Here’s my overview of 2019. A year during which I’ve lived in Melbourne to the full, with occasional excursions further afield. Immersion in all things cultural overlaid with sadness at the untimely loss of friends along with sadness but some relief at the timely loss of others. Some big transitions; leaving home, leaving work, reaching milestones. For the first six months of the year matters medical took up a lot of time; but not at the expense of other activities. Even now, looking back, I continue my predilection for denial about serious health implications. I certainly didn’t feel the long process of recuperation, testing, diagnosis and further surgery I underwent during this period cast a shadow over my year and it doesn’t spring to mind when I consider worst things that happened in 2019. That’s why My Cancer Journey blog is the last one featured in this overview.

OPERA
We saw some great opera this year; the best experience being the concert performance of Andrea Chenier starring Jonas Kaufmann. who confirmed his superstar status. He looks gorgeous and we were up close enough to see how much effort he puts into to appearing effortless. His voice soared! We saw him on the 13th of August. All of the singing, and the orchestra, was wonderful. It was a night to remember. Here’s my blog on the experience.

Otherwise our best of opera productions over the year, in order, were:
Parsifal, which we saw on the 24th of February. While loving the music, I’ve always been a bit iffy about the storyline of this opera but as I explain in my blog I did a fair bit of reading beforehand and finally understand the deep psychological insights. It was a Victorian Opera production presented at the Palais. We didn’t have very good seats which was a pity. But the whole thing was terrific. Wonderful staging and costuming. Here are Klingsor and Kundry. And of course wonderful singing by all of the cast but especially Peter Rose as Gurnemanz who sang with a sore throat!. The orchestra was also terrific. My blog about it is here.

Norma, which we saw on the 19th of September . This is the first time I’ve seen this opera but the second time we’ve seen Helena Dix. She’s a wonderful performer with a terrific voice and great stage presence. It was at the Athenaeum which I really like. as a venue; easy to get to and intimate even if some criticise the acoustics. We had great seats up the front with a view of both the stage and the orchestra – I like being able to see the musicians. My blog, which includes links to a review – all of which were gushing – is here.

The Flying Dutchman, which we saw on the 5th of February. This only comes third after Norma because I’ve seen this opera lots of times – memorably once in Copenhagen with my AMIEU colleagues and also in Melbourne in a wonderful production with John Wegner in the title role. I feel that I’ve seen other productions as well but those two spring to mind. This was as good as these other productions. Melbourne Opera stagings are always innovative – probably because they haven’t the money to produce lavish ones. Necessity is the mother of invention; this was a spare and innovative production. It was in the Regent which is another great venue, not used that often. The singing from everyone was tremendous – in particular from the two leads seen here. Their chemistry is critical in this opera (as I suppose in all operas). I had a couple of misgivings as I explain in my blog which is here.

Turandot which I saw with Meredith, on the 2nd of December. I only went because we got free tickets from Opera Australia because we were subscribers (and that only because I wanted to have good seats for the Kaufmann concert). This was was an old production -1990 – but still much lauded, by Graeme Murphy,as revived by Kim Walker. I liked it a lot and throughout had a niggling suspicion I’d seen it before. It was visually spectacular but not so busy on stage as to distract from the music. I was really pleased to see Lise Lindstrom (wonderful as Brünnhilde in the Melbourne Ring) in the role of Turandot. She has a wonderful voice as well as a terrific presence on stage. She was commanding as the cold Turandot and managed her transformation to a gentler princess well – a tricky segue. Walter Fraccaro was terrific as Calaf as was Karah Son as Liù. The production was well received as you can see in this review.

Here are Meredith and I enjoying our night at the theatre. I don’t know why Opera Australia highlighted the ridiculous, and decidedly racist, Ping, Pang and Pong on their programme.

A Little Night Music is regarded as an opera but I think of it as music theatre which, given the singers are miked, seems more appropriate. We saw the Victorian Opera production of this very familiar work on the 3rd of July. Lovely programme cover. Apparently on the first night there were problems with the microphones but this wasn’t the case at our performance. I loved it. Again, I had a niggling suspicion I’d seen it before. There was a famous Melbourne production with Pamela Rabe in it back in the day and perhaps I saw that – but I’m not sure. All of the singing was terrific especially the beautiful Send In The Clowns. And everyone performed their parts well. A lovely night out at the theatre. I blogged about it here.

