Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Trip

British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take a trip through the back lanes and country roads of the north of England visiting hotels and restaurants for a newspaper article that Coogan has been contracted to write. Coogan was to have been accompanied by his girlfriend but she has pulled out and so Brydon accompanies Coogan on 'The Trip' instead.

Coogan is constantly irritated by Brydon. They engage in an endless competition mimicing famous actors and Coogan is further distracted by unsatisfactory offers of work from his agent and reminders of his domestic disappointments through phone calls with his ex-wife, girlfriend and slightly wayward son.

This mockumentary style comedy is very low key and will not be to everyone's taste. Nothing of any consequence happens but I think it is quite amusing.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Absent without leave

Mk and I have tickets for tonight's performance of 'Terminus' part of our subscription series with the Sydney Theatre Company.

Mk has missed several performances in the past year all at the last moment either because he felt unwell or on one occasion because he was overseas and had forgotten to check his diary for the programming. Each time I continued on alone to the performance as he had given me insufficient notice to invite someone else to take his place. Even with sufficient notice, organising a replacement is a bit of a chore unless Mk passes his ticket on to me. Without his ticket I have to convince the STC to issue a new ticket to me which they have done in the past but only after tedious explanations.

Moments ago Mk text me to say he won't be coming tonight. He feels a cold coming on plus he has day surgery scheduled tomorrow morning. In those circumstances I probably wouldn't feel up to it either. Never mind I thought, I'll just go on my own as previously and then immediately I had second thoughts. It is cold tonight and showers are forecast and I have had late night after late night for the past week with yet another late night at bridge tomorrow.

Yes, you guessed it, the excuses just piled up. I'm going to give the play a miss too, the first time I have done so without the cause being an unexpected medical emergency. (I missed two plays years ago when my parents were rushed to A&E respectively following an accident/sudden illness.)

A light meal of tomato soup with pasta and a night beside the heater watching television is my unexpected and new plan for this evening.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Oranges and Sunshine

In 1986 a Social Worker in Britain becomes aware of the 'deportation' to Australia of hundreds of children in the years following World War 2. At first she is disbelieving but when she learns that such movements did occur and that the children involved were misled regarding the existence of their birth parents and siblings she embarks on a project to identify the children, by then adults, and where the parties are agreeable to reunite them with surviving family members in Britain.

The authorities (Government and religious) are uncooperative and unwilling to accept responsibility for the horrendous treatment and experiences of the children but the Social Worker presses on in the face of this opposition and threats to her own life and safety.

The subject matter and fine acting by the cast members make this a fairly dour film but being based on true situations, as the film is, the story is an important message and reminder for today's generations.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Mrs Carey's Concert

'Mrs Carey's Concert' is an Australian documentary about a Sydney girls' school preparations for the concert it holds every two years at the Sydney Opera House. The documentary focuses especially on Emily, a sixteen years old violinist with a startling talent and to a lesser extent Iris, an uncooperative teenager forced to participate in the obligatory supporting choir who finds the preparations tedious and defies all pressure for her to be a team player.

The teachers push the girls hard and I felt for Emily and the musician students as they are pressed by their adult mentors to articulate feelings which at that stage must be well beyond their years and life experience. Ironically it is only the recalcitrant Iris who seems to have those communication skills but her teachers are only interested in pulling her into line.

This private school must have some music department given the number of teachers and mentors available to the pupils and their efforts pay off when the eventual concert is a triumph.

A fascinating documentary.

Trams in Prague

Designed by Porsche, built by Skoda

Friday, 24 June 2011

Super 8

It is 1979 and a group of school students using Super 8 film is making a movie for entry into a competition. In order to improve their production standards and as a consequence their competition prospects they go on location to film besides a railway line at night where they inadvertently witness a train crash. The Air Force arrives to investigate the crash and their secrecy precautions raise questions as to their involvement and just what exactly they are concealing from the local community. The students make use of these developments to  continue their filming and at the same time turn detectives as they try to uncover the truth behind the crash.

Steven Spielberg is a Producer of this film which is as slick a production as you would expect from his involvement. The film cleverly manages the tightrope of targeting children and adults and so will probably have wide appeal.

