Friday, June 30, 2006

Long days

The days are long here, but I have got used to long days by now. It is 8:30 pm as I write, a calm evening and I am about to go for a bike ride around the fields. The sun is still shining but will be gone in an hour.

My bed is directly under an attic window and I use the eye shades from Emirates in the morning when the sun wakes me at ... well I am not sure what time. Early anyway. I wake, reach for the eye shades, and drift back to sleep.

Curtain call

This picture was taken during the curtain calls for Figaro. Miriam is the taller figure in the white dress. The woman in black next to her is Simone Young. Yes I know, it isn´t very clear.

A Rose

The rhododendrons are over now but the roses are flowering. This rose winds it way around the back veranda. It flowers once a year, in June.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

More rhododendrons!

Gorgeous aren´t they?


The whole garden was a riot of colour when I arrived in Hamburg (early June). Did you ever see Rhododendrons like this?

Its cool up here

I just got back from a trip down south. It is much cooler up north and I am reminded how short and cool the summers are here. It is easy for a visitor in June to forget how long the winters are.

Today I put Picasa onto Angelika´s computer so she can send photos to friends without blocking the pipes. I would have downloaded that fantastic little open source program Irfanview so she could make her pictures smaller, but Picasa automatically downsizes pictures when it sends them by email which is all she wants to do.


Oh well. I guess Australia had to loose sometime. There are a lot of other teams and fans licking their wounds as well.

There was a sigh of relief here that Germany is still in with a chance. Apparently before the start of the WM everyone thought it would be a disaster. Much like the feeling in Sydney before the games. As soon as it started the mood changed.

As I sat in a coffee shop the other day I watched cars passing and counted the number of cars with flags flying. One in five!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Go Australia

2-2 against Croatia and into the next round. How about that!

View along Feldweg 78

Green green

It is so green here. I have become used to the dry Australian vegetation. When I go for walks here I have to search to find something to paint that is not green on green. The fields are full of wheat growing taller by the minute, the trees are thickly covered in green yellow leaves, houses are surrpounded by thick green shrouds and when you travel anywhere by train the vegetation on both sides is so close you feel as if the train is draving a path through an eternal forest.

I also notice the sun is so much gentler than we are used to in Sydney. Sun glasses have less UV protection. The woman in the sun-glasses shop said that they have discovered that children have no protection against UV until they are about 20 so they should be the first ones wearing sun glasses.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


I was in a shoe shop with Angelika this afternoon in Wedel when a roar erupted from the cafe-cum-pub across the road. Germany had just won 3-0 against Ecuador. We had watched half the game before leaving for the shoe shop.

Angelika said that for the first time in her teaching career a committee meeting was put off. The staff wanted to watch the game. Apparently a message also went out to the effect that that if anyone wanted to ring the Chancellor or the Bundestag to please do it at half time!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Overcast and threatening rain

I hear that Sydney weather is very cold. The weather here has turned from very hot to overcast and threatening rain but I am finding the cooler weather pleasant. Vorpommern had hail storms last night with hailstones as big as tennis balls. Hamburg had light rain.

I am going to all of Miriam´s performances and am just about to go and see Il Pagliacci for the second time. There are only two performances. The opera closes for the summer break shortly so I am taking the opportunity while I have it. I travel by rail and at 11:30 when I come home the train is still full of people. While the football is on trains are continuing to run until after 1am.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Who is Wotan

"Who is Wotan?" you might ask if you are reading this blog and wondering about url.

Wotan is the head of the Gods in Wagner´s Ring Cycle. Wotan is based on north European legend. He has seven daughters by Erda the earth mother who are the Valkuries. They ride around the battlefield collecting fallen heros and taking them to Valhalla. (I am still looking for my horse!)


Miriam was wonderful as Nedda in the opening of Il Pagliaci last night. She acts and sings wonderfully well. Beautiful voice and nice person. There were autograph hunters at the stage door waiting for her.

While I was waiting to congratulate her after the show I heard a cheer from the crowd standing about the porter´s room. Germany had just scored in the last few minutes of the game against Poland. There was a palpable sigh of relief that the German team has reached the quarter finals.
On the way home in the train I noticed a young man with dark curly hair sitting in the corner looking very dejected. He was wearing a T shirt with the Polish colours.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Football fever

Football fever. I must have caught it as today I bought myself a football T shirt. It is one with the German colours. It was on sale and I wonder if that says something about the team´s chances! People are driving cars with German flags fluttering on both sides - and the newspapers are discussing whether it is a good idea for Germans to be driving cars with flags on!

Miriam tells me she is pleased to see people here finally enthusing about something.
"They are so quiet normally," she said.

I spent the last few days painting Miriam at the Staatsoper. The singers have been very inclusive and friendly and I almost feel almost like one of the crew. (Well, I would if I could sing.)