Other operas over the course of the year were:
Rigoletto, which we saw on the 22nd of May. Here we are waiting for the opera to start. The libretto annoys me and the production, having minor characters playing actions up for laughs, drove me crazy; but all of the singing was terrific. Especially the Mongolian tenor, Amartuvshin Enkhbat, who was wonderful in the title role; making the character deeply sympathetic. Here he is on the cover of the programme. Everyone else was good as was pointed out in the reviews including this one.

Ghost Sonata, which we saw on the 26th of September. I’m going to always try and get to the collaborations between Opera Australia and the Malthouse; they are always interesting. This one was not as good as The Magic Bullet which we saw last year but it was a stimulating night at the theatre. The staging was spectacular as you can see in this photo I took at the start. I wasn’t so keen on the music and the story was mad; but deeply existentialist! It’s included in this blog.

West Side Story, which we saw on our trip to Sydney on 28 March; only because it was being performed on Sydney Harbour and I wanted to experience that. Here’s a picture of the stage. I was surprisingly moved by it. Great performances all round. I give it a brief mention in my recall of our whole stay in Sydney in this blog.

CONCERTS
Other concerts we enjoyed over the course of the year were:
Purcell’s King Arthur, which we saw on the 16th of February. This was performed by the Gabrieli Consort & Players who are one of the world’s most renowned Baroque ensembles. We have a CD of this opera and listened to it before the event and it was wonderful to hear it live. I enjoyed it all. I didn’t blog about it but a review of the performance can be found here.

Pinchgut, which we saw on the 6th of April. This is the second time we’ve seen this company and we love it. One day we will make it to Sydney to see one of their operas.Here they are taking their curtain call after the performance. And here is a glowing review.

Melbourne Bach Choir, which we saw on the 19th of April. Again this is not the first time we’ve seen this choir; our neighbour Ian is a member and lets us know when they are performing. The Back St. Matthew Passion; appropriate for a Good Friday recital, like being at Mass. It was deeply moving. We ran into a couple of my former work colleagues; Mark, who like us had a neighbour in the choir; and Colin whose daughter was in the orchestra. Here’s the blog I wrote about both of these concerts.

Lang Lang which we saw on the 4th of July. The day before this concert I had been told by my GP that I had lung cancer and I had spent the afternoon ringing friends to tell them. I remember thinking from time to time; how extraordinary I’ve got lung cancer. It was a sense of amazement rather than dread and didn’t affect my enjoyment of the concert. He was a very generous performer and his obvious enjoyment in playing was contagious. We had terrific seats and so got a good view of his demeanour throughout. He was charming. And as handsome as portrayed on the programme. I wrote about in this blog.

We enjoyed a very personal concert, on the 24th of March when Joe took to the stage at Hamer Hall along with over two hundred other self selected guitarists in the Those Who Rock concert. Here he is on the night before the big performance. He’s wearing a red shirt to indicate he is from the Inner North group of guitarists. He was joined by our neighbour, and Joe’s guitar teacher, John, seen here on stage during their rehearsal on the afternoon of the show.

And here they are onstage after a very exuberant performance by all of the bands of AC/DC’s For Those About To Rock We Salute You.

It was a great night out and my blog about it is here.

PLAYS
We saw some terrific plays over the course of the year. They were all very different and I loved them all, so this list is in chronological order.
Barbara And The Camp Dogs which we saw on the 2nd of March. I didn’t do a blog on this but it was wonderful. It was written by Ursula Yovich and Alana Valentine and she also starred in it and won a Helpmann award for her performance. As did her co-star, Elaine Combie. Here is a picture of both taken from the programme. The play was funny and very moving by turn; evolving into a savage indictment of white Australia’s treatment of Indigenous history, culture and lived experience. Very powerful, skilfully packaged to make a hard story accessible. Here’s a review.

Shakespeare in Love, which we saw on the 27th of July. This was, as we’d been told, terrific. It followed the play faithfully and was therefore very similar in tone, characters and actions as the film. Light as a feather; as hinted at in the cover design. But being a play it was very inventive in terms of sets and how the action unfolded. For instance a bed was lowered from the ceiling for the love-making scene – and then hoisted up out of sight. And a tower became a prop for very different situations. All very stimulating. Here is my blog.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which we saw on two consecutive nights – the 13th and 14th September. The Princess Theatre looked a picture on both nights. Outside. And inside. The whole theatre was refurbished for this production including new seats, carpets, wallpaper and even lights.

