Thursday, June 22, 2017

Van Gogh’s Seasons

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A wheatfield, with cypresses (1889  Saint-Remy)

On Monday this week, I finally got around to visiting the National Gallery of Victoria Winter Masterpieces Exhibition, which this year featured Vincent van Gogh, the tragic Dutch artist.

The exhibition was divided into the four seasons.

After a brief introduction to Van Gogh’s early work you moved into a section reflecting Van Gogh’s early influences such as lithography. It included a feature room of Japanese art, claimed to be the major influence and inspiration for his work. Van Gogh collected numerous lithographs and had a large collection of Japanese prints.

Photography was permitted, so I snapped quite few photos – they ended up being of better quality than the postcards in the NGV store.

The first season you pass through is Autumn , where a series of dark and gloomy paintings were displayed.

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Autumn landscape at dusk - October–November 1885 Nuenen

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Pine trees at sunset - December 1889 Saint‑Rémy

This particular area covered Van Gogh’s incarceration in the Saint-Remy Asylum, where he painted several scenes of the garden.

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Asylum Garden

From Autumn we moved on to Winter

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Landscape with a church - December 1883 Nuenen

Then on to Spring and some lovely flower still lifes.

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Roses and peonies - June 1886 Paris

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Blossoming chestnut trees - 22–23 May 1890 Auvers‑sur‑Oise

Summer was the final section and the paintings were of sunny subjects, wheatfields and such.

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Wheatfield

It was not an extensive exhibition and truth to tell I was disappointed with what was displayed. Very few iconic paintings were part of the exhibition and there appeared to be a lot of padding out of material that was relevant, but not all that eye catching.

The crowds were out in force and we were obliged to queue for at least twenty minutes before gaining admission to the exhibition.

The final painting was appropriately a self portrait…

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Self-portrait - autumn 1887 Paris

Despite being underwhelmed by the offerings, the exhibition was none the less enlightening and eye pleasing and I’m glad I took the effort to see it.

After all it was awe inspiring to see Van Gogh’s paintings up close.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fret ‘n’ Fright ‘n’ Worried with a Happy Ending

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Look at that face! You’d think butter wouldn’t melt, but you would be deceived.

We’re just recovering from a terribly fretful day, when Bingo went missing for 26 hours – a night and a day.

On Sunday night around 7.30pm Bingo vanished and stayed vanished for the aforementioned length of time.

We searched and called for hours to no avail on Sunday night, and the next morning panicked and desolated with his non appearance, proceeded to take further steps in the effort to find him.

I created a Lost Cat flyer and printed out 40 copies to be letterboxed in the area. I registered Bingo at Lost Pet Finders and also joined a Facebook Group, Lost Cats Melbourne.

Oracles were consulted with mixed results, though I was pleased to get Preponderance of Great at my last I Ching reading which promised supreme good fortune.

Last night we extended the boundaries of our search and walked all the streets within the area where we reside which has  a creek on one corner and two main roads at the other end.

I must admit I had resigned myself to never seeing young Bingo again, my mind in turmoil at his loss, where every contingency had been covered without success.

We had both retired to bed to read when our perturbation turned to relief and joy at around 9.20pm, hearing Bingo chirping as he came up the hall from the back of the house.

None the worse for his adventure, other than very hungry, he was jumpy and nervous at first, though as pleased to see us as we were to see him.

This morning he was quite subdued, for him, but as the day progressed he was back to his rascally self and even enboldened by whatever he had undergone.

Whether it was the letterboxing, or the long walk and calling around the neighbourhood, that brought him home, we’ll never know. Nor do we have a clue as to his whereabouts during those trying 26 hours.

One forgets that there always comes a time in a young cat’s life where they go missing overnight and you think the worst has befallen them. It is always with immeasurable relief that they find their way home, and -more to the point - know where home is.

As we have not as yet put a collar and tag on him, we hope to address this shortly. I was pleased to discover that you can buy a tracking tag, which you can attach to the collar and trace through radio waves via a handheld device – a sort of  geiger counter for cats, so I’ve ordered one from Tab Cat. It should arrive in a week or so. I’ll report on its effectiveness when it is activated.

With the Bingo trauma now over, we had to go to a funeral today for our long time next door neighbour who died of lung cancer on 5 June. He was a gentle soul and a very good neighbour, who loved our cats. He’ll be missed by all who knew him.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Bingo Progress Report 6 –After the Snip

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Bingo on the antique dresser – fortunately free of ornaments  -  removed elsewhere for safety

Bingo is now six months old and  grown quite a bit since my last report, and has been desexed into the bargain.

