Monday, 30 June 2014

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Cruise day 3

It is a bit rich to call this day 3 of the cruise given that we berthed at Brisbane at 6am and were off the ship before 8am.

There was some confusion as to the time we had available for breakfast and also when we had to vacate our cabins mostly because of a misreading of the written instructions. Who got that wrong? Oh right, that would be me. However as Fd left all the research to me he can scarcely complain about the result.

Actually we weren't disadvantaged in any way. We got to eat an unhurried full breakfast in our preferred dining room and we weren't evicted from our cabins. We departed on our terms and were still ahead of the advertised schedule.

Cy and Rs offered to collect us from the wharf and we took refuge from the wind in an adjacent fish cafe until they arrived. It seems an odd place to wait at breakfast time but there were other by now former passengers amongst the early morning worker patrons so we did not feel out of place.

We spent a couple of hours over morning coffee once we reached Ll's home. Her husband Fd had rushed off to perform some Sunday work. An urgent call out to replace a steam valve. (All 'double dutch' to me.)

Then it was time for Mt to drive back to Ballina (a three hours trip) to collect her dog from the vacation kennel. Ll gave me a lift to the airport. My flight was booked for 2.25pm but as I was early I managed to get on the 1.25pm flight. I was home by 3.30pm and into my first load of the week's laundry.

The cruise was short but enjoyable. I hope to do more.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Cruise day 2

We are at sea.

It is just as windy here as it has been in Sydney and so too cold for sunning on the open decks although some hardy souls are rugged up and braving the conditions.


Following breakfast we had a go at Bingo, the first of two sessions with a guaranteed jackpot prize by day's end of at least $2,000. We also attended the second session when the jackpot was won.

Passengers assembling of bingo

The jackpot was won by a passenger celebrating her 50th birthday and was over $4,300. We didn't win a cent.

This afternoon we sat in on an art auction that was more entertainment than real auction. Only a few items seem to be seriously for sale; the rest were passed in at what appears to be a 'simulated' auction.


The auctioneer is cute although mostly incomprehensible with his fast talking American accented style of speaking.

Tonight we attended one of the shows, this one featuring Nathan Foley who used to be a member of he High 5 television show aimed at kiddies. Nathan sang a program of rock and roll numbers over the years and his energetic performance was well received.

Earlier in the evening we participated in a music trivia quiz which focussed on the 1980s. We performed miserably mostly guessing our 8 correct answers out of the 30 or so questions. It just wasn't our era.

We finished the night listening (or attempting to listen) to a band play Motown music. The songs were great but the band, who appeared to be Indonesian, played very loudly partly masking what seemed to be occasionally out of tune singing. My ears were ringing at the end and my balance seemed affected for a while afterwards. The excessive volume didn't faze a host of passengers (all but two of them women) who hopped onto the dance floor and who danced enthusiastically to the band's playing.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Visitors day 3, Cruise day 1

The excuse for our get together is Fd and my birthdays which are one day apart. Fd is one year and one day younger than I am. We have booked on a short cruise Sydney to Brisbane all of 38 hours in duration. It amazes me that a short cruise like this would attract something like 1,950 passengers but there you go.

There are all manner of passengers aboard. A number go 'hen's' groups one of which all wear identical tutus and blonde wigs and another group wearing identical caps identifying each member as 'Mum of the bride', 'bridesmaids' etc. There is a group of about 20 who look like a team of footballers and their 'WAGs' (wives and girlfriends) all wearing identical tropical shirts. There are young families with babies in prams and elderly passengers with walking frames. Looks like everyone loves cruising.

We are travelling on the Pacific Jewel. It is not the newest or the most luxurious of cruise liners but perfectly acceptable for a journey like this. We were on board by about 1pm and 'sail' time was scheduled for 4pm however this was deferred until 6pm because 'hundreds' of passengers were delayed arriving by a power failure at Sydney Airport during the morning.

We started with a lunch in the general smorgasbord dining room but frankly didn't fancy the quality or choice very much and (it transpired) that all subsequent meals were to be taken in the formal dining room which we enjoyed far more.

