Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Tuesday already

A tough week... and it's only Tuesday. A friend's illness is a thing to keep one's own trivial things in perspective, since the friend goes to surgery on Friday for removal of a cancerous mass. There is a difficult prognosis. All this was unknown a fortnight ago.

We went to Port Vincent today and sang at the Senior Citizens' Club, a venue new to us. Was this set up as a a head-to-head contest?  ... our singers had competition from the Stansbury Bush Band ... an all-girl eightsome of instumentalists. Can we learn to play bottle-top percussion sticks by next month?  Can the leopard  change his shorts? (as TP would say).

To cap it all, my Canadian client Rob  is waiting for edit which I am sure I did at the weekend and which has got lost in cybervoid. But on the plus side I have invented (or perhaps re-discovered) a quince omelette, and also produced a port-wine jelly with banana. The week is not  over.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Perhaps Denver

Good report-backs on our last week's concert in far-off Minlaton (O.K., 29 km). And today, back at rehearsals for April May June July and August, talk turned to John Denver's classic composition Perhaps Love. In 1982 he performed it solo at the end of an eight minute interview on Pebble Mill at One. Either the interview or the song is worth 8 minutes of your time. With BOTH you're well ahead. Enjoy. Vale and thanks, JD.

Monday, 5 March 2012

life's a beach again

Funny old weather - but we are into autumn, so anything goes. However, perfect walking temperature on Flaherty's Beach on Sunday arvo. Tide in, so for once there were no acres of sand flats, and amazingly no dogs either giant or small, galloping from half a kilometer away and posing the question: is it going to lick us to death or merely swallow in a single gulp.

The beach seems to bring out the beast in, well... beasts. The one thing dogs have in common, by this time of headlong galloping to meet one on the shore, is that they are well and truly, and with great delight, beyond an owner's control. But as I say, yesterday's dogs were surprisingly non-existent.

I have enjoyed a borrowed read of Heather Eldridge's excellent book, Mosaic, a local, recent and photographically illustrated history of the Minlaton district here on the Yorke Peninsula. It is based firmly on recorded interviews with several dozen individuals who reminisced to the author about their families and themselves, often with anecdotes from seniors, along the lines "my grandmother told me". The result is a rich mix of authentic memory, first hand and second hand, covering much of the century up to the book's publication in 2011. Obviously a real labour of love.

My other reading this past week was Sir Terry Pratchett's fourth novel in the Tiffany Aching series - I think I mentioned this before - complete with its cast of the kilted Nac Mac Feegle clan. The title is: I Shall Wear Midnight. Supposedly aiming at young-adult readers, Pratchett glares at the human race by dealing implicitly with important questions, wondering why it is our societies come to a point in their various histories when we burn people alive. Think witch-hunting. Ah, but the books are set on a fantasy world, So that's all right; can't apply to us. Pratchett's books have sold 75 million. You knew? The man was knighted three years ago, for services to literature, and is dealing somewhat remarkably with his encroaching Alzheimer's Disease. One distinguished reviewer said of this book (there's an even newer one, Snuff, sitting on my shelf waiting its turn) that it shows a writer at the height of his powers, and I can only agree. Deeply serious and deeply humorous. Satire is an inadequate word.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

happy coincidences

Came across this great one in an old issue of the hard-copy newsletter I used to send out in the letterbox mail (do you remember those days?).

"A happy coincidence is a little miracle where God prefers to remain anonymous."

I am actually culling a lot of old papers, photographs and ... stuff. It's harder than it sounds. 

But speaking of letterboxes, I am still reeling in admiration from the act of courtesy of two weeks ago, when Wayne the Postie with a parcel to deliver ignored my letterbox at the front driveway, came up to the "main door" which is NOT at the front of the house but at the side patio, still couldn't find me; so he came round into the back garden and hailed me as I guided a wheelbarrow between the plum tree and a vegie patch. Now I call THAT service. Well done, Australia Post!

And today I was without electrical power in the morning - waiting for normal service to resume, as I thought - until it occurred to me to try the re-set the automatic trip switch. This told me that the problem had something to do with house-system. But by now I had had telephone conversations with an ETSA outage advisor and electrical contractor Richie in another town, and was about to call again with a simple message, "Help!" Lo and behold, Richie showed up unbidden (and I hadn't even given him my address ... go figure) and in a short space he diagnosed - and fixed - ANTS in the outside power outlet, exacerbated by heavy overnight rain getting under the dodgy cover. Impressive performance by all concerned, ants included of course.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Dogs and politicians. Who's an honest boy, then?

Today's Sunday Mail in Adelaide - a separate weekly from The Sun on Sunday in the UK, please note - carries a cheerful page urging us to adopt a  dog*, giving profiles of a few available pooches (and no, I am not actually looking to adopt, for practical reasons. I admit being tempted). What caught my eye was the large animal accompanied by a hopeful spin-line in the text, "Would benefit from obedience training". What a winner! The copy-writer might be hired by the spin-merchants of the contenders in Monday's ALP Caucus ballot for the leadership.

