Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A restaurant crawl

Australians know about the pub crawl. This is when men (mostly men I think, rather than women) visit pub after pub partaking of a drink (usually beer) at each venue. I suppose its a case of the last one standing wins. As a non-drinker I've never fancied the pub crawl but I don't deny others of their pleasure.

Rather than a pub crawl, we, that is, my three house guests and me, had a restaurant crawl of sorts this evening. It wasn't planned nor intended. Following the movies at Randwick we checked out the numerous restaurants around the cinema, most of them heaving with customers in this holiday period. We selected a Thai restaurant but found that the only unoccupied tables all had stools. Any chairs with backs to them were taken. Mt didn't fancy spending a couple of hours on a stool (neither did any of the rest of us, I fancy) so we decided to move on to another of the Randwick restaurants but all were packed.

I suggested we drive across to Bondi where a newly favoured Thai restaurant was located. Fearing I would not find a parking spot I was pleased to get one only metres from our destination but my pleasure soon turned to dismay when we discovered the restaurant was closed for the day.

What to do? Then I remembered there was a Hungarian/European cuisine restaurant a hundred metres or so down the road. I'd never dined there but have noticed it is always heavily patronised. We wandered down and although it appeared at first sight to be full we were pleased that one table for four, with chairs and backs, was available.

That was where the pleasure ended. The restaurant was hot and apparently not airconditioned. Service was extremely slow as it seems every other table had arrived just before us and they were still at the ordering their meals stage. We were on the verge of leaving - and I was in a mental blank for suggestions of further eating options - when our order was taken, so we remained.

Given the circumstances I suppose our meals arrived in a decent time but they were mostly disappointing. The quality was reasonable but nothing special and the quantity was borderline adequate. The waiter service was mostly perfunctory and scarcely welcoming.

As the nominal host, I was a bit embarrassed and at dinner's end we left for home all feeling a little down.

The Water Diviner


Russell Crowe's new film as both director and actor, 'The Water Diviner', is about a father who travels to Turkey to recover the bodies of his three sons killed in action there during the disastrous 1915 Gallipoli campaign. I'm not sure if the characters are based on actual individuals or rather, I suspect, a fictional interpretation and compilation of events from that campaign and World War 1 generally.

I'm in two minds about the film. It is one of those gung ho type 'boys' adventure with a touch of gentle romance for women viewers all of which is cloaked in a dust of nationalist nostalgia. At the same time it is quite a reasonable entertainment, a bit reminiscent of the old Saturday matinee adventures.
★★★

Chuck Close

I have to admit I didn't know of Chuck Close until we heard about the exhibition of his work currently in Sydney.

Mt and I saw the exhibition today and we were blown away by the unusual and skilful nature of his range of art. His work is extraordinary and achieved despite considerable physical and mental health disadvantages. His is a remarkable story.

Some photos from the exhibition;




This is a tapestry

'Who wants to journey on a gigantic yacht?

Do I want a yacht? Oh, how I do not.'

Cole Porter knew something when he wrote those lyrics, I suppose, but I wonder if he would thought those thoughts if he'd seen Octopus entering Sydney Harbour this morning.

We oohed and aahed as we watched its arrival from my balcony.



Rather obligingly Octopus anchored  off Double Bay right in front of my apartment; a position from which it no doubt will have a prime view of the New Year's Eve fireworks.

Check out the link above if you want to know the somewhat garish details of this 'Super Yacht'.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Lets go shopping

It's a funny thing but every time Mt and Ll visit Sydney they come with a shopping list of things to purchase; things they believe they cannot obtain in their home cities. A visit to shopping centres always is the first item to be ticked off the list before other activities - cultural and otherwise - that are the primary purpose of their stay.

A certain giant shopping mall in Bondi Junction - let's call it WBJ - was the focus of activity on our first full day together. Fd and I quickly adjourned to a coffee shop so that Ll and Mt could track down as much from their shopping lists as possible. Inevitably - it always happens - they didn't achieve all their desired purchases but they succeeded with enough purchases to be content with their day. In the meantime Fd and I were spared the agony of hours of trailing after them from shop to shop.

