Sunday, October 28, 2007

Spring Racing Carnival - Cox Plate

The Cox Plate, the premium weight for age handicap in Australia, was run yesterday and was won by El Segundo (pictured above). It was an oddly run race, with Haradasun taking the lead early, an unusual position for him to take up in a race. But apparently no other horse was willing to set the pace. It was a pretty slowly run race, with a mad dash at the end. El Segundo swept down the outside and overtook both Haradasun and Wonderful World, who were fighting out the finish, to win by 2 lengths.

Fortunately I have El Segundo in my Super Stable along with Haradasun who finished third so the virtual earnings in my stable were boosted by $2 million, giving me a chance to win the Super Stable competition. Winning all depends on having the correct horses in one's stable - money earners, hopefully Group One money earners.

This year, with racing in New South Wales and Queensland being non-existent due to the Equine Flu outbreak, Melbourne racing has been the only act to follow. Whether horses trapped in the other States would have made a difference to the outcome of various races, is hard to fathom. But it seems to me to be lacking its usual excitement this Spring, what with a lot of the top fancied horses not performing up to expectation, for instance Haradasun, who has run 5 races this season for three seconds and two thirds. I was hoping he would redeem himself in the Cox Plate, but it wasn't to be. However, no matter that he is worth $20 million dollars to the breeding industry, he will probably be back racing again next autumn.

There are still several races to go in the Spring Racing Carnival, most notably the Melbourne Cup. My stable only contains one stayer, the English horse Purple Moon, so I hope he gets up and wins it. He looks to have the potential and has a top Australian jockey on board. Cross fingers for his success and my chances of taking out the Spring Super Stable competition.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dog memories and other stuff

Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of my dog Arabel. She was a liver and white English Springer Spaniel and a real character. The only dog I personally owned, our relationship lasted for 14 years. I acquired her as a puppy in 1973 and she was real handful, extremely lively and destructive, but sobered as she got older. Cats liked her, even wild stray kittens, as she was non aggressive and cheerfully friendly to all and sundry.

When she was about 18 months old she had puppies – 11 of them! I had hoped to breed her to my brother’s Springer Spaniel, but she fancied a mongrel that leapt over the fence, the father of two thirds of the puppies. All the puppies survived and I managed to find homes for every one of them, as they were attractive dogs. I remember their first weeks of life inhabiting my room in the rented house I lived in then. They all piled onto the bed (a mattress on the floor) along with Arabel and the oriental cat, Mao. I squeezed myself between them and somehow managed to sleep quite well. Cautiously opening my eyes in the morning, I’d pause before greeting the pups, as they’d swamp me with enthusiasm as soon as I said anything. This situation only lasted a few weeks before I moved them to a sheltered area outside and started the weaning process, which then meant that I had to get up in the middle of the night and feed them. They made a hell of racket when they were hungry.

That was Arabel’s only litter and I abandoned any ideas of breeding from her – too much hard work - and such a large litter was debilitating to the dog’s health.

Where I’d go, she’d follow. I even took her hitchhiking once all the way up to northern NSW and back. She was a four-wheel drive type of dog; she’d forge her way through anything.

Her favourite song was Lou Reed's " Walk on the Wild Side". She howled along with the coloured girls going doop de doop in anticipation of the saxophone break.

She died just after midnight on 22 October 1987. It was a mishap, a bone eaten too enthusiastically which lodged in her stomach and broke through the stomach lining. We rushed her to an all night vet, but she died on the operating table. I was distraught at her death and even the cats were upset. I never felt tempted to get another dog afterwards.

I still have her collar, which even after all these years still has a doggy aroma.

The above picture is a sketch I drew of Arabel when she was alive.

Other stuff…

Spring Racing Carnival

Last Saturday’s Caulfield Cup was full of drama with the hot favourite Maldivian being scratched at the barrier. I was watching it on TV and saw what happened. Maldivian reared in the barrier and cut himself on a fitting. The horse in the next barrier, Eskimo Queen lay down in the barrier and got stuck underneath it. Both runners were scratched, Maldivian being led of with blood coursing down his neck. The race itself was an anticlimax after the pre-race drama. My fancy Purple Moon was blocked for a run in the straight and came in sixth. Here’s hoping he has better luck in the Melbourne Cup.