THAT will make it an interesting morning in the nation's political history. Who will they choose? Also in the Mail, of eight members of the public interviewed, one said Neither! But two went for Ms Gillard, and five for Mr Rudd. OK, it was hardly a large enough sampling. My view is that the pro-Kevin camp reckon he's snaky enough in the dirty tricks department to take on Mr Abbot at the next General Election. I have much to take issue with Ms G. as the current PM, but I'm having a small bet with myself that she'll hang on. As for Kevin, does anyone seriously doubt that his grab for his old job back is driven - just a tad - by personal malice? Oops, I didn't say that.

Did anyone watch ABC2 tonight and the 2003 movie (I last saw it soon afterwards, on the big screen) Touching the Void, a true tale of survival by two English climbers in the Peruvian Andes in 1985? Great re-enactment semi-documentary style. Even more amazing story... experienced climbers, but spot the several major mistakes they made.

* Hey. Scroll all the way down to see today's Daily Puppy. Did you even know it was there?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

George Melies and clockwork

Another trip to the big smoke. Adelaide's Rundle Street East cinemas, the Nova and Palace (same owners) have been through a useful refurbishing. The complex incorporates the former Imax big screen now neatly renamed the Eximax. Faced with a choice of The Iron Lady or Hugo, the more suitable timetable-wise was Hugo, and besides it was in 3D on the big screen. Good choice. Ben Kingsley plays the French film pioneer Georges Melies, melancholy and neurotic 30+ years after his creative glory days begun in the 1890s. A brilliant and quirky firm, directed by Martin Scorsese and produced by none other than ... Johnny Depp. The Iron Lady, and Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, will just have to wait.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Scilly Isles and Singapore

Yes, I know, yet again I have neglected blog posts for well over a week.

Tree lopping; surviving a choir practice minus our pianist (but with competent reserve pianists); re-editing a doctoral thesis for an overseas client with some issues (I'm allowed to help with his English but not the subject matter); and making tiny inroads into my self-proclaimed 'de-clutter' at home. Now, for me a de-clutter mainly means finding a tidy home for everything, and being willing to fill a few bags of stuff to discard. I find that others (the hairdresser, anyway) take the word to imply a wholesale scrapping of half one's furniture and other belongings. Not quite, my dear. But OK, I give myself until next Christmas.

By chance I came upon, among 15-year old papers - as happens in de-clutters - the notes I made for a totally fictitious Dungeons & Dragons campaign involving Vikings setting forth on a voyage from the Norwegian coast in the year 796AD. A novelette rather than notes. My viking crew after exploring the Scilly Isles off the Cornish coast recruited, as one does, a small orchestra of Hungarian gypsy musicians who had found their way to what is present day Latvia. I said it was fictitious, but who knows? This - the D & D Campaign, not the 8th century voyage - dates from my role-playing gaming phase which off and on lasted from 1987 in China until the mid-'90s. You may think that the Chinese were not big on role-play games in the late1980s. Neither they were. My exposure began with the bunch of friendly American post-grad students who were my neighbours in the (so-called) Foreign Experts Building of the Shaanxi Teachers University in Xi'an. We role-played every so often for social evenings and to escape into fantasy worlds which, on the whole, were more soothing and less crazy than the real-world Chinese bureaucracy of daily life. Hard to believe it was a quarter century ago.

Now, strangely, tonight on the excellent series Coast being shown on SBS, where should the presenter be off to but the Scilly Isles, like my above vikings except that the modern traveller goes in the good ship Scillonian on the two and a half hour daily ferry trip from mainland Cornwall. The Atlantic waters are reliably sloppy on the trip, and the ship's nickname suggests the extent of the seasickness experienced by most on board. I would tell you the nickname but my latest senior moment has kicked in, and I forget.

I fully intended to do some more de-cluttering but instead I stayed glued to the box and watched the doco on the WWII Fall of Singapore, with the excuse that I was there, even if it was as an anklebiter. Moving and deeply sad. Interesting as a newer look at events with accounts by now-elderly ex-combatants (and civilians), Japanese, British, Indian, Malayan Chinese, Australian, Dutch. Politically, too, the rift between Curtin and Churchill, and the foreshadowing of Australia's post-war re-alignment with the U.S., not post-empire Britain.

Several readers of this blog commented happily on the recent link to Acker Bilk and his inimitable clarinet. You may find it de-linked now, but of course all you need do is go direct to YouTube.com, then type in Acker Bilk on the search-line, or even the title of a particular song. All-time best was Stranger on the Shore, which, as you probably know, was the musician's own composition. By its commercial success, he called it his "old age pension".