Tonight we had dinner at The Prophet restaurant. It is a bit of a Sydney institution as a Lebanese restaurant that has been around for years. My visitors had never eaten there and they rarely eat middle eastern food. None of us is expert but we enjoyed the dishes we ordered.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Roadworks

I suppose there is no perfect time to close off roads for works in a big city like Sydney. Holiday time might seem a good idea although I would think that Christmas/New Year might not be the best time when the works in question surround a busy railway station like Central Railway.

That's what confronted me tonight when Mt and I went to collect Ll and Fd from their train. For some reason they travelled from Brisbane by train this time rather than aeroplane which they normally use. They just wanted to try the train they told me when I asked. After fourteen hours on a train which ran out of food and water and the toilets malfunctioned the answer to whether they would do it again was a predictable 'no'.

Country Link train

But my problem was gaining access by car to the station itself. My usual access point was blocked by a wand waving man in overalls and two alternative access roads were blocked by similarly garbed men. Signs diverted me five blocks north, then two blocks east, then three blocks south, then one block east, then two blocks south and two blocks west to where a finally arrived at a point where I gained access.

In case you were wondering, the eventual access point was the one I was turned away from in the first place.

Sheesh!

Totem

Mt arrived from Ballina last night to visit for New Year's Eve. Ll and Fd will arrive tonight to join us. In the meantime Mt and I went, at her suggestion, to see Cirque du Soleil's Totem which finishes it Sydney season shortly.

Totem, Cirque du Soleil


I've never seen C d S live previously, only snippets on television. As I expected the entire production is a slickly run operation. The presentation, the associated marketing and staging are all carefully orchestrated, brilliantly conceived and delivered without any noticeable glitch in proceedings.

This human circus of athletes and clowns are almost unbelievably skilful performing their extraordinary tricks. I believe each of the shows is based on a theme and in the case of Totem I think the theme was the evolvement of indigenous peoples.

If I had to identify the acts that impressed me most - and frankly all the acts were impressive - I would go for the woman who performed amazing tricks whilst balancing on unicycles and a couple who did the most dangerous looking manoeuvres whilst hanging from a trapeze.

Terrific show.
★★★★

A catch up and a refresh....

I haven't posted for a few days. This and the posts following for the next few dates - well at least until January 2 - have been composed and published retrospectively.

I've had visitors for a week over the the New Year and blogging - reading them and keeping mine up to date - have taken a back seat to enjoying the company of my visitors. I've just delivered the last of the visitors to the airport for flights home.

I didn't think about blogging much in the week except that I was falling behind. One other thought though was to update the blog's title.

When I started blogging I assumed the title Someone for Me which had certain meaning for me but now, six years later, I think it is time to more accurately reflect what my blog seems to about.

So, in case you didn't notice, you now are reading about my ordinary life.


Saturday, 27 December 2014

Cyrano de Bergerac

(Sydney Theatre Company)

This was my first viewing of Edmond Rostand's famous play 'Cyrano de Bergerac'; Sydney Theatre Company's season now concluded.

Cyrano is a fearsome swordsman with a gift for language which he uses to provide words of endearment for another man, Christian, to use in his courtship of Roxanne who Cyrano secretly fancies for himself. Cyrano believes Roxanne would never be interested in him because of his unfortunate appearance - namely that he has an enormous nose - but inevitably his strategies for advancing Christian's claims eventually out his suppressed desires.

Richard Roxburgh is quite swaggering as Cyrano which somewhat belies the lack of confidence in his looks. Chris Ryan on the other hand is an attractive enough Christian but portrays him as being rather  stupid which made me wonder why Roxanne would fall for him notwithstanding his fancy words.

Simple staging made for an interesting production.
★★★

Friday, 26 December 2014

Off they go....

One of the world's major ocean races, the Sydney to Hobart yacht race gets underway from Sydney Harbour every Boxing Day at 1pm.

Here are the yachts tacking about 10 minutes before the starting gun as seen down harbour from my apartment.