He was back to his mischievous ways  the day after his op, and as he has grown so has his scope for wickedness.

The state of affairs between Bingo and Talya is pretty much the same – he teases her and she retaliates, though with claws sheathed.

Sometimes it seems that she is playing chasing games with him until he gets too close and sparks fly again. They both get tetchy when they’re hungry, so when I’m doling food into their separate bowls there’s growling on Talya’s part as Bingo takes advantage of her distraction and tries to goose her, by tapping her back leg and darting away.

As is the case with most kittens, when they see birds in a tree they think they are easy pickings, Bingo has been sighted up one or other of the trees in the backyard going after birds.  The birds are wise to this and mock his efforts to reach them, perching temptingly close on a twig, whilst he chatters at them and vainly tries to find an easy way to bridge the gap. We’ve seen a blackbird teasing him, and a bunch of lorikeets as well, shrieking their amusement at his predicament.

Bingo is terribly interested in everything that happens and follows us around in a dog like fashion. Recently I washed the floor and guess who trailed me from room to room, but Bingo, fascinated by the mop and of course running over the newly washed floors.

He’s irrepressible and bad as bad can be when he’s in a lively mood. No sooner do you open a cupboard, than he’s in, ditto with drawers. He climbs into the toilet and jumps on the seat when you’re about to sit down. His table manners are non existant and you often find a kitten sitting on your shoulder as you munch a piece of toast, a hopeful paw reaching for the plate. He disconnects electrical cords and claws screens, not to mention running across the keyboard and opening multiple browser windows.

Despite all this he is very endearing and exceptionally pretty.

Considering that we got him to fill the gap left by Willy’s  death, Bingo has filled it to bursting.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ryan Adams Lights Up Margaret Court Arena

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Ryan Adams & The Unknown Band live 26 May 2017

Margaret Court Arena is the little sister stadium to Rod Laver Arena and named to honour Australian Tennis star Margaret Court. It will probably be renamed after the said famous tennis star recently expressed homophobic views in a letter to the West Australian newspaper, stating that she would no longer fly with Qantas Airlines owing to  the Qantas CEO ‘s support for same sex marriage.

Ryan Adams, the star of Friday night’s stellar show remarked on twitter that as a Pagan he strongly supports marriage equality and  has since dubbed the venue Marriage Equality Arena. Ryan Adams has never been one for political comment, but since the advent of Trump he, like many other artists, has become more vocal on current social and political issues.

A sign of the New World dystopia in which we live these days, and as a reaction to recent terrorist attacks, there was a long queue at the approach to the entry doors of the arena, where every concert goer was individually searched and scanned before they could enter. This led to a delay in the evening’s time table, not necessarily affecting the support act, The Middle Kids, but causing the Ryan Adams’ set to start later than scheduled. At least that’s what Ryan Adams said at the end of his two hour performance; due to a curfew, rushing through the last two songs in lieu of an encore. 

Anyway, on to the concert…

After enduring the security screening on entering the arena, my friend B and I, after a brief visit to the Merchandise Table,  found our seats and discovered that they weren’t too bad at all, a centre spot on the lower level that provided an excellent view of the stage, but a bit far away for decent non noisy photos. It was my first time at Margaret Court Arena, so I was not sure what to expect. As stadiums go, it was quite intimate in vibe and has a capacity for about 6,500 to 7000 people.

I did not take much heed to the support act other than to note that they were very loud. We basically caught the last half of their set by the time we took our seats.

After watching the roadies set up the stage for Ryan Adams, it was about an hour’s wait for the main act. I’m glad I opted for seated tickets, and didn’t envy the general admission standing crowd. At my age I don’t think I could stand for however many hours they were obliged to.

Favouring a low tech set, Ryan Adams decorates the stage with big amplifiers and banks of TV screens, and stuffed toy cats - three tigers, what appeared to be an ocelot, and a cardboard cut out of a cat perched on one the amplifiers.

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Stage being set up

So it was approaching 9.30pm before Ryan Adams and The Unknown Band took the stage and launched into the first song of the set, Do You Still Love Me?,  the opening track on Ryan Adams latest album Prisoner, then followed with the second  track on Heartbreaker – Ryan’s first solo recording of 2000 – To Be Young.

Prisoner is a really likeable album that grows on you the more you play it, so it was no trial to be treated to quite a few songs from the record – Outbound Train, Prisoner, Doomsday and To Be Without You (my favourite song on Prisoner) – interspersed with older tunes from Ryan Adams 15 album back catalogue.

