Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The passing stream of revellers

It is New Year's Eve. It has been a beautiful sunny day, and not too hot. Our little suburb has been sealed off from the motoring world. The roads are closed and you can't get in unless you walk. Opposite our house, barriers have been erected, and filled with water to make them too heavy to move. In the main street the police are stopping and checking cars to make sure that it is only residents who can get in. Extra buses bring people in and out. 

Generally the intending revellers are walking in. Some ardent souls are using their bikes. There are a lot of places around here which give excellent views of the fireworks. The people carry in their folding chairs, their picnic food, and of course the grog. They all look cheerful and set for a good evening.

One of my nieces is in town, so I picked her up before the road blocks began, and we had coffee - it would have had two coffees but they unreasonably wanted to close at 4 pm. I drove her around so she could get a quick look at the area. I am so used to it by now that I forget how pretty it looks, and how different to Melbourne, with the steepness, all the water views and the luxuriant vegetation. She seemed impressed, anyway. She and her friends will be coming back here later to watch. One of them has already found a place and is holding it until the rest of them arrive.

Dr P prefers to watch fireworks on television, and as he can't manage walking very far, he will stay in. He thinks fireworks all look the same, and better on TV - he might have a point, but only a very miniscule one. I have not yet decided what to do, but will probably walk up to the roundabout at the pub. From there you can see the bridge, get quite a good view and share the atmosphere. The local youth and beauty will also be on display, in their skimpy low cut frocks or tops, and with their mobiles and digital cameras prominent. Should be fun to watch. There is probably no point in going to bed early as the revellers will all be walking past again, and could well be much noisier on their way out. Many will leave after the 9 pm fireworks, and get the children home to bed at a reasonable hour. But there are a lot of stayers.

The TV news is showing the crowds already gathered at the Opera House and other sites, and, I regret to say, the ever-vacuous Paris Hilton, but I've escaped upstairs again. A man is stationed opposite at one of the barriers. It does not seem like the ideal job for New Year's Eve.

2009. What will it bring? I hope it will be a happier year for me, my family, friends and many others, and that I will meet its challenges with cheerfulness, fortitude, forbearance, clearsightedness, determination and love. I hope to continue to do all the things that give me joy, and to do what I believe to be right. And I wish everyone a happy New Year.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

I wonder what I will have written by the end of today?

Oh sleep! It is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,
That slid into my soul.

I should go to bed instead of doing this next blog bit, but after last night I cannot face it. Some nights I just can't sleep, and last night was a bad episode. I was awake until after 4 am. Dr P also had a bad night with shooting pains in his leg. So this morning there was a certain testiness on both parts, until I went out (after my breakfast) and bought him his Rice Bubbles. I hate going to the local Woolworths. There is never any parking, so I drive around for ages, and then have to stagger back to the car with the heavy shopping. He is ok - he has a disabled parking sticker, but I don't.

But it is revolting, not sleeping. I have never been a good sleeper. How is it possible for people to get into bed, close their eyes and fall asleep instantly? It never happens to me.

The father of my children was one of the instant sleepers. He also had intermittent jerks of the leg. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, his leg would jerk. I'd try to settle down but the jerk would happen again. And again. Eventually I'd be counting to calculate how many seconds interval there would be. Not very many. There was nowhere else to sleep so I just had to continue my fairly futile attempts to fall asleep. My children seemed to inherit their father's ability to fall asleep. Lucky things. I did try to ensure that they developed good sleeping habits, partly by expecting them to sleep when put to bed, teaching them that sleep is really nice, and then by being firm about them going back to sleep if they did wake. My son did develop a habit of climbing into bed with us from time to time. Of course I did my best to discourage that little habit, as there is nothing worse for a bad sleeper than getting kicks in the back from a two year old. Apart from the leg jerks, that is.