The same moment on the television coverage.

(Channel 7)

The moment of the starting gun.


The same moment on the television coverage.

(Channel 7)

The race is over 628 nautical miles. Depending on weather conditions and the capacity of the yacht the first across the finishing line might only take a couple of days but it is not unusual for the slowest of the competitors to reach the finish after January 1st.

This is the 70th race of this annual event.

Horrible Bosses 2


The fact of 'Horrible Bosses 2'; that is, that the film is a sequel suggests that the earlier 'Horrible Bosses' must have made a bagful of money. A look at my comments about the original film indicates I was prescient on this point.

In this sequel the same three employees from the original film are now the bosses and they are pursuing their own horrible activities. The most horrible aspect for this viewer being that their activities are scarcely funny at all. Jennifer Aniston is given a particularly awful character of her own. Why Aniston would take on this role - a second time, no less - is beyond my understanding. No amount of money could compensate for the damage (further damage?) to her reputation as an actress.
★1/2

The morning after

Many people are at major shopping centres this morning participating in the annual madness that is the Boxing Day sales. Not me. I'm enjoying a quiet, peaceful morning at home which will be followed later on by the mundane task of the week's laundry ahead of interstate visitors who descend on me and my apartment tomorrow for the New Year's week.

What mixed weather we experienced yesterday for Christmas Day. The early morning was very humid and grey such that it appeared to be drizzling rain. It wasn't raining but it looked like it was. Mid morning the weather cleared into a lovely, warm sunny day. Just the day thousands of overseas backpackers want from a Sydney Christmas Day when they descend upon Bondi Beach for a boozy Yuletide and to take photos for their friends and families in home countries who are 'snowbound' and 'winterbound' for their Christmases. Then late afternoon, predicted storms arrived complete with thunder, lightening and heavy rain which continued well into the evening.

It was all for the best. This morning is sunny and clear. The following photo taken from my number 3 bedroom - an aspect I haven't shown you often - reveals, only just, on the distant horizon the blue of the Great Dividing Range about 60 kilometres west of Sydney. You may have to enlarge the photo by clicking on it to see the image better.


At the extreme right of the photo and mid way between top and bottom, just above a line of trees, are four adjacent buildings of similar heights. They are buildings on the campus of St Vincents Private and Public Hospitals where I am a volunteer three days a week.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Compliments of the day

(Edward McLachlan)

However you celebrate December 25 and even if you don't; have a good one!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Twas the night before Christmas....

...and no construction work could be seen
on the building site beside us
nor anywhere in between...

Lincoln Place construction site today

Compared with a month ago.

Monday, 22 December 2014

When a service means no service

A 333 'bendy' bus

Yesterday I attended a 60th birthday party held at the home of a friend in Bondi not far from Bondi Beach. There were about fifty guests at the party; most of whom would have travelled by public transport as parking in the area, especially on a summer's weekend, would have been scarce.

The party commenced around midday and there were still about eight guests enjoying themselves when I made my departure at around 8.30pm. I walked up the hill to the bus stop on Bondi Road at the cross junction with Denham Street where I was surprised to see three other party guests who had left the party an hour before me waiting for a bus amongst a group of many others. Four buses (Routes 333 and 380) had passed them by not collecting passengers from the stop. All the buses were full of passengers who boarded presumably from the starting point around Bondi Beach. Another three full buses passed by in the next half hour after which the four of us caught a taxi to the Bondi Junction bus and train interchange where there were other bus and train options.

From that experience it is clear that effectively no bus service was available to intending passengers the full length of Bondi Road, say three kilometres, for at least 90 minutes but in all likelihood for much longer.

Gladys Berejiklian (Minister for Transport) if your staff is monitoring the internet for mentions then please note. These buses may well have been travelling on time and their capacity passenger numbers may suggest popularity but all those uncollected passengers along the length of Bondi Road mean one thing. At certain key times your Government is providing no bus service where a demand exists.