The Unknown Band sounded great for most of the songs, though I found myself longing for Ryan’s former band The Cardinals when they played songs from that era (2005-2009), ie Magnolia Mountain, Let It Ride etc., still vividly recalling the concert at the Forum in January 2009 – one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The arrangements seemed strange and somewhat clunky to me who has heard better versions in the past.

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Ryan Adams rocking out (with tiger)

There was very little chit chat from Ryan during the concert, the songs being performed in fast sequence with hardly a pause, Ryan occasionally performing solo in the midst of what was a predominantly rock n roll set, his beautiful voice as always carrying clearly across the expanse of the arena.

The Melbourne audience was, as is generally the case, quietly appreciative and I did not witness any bad behaviour,  acknowleged by Ryan, referring to his recent show at Byron Bay which was spoiled by disinterested attendees who chatted loudly throughout his set.

This may be the last time that Ryan Adams will visit Australia, so I’m glad I got to see him perform live one more time.  Ryan Adams suffers from Meniere's disease, a chronic disorder of the inner ear that is exacerbated by long distance flights.

He’s a real trooper of a performer who gives his all in concerts despite his disability.


Ryan Adams Setlist

1. Do You Still Love Me?

2. To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)

3. Gimme Something Good

4. Two

5. Dirty Rain

6. Outbound Train

7. Stay With Me

8. Prisoner

9. Magnolia Mountain

10. Fix It

11. Wonderwall (Oasis cover)

12. Doomsday

13. When the Stars Go Blue

14. My Winding Wheel

15. Invisible Riverside

16. Let It Ride

17. Cold Roses

18. Kim

19. To Be Without You

20. Everybody Knows

21. Mockingbird

22. Peaceful Valley

23. New York, New York

24. Shakedown on 9th Street

Friday, May 26, 2017

Colson Whitehead–Black America Matters

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Colson Whitehead – Northcote Town Hall – 24/5/17

Colson Whitehead is the author of  six novels covering a variety of topics, and has recently attained fame and glory with his most recent novel, The Underground Railroad, which was championed by Oprah Winfrey and won the 2016 National Book Award and 2017 Pulitzer Prize.

A near full house was present at Northcote Town Hall on Wednesday night to see Colson Whitehead in conversation with Wheeler Centre Director Michael Williams.

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Michael Williams at Northcote Town Hall – 24/5/17

Colson Whitehead looks a cool guy and came across as unaffected and amiable, not making any big deal of being an American of black descent, though the conversation primarily  centred on that issue.

This focus was understandable in light of the subject matter of The Underground Railroad, it being about black slavery in America’s shameful past.

It was an interesting conversation as Colson Whitehead explained how he came to write the novel. He said that he had been thinking of it for many years before he finally wrote it, and that it took several years for it to be finished to his satisfaction.

He was astonished by the reception the novel received, particularly when he was obliged to appear on Oprah’s Book Club show.

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Colson Whitehead reads an excerpt from The Underground Railroad

I noticed that the event was filmed, but the podcast is now available to listen to here .

Tonight, I’m off to see Ryan Adams at Margaret Court Arena – can’t wait!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Strange Here: George Saunders consorting with ghosts

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George Saunders live at Northcote Town Hall 21/5/17

It has been a few years since I last attended a Literary event, the last being in 2015 when I had the pleasure of seeing David Mitchell and Jonathan Lethem.

Sunday night, as mentioned in my previous post, I attended the Wheeler Centre event at Northcote Town Hall that featured American author George Saunders, acclaimed short story writer, and now novelist.

I’ve never actually been inside Northcote Town Hall before, despite living in the neighbourhood for over 30 years. A grand classical edifice on the outside, the interior features genuine Art Deco motifs – very classy.

The evening took the form of a conversation between noted Australian writer and commentator, Don Watson and the special guest.

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Don Watson at Northcote Town Hall – 21/5/17

George Saunders came across as a genial chap, interesting and funny.

My ambivalence to his novel Lincoln in the Bardo was turned around after seeing him speak about it.

The novel  is not really suitably set up for reading on a Kindle as I found the layout confusing and at times illegible when the font abruptly changed to italics set at a smaller point. This in turn detracted from the experience of reading the book.

It is undoubtedly a clever novel and passing strange, set as it is in a dead zone – the Bardo - inhabited by an extraordinary collection of ghosts, all with unique voices.

The evening’s discussion naturally centred on Lincoln in the Bardo and also touched on the present state of America under the Trump presidency in contrast to the America of Abraham Lincoln who has been regarded as an American hero throughout the nation’s history.

