Sunday, August 11, 2019

Andrea Chenier in Sydney

Australia is a long way from Europe so the three lead singers in this concert performance of the opera Andrea Chenier, Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria Westerbroek and Ludovic Tézier, had long flights behind them. I admire the fortitude of singers who are prepared to travel so far to sing to us. All three were magnificent on Thursday night  and the audience showed their appreciation by applauding wildly whenever there was a suitable break in the performance, and sometimes when there was a less suitable gap.

List of singers

All the singers performed well and since my seat was fairly near the front I heard all clearly. How those at the back fared I don't know as the acoustics in this building leave a lot to be desired.

Singers leave the stage after bows were taken.
I was too busy applauding to take a better photo earlier.

The flower decorations were as magnificent as the singers

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Painting pears

What is it about pears that makes them so captivating to paint?

Pears and more pears

Monday, July 29, 2019

Donizetti's Anna Bolena in Sydney

My ticket for Donizetti's opera Anna Bolena was accidental, a swap for one earlier in the year that I couldn't attend. I had no expectations. I knew neither of the lead singers and had read no reviews so I was amazed and thrilled to be transported by a most wonderful performance.

All of the singers were excellent and all gave believable theatrical performances. Ermolena Jaho sang Anne Boleyn. Her voice seemed lighter than that of Romanian Carmen Topciu who sang the part of Jane Seymour with aplomb. Topiciu seemed a bit wooden at first but I grew to like her portrayal of the character as the opera wore on. Anna Dowsley sang the young and naive Lord Rochford with verve, humour, and excellent voice. My only quibble was the characterisation of King Henry. Teddy Tahu Rhodes sang King Henry well but his parts all seem to include swagger and macho baring of chest. It would be helpful if Opera Australia would consult a woman when they direct men who woo women, then we might get more believable wooing theatrics.

The stage set was digital effects on moving panels could also do with some tweaks. I found all the bugs and flapping birds and butterflies diverting rather than helpful. Dear digital team, please remember that the audience has fertile imaginations and needs rather less help from you.

Bravo to Opera Australia and all of the cast. Anna Bolena is a long opera, three and a half hours with one interval, and the long passages of repetitive singing that added little to the story could have been wearing, but because the singing and direction were both excellent (and the costuming - bravo to the designer) it didn't feel too long at all.

The photo below of the cast taking bows shows some of the stage panels. The lack of colour in the costumes (Carmen Topciu taking the bow was in bright red) is just a comment on the failure of my phone camera to record colours in a dark theatre.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Order from Chaos

My new home space is slowly becoming more orderly. The music equipment was the first thing that was set up and now most of the big boxes have been unpacked.

Most of my stuff was stored in those small colourful Chinese cardboard boxes and they were easy to pack into large  boxes and equally easy to unpack.  Finding stuff I need may be a bit more difficult.
The important bits are unpacked.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Red squares

I am not a saleswoman by inclination, so when I was forced to become one while selling my house, I had to have a stress mitigation strategy. My strategy was to knit something that required concentration, was rewarding (a pattern you could watch grow) and have some sort of artistic content to make up for lack.of painting and music while I was property obsessed.

I made a jumper using a Kaffe Fasset pattern of squares. You can mix colours at will (the artistic content) , you can watch it growing as you begin new colours, and you have to concentrate, but not too much.

I used wool from various past projects in red and brown. I already had the sleeves from a half unpicked jumper my mother had knitted. Brown wool was unavailable locally, so I dyed some. Orange wool was easy to dye brown but the greens and blues came out of the dye pot as greys and muted moss colour (which I saved for the next project).


As the open houses progressed, my jumper grew and on the day the house sold four weeks into the sales campaign, the jumper was finished. I didn't put it on until the deal was sealed in case I tempted the gods and my buyer backed out.

I have been wearing it ever since as it is warm and comfortable. And it matches my red jeans.




Thursday, July 11, 2019

Moving

I've moved, moved in a whirl from the NSW Central Coast back to Sydney. Perhaps that explains the lack of blog posts recently.