These days, since Dr P's recovery from spinal surgery several years ago, I do have a  bed to myself. And so does he. Although I never fall asleep quickly, generally after an hour or so I drift off.  But many things conspire to keep me awake, or to disturb me. There are streetlights nearby, so it is hard to keep the room dark. The street is a busy one, with lots of traffic. There are local parties. There is a pub a block away, so lots of carousers stagger past slowly and noisily. Last week there was a violent and weeping quarrel between a couple, which lasted half an hour before they drove off. Some noises make me think the graffitists are out there. One night the noises were from vandals smashing all the side mirrors of the cars parked in the street, mine and Bron's included. Planes fly over until 11 pm and resume just before 6 am. Helicopters fly over sometimes. Why? The night birds sing. Then the day birds wake up. The garbage trucks go past about 5 am. You can see why being awake until 4 am makes me a bit fraught.

So why, last night, after a few nights of good sleep, and a happy Christmas, did my demons sit on my chest, and  persecute and harass me?

They had better stay away tonight. Avaunt. Avaunt. And let the gentle sleep slide into my soul.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Home with Dr P

Having been away in Canberra to celebrate Christmas with two out of my three children, I drove back home yesterday. The road was very busy, but practically everyone drove carefully and responsibly. Not a police car was to be seen. I made good time, and am glad to be home with Dr P, who evidently shares the sentiment. I had to get home in time for us to go to a friend's 80th birthday celebration. (No, I am not that old, but Dr P is even older.) It was a good party, at a venue overlooking the water, with the most glorious late afternoon light and sunset. My mind was still on the highway, though!

Today we have had a quiet day - well HE has! I have been putting my domain back in order, but quietly and happily. We were supposed to go to see a film this afternoon, but this did not happen, so, having spent the day on domestic tasks, I've turned to the computer. A lot of washing has been done, and I have severely pruned the Chinese star jasmine, dodging the milky sap exuded when it is pruned. I swear it grew half a metre in the few days of my absence. The new  growth has attracted hordes of white flies, which apparently have a breeding cycle of almost unparalleled fertility. Time for the white oil, despite the forecast of showers. 

KP, the partner of my beloved friend Viv, who died at the end of August from a brain tumour, gave me the use of his house in Canberra. It would have been ideal for Dr P, being on one level, equipped with safety rails, and very comfortable, but he refused to budge, and thus had to resort to his own devices. It was perfect for me, giving me peace and quiet and time to rest.  I was able to see quite a few friends, including some I'd not seen for ages.

Our Christmas was lovely. After having had the step-family in their successive waves for a couple of weeks, it was good to be with my own kith and kin. My son and family came over to my daughter's, and we had rather a late lunch of the usual delicious Christmas fare - although in a self-denying ordinance I did not make a Christmas cake this year (we are feeling rather regretful about this right now). Baby K is now almost a year old, and crawling around happily. the children all had a beaut day.

Here I have to confess a serious sin of omission, which is that I was so busy tending to the waves of step-families that I did not manage to find presents for my own. I feel very bad about this, although I did manage to buy books for some, and a few minor pieces of trivia, and to organise their parents to buy presents for my darling grandchildren. In the past we have had a sort of system of buying presents when the post-Christmas sales begin,so as to get more for less, and my daughter and I shopped happily and successfully on 27th, following a traditionally slothful Boxing Day. I managed to find the desired present for Stomper, although as it is fragile I am not sure when she will get it.

That day there were wild storms and extremely heavy rain, which struck as we started driving home after the shopping. There has been such a lengthy drought here in Australia that we have not seen such heavy rain for years. It was scary driving through it. Fortunately the overall damage was fairly light.

Boxing Day was also notable for the not-unexpected over-tiredness of the little ones. Even the mixing and making of pikelets could not quell the  fractious wails and screams of Jessica, who told me repeatedly that she did not want me to be there any longer and that I should go home to Dr P. (Next day she appeared to have changed her mind, I am relieved to say.)

My family having noticed over the years that I really like classical music and opera, I now have very respectable additions to the DVD collection and am looking forward to long self-indulgent evenings during which I will take total control of the airwaves and associated equipment, and luxuriate in watching and listening to glorious singing. Thank you, my dear children. There are also several new CDs to play, and lots of books to read.

