Wednesday, October 8, 2014


We go to the theatre on and off, mostly picking the eyes of a season for the big names, or plays of particular interest. I've only intermittently subscribed, and then to Belvoir and Sydney Theatre Company. We struggle with so much on (town and country, two orchestra subs, big Hayes Theatre fans, this and that, travel and work, at home and not). And I am on mailing lists of many theatres and companies (Seymour, State, and Carriageworks all doing really interesting stuff).

So, here's how to get it right, and in this instance I'm talking about Sydney Theatre Company.

First, send an email with the season details announcing renewals, dates etc noting New (non-renewing) Season ticket sales commence Oct 14

Next, have a good season ~~

     *  at The Wharf, The Opera House, The Sydney Theatre 

      * with names like Robyn Nevin, Cate Blanchett, Jaqueline Mckensie, Richard Roxborough, Hugo Weaving, Susie Porter, Geoffrey Rush (with Neil Armfield)

      * with playwrights like Chekhov, Tennesee Williams, Beckett, Chekov, Dorfman, Shaw, Woolf, Shakespeare

      * and the hapless non-subscriber just knows waiting till next year means missing out or poor seats or inertia taking over

Then, send a second email announcing that starting at 0900 the next day the recipient will be able to get priority season tickets a week in advance of the public, and that at 0900 tomorrow morning you will get another email which will allow access to early bookings. And telling you to get ready and think about what and when. Which you do. 

Come the morning, the email arrives. You're ready with diary marked to avoid clashes and busy weeks with other subscriptions. But the worry is that you'll get lousy seats and off nights, or something beyond your control as you get sucked into the system, or mystery seats which will arrive next January months after they've got the money.

Have a waiting room, a holding page which will let anxious finger tips stay on the website when it is busy then let you into the booking pages when they free up. Which I didn't need cos I took the dog for a walk and cooled my heels.

Let it flow and be obvious, such that the season is before you, and so you give it a go, only to find out that for each selected play, you can choose any night, AND SELECT SEATS FOR EACH PERFORMANCE, and easily navigate from night to night looking at seating, and once chosen, move onto your next choice, nights and seating again all self-select and on, and on, six times (the minimum for a sub and the maximum for us). And, did you know that:

You get an hour to do all this, everything saved, step by step, nothing crashed, nothing lost, and you think this is

Easy, easy as, because two days ago it was too hard, and now you have good seats for great shows on nights which work, except that you have to pay, but wait, there's

Pay in installments - four installments with a single $10 installment charge. 

Well, you got me Sydney Theatre Company. Well done.


The Wood Ducks (Chenometta jubata) are mating.

Australian Wood ducks are dabblers, not divers  - spending the day mostly pottering around and the nights feeding on crops and grasses. They're more than satisfied with a small water resource, like our little dam. While essentially herbivores, I have read they are good value as spider eaters.

Coupling is thought to be permanent and both male and female care for the ducklings.

Mr Duck is slightly larger (appearances otherwise are zoom or cropping artifact), with a handsome bronzy brown head and neck, a speckled breast and wonderful black stripes down a soft grey body.

Mrs Duck gives a more general speckled appearance with the head and neck the same soft grey as the main body, with just blushes of brown. Again, there are distinctive back stripes though the contrast is lessened by the slightly darker body.

The happy couple are never far apart.

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Now that the camera was out, I took it for a walk. I'm becoming more aware of a liking for loosing the background. If that's a metaphor for being in the here and now, then I'm trying. Though it's not easy; not like the photos - just a wide open aperture and zoom.

Here's a Grevillea against the morning sky; a little day lily on the forest floor; and an unfolding Waratah, a mystery unto itself.

                                                                 (click to enlarge)


Today is the spring Equinox down here. And a gorgeous day too with its parallel sun rays and perfect balance of day and night - things I didn't ever think about till the stillness of the bush gave time, and cause.

It prompted me to get the camera out and do what I've been meaning to do for ages - try and get some photos of the if not the most common (though possibly) then certainly the most raucous bird around: the avian larrikin, the Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata)

It is a not especially attractive grey and white medium sized Honeyeater, with a not especially attractive loud squark interspersed with a strange honking. But what it might lack in looks and song it more than makes up for in sheer energy and wild spirit: always on the move and always alert to the slightest disturbance. These photos had to be taken with a zoom while keeping perfectly still inside a window. If a bird were ever to be called wide-eyed and bushy tailed, then this would be it.