The film maintains good suspense for most of it's duration especially whilst the eerie menace in the plot remains unseen. However very late in the film we get a good look at the menace and from that point the remainder of the film  loses much of the earlier quality and distinctiveness.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

A Manly Day

Je and I share a birthday; one year apart. I am one year younger. We always exchange birthday messages and today in a late, low key celebration took the ferry to Manly, walked around to Shelly Beach and back and then to the Manly Skiff Sailing Club for lunch before catching the ferry back.

It was a cool but gloriously sunny day and out of the wind felt surprisingly warm especially after all that walking. Hn, Ae, Jm and Jn came with us making for an almost jolly group except for the fact that Hn and Ae are not speaking to each other at the moment.

Some photos....

An unusually placid Manly Beach, bereft of surf, glistening in the sun
Marine Parade, the walkway from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach
View from Shelly Beach back to Manly Beach across the water
Pacific Ocean and view of Sydney's northern coast to Barrenjoey in the far distance
Another interesting view
Hn's steak sandwich, a 'light snack' that proved unexpectedly substantial

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Noises Off

The final year students of NIDA, Australia's National Institute of Dramatic Art, are staging three plays over the next few weeks as part of their final year activities giving themselves an opportunity to showcase their talents to agents, the industry, their relatives and friends and theatre goers in general. These performances give us the chance to see possible stars of the future in professional works at very inexpensive prices.

The last time I attended one of these performances was several years ago on Mk's urging because the male members of the cast disrobed at some stage. Not the best motivation for me to attend a play and I paid it for later. I blogged about that performance and how attractive several of the cast were naked on stage. The posting received a swift comment from the play's Stage Manager who evidently was trawling the Internet for any comments about the production. He suggested I should focus on the performance's qualities not the nakedness of the cast. In fact my posting had also commented quite favourably on the performance and the performers but I was suitably chastised and hopefully I have not repeated that example in poor taste blogging.

'Noises Off' is a farce and several of the cast do undress to their underwear but nobody appears naked. A theatre company is rehearsing a play which they are performing around the country, mainly in regional areas. The rehearsal is not going well with actors fluffing their lines, questioning the motivation of their characters and generally descending into disruptive behaviour one way and another.

The farce is in thee acts but in this production Acts 2 and 3 have been combined. The play portrayed in the farce is presented once in each of the acts; as a rehearsal in Act 1, then as heard from backstage in Act 2 and finally as the play itself disintegrating into chaos in Act 3.

The students are made to work very hard in this production. Timing is all important and I felt occasionally the students were uneven in their timing but overall their performance tonight was pretty good. Act 2 is mostly performed in mime and I had difficulty following the actions at times during this scene. I think more focused lighting would have assisted my understanding of this section.

Perhaps 'Noises Off' is a bit of an old fashioned clunker but it remains very funny. Cs and I both enjoyed the performance immensely.

Little White Lies (Les Petits Mouchoirs)

A group of friends go ahead with their annual holiday in the south of France whilst one of their number remains in intensive care in a hospital in Paris.

'Little White Lies' evidently was a big hit in it's native France. The film's plot, such as it is, about a group of friends working their way through their tangled relationships and romances is very reminiscent of Hollywood's 'The Big Chill' which amazingly is now nearly thirty years old.

'Little White Lies' is quite amusing and the water resort setting presents a very different and interesting view of France from that which is usual in their films. However the film is at least half an hour too long and consequently outstays it's welcome.

Sunday, 19 June 2011


Somewhat belatedly I have joined the wireless generation.

Not that I am a complete dinosaur. After all I have been using mobile phones, texting and occasionally emailing from them for yonks now and mobile phones are wireless aren't they? But until now I have resisted turning wireless with my home computer.

It's not that the opportunity wasn't there. A couple of years ago the dreaded Telstra sent me a wireless modem completely unasked apparently as a reward or bonus for me sorting out my duplicate accounts with them. Why it should be left to me to sort out the duplicity and not them cleaning up the duplicity I don't know but that's how it transpired.