Then it will be time to implement New Year's resolutions, which will include getting back to swimming regularly, and learning more about the computer, especially the blogging bit. Perhaps photos will appear. I have subscribed to the Apple Store's One on One lessons, so I will activate that soon and book the first lesson. And I have told Dr P that early in the New Year we are going to get him a new hearing aid, so that he can hear better, and so I don't have to shout at him so much. It will be the year of the bossy wife. Yea!

Monday, 22 December 2008

There's never enough time

I am still in a rosy glow from my visit to Melbourne. It was terrific to see my family, even though in the midst of it all I felt sad that the time was so limited.

I stayed with one of my sisters, the next after me. She has had four grandchildren this year, and now has eight. She will be the champion grandmother. I have six and probably no more to come. But my sister is the mother of five, while I had only three, so this is what can make all the difference. She has six granddaughters and two grandsons and I have 5 grandsons and only one granddaughter. We had good long conversations together, sharing many things. My sisters are very dear to me. I love my brothers, but honestly, women are just immeasurably better at relationships.

I went to Stomper's kiddie tappers concert. They were all very sweet, sometimes a bit slow to get the right steps, and were watching eagerly to see what was to happen next. I loved watching my daughter lead the children, giving them such clear instructions, and making it all so enjoyable. The place was packed with proud parents and grandparents, most of them armed with digital cameras, and snapping away there enthusiastically. I took my share too. You'd never have known that Stomper has a crook back and some nasty flu-ey germ. She performed like the proverbial real trouper. I'd like to get her to my wonderful physiotherapist in Sydney.

On Sunday the family gathered for our pre-Christmas picnic lunch. One of my brothers manages the grounds of a primary school, and we met in the grounds. No crowds, or any other problems, and lots of space for the littlies to run around in.

There were thirty nine of us. This is not the total of our three generations as there was no one from my elder sister's family, and two of my children and their kids were not there either. 

We all had a great time, and it was good to see all my nieces and nephews and their increasing progeny. Families are not as large now, but I have never regretted coming from a large family, and love having all these relations. The only trouble is that it is not easy for me to keep in touch, living as I do in another state, and coping with Dr P's increasing frailty. The pre-Christmas gathering helps overcome this. 

I did not have enough time with Stomper and her family, but it was a very busy weekend for her, and we were able to exchange Christmas presents. Those boys are gorgeous. I was not expecting to be able to make a trip at all, so feel lucky, and grateful to D 3 that I could get  away at all. I thought I would have a light suitcase for the return trip, but I carried back all the presents for the rest of the family, to take to Canberra when I leave tomorrow. Dr P picked me up from the airport. What with all the rush of preparation, the weekend itself, and the travelling, I was in fact pretty exhausted. 

Yesterday D4, her partner and two small children arrived from her overseas posting. She is still on maternity leave, but goes back to work in January. The baby is only 9 weeks old, a happy little bub who makes agreeable gurgling noises, and smiles and laughs very readily, and the two and a half year old is a little live wire, with a head of red-gold curls. It is lovely to see them, and tonight we had family dinner for ten here. While they all helped with food, it inevitably meant that I was flat out all yesterday and today, and am still totally exhausted. In the middle of all this preparation the curtain and blind installers came to put things up, and another old friend called around to see D 4 and family. 

Dinner was excellent, I say humbly. (But accurately.) The beautiful sideboard was used for the first time, and looks superb. They all enjoyed the pavlova, and so they should have. Yummy.  

D 4 and family leave tomorrow, and were heard to remark that one or two days staying with parents was as much as they could stand!! I understand completely, and if I may be forgiven a little aside, I did feel that when a baby is placed on a rug or a couch, it would not hurt to put a towel underneath said baby in order to catch the overflow. Dr P finds a small amount of time with his progeny goes a long way, and unfortunately for them, he is not the sort of man who finds little children very appealing. He does not want to hold or cuddle them. Although he did manage to look quite fondly at the little live wire.

Tomorrow I drive to Canberra, but my time there won't be so busy or frantic, and will be much more fun. We will combine to have a similar feast.