Larrikin is a term of endearment. I've grown to love their constant companionship and sheer familiarity. And while on terms, 'wattle' has nothing to do with our native plant, but is the fleshy coloured appendage hanging from the neck (think turkey), except for the Little Wattlebird which has none.

                                                                     (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Last Wednesday, the State Library in conjunction with Aurora Expeditions marked the Centenary of Shackleton's (ill-fated is always added here) Imperial Trans-Antarctic 'Endurance' Expedition, 1914-1917, with a terrific presentation by Alasdair McGregor, historian, author and biographer of the expedition photographer Frank Hurley, the only Australian in the expedition.

Two parties were involved. Shackleton and his men were to start the 3000 Km crossing at the Weddell Sea, a treacherous gawping yawn in the continent packed with thick and unpredictable sea ice east of the Antarctic Peninsula (we are below the tip of Sth America here - Drakes Passage you know) and then head via the South Pole to meet the second party on the opposite side at the Ross Sea (below Tasmania and New Zealand) and whose job it was to head toward the Pole from their end leaving a series of inland supply depots for the crossing party which itself would be unable to carry enough to get them across. 

There were no means of communication between the two parties.


The story is pretty well known. Shackleton's boat Endurance, converted from an Artic tourist ship with a round bottomed hull singularly inappropriate for ice, became trapped and crushed in the Weddell Sea.

The men wintered it out in what has been described as the most dangerous and dismal place on earth drifting north with the ice and in unimaginable circumstances eventually made it with several sledged lifeboats to Elephant Island where a base was set up, some set out for and made it to South Georgia, and all survived.

The less celebrated Ross Sea party suffered three deaths.

The expedition that had left England three days after the start of the War arrived home alive to a battle still raging and where in sickening irony some who cheated death in the cruel bitter winter of Antarctica would meet it in Flanders.

Sources for Frank Hurley's photographs: SlateState Library of NSW, National Library of Australia, City of Tongues

Monday, September 15, 2014


                                                                 (nsw govt website)

Last Wednesday evening we went to a presentation at the State Library of New South Wales which is one of those under appreciated places undergoing considerable rejuvenation and one that when you do end up there you are forever thinking I must come back more often. At the very least, they have great exhibitions, for free (though not an especially glamorous website).

The library is one of Sydney's lovely old sandstone buildings, in a splendid spot, once by and overlooking the Botanical Gardens and Shakespeare Place, now spliced by a freeway tunnel which makes if for nothing else good surreal art - cue Jeffrey Smart:

I very much liked too that down the cosy cavern between the old and the new, at the back of the old Mirchell Wing wedging Parliament House, when we emerged the homeless were bunking down for the night, calling out to each other and laughing amongst themselves like borders in dorms after the lights go out.

In the interests of keeping a resolution I've made to make shorter posts which actually get posted rather than longer ones which don't, why we were there is the next installment.


I was upset to read that Jenny Diski has cancer. She is, to be honest, the real reason I subscribe to The London Review of Books; that and leaving them lying everywhere around the house to impress people.

She so exposes herself, bare, always letting truth get in the way of denial. I came to Diski late. 'Skating To Antartcica' was on our reading list before we went there on a trip organised by Aurora Expeditions (which leads me onto my next post - breath-holding not recommended), a trip arguably the most memorable ever in that it is an experience of such wonder and beauty that it isn't easy to convey a skerrick of what it is like, though Jenny Diski does well in what it meant to her.

I managed a few on-the-way-to Antarctica posts, but then collapsed under the arrogant weight of wanting to be good too. But without writing a word, there are some impossibly brilliant photographs (impossible to be anything else) and I must get onto it. I will.

Back to Diski. She is taking in water, if not yet listing. I can't say I'm pleased she has decided, or had it decided for her by her within-ness, to write it all down. But I am. And I can't really confess to liking reading about people dying. But I do. David Reiff's (Susan Sontag's son) Swimming in a Sea of Death, about his mother's death, for instance.

Kubler Ross started me off I suspect.