The Cox Plate is run next Saturday and it has a very interesting field, including Haradasun, El Segundo and Miss Finland.


Last Friday I had the pleasure of seeing Angie Hart performing at Basement Discs. Angie was promoting her first solo recording “Grounded Bird” and very pretty it sounded. Angie attained fame at a very early age as the singer in popular band Frente. I knew her before that as a schoolgirl who frequented the Dan O’Connell Hotel.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Currently reading…

Well, actually it’s rereading. With my proclivity for reading long novels, I have started rereading Dorothy Dunnett’s “House of Niccolo” series. There are eight books in this series and I am presently on book two “The Spring of the Ram” wherein the hero, Nicholas Van der Poele, has embarked on a journey to Trebizond to further his fortunes in the merchant world of Renaissance Europe.

Dorothy Dunnett is famous for the Lymond series of novels, a fantastic historical adventure story comprising six books, which feature the fascinating hero Francis Crawford, soldier adventurer extraordinaire. She died in 2001 and was herself a person of many parts. As well as being a prolific writer she also had a career as a portrait painter.

The “Niccolo” series is a prequel to the Lymond saga and like the latter series the action ranges across a large geographical area. It begins in Bruges where Nicholas is introduced, first appearing as an apparently simple dyer’s apprentice, an illegitimate child fostered by Marion Charetty, the distant relation who owns the dyeing business. As is typical of Dunnett’s style of hero, Nicholas is not what he initially seems, but is gradually revealed to be a genius with figures and codes and wise beyond his years.

I first read Dorothy Dunnett back in the late 1980s, when my supervisor at work recommended the Lymond series to me. I must admit, I had heard of Dorothy Dunnett before then, but had dismissed her books in my mind as being merely insipid historical romances.

How wrong I was!

Dorothy Dunnett's historical novels are highly individual, meticulously researched, intricately plotted page-turners of remarkable quality. They are beautifully written, the writing being vividly pictorial, colourful and dryly humorous, not to mention full of drama. The historical period – 15th and 16th Century - comes to life under Dunnett’s skilled penmanship. Her cast of characters is enormous and include actual historical personages participating in the action. Her leading characters are psychologically complex human beings. Her heroes, Francis Crawford in the Lymond series and Nicholas, are enigmatic, intelligent and multi-skilled. Her heroines are brainy, strong, brave and independent. Subtle, extraordinarily evil villains engage in dangerous competition with the main characters and are also initially not what they appear to be. The complexity of characters lends an intensity and drama to the ongoing narrative. The plot twists and turns, resulting in surprising reversals and revelations, and Dunnett keeps the reader on tenterhooks to the last page of the last book in the series. It is masterfully done.

Dorothy Dunnett works on a huge canvas. As previously mentioned, the geographical stretch of the novels’ action covers the known world of the time - the Ottoman Empire, Czarist Russia during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the Holy Land under Marmalukes, England under Henry XIII, the Florence of Cosimo Medici etc. etc. All these places are described in technicolour - the brilliant fashions and jewels, the picturesque cities and ceremonies are all rendered in sparkling detail.

By no means an easy read, Dorothy Dunnett’s 14-book epic is well worth the time and effort expended and totally engrossing when you get into the story. It is said about John Crowley’s novel, “Little, Big”, that the further you go in the bigger it gets. This is also true for the Niccolo/Lymond chronicles.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

And the winner is...

Having enlisted the aid of the redoubtable B in drawing a winner from a hat, I am pleased to announce that Ruth is the winner of my BAFAB competition, She will receive the wonderful historical novel Restoration by Rose Tremain. Even though not all entries had the correct answers (question 2 was tricky) I threw them all into the hat and was delighted that Ruth was the one who won, and justifiably so, as she had the correct answer - Rose Tremain has published 12 novels.

So congratulations to Ruth. To claim your prize please send an email to the following address with your mailing address: amf47ATrelaxDOTcomDOTau and I will send you the book forthwith.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cats Can Talk

I had a dream last night. The only part I can now remember is explaining to someone that cats are the only animals that can speak to humans. Dogs bark, but cats talk in plain English. In my dreams, the cats do talk. It’s a pity this is not true in real life, though cats are very good at communicating with their human companions through expression and body language.

