Friday, 29 April 2011

Pomp And Ceremony - The Royal Wedding

Media is very powerful. I don't think I was particularly fussed by the notion that a Royal Wedding was imminent... not until this week when the media went into overdrive. Suddenly the Royal Wedding became a Major Event. For about five days, William & Kate have been the subjects of documentaries, mockumentaries and even a telemovie. And if not W&K, then it was about the Royals in general. Heavens, if I didn't watch The Wedding, what would I be missing out on?

So I've watched the wedding tonight. I didn't need to, of course. I've seen nothing that a half-hour wrap-up wouldn't have covered. Women's outfits seem to have been of major interest. And of course Kate's Wedding  Dress. Other than that, a lot of cars driving past, and crowds massing along the processional route and filing into Westminster Abbey.

I wouldn't have missed anything much, except... except...

... Pomp And Ceremony. Oh my goodness, does anyone do it as well as the British? We have had trumpets, and marching bands, and processions, and slow marches, and crimson-lined antique horse-drawn coaches, and mounted escorts, and roaring aircraft flypasts (loved the Lancaster!) ... and bells. Three hours of wondrous bells. It's all made me quite emotional.

Kate looks lovely in a Sarah Burton/Alexander McQueen dress. I particularly like the way it's fitted (but not tight) at the waist and then flares out in almost medieval style. William looks very handsome and regal also -- neat and elegant in his Irish Guards dress uniform.

Sure, the highlights package will show the fashions and the key Memorable Moments, but I think the only way to fully appreciate the full majesty of the event is to immerse yourself in it, feel it unfold around you. I have no idea why this feels like a worthwhile experience, why spending SIX HOURS glued to the television is a good use of time. (Heavens, six hours!?) But somehow it does (mostly).

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Key to the Kingdom

Nearly 20 years ago -- it must have been Christmas 1992 -- my father gave my mother a deck of transformation cards. The Key to the Kingdom is a beautiful deck, featuring illustrations by acclaimed artist Tony Meeuwissen based on popular (and obscure) nursery rhymes. It's quite lovely in its own right, the deck accompanied by a little book containing illustrations of every card and each corresponding rhyme, but by virtue of a separate poem and short narrative there is also a mystery to solve.

Now, my family has rather a habit of solving puzzles at Christmas, although usually they are of the jigsaw kind. (And my personal favourites are the ones that have associated mysteries.) I recall we applied much energy to searching for the solution to The Key to the Kingdom, for which there was a cash prize to be awarded. After much brow-furrowing and nailbiting we failed on that occasion, alas, and never did discover the solution. The cards were laid aside and rarely thought of again . . .

. . . until they were recently discovered on the 'clearance' pile resulting from the latest decluttering purge, and my father decided we should make another attempt. The cards were thus rescued and transported to Phillip Island to await the next family house party. Which brings me to this Easter. On Saturday night, imbued with new resolve, armed with google, and bolstered by an accomplished puzzle-solving husband/son-in-law/brother-in-law, five of us tackled the mystery held within the cards.

The only clues are held in an 18-line poem which suggests there are 14 cards that need to be identified (by solving puzzles within the poem) and used to find the solution. We found most of the 14 fairly straightforward to isolate, but a few challenged us. Then it was a matter of figuring out how to use the 14 cards. I will say no more on that here, in case you want to solve the mystery yourself, but a full solution can be found here.

We got a lot closer to finding the solution this time, but ultimately we did make use of google, a resource not available to us back in 1992/1993. Mainly we used google to find out the meaning of specific words and phrases in the riddle-poem -- which I don't consider cheating -- but then we found the above-mentioned worked solution online that allowed us first to confirm our 14 cards, and ultimately helped us crack the code.

We were close though, really close. And perhaps with more patience (or without google on-hand to lead us astray) we might have solved it without resorting to underhand tactics. Nevertheless, we had a great night applying our brains, with each of our different perspectives contributing to the whole. After all these years of not knowing and wondering, I feel a satisfying sense of closure.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play

Our second MTC play for this year was Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play, which I saw at the Sumner Theatre last night.

Set in the late 19th C New York (?), when electric lights in the home were still a wonder, the play opens with the central character, gentile doctor's wife Catherine (Jacqueline McKenzie), despairing that she doesn't have enough milk to feed her baby and contemplating hiring a wet nurse. But then her husband's (David Roberts) elegant patient Sabrina Daltry (Helen Thomson) arrives suffering from 'nerves and depression' and is whisked into the neighbouring surgery for 'treatment' -- and we realise this play is going in rather another direction entirely.

Did I mention the strange fact that hysterical patients in this period were apparently often treated with vibrators? The idea was to use 'electricity' to 'get the juices flowing' and induce 'paroxysms'...

Needless to say, Sabrina rather enjoys her treatment and is henceforth keen to make daily visits to the doctor.