Dr P is not coming with me, so he will have Christmas alone, although D 1 will probably drop in to check up on his welfare. It is his choice. We have the offer of a friend's house, all on one level, and equipped for the elderly, but he will be Home Alone. I feel sad he is unable to enjoy family gatherings and festivities, but had to decide that I should be able to be with my children and grandchildren as much as possible.

Happy Christmas to all.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

The surreptitious rain and the evening sky

Today it rained rather surreptitiously a couple of times. Bits of the outside tiles were a little bit wet. Several drops fell on the washing. I noticed one of the pot plants out the front was looking a bit droopy, so hastened to water it, only to notice as I did so that it was raining surreptitiously again.

The evening sky, with its goodly sprinkle of grey clouds, is golden.

I keep walking past my lovely sideboard. I stroke it fondly every time.

The last Thursday Italian class was this morning. We all brought something for a little party. I made ricciarelli, delicious Tuscan almond biscuits. The mixture is supposed to stand for a few hours, although I sometimes skip this step. Dr P nicked two of the uncooked biscotti. Bad!

The class was fun. Everyone wrote something on a topic of their own choices. These ranged from the good (ie non Mafia) things about Italy, the recent aqua alta in Rome and Venice, baptism by total immersion, Milton and Paradise lost, my frippery piece on why I had not done my intended topic because when the computer froze I lost my unsaved document, and a very moving piece on an Italian diplomat in Hungary during the war, who saved thousands of Jews, and who, after his lifetime of never mentioning to anyone his good deeds, has been commemorated in Yad Vashem. This made me weep.

After our little party we went off to our usual coffee at O'Coffey's cafe. We were required to sing Adeste Fideles, in Latin, so did so. All the people walking past stopped, listened and applauded. Mr O'Coffey himself gave us all a peppermint cream.

I came home and my friend was there by arrangement using my oven to cook cakes for her husband's 80th birthday party. Her oven died yesterday so she is oven hopping. My oven was too slow for her, so her cakes were a bit undercooked. She used one of my Orrefors glasses to crack her eggs. I was rather taken aback. But the glass survived.

Yesterday D 3 wiped out my Internet History. I was a bit put out, as I do use this from time to time to revisit sites, such as blogs, or news - or whatever - which I have not wanted to bookmark. And it has all gone. I wonder why people would do this on someone else's computer without checking first.

Having people stay in your house means that things do not run in their normal way. The toilet upstairs needs to be jiggled when it keeps running after it has been flushed. People forget. They don't know you can't use the microwave if the dishwasher is running. They both stop. This means the dishwasher load did not complete its cycle.

I should be packing for the Melbourne trip now, or wrapping presents, or both. Tomorrow is a very busy day and I have to catch the plane. It will be a late night, I think. I am so looking forward to the trip. 

I am about to pour myself a glass of red wine, to go with the gratin I just threw together, and which will be ready shortly.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The big splurge

Finally today we started writing Christmas cards, and now about 90 per cent have been done. Dr P writes exceedingly brief cards, and occasionally asks me to add a message. We almost approached speed card writing. 

The day started with my taking Dr P's car to the local garage, so he could get the pink slip essential for registration. The car is also due for its service, and has a couple of other things needing fixing - like the tail light which broke when he hit something. The garbage bin, I think. I was not even there, but somehow it was my fault - I must have left the bin in the way of the car. Yeah! The petrol tank cover was also broken. Dr P reckons that this garage always finds lots of things to do to the car, and he is not wrong. In fact the car won't be back until tomorrow. That is ok because it is used very seldom now. 

How the day slips away. A task here, a task there, and it is lunchtime before you know it.

But today was special,  because a piece of furniture I ordered months ago was delivered.
The firm is closing, so this was the last opportunity to buy a piece. Some months ago I went  to the showroom, and lusted over the extremely beautiful tables, chairs, coffee tables and chest of drawers, all made of the most superb timbers, and exquisitely crafted. I do have a passion for beautiful timber. This firm's furniture is very expensive, and despite temptation, I decided that I should not indulge. I don't mean expensive in the sense of costing more than it should, but expensive in terms of how much I could spend. 