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George Saunders reads an excerpt from Lincoln in the Bardo

George Saunders also was asked about his writing methods, to which he responded that rigorous revision was the key ingredient of his development of plot.

He read a short excerpt from Lincoln in the Bardo, including the source references.  Ninety percent of these references are drawn from actual historical snippets, the rest are fictional.  George Saunders would not say which were real or which made up.

It was an illuminating evening and a privilege to see George Saunders in person.

Podcast can be listened to here.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Winter is Coming…

But before it really hits Melbourne, I have several interesting events to attend by the end of May, that involve literature and music.

I could include art in that, but I’m holding off on the Vincent Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria for a month or so, and plan to visit when the crowds have died down.

The Wheeler Centre is having a mini literature festival this May and two of the International writers who will be visiting Melbourne at the time are of interest to me, so I’ve booked tickets to see them at local venue, Northcote Town Hall.

ur6 The writers in question are American authors Colson Whitehead, author of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Underground Railroad, and George Saunders, renowned for his short stories, whose latest work is also his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

I have read The Underground Railroad on my Kindle and found it an absorbing impressive novel and quite harrowing, the subject matter dealing as it does with black  slavery in the USA.

bardo As for George Saunders, I have copies of his first two collections of short stories, Civilwarland In Bad Decline and Pastoralia, both of which I enjoyed enormously, the quirkyness of his writing style and subject matter appealing to my taste for peculiar literature.

I am currently reading Lincoln in the Bardo on my Kindle and it certainly is a strange novel, which I am not sure I’m enjoying all that much.

So seeing both these authors soon, George Saunders on 21 May and Colson Whitehead on 24 May, will be interesting to say the least.

I have noted that Irish author Anne Enright is also part of the mini literary carnival, but have eschewed attending her event as I hated her Booker winning novel The Gathering and consequently felt no desire to read any of her other books.

It will be a busy week as far as events are concerned for the long awaited and highly anticipated concert of my all time favourite singer songwriter, Ryan Adams is on 26 May at Margaret Court Arena.

That will be the icing on the cultural cake as far as I’m concerned.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Bingo Progress Report 5–Wickedness with Whiskers

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Bingo is now 5 months old and has grown quite a bit since my last report, though is still considerably smaller than the Russian Princess who really finds him annoying, as do we.

The last kitten we had was Willy thirteen years ago, which is sufficient time to forget -  no matter how cute and comical -  how tiresome kitten antics can be at times.

Bingo is full of energy and mischief when he’s not sleeping, and trashes the place in the blink of an eye. Cat toys are scattered throughout the house, some mysteriously missing in action, only to reappear several days later.

He wakes me in the morning, after his breakfast, dumping one of his toys near my head wanting to play fetch. He can be as persistent as those dogs who beg you to throw a ball. Fortunately cats don’t slobber all over their toys, so it’s less unpleasant to pick up the object (a small catnip cushion mostly) and throw it over and over again – as often as he brings it back.

Talya, as previously mentioned, is not feeling any more kindly towards him, and no wonder. Bingo just won’t give up hassling and stalking her and stands his ground when she inevitably reacts violently.

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The above photo shows Talya sitting in the cane armchair in the backyard studio, where she retreats during the day to avoid Bingo. That is until he finds her and of course sets about annoying her, jumping on the arm of the chair and climbing over the back to the opposite arm rest, while Talya watches in nervous astonishment.

Bingo has finally worked out the ins and outs of the cat door, though unlike Willy is not insistent on staying outdoors most of the time, seeming to prefer our company indoors.

Of late, one of his endearing, though messy, habits is dragging in dried plane tree leaves and presenting them as a gift, dropping them in your lap as you sit in front of the computer.

He’s still intact so we have to get him desexed in the near future. Perhaps that will moderate his behaviour towards Talya and make him kinder towards her, though I’m not holding my breath on it.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Internet - Twenty Years On

As well as turning a significant age this year, 2017 marks for me my 20th Anniversary on the Internet.

I can’t remember which month it was when I signed up for Internet access with my first ISP,  Rod Irving Electronics, but it was early to mid 1997.

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Rod Irving Electronics advertisement for Internet Services

Back in those days Internet access was via dial up modem through the telephone network for most users.

I remember the ghastly screech of a modem, at first alarming, but reassuring thereafter as a connection was made. Dial up modems tended to be unreliable, unless you had a good quality machine. For many years I used US Robotics modems, which were steady as a rock and rarely lost the connection to the ISP server.