I was too busy becoming an expert in property, something I don't normally find at all interesting. I sold without an agent, but by using an online website that offers support. That decision was one I don't regret. It required energy, but I am sure it would have been more stressful with an agent involved.

I asked three agents for quotes, then decided to do it myself. I let them all know but the pushiest of the three didn't take rejection kindly. I wondered what sort of pressure he was under.  Two of the three kept ringing or leaving notes in my mailbox but vanished without a congratulatory word once I'd sold. I sold in a month and put the price online because it was higher than the agents thought. In fact I worked out that had I taken the pushy agent's advice I would have made 80k less than I did - and that makes me wonder how many little old ladies are taken advantage of by RE agents. The people who bought told me they were delighted to deal directly with the owner. He had very uncomplimentary things to say about agents, having met many during his house search. Industry leaders say the education of agents needs improvement and I can only agree.   

I found rental accommodation a week after I sold, and moved a week after that. The rental Real Estate agent is a very agreeable person thankfully. I am relieved to have the move behind me and as I slowly unpack boxes I feel the tension being released from my shoulder muscles. Time to take it easy.

Blue glass bowl catches the morning sun in my new home.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Greening the city

It is surprising how many people don't like trees. They find them a nuisance,  cut them down in their own gardens and complain about those in their neighbours gardens. They see unaware of the benefits of trees, even after long hot sweltering summers.

Thank goodness there are other people who like trees enough to volunteer to plant street trees. In my area these stalwarts have planted trees on the verges to make up for those removed from gardens. During the recent dry spell they organised volunteers to water these newly planted trees and most of them seem to have survived. They will make a big difference to the livability of the area as they grow.  Let's hope the tree haters don't feel threatened by these verge dwellers and that they live to a ripe old age, keeping the streets cool and contributing to CO2 decrease.
Street tree planted by a local volunteer group.


Thursday, June 06, 2019

Studded winter

Warm. Wool. Walkable. Wonderful. Wearable. Wacky.
Winter fashion statement

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Orange, red, brown ...

Gladioli from the garden, orange as orange can be.
The very last of the orange, very orange, Gladioli are in a vase and Sydney is suddenly cold and windy. After an unseasonably warm May, the cold change is making us all shiver and reach for the winter woollies.

To celebrate the start of winter I am reknitting an old jumper, making the front a sea of squares. I wanted some brown wool to mix with the red, rust and orange but brown is out of fashion and hard to find. So I put various odd balls of green, orange and purple wool in a pot of dark brown dye. Out came grey, green, dark grey, dark purple and one ball of mottly brown, mottly because I didn't stir the pot often enough.

Orange, red, brown, pink....


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day with Cockatoos and Crow

Mother's Day dawned clear, bright and chilly and the sulphur-crested Cockatoos were out in force. This group of 15 had a black crow badgering them sorely.

Caw, caw, caw. Caw, caw, caw. When they flew away he chased two of them down the street. Did he want to be friends or had they invaded his territory?

Sulphur crested Cockatoos and one black Crow

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Orange Gladioli

Gladioli are hard to captute in photos as they are so long
The  orange Gladioli in my garden started appearing several years after I moved to this house. I wondered if the previous owners had tried to kill them. They first appeared as small flowerless plants but they have grown stronger each year.

They have just started flowering. It is good timing as most of the Hibiscus plants in the garden have stopped flowering for the winter.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Sunrise extraordinaire

Sunrise in May 2019

Some sunrises are so stunning the photos look fake. Would you think this was a true representation of a sunrise if it was a painting?

I took the photo last week.

A minute or two before the sky had been a sea of pink. No filter. Not fake.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Exquisitely delicious

Is it possible to buy cakes from yesteryear anywhere? The type that are exquisitely delicious but not too sweet? The entire cake industry in Australia seems to be in love with with saccharin and mock cream and their products have become inedible. They should have signs on them saying 'Look but don't eat'.

If you want a really delicious cake you have to make it yourself from granny's recipe book and because we are all time poor, this doesn't happen often.