But then my stepmother died, and this means that there will be a final distribution of my father's estate, twenty years after his death. It will be some time before any money comes through. I decided to buy a sideboard, made of red gum, to be in memory of my parents, and took the plunge. Did I mind, they asked, waiting until November or December  before I got the piece? No, that would be fine.

I had to empty the old sideboard which is a pedestrian piece of work.  Around lunchtime the carriers arrived, moved the old piece, and put the new one into position. 

It is just beautiful. The timber is deep rich red, with a wonderful grain, the proportions perfect, and it looks terrific. The piece is right for the room, and although the table, chairs and buffet are made of blackwood, it all goes together. I love it. I started putting things into it, and deciding which plates, vases, salad bowls, etcetera would go into the new and which to the old. Things I rarely use can go into the old. But then! There is a problem closing one of the doors, so I had to ring the firm to tell them. They have to come and fix it. I just hope all goes well.

When I went out to post the cards, I discovered that YET AGAIN we had been graffitied. Happy Christmas! In broad daylight. It happens all too often. Filthy rotten bastards. I'd like to pour hot tar on their iPods. So I had to scrub it all off. Let's hope there is no more tomorrow morning.

This should have been enough excitement for one day. We had more. Dr P's third daughter arrived to stay for a few days. She is a very kind, generous and interesting person, and her arrival enables me to dash off to Melbourne for the weekend to see my family. There is always a family gathering on the Sunday before Christmas, but generally I miss out on it. This year I will be there, and thus will see sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, and their children, and of course the greatest joy will be to see my eldest child Stomper Girl and her two boys, and to share a little of the joy and excitement of their Christmas.

Friday, 12 December 2008

What doing the ironing leads to...

The other day I did the ironing, which made me feel better. My clothes, some of which are probably genuine antiques, always seem to need ironing. I go for natural fabrics, rather than synthetic ones. 

Who irons these days anyway? Not the Persiflagettes, it seems. Or only rarely. Nor many other people. The younger ones of my many sisters say they never bother now. The local drycleaners seem to do a brisk trade in ironing for other people.  They have a sign saying that ironing is the most disliked household task. Evidently this is so, as I once saw a man come in with 30 shirts. It must cost quite a lot to get your shirts laundered each week. Do non-ironers even own irons? Or ironing boards? If you never do it how do you know you dislike it?
My ironing does not take all that long - not like when all the children were little, so I don't mind doing it. But only when I feel like it. And a cold rainy day makes it seem ok. Sometimes domestic virtue does actually help you cheer up.

It was a nice quiet afternoon, and I curled up with a book and listened to a CD.  I usually have a lot of books on the go. Some I read from cover to cover, others I dip in and out of, according to my mood. I am reading a book on feminism, The Great Feminist Denial, by Monica Dux and Zora Simic. It is worth a read. It provides a good analysis of why many women appear to disclaim feminism, and to ignore or not know the substantial difference it has made to the choices available to women now. It is good on the sort of right-wing journalists such as Miranda Devine and Janet Albrechtsen, whose techniques appear to be to take a few extremist positions and then to denounce them as being typically feminist. The authors are also good on Virginia Hausseger, who apparently blames feminism for her infertility, apparently caused by untreated chlamydia. Nobody told her anything, it seems. While sympathetic to the infertility, I don't think one can blame something like feminism for an individual failure to discover generally known and readily available facts about female fertility. 

The book is not a rant by any means, but sets out many facts about feminism, the changes it has made in women's lives, how increased female participation in the workforce naturally enough caused increased demand for child care. It also covers raunch culture, and the condition of Islamic women. I am not up to that yet. But what is pole-dancing? This seems to have passed me by, whatever it is. 

Dux and Simic understand that whatever choices are made by women with children about working or staying home, things are seldom easy, and there are always trade-offs.

I was married just before the books by Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer were published, and those books certainly illuminated the condition of women and the restricted choices available at that time. It was as though a bright light had suddenly illuminated the darkness containing all the crap written and talked about women's nature and their place in society. 

I worked part time for many years, and was fortunate to have a wonderful job in a workplace which enabled me to balance, I hope successfully, the requirements of family and work. It turned out to be just as well that I did have a job and could support myself. Ultimately you have to rely on yourself. 

