Friday, February 14, 2020

Beethoven's 1st, 2nd, 3rd Symphonies with the ACO.

Beethoven is everywhere this year and I have no complaints at all. I can listen to Beethoven any time, anywhere. Today I heard Beethoven's Symphonies 1, 2 and 3 played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Anna Melville, Head of Programming with the ACO gave the introductory talk. I am not alone in enjoying her talks and the small presentation room was packed, with people sitting on the floor to listen. She talks about the context in which the music was written and adds a thing  or two about the music that we might otherwise not hear.

Anna Melville presents

ACO members were augmented by wind instrumentalists from the world over, and by students from the Australian National Academy of Music, ANAM. It was heart warming to see each of the young musicians playing beside their mentor. The ACO works extremely hard but they are a happy crew and I can't think of a better way to be introduced to the playing life than as a member of this band.   They were all playing on gut strings, perhaps a first for some of the students, and several disappeared to get strings mended when they broke. (Melville had told us that there is an expert in re-stringing instruments back stage.)

They all played magnificently and the audience was rapt. What a pleasure to know that these young folk have chosen classical music as their career choice. Or perhaps music has chosen them. Right in my line of sight sat ANAM student James Morley with his cello shining yellow in the hall lighting. I couldn't resist making a little sketch as he played.

James Morley with his cello

Monday, February 10, 2020

Australia, land of extremes

After months of fires, the East Coast of Australia now has floods. During the fires the Australian Broadcasting Service (ABC) did a wonderful job of keeping people informed about which areas were under threat, when they should leave adn where they should go. Yesterday afternoon and evening  the same team were again giving evacuation advice, but this time for floods. After two days of torrential rain,  300mm fell on many parts of Sydney overnight  and 500mm on the Blue Mountains. Transport is in chaos today and people are being advised to work from home today if they can.

I read now that south coast people now approach ABC staff to thank them for help in desperate times. In many cases, with power off and no wifi, these people were dependent on battery radios for their information and the ABC was the outstanding performer.

It is hard to believe, but our far-right wing government favours a commercial station over their own ABC, paid for and owned by the Australian people. They have cut the ABC and cut it again, and more cuts are planned. They don't like having a broadcaster that is neutral and tells the truth. Who cares that they are the best source of information by a country mile? Woe is us.

Some trickster has doctored a photo of the harbour bridge to make it appear like a waterfall. Probably some will believe it, such is fake news in our era. If you want to see a real waterfall, search for Wentworth Falls on google. Those falls in the Blue Mountains are bucketing down the cliff after so much rain.

Fake floods - tricksters phototshopped image

Real floods in Sydney yesterday (photo: ABC)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hello Woolworths! How about selling loose veges?

You would think by  2020 the supermarkets would have worked out a way to sell things without packaging, especially organic veges, which are bought by folk who know the problems  caused by packaging.

At the supermarket this morning the woman working at the checkout counter couldn't get her reader to read the barcode. She asked me to read out the very small numbers she had to use instead. She complemened me on my eyesight and I said I wouldn't have been able to read the code without glasses. It turned out that she had had some glasses which had cost her $600, but she'd left them at the till for 2 minutes and someone had pinched them.  Really some people are swine.

I can't help thinking about this woman. She was older and would have had to work a long time at the Supermarket to save for them. She said she was not going to buy a replacement.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2020 - may it be a year of big changes

I blog from bushfire surrounded Sydney where there was a big fireworks display last night, despite protests. It could have been a watershed.moment, a moment to tell the world 'we have got to get serious about climate change, but our leaders are lacking in imagination and integrity.

My twitter feed reflects a people pushed to the brink.

While Scott Morrison PM parties at Kirribilli house the nation burned. Tex called him out:

Friday, December 13, 2019

Bars and colour

My new abode has so many bars on the back windows you'd think you were incarcerated. I will remove them when I have time since we have entered the age when it no longer pays to break into people's houses because anything worth stealing can be bought for less trouble in the $2 shop. While the bars remain, I am drawing the eye away with colour.
Teapot, Tomatoes, Snapdragon, Red Glass.