We were quite high up, but had a great view. Here’s the stage from where we were sitting.

I really loved everything about this theatrical event – play doesn’t do it justice. Not surprising perhaps given that I loved all of the books and all of the films. The characters from the books are realised very consistently with the film versions. And the new characters are psychologically consistent with their forbears. I bought the screenplay after seeing the show so that I could relive the experience – and also to check I hadn’t missed any nuances given my poor hearing. Answer was no I hadn’t. No expense spared on sets, costumes and special events it was a great theatrical experience. Well worth the hype and even the cost of the tickets. It will be on for ages apparently and I do recommend it. I would probably have missed it had tickets not been offered to us on the fly, as I explain in my blog.

Black Is The New White, which we saw on the 7th of November. haven’t blogged about this one either. Word of mouth recommendations resulted in high expectations which were met in full. It was terrific. A great cast and very witty dialogue. It was also very physical theatre and all of the performers were up to the challenge – which would have been tricky; leaping up and sliding along kitchen benches, engaging in a food fight, riotous coupling on couches. Star crossed lovers; a sweet but super smart Aboriginal girl and a clunky white guy with father issues. An uptight conservative character bouncing off the central charismatic Indigenous political leader. Pointed jokes at Tony Abbott’s expense. Uptight Toorak type matron finally letting it all hang out. A Kardashian type Aboriginal influencer and her sporting hero husband hoping to produce beautiful black babies. Shades of Bran Nue Day humour in parts. It was all great fun. A review of the play by my favourite Melbourne theatre critic, Simon Parris, is to be found here.

Come From Away, which we saw on the 12th of December, which was to be its last night in Melbourne except the season was extended for another couple of weeks. Word of mouth recommendations were very strong! Here are some photos from the program.

BOOKS
I didn’t have a great reading year and I’m not sure why. I felt my New Year Resolution to not buy any new books to encourage me to read ones I already had was a good one and I don’t think it’s the reason for the low ratio of great books. I was still able to borrow from the library which is where my very best book for the year came from.

This was Diary of a Wartime Affair. It’s about a love affair that took place just before and at the start of the Second World War and consists solely of diary entries by the woman involved. Her two children are responsible for it being published. It was wonderful. Proof, if it was needed, that our generation didn’t invent sex and passion! I love this cover image even though it is just a stock photo. There are photos of the real people in the book and they don’t look as stylish as this. In fact the man is entirely unprepossessing and you wonder how he came to be the object of such passionate emotion on the part of the woman. I talk, at length, about this wonderful book in this blog.

I didn’t buy my next two best books. These were, first, The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie which won the Stella Prize this year and which, having read very positive reviews, I borrowed from Meredith. It was another memoir and beautifully written without a shred of self pity despite there being plenty of grounds for it. Not your typical misery memoir, the mother’s cruelty conveyed in short but telling anecdotes. The other was Drive Your Plough Over The Bones of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk which I’d bought after seeing the film based on it, Spoor. I’d read it once before and felt that I enjoyed it much more this time around although my first blog about it was very favourable. I’d already had my fourth best book , Pachinko by Min Jin Lee for over a year. I was very pleased I finally read what I suppose you would call an historical novel; not a genre I seek out. It tells the story of a Korean family over three generations; a culture about which I knew very little. I’ve written about these three very stimulating novels in this blog.

I also enjoyed A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson. This is the story of the impact of war on a man who experienced it and I found it very moving. Here’s my blog that includes this book.

Another interesting memoir was Swimming With Seals, by Victoria Whitworth. She also writes novels, none of which I’ve read. This covers an unsettled period in her life during which she was living in the Orkney Islands. I had an uncle from this wild part of the world and so found the descriptions of its history and landscape interesting. It revolves around her life as a daily swimmer but you don’t need to be a swimmer to enjoy this book. I refer to it in this blog.

I was very keen to read Lanny by Max Porter because I loved his earlier book Grief Is The Thing With Feathers. So I requested it as a birthday gift. Patrick obliged. While this second novel is not up to the standard of the first it is still a delight. I should re-read it because I think my high expectations may have influenced my initial response which is included in this blog.

My final recommended book from this year is Family Lexicon by Natalie Ginsberg which I was loaned by a friend. Despite the different cultural background, Italian, the idiosyncratic family rituals and relationships described reminded me of the English Mitford family as I recount in this blog

AUTHORS
I love The Wheeler Centre. It provides us with access to so many authors and their events are so well organised. Thanks to the Centre I got to see and hear from these authors this year.

