Monday, June 25, 2012

100 Miles

I spent yesterday regularly checking the internet for news of Reindert, or more to the point, Reindert's progress.

See, today was the day that he had set himself to run 100 miles - or 160 kilometres in the new language.

100 Miles.

London to Leicester. Melbourne to Euroa. Adelaide to Tintinara.

A mythical distance that is normally an annoying and not overly picturesque three hour drive, far enough to know that you've gone somewhere. The drive can be tiring, but not overly so. The thought of covering the distance on foot is something I can't get my head around.

I know that with training I can run a half marathon - I wouldn't say I can do it with ease, but I can do this. 160 kilometres on foot - maybe give me three days with some rest in between - after a lot of training. Next year I'd love to do the Oxfam 100 - a 100 kilometre walk through country Victoria - but that will be a walk. 160 kilometres, or a hundred miles - nah.

Reindert ran this distance. And not by road. Reindert ran this distance on what I see as an equal to a goat track. He ran 100 miles through trails in mountainous terrain.

And I still can't get my head around this.

He's been talking about this for a few years, doing a heap of extensive training over the last few years. He loves his trail running, something I can't share with him. The one and only trail run I did with him in the back blocks of Boston had me limping for three months, the uneven ground stuffing up my right knee good and proper (it took a year being very nice to my right knee before it came good after that - didn't help that I ignored the injury for six weeks while I was away on an overseas trip) Reindert also did a lot of other long endurance runs over the last 18 months - his best result being in the Canadian Death Race - where he came 6th in the field two years ago.

So on Saturday night I powered up my computer and watched. There was a webcast where you could check on your runners, willing them through the wilderness through the joys of technology.

As people do die doing this sort of stuff, every five miles there was a check point. You could see where the runners were, what check points there were going through. From 'Born to Run" I knew that he's be submitted to rigorous and regular medical checks to ensure his health over the run. Of the 500 runners, about a quarter of the field is expected to drop out. I was hoping and praying that Reindert wouldn't be in this group.

The race began just as I was going to bed on Saturday night. He was off.

By the morning, when I woke, he was well over a marathon distance into the course.

Over the day, whenever I was on the computer, there was  a cursory check on the website. Where was he? How was he faring?

Fair dues, he kept a really steady pace through the day. The race started at 5 am California time, 11 pm Melbourne Time. Four hours later he was a quarter of the way there - running the equivalent of a marathon over trails in for hours - a decent marathon time on sealed roads.

Eleven hours in, he was at the 55 mile mark.

I'm still in awe of the fact that he could do this. To train to such a level and to keep going. As I said earlier, I get distance running in my own mind and to my own abilities. I know what it feels like to run 21 kilometres. I'm capable of walk/running 23 kilometres over undulating terrain (on limited training), as the Great Ocean Road half marathon showed. I know the elation of reaching the half way point. I know the crisis of faith you get at the 18 kilometre mark - and I know what your legs feel like at the end - just as I know the pure satisfaction of completing such a race.

What this must feel like when running a 100 mile race?

The day went on and Reindert plundered on. The pace slowed a little. Some of the sections were slower, some faster.

The winner of the race did the distance in 14 hours and 46 minutes. A course record. The winning woman came in two hours later, almost to the minute. Unimaginable speeds - unbelievable endurance.

Reindert had told me quite a bit about the preparation. He was telling me about the pickle juice formula he would be taking. Hydration and electrolytes are critical on runs like this. He taught me this when he helped me on my first half marathon - graciously walk running the distance with me in Adelaide in 2009. Reindert is the reason I got into running. Sure I could run he told me sometime in 2008. I didn't believe him.

He was right. Slowly, but surely I taught my overweight and untrained 40-year-old body to run.

Just after 9 pm, the website said that he'd made the 99 mile mark. There was a mile to go.

What goes through the mind of a person that's travelled 100 miles on foot in under 24 hours? What are they thinking? What are they feeling. I decided to sit on the computer and wait to see him come in. There was a mile to go. On a good day, Reindert can run a 5 minute mile. This wasn't going to happen for this run, but I sat at the laptop regularly refreshing the screen. No Reindert. Press enter. No Reindert. I started to worry. After ten minutes, still no Reindert.

Again, you think about this. you've covered 99 miles - 99 gruelling miles over trails, rocks, streams through heaven knows what conditions. The last eight or nine hours you've been running these trails in the dark, with only the light on your hat to guide you. No roads, no street lights, no pavement. You've been poked and prodded every five miles to make sure you're healthy. Your support crew have been checking up on you - but for the most part, you've been out there on your own - maybe running with one of the other participants for a while, maybe not.

To fail at the 99th mile - like what would that feel like?

Just after 9.30 Melbourne time, the screen changed.

He'd done it. 22 hours, 30 minutes and forty seconds after starting, my friend passed the finish line.

The last mile took him 20 minutes. Heaven knows what that felt like. I know that the last kilometre of a half marathon is bittersweet. Your exhausted, but thrilled to know that the pain is almost over.

I wonder if running ultramarathons there is a Richter Scale of pain - what must if feel like to know that you've run a hundred miles.

I'll ask next time we chat on skype.

At the moment, all I know is I don't think I've ever been prouder of a friend. Ever.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Describing this as difficult week is a bit of an understatement.

Cathartic suits it better. A purging of everything  in preparation for the new to come in. I think this is a better way to look at the week. I know I've come out of it stronger, calmer and more hopeful than I would ever believe - which is great. That I've managed to achieve this with a modicum of grace and dignity also lends a bit to the week. That my wonderful support network have been there propping me up - even better.

