set of steps at the other side to get away from the roar.

At the QPAC (Queensland Center for Perfoming Arts) last night the comments by two couples about my plan to walk home after the concert were instructive.
The Queenanders who had come from Melbourne 50 years ago said " Oh it's a short walk, you probably wont won't need a taxi. And it very safe too!"
The born and bred Queenslanders said " Oh that's a long walk!"
Those comments say a lot about Brisbane.  I did walk home and at a brisk pace it took little more than 15 minutes.

C'mon electric car makers, get a move on. Make our cities livable.

From the bridge at night. The pink poles are on the neighbouring bridge

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Queensland's Peter Grimes

How disappointing it must be for an artist to travel half way around the world to sing, then fall ill. That happened to Stuart Skelton this week.
Stuart Skelton as Peter Grimes
I came up from Sydney to see the Queensland Opera production of Peter Grimes. I saw it this evening, a very successful semi-staged version.

Skelton managed the first act, then handed over to a stand-in. Although not well, he very generously acted the rest while his substitute stood at the side and sang from the score. It makes a big difference to have someone who can act the part on stage, even if they don't sing and Skelton is the quintessential Grimes.

Last time I saw a substitute sing in the wings was in Leipzig when a lead singer in Die Frau Ohne Schatten was ill and in that case an assistant marked the singers movements. It helped, but was not nearly as successful. This is when you realise that opera singers really have to be good actors as well as extraordinary singers. It is a very demanding profession.

21 Sept. Addendum: I got an email from Queensland Opera today apologising that Stuart Skelton was unable to sing the full performance. Apparently the doctor diagnosed severe pollen allergies. He'll apparently sing the full concert on Saturday.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Falsified foods

The recent news that honey is not always honey reminded me of some South American olive oil I bought from a well known purveyor of organic foods a while back.  I discovered it was not olive oil only after I had used most of it (olive oil solidifies in the fridge) and since then I have bought Australian Olive Oil with a definite use-by date. 

Today I discovered that coffee can also be dodgy. I am one of those smallish percentage of the population who can't digest coffea robusta beans so I always ask before ordering if the coffee is 100% arabica. I can tell if there are robusta beans in the mix as it has metallic taste.

This morning I dropped my car off for a service then made for the cafe selling Campos coffee down the road. It has changed hands and now it sells ' leaf and berry' brand coffee. I asked if the coffee was 100% arabica and the owner said very forcefully that "he wouldn't sell any of those other floor sweepings', by which he meant robusta beans. I said some people liked a bit of robusta in their coffee but he was adamant it was rubbish. I was still doubtful as 100% arabica was not written on the coffee packet so he checked with the agent who replied it was 100% arabica. So I ordered my coffee.
I took a sip.... it didn't feel right.  I looked up the coffee bean online and there was nothing about it being 100% arabica in the bean description. The metallic taste developed as I researched and I wondered who was telling fibs, the coffee company, the agent or the cafe staff?  The cafe manager had checked and shown me the agent's reply on his phone so it wasn't him. As left, coffee un-drunk, I told him I was certain there was a % of robusta in the mix. Arabica beans are more expensive and if he is paying for them, he should get them.
In checking online I had discovered that the firm selling 'leaf and berry' brand also sells the Gusto brand. I used to drink a daily cup of coffee at my local cafe, but they switched without notice to Gusto coffee and after a particularly bad reaction I decided to buy my own coffee machine. The cafe was sold shortly afterwards. A European cafe owner had told me that coffee firms offer large inducements (white goods etc) for  multi-year contracts and I felt sorry for the new owner.  The cafe changed hands a third time and now it sells 100% arabica coffee again - but I have my own machine and hardly visit.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Bach's Goldberg Variations :

Bach's Goldberg Variations played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, a concert I heard live then watched several times online. This was one of those uplifting concerts, memorable for their ability to express emotion. One of those concerts you'd love to hear multiple times.

Such concerts are difficult to put into words - thus the nearly four week gap between seeing and writing. Do see it if ever the Australian Chamber Orchestra play it in a hall near you.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Steven Osborne piano (or Hello Marcellous!)