There were two birthdays in our family last week so out came the recipe book: Covered Apple Cake (with rum and raisins). 

Covered Apple Cake (Photos by Kurtis)
Yes, it was exquisitely delicious.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Repurposed art


Lilies are white, Roses are pink, Both lilies and roses, Fade in a blink
Watercolour paintings that didn't make the cut land in my collage box. They are a good source of collage material. Now I am considering using them for digital art. If my  investigations of opportunities in this area are fruitful, I'll post a link.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Hobbits and trauma

Reading two books at once, like these two which are as different as chalk and cheese, is very rewarding. Each if them is a bit overwhelming in its own way but the other acts as antidote. 

The Lord of the Rings, which I last read as a 22 year old, is the ultimate fantasy book. I wonder if I noticed last time I read it how subliminally rascist and sexist it is? All the goodies are fair and strong and tall and true. (Hobbits aren't tall, that's true, and they are heros, but they are really just a whimsical counterfoil.). The baddies are dark and squat.
Of the women, two of the three (of a cast of thousands), are on ethereal pedestals and the other one is  huge, squat and horrible (the enormous spider-like creature my hobbits are currently battling). Are there others I have forgotten?

The book is very readable despite its flaws, but I do need a breather from its endless pictorial descriptions of the various world's and landscapes the hobbits traverse (I haven't worked out how the author makes these endless and often similar descriptions so interesting). 

Then I pick up Dr van der Kolk's book about trauma and how the body reacts to it. It too has lots of stories, but also in depth descriptions of real life biology and scientific experiments, so these stories become understandable. It is rigorous and fascinating, even for someone like myself who is not especially drawn to such books. My son was reading it during his recent visit and I dipped into it. When he left, taking the book with him, I was interested enough to get my own copy. 

Much of the activity in the Lord of the Rings would normally induce serious trauma, but this is a fantasy and the protagonists have an amazing ability to survive unscathed.  I suppose that is part of its charm.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Repurposed doona cover

Sort out, give away, throw away, modify. Does Marie Kondo do 'modify' I wonder?  I had too much bed linen and not enough bedwear, so I've been making pyjamas out of a doona cover.

The doona was a well washed cotton, so the material is soft and comfortable but the pattern I used for the PJ top was an ancient pattern for a beach shirt, a very voluminous garment as it turns out (the back is even longer than the front). The modification might need modifying (or I could wear it as a beach shirt).





Sunday, April 07, 2019

Window sill therapy

The window sills on the western side of this house need painting every couple of years as the harsh Australian sunlight destroys the paint. The last time I painted them was 2017.  I knew they needed painting but it was only after cleaning the house up (a touch of Marie Kondo ...or more than a touch actually) that I realised how unsightly they had become. In addition two of the multipaned windows in the lounge had never been painted and remained a ever more tatty apricot colour. (The rest were painted white when I moved in 8 years ago).

So this weekend I got out the scaper, the sand paper, the face mask, the paint and some brushes. The job didn't take long, but what a difference it has made.
Dark apricot to white
(So good to have shingles (almost) behind me.)

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Weekend visitor

Having a visitor this weekend had two benefits: firstly the company, very appreciated after so long alone, and secondly the need to be a bit more active as I had a few jobs for my visitor which needed preparation.  It is true that I ran out of energy a couple of times, but still the effect of the virus is diminishing and I feel.energiesed by the company. It helped that my visitor had a good book, so we both sat reading for a good deal of the weekend.
Nighttime reflection in the window (ink and wash)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

1000 piece puzzle

Puzzles seem the ultimate time waster don't they?  You work and work and when you have completed your puzzle you take it apart again. It is an exercise that rather reminds me of a kindergarten teacher my son had who told her young charges that if they didn't hurry in their tidying up she would throw all the blocks on the floor again. (She never recovered her credibility in the eyes of my son.)

Perhaps for that reason I have never done the puzzle I have had for at least 40 years. I had put it in the box destined for the op shop, but I wasn't certain all the parts were still there so I rather reluctantly decided I should check and I spread it out in the table. Well, part of it only as it has 1000 pieces and they simply didn't fit.

