Saturday, 30 July 2011

Return to sender, address unknown*

(*'Return to Sender' by Winfield Scott and Otis Blackwell)

One of my secondary functions as a hospital volunteer is to distribute patients' mail. This is not an onerous task but it does have it's moments. As a consequence I have renewed respect for the trusty professional postman.

The post

I suppose about 95% of received patients' mail is deliverable; that is, the addressee is an inpatient at the time of the mail's arrival.

Of the balance, some can be forwarded on to patients who have already been discharged or held for those who are booked in but have not yet been admitted.

Mail for persons who are not booked in can be returned where a return address has been provided.

Then there is the mail where the handwriting is so poor that the addressee cannot be deciphered. I am fascinated that some people who presumably believe their writing is legible provide totally illegible addressee details.

More irritating is mail from those who have the quaint, old fashioned, and ridiculously anachronistic practice of addressing females by their husband's initials. So a letter for Jane Doe is addressed as Mrs X Doe where X is the husband's initial. That is not such a problem where the woman possesses an unusual family name but if the addressee is a Smith or a Jones, for example, and we have multiple inpatients with that family name then tracking down which of those patients, if any, is the intended addressee is very annoying indeed.

But this week came the letter that takes the cake, so far. Sent all the way from somewhere in Saudi Arabia it was addressed simply to The Purple Wiggle! We had to look up the internet to check which Wiggle was the purple one and what his name is. As it turned out, the Purple Wiggle was not a patient of the hospital.

The Purple Wiggle

Friday, 29 July 2011

Ballina Day 4 and return home

Another leisurely start but this time breakfast was at home following more dog walking. Afterwards Mt and I went to a nearby centre to shop whilst Gm pottered around at home.

At lunchtime Mt took us to Shelly Beach for lunch.

The view from the cafe

The surf still pounding in

A lizard having sunned itself for a while decided to take a crap near our table

The view north towards Lennox Head

The view south towards Ballina
Then it was back to Mt's. We dropped Gm off for an afternoon nap. I assisted Mt to sort out some issues on her computer and then we drove to the nearby Court House where Mt had her application for a Senior's Card witnessed.

Then we sat by the Richmond River, which runs through Ballina, where we had an afternoon tea before returning to Mt's. I said my goodbyes to Gm before and then was dropped off at the airport for my 4.50pm flight back to Sydney.

As is often the case for flights into Sydney at the evening peak our flight from the northern direction was delayed by Air Traffic Control who required us to fly over Sydney and make our approach from the south; a detour that added twenty minutes to our scheduled one hour journey.

Finally home at about 7pm, after an enjoyable long weekend spent with friends.

Ballina Day 3

A leisurely start to Sunday morning, Ll and I sat in the sun filled enclosed verandah sipping coffees and watching the occasional passerby. Most were either walking to a nearby store to collect the Sunday papers or to the numerous Churches for the Sunday service. Mt was walking her dog whilst Gg and Fd were doing whatever it is that men with no urgent plans to pursue do best in bed on a quiet morning. Rs, typically, was sleeping in.

Once we were all up, dressed and decent and the dog had been walked we decided to drive to Lennox Head, about twenty minutes away, for brunch. It was cool but very sunny and each time we glimpsed the Pacific Ocean we could see a sizeable swell. This was a good omen for eye candy. There would be plenty of surfers about.

We selected this cafe for brunch.

Busy when we arrived, quiet by the time we finished

My scrambled eggs, sausage and Turkish bread

Gg's vanilla pancakes and syrup

Ll's scrambled eggs, bacon and Turkish bread
 Across the road the surf was pounding in creating quite a spray of water.

Seagulls enjoying the sun and a break from the ocean wind
Afterwards we returned to Ballina dropping Fd and Gg to lounge about reading the papers whilst Mt, Ll, Rs and I drove into town for a bit of shopping R&R.

Later in the afternoon, Mt's brother Gm, visiting from his home in California, returned to Ballina from a week with friends in S E Queensland. Mt collected him from the bus terminal. We spent an afternoon tea with Gm following which Ll, Fd, Gg and Rs departed for their Brisbane homes leaving Mt, Gm and I behind.

