Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Melissa's Cricket Birthday and the Aussie Demise

Day 4 was Melissa's birthday, making drinking at the cricket all the more concentrated! Katie come down from Ballarat for her cricket debut, and we joined the Flaggers up in Q22 for the day of drinking and cricket watching.

Only a slightly better day for the Aussie's than the previous one, explaining what was going on out in the middle to Katie lacked it's usual Aussie optimism. Preparing Katie for standing up and clapping a potential century from the Aussie captain clearly did him no favours, out on 99.

Mid strength beer and then a lemonade supplement saw us through the day, before we walked down to Brunswick Street at the end of play to Little Creatures to meet up with non-cricket and cricket mates alike to mark Melissa's birthday.

Yesterday we joined Jim in his corporate box, for full strength beer for the 153 runs the South Africans needed to end the Aussie domination of cricket.

Bumble, Springer, Melissa, Monisha and I entertained Jim's client group with stories of travel and cricket, while we saw those runs scored almost without challenge.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Boxing Day in Melbourne

The day finally arrived, the day of the Boxing Day test in Melbourne, the most anticipated day of the year...and the day I could return to drinking, after six long months.

I joined Melissa and Todd and Rick, and Monisha, after walking around the ground from the Member's stand. Day 1 saw Ricky Ponting make a much needed 101, before the Waving The Flag crew headed to the Kingston in Richmond for beers, and catch up over tours past.

Great beer garden, sadly as this place filled up service dropped away, and the wait at the bar for a drink became too long. Joined by Nick and Paul, we walked to the, with a beer stop at The Vine, for a pub meal, before calling it a night. Top parmas!

Making my way around to the group, over by over on Day 2, I happened to stop at our hallowed M8 to see Clarke make his 50, before reaching Q22 with the rest of the group.

Chick Pink day, the Flag girls were adorned in their pink tour shirts, and Sparrow sported his new shirt for the traditional day.

Bumble and I found ourselves in Jim's corporate box just after tea, with free beer and lots of mucking about, before being hurried along at the end of the day. Running into Damien Fleming and Darren Lehman on the way out of the ground, we also found Meggsy, before getting across to Bridie O'Reillys for many more drinks, dinner, and dancing to the cover band.

Today there had been a collective notion of having a rest day from drinking...which was a gross error given the pace and result of today's play. In what looked like a couple of wickets and then Australia will be batting when I left the house, the South African tail wagged and wagged and wagged!

A quiet beer after play at the London Tavern for Bumbles, Monisha, Amanda and Springer, Melissa and I. Trading the Flaggy Green for the Baggy Red, we all seem to be entering every competition out there to get us to the Ashes next year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Town and Country

Battling the Melbourne city shops on the Saturday before Xmas was what I did, with Jenny and her mother this year. We tracked through store to store, trying to find particular items on wishlists. Many, many hours later, and an unsuccessful attempt at avoiding actually venturing into Myer, Jenny I and were fairly homicidal by the end of the day.

Sunday I hitched a ride home to Ballarat with Jo, both of us mortified by the sight of utes and 4WDs decked out with tinsle in the Ballarat main streets. Katie and I hit the Bridge Mall soon after - and the contrast of the day before what amazing. A lonely Santa sat on his own, forlornly looking left and right for any potential interested child. The slower pace was much easier to manage!

I worked from the Ballarat office for the three days leading to Xmas, and being in a quiet, happy and relaxed office was just what I needed. I even got a lot of work done!

I caught up with Jo for lunch on Monday at Europa, and then Melanie and Kiayn at Oscar's on Tuesday. I also had lunch with Renee and Graham at Gee Cee's on Wednesday, after a very late night the night before at the office, as I slide into the work shutdown period.

Mum, Melissa and I headed over to Uncle Donald's and Auntie Carole's for our annual Christmas Eve catch up, before we joined the car queue in Alfredton to see the row of home Christmas lights display.

Christmas at home this year was just the four of us, with Jessie and Noodles chasing their white Christmas in the Highlands of Scotland. French Toast for breakfast before gift exchanges, and a call from Scotland. Lunch preparations soon followed.

After eating ourself silly, we headed out to catch the extended family, and marvel at how much all the kids out there have grown. We got to swap Carribean cricket travel stories this year, as we took in every Wiggles noise maker there is!

The two little santas, Cooper and Charli popped in, with Andrea and Dean, on their way to their Christmas dinner. Such little people now, with Charli giving kisses and waves, and Cooper asserting his personality. Such cuties.

