Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Coming back, we took the Hay-Goolgowi-Griffith sealed road route. The road was still listed as flood affected, but open to single lane traffic, and we had time to deal with any delays.

It's uncertain what to expect as you approach. But we were about to cross Mirrool Creek.

(midwestern h'way mirrool creek and insect on screen)

Mirrool Creek is no piddly creek. It's a significant 264 Km watercourse, a river in fact, arising near Temora and wending its way to the Lachlan, and outside Griffith it flows into the Barren Box Swamp, which we had unknowingly skirted leaving Griffith on the way down (see link above).

No, it doesn't look much. It is only when you get closer do you appreciate just how much water there is, and the relentlessness of it. It might just look like some water either side of the road, but it is moving, and moving very steadily.

The stench was bad. Rotting organic matter - vegetable and animal no doubt.


From Hay we crossed the legendary Hay Plain as green as you'll ever see it, through Balranald, met the Murray River at Mildura, and followed it on and off to Renmark, before heading south to Adelaide. It's a book, not a blog post.

                                                                 (murrumbidgee at hay)

(murrumbidgee at hay)

(storm building up over the hay plain, green as you've never seen it)

(oranges outside mildura - yes, you can't take them into sth aust)

(river gums at renmark)

(fred williams murray river adelaide festival centre)

And finally, a magnificent gum on the Torrens, roadside directly outside the Adelaide Oval. It wouldn't last a week in Sydney.


Where was I?*

We were wending our way through the South West Slopes and Plains and across the Riverina. We'd finally made Griffith and keen to get to Hay for the night, we pressed on. I drove. He navigated. Dusk wasn't too far away.

Within a few Kms, we had left the main road (which took you up to Goolgowi and back down the Mid-Western Highway to Hay over a section we knew was already partially closed by flood water - the map for all this is here) and alarmingly, the paddocks were already flooded.

You think things like: there'd be signs if the road was closed, surely; wandering stock and roos are the main worry; no, water over the road is the main worry; no-one wants to be out here after sundown; do the phones work; what if ...

Anyway, completely unexpected, we then hit unsealed road, in good condition it must be said, but just where you don't go in floods, now heading south toward the Murrumbidgee, the road seriously slowing us up and the sun now just one finger above the horizon. Gates and mailboxes of distant farm pass by, grapes and citrus either side, gravel and dirt and more gravel and dirt till finally a signpost, a blessed T-junction and we turn onto Murrumbidgee River Road, heading west again, the green snaking river gums marking the river just below us, and the prospect of getting somewhere before first stars looking better.

In the relief of it all, I insisted on stopping. This wonderful open place was darkening quickly, but I needed to step into it, feel it, smell it.

K pushed the flashing trouble lights on 'just in case'. I leant in and snapped them off. My unnecessary 'There's no-one here and we're not in trouble' was broken, yes,  by the sound of a distant engine. Quickly back in the car we sat watching as the head lights came up behind and drew alongside. It was a 4 door ute, the back piled with machinery. Two young boys in hats too big peered out, chins just above the bottom of the windows, one in the front, one in the back. 'Everything alright?" asked the unnervingly handsome father leaning slightly forward across the elder son in the front with him. 'Saw your lights and wanted to check you're OK'. 'Heading to Hay -- we got sidetracked a bit -- just wanted to take a quick (feeling pretty stupid now) photo --- thank you very much --- all OK thanks ---'

And he smiled, a nice smile, a handsome smile, and the boys stared on as he turned and headed back into the night.

*(Actually trying to upgrade this Mac operating system to get photos from my new phone to upload - these things take time for some of us.)

Saturday, November 5, 2016


                                                          (flooded Murrumbidgee at Hay)

The other week we did the big road trip to Adelaide and back. We gave it two days each way and that's just comfortable without being a strain if you keep the driving pretty steady. There are three main road routes to Adelaide. I've done them all over the years and each is very worthwhile.

You can head west to Broken Hill and from the Far West of New South Wales slip down through South Australia. Or you can take the Mid-Western Highway kicking south-west from Bathurst to West Wyalong, Hay then across the great Hay Plains through Balranald to Mildura, across the top of Victoria following the Murray to Renmark before heading down. Or, and this was our plan this time, you head south down the Hume, and take the Sturt Highway through Wagga and Narrandera and onto Hay that way.