Our dinner was left overs from the previous night's roast dinner.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ballina Day 2

We were up by 9am Saturday morning, much later than all of us rise in our day to day lives, but a reasonably early start for a leisurely weekend with friends. There was dog walking to be done and the Saturday papers to be purchased and these were accomplished before a late breakfast at home. Rs and Gg were due to arrive from Brisbane in the morning but they 'texted' to advise they had departed late and were caught in heavy traffic on the highway and would not reach Ballina until the afternoon.

We four (Mt, Ll, Fd and myself) decided to shop for food for lunch and the evening birthday meal that Ll and Rs had opted to prepare. As usual we pooled some funds to purchase a whole stack of lottery tickets something we always do when we have these weekend get togethers. One of these days we might actually win these lotteries.

Rs and Gg finally arrived around 1.30pm and we settled into a lunch of cold meat cuts, delicious fresh bread and salads. After more general chit chat and hi jinks Ll and Rs turned their attention to making the birthday cake and the roast lamb and vegetables evening meal we had decided upon.

Whilst the cooks were engaged in their activity, Gg, Fd and I slipped out to purchase some wines and beer for the meal and took the opportunity for a quick look around the town. By the time we returned the cake was taking shape and the aroma of lamb roasting in the oven was wafting temptingly around the house.

We sat down to our roast dinner around 7.30pm. This was the table....

Everyone was in good form at the table ribbing each other and recollecting many wonderful memories from the past. Later in the evening it was time for the birthday cake...

Mt is the third in our group to reach 60 after myself in 2009 and Fd in 2010. Ll will be next in 2013.

Bedtime was around 11pm.

Flying North

There were no hula dancers nor a flying clipper for my flight to Ballina last Friday afternoon.

Sydney was enduring it's (I think) third consecutive day of constant, at times torrential, rain and I was sure the rain system would be following me up north.

As usual the Ballina flight, which also serves the upmarket resort town of Byron Bay, was full and we were ready for departure only a few minutes after the scheduled time. The rain was tumbling outside the cabin. Then the Captain spoke to us from on high. A lightning alert had been issued requiring all workers to vacate the tarmac and therefore we would need to wait on board until the alert was over before staff would be available for 'push back' and departure.

Oddly it was only later that it occurred to me I could have been alarmed at the thought of lightning but at the time I wasn't. All I thought about at the time was how long would the alert delay our flight. As it turns out the alert was removed after about five minutes and soon after we were on our way.

Despite the atrocious weather around the Sydney area the flight was comparatively smooth and uneventful. The high tech nature of modern travel was evident. The woman next to me was playing scrabble on an iPad. Across the aisle and one row forward a young man was viewing a movie on a Note Book. I was listening to ABC radio podcasts on my iPod.

A woman with two young children sat across the aisle from me reading childrens' books. As we commenced our descent into Ballina I noticed the clouds clearing and was relieved to see that we appeared to be beyond the rain belt. The younger of the children across the aisle pointed at me and started shouting 'Daddy' over and over. His mother leaned over and confided, without any apparent discretion, that the child's father is bald and he thinks any bald man he encounters is his father. Well, I'm not bald but I do have zero haircuts every few weeks and the shortness of my cut combined with the grey colour of what is left obviously looks like baldness to a child.

Mt met me at the airport and drove us to her home only seven minutes away. Oh the joys of easy travel in regional towns. We took her border collie for its afternoon walk and then settled down to chat whilst we waited for Ll and Fd to arrive from Brisbane.

Dinner was a delicious Beef Bourguinon which Mt had prepared during the afternoon.

The birthday weekend was underway.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Friday, 22 July 2011

Weekend in Ballina

I'm flying to Ballina this afternoon for Mt's 60th birthday. Ll and Fd are driving there from Brisbane this weekend and Rs and Gg will drive from Brisbane tomorrow morning.

According to my iPhone weather app I can expect it to be a couple of degrees warmer there than in Sydney and if the app symbols are accurate the weather will be sunny after today. I hope the app is correct. It is raining in Sydney at the moment for the fourth day in succession with the showers quite heavy at times.

The others are expecting me to come armed with my 1,000 plus photos from the European rivers cruise and will no doubt be secretly relieved when they discover I'm not bringing any. I haven't disciplined myself so far to set aside the time to sort and label those photographs.