First up, Max Porter, 29th March. He spoke about both his novels and read a bit from Lanny and was open, engaging and very interesting. Here’s a picture of him at Hill of Content before his talk.

We saw Jenny Erpenbeck and Meg Wolitzer on the 6th of May. Here’s Jenny being interviewed, mostly about her most recent book, Go Went Gone which is a terrific, sensitive and nuanced book about the refugee experience set in Germany. She was incredibly interesting about her process and intentions. She spoke a little bit about her earlier r book Visitations which I really loved. She was very thoughtful in her responses.

And here’s Meg Wolitzer. I’ve only read one of her books, The Interestings which I read again after this interview and enjoyed it more the second time around. She came across as a very New York person. I don’t know whether that’s where she lives. She seems very knowing.

We saw Susan Orlean on the 7th of May. I haven’t read any of her books but have enjoyed many of her articles in the New Yorker. I also follow her on twitter which makes you think you know a person! She seems terrific on that platform and was very open in this interview. Here she is.

We saw Andrew Greer on the 9th of May. I liked his novel Less quite a lot but on rereading it after this interview appreciated it more. The interviewer and interviewee were very sympatico and Andrew seemed to enjoy it, giggling away, very open in his responses and often very funny. All of which made it great. Here they are.

I loved seeing Mary Norris on the 13th of May. I’ve loved her articles in the New Yorker and also her little videos explaining bits and pieces of grammar. I really enjoyed her book which mixes up copy editing and deeply personal matters very adroitly. She seems very New York although she wasn’t born there. Again, the person interviewing her was very sympathetic and knowledgeable about copy editing and Mary seemed to enjoy the discussion. Here they are.

In the middle of these talks – in fact in between the Jenny Erpenbeck and Meg Wolitzer ones – I even got to talk to a couple of authors I’ve read and loved over the years – Anthony Beever and Artemis Cooper, even though I didn’t go to Anthony’s session. This serendipitous meeting, along with all of the talks, are covered in my blog.

After these events in May we saw William Dalrymple on the 30th October in another Wheeler Centre event. Three hundred people turned up to the Athenaeum to hear him talk about his new book Anarchy. His talk followed the structure and content of this article in the Guardian.

BOOK LAUNCHES
As well as these events we went to three book launches this year, of authors who are freinds. We are very well connected!

Karen Throssell launched her fifth book of poetry on the 1st of May; The Dialectics of Rain. Here’s the speech by Sandy Jeffs at the launch And here’s the author speaking in response.

Iola Mathews launched her book, Winning For Women on the 2nd of May. It’s a rollicking account of her long, honourable and often heart-breaking pursuit of equality of opportunity for women (and herself). She is disarmingly frank at times. Here’s a review by Christine Wallace.

Iola’s story includes the time we spent together at the ACTU implementing the Women’s Action Program. For a diarist of longstanding I’m surprised to discover I hate looking back! I wonder if I have a sort of historical PTSD; it was a very stressful time. The book reveals Bill Kelty as an unsung supporter of the cause. Here are Iola and Bill and their families enjoying a meal and impassioned debate, as always, from Bill.

I thought how small a world is Melbourne when these two events came together in a review of Iola’s book by Karen which can be found here (you’ll need to scroll down).

Later in November Joe was honoured to be asked by Anand Kulkarni to speak at the launch of his book, India And The Knowledge Economy. Speaking last was a bit of a challenge as there were three fine speakers before him, including the author, who covered the contents of the book. But Joe’s was a nice addition referencing his long history with Anand.

And here he is with the rightly proud author.

MOVIES
I’ve blogged extensively about the movies I’ve seen this year starting with a Billy Wilder season at ACMI in January. I really enjoyed these movies, as I say in this blog.

Followed by a sort of Neville Shute festival which included reading the book as well as seeing the film On the Beach and the film about making that film Fallout,. The films were screened at ACMI in February. I found both the book and the original film very moving and remarkably contemporary. And the documentary about the making of hte movie was fascinating. Here’s my blog.

My big movie event as usual was MIFF in August which I was pleased to get to after my health issues. I was also pleased to get up on the big screen with my tweets, although this only happened a couple of times. I still managed to see over fifty films. Here’s my one and only blog on the whole festival.