On the surface the play is part comedy-of-manners, part slapstick, with shades of darker drama. The vibrator scenes in particular are hilarious (although perhaps becoming repetitive by the end). But at the heart of this play, I feel, is the concept of womanhood. The script uses the canvass of repressed late 19th C society to explore what women need in terms of pleasure, intimacy, love, friendship and motherhood.

Catherine is initially curious as to what goes on in her husband's surgery (cos the walls are fairly thin), and then resentful that he will not perform his treatment/experiment on her. She comes to realise the distance and inhibitions in their relationship (he won't even look at her body when undressing her) and yearns for a real connection with a man -- and so fixates on another of her husband's patients, an emotional artist who makes her impassioned (although not loverlike) speeches. At the same time she becomes friends with Sabrina Daltry, and that lady's impending departure from her life makes her even more aware of her growing loneliness. On top of it all, she perceives her own baby becoming more attached to the wet nurse, Elizabeth, than to her.

By the end, Catherine is feeling rejected as a woman on all fronts -- until the final moving resolution with her husband. The character of Sabrina also undergoes her own awakening as she discovers pleasure completely disassociated from her husband and the unique intimacy of female friendships.

I enjoyed this play immensely, which was directed by MTC stalwart, Pamela Rabe. The lavish set shows living room and surgery, allowing scenes to take place simultaneously in both 'rooms'. The costumes are gorgeous -- particularly those of Sabrina and Catherine, who have to get in and out of them (whalebone and corsets included) multiple times. The sometimes awkward juxtaposition of comedy and drama has seen some reviewers criticise, but I feel there's enough depth and good performances to make it worthwhile and entertaining viewing.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Amiably ambling

I've been a bit quiet on this blog of late. My life has settled into an amiable amble, whereby I sleep-in until after 9am, peruse emails/social media/blogs, write (sometimes in the pub), do a Wii yoga workout, waltz down the street for a coffee or groceries . . . maybe, occasionally, skim the SEEK emails to see if there are any interesting jobs (which I invariably shortlist and don't get around to applying for). This 'not working' malarky is very enjoyable.

It's been fabulous having all this time to write without pressure. I've been productive on most days, but it hasn't mattered when other fun stuff crops up instead. Of course it can't last, and I'll have to go back to being more efficient, to fitting writing in around all the essential stuff (i.e. work), but I think it's been important to rediscover the love and the habit after an indifferent period. It's also given me the opportunity to read more widely about the industry, and I've started a new blog over on Wordpress that is more specifically focused on writing and related topics.

This week I finished the major rewrite of my novel, a milestone worth mentioning here. I've printed the draft out and intend on toddling off to Officeworks tomorrow to get it comb-bound so I can then scrawl all over it with red pen and yellow highlighters. I'll also be sending it to selected readers for some feedback -- an exciting and daunting step. After that, editing!

And after that? Who knows . . .

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Rediscovering yoga

Several years ago I attended a weekly yoga class down at the Elwood beach house. I don't recall what style of yoga it was, but I do recall that I enjoyed it immensely. For reasons forgotten I ceased those classes, but now I'm rediscovering the benefits of yoga in my living room, courtesy of a new Wii program.

Given to me for my birthday, the program blends yoga and pilates in a customised routine depending on the user's experience and goals -- for example, I classified myself as a beginner and my goal as overall body toning. (Other options are upper/lower body, abs, back pain, relaxation etc.) It then schedules 12-14 poses (or short routines such as the sun salutation) and guides you through them; new poses are introduced and the hold times get longer as you get better. I really like the way it's structured as a class, and that it gets harder as you get better. (The name of this particular progam is newU Fitness First Mind Body Yoga & Pilates Workout.)

I'm finding it particularly beneficial to practice yoga daily around lunchtime or just before dinner, especially if I'm transitioning from one mind intensive activity to another. Yoga (and pilates -- I'm honestly not sure which exercises belong to which discipline) is invigorating and yet relaxing. It feels like a workout, yet I feel calm and centred at the end of it. No wonder thousands of people swear by it!

The warrior poses have become favourites of mine. I can pretend I'm channelling a certain swordsman . . .

Friday, 1 April 2011

Once we were Footsloggers

I went for a pre-dawn walk along the beach this morning, and was reminded that right about the same time, a couple of thousand endurance walkers and runners were amassed at Jells Park, preparing to start this year's Oxfam Trailwalker Melbourne event.

That means it's a whole year (minus two weeks) since I underwent the great ordeal . . . er, adventure: 100km walked in approx 35 hours and 44 minutes. It was a fabulous experience, but it did rather take over my life for nearly six months. I was intending to volunteer for the event this year, but never seemed to get around to it.

Anyway, the first teams have finished already -- the winners completed in 10 hours and 23 minutes. I think at this stage last year we had staggered into Olinda (check point 4) and were enjoying some well-deserved homemade baked beans.

I am also interested to observe that this year there is no team 001! That was our number, Team Footsloggers. For old times' sake, here's a link to our Footsloggers' Log. What an amazing time.