Tomorrow I go to the opening of Il Pagliacci to see Miriam sing the role of Nedda, which is the main soprano role. She is also singing in Figaro and I have tickets for several of the nights she is singing over the next week. Today was a good painting day and I finally produced a couple of paintings I like. It always takes a while to gets ones hand in.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"We won!"

Well well, Australia won against Japan 2-1! I heard it first at the opera rehearsal where the Australian cast members were talking about the win. They greeted each other with "We won."

Germany is like Sydney was during the olympics - the world cup is everywhere and everyone knows the scores. There are TV sets playing games and play backs in every pub and cafe and even the railway stations record the wins on the signs that show when the next train is coming. One minute you see "next train in 1 Minute", next minute you see "Australia Japan 2-1" on the screen.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Hamburg is such a lovely city. All the trees have their fresh green early summer leaves. It was really cold when I arrived but now the weather has turned and the sun is shining.

I went to Figaro last night. Miriam, the soprano I am painting, sang the Countess role and was very good. Simone Young conducted. Simone Young is obviously loved here as she got the biggest ovation and all around me I heard people commenting on her - always favourably. Sydneys loss is Hamburgs gain. (For those who dont know, Simone is an Australian, a wonderful conductor. She was with the Sydney opera but her contract was not renewed. Many people including me resigned their membership in protest.)

(I cant find the key on this computer for apostrophes!)

Tonight I have my first appointment to sketch Miriam as she works on her new role.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My Dubai experience

When we got to Dubai airport I collectd my bag but forgot that I had also checked in a box. I left it going around and around on the baggage carrossel and only recalled that I had forgotten it next morning. I made enquiries and was told to go to the airport early next day before the flight and collect it at the lost baggage office.

Back at the airport next morning Philippa looked after our luggage (her plane was going an hour after mine) and I went looking for the lost baggage office. I was send downstairs to an empty corridor with no signs for anything. A cleaning lady came by so I asked her for directions.

"Through the heavy doors and first office on the left," she said.
I looked at the lift doors with their extra door for locking quickly in even of a problem and left them reluctently to find the lost baggage office.

The cleaning lady was right. In the office she sent me to there were three large men with military style uniforms and red badges. They talked between themselves but not to me. It was quite intimidating really, though I am sure they didn´t intend to be. A bit like Pakistan. Lost in bureaucracy. I couldn´t understand them so I just sat and waited. Through the door I could see shelves and shelves crammed full of baggage, coats, books and other bits and pieces.

I felt as if I was trapped in a Kafka play.

Eventually one of the men asked me what I wanted and then after some discussion with the others and a bit of coming and going he lead me to another room along the corridor with yet more shelves of baggage. I searched through the boxes from teh last day or two and found nothing. Finally I discovered there was an arrivals lost baggage office in the next building.

At this point I started to wonder if I really needed by box back. I decided I may as well try, so I trotted off to the cellar of the building next door. On the way I discovered that there is a completely seperate entrance and building for first class passengers.

In the arrivals hall cellar I found a very nice fellow who said he would put the package on the plane for me.

When I told Philippa about the seperate hall for first class passengers she said she had seen lots of people with baggage sewn up in hessian but had looked for someone with Louis Vutton luggage without success. So now we know that we belong in the hessian baggage class.

The woman checking us in had lots of difficulty getting the computer to accept the luggage lable a second time, however when I arrived at Hamburg airport, the box was the very first thing off the carroussel. Bravo Emirates. I must say we were both very impressed with Emirates. More leg room, really nice relaxed staff and pleasant atmosphere.
As I write this I realise I must have already been jetlagged, as I remember the whole thing through a haze.
PS I can´t find a spell checker for this program, so you are getting my version of the Ehglish language and it will vary somewhat from the official version!

Sydney - Dubai - Hamburg

Well I made it to Hamburg and I am getting over my jetlag as the days pass. It was a great idea to stop in Dubai and have a sleep but I got jetlag anyway.

Dubai is not nearly as flashy as I expected (I think I expected another Singapore.) Instead I found a city of square spare boxes built for cars, no people to be seen, very hot. The sparse modern city has a beauty of its own though. Where there were no buildings there was sand. Grey sand.

The people are relaxed and friendly but most people there are foreigners. Indians and Pakistanis working on vast building projects and Europeans working as teachers and lawyers etc. In the paper I read that 500 foreign teachers are about to be replaced by locals. You have the impression everywhere that peole are busy learning how to run things and enter the 21st centry in a hurry. It was wonderful having Philippa there with me (Hi Philippa!). We farewelled each other in the airport next morning then she flew to London and I to Hamburg. The only thing I bought in Dubai was some Earl Gray tea with arabic writing on the tin. I opened it in Hamburg and the tea is fragrant and delicious.

Hamburg is green and verdant and I have been walking in the feilds with friends and admiring the green green green. It is cold and overcast. Really cold, cold enough for the heating to have been turned on again in the house. Tomorrow is a holiday here (Pfingston) so we are celebrating with a Pfingston lunch which my friend Angelika is cooking as I write.