I continued to enjoy Cinematique most Wednesday evenings and now Joe has joined me. Screenings are now at the Capitol while ACMI is being refurbished. It’s a terrific theatre.

It was a great programme this year, as usual. Starting with a season of films by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. I love his films which have been screened at MIFF over the years, especially Once Upon A Time In Anatolia and Winter Sleep. It was great seeing his earlier films and I wrote about it here.

I didn’t blog about subsequent seasons. We saw new (to us) films by Yasujiro Ozu; beautiful and haunting, especially Tokyo Twilight and Early Spring. It was fun seeing a comedy by him Good Morning which had terrific performances from children and also his first film which had the beautiful title Where Now Are The Dreams of Youth. It was a silent movie and moved between slapstick comedy and poignancy. And already included his favourite actor Kinuyo Tanaki.

We saw two films by Max Ophuls; the beautiful Liebelei which was so sad and De Mayerling À Sarajevo which was interesting. I was pleased to revisit Elaine May’s wonderful A New Leaf with Walter Matthau which is both funny and heartfelt and also enjoyed her other films which are really interesting; The Heartbreak Kid and Mikey And Nicky. I also loved and enjoyed Ishtar which got really bad reviews and apparently resulted in the end of her directing career. It was terrific; an updated (to the 70′s) road to movie starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. It was very funny.

The stand-out film during the Ermanno Olmi season was the heartbreaking Tree Of Wooden Clogs. So beautiful, so sad. Brought back memories of Happy As Lazzaro as it covers the same sort of thing – but so much better. We also saw Il Posto (haunting) and The Legend of the Holy Drinker (mad but such a beautiful lead actor in Rutger Hauer). Our final films of the year were those of Terence Davies. His season was aptly titled The Art of Memory. Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes are beautiful films and I was pleased to see them again. I also loved The House of Mirth which I hadn’t seen before; so tragic. The cinematography in these films is so beautiful and they are so emotionally evocative. Great.

More recently I got to see The Truth on the 19th of November. It was a MIFF member freebie and was at the Astor which I’ve never been to. The theatre looks terrific; all art deco interiors, comfy seats and good viewing from the upper circle although I had to ask a man to remove his hat – and he then moved seats! My cousin Kate was there. The director, was there. Here he is leaving the auditorium after being introduced at the start of the film. He seemed very interested in the theatre, taking photos of everything. The film was terrific. Catherine Deneuve was fascinating as an ageing actress who is an absolute monster but you really feel for her. Great performances all round. The Q & A with the director afterwards as also terrific. The interviewer was good and the director very open. It was quite illuminating. I’d have liked to ask him why in the film the director is depicted as a complete wuss! Here they are on stage.

EATING OUT
We went to two Melbourne Food and Wine events this year. The first was a dinner prepared by Peter Gilmour and Andrew McConnell at Cutler and Co on the 10th of March and the second was a lunch at Laura on the 16th of March). Memorable meals both. I blog about them here.

We had some lovely meals in Sydney while we were there at the end of March. The best was at Bloodwood in Newtown which I talk about in my Sydney blog. We also went to Kylie Wong’s restaurant which she has now closed. Here’s Joe, Anne and Hugh (in the freezing cold) are after a delicious meal there.

We went a second time to Laura with Chris and Jen on Chris’ birthday on the 7th of September. We had a very good meal, but I don’t think it was as good as our previous lunch. But we did think the portions were very well judged. Great wine and great service. Here’s my blog about it.

We went to Estelle on Fathers Day which was the 1st of September. Only three of us! But we included Patrick in proceedings via WhatsApp. And here is a picture of my pasta dish. It was incredibly rich; as were all of the dishes. A bit uncomfortably so.

We went back to Navi for Mary’s birthday on the 11th of September. Eleanor joined us. It’s a terrific restaurant in Seddon. I strongly recommend a visit. It’s not very big so you will have to get in early to book a seat when you want one. Fantastic food and service. The chef appears with at least one of the dishes. It’s a set menu. Great. Here’s my blog about the meal.

We finally got to Anchovy in Richmond for Joe’s birthday on the 17th of October with our fine dining friends Jen and Chris. Fantastic food and great wine. It’s another small restaurant well worth a visit. Here I am – full of anticipation for the meal ahead!

We had two great meals during our stay in Tasmania. One at Faro during our stay at Mona Museum. Here are the four of us waiting to be fed. What a beautiful location. And it was beautiful food, served on beautifully designed plates which fitted into each other to form a pattern on the table. I was too busy talking to take photos. The opening small dishes were particularly spectacular. Although I was cross a party of four was served only two oysters! We had the chef’s selection; he/she should know better. We didn’t cut them up.

