Friday, February 26, 2010

More music

Last night I went with P&B to the South Melbourne Town Hall for the season opening concert for the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). The hall was packed to the gills - standing room only for a most enthusiastic audience.

The program was chosen to represent some of the composers who will be highlighted in the academy's 2010 season: Schumann and Chopin, both born in 1810; Gyorgy Kurtag; and Anthony Pateras who is ANAM's composer-in-residence for this year. The works performed covered a wide range of ensembles, from solo piano through horn and piano, to tenor (Steven Davislim) and orchestra; the performances were of a consistently high standard.

The night was thoroughly enjoyable and confirms my feeling that music in Melbourne is in a remarkably good state - now I have to sit down with the ANAM program to plan out my year of concert-going.



Christchurch Art Gallery
Christchurch Arts precinct
In the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

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Lake Te Anau

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Land of the long white cloud - Part three

Christchurch is delightful - a small city with heaps of character. Yesterday I paid a visit to the Gallery which had an exhibition of Ricky Swallow watercolours, plus an interesting survey of their own collection including many works which have been in storage. There was a Warhol Chairman Mao print, but not nearly as nice as the one I know - Christchurch's has a dark blue face.

There is a tourist tram service which circles the city but I prefer to walk - trams are no novelty to me.

This morning I walked down to the Arts Centre which occupies the old premises of Canterbury University, elegant Victorian neo-Gothic stone buildings. Over the road are the Botanic Gardens and these are spectacular; there are many mature examples of European trees (some are huge) and shrubs as well as an excellent area of New Zealand native vegetation.

Next door is the Museum. There are many old-fashioned exhibits, but over all it's a very interesting collection including some wonderful displays of native birds in great dioramas. It brought back memories of the old Melbourne museum. There is also a rather nice cafe with views over the Botanic Gardens, where I had lunch.

On my way to the Arts Centre this morning I discovered a wonderful bookshop, Scorpio Books, a friendly old-fashioned bookshop with an amazing range of books and a nice laid-back atmosphere. Unfortunately (or fortunately) my bag is already full to bursting so I only bought one book.

Mustn't be late tonight as my flight leaves at 6:30 in the morning; I'll probably have to leave around 5:00. Wish me luck!

PS I'll post some pictures when I get home.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Land of the long white cloud - Part two

After two days of concentrated walking at Te Anau, Sunday was quiet and relaxed. After a late rise we got ourselves organised and set off for St Kilda beach (I kid you not) where A and Billy (the dog) went for a beach walk while T (with O on his back) and I strolled along the park and onto the beach further down - we met the other two on the way back.

After this  exercise we made our way to a great little Chinese restaurant which was strangely empty considering it was New Year. However we heard that the evening was completely booked out. The food was excellent and included a delicious ocean cod (?) with spring onions and ginger, half of which we took away and finished off for dinner.

In the afternoon A and a friend sang through some duets with me on the piano - nothing very serious, just getting to know what was in the various collections by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Faure and others.

After our dinner of leftovers we all staggered to bed obscenely early and flaked out, but not before A booked an airport shuttle for me in the morning.

This morning T and I were up fairly early and the shuttle arrived to whisk me away to the airpot where I caught the plane to Christchurch.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Land of the long white cloud - Part one

I landed on Thursday afternoon at Dunedin's tiny airport (I love walking across the tarmac) and was picked up by Amanda (and Olivia) and whisked back to their place. She and Tim have a lovely, roomy house with a great view out the kitchen windows.

Yesterday morning we packed the car up and set out for Te Anau and booked into quite a nice little cabin. Then we set off on quite a long walk; it was through the beech-forest and very lovely, but in the end for me just a bit longer than I would have liked. Young Olivia (14 months) was carried on her father's back and, considering the length of time we were out, behaved extraordinarily well.

We were exhausted when we got back and it was early to bed for all. Then this morning we had a frantic pack and clean up before we set out walking along Lake Te Anau - this walk went to a beach where I caught the water-taxi which Amanda had booked for me. Five minutes or so across the lake to Te Auna where I will wait for Tim and her to walk back to the carpark; they'll drive around and collect me before we return to Dunedin. The woman running the cabins has provided lunches for us both days with enough food for an army. So much for walking off the inches ...

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Wine, or cheese?

In the course of sorting out the junk in my spare room I have discovered a collection of diaries dating back to 1976. As I've never been very consistent in keeping records these journals are quite patchy; there might be regular entries for a few months, or even weeks, and then nothing for months. Some are written in proper, page-a-day diaries, but many are in a motley collection of notebooks.

To save space I've decided to transcribe them before throwing them out - it's been an interesting exercise and I've learned a few interesting things about myself in the process.

Those who know me will be aware that my memory is not very reliable; until I started using the Google Calendar I was constantly double- (and sometimes triple-) booking myself. Recently, on the basis of some not very definite evidence, I stopped taking the cholesterol-reducing drugs I had been taking for several years, with the hope of some improvement in my memory function.

However, looking at my scribblings from the early 1980s makes me realise that my memory was just as bad back then; some entries mention these problems specifically. So perhaps in a few months when I have my regular battery of tests done and my current regime of diet and exercise hasn't managed to keep my cholesterol levels down I am inclined to return to taking the statins.

Probably the most surprising thing I've found in these diaries is the person I was nearly thirty years ago; I don't really like who I was then. I was self-centred, lazy, wasteful, amazingly promiscuous and frankly, quite often pretty obnoxious. Certainly there is ample evidence that I was nice to friends, kind to animals and children but the overall picture I get in these journals is of someone I would not like to spend time with.

I think I've certainly improved with age.