So one day the postman left me a card notifying me to collect a parcel from the post office and when I did, there it was in a plain box - a wireless modem. At the time there was no need for me to activate this cute looking little toy. My home computer, a grand production, was constructed by a knowledgeable IT friend who had great fun spending my money purchasing the most expensive and latest components to complete the project. This lumbering concoction was far too large and weighty and bound to my desk to be remotely considered for, or converted to, mobile use.

So my wireless modem remained firmly and unconsidered in it's box.

And then, just before my recent overseas trip and completely unplanned and on a whimsy I went to my local shopping centre and three hours later I came home with a newly purchased and totally unresearched HP laptop or notebook (or whatever portable computers are now called).

Included in all the bits and pieces of extras I purchased with my gleaming new laptop came one of those portable USB wireless modem connection thingies which I had added to the purchase without any serious consideration. Now this USB modem connection certainly made the laptop connect to the internet but of course there were all sorts of drawbacks. For one thing the connection was very poor. I only realised when I got home that the service provider was a rival to my existing provider (the dreaded Telstra) with worse reception. Furthermore I was paying for this USB connection; a ridiculous situation given that I was already paying (much more) for the dreaded Telstra to provide an existing (and superior) internet service.

I knew I had to rectify the situation. On my return from the trip I recovered the unasked for wireless modem gift from the bottom of the cupboard where it had sat in it's box for the past two years. I read the instructions and was reassured that I would be wirelessly connected easily within minutes and so went to work. Of course it didn't prove easy...for me. An hour later, I gave up and telephoned the dreaded Telstra for assistance.

Naturally, being the dreaded Telstra one call to them wasn't sufficient but eventually I was connected to someone who seemed to be genuinely offering, and capable of providing, assistance. Almost unprecedented in my dealings with the dreaded Telstra I was offered next day home service - for which I will be charged. The next day a technician turned up - an hour and a half late - and he completed the installation and connection in thirty minutes. The technician did have to make several calls to complete the work, which I would never have known to do.

So pleased was I with this unexpected display of efficiency that I forgot to check with him about connecting the printer until a minute after he departed. Drat! But here is the icing on the cake. I pulled out the printer disk and downloaded the wireless connection with the printer myself...successfully. (Well, I think it was successful, I haven't actually printed anything yet!)

PS - I now have tested the wireless printing using a certain photograph of footballer Nick Riewoldt and it worked. Yay!

Saturday, 18 June 2011


Occasionally I see films without any foreknowledge of what they are about or what to expect. This was one of them. I noticed from the poster that Aussie actress Rose Byrne features and so, always happy to support films with Aussie connections, I went along to a screening. As it happens there is another Aussie connection with comedienne Rebel Wilson featuring in a side gag with no apparent relevance to the main plot.

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is invited to be Matron of Honour by her best friend Lilian (Maya Rudolph) and finds herself at odds with an odd collection of bridesmaids; in particular Helen (Byrne) with whom she enters an immediate and increasingly frenetic rivalry. What follows is two hours of gross and rather obvious comedy.

The film opens with the sort of sex scene that a pubescent teenage male would consider orgasmic involving Wiig and pay television's hunk de jour John Hamm whose name wisely does not appear in the credits despite his multiple appearances in the film. Hamm in real life is seen as having a great deal of sex appeal but to my mind he looks far better wearing a business suit than his birthday suit as this film confirms.

Having watched it I assumed from the grossness of the film that it must have been written by men and was surprised to learn from the end credits that the writers were two women including Wiig herself. I have to concede that I laughed quite a few times but be warned, this film is the antithesis of sophisticated comedy.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Can anyone help?

Can anyone help me? This is a question for those, who like me, use Blogspot.

I've been unable to add any comments to my own blog since I returned home. I just get caught in an endless cycle of sign in requests when I try to publish a comment (or a reply to a comment) to any of my posts.

Does anyone else have this problem at the moment? Does anyone have a solution?

Postcards - past their 'use by' date?

Has modern technology overtaken 'snail mail' to the extent that the latter is no longer useful for short trips? My latest experience suggests the answer is yes...definitely yes.

I sent a dozen or so postcards to friends in Australia from Germany one week into my recent overseas trip with two weeks still to go before my return home. I also sent most of these friends an email or two when the internet service allowed.