Initially, speed was a mere 33.6 kilobits per second, though a few years later you could get modems that ran at 56 kilobits per second. It took hours for a video to download, so it’s fortunate that You Tube wasn’t around then, or you would use up your free 30 hours per month access in a day. There was was no such thing as a data allowance as you couldn’t download huge files anyway.

The main internet browsers  in 1997 were Internet Explorer (Versions 1 and 2) and Netscape Navigator Version 3, and major search engines of the time were AltaVista and Yahoo. AltaVista lost out when Google became the most popular search engine, though Yahoo is still going strong.

When I first connected to the Internet, my computer system was Windows 3.11, so a tech guy from Rod Irving had to come around and set up the connection and show us how it worked.

I’d purchased my first PC from Rod Irving in 1994 and also bought my second computer - a Pentium MMX 166 running Windows 95 – from them sometime in 1997. They went out of operation a few years later and their ISP business was taken over by a small independent company who registered their business as Relax Internet Enterprises, so that Rod Irving customers wouldn’t have to change their email addresses at rie.net.au.

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Rod Irving Electronics ad for computer systems etc.

I stuck with dial up internet until 2005, when I switched to ADSL 1 with Relax who were offering broadband at that time at a higher cost than dial up, but it was faster. Their service went downhill so I switched to iinet and ADSL2+ ten years ago. Amazingly my original ADSL 2 Netgear Modem is still going strong and in use to this day. Coupled to a wireless Router it allows all the wireless enabled devices in the house to connect to the internet.

Apparently the NBN will be coming to my street sometime in July this year, but I’m dithering as to whether I’ll switch from  ADSL2+ to NBN as my current connection speeds on ADSL are quite good (up to 25mbps on a good day) and a basic NBN service offers only 12mbps, which isn’t as fast, though it might be more constant.

As I don’t care about streaming movies and have no buffering problems when watching You Tube clips or live streamed services, I can’t see the point of going to NBN and paying extra to get 25mbps, when I already have it on ADSL.

Of course I fell in love with the Internet from the beginning and twenty years on couldn’t imagine living without it. You could say I’ve become addicted; to the detriment of whatever I did before I signed up for a lifetime of connectivity.

Us baby boomers have certainly witnessed many technical advances; from Television in the 1950s to video players and CDs (1970s), DVDs (1990s), to media streaming via smart phones and TVs today via the Internet.

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I get quite nostagic for old tech and still have old Rod Irving catalogues and even  copies of The Complete Idiot’s Pocket Guide to MS-DOS 6.2 and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to PCs (both pub 1993).

That’s not to mention a stack of old software such as old versions of MS Office, various Graphics and Web Page editors and ancient DOS games.

I also have many floppy disks and forethought to purchase a USB floppy disk drive some years ago so I can still access them if I need to.

I’ve given up trying to keep ahead of the latest technological marvels such as VR, though I hear VR is now regarded as passé.

My phone, though smart, is not the latest Apple or Galaxy and I would not consider using it as a computer substitute.

I like my computers to be big machines with decent sized monitors, and I love my excellent Logitech illuminated keyboard that is comfortable to use in both good and bad light.

Apropos the new wide screen monitor I was obliged to buy recently, I’ve grown used to it and appreciate its higher resolution. Windows 7 handles monitor customisation very well, so I don’t have to squint to read a screen, now that I’ve set it up to my taste.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Bingo Progress Report 4


Bingo - photo taken tonight

There has not been that much progress in the past week to report. The situation between the cat and kitten is still rife with tension, with Bingo getting bolder and more playful, much to Talya’s displeasure.  She’s getting a taste of her own medicine when I think back to when she first joined the Cat Politics domicile, and spent as much time stalking Willy as Bingo does to her.

Bingo however has progressed on the cat litter issue and now goes outside most of the time to relieve himself, though today it was raining and he didn’t fancy getting his paws wet.  He has as yet to work out the cat door, which is not all that urgent as we don’t really want him taking himself outside without supervision.

When he’s not tearing around and getting up to mischief, Bingo is a real lap cat - sweet and affectionate to his human companions.

Oh, and he retrieves.

When we throw his pink straw mouse, he picks it up and drops it near your hand to throw again. It’s not a fluke, he’s done it several times.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Cup at Caulfield & Farewell Greg Miles

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Miss Vista returns to racing at Caulfield  & wins

Ostensibly I went along to the Easter Cup race meeting at Caulfield on Saturday for acclaimed race caller, Greg Miles, farewell and final call, and also to touch base with Rebecca, my photographer friend, to give her the booty I managed to score at Randwick, i.e. Winx flags and race books.