I'm not certain what our activities will be over the weekend but Ll is always an excellent social secretary and I'll be happy to follow her lead.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain...

...more like the thump of torrential showers in Sydney today as I drove home from the Edgecliff shopping centre...

Lights on and it is not yet 4pm
Sheets of water at the Darling Point Road intersection with New South Head Road

Monday, 18 July 2011

A shocker at Bridge tonight. Almost every option we chose was the wrong one. I was certain we must have finished last but two other North/South pairs had an even worse night than us. Our percentage was a miserable 41.50% but still better than the bottom three East/West pairs.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Palm Beach

Sunset over Pittwater
Lunch and an afternoon of leisurely nonsense including a game of charades at Hn's home at Palm Beach with Sn visiting from the Gold Coast for the weekend to surprise Mk for his birthday. It was fairly cool and showery but as the picture above might indicate the sunset was pretty.

The dogs (both Golden Retrievers) were hyperactive as usual. I think a return to doggy school would be a good idea.

Ke making a meal of Ae's sneaker

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Dinner with friends

Dinner tonight with friends at their Balmain home. Fs was visiting from Canberra for the weekend. An enjoyable evening with our hosts providing a generous meal with duck for the main course. Not my favourite meat but their take on it was very tasty.

(The photo is from the internet and not the actual meal.)

Friday, 15 July 2011

What a difference a day makes

So sunny yesterday and today wet enough that there is no visibility across the harbour. Rain and cold means a night at home with the heater on and viewing crime night on ABC television.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Lunch at the Bay

Lunch today with four friends at the Double Bay Sailing Club (in the distance above). It was cold but, as you can see, sunny outdoors; cosy indoors. There were a few people sunning themselves on the benches that dot the tiny beach.

For the record I had a steak in pepper sauce with roast potatoes, spinach and carrots. Apple crumble and ice cream for dessert. It all tasted yummy.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Edward Gant's Amazing Feats Of Loneliness

The playwright, Anthony Neilson, wrote Edward Gant's Amazing Feats Of Loneliness when he was coming out of a long bout of depression. This may explain the psychedelic nature of the play currently presented by the Sydney Theatre Company.

Presented as a mix between circus and vaudeville the hardworking cast of four enact several whimsical tales of loneliness each of them featuring oddball, shunned characters. I was taken with Lindsay Farris, an interesting performer I have not encountered previously. The play is at times humorous, slightly disgusting, serious and most of all just plain weird.

The costumes by Romance Was Born are a delight.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Happy Ever Afters

This Irish comedy is from the Death At A Funeral template. Gather a lot of characters in one place and let the mayhem follow right down to including a roof top drama scene.

In Happy Ever Afters it is the wedding day for Maura and Freddy but even before they reach the church you know that the day is not going to end well, let alone as planned.

The film begins promisingly enough with a clever sleight of hand about the ceremony but from then on the comedy is contrived, none too subtle and rather obvious. The actors overact shamelessly.

Best viewed accompanied by several pints of Guinness and copious quantities of chips in vinegar.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Don't you agree?

Why do they do it?

I've always assumed that the purpose of a radio or television interview is for the interviewer to elicit information or opinions from the interviewee. To my mind an interview is not intended to be a soap box for the interviewer to express their opinion bulldozing any view, whether that be contrary or in agreement, that the interviewee might possess.

So why do so many interviewers ask long winded questions that in reality are not questions at all but rather statements of their opinion leaving no real opportunity for the interviewee to respond?

Friday, 8 July 2011

On the spot

I visit The Spot at Randwick regularly mostly to attend the movies at the Ritz, a multiplex cinema complex but one which is family run, has a nice family feel and family friendly prices and which maintains the original Art Deco auditorium as the main screen.

The Spot has a village style with its cafes and a small number of other retail outlets. There are no large or major chain stores so the area has a relaxed feel. The Spot is promoted as a bit of a tourist location which I think is oversell and raises unrealistic expectations. I recall being approached by a tourist couple there once who asked how they get to The Spot and their look of disappointment when I told them they were standing in the middle of it was painful to view.