My sewing machine is running hot, sewing curtains for the remaining windows. Two down, two to go.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Surviving the Sydney Property Circus

After months of visiting open houses I finally have a new home. I move in next Wednesday.

There has been a pause in blog posts but that doesn't mean I stopped writing. I kept a diary of my property gyrations which is now a book called Surviving the Sydney Property Circus: a Seller's/Buyer's diary. It is available on Amazon.

 It's an E-Book.

Addendum: the Paperback version is now available at:

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Il Viaggio a Reims in Sydney

Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims is not your usual opera with a plot (however absurd) and beginning, middle and end. Instead it is a spoof on opera,  a very long (3 hour) sing with a great deal of repitition.   To the credit of Opera Australia and their collaborators (Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam Opera, Royal Danish Opera) the audience was entranced from beginning to end. Phenomenal singing and an ingenious staging. Bravo!

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Teapot, little jug and Clivia flowers

Teapot, little jug and Clivia flowers
My teapot painting is finished. The teapot is a design called Amapola from the German porcelain firm Villeroy and Boch. It is about fifteen years old. I am not such fan of painted crockery but for some reason I never get tired of this design.

Addendum: I added a dropped flower for balance.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Painting domestic scenes

I have hardly posted here over the last two months because my energies have been directed toward finding somewhere permanent to live. More on that later. 

I am really missing a decent painting space, but while I wait for better I am alleviating  my property blues by  painting little domestic scenes.

Chalk drawing: teapot and milk jug

Teapot, milk jug and Clivia flowers on the easel
The teapot seems to be painting itself. It is very different from the last canvas of a vase with onions which sat on the easel and complained for such a long time. Each time I passed it I changed it, but in the end I took it off the easel and put it away, perhaps to just paint over it. It is so dark, perhaps reflecting the winter days that are now slowly receding.

Vase and onions

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Slimming down before a move

Next time I move I hope it is with a bit more warning. In July I moved rather suddenly, taking all sorts of things you would normally discard (or eat) before moving. Frozen food, fridge food, an enormous bag of organic Penne pasta, a whole net of oranges and various kitchen items I should have discarded long ago. Thank goodness I had had a big clean out a few months prior to selling.  My house looked uncharacteristically bare when I was selling it, but I have moved to a smaller space and once again I have too much stuff.

Pictures I had not looked at in years appeared during the move. They include a collage made when I was in my early 20s living in Singapore. It features Buddhas, but only 20 years later did I discover Vipassana meditation and learn something about the Buddha. I also rediscovered a watercolour I made of my mother knitting. She didn't like but it still reminds me very much of her.
My mother knitting

Friday, September 13, 2019

Celebrating Mozart with the ACO

Whoops, foot stomping and whistles echoed through the Angel Place concert hall last night. It is not really the sort of response Haydn and Mozart pieces normally elicit, but this Australian Chamber Orchestra concert was not the normal was the exceptional. 

Richard Tognetti and pianist Dejan Lazić played solos that made us all feel as if the conversation was with us individually. They were ably supported by the orchestra, augmented by a group of equally good  wind instrumentalists.  How lucky we are in Australia having this exceptional group to play to us.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Ayse Goknur Shanal at the Sydney Opera House

Ayse Goknur Shanal singing at the Sydney Opera House
Two and a half hours of exquisitely sung German Lieder in the Sydney Opera House Utzon Room is my idea of heaven. The singer was Ayse Goknur Shanal and she was ably accompanied by Ashley Hribar, a versatile pianist with a wonderfully sensuous touch. Together Ayse and Ashley led their rapt audience through Lieder cycles by Schumann, Brahms and Clara Schumann. The afternoon was dedicated to Clara Schumann and all composing women. 

The audience was the most mixed bunch of folk I have ever had the pleasure of attending a concert with, from members of the German Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to local street people as well as two groups of music school students. This afternoon was an afternoon to remember.

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


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