How did I get from ironing to this?

What to do next?

As ever, Christmas is rushing upon us. I am not prepared, have not started any cards, and have done little shopping. It is time to get a bloody wriggle on. Later today, perhaps.

When I opened my packages of Christmas cards I found they have crinkled insides, which makes them almost impossible to write any messages on. So I might have to do a general letter for enclosure, but the words won't come in my head, or the ones that do sound very stilted.
I just feel tired right now. Too much to do,  although when I analyse this, it is not really so. I am looking forward to the New Year, so I can make a fresh start and hope for a better year. This year was not easy.

I decided to defer sending the letter to the PP until after Christmas, so as not to make waves within the family. Not before Christmas, anyway. 

Dr Persiflage is becoming quite forgetful, and it looks as though I will have to handle a number of things which he has done for himself up to now. It is a worry. He needs to decide whether to have a driving test or whether to get a modified licence. He does not drive much now, but likes to have the independence.

Various of his family are visiting shortly, so I need to get organised and think vegetarian food.

At today's Italian class we had animated discussions on visitors from hell. We all had some dreadful stories. My juror mate has just had three weeks of an appallingly selfish couple who spread themselves all over the house, criticised everything, hogged the computer, and then left their credit card behind so that it cost $50 to have it sent to them. The teacher described having her in-laws for a month, who always ate at restaurants when at home, and who then criticised the food provided at her home, were bored by every activity they tried, complained and argued non- stop. It is hard to believe that guests could behave with such discourtesy and lack of consideration.

Then on my return bus trip there was a Pommy girl with an appalling accent and the worst grammar I've heard in years, who bitched non-stop on her mobile phone for the whole 20 minute trip, in all too audible tones, about some perceived insult or injustice. I felt like yelling at her to put a sock in it, but had to content myself with rolling my eyes mentally.

It is good to be home, even if there are Christmas cards to be written.

I am not normally this grumpy.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Disposable nappies for ever?

One of the weekend papers had an article on disposable nappies. A researcher and lawyer was quoted as saying that "misguided expert opinion and disposable nappies have led a generation of parents to put off daytime toilet training, missing a window of opportunity for an easy escape from nappies when children are about two, and creating a host of environmental and social problems".  And a new edition of Robin Barker's book The Mighty Toddler will include a more structured alternative to the default 'laid back style' of toilet training. Barker is quoted as saying that "This business of it drifting on to age four is ridiculous. I don't think that children were meant to be walking around in padded panties full of poo all day long. The biggest problem are all those extra nappies going into landfill. And people are losing the skills of toilet training". (I liked the alliteration!)

It is all very interesting. Of course my baby caring days are long past, as my youngest child is now 35, and now I am just an interested grandmother. Disposable nappies were only just becoming available when he was a baby, and I used them only when travelling or when on holidays. At that time, councils refused to accept disposable nappies in their rubbish collections (although I bet no rubbish collector ever checked). But I have always wondered about the environmental effects of both cloth nappies and disposable ones. Lots of water and detergent are used to wash nappies, and obviously disposable nappies are thrown into the rubbish (probably with the poo being removed only rarely) and so there are all these plastic coated things piling up in our rubbish dumps. No one seems to know which system is better from the environmental aspect. Obviously disposable nappies cost heaps more. The cost does not seem to matter to many parents. Disposable nappies certainly seem to be easier. Although I think if I had my time over again I would still use cloth nappies. They were not really a hassle. 

But I have observed that toilet training now happens at a later age. The littlies are not troubled by discomfort, and thus seem to have little incentive to  become toilet trained. Perhaps this leads them to ignore the messages their maturing bodies sent them. Staying dry overnight takes longer. My mother used to remark (there's going back a bit) that you never saw a kid on a bottle or wearing nappies once they'd started school. (My brother kept his evening bottle until the day he turned five.) But I wonder now.

Grandmotherly advice is not always welcome, so I hesitate in general to offer it. But if the wheel is turning full circle, it is an interesting development, and I still wonder about it all.