It turned out to be surprisingly interesting afternoon at the races, where several runners whom I vaguely follow were running in one or other of the races scheduled on the big 10 race program.

I intended to arrive in time to catch Race 3, and managed to do so despite just missing a train that would have got me there earlier.

The unusually marked and distinctive Miss Vista, a crowd favourite, and one of the horses I had come to see, was the star attraction in Race 3, the Bert Bryant Handicap, a race over 1000 metres.

Miss Vista, now a four year old mare, romped home to score a narrow win over the fast finishing Grey Street and Chase The Horizon. That was her fourth win in five starts.

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Miss Vista turns the corner after the finishing post after winning the Bert Bryant Handicap.

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Miss Vista returns to scale

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Grey Street returns to scale

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Chase The Horizon returns to scale

The above photos were taken from my preferred spot on the hill above the stalls area, but I thought I’d give the public lawn another go for Race 4, the Spicer Thoroughbreds Handicap, a 1400 metres race for three year olds.

Despite the hedge being clipped, I still was unable to get a clear shot over the fence, so my photos from that position were a dismal failure.

The race resulted in a dead heat for first between Plenty To Like and Waterloo Sunset, with So Poysed running third.

So it was back to the hill for the rest of the afternoon.

In the Geoff Murphy Handicap, race 5 on the program, I was interested to see how Merriest would go. I’d seen her defeat the highly regarded WA filly Whispering Brook in the Atlantic Jewel Stakes at Moonee Valley last September and thought she looked promising then.

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Merriest – a lovely, almost black filly – head shot

She justified the promise with a good win in the Geoff Murphy Handicap overtaking raceleader Snitty Kitty to win by half a length.  Selenia ran third.

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Merriest (pink silks)  &  Snitty Kitty just past the post

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Merriest returns to scale

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Snitty Kitty returns to scale

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Selenia returns to scale

Run over 2425 metres, race 6, the Robert Taranto Handicap was dominated by Boom Time who led from the start to the finish and was never headed. He won by 2¼ lengths from De Little Engine and Hans Holbein.

Boom Time is certainly a good stayer, and is entered to run in the rescheduled Sydney Cup next Saturday.

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Just after the start – Boom Time leads

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Just past the post at the finish – Boom Time still leads

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Boom Time

Both Rebecca and I were interested to see Miss Gunpowder in the next race, the M&D Dillon Constructions Handicap, a sprint over 1200 metres. She has recently changed trainers, formerly with Adelaide trainer Phillip Stokes, and now with David Hayes and Tom Dabernig. 

The change has obviously done her good, though in the past she has acquitted herself well against some classy fillies, including Jameka.

This race was an open handicap and Miss Gunpowder started as second favourite. She won the race comfortably by ¾ length from race leader Boomwaa, with Heza Ripper running third.

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Miss Gunpowder returns to scale

The feature race of the day was the Group 3 Easter Cup, scheduled as race 9, so there was one more race to be run before it was due.

This was the Group 3 My Punter Com Victoria Handicap, a race over 1400 metres.

It had a good field that included former European stallion Arod, Charmed Harmony and Hooked, for whom I have a soft spot after winning some money on him on Cox Plate Day 2014.

Hooked hadn’t won a race since September 2015, so it was pleasing to see him take out the Victoria Handicap, fighting out a close finish with Charmed Harmony, with Turbo Miss third 2.7 lengths behind them.

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Hooked & Charmed Harmony just past the post

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Hooked returns to scale

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Charmed Harmony & Turbo Miss return to scale

Throughout the afternoon, the familiar voice of Greg Miles calling half the meeting, alternating with new race caller Matt Hill, reminded us that Greg was quitting on that day. He was a great race caller, easy to hear and distinct in anunciation. Races were described accurately and in detail, and you knew where each horse was running. I was however impressed with his replacement, Matt Hill,  who’ll obviously fill Greg Miles shoes without any worries on the part of the listener.

At last it was time for the Easter Cup.

By which time, the afternoon was drawing in, the light becoming unsuitable for photographs, not to mention getting chilly at the end of a pleasantly mild, slightly overcast day.

Run over 2000 metres, the Easter Cup was won by Observational from Second Bullet and Double Bluff.

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Observational returns to scale

I didn’t stay for the last race, named in honour of Greg Miles, Bravo Greg Miles, and thus missed the official farewell, which would probably have dragged on for ages.

At Randwick last Saturday, the Sydney Autumn Carnival wound up with two Group 1 races, the Champagne Stakes and All Aged Stakes, which I watched at Caulfield in between races. The Mission won the Champagne Stakes at big odds, and Tivaci took out the All Aged Stakes at pretty good odds as well.