It isn't often at a concert that you discover you are sitting next to someone whose blog you follow.

The English pianist Steven Osborne played Debussy and Prokofiev last night at the Angel Place Hall.
 
I love the music of the romantics, from Beethoven to Sibelius but have never been a big fan of French impressionists like Debussy.  Osborne, however, took the opportunity to talk to his audience before playing each piece (he said it relaxes him) and told us a bit about composing music which gave me a better insight into this music. He said it is relatively easier to compose a piece in which a couple of tunes fit into an agreed structure than a piece (like Debussy's music) which is a single piece carrying itself forward without a pre-agreed structure. I listened to the Debussy pieces more attentively than I would have done without the explanation.

My seat neighbour didn't seem terribly enamoured with a pianist talking about the music before playing. He had swept in just before the concert, with bright pink scarf flying and a glimpse of red rimmed button holes on a black coat.
 
Something about the way he listened to the music made me think he may be a pianist himself, so I asked him during the interval.
'Yes', he said, ' Well no. Well I used to be! But yes!'
He turned and asked me, 'Are you?' 
'No.' 
'You're an artist or something?'
(I'd doodled little sketches of Osborne in my program.)
'Yes.' I said. 'Yes, and I often paint musicians.'
He considered.
'Did you grow up in New Zealand?' he asked.
'Yes I did,' I said, thinking he had picked up my accent. 
'Oh,' he laughed, 'I read your blog! And you read mine!'

How often do you find yourself sitting next to someone whose blog you follow? The blogs I follow are an eclectic bunch, usually discovered by accident and mainly well written diaries giving me an insight into lives different very from my own. Among them are a couple of blogs written by people who know much more about music than I do and who sometimes hear the same concerts I have heard. I visit their blogs to read what a formally trained musician thinks of the music I have heard - although not before writing my own impressions. 

'Well I wonder who you are?' I replied rather disconcerted. 
Angel Place hall holds 1200 people and even if you know another blogger might be in the audience, you don't expect to be sitting next to them, or if you are, you don't expect to be told.
'Are you Marcellous?' I asked. 
Once or twice in five years Marcellous and I have commented on each other's blogs, which puts us, I suppose on the end of the friendship spectrum below 'vague acquaintance' level. 
He laughed. 'Yes I am!

It was a very odd feeling discovering the reality behind the blog, a feeling we seemed to share. But perhaps if we are seated next to each other again we might find we have progressed up the friendship table to 'more than vague acquaintances'. 

Hello Marcellous! My spell-correct keeps changing your name to Marvellous.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Photo books from fotobuch

They say in business that if you under-promise and over-deliver your clientele will keep coming back. I was reminded of this today when ordering photo-books.

Almost 10 years ago a friend in Germany told me she had tried several of the producers of photo-books and had found fotobuch.de the best. I ordered one shortly afterwards. Fotobuch.de has custom software that you download onto your computer.  To make the book you open the software then load your photos either automatically or manually.You add captions, or poems or other descriptors, choose the page background, photo frame size and colour etc. I always place photos manually and spend lots of time fiddling to make each page looks as good as I can make it. I have made quite a few over the years and each time I discover new features.


The main problem for me is that they don't ship to Australia so I have to make them when I am in the EU or get others to bring them for me. Two days ago I realised that the photobook I had made of recent photos could be brought home by traveling family members if I ordered it quickly enough and had it sent to Scotland where they are staying. They leave next Friday.

I put the order in on Wednesday evening, Wednesday morning their time. The fotobuch.de website says it takes 3-5 working days to produce books, and because I ordered two somewhat different books (one for me and one for them) I guesstimated five days but hoped for four.   If they were sent Monday evening they might just make it to Scotland in time.

An hour ago, Friday evening (Friday morning their time) I received an email saying the books have been delivered to DHL. Production took only two days and now they are on their way.  I was sent a  shipping number, so I can track them on the DHL website, which currently says they are being delivered to the local distribution center.  It looks promising, but I have no idea of shipping times in Great Britain. Surely books that have been produced in two days could be delivered in six?  I have my fingers firmly crossed.

[To fotobuch.de if you are reading this: I love your product, but please consider shipping to Australia!]