It started finding bits that fit together, and before too long I was completely captivated. Now I remembered how fun puzzles can be. Good, you do de-assemble what you have so carefully assembled, but isn't that true of so much in life? And the assembly process is like a drug, at least it was for me - I couldn't leave it alone.

It was also a very welcome distraction as I am not yet fully recovered. I am at that stage where you want to do stuff but can't.

I started last week on Tuesday. I had bits on the table, bits on a tray and bits on a large piece of foam core picture backing.

By the end of the day I had a bit of the bridge done ....very slow progress.





On Wednesday I did a bit better. I did the puzzle and ate, then returned to the puzzle.


On Thursday I was on a roll. The more you puzzle the more intimately you know the picture you are trying to form so you find the pieces more easily. . By the end of the day there were only a few pieces left to do ...and they slotted quickly into place on Friday.

Then I took it all undone again, but with a great feeling of accomplishment. I am no longer going to discard it. I am sure it will be much quicker next time I do it.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Middlemarch

Over the past week I have been completely entranced by George Eliot's Middlemarch. It is so well written I have been reading very slowly, resisting the temptation to speed read and jump ahead to see what happens next, a temptation very real as it is like an intricate who-done-iit.  The characters are so well drawn, truely a masterpiece. I must have read it before, but so long ago that I had forgotten both plot and characters.


I have just finished it with a sigh of pleasure at ends so neatly and believably tied up. It has been a wonderful filler for wearisome convalescing hours, alternating with other sedentary exercises with knitting needles or crochet hook. Now however, the virus is slowly loosening its grip and I am able to take up less sedentary occupations.  What a relief.

George Eliot, I love you.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Poncho

Convalescence project: A multicoloured woollen poncho, intended for a 9 year old violin player who complains of the cold on autumn mornings, then wraps herself in rug which hampers practice.



Wednesday, March 20, 2019

New beginnings?

It has been five days since the Christchurch terror attack. It feels like a month.

The previously much vilified Muslim community has been one of the sources of support and wisdom for those struggling to deal with the events in Christchurch.. They have had to deal with extremists in their own ranks, and seem wiser than the rest of us.

There are signs of new beginnings but already they are being trampled by those who benefit from the status quo.

We who have been watching our Australian political discourse are appalled at the carnage, but, as Waleed Aly so eloquently put it, we cant be surprised. Most of us didn't realise the viciousness of the monster our government helped create. Now we understand.

At first I was so angry, angry with those despicable politicians who have been promoting divisive racist, anti-Muslim and even more anti-aboriginal ideas for their own political gain. The anger remains, but a sadness too, as we see the offenders squirm and wriggle, trying to say the 'right' thing, only to inadvertently show how entrenched their views are. Australian  PM Scot Morrison blames social media, but makes no mention of the toxic Murdoch press which continues with its racist rantings to this day.

The automatic response for many (Christians) has been 'an eye for an eye',  but look where that got us. We urgently need a change to compassionate inclusive politics, a politics that disallows racist, misogynist hate talk, which is actually all about power.  If we create a society that strips power from racists and misogynists we can begin to build a society we all want to live in.  This means each of us calling out racist and sexist language where we hear it. It is all around us and if we make an effort,  pointing it out won't create enemies but instead help people become aware of how ubiquitous it is, and teach them to mind their language.

As others are pointing out, we need to act on several fronts including online. Talking about her newly released book  Troll Hunting,  brave journalist Ginger Gorman who interviewed trolls to understand them, says they hope for just such outcomes as the NZ terrorist attack. We can no longer disregard them.

All power to Jacinda Ardern and her clear sighted responses to this tragedy. She is going to need our support. We who want to avoid going down the path of strong man politics need to be even more determined than those who are going to resist change.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Framley Parsonage

The cover of Framley Parsonage shows that I bought it for $3:50. I have forgotten where.