We spent a few hours exploring the ship and the layout during this afternoon until it was time for the mandatory safety drill.

The evening's activities included a go at the Guess the Famous Faces Trivia quiz which we did reasonably well at. We popped into the evening show at a moment when a magician was tearing up a passenger's bank notes but we didn't stay.

Then it was back to our cabins for some conversation and finally bed.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Visitors day 2

This morning I took my three house guests to Bronte for breakfast. Actually the there of them all had some breakfast and then a second go when we selected a cafe. I was the only one to show rare discipline and wait until we reached the cafe before eating anything.

On previous breakfasts there we have noticed local actors at other tables. Ll and Mt were hoping we see some more this time around and although one patron looked vaguely familiar I think it was wishful thinking that it was someone famous. All four of us ordered eggs of some sort' mine were scrambled.

I then drove them over to Centennial Park to walk off some of the food we had consumed over the previous 12 hours but only Mt walked with me. It was windy again today and so felt much cooler than the official temperature.

When we returned Ll and Fd, the latter informed me he had made an appointment to make a business call in Rosehill this afternoon. Rosehill is located about 30 kilometres away in western suburbs of Sydney and I am not very familiar with the area. However I know of Bicentennial Park which is located about a 20 minutes drive from that suburb. So, I drove us over to that park for a second go at a walk and a drink stop and we then used the GPS to locate Fd's meeting place.

Traffic in Sydney's west is horrendous and the other three's eyes were popping at just how slow the journey proved. We dropped FD off at his meeting and left him to find his own way back to my place (three train trips and a walk). He managed very well and was back in time for tonight's dinner arrangements, a Thai meal at Thai Nesia.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Visitors

In real time I haven't posted for a week because friends arrived from interstate to stay for three nights and then we four took a 38 hour cruise up the coast to Brisbane. So I'll catch up on those days with a few short back dated posts starting with this one.

Ll, Fd and Mt were booked to fly in at 9.40pm on of the last domestic arrival flights for last night; Sydney Airport's curfew banning flights (other than freight services) after 11pm. The flight was delayed about tenth minutes and I spent that delay waiting at the McDonalds adjacent to the domestic terminals to avoid the limited and excessively priced parking allowances. Interestingly McDonalds was crowded. I don't know whether the other patrons were also sheltering from the policed parking or  if the restaurant is normally this crowded on a Tuesday evening.

This morning the four of us spent time at Westfield Bondi Junction as both Ll and Mt were looking to purchase shoes. Only Ll found a pair to her liking.

As the shopping expedition was over well before we initially expected we made a spur of the moment of decision to take the train to end of the southern line, Cronulla, as an excursion. The journey from Bondi Junction took about one hour and ten minutes. That is the beauty of being a senior citizen, your $2.50 all day Pensioner Excursion ticket allows this type of unplanned travel without any concerns for cost.

It was a brilliantly sunny day but extremely windy making the temperature seem particularly cold. None of us was familiar with Cronulla and after wandering up and down a few streets in the cold we decided to make our lunch stop a cafe named Charlie Lovett. As cafes go it didn't look remarkable at all and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meal we received. Ll and I shared a most enjoyable pizza. Fd had an omelette which was like a Pizza in appearance. Mt ordered something vaguely healthy but I can't recall what.

The return journey was about fifty minutes because some of the stops on the way down were bypassed on the return.

Dinner tonight was at Una's, an essential visit for Ll and Fd whenever they stay with me because they love the European menu and giant servings. Of course we ate too much. We always do when we eat there.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Two Faces Of January


It is Greece in 1962 and an American couple is touring the Parthenon when they cross paths with a young American tour guide. Both the couple and the tour guide seem to be engaging in dubious activities and events conspire to draw them inextricably together.

'The Two Faces Of January' is an Alfred Hitchcock style mystery/thriller based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith.

This competent film maintained my interest throughout its various twists and turns but it is a pity that it doesn't have the decisive killer punch ending that could have elevated it to a classic.

