Week 246 – a magic flute and a big wheel

Neil arrived back from Sweden late on Sunday night and it was great to have some un-kid-sapped energy back in the house (jet-lag didn’t seem to touch him) and to vicariously enjoy his cultural adventures in London, Gothenburg and Berlin! The kids were gift-focused, and Tommy, in particular, was thrilled by the two sets of model level-crossing barriers that Neil had managed to source! Barriers remain Tommy’s absolutely favourite thing (later in the week he enjoyed a half-hour spent hanging out by a level crossing that we stumbled upon in a nearby suburb).

Maisie and I spent a pleasant couple of days together while Tommy was in childcare. We bought her two pairs of new shoes and explored the imaginative little parks of Docklands (one of which was full of musical sculptures), and went to an art exhibition in the local council gallery. I’d told Maisie that the pictures were of polar bears, and she dressed up especially (see picture!).

On Wednesday Lizzie K and I went to see a new play at the Malthouse, entitled ‘The Heart is a Wasteland’. Going to see theatre here is expensive and risky, as the general standard is not particularly high. However, I’m a fan of one of the actors, Aaron Pedersen, whose performances I have admired in two recent Aussie films (Mystery Road and Goldstone) so I thought I’d give it a go. The play was a two-hander about a country singer-songwriter on a back-country tour, and a mine-worker who she hooks up with one night who ends up travelling with her. Both aboriginal, and with terribly damaged pasts, they flirt and argue and end up making a profound connection. It was an interesting take on a well-worn story, and the actors gave it their best, but the script was horribly clunky, lurching from lazy banter to earnest socio-political commentary, which didn’t mesh together at all. I liked the feeling behind it though, and given a rigorous re-write, I reckon it could have been very good.

On Thursday Maisie and I enjoyed a children’s performance of Mozart’s opera ‘The Magic Flute’ at the Recital Centre. It was an imaginative hour-long show devised and performed by Opera Australia featuring five costumed singers (one of whom was a master of quick change, as she played multiple characters), a pianist, and a modest set. The singers acted out the story, mostly utilizing spoken dialogue, but occasionally breaking into song. All the best bits were there – the Queen of the Night aria, the Papageno/Papagena duet etc. With the exception of a weak baritone, they were all good singers, and fun and lively actors too. I think I preferred it to the real thing! And the kids seemed very engaged too (I know Maisie was) – the hall was packed, but there was virtually no fidgeting or audible complaining.

In the evening I went to see a new documentary entitled ‘Chicken People’, following a year in the lives of three competitive chicken breeders. In Tennessee and Ohio, annual shows pit poultry breeders against each other in the quest to produce the most perfect specimens of every variety of chicken, according to the criteria set forth in the late C19th ‘American Standard of Perfection’. The movie had a ‘Best in Show’-type vibe but was all true, and happily, the individuals the film-maker followed were fascinating, talented, self-aware people. And the much-loved (often bizarre-looking) chickens, were pretty intriguing too!

Having been gently trying to persuade Tommy to toilet-train for some months now, to no avail, on Thursday night he suddenly decided that it was time, and demanded to wear pants. So over the weekend we weren’t able to stray far from the house.

On Sunday we strolled down to the St Kilda sea-front car park which is the site of a new winter festival, incorporating an ice-skating rink, a couple of cabaret/comedy venues, a restaurant/bar and food stalls and two large fairground rides, one of them being a giant ferris wheel.

The kids have been very excited about this for some time, and I had promised them a ride once Daddy was back!

The cars were well-caged in, but open to the wind, and it was pretty blustery and exposed when we were up high but the kids weren’t phased at all.

The wheel went round surprisingly swiftly (Tommy carefully studied the mechanism as we passed the spurs), and Maisie wanted it to move faster! The views along the bay and across to the city skyscrapers and the distant Dandenong hills were lovely.

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