I read the first couple of chapters yesterday,, remembered the story ...then it was time for bed. I tossed and turned all night, remembering the silly young hero who wanted to be in with the in-crowd, signing his name to bills (I owe you's) for a 'friend', who was really no friend at all. He brought himself to the brink of ruin.

This morning I decided I would not read about his silliness but take the story up again where he came to his senses and told his wife his troubles.

It was easy to finish the book from there and tonight I'll hopefully sleep easier, having seen all the sympathetic characters rescue themselves and some of the doubtful ones as well.
Anthony Trollope wrote his book before George Meredith wrote his.. Trollope's books are so much easier to read and much more fun than Meredith's.. Also much funnier than Meredith's The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, and the humour has not aged.

cat with green eyes

Frankie, the cat with green eyes
Well yes, all cats do have green eyes don't they?

Monday, March 11, 2019

Northanger Abbey

It's the perfect read for the indisposed. Light, witty, and light enough to hold up lying down.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

More lambs in springtime


Taihape landscape
I am feeling much better today after a sofa bound week. I made another little lamb painting to celebrate.

They say shingles lasts 3-5 weeks and I have had it 4 weeks, so I am hoping this is the elusive corner I have been waiting to turn.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Not Your Average Nurse

I heard a few episodes of this book on ABC Radio's late night program last year, then missed the rest,  so I ordered the book. It was a good light weight alternative to Goerge Meridiths book.

The author says she wrote it to tell her daughter about her life before becoming an author. For anyone who started nursing in the 1960s-70s, it will bring back lots of memories, and for the rest of us it is a fun read as well.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Lambs in springtime

Here are some lambs in springtime, painted from a picture taken years ago in Taihape.

Ewes and lambs in Taihape

My brother, who has had shingles twice, told me yesterday that he got better very gradually, not suddenly as perhaps I had been expecting. I got a watercolour pad out as diversion therapy during the gradual improvement.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

The Ordeal of Richard Feverel

The Ordeal of Richard Fevrel is apparently the most famous of George Meredith's novels. Born 10-20 years after Trollope, Dickens, Thackerey I thought this book might be just as accessible, but there is a reason why you seldom see it in bookstores.

I found it obtuse, meandering, full of a humour long past its use-by date (the forward says the first 2/3 of the book is funny, so perhaps it must have been, in its day) and with so many ornamental flourishes it feels like a Louis XVI chair. Only a bedbound and bored person would persevere with it ...but actually it was even too much for this bedbound person and I skipped a good deal of the end part.

The picture of the front is pretty though.
I  must have kept it on my shelf because I thought I should give it some real time. Well I have done that now and it is now bound for the op shop.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Cardinal Pell

Cardinal Pell.  Yuck yuck yuck. Pell, friend of the far right, bully and now convicted pädophilie. The decision by the jury was unanimous. Those poor kids. I ran into a bully recently and it makes me shudder to think about it. No wonder those kids buried their feelings for so long.

Australia, though, is having its Trump moment with far right commentators jumping to Pell's defence. (egThe Bolt report on Sky News today.)
Read how this affects victims

Yuck yuck yuck.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Warlight - a wonderful read



It has been a week since my last post and in that week I have learned what a nightmare shingles can be.  It isn't the itchy blistery rash that is the worst part, but the seering nerve pain that follows. Not everyone experiences it, but if you do, you won't quickly forget it. Coupled with nausea and exhaustion, it makes you feel as if you might never recover.

I am recovering however, incrementally, day by day and today I have finally spent a day on a chair instead of in bed. The St John's Wort, VitC+Zn,VitB12 (I am taking every safe  substance that is recommended) seems to be working.

One boon has been reading Warlight, the new book by Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient. It's a wonderful work and deserves to be read slowly. It's a very unusual sort of who-done-it, though to characterise it like that does it an injustice. Definately recommended.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Meditation with bees

Outside my window is a bush with little  butterfly-like flowers. The bees love these flowers which renew themselves daily as their long stalks grow even longer.