We had another great meal at Franklin. A stand-out dish was a potato slice served on its own. It reminded us of Garagiste and we discussed this with out water who confirmed there were Garagiste people involved here. I didn’t take a picture of the food there either, but here’s the restaurant the next day. A modern, industrial look. It was bustling on the night.

We had two memorable meals with Eleanor and Patrick. First at Coda on the 29th of November in the city where we were joined by their partners. It’s a terrific location, you are sitting below street level and see the feet of people walking along Flinders Lane. I’m reminded of a Henry Lawson poem every time I go there – feet instead of faces in the street! We had the classics menu; a taste of their classic dishes. Terrific food and wine and great conversation. Our second was at Cutler & Co on Christmas Eve. This time without Sam who was already in Perth for Christmas. Terrific food and extravagant wine. We had the chef’s selection and all the little courses were tasty but the dish of the night was the duck main. Delicious. A late, but great night.

Throughout the year I continued to have lots of lunches. What’s Left bounced around between CitriCo, Recreation and occasionally Scopri. Lunches decorous or riotous depending how much drink was consumed. They are all great restaurants. I also had some terrific meals at the North Fitzroy Arms (also known as Percy’s Pub) with former work colleagues. It’s cheap and cheerful; well cooked meals and good wine. Our other mainstay for eating out close to home remains Supermaxi. Really good food and great wine chosen by mine host Giovanni.

EXHIBITIONS
I went to the Escher exhibition at the NGV on the 7th of April and while it was interesting, I wasn’t enamoured. Here’s my blog.

I really enjoyed the Hans and Norah Heyson exhibition at the NGV in Federation Square. I wasn’t really expecting to as I wasn’t that keen on Hans and knew nothing about Norah. But I went on the 8th of May and found it very interesting. Here’s my blog.

In September we returned for the second time to the Ballarat FOTO Biennale. It’s a good thing to visit. We enjoyed it a lot; although consensus was it was not as good as the last one. There didn’t seem to be an overall theme. Here’s my blog.

I had hoped to see the Chinese Warriors at the NGV with my cousin Catherine who is a volunteer guide at the gallery but this turned out not to be. I went on the 1st of October and quite enjoyed it, but not as much as other exhibitions. I preferred the smaller exhibits like this one. To those of the warriors. Here’s my blog.

I went to see finalists in the Archibald at Tarrawarra on the 15th of October. My first time at this gallery. It’s set in very pretty country. Here’s the view from the entrance. I always like looking at these paintings and this year there was lots of interesting work. Here’s my blog.

We had a very quick look at the Balenciaga exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery early in November, on our way up to Swan Hill. A great poster advertising it greets you on the outside. Maybe becasue we were in a hurry or maybe I just wasn’t as engaged with it, but I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as some other fashion exhibitions I’ve been to. Here’s my blog.

I enjoyed my third visit to Mona Museum which was on the 9th of November. The actual building and grounds are beautiful. Here’s a view of it from the road. We were invited to join friends in one of the pavilions there for the night. Even staying overnight didn’t seem long enough to see what was on offer. It is a truly wonderful institution. I loved it on my first visit and was slightly disappointed on my second. But I think it’s back to being really good. It has been extended and so along with old favourites there are interesting new things. Here’s my blog.

EXCURSIONS

I had a short excursion in Sydney when we were there in March. I walked around the Barangaroo Reserve. It was a beautiful day and I thought the whole place was terrific. Here, with pictures, is my blog.

We went to Ballarat for White Night and enjoyed it a lot. It was on the 21st of September. Here’s my blog.

And the next day we walked around the lake, which was a very enjoyable excursion and one that I’ve not done for a long time. Here is Joe setting out. Here’s my blog.

I undertook two bus excursions this year. On the 7th of October, I took my funniest excursion for the year . It was to Chadstone shopping centre. Here are Linda and I on the bus, as you can see we’re up for a good time. Which we had. Most people have pooh poohed the idea of this trip but I wanted to do it as part of my Living In Melbourne like a tourist shtick. I’m glad I did, it was a hoot and here’s my blog about it.