Thing is, I know I'm not the only one doing it tough at the moment. Stories of illness, broken bones, arguments, acrimony, separations... it's a long list of not very-minor-grumbles. I look at what's going on with me, and though it is some big stuff, it appears to be the norm -which is both freaky and sad. 

I'm counting my blessings - and I think I'll be doing this for a while. For every curve ball that's been chucked at me, I've looked for the lesson, taken it on board and moved on.

Firstly, my contract finished up this week, which I'm seeing as a good thing there is an stuff that needs to be sorted about the place. The time it will take to get the next gig will mean I have some time to get this stuff properly. One of the things they don't tell you about work - it doesn't make time for some of the life things you need to get done - or writing time - or just planning and contemplation time. 

The next thing to come up was a blinding case of gastro. My first day of 'freedom' and I spend the day driving the porcelain bus. I felt a bit like the girl from the Exorcist - pump action vomit coming from heaven knows where for a while, followed by two days of utter listlessness. That was fun. With barely the energy to get to the kitchen to fetch a glass of flat lemonade, it was a wonderful time. Sam's cat, Tia, the perfect nurse, lay by my side for the two days I could barely get out of bed, keeping an eye on me in the only way a cat can. 

Nursey Puss doing her stuff

Thankfully, the gastro giver was located. Chance, one of Blarney and Barney's twins was to thank. He also passed in this lovely bout of the spews and runs to his mother and father at exactly the same time as I got them. Three days on and we three adults are mended, though our stomachs are still rumbling a little. My appetite is still to fully return, though the loss of two kilograms is delighting me somewhat. I wonder what he'll pass on next time - pink eye? TB? Ebola? 

The last, and probably biggest kicker of the week went down this morning. A conversation held fifteen years too late. A conversation that was always going to be held, but did not, and could not have happened then.

I can't and won't go into details about what went down - but after an hour of feeling the full brunt of somebody's hurt, pain and anger, it was time admit defeat. Nothing can be done about the situation. It was fifteen years ago. We have never spoken of what happened with this person to this extent until now. But it needed to be said - it needed to get out. I'm thankful I've dealt with what happened through various means. It was obvious the other party hadn't. I'm just hoping that getting all of the emotion out helps them heal.

So yeah, it's been a tough week - a really tough week - but the blessings of the week shine through.

For starters, I've learned a lot of lessons. The biggest one being never hug a two-year-old with gastro. The other lessons are just as big and far more subtle and less likely to have the consequences quelled with bleach after.

Secondly, my support network have been wonderful. Props and crutches and offers of bottles of flat lemonade - kind words and friendly smiles - just what one needs when part of you thinks your world is falling around your ears. Today, after the talk, Jonella took me out of coffee and cake and listened without judgement - also truly needed - and gratefully received.

Lastly, I'm managed to get through the week without a serious breakdown, depression or tantrum. My head has remained on my shoulders and I've walked this mess, at times tentatively, but I've managed to stay strong and upright. It appears all the work I've been doing over the past few years is working. Gotta give myself some credit for that.

I'm just hoping the curse of midwinter is over and now, with the lengthening days that some good things starts coming my way. For everything that's gone down over the last couple of days, I'm not sure what else could be flung at me. I'm really hoping that was the end of the Midwinter crap.

It's been pure catharsis. Now is the time to rebuild. A time to make new plans. A time to dream big and go for it.

For a start - just to start the process, I'm going to take myself off to see "Brave", the new Pixar film. I love Pixar. I love kid's film. And somehow, a film a bout a stroppy redhead who bucks the system and goes after what she wants is just the medicine that my recently frazzled and newly purged soul requires. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

This Weekend's List

I left work on Friday knowing I was up for a busy weekend - but good busy. Fun busy. Interesting and varied busy.

Just what the doctor ordered. Okay, maybe not a medical doctor, but after a fortnight of minor glums, I was in need of some company, some exercise and some different things to bolster the spirits.

In  this blog I've addressed the fact that every so often I get a shot of the blues. Melancholy, low-level depression, the glums, call it what you like. For the last fortnight I've been a bit out of sorts, a little down in the dumps. Compared to glums of the past, this was a minor bump - I've been functioning, things have been kept going, but I've not been quite right. Once I recognised what was going on, identified the catalyst, I measures were taken to fix it. Time out, exercise, good food, no alcohol, watch who I hang out with - and thankfully I come back to an equilibrium in a week or so. By last Friday I was pretty much back to normal.

And a good, busy weekend was required to completely knock the glums for six.

So the list for this weekend read like this:

1) Take possession of new cat (Friday night)
2) Meditation and breakfast (Saturday Morning)
3) Manicure, pedicure, coffee and cake (Saturday Afternoon)
4) Christmas in July - in June (Saturday evening)
5) Pump Class (Sunday Morning)
6) 1000 Steps (Sunday Lunchtime)
7) Visit Blarney (Sunday Afternoon)
8) Try and get the book group book read for Tuesday night.

So, Friday night, Sam drops of cat number two.

Maow Maow went home on Tuesday night and the place has seemed a bit empty since then. Sam and her family are off to Europe for a month and I offered to take Tia the cat. She's a lovely little girl, a bit older and a lot less needy than the Maow Maow. She's also quite a bit smaller and a hell of a lot fluffier.

When I said I'd take her, I asked Sam if she could provide a covered litter tray. As the cat accoutrements live in the kitchen when a cat comes to stay, a covered litter tray is a must at my place. Sam rocked up just after dinner, black and white fluffy unit in tow, a month's worth of food and litter and no covered litter tray. She apologised and gave me some money to go source one -she said she's looked for one, but they were hard to come by.

It seems that a cat box is a bit harder to find than I thought.

