Neither Here nor There.

With apologies to Bill Bryson…

Perth has, I admit, been more interesting and attractive than my preconceived notions. It is, like many world cities, saved from its’ suffocating skyscrapers by a wide clean river surrounded by ample green spaces and thoughtful walks and bikeways which separate cyclist from Commodore – although I think that the better alliteration for Perth is “separate bike from BMW”

The distinctive melaleuca species is known colloquially as the paperbark tree for obvious reason.

Its a nesting water fowl

Epilepsy conference

The conference on epilepsy is being held at the Pan Pacific Hotel. Unfortunately any edifice, development or creation – real or virtual- which bears the name “Pan Pacific” immediately brings to mind that unique cartoonish Australian movie “Strictly Ballroom”. If I have lost you, rent the movie! It’s a feast of primary colours and colourful characters. “The Dressmaker “ had similar resonances more recently.

The hotel some 20 storeys high, is however not all that modern. The bathroom always ages the structure, in my experience, specifically the fact that one showers in the bath. There is an obligatory rubber mat with suction cups to prevent the ungainly naked sway as one attempts to lather up , down below. I have a kinky voyeuristic impression that our hordes of Japanese and Chinese tourists, place their mat, suction cups up!

The gym and steam rooms in the basement were discordant as the gym was modern, well equipped yet the steam room spluttered like an ancient asthmatic kettle. The change room shower when turning on the taps, created a whining crescendo which in decibels and quality surpassed the Rolls Royce Trent 900 jet engine test bed.

Aquatic Nostalgia

Another year, another summer, The Payneham pool is 60 years old whilst the Norwood Pool is well passed that ! To celebrate the 60th anniversary, our squad swam 60 laps , on the minute ! My Apple Watch does not lie!

I was allowed myself a post swim latte and toast – justified by my caloric energy burnt!

This is not fake news

There is an epidemic of obesity – adult and alarmingly- in children. A modern catastrophe, the consequences of my favourite “3M syndrome”:

  1. Microsoft
  2. McDonalds
  3. Motor Car

These basically contribute to a sedentary lifestyle with too much caloric intake. This picture from the 1950 tells it all! Pick the obese kid?

These two photographs are now on display in the entrance of the Norwood Pool.  Both are taken in the late 1950s. I remember those times well. I grew up in rural  NSW  a country town, Temora and in summer, before and after school and on weekends, virtually lived at the local Olympic swimming pool. Boy did I play games under water, in fact all those activities illustrated -the underwater duels were achingly enjoyable. Who cares about the coloured rag, I just lunged for the belt and pulled … so perchance to glimpse a pert natal cleft… and as for undressing underwater, it was as natural as butterfly, although breaststroke was completely foreign, one could in fact say, unnatural, for me.

Desert Island OPERA

My Desert Island Opera List

Let me state at the beginning, that I will try to avoid using the word “sublime” more than I should. It is impossible to describe in words one’s reaction and emotions to music – invariably classical . There is an intense, incredible shiver of ecstasy that envelopes the body and soul with these operatic miracles. They are not in any specific order and often I find I am in a ‘mood’ to listen to one aria and the next day to another. The one immutable fact is that these soaring songs must be played at volume levels that mimic the exact effect of the orchestra and singers, actually performing in my living room. I am an atheist but listening to these operatic pieces surely brings me as close to god as I ever will be.

I have a reasonable sound system for my CD collection. Actually I am of that generation that started out with vinyl and then in the 1980s, proceeded to simply duplicate my LP records in a CD collection.


My preference is for these Italian operatic composers: Verdi, Bellini and Donizetti. Most of us know or recognise the familiar tunes from these great operas. My favourites slowly grew on me once the familiar were ‘too familiar’. In all of them, it is the skilful, gifted way that the composer blends and weaves the human voice with the other instruments of the orchestra. In my chosen list, it is invariably a solo instrument that dances and adds counterpoint to the voice, there is no other word to describe this than ‘sublime’!

Guiseppe Verdi


Cortogiano, vi razza dannar” – Act 2 

This aria is the ultimate example of pathos. Rigoletto pleads with the members of the Duke’s court to return his daughter. She is, as Rigoletto sings, but a few metres away in the Duke’s bed, as is the Duke! This aria reaches its climax as he begs the courtiers to understand and there is a sublime ( first time I use the word)  interplay between the baritone voice, cello and clarinet, soaring majestically together –  “Miei signori…persona, pietate…” ( My lords, I beg you, have pity)

Ah, ch’io taccia! a me a lui perdonate…Act 2

A hymn sung by father and daughter as Gilda lies dying and finding peace by realising that in death she will join her  mother in heaven.

La Traviata

The arias of Germont, the father of Alfredo in Act 2 are my favourites.

Pura siccome un angelo

it may not be politically correct in the 21st century, but it is a rather conniving request that Violetta give up her defacto relationship with Germont’s son, Alfredo for the honesty and integrity of the family. Yes the woman is to blame for leading the man astray.

Di Provenza il mar, il suol

Having discovered that Violetta has returned to Paris and rejected Alfredo, his father, Germont, consoles his son and says basically she is only a woman forget her,  your roots are more important ( no not THOSE roots!)

Pargi, o cara, noi lasceremo

Realising what a bastard he has been, Alfredo rushes back to Violetta and begs forgiveness, and says he will make everything legal and then he will take Violetta to Paris for a real honeymoon. Sadly Violetta has pulmonary tuberculosis and belts out one last aria as she coughs and splutters to death and at the same time, presumably transmitting the TB bacillus to Alfredo and Germont.


La Sonnambula

I admit that if tortured  (listening to an Andrew Lloyd Weber CD ) to make a decision about my all time favourite opera, then La Sonnambula is it! I am in illustrious company as I recall that I read somewhere that it is Richard Bonynge’s favourite too!

Whilst “Prendi: l’anel ti dono” is the top of the pops for this opera, my favourite arias are

Cielo. al mio sposo io giuro

Amina is sleepwalking as she sings of her love for Elvino and is dreaming of being at the altar and swearing her marriage vows. Till death us do part. Happily this is ONE opera where the ending is happy and Amina does not die in tragic circumstances.

Oh! se una volta sola rivederlo io potessi. Act 2

This is yet another operatic ‘mad scene’ but with a variation as Amina is sleepwalking, again! Elvino is to marry another girlfriend and Amina is beside herself.

I have not covered Donizetti yet….!

Some of my rare gems are to follow in the next blog