Entertaining, nonetheless.
★★★1/2

Friday, 20 June 2014

Thursday, 19 June 2014

So far, so good

One week in and for all the pre-tournament foreboding so far the World Cup Brazil 2014 is proceeding very well.

Brazil's goalkeeper Julio Cesar catches the ball during the match against Croatia at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Monday, 16 June 2014

M.Rock

(Sydney Theatre Company)

'M.Rock' is a play about communication and understanding, or their absence, between the generations. The two central characters are a grandmother (Valerie Bader) and her granddaughter (Clementine Mills). There is a 'chorus' of three performers who between them play multiple characters and illustrate the play's action, often in humorous ways. A professional DJ manages the musical background.

It is a one act play of ninety minutes played out on a discotheque type set which represents many of the locations in Australia and overseas portrayed in the storyline.

A very energetic work with quite a lot of humour. Perhaps a little overlong in its centre section but packed with many wry observations.
★★★

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Rover


I try to see as many Australian films as I can to support the local industry. Sometimes the effort is a struggle.

'The Rover' is the latest offering from David Michod whose previous feature was the very impressive 'Animal Kingdom'. I loved the earlier film even though it focussed on an unpleasant criminal family and had hopes for this followup even though the reviews warn that it features considerable violence.

'The Rover' is set in Australia 'ten years after the collapse'. There is no clarification of the nature of the collapse but it would seem to be economic in nature with only US dollars acceptable for commerce and what is shown of the population seeming to live in a state of stupor and general lack of employment. There is also evident failure in law and order.

Against that background one man (Guy Pearce) goes to extraordinary lengths to recover his stolen car accompanied by a stranger (Robert Pattinson) who it turns out is brother to one of the 'carnappers'. His reason for the relentless pursuit is revealed at the film's end.

As it turns out I wasn't that fazed by the violent moments as much as I was turned off somewhat by the endlessly bleak aspects of the film. I didn't really care for any of the characters.

I don't know much about Michod, except that we both attended the same school - at very different times, I'm sure - but his name suggests French antecedents which might account for the style over reality approach to his movie.

My companion Cs called it 'pretentious twaddle' as we departed the cinema. I wasn't as offended by the film as Cs but couldn't say that I enjoyed it.
★★

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Chooks conquer Knights

A night at the football. Sydney Roosters hosting Newcastle Knights in the National Rugby League beneath a beautiful moon one evening after the full moon.


The highly fancied Roosters struggled through the first half trailing the Knights 6-12 at half time but then storming home to a comfortable 29-12 victory. This was their final try in the closing minutes of play.


Friday, 13 June 2014

Grace of Monaco


Predictably 'Grace of Monaco' has attracted mostly negative reviews. This self confessed fiction based on 'real events' relates a few months in the life of Princess Grace, the former actress Grace Kelly.

The Principality of Monaco is under pressure from President De Gaulle of France to impose taxes on its citizens and to remit these to finance the war occurring in Algeria. At the same time Alfred Hitchcock has offered Grace a return to films an action which would not doubt displease her husband Prince Rainier and the Monegasques.

On its own this slice of story and the portrayed household double cross twist could have made for an interesting drama but given the plethora of real names amongst the characters it is easy view the whole affair as some form of historical documentary.

In essence 'Grace of Monaco' is a glorified soap opera. Lush and at times gorgeous to view but pretty sudsy soap nonetheless. It is also a peculiar film which at times drifts into other movie genres. For a while we are treated to a version of Pygmalion as Grace receives belated instruction on how to be a Princess. The next thing we seem to be in a 1940s film noir spy suspense.

The best scenes are those between Frank Langella as a supportive Priest and Nicole Kidman as Grace. The climactic scene where Grace triumphs with her formal speech is unconvincing. Generally the film is a bit of a miss mash. Enjoyable in parts but a miss mash nevertheless.
★★1/2

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Memories of travel past

Andrew's reporting of his Europe river cruise is bringing back memories of my similar holiday. I suppose I am a little jealous but my turn will come again shortly with my next major overseas holiday booked for September.