(Where the hell do you think you're going, eh. Come back here and pat me!)

Thankfully all of the joyous habits the Maow Maow inflicts on me have gone with his departure - the sleeping under the duvet (after asking to come in), knocking everything off the bedside table at 5.30 in the morning, landing you with the mother of all guilt trips as you go to work.... Tia just wants to cuddle and talk and that is about it. Lovely girlie, but in need of a covered poo box to make her stay perfect. She's been sleeping at my hip on top of the covers - it's wonderful. But added to the list of jobs was find a covered cat litter tray. She's here for a month, it would do my head not to have one after a day or two.

Saturday morning came and went. A lovely meditation session with the normal fortnightly meditation crew. Breakfast at our regular, exceptional cafe in Caulfield (Cafe D'Lish). A good meditate and some smashed avocado with Persian feta on sour dough toast is always a great start to the weekend.

On the way home, stopped in on Kmart - no covered litter trays in store.

After a quick stop home, it was off to Camberwell for an afternoon of girlie delight. Jonella, her sister and mum and Teddy joined me. Two hours of hanging around our favourite nail bar in Camberwell for a manicure and pedicure each, after having a teased Jonella for feeling anxious about having her toes and fingers in clashing colours (she did well, blue toenails, peach fingernails in the end - we're very proud of her) after which it was off for cake and coffee - another tradition.

In all, a near perfect afternoon - but after a shop with Teddy where two pairs of winter, leather boots were purchased (the perfect two toned black flat riding boot and a long black heeled boots - wanted, half-needed and half priced) and a stop in at Target - still no cat litter box. Two pairs of perfect leather boots, yes, but no cat dumping ground.

The Annual Christmas in July was held that evening. Hosted by one of one of Blarney's friends, this is an annual event held at a South Melbourne pub. As a rule, there is a $10 Kris Kringle - boys buy for boys, girls buy for girls - as well as a Christmas dinner that you can eat without indigestion or suffering from it being 35 degrees Celsius in the shade. It was a very pleasant evening, even though the room was very noisy and rather hot and after a few hours, it was time for me to leave from the exhaustion of asking people to repeat them self every two minutes.

Popping in at Woolworths on the way home, once again I left yet another supermarket without the coveted covered cat litter tray.

A good night's sleep, a cuddle with the cat, 100 pages of The Sound of One Hand Clapping down (250 to go) it was time to get out of the house.

The required pump class was great. It was the first time in a few months that Em and I had made our Sunday constitutional. An hour later, 25 kg squat track, far too many push ups and a killer lunge track, we left for a quick coffee. We stopped in at the pet store and Kmart at the shopping centre.

No covered cat poo trays to be bought.

I made my way out to Ferntree Gully to meet the girls from the 12 Week Body Transformation Challenge. It was the day to climb a Dandenong. It's great catching up with Trin, Kez and a few others. The day being rather damp, we made our way up the 1000 Steps. I hung back with Trin, talking on the way up talking it very easily, trying to put the world to rights and making sure we didn't sli[. We let the whippets streak ahead. It was great to take the steps slowly, especially as they were so slippery. Making matters worse, when we got to the top, our normal way down, via the Lyrebird Track, was closed - and for the first time ever, I had to pick my way down the stairs.

Anybody who knows me will attest to the fact that I am dreadful at walking down stairs. I am one of the least sure of foot people on the planet. Going up I'm fine. Going down I have to take stock of my fear of falling, slightly dodgy needs, lack of balance and hope for the best.

Part of me thought that I'd be wailing, bawling and whining about having to make my way down the slippery steps. Somehow, very carefully, taking our time, Trin and I made our way back down. 30 minutes up the hill, 45 minutes down. My quads are groaning a bit at the moment, but I did it - no complaints and no tears. It was brilliant. Also had a chance to take some photos on the way up.

On the way out to Blarneys, I passed a Bunnings - surely they'd have a covered cat poo tray. It's Bunnings (think Home Depot or B&Q) they have everything. I asked the dude at the front desk where the pet crap was kept. He told me - and send me to the dog house department. After a scour around the two acre building, I came away empty handed.

No covered cat poo tray.

Obligatory Sunday visit to Blarney and the boys occurred after this - a cuddle from the Maow Maow, who appeared happy to see me. A cup of tea, a chin wag, read the boys a book and talked football with Blarney.

Making my way home, I spied a pet supplies story just around the corner from where I live. I drove in. I looked around.

A veritable Mecca of covered cat poo trays!


I left with the obligatory tray (as well as a hairbrush for the girlie - Sam left that behind too, and being a long haired critter, a daily brushing is good for her - keeps her happy)

So now it's time for bed - after a really successful weekend. I'm relaxed, pretty much up for everything the week has in store.

And even better, I'm not trying to source something you think would be easy to find.

Right, off to bed. Come on, Tia. Bed time.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012


My friend Kath at Blurb from the Burbs tagged me to write on these eleven questions and then submit eleven questions to eleven bloggers I admire to answer. Thing is, most of my favorite bloggers have aready been tagged in this lark, so I'm not doing the eleven questions or naming the eleven bloggers to answer the questions, but here are my answers to some interesting and challenging questions set by Kath.

1. When and why did you start blogging?

I started this blog at the start of 2009 when I had it in mind that I wanted to run a marathon and I wanted to blog the journey. My friend JK had started one and was the inspiration for me to start this. It’s turned into something far more than a running journal, thank goodness. I’d be lost without my blog – sometimes it’s the only fun writing I do in a week – though I’ve the intention of writing more of my own stuff for a long time now. At least the novel has been started.