I occasionally get hamburgers from the traditional Greek owned milk bar and cafe on the corner and they are cheap and delicious. I am always partial to purchasing lamingtons to devour at the movies from the old style cake shop across the intersection but for some reason I have rarely dined in any of the restaurants there.

Yesterday I had lunch at the Seahorse Restaurant. It was very pleasant. Hn and I both ordered Atlantic Salmon, Je selected Barramundi, Ae settled for a Risotto with seafood whilst Be, the anti-seafood diner, stayed true to himself and yet again chose a Chicken meal.

I think we will be back.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The White Guard

Andrew Upton has adapted 'The White Guard' in the latest Sydney Theatre Company production. In the program notes the STC's Artistic Directors, Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett, mention the play is '...charged with a real force of history and is all about the world, society and the individual in that daunting context'. Later they comment that the play is '...a lost classic'. Big statements that I didn't feel were borne out by what I saw last night.

The time is the Russian Revolution, probably 1919 judging from the program notes, and in Kiev the White Army (remnants of the former Czarist Army) is on the verge of defeat at the hands of Ukrainian Nationalists, Anarchists and the Red Army. The German Army is pulling out and leaving the White Army to their fate.

This is the play's background and the players are the wife of the Deputy Minister for War, her brothers, relatives and admirers and assorted army factions and rebels. The play is a comedy and whilst it is often funny and I wasn't convinced that it resulted in a work to match the lavish program comments. This was especially the case in the sequence where the Ukrainian leader faced off against his hoped for German backers; a sequence that played out like a Groucho Marx skit.

Notwithstanding my doubts about the work itself, I admired the cast of fourteen who performed energetically and I particularly liked the scenes changes which, whilst relatively simple, are accompanied by Russian style choral works performed by the cast. These musical moments were quite a highlight.

Last night's performance was filmed; a rehearsal for the live screening of tomorrow night's performance in cinemas across regional Australia.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Tatty Jewel

A less than gleaming Pacific Jewel berthed this morning alongside Barangaroo with it's temporary wharf facilities. Out of frame to the left, embarking passengers struggled to bring their luggage down the hill from Wynyard Station and the CBD in what must be a less than glamorous start to their cruise.

The discredited previous State Government and the dispiritingly indecisive new State Government between them have so far failed to come up with an attractive proposal for alternative and badly needed supplementary wharf facilities for the burgeoning cruise industry.

Bon Voyage!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Where's the meat?

The staff cafeteria at the hospital has a cyclical menu. Something different...well almost different...every day. That seems like a good principle except for one thing. The cycle spans seven days. So, for example, Monday's menu is the same as last Monday's menu and will be the same again the following Monday. Ditto for Tuesday, Wednesday etc.

I work there on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays and would love to see the occasional change in menu options. Actually I have seen at least one change since I started there eight years ago. Chicken Schnitzel used to be on the Tuesday menu when I started and it was taken off the menu about two years later never to be seen by me again. Perhaps it was moved to one of my non-working days.

It seems churlish to complain when I can order a hot dish and two vegetables effectively for free; that is the cost of such a meal is less than the $8 refreshment voucher we are given for a day's volunteering. Yes, the staff cafeteria is that cheap. In fact the food is not too bad at times, especially the sandwiches which are compiled before your eyes with your selected ingredients and are a very generous meal indeed.

But I am a spoiled boy who likes a hot meal for lunch especially when I don't have to do the cooking, serving or washing up.

Friday's menu includes Chicken Curry. I rather like the dish and have tended to order it Friday after Friday. Familiarity has struck though and the dish no longer has the same impact on me as the first 150 or so times I ordered it. In fact never was the impact less than today. I watched the kitchen staff plate my dish. It was obvious there was plenty of potato, carrot and curry sauce on the huge mound of rice she was serving me but where was the chicken? Usually there are luscious pieces of white chicken evident but this serve looked suspiciously bereft of chicken whether it be white, black or brindle.

I probably should have asked the staff member to stir the pot and give me a more balanced portion but I meekly walked away with my apparently chickenless chicken curry. And so it proved, there was one tiny shred of chicken but that was it in a dish that otherwise provided a generous portion of food.

I rationalised the experience by imagining that I had ordered a vegetable curry. And as vegetable curries go it tasted a bit chickeny.