Thursday, 29 April 2010

Regina Spektor at the Sydney Opera House, and Byron Bay beckons

He stumbled into faith and thought
God, there is all there is
The picture in his mind arose
And began to breathe
And all the gods and all the worlds
Began colliding on a backdrop of blue

Blue lips, blue veins

He took a step but then felt tired
He said I'll rest a little while
But when he tried to walk again
He wasn't a child
And all the people hurried fast, real fast
And no one ever smiled

Blue lips, blue veins
Blue, the colour of our planet
From far, far away
Blue lips. blue veins
Blue, the colour of our planet
From far, far away

(excerpt from Regina Spektor's lyrics to Blue Lips)

Under the majestic dome of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, Regina Spektor's voice soared and dipped like a bird over the ocean as she played a 'very best of' for two bliss-filled hours.

At times I felt like I was in a swirling eddy as the petite virtuoso's fingers flew across the piano keys while she performed her beautiful - and often funny - songs without a break.

At one point (and I can't remember the song), she sang, played the piano and beat a drum stick on a wooden chair beside her. It was all perfectly synchronised. I can barely do the rubbing tummy in a circle thingy while patting my head at the same time, so I was blown away by her amazing talent.

What a memorable night. Love her, love her, love her.

Now it's off to Byron Bay to recuperate from hectic Sydney.

Au revoir for a little while.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Tony Abbott sends up a prayer and the inaugural Bondi Blue Water Challenge ocean swim is canned

As we drove to Bondi Beach on this cool and breezy autumn day, Davo assured me the swell was .6 of a metre.

Last night, he'd checked out the seabreeze and surfwatch websites, and the surf was flatter than a roadkill lizard.

The inaugural Bondi Blue Water Challenge, was to be Davo's last ocean swim of the season. I still have Byron Bay to go (I fall into a daydream for a moment as I contemplate one of my favourite spots on the planet).

I'm back...

Anyway, we got to the beach and guess what?

Nature in all its quixotic glory did the dirty on us. The surf was up and it was bloody rough - even beyond the foaming, sand-filled breakers dumping on the beach.

Out the back, white caps frothed on the chop and conical buoys swayed and bobbed on their moorings. One, positioned just off the rocks near Ben Buckler, broke free twice before being re-secured by surf lifesavers in a rescue boat.

Closer to the shore, a current was running. But which way? At the northern end of the beach, it was dragging swimmers south. In the middle, it appeared to be running north.

The start of the 1 km swim was moved from the middle to the northern end of the beach so Davo and I thought we'd see how that went.

I'd already decided not to swim in the main 2.4 km event. I'm not a hardcore ocean swimmer. I do it for fun. And let me tell you, because it's happened to me before, swallowing 2 litres of seawater during a swim and digging 2 kilos of sand out of your vital bits after a swim is not fun.

Undeterred, the younger swimmers bolted in for the 1 km, the weaker ones struggling to get through the constantly breaking waves. There was no respite from the onslaught before the first buoy.

Then came the rescues. We easily counted half-a-dozen competitors being pulled from the surf before we left and walked to the finish line in the middle of the beach. The rescues continued there, with surflifesavers offering exhausted swimmers a ride in.

Davo, a confident ocean swimmer, decided to give the 2.4 km swim a miss.

Then came the official announcement from the organisers: the main swim was cancelled.

Davo attempted to withdraw his withdrawal as we laughed like naughty children at our good luck. Now we can brag we were going to do the swim but the bastards at Bondi canned it!

As we walked along the promenade, we passed the Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott (aka the Mad Monk) who was being tailed by a TV camera crew and photographers.

Mr Abbott was registered to do the 2.4 km event. I reckon he would've sent up a prayer of thanks that the swim was cancelled.

On the other hand, the diehard ocean swimmmers will be pissed off. I bet there's a lively discussion going on at the ocean swims website with all the cranky-pants codgers whining: we wuz robbed.

PS: Whenever Davo and I swim at Bondi, we have a coffee and treat afterwards at the Organic Republic Bakery on Glenayr Avenue. Mmm... tasty.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Rose Tremain's wonderful novels

I recall my friend Mrs Onyabike's comment that she would never attempt to write a novel because she couldn't get close to the realm inhabited by authors such as Rose Tremain.

I've read two Rose Tremain novels, thanks to Mrs Onyabike, Music and Silence and Restoration.

I don't know how to describe Tremain's writing without falling into gushing superlatives (Google her, there's heaps of sites).