2. What is your middle name and why did your parents select it?

Pandora, my nom de plume, has the middle name of “The”. Makes me Pandora the Behr…

In real life, my middle name is Jane. Plain Jane. Thing is, my real name (Amanda) is one of the most popular names to come out of 1968 – I was in a class primary school with six others of the same name – and if you are given this name, you are, by default given Jane (or Jayne) as a middle name.

They only had a choice of four middle names in 1968 if you were an Australian girl - Jane, Anne, Louise or Mary (or maybe Elizabeth if you were posh).

It is bad luck to have Amanda as a Christian name and not have Jane as middle name as one girl proved. She was not the standard Amanda Jane, but Amanda Faye, and she died from cancer at the age of 12. My parents were pretty conservative so I wasn’t going to be anything else but Amanda Jane.

I also have the same initials as my paternal grandmother, (She was an Ada Jean) not that the name was chosen for this, or so I’m told, though I know it irritated my maternal grandmother somewhat. Then again, I know I’d be pretty upset now if they’d given me my other grandmother’s name as a middle name. I’d never make a good Amanda Eunice.

3. Toilet paper folder or scruncher? Provide your reasons

I’ve got my feet in both camps. Folder for number ones, scruncher for number twos. All about what needs to come off and the surface area involved. Folding lends itself to smaller surface areas.

4. What do you do at home when everyone else is out?

As I live alone this is a bit of a moot question. More appropriate to me is what do I do when people are around the place? Things that come to mind are shutting the toilet, bathroom and bedroom doors and generally I’m a hell of a lot tidier, make more cups of tea and don't spend as much time on the computer. I’m a reasonable host (if you discount the fact the first thing you’re shown when you’re invited to stay at my place is where the tea, coffee, milk and cups are kept - and then you’re issued with the instructions to make yourself at home and don’t expect me to wait on you hand and foot).

5. You've been given five hundred bucks (two hundred and fifty quid, say) to spend on nothing useful and just yourself. What do you do with the cash?

Seeing I’ve just purchased an iPad, that one is off the list now. Given $500 bucks I’d scour the cheap holiday sites and find myself a week’s accommodation on a Thai beach. Then hope I’d be given the grand for the airfare and the $250 so I could renew my passport then go take myself off for a week on a Thai beach. Actually, might start looking at doing that around Christmas.

If there was only $500 without the hope of a flight or a passport, I’d book a table at Attica and take a friend for a degustation menu with matching wine – might even get cab fare home from that. Just. (Friends, note, it's my birthday in August... hint hint)

6. It's finally come true. One of your 'five celebrities you're allowed to sleep with' has walked into your kitchen and is up for it. Who is it?

Again, moot point. I’m single, I can shag who I like, when I like, whenever I like – in my dreams (The only love life I’ve had in the last five years has gone on in my imagination anyway so this really is moot.).

However, of my five dream celebrity shags, being Clive Owen, Tom Hardy, Shaun Micallef, Ian Dickson(Dicko) and George Clooney – sorry, it’s Clive Owen, every time. As long as I can personally shove him in the bath before anything happens. He looks filthy. In the best way possible…

Right, hormones back in their box. Next.

7. Name one famous person (so that all our readers know who it is) that you think 'has their shit together'. Explain why.

Does anybody have their shit together? Really? Though from what I’ve seen, I think Jamie Oliver is doing pretty well to try and make the world a better, healthier place as well as keeping what looks like a lovely family going.

8. What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

As I’m fighting a minor bout of the blues at the moment (nothing major, just a bit of lingering glumness) getting out of bed means that I have an opportunity to make enough money to support myself in the manner to which I’m accustomed. Normally, I bounce out of bed looking for fun things and new opportunities and adventures, but with the cold, dark mornings, a head cold which wants to take me over (but I’m fighting it tooth and nail) and not enough sleep in the last week thanks to a persistent Maow Maow making a nuisance of himself at 5 am, I’m just content to know that I’m making enough money to live well. It will go back to my normal* Tigger impersonation soon. (* providing a coffee and shower are available soon after rising).

9. Who would you like to smack in the face, publicly disprove all of their stupid opinions and freeze their bank accounts?

Tony Abbott and Andrew Bolt. Sod the slapping in the face and freezing the bank accounts. Surely there is a bike shed available for which they can be leant up against and shot.

10. Low slung jeans on boys - how do we eradicate this disease?

Seriously, I find the fashion of boys who wear their jeans slung around their knees funny. Why would you want to look that ridiculous? Maybe a law could be introduced saying if you wear this fashion we’ll force you and your father to wear a mankini on national television. Or maybe a public information announcement that having your arse hanging out of your jeans causes mass hilarity and this will no longer be tolerated. Put this one to Hamlet and he said that this ‘fashion’ comes from prison culture in the us where belts and shoe laces are banned. Hamlet, in his wisdom also said that boys should be reticent to wear their baseball caps backwards due to its prison meaning that they’re “up for anything”. Women make dodgy fashion choices all the time, it’s nice to see that men can do this too.

11. Tell us about an invention for the home that we desperately need.

I put this to my meeting room mates. Dave wants a machine that takes away ironing. Gen Y wants a device that reverse parks your car without dinging it. Peter said that an indoor composter that doesn’t smell would be good, though I asked about this as I have no use for gardening materials – hate gardening.

I think that some sort of combined automatic floor mopper/hooverer/duster that mops, hoovers and dusts every second day and does this while you’re out and you don’t have to think about it would be marvellous. Some people call this invention a cleaning lady. I’m too tight to hire a cleaning lady (and cleaning up before she or he came to do their duties would take up too much time).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Another Scottish Play

In one of my variants of a perfect world, theatre would be a hell of a lot cheaper ad more accessible than it is in Australia - in particular, there would a a different Shakespeare ready for the viewing on stage every two or three months. Living in England was bliss - I could get to one of the Bard's plays once every few weeks with the Barbican and the West End supplying regular fare. I'm still to see a play at Stratford-upon-Avon or at the Globe Theatre on London's South Bank (and they're on the bucket list of things to do), but I'm very pleased I have the means to make a few Shakespeare's each year.

