Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Afternoon Walking

When I lived in a big city, I was never without membership to a gym, where I would go at the end (always the end) of each long day in order to empty my mind while cycling/walking/climbing stairs to pop music videos. If I ever skipped a couple of days, I'd get a sort of craving for pop music .. and I'd know that it was time to go to the gym.

In Townsville, gym membership is unusally expensive and there's no incentive to join because there are so many excellent places to go for an afternoon walk. And the wide open spaces are just as good as pop music for filling my head up with nuttin.

My new favourite spot for a walk is the wetlands reserve just behind Townsville. It's beautiful, and just up the road from our place. I don't know why I never went before this weekend?

The flat open space and the rumply hills in the background remind me of the savannah country around the mine where I worked last year. Somewhat ironically, the country around that mine was I think the least damaged landscape I've ever seen - I suppose that I will ever see. I didn't have too many words for it then (didn't have too many words for anything) but at the time it seemed amazingly rich to me and incredibly beautiful.

The Townsville wetlands can't match the gulf savannah for prinstinity, but they definitely have that same theraputic quality - the exercise, the fresh air, and my head full of nothing at the end of the day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Savoury Treat

This morning I received word that my writing job is very nearly complete (just waiting for final-final-final sign-off).

I decided to celebrate by making myself an extravagent lunch: a hamburger of my own devising (cream cheese, roast sweet potato, bok choy and fried mushrooms, topped with Hayden's roast capsicum relish). Delicious.

Although it did fall apart the moment I tried to take a bite. Not to worry.

Question: What do I usually have for lunch?
Answer: I have absolutely no idea.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Innisfail Rocks Out

The original inhabitants of the wildly beautiful Johnstone Shire told their particular musical stories with the aid of clap sticks. Eons later the sound of castinets and Spanish hand clapping would ring through the rainforests and cane fields to tell another fascinating story.

In 2007, the journey between the two tales will be captured in this original outdoor music theatre piece by internationally-renowned musician and composer John Rodgers with song and dance from indigenous and Spanish performers and a visual journey through times of dynamic cultural and ecological change.

The promo blurb for this concert put in my mind the expectation of a much more swirling, abstract sound-scape piece of performance art incorporating "eons" and "visual journeys" and "clap sticks". Knowing the work of composer John Rodgers a little, I expected this to be achieved in a complex and interesting way, but I was wondering how on earth he was going to communicate it in a manner which the good folk of Innisfail could connect with.

Well. When we arrived at the venue, I immediately grasped how he'd managed that: the place was swarming with little girls all dressed up in spanish-doll dancing costumes. The audience was made up principally of these girls' mothers, and as we sat down we could hear them discussing the technicalities of sewing up the costumes.

The concert itself was much less abstract than I expected, and much less about indigenous culture than the program had advertised. It was the story, told with music including some really beautiful flamenco guitar, old Spanish songs and a bit of Spanish-style dancing from the girls, of two men from Spain who lived in Innisfail in the first half of the twentieth century.

One of the men was the architect and builder of this place: Paronella Park. It was to be his Spanish Castle and pleasure garden, but abandoned since his death in 1940-something, it has become North Queensland's answer to Angkor Wat in terms of beautiful ruins rotting in the midst of jungle. The other Spanish man was a master of flemenco guitar, a passionate gambler, and a fisherman who spent much time in his later years just sitting on the pier at Palm Cove trying to catch Spanish mackerel. This man had taught John Rodgers to play flamenco guitar back in the 1970s.

It was a great concert, on the whole. Even though the audience was restless all around us during the long sections when their daughters weren't on stage, it was still really wonderful to hear good musicians performing complex and beautiful music, and doing it really well. And the didgeridoo player, the sole "indigenous performer", added an amazing bass sound to some of the keening lovelorn Spanish ballads. The rest of the time though, he didn't have much to do. I did see him close his eyes through one of the big flamenco set-pieces: I'm not sure if he was listening really really closely or if he was just having a snooze.

I'm not sure why they tried to sell the concert the way that they did. It clearly didn't help the audience relate to what was going on on stage. Perhaps that's what the concert organisers had to do in order to get the Government funding stamp of approval? It's not that I mind, I'm really glad that they were able to bring the concert up to North Queensland - it's the sort of thing that we never ever get to see here.

PS: I have to say thank you so much to Hayden, who yet again showed how good he is to me by driving me all the way there and back (about seven hours driving in total). I'm glad I was able to make it easier for him by reading Harry Potter out loud the whole way.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

End of the Week

It's the end of the first working week I've had in a while. I've been working on the publication of the little writing job I've been doing for a while now. Writing the thing is no bother at all - I just sit at home in my jarmies, tap tap tapping on my computer. But trying to get it into print has been a miniature nightmare. Mostly it's the waiting I hate - I send my little stories out into the world and then wait wait wait for someone to tell me if they're good enough ... or not.
But now the sun's going down on the last part of a Friday afternoon. I'm going to rest on the weekend.