Apropos of past versus present, my husband asked me this morning what I would have spent a government handout on if we had been given one. I was puzzled and had to think. We did receive a first homes savings grant, which was a big help. But it had to go on the cost of house and land and I think the limit on the total cost was $14, 000. It certainly was not discretionary expenditure. We could not have used it on Christmas presents or on a cruise holiday. People had fewer possessions and means of enjoyment. A whole different world it was then. We had a bit of a laugh about it all.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Oh Frabjous Day! Callooh! Callay! -Wonderful Pinchgut Opera

Last night I went to the final performance of Pinchgut Opera's production of an opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, David and Jonathan. Pinchgut has been performing operas in Sydney for the last seven years, and I have been to all their productions -Handel's  Semele, Purcell's The Fairy Queen, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, Rameau's Dardanus, Mozart's Idomeneo, and Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans.

Charpentier's music was not often heard in the centuries after his death, but there has been a rediscovery of his music in recent years. During his lifetime he was a rival of Lully, who somehow managed to have a musical monopoly in Paris which excluded the works of other composers. Charpentier was Maitre de Musique at the Jesuit church of St Louis, and later at Sainte-Chapelle, where he composed much superb sacred music. He has always been one of my favourite composers, ever since I came across him when my choir sang his Midnight Mass. His music is rich, warm, expressive and full of emotional intensity, with wonderful orchestration, and the vocal music is glorious.

David and Jonathan, which was produced in 1688, treats the love between David, the Jewish hero and slayer of Goliath and later king, and Jonathan, the son of Saul. Saul, of course, became very jealous of David's prowess, and sought his death.  In the ensuing wars, Jonathan was killed, and Saul, having lost his kingdom and his son, fell on his sword. It is all bloody stuff. There's a witch, and the ghost of the Prophet Samuel.

The original opera was written for the Jesuit College St Louis-le Grand. The opera was interspersed by a five act Latin play, which gave the action. The opera provides the psychological and emotional tableaux for the biblical events. So it is a complicated piece, and the programme was essential, as it provided the entire libretto, and all the information needed to follow the opera.

The whole performance was superb, with wonderful singing by all soloists, Anders J Dahlin as David, Sara Macliver as Jonathan,  Dean Robinson as Saul, and OperatunityOz winner David Parkin in the short but impressive role of Samuel, and Cantillation (the chorus). The orchestra was outstanding. Lovely Baroque instruments and a dark, warm sound. The sets were simple and effective. Pinchgut Opera uses the City Recital Hall at Angel Place for all its productions, and it is not designed for opera or theatre, but for concerts. So staging is difficult, but has always been done very well.

The audience went wild at the end of the performance. No one wanted it to end, or the impact to fade. I came home in a rosy glow, which is still with me today. We are accustomed to high standards, but this was not just high, it was outstanding and memorable. It is wonderful to be able to enjoy such excellence. So I am giving it a little rave.

Today it is back to mundane and everyday life. I have yet to start the Italian homework. It's about the Mafia - there's a depressing topic if ever there was one. My choir has finished for the year, and I should get cracking on preparations for Christmas. I have not even started my Christmas cards yet, or thought much about Christmas . But my mind is still on the joy of last night's performance.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

A gorgeous and happy day

Sunday was the sort of day that makes the heart glow. I went by train to the Blue Mountains to visit some dear friends, and to celebrate J's 70th birthday. My friends live in Adelaide now. It is not often that we see each other these days. While we ring each other and exchange emails, it is not as good as seeing each other in person. As their daughter lives in Katoomba with her husband and two small daughters, my friends are enticed to this side of the country from time to time. When they have visited for the births of their granddaughters, I have gone by train to see them for a few hours.

M and I have known each other from our university days. We both moved to Canberra and had our families there. We were always very close friends, sharing some tragedies and joys. After some of our babies were born, we were colleagues as well as friends and had a wide circle of mutual friends resulting from work. They were wonderful to me when I had my times of troubles, and were with me when I remarried. We shared a love of classical music, a passionate interest in politics, and of literature and art. They are truly erudite. We explore Asian cooking together, including a never to be forgotten meal when I cooked curries, and followed the recipe for one of the dishes using the recommended 6 teaspoons of chili powder without knowing the heat of this batch of chili. Even though I rinsed the sauce off and started again it was fat too hot to eat - and the other guests did not like hot food - we'd forgotten to check when we invited them! What a disaster! We still laugh about it.