Next weekend the Sydney Cup will be rerun at Randwick. Let’s hope it runs without mishap this time.

As for my Saturday afternoons at the races, it is now the off season and I won’t be attending many between now and springtime.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bingo Progress Report 3

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Bingo stealing Talya’s food (or the remainder there of)

It’s amazing that Bingo jumping on Talya last night,  when she was curled up asleep in her bed (a blanket on a chair in the living room) didn’t set the peace process back a hundred years, but cats are forgiving creatures and both cat and kitten today are acting as if it didn’t happen.

Bingo has grown noticeably bigger over the past week and is looking more like a small cat than a kitten. All too soon he’ll be grown up.

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And no wonder he’s grown, considering the enormous amounts of food he demolishes. He’ll even push Talya out of the way and try to eat her food as well. Fortunately he still eats zucchini and gets through quite a lot of it in a week - we give it to him as a snack when he’s asking for food outside of feeding times.

He’s much more active this week and is a handful with his wicked ways, galloping all over the place and knocking stuff off shelves. We have to hide pens in drawers or he’ll lose them under furniture.

Talya’s basically given up hissing at him, though will take a swipe if he gets too close to her. But she’s coming round and doesn’t take it amiss if she sees him chasing a ball around the living room. It’s almost as if he deliberately sends a ball careering towards her to give himself the challenge of knocking out it out of her reach without attracting aggro.

Bingo spends a bit of his time outside and has been under the house, somehow knowing how to navigate from back to front and emerge cobwebbed but unscathed. But he doesn’t mind being an indoor cat and refuses to use anywhere else other than his litter tray to piss and shit in, much to B’s despair. It’s his kitten so he has to clean it.

Monty the next door neighbour’s  cat cruises through our back yard almost every day, but has yet to set eyes on the new feline resident. We don’t know how he’ll react, so we keep a close watch on Bingo when Monty’s around and hope he’ll be much bigger before the inevitable encounter takes place.

So getting a kitten was a good idea and at least gives me something to blog about, what with cat politics being constantly interesting and amusing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Triumph & Tragedy–That’s Racing at Randwick

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Winx overtakes Hartnell at the top of the straight  on her way to winning the Queen Elizabeth Stakes

You may well ask was it worth the tedium of waiting around in  airports for delayed flights, the confusion of finding a bus that went to Randwick, and don’t mention Sydney’s Myki Card equivalent Opal when topping it up for the trip back to Sydney Airport.

The best laid plans fall into disarray when the curse of public transport strikes at inopportune times.

I know I should have booked a flight to Sydney an hour or so earlier than I decided on at the time of booking, but them’s the breaks. You have to accept the limitations placed on yourself by a foolish lack of forethought.

Anyway, it was with some relief that I arrived at Randwick Racecourse shortly after 2.00pm, though too late to buy a racebook, which had sold out.

The day was mild and sunny, perfect weather for a day at the races, and I was thankful that I had dressed for a warm day rather than a cool one.

I was in plenty of time to watch the first of the Group 1 races, the Australian Oaks no less, and I found a spot easily on the public lawn up towards the end of the straight to watch and photograph the races, where it was relatively uncrowded.

Taking photos was problematic, however, owing to the double rails surrounding the track in all of the public access lawn areas, so a great many of my photos are cropped to eliminate the rail.

Lasqueti Spirit, as expected, took the lead shortly after the start and drew several lengths ahead of the rest of the field, trying the same trick that won her the Victorian Oaks. But the other jockeys are wise to her habit these days, so the gap closed as they raced up the straight, with New Zealand filly Bonneval demonstrating her obvious class to seize the lead shortly before the finish line, and win by 4.5 lengths from Perfect Rhyme, the first to challenge Lasqueti Spirit, who ended up running third. 

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Lasqueti Spirit burning up the straight, Perfect Rhyme in hot pursuit

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Bonneval on her way to the starting gates

Throughout the afternoon I kept coming across groups of young men who all wanted their photo taken.

As this group were pleasant young guys, I promised I’d put the following photo on my blog for Jake, Vaughan, Eric, Donald, Kieran & Craig to download. Who knows who is who and one is missing from the photo.

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Click to enlarge

As I had been unable to buy a racebook, I thought I’d do a cruise through the crowds and see if I could find an abandoned book. I ended up with three at the end of the afternoon.  I was also keen to get a Winx flag or two, and they were easy to find lying abandoned on the ground all over the place and remarkably hadn’t been trampled.

