Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Sea change....the big move

I have a Mac.
I have made the brave move.
Learning curve. After 20 plus years on PCs.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Being Out of Town

The speed of modern communications has not caught up with everywhere...of course. So here we are in the country with the slowest connection in the world, perhaps. Email takes hours to come in and one curses the endless spam which no longer is grabbed by the ISP or the secondary filter. it just comes and comes and comes....and comes. Right now I am waiting for 300 mails to come in.
Commuting from the country is a bit of a bore, too. I know Americans commute for hours every day and I should not complain. It is only an hour and a quarter from here - and when no one else is on the country stretches of the road, it is actually rather lovely. But then one hits the traffic and the last 40 klicks are vile.
These are the last days, however. And this the last weekend. The packing weekend when I prepare the house for its summer holiday tenants, the revenue which is supposed to pay the rates.
A lovely day today with friends B & Q staying - sharing pleasures in nature. We spotted a white-breasted sea eagle on the island this morning and had a lengthy good look at her through the high-powered scope. And then on Seal Island a mother seal and her baby - almost white, the bub. And paddling in the rock pools with the tide out, we found a wonderful crustacean worm creature and a happy crab, as well as lots of tiny hatchling fish. Later, at Waitpinga, we did some fly herding and Q caught some of the herded flies for identification under Bruce's powerful hand-magnifier. And we sat on the glorious beach in the perfect warmth and watched the Caspian terns and Pac gulls and silver gulls, and the seven fishermen in the distance, casting into the surf. And on the way home, Q pointed out masses of butterflies and we stopped to watch them, and found also a huge red ant busy on a gum bough and some tiny orb-weavers. And then, as we drove on, B spotted a huge bearded lizard displaying himself on a dead tree....oh yes, we saw kangaroos, too.
In the evening, after a huge dinner, we drove to look at the Xmas lights of Victor - and then generally repaired to rest. The boys had erected my long-awaited shed today. it now sits green and proud in the corner. Tomorrow I will start putting things in it.
But now - there are more of the masssss of short stories to be read for the paper's short-story competition. I have been reading hundreds a day, charmed to the core to think of all those people intent on the business of creative writing, even if a lot of them are immersed in the most lurid of purple prose.
Onwards to bed, to stack the folder on the knee and sit up, pen in hand, judging the good from the bad...sometimes pausing to marvel at a competitor, for often their descriptions of themselves are the most fascinating part.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Critical condition

What a roll-up. Guests and nominees for the Critics Circle Awards night were rolling up 40 minutes before the invitation hour - which caught us somewhat on the hop setting things up in the Bakehouse Theatre. First to arrive was a theatre director and hot on her heels, our Lifetime Achiever, an octogenarian Czech former ballerina. And then in they swarmed, waiting at the bar before the wine was even opened. And they swilled down the fine Coriole wines and sucked down the Coopers beers and they nibbled and chomped on the food - by the end of the evening polishing off all the wine and all the food, leaving only some of the beer with which to "pay" the volunteer bar staff and glass-washers. But it was one helluva good party - and people lingered on to the last. Winners, of course, swanned out on clouds with trophies and cheques in hand, beaming from ear to ear. And once again we, the critics, had the satisfaction of rewarding the best of the best - not only with the material goods but with the kudos which forever after they may put as a major credit achieved. "Award-winning" is a nice way to prefix one's name.
It was a terrific crowd - a delight to address. So responsive. It made it easy for all of us who had to speak - and we were many. I MCed and assorted critics made the announcements of winners, speaking on their merits as they did so. Our VIP politician, John Hill, known under the silly title as "Minister Assisting the Premier in the Arts" (we all believe he should be given the title of arts minister since he is beloved in the arts and the premier perhaps less so) was witty and wonderful.
And the audience, in the air-conditioned theatre, was able to sit comfortably, drinks in hand, throughout the speaking and award-giving. Our sponsor for the Coopers awards for amateur theatre, Glenn Cooper, rolled up in the nick of time and in the sweetest of good humor. He has no aptitude for any of the arts, said he, but he supports the awards because he loves the arts and most particularly the people involved in them. It was heartfelt - and we all purred with pleasure.
Our Arts Department friends were there, of course. For it is they who liaise the serious money for the major professional awards. And they seemed warm and happy with the event, too. Indeed, everyone seemed radiantly happy. And - after a frenetic day of getting the event together, I retire to bed absolutely and utterly exhausted - but pleased as punch that another year's awards are successfully under the belt.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Deja revue