Kim joined us for dinner, which is now a seafood tradition, before Melissa and I packed the car and headed back to Melbourne, another Christmas over.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Freedman Love and Loss

After work last night, which included drinks and exchange of gifts as we start wrapping up for the year, I made my way to Brunswick, and the Little Creatures Beer Hall. For Michelle's birthday, today, we meet for drinks and a dinner in one of my new favourite spots in Melbourne.

As the night got darker, I took a tram north to the Northcote Social Club, to meet Melissa, making new friends in the bar. We then moved into the bandroom, grabbed a bar and prepared for a solo Tim Freedman gig.

The set started with Beauty In Me, and then God Drinks At The Sando in honour of the name change of the Commerical to the Northcote Social Club. Tim then explained his theme for the night, pairs songs about his past relationships - from the height of love, to the bitter and painful demise. Where Is She? being the first of the first pair.

Intersected by songs of loss, Charlie No 3, was followed by the story of the girlfriend who was the inspiration for Fall For You, No Aphrodisiac, Melbourne, and Royal In The Afternoon - several of my favourite. Explaining how many songs from the one relationship have ended up being on very different albums.

Tim was somber and cathartic through the first half of the set, drinking champagne unusually. He talked about having dinner just hours before with the very inspiration of the tracks before....and then played The Curse Stops Here, adding that he didn't play that the night before cos he was having way more fun. Ouch.

Life's A Beach and then an angry Up Against The Wall, before finally starting on a bottle of red, and then he started to hit his straps for the gig. He had a go at people talking up near the bar, and then passed a few bottles among the people at the front.

Breathing You In and Start My Celler Again was the next chapter, before a new song, the second for the night. The encore took on crowd requests, with Gough ending the evening.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Our Christmas Tree

The Christmas cheer and spirit seems to have arrived at our house, all in one hit. As Christmas cards arrive, Jenny has started finding her Christmas bits and pieces, and we have slowly started bring the cheer out to the house.

The tree arrived by delivery last weekend, minus promised bucket, and thus sat limply in the hallway for a day - until a bucket was found, and Lizette's dad was bribed into helping us make sure the tree would stand. Bless him!

Next was stringing baubles, and untangling a box of pink and silver decorations, ready for the tree garnish.

Filling the house with the smell of pine forest, the tree stands proudly in the living room, and has even demanded a furniture re-arrange to mark it's placement.
So baubles all strategically placed, the much necessary tinsel, and candy canes a plenty, all adorn our big, real tree for this year's display of the season.

I didn't really feel the magic of the season until Jenny found her candleabra for the window sill. So enchanting! Reminds me of our beautiful and wonderful white Xmas in Sweden.

So now I am ready for this monster annual celebration, with the countdown now on until I can finish work, and start the festivities properly. Come on now, already!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I went down to Nova this evening, and saw Australia. Seeing and hearing and reading reviews about this movie for months and months, I was very keen to see it on the big screen.

When I arrived, buoyed about going to the movies on my own by a reference in one of the copious Sex and The City episodes I have been consuming on our newly installed Foxtel at home, I was greeted by the five other people in the cinema. Literally! I walked in as they were all talking about coming to the cinema alone, and we all introduced ourselves, and chatted 'til the screening started. Very random!

After the flurry of advertisements for all things Down Under, the movie epic starts. Which has also been labelled a major ad for the country overseas...and the cinematography takes in the breathtaking magic of the outback. The vision, the sweeping views, and the colours are amazing throughout.

Narrated by Nullah, the "creamy" boy connected to Faraway Downs, he pulls you in with stories of the Aboriginal experience and a little white settlement history lesson. The boy is one of the highlights of the story, with those beautiful brown eyes, and spirit.

Nicole Kidman, playing Lady Sarah Ashley, is a British aristocrat who travels out to the lucky country - with Prada luggage and a bad accent. Her over acting is cringe-worthy throughout. Nicole's wardrobe is her saving grace. Great dresses! If '2009 Husband Find' works out for me, I think I have just found bridesmaid dresses!

The shining light is Hugh Jackman. He is heart-racingly ripped, with the first highlight being a shower from a bucket in the outback. Hugh is striking, strong, and dreamy! The romance works, too. So you'll need tissues, not for tears, but for the drool for Hugh!

With cheesy uses of the phases 'crickey' and other Aussie-isms, I can't believe I last through the three hours without crackers. Pretty, and Hugh - mmmmmm. But really - too long (I feared a new DVT sitting there so long!). The war, and the battle for the black man in White Australia were all over done. Although the reminder of the Australian new government's Sorry in the credits was a powerful blow.