Over time, I've seen some incredible performances. Iain Glen as Henry V (he's currently playing Lady Mary's slimy newspaper fiance on Downton Abbey), a Midsummer Night's Dream done at the National Theatre done in a pool of water six inches deep with a contortionist playing Puck. Robert Stephens as King Lear - only a few weeks before he died...the list goes on.

In Australia, superlative Shakespeare is a little harder to come by. Ewan Leslie's Richard III at the MTC two years ago was phenomenal. The other performance that comes to mind was another Midsummer Night's Dream that the Bell Theatre Company did about ten years ago - set in WWI, it was one of the funniest renditions I've had the honour of seeing.

I've also seen some dire performances - a Troilus and Cressida that was wrong in just too many ways (naked middle aged actors all over the place - may have not been so disturbubg if these guys had some clothes on). I also remember snoring through an Antony and Cleopatra recently, the static performances doing nothing for me.

It's also taken me a bit to get used to Shakespeare being done with Australian accents. Ten years ago this feature of Australian theatre disturbed me no end, but after nearly a decade listening to RADA and LAMBDA trained received pronunciations, it took a bit to get my ear around it. I'm a bit more forgiving these days.

So, with a love of Shakespeare, have dangled in front of me a chance to win a few tickets to see the Bell Shakespeare's Macbeth, of course I entered. All I had to do is provide my favourite Shakespearean quote and give my details.

Too easy - gotta be in it to win it. I jotted down the words, "The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact." (Midsummer Night's Dream , Act V scene I) gave my email address and pressed send.

A few weeks later, an email arrived. I'd won two tickets. Result!

Daft thing is that almost anybody can pull a favourite quote from Shakespeare - I have many, but I've always loved this one. Part of me would love this on my tombstone. I could have spouted something from Lear, or Romeo and Juliet, or Henry V, or The Tempest, or Richard III... it appears that going for a lesser known quote worked for me.

Next thing, find somebody to go with me. Shoving it up on facebook, Kitt came back within minutes and said she'd take the ticket.

And last night, the day had finally arrived.

Since the dire Troilus and Cressida a few years ago, I was rather reticent to see this version of the Scottish Play. I chose not to read any reviews or delve into what Bell and his actors were up to for this production.

Kitt and I were pleasantly surprised - made better by the fact that the tickets were free and third row seats lovely and centra.

Though not a perfect Macbeth it was very, very good. Set on a sloping grassy feild with next to no props, the actors really delivered. Macbeth came across as likeable at first, driven to his final bloody acts by ambition and greed, though still keeping a touch of humanity. Lady Macbeth was superlative - sexually manipulative, on fire at the start, a truly broken women at the end.

Costumes are one of the Bell Shakespeare's strengths normally - all greatcoats and boots for most performances - and this was no different - though I couldn't get over the job lot of jeans they got from Dimmey's (think Best and Less or Primark) which did absolutely nothing for any of the actors. The Doc Martens were cool, on the other hand.

The dinner party scene where Banquo's ghost turned up stole the show for me. Using most of the characters in stage you got to see what was going on with everbody - styled to perfection. How they incorporated Banquo and the spectral elements of the play was truly inspired.

My favourite bit of the play was what they did with the witches. I've seen some shockers over the years, children used as the witches (very creepy) women with beards (just wrong), traditional witches (boring). This time they appeared to get it right. They used one actress to play the witches, using voice manipulation and physical theatre to give her power. Imminently watchable, haunting the witch was one of the best things about the play.

Also, in line with most modern Shakespeare, there was a few double ups of characters. The witch played Seward and MacDuff's son. Duncan doubled as the Porter (and botched it if you asked me - the second half of the speech was fine, but one of Shakespeare's best lighter moments had me sitting there going"WTF?!")

Other than the Porter's speech being cocked up (topless middle aged man with bad tattoos - never a good look) the only other thing that got me was the fact that half of Macbeth's speeches were delivered in a crouching position. It was just a bit strange. There were some great elements of physical theatre in the performance, but there was just a little bit too much crouching for my liking. The "is this a dagger" speech, inparticular, delivered from a contortioned position came across as a bit contrived.

In all, a very enjoyable, quite likable performance of Macbeth with some machinations of brilliance in places and so 'meh' moments in others. For free tickets, I certainly can't complain.

Most surprising of all - I studied Macbeth for my final year at high schoo, nearly 30 years ago - it's amazing how something you learned so long ago can stick in your brain, so bloody, bold and resolute is the information. After having Macbeth thrown down my throat for most of year twelve (just as we did King Lear in year eleven, still my favourite Shakespeare, and Romeo and Juliet, delived by a frustrated actress of an English teacher in year ten) Shakespeare has somehow entered my soul as an aspect that delivers sustenance and warmth on a regular basis.

Long may it continue.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sympathy for the Gen Whiner

Siberia is proving to be not as cold and inhospitable as it could be.

As described a few post ago, I find my office space is a small meeting room, sharing a kitchen sized table with my old workmate from Bastard Bank, Dave, an interesting bloke called Peter and a Gen Y business analyst from a privileged background.

We get on okay, heads down, bottoms up, keeping busy, with a bit of chat to break up the monotony - there are far worse office mates to be had. We all agree, a proper desk each would far more ideal, especially as the three of us word nerds need a bit of space for paper. 