There was a time when Denham Street had a bus terminus of its own allowing a support service within the Beach to Junction corridor. Ms Berejiklian please resume that intermediate service.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day


I think you would know what to expect from a film called 'Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day' and in case of doubt the knowledge that the film comes from the Disney stable of films should remove all uncertainty.

Alexander is played by Australian actor Ed Oxenbould whose character whilst being a young American in an American family is said to have a strong interest in all things Australian. A rather obvious in joke.

The title of the film tells you all you need to know with Alexander unwittingly setting off a chain of negative events affecting all the family members.

Targeted at younger teen and pre-teen viewers for whom this rates as
★★★

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Siege memorial

The memorial of flowers in Martin Place following the Sydney cafe siege continues to grow and attract visitors. There were hundreds of people paying their respects when I visited this afternoon with queues of people waiting to place their floral contributions.

Queues in front of the cafe with its blacked out windows
One of three flower enclosures on Martin Place

Friday, 19 December 2014

When you call on me

Our body corporate has just had a new intercom system installed for our building. It is the third intercom system I have experienced living in this building for the past twenty four years.

I can't recall what was wrong with the system that existed when I first moved in but the second system was quite unstable often failing to ring through to the apartment. It was not unusual for a visitor to telephone me from the front door after failing to gain a response from buzzing my apartment when I was at home but the intercom call had not activated in my apartment.

Previous intercom panel

Previous intercom handset
Hopefully the new system will be more stable.

New intercom panel

I don't understand though why the intercom handset we have been given contains five buttons; four of which do not activate or respond to anything.

New intercom handset

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Darlinghurst

I suppose these almost dolls house size residences were once known as cottages.

An oasis of history in Darlinghurst

Monday, 15 December 2014

Under siege

As I type this post a siege of a cafe in Sydney is into its ninth hour and probably is still a long way from resolution.


The situation has necessitated a number of Central Business District blocks surrounding the site to be cordoned off from public access. Untold numbers spent part of or all of the day since the siege commenced in lockdown in their own nearby buildings.

The authorities have asked citizens to keep clear of this cordoned off area but otherwise to go about their business as usual.

For me this included going into town this afternoon to attend a theatre performance which was booked more than a year ago. Unsurprisingly, shortly after arriving at the theatre it was announced that the performance had been cancelled and so I made my way back home. I have rarely seen the CBD so light of traffic in what is normally peak hours. Public transport continued with some diversions but there was very little other traffic about.

I'm not complaining about the inconvenience of a cancelled performance which is a trivial matter considering the horror those being held in the cafe and in their offices must have experienced. The uncertainty for those still held in the cafe doesn't bear thinking about.

I pray that the siege will be brought to a conclusion as speedily and safely as possible.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Paddington


'Paddington' couldn't be more different than yesterday's movie visit ('Maps to the Stars'). A young bear, surviving a damaging earthquake in 'Darkest Peru', is sent to London for a safe future where it is unwittingly adopted by a family at Paddington railway station.

Clearly a film targeted at children and families it can be enjoyed nevertheless by all ages. The bear is undeniably cute and there are some humorous situations, none more so than an early scene where Paddington comes to messy grips with a human bathroom.
★★★

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Maps to the Stars


In its early scenes it appears that 'Maps to the Stars' is a spoof on Hollywood and celebrity but the black humour of those scenes quickly gives way to horror and violence.

This is a niche film which in part explains it limited screening; only showing on two screens in all of Australia.

A curiosity with limited appeal.
★★★

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings


The trailers and advertisements for 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' seem intentionally to conceal the rather obvious fact that this is a retelling of the biblical tale of Moses securing the release of the Hebrews from centuries of bondage under the Pharaohs of Egypt. I can only assume there was a thought that more people might see the film which in essence is promoted as two brothers falling out if the biblical connection was not mentioned up front.

There have been at least four previous filmed versions of this story spread across 84 years (1923-2007) all of them titled 'The Ten Commandments'; the two most famous being Cecil B De Mille's two productions (1923 and 1956). The advantages that 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' has over the earlier works include that it is more realistic and shuns the melodrama of its predecessors. In addition it has the benefit of 21st technology for its impressive special effects.