The telling of Dreamtime was well done. The music was also amazing...although you are left to wonder why, after Baz used every Australian actor you can think of (Ben Mendleson was very good), he then used Elton John for the closing song....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Homebake 08

On Friday night Nicole and I caught a much delayed flight to Sydney, and checked into our secret 4 star hotel, being The Menzies, directly across from Wynyard station.

After a quick and sturdy breakfast, we walked down to The Domain and joined the line to get into Homebake. After studying the line up and location and times of the bands on show, we headed straight to The Dome stage, for The Holidays. Having heard them earlier this year, we settled in for some shade and cute pop-rock tunes.

Up next were Dash + Will, young and cute duo from Melbourne. Pick You Up and Fighting Over Nothing were strong and memorable numbers, in their first festival gig.

We then went across to the Main Stage for Eddy Current Suppression Ring, totally crazy Tourette's like lead, who played awesome punk vocals. Back to The Dome for Little Red, who were awesome. Such a fun and engaging set - impressed me, second time around! It's Alright and Coca Cola boppy standouts, and crowd favorites.

End Of Fashion were up next, and one of my most impressive gigs of the day. Their new track Fussy was awesome, with Oh Yeah and She's Love also big tracks on the day.

Sun blazing, humid Sydney day, we then popped back to the Main Stage for British India, before visiting the food tents for dinner.

At this point we made out way to the Cinema Pavillon, for the short films on show. A couple of them I had seen at Tropfest this year, but two of the shorts we watched, Two Cars, One Night, and Mankind Is No Island, were really great.

Back outside, we were faced with a significant drop in temperature, while we saw the set of Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson. Our only overlap of the day, at the end of the country set we rushed back to the Main Stage for a funky play of Sneaky Sound System. Very entertaining, and much loved by the crowd, with big hits like UFO and Kansas City.

Making our way to as close to the stage as we could, we then saw Crowded House enchant the crowd with their much loved hits. Interesting to see the young people in the crowd sing along to many of the songs, although they did lose them with a few new tracks in a was the end of a long day! Sadly, not as good as they were in Melbourne earlier in the week, but still an awesome set from a band still going strong.

What a great day of Australian music, new and established, young and older.

After getting back to our hotel, and resting our weary legs, we managed to wonder around Sydney on Sunday, taking in the Market at The Rocks, the customary sites at Circular Quay, and then much needed coffee and cafe at the Queen Victoria Building, before heading out to the airport for our flight home.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Shane Warne The Musical

When we saw Wicked, across the road were signs for 'The Other Wizard Of Oz', being Shane Warne The Musical. Each time I saw the ad for this, I cringed....but then Melissa got free tickets to the preview...and you can't say no to free tickets, can you!

I met Melissa out the front of the Athenaeum Theatre. As we took our seats quite close to the stage, the producer came on stage to introduce. He said that this was the first real run of the show, with some places not fully worked out yet, and that one of the actors had only been with the group a week.

The show started out by showing that our man Warne didn't start out playing cricket, and chronicled his attempts at being a football star with St Kilda. The disappointment of dreams dashed, and his mother's influence on his getting his act together and heading to the AIS for cricket.

Some digs about an inappropriate coach over there in Adelaide, making you cringe about the possibility of reality, leading up to some words of advice for the wayward Warne until he gets his act together and gains selection for Australia.

His crowning with a baggy green got a smattering of applause from the audience - Melissa was mortified at my participation in that! Some true cricket fans out there! And then the focus on That Ball.

As the gap at interval extended, and the crowd had returned, a chant of 'Warnie, Warnie, Warnie' went up. Hilarious. Had the band cracking up!

Every crack at Warne that could be made, was made. Comments about his fast rise to fame, and that he couldn't do anything without gaining media attention, his nickname as Hollywood. The bookmaker scandal, the diuretic given to him by his Mum, sledging on field. The singing and dancing were actually very funny - with a highlight being What An SMS I'm In.

The portrayal of Shane and Simone's relationship, from start to end, with the promiscuous Warne and the 'what happens on tour stays on tour', and the sad reality of Simone's perspective. Pretty raw and real. And then the reminder that whilst the media circus went on, he did, single handedly win Australia many matches.