I sit and watch as the flowers bob up and down with the weight of the bees. This meditation on bees is about the limit of my activity at the moment. Perhaps tonight the goddess of sleep will visit and make me more capable on the morrow.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

St John's wort (Johanneskraut)

I am on day six of the antivirals against shingles, one more day to go. I thought by this time I would be ' over the hump' but no, there is not much change. You can't sleep and everything itches. The nurse did say they can't do anything about the initial infection, but they can 'manage' it and stop it spreading, thus the antivirals. I am very grateful to have them. If this is how bad you feel when one nerve is affected, what must it be like when internal organs are pulled into the viral orbit?

One silver lining is that I am reading through the pile of books I had waiting. Today in Davina Whitehouse's (actress) autobiography I discover she had shingles in her eighties. She caught it early though, took the antivirals, then a friend gave her St John's wort oil which magically made the spots on her face disappear.  I used to make this oil in Germany from flowers in the paddock next door. There it is called Johanneskraut, and we used it for all cuts and abrasions. I didn't know about the disappearing act it does on shingles spots though.

From 'Davina' by Davina Whitehouse

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Alan Pearson, artist

I have been looking through the photos I took of Alan Pearson's portraits in Nelson's Suter gallery and in Wellington's national portrait gallery. I read that he is probably New Zealand's most well known portrait artist. If I had known his work previously I had forgotten it, so it is a real pleasure to discover/rediscover him.

Pearson often works in shades of grey and, as I said in a previous post, his work is memorable. Here is a collage of four of his works.




Friday, February 15, 2019

Queenstown to Sydney

I didn't see much of Queenstown this visit as shingles makes you feel quite off colour and causes all sorts of odd aches. I developed a very sore muscle in my inner foot that made me hobble! Luckily I could just veg out and be fed at my lovely hosts place.

By yesterday the antivirals (one every 5 hours for 7 days!) were starting to kick in; the foot ache suddenly disappeared from one hour to the next and I was able to fly home. The gods must have been in my side as the connections home by train and bus were very quick - I just caught both with a minute to spare.

I am glad I have no activities planned. It's veg-out time.

Shingles ...ba Humbug

I had been waiting for Shingrix to arrive in Australia. It is a vaccine against shingles that is very effective.   The current alternative is not so very effective. Turns out I waited too long. B*gger#*#.


I am lucky though that it is on my lower torso. Some people get it on the head. I am learning a thing or two about nerves too. Who knew that a single nerve fibre reaches from the spine to the tip of your finger? Or right around your half torso? . Shingles affects a nerve which is why the rash develops around your torso stopping exactly on the midpoint on both sides.

I always imagined that there are chains of nerves through the body. That's what comes of being a botanist rather than zoologist.

Incidentally, someone told me they'd had it twice, both times developed while on holiday. I think we don't realise how much stress our bodies are under on holiday.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Wellington to Queenstown

Wellington on a good day is glorious. Blue skies, deep turquoise water, houses dotted along the hills all looking freshly painted.

Tub of flowers in a Wellington
Yesterday I flew from Wellington to Queenstown. We all climbed on board but we're then informed that our flight was delayed because of some sort of leak (never quite explained). They found another plane the same size so we were reseated in that. I overheard a staff member say that these passengers were lucky because it would take hours before the defective plane was ready to take off.

The Southern Alps were much more spectacular than my phone camera could record


 On our way south, passengers (the plane was full) were offered free wine for the inconvenience and the servings were very generous. When we disembarked the passengers clapped in appreciation.

Otago peaks, flying into Queenstown

Monday, February 11, 2019

Ah coffee...

A couple of days without coffee means I am really enjoying the excellent coffee at a little warehouse type coffee shop called Emporio Cafe in Wellington!

Emporio Cafe

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Nelson to Wellington

Goodbye Nelson

I had a very smooth flight from Nelson to Wellington this morning. There were two smoke plumes in the distance and people were scanning the surrounding bushland for fire. The hostess said lots of her Nelson colleagues had been evacuated and we're living with friends.

Hello Wellington

Twenty five minutes later I was landing in Wellington to clear skies, a completely flat sea, and unusual heat. There has been a fire in the city here as well, but it was put out quickly.