I would certainly like to know what’s going through Timmy’s head at the moment. Now that he’s off the clomicalm, he is back to terrorising the other two cats. My impression is that he wants to be top cat. All his life he has been the only cat in the household so maybe he regards his present situation in the same way and resents having to share. We express severe disapproval when he tries to bully Lizzie or Willy, and even though he does back off when one of us acts as a buffer zone, he will persist in stalking and menacing them when he feels that way inclined. It’s not as if he wants attention from us as he’s not the sort of cat you pick up and cuddle. He has a tendency to scratch and bite if you pat him too long or handle him in any way. He’s awfully pally when he wants food, but the rest of the time he minds his own business or lurks in doorways, waiting to menace, or at least inconvenience the other cats.

My BAFAB competition ends at midnight Friday 12 October, Eastern Australian time. So if you want to score a copy of Restoration by Rose Tremain you still have time to enter.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Basement Discs goes Zydeco

A lunchtime treat today was the in store performance of Melbourne band Zydeco Jump.

Zydeco is a form of Creole music that originated in Louisiana and is related to Cajun music.It encompasses a wide variety of roots music genres including Blues, Folk, Jazz, Gospel and Rock. The piano accordion and the washboard are the traditional instruments that give Zydeco its distinctive sound. It is great foot tapping dance music played to a syncopated beat.

Zydeco Jump
has been playing its variation of zydeco for almost twenty years. The band was formed in 1988 by George Butrumis (piano accordion) and Gary Samolin (drums), both of who were part of the band today, along with longstanding band members Alan Wright on guitar and vocals and Ben Taylor on washboard. Paul Williamson of Big Combo fame guested on the saxophone. Altogether they created an irresistibly enervating sound.

It was an entertaining half hour or so of feel-good music, from waltzes to trad jazz type tunes. The band was promoting their latest CD Cooking Zydeco and concentrated on songs from it. These included the title track and a wonderful waltz called "Siren". Every time I hear a waltz tune, I am taken back to my schooldays where we learned ballroom dancing from a Mr Meredith of the Meredith School of Dancing & Physical Education. “Heel, toe, toe. Heel, toe, toe” is what I hear in my head when a waltz is played.

Tomorrow night I’m going to Northcote Social Club to see Doc Neeson’s Angels a sort of reformed band comprising members, including the acclaimed lead singer, Doc Neeson, of the famous Australian rock band The Angels . The Angels were a very popular pub rock band during the 70s. 80s and 90s and had hits with “No Secrets”, “Face the Day” “Am I Ever Gonna See your Face Again” “Dogs Are Talking” and many others.

Apparently the show on Saturday night will be in acoustic mode, so at least we won’t have to wear earplugs. It will certainly be interesting to hear all the old hard rock hits done acoustically.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

BAFAB – my turn to give away a book

As I have been the grateful recipient of a previous BAFAB (Buy A Friend A Book) giveaway on Clare Dudman’s blog Keeper of the Snails, I figured it was high time to donate one myself in the cause of good will and fellowship with all men (and women) and encourage the pursuit of literary delights to the masses.

Click here to read about the idea behind it.

Up on offer is Rose Tremain’s fabulous historical novel Restoration. It’s an oldy but a goody and it is one of my all time favorite books. It has just been re-released in a handsome, new, eco friendly (the paper is recycled) paperback edition, so if you would like to own this book, answer a few simple questions and submit your answers below in the comments. I will then throw the entrants’ names in a hat and draw a winner. Do not assume that the person who has answered the questions before you is correct.


1. When and where was Rose Tremain born?
2. How many novels has she written?
3. Which literary prize was she awarded in 1999?
4. Which book was the winner on that occasion?

As I’m a day or two late in posting my BAFAB offering, you have until October 12th to submit your answers.

I will post the winner’s name on Saturday 13 October 2007.

Other blogs offering books during BAFAB week:
Keeper of the Snails
Welcome to my World
Karen Writes
Reading, Writing and Stuff that Makes Me Crazy