Very funny show, a look at the hero and disaster that is Warne. Could not have imagined going to see it, but loved it!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Crowded House At The Forum

On Tuesday night I popped into the stadium in the middle of Federation Square, and watched a couple of Homeless World Cup matches, before joining Nicole across the road at The Forum.

First up was Anika Moa, our third gig of her's in about as many months! Opening with Wise Man Say, she played through her songs like My Old Man, and Dreams In My Head. Plus her awesome reggae Youthful. She captured the crowd with her banter, and amazing voice.

And then, Crowded House entered the stage. This was a warm up gig for the weekend, and whilst not as intimate as last time we saw them, The Forum is an amazing venue. Wearing mining lights on their heads, the four band members come out playing in the dark, strobe lights going crazy!

Opening with Locked Out, and then playing five new songs within their 2 hours and 45 minutes on stage. They played favorites of mine like Pineapple Head and Distant Sun.

A lot of chatter and interaction with the audience - at one point someone asked Neil why he was bleeding. He explained that in his haste to take off the mining lamp, he ripped a gash across his forehead. He bled for the whole show, so rock and roll!

Neil also handed out the microphone at one point, for audience questions. This lead to the naming of someone's child by Mark and Nick, girl and boy names chosen respectively, and then the guy in front of Nicole and I got hold of the mic and requested Private Universe. Soon this lad, and his two mates from their own band were up on stage with Crowded House playing their request with them. Pretty cool!

Chocolate Cake, and Not The Girl You Think You Are featured in the set, as well as a cover of Throw Your Arms Around Me, before finally deciding to end the night with a requested Better Be Home Soon.

Amazing show. So great live. Looking forward to seeing them again this weekend.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Homeless World Cup

As my lunchbreak yesterday, I popped down to Birrurang Marr to watch a couple of matches as part of the Homeless World Cup, currently being staged in Melbourne.

As I found a seat in the Yarra Pitch Stand, the New Zealand team completed their haka, before their game against Ethiopia.

Upon a pint sized court, the two teams played a version of street soccer, with 7 minute halves. Fast paced game, with a goalie and three players on court at any one time, with an on side rule (according to the live commentator).

The Ethiopian powered ahead in the second half, taking the match 8 goals to 3.

A DJ played as the teams changed over, and the Cambodian team in red, and their Sierra Leone opponents entered the court. The crowd stood for the respective anthems, with the huge Sierra Leone lads standing hands on heart. The tiny Cambodian team looked mere school boys along from them!

An Aussie reserve helping the Cambodian team with numbers, scored the first goal, before the bigger team started to pick up the pace. The game got faster, as the talent in the Khmer goalie become more and more apparent. Agile, so very fast, he was a joy to watch.

Reminders of the soccer games that played almost constantly on the dry space in front of the National Museum, behind which I lived for a few months, in Phnom Penh.

A group of Aussies in the crowd had Cambodian flags, and were cheering on the little team, playing soccer to the backdrop of the Melbourne CBD buildings.
A change of ends at half time, with the score 2-1 to Sierra Leone. The Cambodian team put on the pressure, and worked hard to end the 14 minute match ahead 5-4. The little Khmer boys were so excited to win their first group match.

The tournament runs all week, with a big pitch stadium under the big screen in Federation Square. Playing for a number of different trophies, the players for all over the world, who are all over 16 and have been homeless for some point in the last 12 months, or make a living as a street paper seller, or are asylum seekers with unconfirmed status, or are in drug or alcohol rehabilitation. An amazing opportunity to represent their country, travel to another part of the world, share the spirit of team in this most universal sport, and gain self esteem and life skills - all whilst raising awareness to their plight.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Nicole's Inaugural Aussie Thanksgiving

Nicole has been in Australia permanently for three years now, and I finally convinced her this year to put on a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner.

Michelle picked me up last yesterday afternoon, and we headed over to Nicole's, where she had been preparing for dinner for some time! The table was all set, and Ruth and Danny arrived, and then dinner was served!

To start we had bread rolls, and a walnut and pear salad. Yum! Caramelised walnuts, and perfect, sweet pears. As part of the Thanksgiving tradition, we each told the gathering what we were thankful for, before tucking in. With champagne to help wash it all down!

Main was turkey, of course, and homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes and beans. Amazing.

Next up was the highly anticipated pumpkin pie, made from scratch. Sweet in a cinnamon and nutmeg kinda way. Delicious!

Surely the start of a tradition away from her US home, it was lovely to be part of an occasion to mark Nicole's holiday for her in an Aussie setting. Happy Thanksgiving!
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