The most surprising thing we've found sharing this space is how Gen Y doesn't get Dave, Peter or my jokes. The three of us - two baby boomers and a Gen Xer, we talk the same language - or we have a similar patter. Dave, Peter and I remember some strange things, like when interest rates were at 17%, when Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister, when Elton John was married - to a woman and when George Michael was fanciable (how did we not see it?)

However, this morning, Peter and Dave had me rolling my eyes with our dear Gen-Y'er. Never thought that would happen.

Something about daggy songs somehow came up before nine a.m.

Now, I'm pretty good with daggy songs, as is Dave.

However, how the hell did "My Boomerang Wont come Back" come up?
If HR heard us referring to this song we'd be hauled over the coals for racial vilification. 

And the other song that came up in conversation - Wangaratta Wahine.

Like where did that come from? However, Peter and Dave serenaded us with this song for five minutes.

The Gen Yer just didn't get it. Born in the eighties, he's never lived in an Australia where rampant racism was encouraged and such delights as the Paul Hogan Show were on television. I grew up where people with disabilities were vilified and had no choices. He grew up in a gentler, more accepting, more cosmopolitan Australia.

Thank goodness Australia has grown up in the last thirty years.

Saying this, I have recollections of the older times - an Australia where they were debating the boat people - in the seventies. I was born into an Australia where if you were 'different' you didn't fit in, although things were starting to change. I was brought up in an Australia where there was limited political correctness or equal opportunity. I look at the Gen Yer and think him lucky that he sees Australia as it is now, with the measures in place to give everybody a fair go, no matter your skin colour, sexual orientation or abilities. 

The four of us in this office are all very different. Our ages preclude us from talking the same language a lot of the time. Gen Yer, with his 27 years is four years younger than Dave's youngest son. Dave is older than Gen Yer's father. Peter and I sit in the middle, educated, erudite, European in sensibilities for much of the time, remembering a time where tertiary education was free and expectations were lower. We remember being students who lived in hovels, had nothing other than rent and beer money and worked crappy jobs to make ends meet between lectures. 

Gen Yer has knowledge of our experiences for the most part.

So, what can we agree on?

Other than Dave and Peter singing "Wangaratta Wahine" is not something that should be heard without half a bottle of tequila inside you?

All we came up with was that there are some things that are just too wrong for words.

This is one of those things.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Transit of Venus and other Animals

It’s a bit of a funny day today.
Venus is crossing in front of the sun, looking like a pimple on the star’s face. It’s something that won’t happen again in our lifetime – the next Transit of Venus scheduled for 2117. Captain Cook came to the Southern Ocean to witness the Transit of Venus back in the 1700s – he bumped into Australia while he was at it.

Fortuitous things can happen under this planetary alignment. Then again, great things can happen on any day.

June sixth of any year is a bit strange for me.

My funny day stems from the fact that if my father was alive, he’d be turning 71 today – and I tend to mark his birthday each year with a bit of contemplation.

I’ve stopped wishing that I had a better relationship with my father, just as I’ve pretty much given up on having six-pack abs or a puppy. It’s one of those things that I’ve grown up to accept. Dad and I didn’t get on when he was alive. He’s not here anymore. It’s a relationship that can never be mended. I can, however, mend my relationship with myself and how I view the relationship. With my father being dead for over 15 years now, it’s something that I look on as fact that I’m never going to have the father I wanted and needed rather than pondering the what ifs.

Of course, it would be wonderful to have a brilliant relationship with my family – in particular my father, but it never was and it never will be. I was neither a Mummy’s girl or a Daddy’s girl growing up, my sister the clear favourite in the family. I don’t remember sharing much with Dad. The only bits of advice I remember him imparting on me were not to tease men as it would only get me into trouble and that dropping French at university would be the worst thing I could ever do – the fact I hated how they taught the subject back then didn’t seem to matter (nor the fact I’m still reasonably fluent in the language.) I can’t remember having deep and meaningful conversations, nor can I remember him ever talking with me other than to berate me or put me down. I was known as ‘Fatso’ for most of my childhood as a term of endearment. I know he taught me to drive, ride a bike and tie my shoelaces. He was pretty good at trigonometry (though I was better) and he was pretty useless at fixing things, which is probably why I can wield a Philips Head screwdriver or an Ikea Allen key with the best of them.

I know he was upset when I moved to England, not being able to comprehend why I needed to get away and find myself, nor having any understanding of how the treatment he’d dished out over the years had killed my psyche. He came around to my mother’s place where I was staying the night before I was due to fly out. We barely said two words to each other. I know he was crying when he boarded the plane. I was not to retunr to Australia until well after he was dead. When my parents divorced about a year after I arrived in England, I refused to speak to him for two years. There are some things you don’t do and make my mother cry is one of them. I think it was also a start of the healing process for me too. My final escape. The family irreparably broken, I had nothing to go back to – and it’s something I’ve never had the pleasure of knowing – what it is like to be in an conflicted family that isn’t attached to angst.

Strangely, when I was told of his death some six years after arriving in England – knowing it was on the cards in the weeks before he died, my first reaction was that I knew could return to Australia safely without fear of reprisals.

Such were the depth of my feelings. I lived illegally for six years in the UK, such was my determination not to go back. It seems now to be a rather extreme move, but at the time, it was all that I could think of to stay sane. And whole. And away from this person who imparted such pain at the time.

Having an illegal status in England meant that I didn’t make my father’s funeral (nor my sister’s wedding three weeks before that – facts my sister, Affectionately known as Manhands brings up now and then) I’ve been to his ‘grave’ once. A plaque in a columbarium in a seaside suburb in Adelaide. My only response to this was to tell my sister that under no circumstances, when I died was I to go into ‘that f*cking wall’. I’d leave instructions for my ashes, but I’ll haunt them through the ages if they had the audacity to put me there.

