Monday, January 25, 2010

Australia Day Tomorrow

26 January is Australia's National Day. At my place there have been the usual pathetic attempts to make rooms look tidy for possible guests. The technique (I bet you  know it yourself) is to chuck stuff into one or maybe two sacrificial rooms which will be the no-go areas to visitors - or if they do, it's their own  fault - and  keep a straight face while trying to convey that this is all normal. There will be some grog and cool drinks unless the fridge goes on the blink. The odd nibble. In the grand country tradition our group of die-hard party-goers will in all likelihood come armed with quantities of tucker, known as "bring a plate". If not, no-one will go hungry. Besides it's an afternoon tea-with-poetry readings, not a blooming meal. Gwenda has emailed a program of nine readings as offered by participants. I see iconic Aussie names; C.J. Dennis, Henry Lawson, Dorothea McKellar and Banjo Paterson. The other end of the twin themes (Burns' Day 25 Jan. + Australia Day 26 Jan.) has Robert Burns's  To a Mouse (Tae a Moose).

The early forecast was for high 30s temperature, and currently this has ameliorated to 26 degrees expected.

The weather around the  various state capitals must have suited our cricketers well enough. They have gone 2-0 up in the five match series of ODIs versus the touring Pakistan team.

How lucky we are to be able to think of sport and afternoon teas: it is less than a fortnight since the disastrous  earthquakes which devastated Haiti - but seem to have left unharmed the Dominican Republic which shares the same island - caused  massive loss of life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

vikings and cricket

Nope, the vikings didn't play cricket.

My title for this post to the blog is of the two separate things. Vikings (partly). Cricket - see below.

First, I have made headway with "pre-editing" - checking citations mostly - as online work for the publisher of an academic compilation to be published later this year in Europe: the book is about the period of history in northern Europe, especially Scandinavia, from the end of the viking era until about 1200. The dozen contributors are a mixed lot of nationalities. Simultaneously, another book with the same number of authors (each contributing a chapter), is receiving my attention, and this one's about Renaissance drama. That book's two academic editors with whom I mostly deal are based in Canada and Australia. The first book's two editors are, as it happens, in England and Norway although neither belongs to the country of current residence. It's complicated!

Time out today to catch up on the cricket between Australia and Pakistan coming from Bellerive Oval in Hobart. It is the third of the three Test Matches between the sides, and it has to be said that the home team appear well on top after their huge first innings total (8/519 declared) dismissing the others who did not reach a score enough to avoid a follow-on. However, Aus. Captain Ponting has chosen to bat and with two full days of play to go, Ricky Ponting should have the awkward luxury of deciding just when to declare, and still leave time to bowl the Pakistan side out, to register a three-nil win in the series. My guess: a declaration around lunchtime Sunday giving the opposition a run chase of (maybe a tick over) 400 runs. We'll see.

Gwenda kindly agrees to act as MC on Tuesday week for the curious event planned at my place on Australia day: poetry readings interspersed among chat and afternoon tea. Gwenda's brief is to break up fights, and generally say who's up next, banned, or told to shut up and sit.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hot and cold. Wellington Boots. Finding Neverland.

Adelaide just had another 40 degree day and today is expected to be as much as 43.  My place, across the St Vincent Gulf from the state capital, is more temperate - summer and winter - usually about 3 degrees better-off either way. Thus yesterday, a mere 37 Celsius. Of meteorological interest, the town of Maitland further north on the Yorke Peninsula seems always to have exactly the Adelaide temp.

Well, I did my before-brekkie stint at 6.45am outdoors before the heat realized I was there, and mortared a few more concrete blocks in my Great Wall of Will retaining wall:  my physical therapy for the day, good idea until I do summat dumb such as dropping a block on a toe. No, it hasn't happened. I do own a good pair of steel capped work boots - axe and chainsaw jobs for sure - but for these early morning jaunts it is old slip-on shoes or the true favourite, wellie boots.

They drive me mad, because every time I kneel in the dirt to use the trowel at low-level mortaring, the leading edges of the wellington boots scoop up what feels like a mugful of dry earth and gravel. And each time I empty a boot out, it is amazing that the amount is only, say, half an eggcupful.

As a bear of little brain, I might eventually work out the solution: DO NOT WEAR THE RUBBER BOOTS. I think this love of the boot must be a leftover from the pair I bought long ago in northern Sweden which were so comfortable that I wore them for many years for things you don't expect to do in rubber boots:  trotting up Scottish hills, even (a failed experiment) for cross-country ski-ing. Why so comfy? They had perfectly fitting smooth WOODEN insoles. Blooming marvellous. I tried them as fireside slippers, but the smell of burning rubber was a distraction. OK, no, that one's a fib.

The local deli is sold and the premises will become a vet clinic in February. Small towns are amazing. Ours has 650 denizens according to a guide book, so it is no surprise that the deli-seller is uncle of my former tenant up in the afore-mentioned town of Maitland, and the vet is pals with some of our recreational singing group. Everybody knows everybody else (you know the saying). Is this a Good Thing? Probably not!

Where was I?  Oh yes, the deli has a closing down sale on its DVD hire stock: I acquired my own copy of the hauntingly stylish film Finding Neverland whose leads include the extraordinary Johnny Depp as J.M.Barrie, the classic beauty Julie Christie as the formidable grandmother of the Llewelyn-Davies brothers, and brilliant young actor Freddie Highmore as Peter the brother on whom, supposedly, the Peter Pan character was based in Barrie's stage play just over a hundred years ago. The screenplay  gives Highmore the punchline. On the play's successful opening night, a society lady gushes, on meeting the real Peter after the show, "Ah, so THIS is Peter Pan!"  "I'm not Peter Pan," says Highmore's character forcefully. "HE is," gesturing to Depp's too-handsome J.M.Barrie, that complex little Scot from Dundee.

Great thing about so many DVDs are the special features. For Finding Neverland we have interviews with more than one of Barrie's biographers, including Andrew Birkin whose writings on the playwright's association with the Llewelyn-Davies family make compelling reading.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

German logic, Japanese From the Top Down

Bill blogs from Tasmania that he has finished another paper model. He has constructed some beauties, mostly of German design, he tells us. This new one, however, used a Japanese design. The table-top models are usually of famous buildings such as certain castles or cathedrals, or in this case the Palace of Westminster in the U.K.  That's right.  Well, the curiosity mentioned by Bill the Builder is that while the German designs always expect you to put it together from the base up ("more logical") the Japanese instructions require a top-down procedure. Models can take days or even weeks to assemble carefully. Think of a super-large jigsaw puzzle.

I have not the slightest idea what special insight to draw from this nugget of information.