When I moved to Sydney we saw each other less frequently, but at that stage I visited often. But after a few years, my friends moved to Adelaide. M felt the cold of Canberra very acutely, so they moved to Adelaide where their son and his family live. I'd rather have the cold, myself. I manage to visit Adelaide a few times, but since my spouse has become more frail, it is difficult to have time away. The last time we saw each other was at the funeral of our dear friend Viv, at the beginning of September. It was an occasion of great sorrow, but it was good to be together in our sorrow.

When we heard of this present visit, another good friend and former colleague had the idea to take them all out to lunch. She came up from Thirroul, another friend came from Canberra, and I hopped on an early bus to get to Central Station,where we all met and caught the train together. We had two hours of conversation all the way there,  and another two hours on the return trip. These friends were in New York, with another two friends, during the last weeks of the presidential election campaign. How I wished I'd been there too.

Katoomba was cool, then had a ten minute downpour and then the sun came out. Last time I was there it was seven degrees, with an exceedingly low fog, which dripped down on us. It was really icy. I love the trip there and back, (apart from all the revolting graffiti along the way). Last time the wattles were flowering. Around where I live the gardens range from tiny to non-existent, and so to see all these ferns, eucalypts, wattles and wild flowers was a great joy. This time the jacarandas were all flowering, and I noted that the blackberries were flowering too. They are a weed in Australia. The country is so steep, rocky and precipitous. The train has to climb for quite a while, and then it runs along the top of it all. As well as all the flowers and trees, there were lots of tourists to observe.

We had a lovely time admiring and playing with the granddaughters, and a very enjoyable lunch, and lots of talking. I managed to get some good photos of them all, and would put some here if I could work out how to do so. (I tried last night, to no avail. There must be a trick to it...) It was so good to see them. I sit here writing and reflect on the sheer pleasure of it, and hope that we see each other again soon. Good friends are a true blessing.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

The petty irritations of life - but yet....

Sometimes I feel that grumpiness will overwhelm me. God give me patience, I pray. Today is my busy day. The cleaners come, and I have to get the house ready before I go out to my Italian class. With luck I get up early enough to get through everything: unload the dishwasher, get the papers, put out any rubbish, eat my breakfast, do a load of washing and hang it out, and also make sure that the surfaces are clear, things are put away, etcetera etcetera. Same old same old. I work to a fine timetable, and should be able to get through it all, and leave at the right time, so I can catch the bus and get to the class on time. (The teacher often runs late, but you never know...)

This morning I felt grumpy because after my having gone to the pharmacy yesterday for my husband, today he presented me with with more prescriptions. 

You'd think that yesterday he would have checked whether he needed anything else, but No. When I protested that it was a waste of my time to have to go two days running, and that surely this could have been done yesterday, he got all huffy. I think he just likes to keep me busy doing things for him.

I left home feeling grumpy. I lead a hard life! Everything started irritating me. People who spread themselves across the footpath, and allow their dogs to spread across even further, with the dog leads blocking the whole footpath! EXCUSE me, I say. There are children wandering across and getting in your way. NO ONE keeps to the left. And then there is all the rubbish dumped on the street. It is too much trouble to go a few metres further to deposit the rubbish in the bin.

And of course I missed a bus. 

I now have to spoil this tale of woe by admitting that I live ten minutes away from a main road, where the buses running into the city come along every five minutes or so. I arrived very punctually. The teacher, of course, was late! Never mind, we all had ample time to chat and catch up with each other. The people in the class are all intelligent and interesting. We all have coffee together afterwards and enjoy ourselves  very much.

For our homework we all had to comment on an article describing how a male untouchable in India was killed, in the presence of his mother, for daring to write a letter to a girl from a higher cast. When confronted with such evil and injustice, the irritating things of life do seem petty. (But it is still good to let off steam.)