The day before, on the 6th of October I joined my friend Jane, along with Meredith, on an excursion to the Cranbourne Gardens which I’d wanted to do for a long time. Here are my companions in the garden; you can see their different approaches to appropriate dress in this picture. It was a lovely day and very pleasant walking around the garden. We were there with the Melbourne Women’s Walking Club, some of whom were there for a bigger walk around the whole garden complex; about twelve kilometres. We had a little walk after the garden but not a gruelling hike. Here’s my blog.

In November we took a road trip to visit to Aunty Kath in Swan Hill. We travelled up the day before the Melbourne Cup, on the 4th of November. Joe had a Monday evening free from German lessons so we took the opportunity to fulfil my long given promise to visit. On the way back I showed him the Silo Trail which keeps getting better and better. A trip down memory lane for me but one which reinforces my strong sense of relief at having escaped the mallee a long time ago! Here’s my blog of the trip.

Our final excursions for the year were in Tasmania between the 10th and 15th of November. This was after our week-end at Mona Museum. I have written multiple blogs about the terrific walks we took in the wilds of Tasmania. Here’s a description of our first day. Which was followed by a more extensive walk on day two. Our third day it poured with rain which didn’t stop some more short walks. And we even managed some more excursions on our trip back to Hobart.

POLITICS
This year our usual one week philosophy course was focussed on politics. conducted by Robert Boncardo from the Melbourne University School of Modern European Philosophy. He’s a great lecturer – so relaxed, so clear! This year it was on The Communist Hypothesis: The Politics of Alain Badiou. We read up on this philosopher that I, for one, had never heard of. He was interesting.

But as the title of the course suggested, our lectures focussed on his politics, which were a bit mad to be honest. As these slides of Robert’s suggest. Make of them what you will. My favourite is the diagram.

And of course there was a federal election. Despite our hard work, and misplaced sense of optimism, the least said the better.

TRANSITIONS
It was a year of transitions.

Eleanor left home. Here are her housemates with the newly signed lease.

There was a wedding. Patrick was best man to his best friend.

Two friends had landmark birthdays and I gave loaves of bread to both. Barry turned 80 on the 3rd of November which coincided with his house’s 150th anniversary. I gave him a loaf of sour dough. AS a baker himself, Barry appreciated the gift. His party was a great celebration of all the things he has achieved, especially for us in his local community. A revitalised primary school, a new high school, a library and much else.

Clare turned 70 on the 1st of December and I provided baguettes for the party. My first shot at significant quantities. I’ll be a baker yet. It was a great gathering of old friends and of family. Lovely speeches from everyone but especially Clare’s grandchildren.

Another anniversary celebrated was the election of the Bracks Government. It’s twenty years ago. Time flies. We went to an exclusive gathering in Williamstown. But I found I was not really sympatico with the celebratory spirit. Instead I’ve sought out people who were important to me during the period I was in the PPO – BB, Fuller and Killey. But here are Joe and I with that old leftie Carlo Carli enjoying some reminisces.

There’ve been some retirements amongst my inner circle – finally! First Joe, not quite voluntarily in July as a result of Labor’s election loss. Peter left the VPS around the same time in a combination of sick leave, long service leave and finally full-scale retirement. Fran has given up her chambers in November and Angela’s last day was the 13th of December. Jen will follow in March next year. Will my friends enjoy retired life as much as I do? I hope so. Jen and Chris have had a taste of it with a trip to Arnhem Land. They travelled in style. And I loved getting updates about their trip on WhatsApp, especially the fantastic rock art.

I’m certainly firm in my resolve to be done with the world of work having been lured back in to help my old colleagues with a report. This was in June and I regretted my agreement as soon as the deed was done. Notwithstanding how comfortably I fitted back into my old workplace as seen here I resented the interference in my happy home life!

I billed them for a total of thirteen days but didn’t include the hours spent worrying about the work in hand. I was confirmed in my view that I can’t work part-time. It seems to be all or nothing. After the event I was proud to have helped produce this which resulted in the sacking of the Council. The third council sacking I’ve been involved in; Wangaratta, Geelong and now South Gippsland! The outcome is described here in the Minister’s media release. Never again for me; but we’re taking bets on how long it takes for Angela to succumb to the lure to go back!

2019 saw us lose some very good friends. Some were timely departures. For Barney Cooney whose funeral we went to on the 22nd of May it was a blessed relief from crippling physical decline which we had witnessed over recent years. St Ignatius in Richmond was full of those who had admired him; standing room only. It was a full Catholic mass with little attention given to his long commitment and involvement in the Labor Party. His family was reclaiming him said Joe. Lots of little ones involved in readings and processions. A terrible sound system – typical in Catholic churches – meant we didn’t hear the speeches very well. But a good send off for a lovely man.