I'm getting myself in the mood with a trawl through my photo album from which I have drawn this image on a trip through the Kimberly district of North-West Australia in August 2008. We started that holiday in the coastal town of Broome.

Cable Beach Resort, Broome 24 August 2008



Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Fading foyer

The remaining evidence of the glory that once was Sydney's Plaza Theatre; a section of the foyer which is now the entry to a McDonalds Hamburger 'restaurant'.


In its final days as a cinema the Plaza was Sydney's home for films screened in the Cinerama format in which three projectors simultaneously projected images (side by side) onto a huge, deeply curved screen. This is the exterior of the wonderful old cinema from those days. It was being decorated in preparation for the visit to Sydney of a certain very important person.

(City of Sydney Archives)

Monday, 9 June 2014

Mojo

(Sydney Theatre Company)

Currently staged by the Sydney Theatre Company 'Mojo' depicts the struggles by a number of minor London criminals in the 1950s to gian control of a local rock and roll singer. The play is set entirely within the dark and seedy confines of a club where the aspiring gangsters engage their criminal 'dance' of threats, bluffs and double bluffs.

The strengths of the production include the entertaining delivery of the London criminal patois by the cast members and a striking lighting scheme. I found the play to be generally humorous with menacing edges but at the same time a little baffling as I tried to understand who was on who's side and who was who's enemy. Maybe that was the point.

Season ends 5 July 2014.

★★★

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Brothers Wreck

(Belvoir Street Theatre)

The latest production at Belvoir St Theatre is 'Brothers Wreck'. This short play of less than 75 minutes is set in the home of an Indigenous family in Darwin during the wet season in the north of Australia. A family member has just been found hanged and his traumatised sibling and other family members must find a way through their grief even as another family member faces death from illness.

Hunter Page-Lochard gives a mesmerising performance as a troubled young cousin. His character is the most clearly defined in the play. The other four cast members are excellent as well although their characters are sketchier by comparison.

Whilst the premise of the play is dour, relief comes with touches of humour and a hope filled conclusion.

Highly recommended.
★★★★

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Trip To Italy


'The Trip To Italy' is a follow up from 'The Trip' in which British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon toured the Lakes District of England to taste the food of a number of fine restaurants on behalf of The Observer. This sequel, as the name indicates, is a similar journey through Italy although for some reason whereas it was Coogan writing the article for The Observer in the original film this time around Brydon has the task.

The journey opens in Liguria and concludes at the Isle of Capri. The pair spend most of their time together wisecracking their way through impersonations of famous film stars, entertainers and moments from screen history and for those who recognise the many references these scenes are a delight. The pair are quite brilliant in these presumably unscripted moments.

The scripted sections of the film on the other hand are a little darker and leave the film with a wistful, somewhat incomplete conclusion.

My recollections are that The Trip focussed more closely on the food but this time around the food takes a tempting but noticeable back seat. The glimpses of Italy are scenic but by no means always postcard perfect.

The Trip To Italy is very entertaining through its numerous courses even if it lacks a satisfying dessert.
★★★1/2

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The back to back factor

I've never watched X Factor television talent contest but have heard about some of the contestants from 'water cooler' talk at work.

Today we were offered discounted tickets to attend a concert of the X Factor Australia winner (Dami Im) and the X Factor Israel winner (Rose Fostanes) at the Sydney Town Hall.

Apart from a deafening sound level it was quite an enjoyable concert. Im is a real talent and has obvious potential for stardom. Fostanes, although obviously inexperienced in filling the gap between songs with a line of catchy 'patter', has a strong voice and I imagine a future in music but not necessarily in the longer term as a 'star'.

As a school boy I used to attend the Sydney Town Hall for the annual Speech Days but this was the first time I have attended a concert there. The Town Hall certainly certainly is an atmospheric venue.

Audience assembling in the Town Hall
A distant Dami Im spotlit on stage