Hope you have a good one too.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Exciting Delivery No. 2

Even though our delivery lady is a surly cow who, no matter how many times she comes to our place always drives around the back and then complains when it takes me five whole minutes to get to her rather than as I suggest come to the front door which is always wide open and will take me no time at all, it's still always exciting to get a package delivery. Recently I have been taking advantage of the extraordinary exchange rate to buy things off Amazon.com, and the first of them arrived today. (Yay!)

I chose this book, How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton, on the recommendation of Jane Brocket. I had never been inclined to read anything by Alain de Botton, but she's just so enthusiastic about him. Plus, what I'm really looking for at the moment is any kind of Proust-extender - ever since I got over half-way through, I've been worrying about the day when I will run out of Proust. Maybe I'll be able to start again and keep reading him forever? But what if I can't? Maybe Proust is just like Dostoyevsky? My bookmark has been stuck in the middle of The Brothers Karamazov ever since Hemingway told me that you can't read anything by Dostoyevsky twice. There's no way I'm going to get stuck in a world with no more Dostoyevsky to read. That would be horrible.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sourdough Bagels

The sourdough thing is now getting out of hand.
At first it was gratifying to think that I had baked something that Hayden actually liked (often he has to feign delight when I tell him I've been baking .. especially on his birthday, poor thing). I was really pleased when I baked a second loaf as good as the first - proof that it wasn't a fluke! My sense of pride grew and we made some to take along to a barbie as a gift to the hostess.
Finally, I think my sourdough bubble was popped last night. I felt roundly mocked when Hayden set out to make these sourdough bagels: he didn't follow a recipe, he just had a quick look on the internet, closed the computer and flounced into the kitchen to begin boilling up the dough.

I'm not going to tell you whether they taste good or not. Update: OK, they're delicious.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Exciting Delivery No. 1

The smell of our place has just improved - we have taken our biannual delivery of specialty coffee beans.

Plus, I'm baking my first ever loaf of sourdough. I got the recipe from this lady, who lives in a mudbrick house outside Melbourne. (Enough sourdough cred you think?)

Trust me, the smell of coffee plus baking bread is a real improvement on the smell of the yeasty starter I have been nurturing all week until it got sour enough to bake.

I have just peeked in the oven (again) and my sourdough loaf is looking very tall. I hope it turns out alright.

Friday, July 06, 2007

About Love

If you want to hear about rosemantic love, have a little read of this.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

In the Shade

Here are some photos I took this morning as I finished up my walk in the shady expanse of the Townsville Botanical Gardens.

It’s taken me quite a while to develop an appreciation for these gardens. Back in Melbourne, we lived quite close to the massive and lavishly-flowered Melbourne Botanical Gardens. An easy amble on a sunny Sunday, down the left bank of the Yarra with a pause at our favourite art deco milk bar, would often end at the Botanical Gardens for a rest in the middle of the rose garden. In fact, all over Melbourne we were spoiled for beautiful English-style gardens.

When we arrived in Townsville, the appeal of these dank and overly shady gardens, infested with mosquitos, was really lost on me. I could well understand that it is too hot here for most flowering plants to grow, and that anyone who wanted a look of colour in their garden would instead plant one of the kinds with the variegated leaves. Back then, I thought they looked quite vulgar.

(These ones are actually known as Red-Neck Palms. How apt.)

I came to appreciate them more when I started to think about what I would plant in my own (hypothetical) garden in Townsville. Light and shade are super-important concerns here, because plants have to be really really tough if they are to survive the summer sun. The variegations of the leaves are a form of protection for the plants, a way for them to limit the amount of light they take in. Quite often it's only the new delicate growth that is coloured, while the rest of the foliage is ordinary green.

On the other hand, the plants that grow in the shade seem to require a really deep shade. The plants here are either super-tough or super-wimps. Nothing in between.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Dazzle

Last July I was walking along this very beach with the smell of coconut tanning oil in my nostrils, trying to come up with an idea for a winter pudding and having no luck at all.

This time of year in Townsville is just dazzling - warm days and air so clear that we can see the far-off islands that are usually lost between the sea and the sky (if you click to enlarge the photo above, you'll be able to see them too). It's the way that the sun glances off the water - why doesn't it do this at any other time of the year?

It makes me wonder what was so wrong with summer? I feel that I'm being paid back for all my complaints about life here. And I also feel that I shouldn't post these pictures without offering to share - to anyone who's sick of wintertime, our guest room is open to you.