Age, therapy and the knowledge that time goes on have softened me over the years.

I look back with kindness and compassion now. I know that he wasn’t a well man – contracting rheumatic fever as baby, he was told he had a bad heart murmur at 16, just as he’d been selected for the state football squad. He had his first heart surgery at 21 and a mitral valve replacement at 36, one of the first in Australia. The second operation was when everything changed. He nearly died from the experience and he came back a very different man – not the father I remember from a young child. He audibly ticked, the old-style mitral valve replacement of the day looked like a champagne cork on the x-rays. It was a disconcerting noise for many. I often thought of him as the Mad Hatter, ticking away the time, forever late for something.

Most remember my father as a jovial man, quick with a joke and a smile. I know my favourite cousin has always said that she loved my father for being a bit of a ratbag element in her life, so different from her own, stern puritanical father with whom she had some difficulties with.

The thing I look back and thing about now, when I think about my dad, is the waste of potential. I often think of him in the way ee cummings looks at Uncle Sol (see below). On reading Steve Toltz’s ‘A Fraction of the Whole’, I saw a heap of my father – too much in places it was scarily realistic (another in my book group had a similar reaction to the book) My father, on the way to being a sports star, a good scholar with a quick wit and a good mind – a baby boomer with the world at his feet, just gave up. It’s sad - but it was his journey, not mine.

I could have taken on the role of the victim. I did for years. Maybe this was my lesson. Blood may be thicker than water, but family curses can be stopped. It’s not about what happened, but your relationship with what happened.

Somehow, fortunately, I’m not known as the woman with ’daddy issues’ (though I’ve had to work my way through the myriad of unsuitable men over the years). I didn’t end up a rampant slut. I don’t hate men – for the most part, I rather like them, but I'll admit my relationship with my father in the past has had its consequences on my relationships with men in the past - being very reticent to get close to them for fear of being hurt.

Now, I just see myself as the daughter of one who was very conflicted and rather flawed.

Then again, aren’t we all?

The sixth of June will come and go every year, but this year, I still find it interesting that this Transit of Venus is happening today.

There is a lot of good omens about to be focussed upon. The rest is silence.

nobody loses all the time  (ee cummings)

i had an uncle named
Sol who was a born failure and
nearly everybody said he should have gone
into vaudeville perhaps because my Uncle Sol could
sing McCann He Was A Diver on Xmas Eve like Hell Itself which
may or may not account for the fact that my Uncle
Sol indulged in that possibly most inexcusable
of all to use a highfalootin phrase
luxuries that is or to
wit farming and beit needlessly
my Uncle Sol's farm
failed because the chickens
ate the vegetables so
my Uncle Sol had a
chicken farm till the
skunks ate the chickens when
my Uncle Sol
had a skunk farm but
the skunks caught cold and
died so
my Uncle Sol imitated the
skunks in a subtle manner
or by drowning himself in the watertank
but somebody who'd given my Unde Sol a Victor
Victrola and records while he lived presented to
him upon the auspicious occasion of his decease a
scrumptious not to mention splendiferous funeral with
tall boys in black gloves and flowers and everything and
i remember we all cried like the Missouri
when my Uncle Sol's coffin lurched because
somebody pressed a button
(and down went
my Uncle
and started a worm farm)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Little Bit of Wish Fulfillment

“Meet my down by the jetty landing,
Where the pontoons bump and spray.
The others reading standing.
As the Manly ferry, bumps it’s way to Circular Quay.”

I’ve been spending a bit of time in Sydney of late and much to my chagrin, the place is beginning to grown on me, like warts. This time had a different flavour to it as I was going to be joining friends who I hadn’t seen in about four years. Geetangeli and I have been friends since university. Her husband Bill I’ve got to know over the last decade since I’ve been back in the Southern hemisphere. They live in Christchurch, New Zealand, where thankfully their house is standing in a part of town that wasn’t greatly affected by the recent earthquakes and they live a really full life.

Geetangeli and I don’t get to see each other very often, but when we do, it’s great. It’s one of those friendships that you’re instantly comfortable around each other despite not seeing each other in years (though we’re in regular email contact). So when she emailed me and said that she and Bill were going to be in Sydney for a few days I said I’m make the trip up – knowing that I’d just been up there for the Mother’s Day Classic. Ah well, this is what you have frequent flyer points for. I hastily booked a hotel room in central Sydney, getting a not too bad a deal at a four star place on Pitt Street – so it was all sorted in the day after Geetangeli said she was coming over.

The other great thing about Geetangeli and Bill is that they are foodies. I’m a bit of a closet foodie – knowing what I like, but also aware that I tend to eat the same thing day in, day out – so having a chance to spend some time with inveterate foodies and enjoying myself is too good a chance to waste, so over the last few weeks, there have been furtive emails going back and forth across the Tasman. What do you think of this? What are your recommendations? Anything else you might like? 

According to my Geetangeli, Christchurch, despite being occasionally shaky, has some great restaurants – however, they’re lacking in Malaysian and since the quake of February last year, they are without a decent Sichuan Chinese establishment – and quite rightly, being in a big city, my friends were about searching out some of these cuisines – just as I had said that it was a dream of mine to take the Manly Ferry and go for coffee and cake at Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie. They were more than happy to oblige this little bit of wish fulfilment. I’ve only been out to visit a Zumbo establishment since he first appeared on Masterchef a few years ago.