A note on the racebooks; they were a very shoddy production with the ink on the cover rubbing off with little use and the interior falling apart if stressed too much.  Obviously the ATC save money on racebooks to pump into the ridiculously high prize money of The Championships.

Speaking of Winx, the only reason I was at Randwick, her race, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes was next to run.

As races in Sydney are run clockwise there were no opportunities from where I was standing to photograph the runners heading to the barriers.

I commandeered a chair to stand on to give me a rail free view of the field as they turned the corner into the straight.

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The QE Stakes field turns for the home straight – Winx is about to overtake Hartnell who leads at this point.

Winx of course won easily, relegating Hartnell once more to second place by a margin of 5.3  lengths, with Special Occasion running third.

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Winx steams away down the straight leaving Hartnell & The United States in her wake.

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Hartnell returning to the stalls post race

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Winx returns to the stalls after her 17th successive win

The Sydney Cup ended up being called a non race after Almoonqith broke down shortly after passing the finishing post for the first time.

His fall upset Who Shot Thebarman, who dislodged his jockey and raced riderless, doing two laps of the course before being caught.

I am glad that I was far away from this accident and didn’t witness it, but I was aware that something had happened as the field turned into the straight and only half the field appeared to be fighting out the finish with the riderless Who Shot Thebarman among them, and the remainder tailing in cautiously at walking pace.

Unfortunately Almoonqith was euthanised, but Who Shot Thebarman survived unhurt.

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Half the field race for home with a withdrawn runner in the background

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Rest in Peace  Almoonqith - on his way to the barriers for his last race

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A track hand tries to stop Who Shot Thebarman as he careers down the straight.

As there were several hours to go before I had to head back to the airport, I stayed for the final Group 1 race of the afternoon. This was the Coolmore Legacy Stakes.

I’m glad I remained as the news came yesterday that First Seal (one of the few horses to have beaten Winx) has been retired, and she was one of the mares I was looking forward to seeing again. So I’m pleased I got the opportunity to photograph her one last time.

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First Seal – leading the Legacy Stakes field down the straight

Three year old grey filly Foxplay was the narrow winner of the Coolmore Legacy Stakes. Zanbagh ran second with Dixie Blossoms filling third spot. First Seal ended up finishing sixth, the soft track contributing to her fading out after uncharacteristically leading into the straight.

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The Legacy Stakes field turn into the straight

I did not stay for the last race and made it back to Central Station, exiting Randwick Racecourse straight onto the express bus.

Admittedly I was a bit vague on the uses of the Opal travel card, even though it is similar to Melbourne’s Myki Card which I have been using for years.

There was no way to buy a ticket back to airport over the counter at Central Station. You had to queue up at a machine to top up. Silly me didn’t take a debit or credit card with me to Sydney, so I had to top up with cash. The first machine wouldn’t accept notes, only coins, so I had to find somewhere that could change $20.00 into coins, and succeeded in doing that.

Finally, after a lot stuffing round I had the Opal card topped up with sufficient funds to get me to the airport.

It was a long wait at the airport for my flight which was scheduled to take off at 8.25pm. However, a storm in Melbourne delayed the arrival of the plane I was supposed to catch, and the time for take off was moved to 9.00pm.  Sigh...

Luckily I had my Kindle and got through a good half of the book I was reading before the flight finally departed Sydney Airport.

I eventually got home at 12.45am, catching the Skybus from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross Station, from where I trammed it the rest of the way.

Compared with the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne where crowd numbers are huge, Randwick didn’t seem all that packed. It was a bigger course than Rosehill but not a patch on the wide open rose enhanced spaces of Flemington.

I wasn’t impressed with the so called “Theatre of the Horse” it reminding me of the mounting yard at Moonee Valley, which I generally give a miss, preferring to observe the runners in the parade ring. It’s like an ampitheatre with tiered rows descending to ground level – vertiginous.

Anyway, despite the transport hiccups, it was an interesting and out of the ordinary day at the races and I’m glad I went, even if I don’t think I’d repeat the experience without plenty of forethought.

And it was a thrill to see Winx win her 17th race in succession and 12th Group 1. She appears unbeatable and her winning a third Cox Plate come Spring is practically a foregone conclusion.  Kingston Town is the only horse to have accomplished this in its 95 year history, and Winx will join the greats, if she hasn’t already,  of Australian Racing History and be long remembered into the future.

As a racing fan I count myself lucky to have seen several great racing mares, particularly Sunline, Makybe Diva, Black Caviar and Winx all in the space of the last 20 years.