It took me a couple of months to read Restoration because my only guilt-free reading time is on the bus to and from work.

Now I've finished, I feel lost without Tremain's main character, physician Robert Merivel, in my life. I didn't want his story to end. He was so real to me because Tremain had imbued in him those human traits we see in ourselves.
He was a loveable scallywag. He could be stupid and vain, but he also had a brilliant mind. He did dumb things, but then made amends. He learnt from his mistakes, which were numerous. He fell from grace but redeemed himself.

Merivel was also lucky to be surrounded by a cast of colourful, supporting characters - each with his/her own story.

I'm not going to let Tremain's genius put me off writing. I can't aim for the stars, but I would like to write a book that will be enjoyed and savoured.

I better get started. Oh, before that I have to watch the 1994 film of the book, Restoration, starring Robert Downey Junior as Robert Merivel.

Ah, procrastination!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Your favourite fantasy - what the?

I am not and never have been a fan of fancy dress. I'm not good at it, and it requires so much effort.

It's why I'm not keen on snow skiing. So much work goes into getting all the gear on; then you go out for a while, fall over, come back and take it all off again. What's the point?

But now I'm a member of the Romance Writers of Australia I have to get into the swing of things. The annual conference cocktail party in August is fancy dress. Last year's theme was Arabian nights. I could do that with an exotic scarf, harem pants, top and sandals bought from the Op-shop. My outfit was appropriate but by no means outstanding. My romance writing peers really know how to play dress ups!

This year's cocktain party theme is Fantasy Island, where attendees are encouraged to dress as their favourite fantasy. It's not compulsory, but I'd feel like a piker if I didn't make an effort.

I suppose my big fantasy is going to the Oscars because the movie of my book (I will write it one day) is nominated for best film. It stars Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt or Amy Adams in the heroine role and Clive Owen, Mark Ruffalo or Will Smith as the hero.

Then there's the champagne-filled bath afterwards...
An easier option would be to carry around my mobile phone all night, waiting for 'the call'!
Leave it with me.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Why being a mother is a life sentence: two examples

This was meant to be my week off work, where I'd imagined myself walking the dog every day, sleeping in a little, doing some writing, reading and catching up with a couple of friends for coffee.

In YA drEaMs LoVE!

I am a mother, so the week has comprised cleaning, cooking, dealing with several major breakdowns, ranting and handing over money like I've just won LOTTO.

Example 1: Missy Hissy, 13, had planned to go to the Sydney Royal Easter Show with friends she knew vaguely through sailing. However, most dropped out so Spanner and I decided she shouldn't go.

Her reaction: "I hate you Mum. Sometimes I say I hate you and I don't mean it, but today I really mean it."

For the rest of the day, she followed me around crying, whinging and generally making me feel like I was the baddest mother (not in the positive hip-hop sense of the term).

At one point, I was lying down doing exercises for my bad back and she got down next to me and began to sob - really close to my ear.

Example 2: The bedroom of my eldest daughter, Precious Princess, resembles a tip. Yesterday when I walked in to look for something (it might have been my makeup, the phone or my wallet), she was in her usual position - lying on her back on the bed, under the doona, with the computer propped up on her stomach.

Amongst the mess on the floor I spotted a piece of a broken bowl, which was encrusted with dried cereal. Surrounding it was fragments of porcelain.

"What's this?" I asked. "You've got to tidy this up."

The response was fired back at machine-gun speed: "Yes, yes, yes, yes, I know, I know, I know, I know. Now go!"

It's no wonder I drink, and not just coffee.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Mollymook Beach Ocean Classic: the long and the short of it

It's not about the swim. What counts is everything that contributes to the experience.

So it was with Mollymook. For me, the highlights of the weekend were:

1. Friday night Mexican dinner at Pilgrims in Milton with my sister, my youngest daughter and my two nephews

2. Falling asleep to the sound of the surf

3. Daughter Miss Hissy and nephew Little Prince's surfing lesson with surfing legend Pam Burridge (god knows why this woman isn't a national treasure)

4. Swimming out to and back from the islet (rock) at Narawallee with my sister

5. Boogie boarding at Narawallee with my partner Spanner (who hardly ever goes in the water and hardly ever comes to see me do an ocean swim)

6. Cruising the charity shops in Ulladulla with my sister, and nabbing several bargains

7. Watching RocKwiz with my sister on Saturday night

8. Watching the kids feed the lorikeets on the verandah on Sunday morning before the swim

9. Seeing my nephew run up the beach at the end of the 500 metre swim

10. Standing at the starting line for the main swim with Davo and Miss Hissy, who was doing her first 2 km event

11. Running (stumbling) out of the surf at south Mollymook with a fellow swimmer, who insisted I cross the finish line before him

12. Seeing Miss Hissy and Spanner after the swim - just before I spewed up a bucket of sea water.

The top pic is of the 500 metre swim start; bottom pic is Pam Burridge with Little Prince and Miss Hissy

Thursday, 8 April 2010

This weekend is the Mollymook Ocean Swim

Tomorrow morning Miss Hissy and I head to the South Coast for the weekend.