Arriving in Sydney on Saturday morning, the first job was to find the hotel – which thankfully wasn’t too far from Town Hall station.The second was to meet up with Geetangeli and Bill – and then for a spot of lunch at a Malaysian place off George Street.

Lots of catching up was had. We also had to find Bill a SIM card which meant spending an hour in the Apple shop - which was bad for me as I've pretty much talked myself into buying an iPad. It was a good respite from the rain. After that, my small highlight - a trip on the Manly ferry.
The only small downer to the weekend was the weather. It tipped it down all weekend. A sunny day would have made the ferry ride ever so much more enjoyable, but it wasn’t meant to be. Still, the company compensated for the best that the weather was providing.
Adriano Zumbo's café in Manly was a pilgrimage - and so well worth the half hour boat ride out to the seaside suburb of Manly. Okay, if I had my way I'd happily take a ferry to work every day - I love boats. Arriving in a rain soaked Manly, we made our way down the esplanade  to this little shop. I didn't need a map - it was a case of an intrinic knowledge found in my internal GPS. Bakery that way - go. Rather cave man of me, but never to mind.

We also found next to the patisserie a coffee shop. We asked if we could bring our cakes in, to which we were told, "Yes, as long as you take your rubbish with you." Cool. So an excellent coffee was ordered and we took it in turns to go find our cakes.

Geetangeli was in love with her selection of the "Marry Me, Ed" cake - a mix of coffee creme brulee, apple raisin compote, walnut parfait, walnut nougatine, walnut sponge and a chocolate glaze.

Bill selected a passionfruit tart, the colour and texture I've never tasted before - but it was bloody marvellous.

And as for me - my pilgrimage wouldn't be complete without a piece of V8 cake - a vanilla concoction beyond compare.

See, if you gave me a list of desserts to chose from, anything vanilla would top the list. Then the lemon/passionfruit choice, maybe then a sticky date or apple arrangement. Only after all of these choices had been extinguished would I choose the chocolate dessert. (and if there was something with banana in it, that would be my last choice - generally I don't like banana flavoured things - though banofee pie does get a look in sometimes).

The V8 cake has eight layers of vanilla including layers of Vanilla crème chantilly, Toasted vanilla brulee, , Vanilla water gel, Vanilla ganache, Vanilla macaron, Vanilla dacquoise, Vanilla chiffon cake and Vanilla almond crunch. Basically this is my idea of heaven - and if I'm ever to be shot at dawn, this is the dessert for my last meal. Absolutely AMAZING.

We spent and hour in the coffee shop, watching the world go by, chatting, hoping for a break in the rain. We talked about life and how it had changed - how Christchurch was getting it's groove back after the earthquakes, our families, our friends, food and coffee and where things were going. We remember each other when we were at university when I hated computers with a passion (well it was 1986...) and Geetangeli pretty much wore pink and black and loved George Michael. We haven't changed that much, though I like computers now and Geetangeli loves wearing lots of other colours now.

Spending time with her and Bill reminds me of how blessed I am to have such wonderful friends.

After a second coffee and a further trip to the back to the bakery for some macarons, we made our way back to the city, giving ourselves a few hours before dinner to rest up and relax. Another great thing about old friends - we appreciate the value of a bit of time out.

What! Macaron that weren't from La Belle Miette! Yeah.

Karyn from my favorite macaron shop asked me to do a contrast and compare with the legendary Zumbarons. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. From the cabinet in front of me, I chose a Pandan and Coconut, Salted Butter Caramel, Blackened Vanilla and Baby Powder zumbaron. These were taken for dessert after dinner.

After a rest, a shower and a lie down, we met up again for dinner in China Town - for a wonderful meal at Red Chilli Sichuan restaurant. Another fond memory of mine is how Geetangeli introduced me to chilli all those years ago. No bland food here. A Kung Pau Chicken, some very spicy tofu and rice. Magic.

After returning to the hotel, it was time to contemplate the macarons.

Okay - I'm going to own up to being VERY impressed by the zumbarons. Do they trump the ones at La Belle Miette - they're on a par. I was particularly taken with the Baby Powder (best way to describe it was that it was like a soft flavoured musk stick) and the Pandan and Coconut one - the were great - crusty on the outside, mallow in the inside and wonderfully flavoured. The Blackened Vanilla was okay - didn't quite get it, and if anything the salted butter caramel one was just a bit too salty. My other slight criticism is that the zumbarons had a bit too much gunk in the middle - where the ones at La Belle Miette are softer. Also, I have to give La Belle Miette points for consistency - as they are always awesome. But from all the macarons I've tried, these zumbarons are very much up there.

Sunday morning gave me a sleep in, a quiet brunch of eggs atlantic and hash browns and a coffee with another friend - always pleasant to catch up with friends. On checking out, I once again met up with Geetangeli and Bill for lunch before getting the plane home.

Once again, something magnificent for lunch. Ding Tai Fung are a chain of dumpling restaurants that have recently come to Australia. Millie, my friend from Hold the Peas recommended the place - and as always she was on the mark. Thankfully, the rainy weather kept people away so we didn't have to queue and we enjoyed a lunch of green beans with pork mince (Yum) Char Sieu Mai and pork buns. I'd happily recommend the place.

Finally, after another walk in the rain and a stop for coffee and cake (do you sense a theme for the weekend, we parted.

In all, a brilliant weekend. I've knocked another couple of things off the bucket list - Zumbo's and the Manly Ferry. Suppose I'd better find a couple more things to replace them.

Oh, and the great thing about the weekend. I have Maow Maow staying with me at the moment. Em and Glen Waverley checked in on him while I was away, so it wasn't like he was wanting. Maybe I should leave him on his own more often.

The reception when I got home was brilliant.