Not one of my postcards beat me home. Perversely, all of the postcards I sent to friends at the hospital were amongst the mail I collected from the Hospital's mail room as part of my volunteer's role on my first day back at work and I delivered them by hand to the addressees. I might as well have carried the cards home myself and saved on the stamps!  Just as perversely, the card I sent to the Nursing Home arrived the next day, a few hours after my return to work there.

All of my emails to the same recipients arrived without delay and were welcomed, even the one liners, as evidence that I was alive and well and having fun. Frankly my impression is the emails were welcomed more than the postcards.

Tempis Fugit (even if the postcards do not).

Monday, 13 June 2011

What's in a degree?

It's strange how cold Sydney can feel. We have such mild temperatures in winter compared with other cities in Australia and overseas and yet I'm sure I've felt colder here than in those.

Yesterday I returned to Sydney after spending four days in Paris where on the last day the temperature was only a degree higher than here and yet whilst I walked around Paris feeling chilly but not frozen I felt really cold here and couldn't wait to get the heater and blankets out.

Perhaps it is the wind chill factor but yesterday the rain was pouring and I doubt there was any breeze let alone wind about.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Arriving home

About to land in Sydney at around 6.20am...

...cold and raining cats and dogs.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Taking off

Some snaps as we waited our turn for take off and then what little view of Dubai was possible though the heat haze....


...dessert (blueberry crumble)....

In transit

Our four hours transit in Dubai was quieter then the similar transit on the way over. Still plenty of people around but we camped on seats at our departure gate and watched the world go by until our flight was called.

It was very hazy and hot outside.

The view of airport traffic from my seat on the plane

The view straight ahead for the next fourteen hours

Friday, 10 June 2011

Paris - last day

Our holiday officially ended last night with the river and dinner cruise on the Seine and most of the travellers are moving on to their next destinations or home today. Our flight out of Paris was at 1010pm effectively giving us an extra day in the city.

Following weeks of early starts we had a comparatively late breakfast and then wandered from the Louvre down the Tuileries, through the Place de la Concorde and the Avenue Des Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. (There, that's my bit of French done and dusted and some of it may even have been spelt correctly.) It was cold and there were rain showers about.

The Tuileries

Place de la Concorde

Avenue Des Champs Elysees

The man in the blue jeans stopped to ask me what street we were on. Me? He asked me? Did I look like a local shivering in the cold with a camera slung over my shoulder? And he asked what street are we on? Perhaps the most famous street in the world after Wall Street? Oh well, he was good looking! know this one...

When we entered the Avenue des Champs Elysees I noticed a queue of people across the Avenue queued to enter a very smart looking premise. I assumed it was a queue for the Visa Office of an Embassy, something we had noticed in other cities on our European trip. On our return walk down the other side of the Avenue we found a queue still in place...

Did you catch what they were queueing for? It was on the plaque on the gate. They were queueing to get into the...Abercrombie and Fitch clothing store! And with gatekeepers like these below who wouldn't want to queue?

After a baguette lunch at a Brasserie we adjourned to the hotel with the remainder of the group flying out on our flight to wait in the bar for our transfer to the airport and departure. We flew out of Paris on time headed for Dubai.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Paris next day

This morning the group travelled to Montmartre in the north of Paris a very touristy area promoted as a traditional artists' colony. On return to the city I took myself off to the Paris Opera for a self tour of the theatre and in the evening rejoined the group for a river cruise and farewell dinner.

We travelled to Montmartre by the Metro; requiring two trains in each direction. Three of the four train trips were in packed carriages. It looks like the Paris Metro has very extended peak periods.

Montmartre sits high above the rest of Paris...

This woman had her silhouette done...

The Paris Opera is spectacular to is a side lounge running the length of the auditorium...

...the dome in the auditorium...

...a section of the auditorium...

...on the other hand there was not much glitter in the men's toilet...

The river cruise was a disappointment not because of the dinner nor for the sights available to be seen along the Seine but for the fact that it was all done and dusted by 9pm. We were expecting to see Paris 'illuminated' as per the brochure for our trip but with daylight saving and the Northern Hemisphere's longest day approaching Paris was still in broad daylight at 9.30pm so no buildings were illuminated at that time; indeed even the streetlights had not yet been activated.