While flooding rivers had been all in the news for weeks, I'd heard from loose enquiry that the main roads were open and foolishly hadn't checked on-line. So the Detour Sign near Yass came as a bit of a surprise - the Murrumbidgee was over the Sturt Highway around Narrandera, and traffic to Hay was sent off along Burley Griffin Way to Griffith. It was a trip that became all about the rivers. Everything is about the rivers.

On the Burley Griffin Way, you ease down through the south west slopes, plush with fence high wheat and crops, and patch-worked with great swathes, squares, and rectangles of blazing yellow canola.

Stopping to take photos - here, there, where - simply didn't happen as the bigness set in, and it all became all about the bigness, with no way of showing and telling. Through Harden (Mille is from Harden) ....

                                                          (the Harden proper dog look)

... on to Temora, a big prosperous substantial looking town, then Barellan, a quaint time-stood-still little place lop-sided along the railway, where a giant tennis racquet proudly sporting the name Yvonne Goolagong (she was actually born in Griffith - and where we nearly are) prods the hot blue sky.

We're some tens of Kilometres north of the Murrumbidgee and its floods, heading all but directly across to Griffith, the road straight and flat, from road to far horizon on either side flat expanses, and the crops now citrus and grapes. Grapes, and more grapes. In fact you could slightly exaggerate and say grapes all the way to the Barossa. 

We've arrived deep in the Riverina, the MIA (Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area as we were taught it way back then) and finally Griffith, and if you've never been, it's a surprise, round-abouts and all. Yes, designed by Walter Burley Griffin. The orange harvest is in full swing, the improbably wide main street dressed with the campest sculptures ever, made from hundreds of fat juicy oranges, the plane trees bursting with spring, the mood smart relaxed, the food Italian and the coffee good. 

to be continued, soon as .....

Monday, September 19, 2016


14 weeks - one up and one to go.

Monday, September 5, 2016


News from the Guardian this morning of the death of Richard Neville, aged 74,  " ...  the warmest and most generous of friends, a man with a deep moral vision and, when it came to the crunch, the courage of his convictions."

Oz Magazine is archived here.

And finally in his own words:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


                            (except Catherine Hewgill didn't play, at least on the Saturday)

This Mahler 2 with the SSO conducted by David Robertson was a strange affair. There was always something odd about it - a late addition to the calendar, very poorly marketed right to the end, in the Sydney Town Hall rather than the Concert Hall. And for this massive work, with Robertson getting the orchestra in good form and now doing his first Mahler anything in Sydney, there seemed to be not nearly enough interest. It showed on the night with the side galleries barely half full. Perhaps the venue and the composer were filters and only true believers showed up.

A hazarded guess might be that they were testing things out for the concert hall closure. 

The Town Hall wasn't my first exposure to the SSO. That was orientation week 1965 in the Great Hall where I stumbled into Dvorak's New World. Revelation is an understatement. But, with a gentleman companion, there were to be notable concerts ahead in the Town Hall and usually in the East Gallery, where Sheila Scotter would be ensconced, in black and white. That said, most memorable was the front of the main hall for my first ever Mahler - DLvDE with Yvonne Minton. Revelation is an understatement. The most recent I remember was the Shostakovich Festival where I opted for the East Gallery and thought it was all terrific. 

So here we were for Mahler 2 in the front row of the East Gallery where, note to self, the leg room is limited. Everything looked splendid, especially the great organ. The concert platform had been extended well out (to Row M). Harps and double bass had swapped sides and the cellos were behind the first violins.

It is a warm sound, but suddenly you recall and wish for some of the clarity of the Concert Hall acoustics. The choir sounded a bit 'through a scrim' with their usual impeccable diction sounding less impeccable, though the stunning Urlicht from Caitlin Hulcup (the high point for me) came though beautifully. From where we were, the strings seemed light on (and they've been sounding anything but, lately) and the double bass lacked depth (and foreboding) when you needed it most. Friends sitting in the South Gallery, such that they couldn't see the double bass, thought the strings were fine.

If this is a test, then I think South Gallery mid hall might be the answer for where to sit. I wish I could have gone again Sunday - to change seats, and to hear that Urlicht (I played it at Mum's funeral, so it's pretty special) again.