Another reunion? Well, at least it was not brutally time-specific. It spanned several decades - the lifetime of the University Footlights Club, the home of undergraduate satire. A sad reflection on Generation X et al is the death of such pertinent creative juices. Footlights has been dead since the 80s with students now simply too preoccupied with studies to indulge in satiric thespian tendencies. Not so in my day when those revues were big deal - and not just for the student body.
Tonight 210 old Footlighters gathered to reminisce and run, rustily, through some of the old numbers of the 50s and 60s.
Exuberant, bright youth now in middle age and, in some cases, dotage - since the first Footlighters were performing in the 30s and 40s. A room crowded with extroverts!
It was good to see many of the faces of my uni days. Strange, though, that despite the intervening years, they still looked much the same to me. I gazed at some, silver-haired or balding, and succumbed to that strange backflash of the vibrant, zealous student days and the excitement of putting on the shows and partying through the nights - never in wildest youthful imaginings contemplating a day in the distant future when we would converge to reminisce about those good old days. We did not think a lot about the future then. We could not see ourselves in mellow years. The "now" was forever. Halcyon youth.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Away from the madding crowd

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. Especially this, my own corner of the seaside - with its old glacial reef and its seascape of rocky islands and the mighty Bluff. Encounter Bay, where the scent of the sea invigorates and renews as the tide goes out exposing the rocky reef and its weedy life forms - beds of mussels, urchins, weed like strings of pearls, ribbons of kelp, starfish...
Bruce and I are having a wee retreat. I have a week off work and he is over from NH on his annual leave. Precious time for us both. In our own house with its sublime view, the sea a casual stone's throw from the door.
It's been a quiet few days - just us. We have walked our familiar path to the old screwpile jetty to watch the fishermen, we have sat on beaches watching the sea, on the little calm, sheltered bay beneath the bluff and also on the mighty Waitpinga beach where the Southern Ocean crashes wild surfing waves onto the vast stretch of golden sand. Looking at that sand under one of B's high-powered magnifiers (which he carries around the neck on nature walks) it was to find a world of glittering, sea-smoothed gemstones - tiny golden quartz, which gives the sand its color, and pure crystal quartz like miniature uncut diamonds.
It was a breezy day when we walked Waitpinga. Only us and two fishermen casting into the furious sea. The waves were massive, raging over in rolling breaks and frothing up like seething meringue. Down the profile of the coast, the perspective of headlands was cast into pastel hues by the delicate salt spray whipped up from the wind off the sea. B and I, after padding through the soft sand to the little rivermouth, headed inland along the edge of the river - which, after the drought, was narrowed leaving broad, firm beds of sandy marsh mud. Opportunistic little wildflowers were greedily spreading their way across the new soil, rejoicing with bright blue blooms. As we walked the water's edge, we noticed masses of little marsh flies flying in little leaps and bounds around our feet. The further we walked, the more of these little ground-dwelling flies we saw until they were a dense black carpet. We were fascinated by the way their population seemed to grow thicker the further inland we walked - until I turned around and observed that there were hardly any little flies behind us. They were keeping pace with us, a step ahead all the way. We were herding them. Fly herding!!!!!! And we had herded them by the zillions. Oh the power.
Our friends, Barb and Brian, came down yesterday and we rolled off for an Aussie pub meal. Hearty and very average - but easy and fun. Today we lunched at the Miniature Vilalge tearooms amid its wonderful rose and native garden - watching birds feeding their young in nests under the eaves of the verandah. Blue wrens, swallows, honeyeaters.... And we had merriment with Eric, the corella, who says "hello Eric" and performs tricks of dropping rocks with his claw and catching them with his beak. Clever bird.
Later B and I drove to explore a native flower garden I had noticed from the road (it's good to be a passenger sometimes) - and what a joy this 5-acre native garden. Nangawooka I think is its name. A serene place with 2500 different sorts of Australian native plant - and the accompanying birdlife - more blue wrens, galahs, sulphur cresteds, wattle birds, crested doves...a wonderous racket of birdsong amid the sweet fragrance of vegetation. There was no one else in the reserve - just B and me, wandering unurriedly, marvelling at the primeval nature of some of the plants, rolling their names around on our tonges - Grevillia, leucospurum, callistemon...
Reading in the window seats, watching the ever changing hues of the sea, waking to the first peek of the orange sun on the horizon (and then going back to sleep), walking to the boat ramp and watching the pelicans, seagulls and terns on their rocks...
Oh and we had a storm...a wild electrical storm which raged all night long. Not much rain, of course. Lightning and more lightning, illuminating the sea and islands in stark relief. Just before sunset, the sun made a last appearance and an incredible rainbow emerged almost vertically beside Wright Island. So deep and rich in its colors. The full arc was massive when we went outside to check its extent. And then a second rainbow twinned the first in softer colors. We stood on the balcony gazing in wonderment - and then the most spectacular coiling, curling, bright and extensive lightning struck right through the core of the rainbows. Talk about gasp! Oh yes, we gasped. What a phenomenon.
Ain't nature grand!