I can't begin to tell you how good the thought of leaving Sydney makes me feel. My back is suddenly much better and my head isn't so fuzzy. I smile when I think about the journey and more over the destination.

I love the drive south, down through Wollongong (bypassing Stanwell Park, where I swam two weeks ago) and on to the outskirts of the seaside town of Kiama, where I try to ignore the urban sprawl that has spread like an ugly rash over what was once a verdant, rural landscape (that's progress for you).

Miss Hissy and I then follow the tradition of most travellers heading south. We take a break at the tourist village of Berry on the Princes Highway, where I buy a flat white and The Hiss consumes some sticky, creamy confection that would clog up any older person's vital organs.

We arrive at the coastal holiday town of Mollymook, just out of Ulladulla, in time for lunch (usually at Pilgrims cafe in Milton - YUMMMY).

Mollymook beach is beautiful. It's a little over 2 kilometres in length. I know, because this weekend will be the fourth (?) time I've swum from north to south Mollymook in the annual ocean swim.

I've ranted on in previous blogs about last year's treacherous conditions. Fingers crossed that Sunday is sunny and the surf is less angry than it was last weekend. On Monday night a man drowned at a beach near Port Kembla (just south of Wollongong). The ocean is like a wild animal. It can look benign, but you should never trust it, always respect it and never think you can tame it.

But enough of this cliche-riddled bumph. I'm off to pack - which means chucking whatever's lying around into a bag.

Have a good weekend - I'll be back on Monday.
(I took this pic at Narawallee Beach in 2009, when The Hiss and her cousin Little Prince had a surfing lesson with former world champion, Pam Burridge)

Monday, 5 April 2010

A 'lurking' shark forces the cancellation of the Tamarama to Clovelly ocean swim

Since when do sharks 'lurk'?

According to the ABC Local website headline, a 'lurking shark' brought today's TamaCloey 2.5 km Cliff-side Odyssey to 'an abrupt end' midway through the event.

I didn't enter this swim, which turned out to be a good thing.

Depending on which online news source you read, there was

a) one sighting of one shark
b) three shark sightings (does that mean sightings of three sharks or was the same shark spotted three times?)
c) multiple shark sightings.

Not one of the reports identified the shark species, its size or mentioned how the creature came to be 'lurking'. Apparently, it was having a smoko off Bronte Beach, which is midway between Tamarama and Clovelly. I guess the Sharkster was, like a patron at a Chinese seafood restaurant, checking out the fish tank before settling on his preferred hors d'oeuvre.

The media also reported on the six foot/1.8 metre sets breaking at Tamarama and a rip, which made conditions difficult for swimmers from the outset.

Lots of disgruntled punters are venting on They claim the swim is elitist because it grades swimmers according to their average time (not age), and that the cancellation is less about sharks and more about concerns over the weaker/slower swimmers getting into trouble in the challenging conditions.

I'd still like to see a shark lurk - from a safe distance.

PS: photo from The Sydney Morning Herald

Friday, 2 April 2010

It's all Greek to me: Good Friday in our street

Nothing much happens in our street, but at Easter it is always cordoned off so the patrons of the local Greek Orthodox Church can follow the Holy Cross in a candlelit procession that takes them around the block.

I tend to forget about this Greek tradition because it sometimes falls either side of Good Friday. But this year it coincided with public holiday, and the Greek community was out in force.

Every year I hear the procession before it arrives. And by 'hear' I mean my ear detects a change in the outside environment. It's quiet. The distant throb of the occasional car engine is replaced by a gentle murmer and the footsteps of 1000 women, men and children - each year their number increases.

Nearly everyone carries a candle, so the street becomes a warm blur of flickering butter-yellow lights. At the roundabout at the base of the hill the Holy Cross, which is held aloft in its canopied carriage by four men, stops and the Greek Orthodox priest chants a hymn.

The crowd then continues up the hill and back to the church. I feel like our little pocket of surburbia has been blessed.

Have a peaceful Easter.