Timely deaths, and relatively peaceful for two relatives. First my dear Aunty Beth who we farewelled on the 22nd of June in Maldon. She had been cared for in her home by her children while she lay dying. A beautiful way to go. A touch of levity at the graveside as we placed playing cards in with her coffin. She loved her cards!

A second family funeral followed on the 8th of July for Uncle Trevor. His coffin decorated with symbols of the things that likely killed him – cigarettes and beer. Along with lots of family photos. Once again, lots of little people involved in the mass. Here are his two nephews graveside celebrating a life well lived in a way he would have appreciated. i

Untimely deaths and a terrible shock to us were those of friends Dorothy Reading and David Lewis.

I was shocked to hear, on my way to Cinematique on Wednesday the 12th of June that Dorothy had died while on holiday at Lake Eyre. I had spoken to her just a week or so before she went after she’d had an earlier stay at the Epworth for what seemed a minor illness. The cause of her death remains a mystery. Dorothy was an important mentor for me. Tough and uncompromising but always supportive. Joe and I had shared many happy times with her and Peter. Her memorial on the 21st of June was one of the saddest I’ve ever attended. There were a number of obituaries in different places but I think this best captures her broader public health impact. It’s from the Cancer Council. And here’s one, with a lovely photo, from Readings.

We were shocked again in September when our dear friend and former youthful ministerial adviser colleague in the glory days of the Cain Government, David Lewis died of a heart attack. He had seemed so fit and well; still passionately engaged in political issues like water, for which at Joe’s instigation he had written for Inside Story recently and Upper House reform about which he would pepper me with questions and ideas when we met in the Edinburgh Gardens. We had shared a memorable night in Melbourne getting drunk while we waited to hear whether our Ministers, and we, had jobs which were to be distributed by the Premier the following morning. Following which he and Joe worked for Andrew McCutcheon. Are you going to wear that suit every day? he said to Joe on about the third day. This about a suit Joe had been wearing every day for the previous two years! His High Anglican funeral on the 23rd of September seemed out of character to us, but as with Barney, his family was reclaiming him. Beautiful music chosen by Deidre. A beautiful man who is only partially captured in this obituary.

Another death, of my former colleague, and long time political activist, Lynne Wannan in June was not so surprising as she’d been diagnosed with lung cancer about six years ago when we were both working in the Department of Planning and Community Development. It was she who told me that it was common for fit, non-smoking women in their sixties to develop lung cancer. She handled her illness with dignity and grace; not letting it affect her. We went to her funeral on the 24th of June and I took to heart how speakers praised Lynne for being open about her condition. When asked how she was, she’d say Fine, but you know I’ve got lung cancer; giving people a way to be open with her about it. She was my model. I was having a biopsy the following week to determine whether I had the same condition. Here’s Lynne’s obituary.

The funeral of my friend Margy’s father, Rex Blair on the 26th November was completely appropriate to the gentle self-effacing man that he was. Born and bred in the mallee, the event took me back to Birchip and Watchupga and memories of my mother and father who knew Rex well. A generation has passed.

Two prominent deaths brought that home further. Bob Hawke on the eve of the election in May and just recently John Cain. I had dealings with both of them. Chalk and cheese! A generation of labor leaders gone. Eleanor sent me this picture. I’m pleased he has the statue, and that it’s a good one. The flowers, a nice tribute.

HEALTH
As indicated above, throughout the year I was dealing with some health issues, which explains the gaps in my blogging. I was back and forth to doctors and hospitals for the better part of the first six months of the year. It was a funny experience for me – perhaps easier being the patient than being a relative or friend of the patient. I just did what I was told. Go here, do that, have that test, come back then. I set it down in a blog. I wrote this so that I could remember the details. As I say above, and as indicated in what I describe, I have a terrible propensity to block out bad news. A vice or a virtue? I don’t know. In any event I am now cancer free and here I am at The European celebrating the news.

So, that’s the year that was. Now here’s to the future. Here are Joe and I after our weekly Sunday morning workout at our local gym. We’re a great advertisement for ageing well!

 

One Response to 2019 – The Year That Was

  1. Joe Burke says:

    What a year! A wonderful overview of our life in 2019. X

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