On the negative side, the screenplay is banal at times and there are moments of ironic and suggestive humour that seem out of place. The film has caused a furore over its casting and the decision to use a nine year old boy as the embodiment of God is rather perplexing even though the actor used has a eerily mature manner.

Despite the negatives I quite enjoyed this biblical epic.
★★★1/2

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Rhapsody in storm

Today, the eighth day in succession of hot humid days punctuated by violent electrical storms passing over Sydney but the difference this afternoon being that we have had (so far) three separate storms pass over with completely clear skies in between.

This is the latest storm passing over;


during which the cruise ship Rhapsody of the Seas departed port headed probably for calmer weather elsewhere.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Late storm

This afternoon for the fifth day in succession a humid, very warm to hot day has been followed by a brief, late spectacular storm complete with multiple lightening and thunder. Then clear sky again.

Here is today's storm approach.



Then ten minutes later, the clearing weather behind the storm cell as seen through blinds in my apartment.


The same weather pattern is predicted for a further three days.

At the mall


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Nightcrawler


An unemployed Jake Gyllenhaal stumbles across 'stringers'; chasers of news stories who compile videos of 'breaking' events and news scoops for on-selling to television outlets. The ambitious and rather creepy Gyllenhaal uses all his effrontery and low tricks to worm his way into this news chasing field.

Gyllenhaal is very good completely sublimating the 'pretty boy' image of some of his early roles.

Great stuff. As well as being a stunning study of an unbalanced mind 'Nightcrawler' is also a fascinating look into the competitive world of television news gathering and reporting.
★★★★

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Switzerland

Sydney Theatre Company

'Switzerland' imagines a meeting between a publishing assistant and the author Patricia Highsmith. The publishing house wants Highsmith to sign a new contract after a period of reclusive retirement in the neutral European country.

This one act play comprising three scenes is a terrific new work. The first two scenes in which the two characters engage in a cut and thrust argument give way in the final scene to a wonderful conclusion which at first created artful confusion in my mind but then revealed the hidden subtext of the earlier scenes.

The very promising Eamon Farren plays the assistant and Sarah Peirse plays Highsmith. Both are excellent.
★★★★

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Dark Horse


'The Dark Horse' is a New Zealand film about actual events when a man released from a mental institution inspires a group of rebellious children to take up chess as a means of life lessons and in doing so he leads his charges all the way to the national championships.

Most of the characters have difficult and violent lives so for the most part this is a story of lows and sadness although the achievements of the main character and the children provide moments of hope. A fine film but beware the strong New Zealand accents of many of the cast members.
★★★1/2

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Beyond Desire

Neil Rutherford Productions

In its short existence the Hayes Theatre Company has established a reputation for staging small scale musicals.

'Beyond Desire' is their latest presentation. It is an Edwardian musical mystery whose plot is a mix between Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' and E M Forsters 'Maurice'.

This quite busy production with a cast of eight and a small orchestra has its moments and is not without interest but in my opinion needs plenty of work. A fairly languid pace for much of its length gives way near the end for an almost ludicrous speeding up of the action. The production also needs significant work on its sound design. The orchestra battles with the cast for prominence from the outset. As a consequence it is difficult to make out the lyrics of the early songs when the characters are being introduced and the plot established. Undoubtedly the overloud piano playing is one reason for some cast members shrieking their songs.
★★

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Lincoln Place - two weeks on

The Lincoln Place development two weeks on from the previous post;

29 November

compared with the earlier photo;

14 November

Not a huge difference on the face of it but there has been a lot of activity and some very large equipment on site at various times in between.

We received notification from the Council during the week of an application to vary the development approval for a period leading into Christmas. Basically the developers want permission to start earlier in the morning and to work longer hours including the already approved morning hours on Saturday. That's a surprise.

There is no activity on site this Saturday morning although they already have a limited approval to perform their work. Did someone obtain an injunction preventing work? Seems unlikely. Maybe it is just too nice a morning to be working?