Sunday, 31 January 2010

Go Goulburn

Goulburn has its detractors, (not least my mother-in-law who says 'cold hole' whenever it is mentioned) but I am not one of them. I don't want to go and live there or anything, but it is a very nice place to visit.
One thing that makes it nice, apart from the excitement of seeing the world's largest statue of a merino (which has somehow crossed the road since I last visited) is its architecture. Despite the best efforts of the local council, many of the city's original civic buildings remain standing, most notably the courthouse and the Post Office by James Barnet (who was also the architect for Callan Park Asylum and Yass Courthouse.) These buildings are beautifully proportioned, solid and in all of them you can see evidence of the work of individual craftsmen and designers. Contemporary architecture has been stripped of the ornamentation that these 19th century buildings were rich with and I think we are worse off for it. Not only do today's buildings feel alien, looking as if they were made by machines not men, the change in style has deprived many people of the pleasure of skilled creative labour. Today's tower blocks seem characterless and today's school-leavers have no chance of ever achieving my one time ambition - to become a gargoyler.
If you want to have lunch in Goulburn, you can try the Fireside Inn, which is housed in a mock-Tudor building, erected in memory of a 'wonderful motoring trip round England in 1934'. The sentimentalist in me is always tempted by this option - there is something touching about the idea of the uncrowded, uncluttered land of that long-gone pre-war holiday. But in the end I have to turn away, unable to resist Goulburn's other great attraction - the Paragon Cafe.
The Paragon Cafe is probably very like an old-fashioned American diner. When you walk through its doors, you are plunged straight back into a reassuring 1950s world. The staff are all wonderfully cheerful, the menu is long and totally unfashionable and you can still spot crimplene being worn, if you're lucky. It is comfortable, the kitchen has never heard of coriander, and salads still come with a twisted slice of orange balanced on the top. Like Goulburn itself, the world of the Paragon might get boring if you were there all the time, but visiting it now and then is great.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Freecycle (aka the avenue of broken dreams) II

Offer by Yvette. Fire spinning stuff - never been used (they scare me.)

Freecycle advertisements 1

I belong to my neighbourhood Freecycle and each day get lots of offers and wanted ads in my email. I've decided to start to collect the ones that seem to say a lot in few words, in the manner of the famous Hemingway small ad. They are mostly from the wanted section. Here are my first two, picked out from last week's offerings:

WANTED PLEASE - WEIGHT WATCHERS BOOKLETS

wanted: Bible for teen
(today featured: 'Recieved[sic] teen bible thank you!' - so that's that for some fourteen year old. No more carefree farting about on YouTube and Facebook in that house, I fear)

Today a whole succession have been lodged on the subject of a silkie hen. In the first one the hen was offered with no strings attached, but soon after the ad was amended to include 'added requirements', because her owner, Tracey, decided that she (the silky) must live with other silky hens. Apparently they love to 'cuddle up together.' Tracey apologised. 'I hate to be a pain,' she said, 'But I love her so much that I just want what's best for her.' Which raised the question of why she was giving her away in the first place.
Puzzled, I opened the full text of the original ad and quickly discovered I'd completely missed the most important aspect of the story. In that first ad, Tracey had explained the situation in detail:
'We have one very very lovely silkie hen needing a gentle caring new home with no kids please,' she wrote. 'Her name is Boo and I am so sad to see her go she is my favourite chook ever.
She developed epilepsy after eating a toxin which has since passed and she is a lovely healthy chook now besides the seizures. They are slowly getting better but are mostly brought on by stress. Unfortunately our yard is not big enough to let her roam and keep my 2 yr old away from her. He likes to pick her up and carry her around.
She is very tame, and such a lovely chook who needs a nice gentle home to let her fully recover. We wish we could offer her this but our adventerous 2yr old is not going to allow it.'
I love that phrase, 'besides the seizures'. And I can see it now - a determined two-year-old staggering about the back garden, a twitching writhing chook clutched in his embrace.
I have to admit though that I didn't expect there'd be any takers for poor Boo. Silly me. Tracey's just posted the following message: 'We have had some very lovely offers. Thank you to everyone.
It's lovely that there is a home out there for her.
My Husband and I are just discussing what we think is going to be best.
Thanks again to all who contacted us, we will get back to you very soon.
Tracey : )'

So just like everything else in modern life, gaining access to an epileptic chook is highly competitive. There are people all over town waiting by the telephone, hoping for this once in a lifetime chance. Who'd have thought.

Six Characters in Search of an Author at the Sydney Festival

Thrilled to read in today's SMH that Six Characters in Search of an Author hasn't been selling well. I'm pretty certain it's the same production I saw at Chichester last year. Having read the play at university 25 years ago, I was very excited to see it at last. What a disappointment. I was so disgusted I wrote about it at the time, in the hope of letting off steam. It didn't make me feel any better. Actions do speak louder than words it turns out and what I really needed to do was go and punch Rupert Goold on the nose, but unfortunately we've never been introduced. Anyway here's what I wrote then, in my futile attempt to get 'closure':

Director Rupert Goold describes his method as ‘conceptual buggering around’ but what he has done to Six Characters in Search of an Author is bugger it up. Pirandello’s 1921 play deals with fiction and reality and – particularly poignant so soon after WWI – the immortal nature of fictional characters. Goold ignores this and instead makes the play a vehicle for an examination of the dilemmas of television documentary/docudrama making. Splendid performances from Ian McDiarmid, with his Commedia dell’Arte mask of a face, and Denise Gough, circling the stage on one roller skate, a blonde harpy seeking revenge, cannot disguise the weakness of the resulting production. Despite his trademark moments of gaudy fairground horror, there is no hiding the fact that Goold has trivialised the work. Flashing lights and spectacular onstage throatslashings may be just the thing to bring in audiences though. If so, Goold deserves an Olivier award for crowdpleasing.

Anyway, pleasing to note that throatslashings don't bring in Sydney audiences - and the New Year's fireworks mean they've had enough of flashing lights for a while. So yah boo sucks Mr Goold. (And his latest production at the ENO got utterly trashed, hurray, hurray, hurray.)

Friday, 29 January 2010

Still not missing London

Especially during the Australian Open, with Murray doing well. How many pictures of Murray looking triumphant in his own special way can you stand as you walk past the newspapers by the supermarket doors? At least here, we're sheltered from too much of that.