On Monday night I went to a showing of a fascinating Robert Altman rarity, a music performance film entitled ‘Jazz ’34: Remembrances of Kansas City Swing’, which was made as a companion piece to his 1930s-set crime movie ‘Kansas City’. For the feature, he had set up an authentic-looking jazz club and employed the best jazz musicians around (including saxophonist Joshua Redman) to re-create the glorious jazz battles of the classic bands of 1930s Kansas (at that time led by such luminaries as Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young). To make the most of the wonderfully evocative period setting, Altman recorded a narrative-free series of riveting musical numbers which led us through night into day, the musicians playing tirelessly as beautifully costumed punters danced and smoked and flirted and slept. At the end of it I felt like I’d been to a wonderful jazz gig!
On Tuesday evening Roni and Rowena joined me to watch one of two recent releases telling the story of 1920s New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins, who regularly performed song recitals, despite having no musical aptitude whatsoever (and apparently being unaware of the fact). This was the French version of the tale, entitled ‘Marguerite’, and it was deliciously dark and surprisingly poignant. Marguerite (Catherine Frot – wonderful) was the generous benefactor and tone-deaf singer with a distant, adulterous husband, and a bizarre coterie of parasites eager to encourage her ‘talent’ and take her money. After the movie we went out for a meal at a local Chinese ‘fake meat’ restaurant. The (mushroom-based) fake scallops were very impressive!
On Wednesday Tommy and I enjoyed an autumnal wander through the Botanical Gardens. He had a small truck which he gleefully rolled down every sloping pathway, including the agreeably noisy raised metal walkway which runs through the rainforest section (which was busy with middle-aged female horticulturalists, who thankfully were charmed rather than annoyed!). We had a close encounter with several purple swamp hens, which spooked Tommy somewhat!
I took the kids to the zoo on Thursday. It’s a much trickier excursion now they both like to be on their feet the whole time (and are generally running off in opposite directions!). Tommy was keen to see the tigers, and one paused in his incessant pacing to smile at us(!).
Maisie wanted a butterfly to land on her, and stood very patiently until one alighted on her pink flowery skirt! The butterflies scared Tommy though, I had to hide him under the pram hood!
He was very engaged by the monkeys, in particular a tiny orang-utan who was playing hide-and-seek and doing roly-polys in an old sack – Tommy recognised him as a kindred spirit, excitedly shouting ‘baby’! We spent a long time with the hairy brindled peccary pigs – old favourites of mine from my childhood visits to Whipsnade Zoo.
I spent a fun Friday night out with Michele. We started in a lovely wine bar in touristy Hardware Lane, with a interesting selection of local and international wines (Michele knows her wines!) and a tasty selection of nibbles including polenta chips and crispy fried cheese. We went on to Melbourne’s ‘Festival Hall’ – a huge grungy warehouse (4000 capacity) which doesn’t look to have been substantially refurbished since it was built in the 1960s! We were there to hear the Sydney outfit ‘Rufus’, a fairly new band who’ve cottoned on to the power of euphoric house, and recreated it as if the heydays of ‘90s Ibiza never died. So, cunningly, they have an audience of both 30/40- somethings and teenagers (handily the venue had licensed and unlicensed sections, catering for all!). Even though it was never my favourite form of dance music, it was very smooth and good to dance to and it was nice to be transported back to my clubbing days, and be part of a pretty ecstatic (and seemingly fairly drug-free) crowd!
Neil headed off to the UK (for 1 day plus 3 days travel – an invitation to appear on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Start the Week’ was irresistible!) on Saturday. The kids and I made the most of a warm sunny day by spending most of it in the park. Late in the afternoon we met up with Sarah S, a UK friend from way back, who is currently living in New York, but thinking of taking up a job she’s just been offered in Hobart! She’d brought her 2 year old son Arthur with her, and within ten minutes of meeting Maisie and Tommy he was happily careering round the park with them in the almost total darkness (it’s dark at 5.30pm now!).
Sunday was Mother’s Day in Australia. Happily the kids, unintentionally, gave me a lie-in – not surfacing till 8.30am! We all met up with Sam, Nate and Isobel at the Melbourne Museum, and the 4 kids sprinted (literally) around the galleries for a couple of hours. Sam and I managed to catch up as we ran after them. In the afternoon Maisie’s friend Juno came round for a playdate. Theirs is quite a combative, competitive relationship, so there had to be frequent interventions, but Elizabeth (Juno’s mum) had brought a bottle of champagne so we enjoyed that when we got a chance to sit down for a few minutes.