Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spring Super Stable 2008

Topiary at Moonee Valley Race Course

It’s that time of year again where the racing fans on Racing & Sports web site start thinking of submitting their stables to The Shu’s well respected Spring Super Stable tipping competition

It is my favourite competition as I’ve stated before, so I am primed to go with my initial stable as follows:

I have spent my virtual $1,000,000, after much thought, on the horses below.

AUGUSTA PROUD (3YO)-$50,000.00

DORABELLA (M)-$50,000.00

FORENSICS (M)-$152,000.00


SEBRING (3YO)-$180,500.00

SUGAR BABE (3YO)-$55,000.00


Total spent $995,500.00

My strategy is to select the best quality stable I can for the money, even if I will be initially down the bottom of the competition list in terms of money in the bank. As is my experience in previous competitions, the bank soon grows as the quality runners start their spring campaigns and win prize money.

The most important horse and the most expensive to buy was of course Weekend Hussler of whom great things are expected. Light Fantastic, Forensics and Sebring all performed well in the autumn and hence have an appropriately high price tag. Augusta Proud’s autumn campaign was sensational, though, as she didn’t manage to win at group level, is rock bottom price wise, as is Dorabella, a mare from New Zealand being trained in Victoria for a season of racing before being retired to stud. She is a group one winner in NZ and beat Seachange in a race a couple of years ago, so it should be interesting to see if she can emulate the likes of Princess Coup and the aforementioned Seachange, and be competitive in the tougher Australian races.

Sugar Babe is a promising filly, whose performance in autumn was not discreditable by any means.

All in all, it’s a stable with a lot of potential as long as the horses remain sound and race up to expectations; I should be off to a good start in August and hopefully can build up a decent virtual bank to purchase substitutions later in the season.

UPDATE 25/7/08

Even before the competition has started I've had to substitute Sebring who has sustained an injury that puts him out of action for the spring. I've replaced him with Triple Honour who won the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap in autumn and very nearly beat Weekend Hussler in the Hussler's first Sydney run.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cat Politics Update – cats, music, books, racing


I’ve been neglecting this blog, but furiously putting updates on Eye Candy for Bibliophiles, so I thought I’d give a bit of an update on the state of cat politics in our household and other things.

The situation as regards Timmy and Willy has not improved; in fact it has deteriorated to the point that they are actively engaging in hostile behaviour. Well, Timmy is. Willy is running scared.

A couple of weeks ago both cats had to be taken to the Vet for treatment for wounds. At the time we thought both of them had run afoul of another cat in the neighbourhood. But after seeing the two of them locked in mortal combat the other night, we’re not sure that another cat was involved. They returned from the Vet looking patchy from fur being shaved from the bitten areas, Willy on the fore paw and Timmy on the back and both were prescribed a course in antibiotics. Timmy also damaged his shoulder and hopped around on three legs for a few days.

Timmy is the aggressor and obviously regards the house and garden as his territory. He patrols the borders, from the front to the back and vice versa all the time. Willy asserts his rights by spraying any area that has a taint of Timmy.

The only cat not affected is Lizzie who has had her own confrontations with Timmy and has succeeded in making him back off and walk around her. Otherwise she and Timmy sit around peacefully together as if they are old acquaintances.

Melbourne is in the middle of winter now, though we have had some unseasonable warmish days. The magnificent sunset pictured below was the herald of one of those days.

sunset_130708 004 (Small)


There have been no Basement In Store performances this month, but I am looking forward to going and seeing Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson in concert in mid August. It should be an excellent concert all round as the support act is a young American singer songwriter called Ryan Bingham. I acquired his CD Mescalito a couple of weeks ago and was instantly won over on first listen. He has an interesting raspy voice and sounds like an old Steve Earle. Despite being only 26 years old he has lived a hard life, being part of a rodeo circuit before he took up music.

Other new music I’ve been listening to is Emmylou Harris’ new CD All I Intended To Be which is quite lovely, and the new Teddy Thompson CD A Piece of What You Need a wonderfully upbeat old time rock n roll set of songs. I loved his country music tribute disc Up Front And Down Low of last year. He’s become one of my favourite artists – an extremely talented young man, destined for stardom, whom I can’t believe I saw twice in the intimate surrounds of the Northcote Social Club two years ago.

I’ve also booked a ticket to a John Mellencamp concert scheduled for late November at the Rod Laver Arena. I was given a $100 Ticketek gift voucher by Nu Country and had to use it by September, so I figured I’d use it for the Mellencamp concert. It’s not as if I’m a big fan of John Mellencamp, but I would definitely like to see his two support acts who happen to be Sheryl Crowe and Shane Nicholson. Anyway, I got a good seat eight rows from the stage, so am quite looking forward to the event.


As I always have one or two books on the go, I’ve been reading quite a variety of books lately since finishing the Roumanian Quartet. Brave New World was one. I don’t remember ever having read it before, so I’m pleased to have finally done so to add to my Dystopian book collection. It’s strangely modern despite being written in 1930s, not as grim as Nineteen Eighty Four, but chilling just the same.

A book I enjoyed very much was Karen Joy Fowler’s The Sweetheart Season. She is well known as the author of the Jane Austen Book Club. I picked up the Sweetheart Season cheap on a remaindered books table.

I’m currently rereading Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast Trilogy and though only a short way into Titus Groan, am relishing his wonderful prose, which though profuse is also vividly pictorial with extraordinary analogies like this description of Fuscia:

"She tossed her long hair and it flapped down her back like a pirate’s flag."


The Spring Racing Season is just around the corner and the main spring contenders will be starting their preliminary build up from August. Weekend Hussler is expected to start his run up to the Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup (all of which races he has been entered for) in late August. Can’t wait to see how he performs this spring and - cross fingers - hope he is entered into the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes which is run on the day I choose to go to the track every year. The Dato Tan Chin Nam is a kind of mini Cox Plate and a good pointer to the possible winner of the Plate.

And last but not least Animal Rescue needs your help.

To donate (no money involved) please go this site and click on the DONATE link.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Remembrance of Things Past

Earlier this week my work unit went to a farewell lunch for a colleague at a Vegan café in Fitzroy, not far from work.

The departing colleague was a Vegan hence the choice of the eatery and I must admit it was a good choice as the food was very tasty.

It was a tiny place and the person running it looked familiar to me, from somewhere back in the distant past. He kept looking at me as if he knew me as well and it turns out we were acquainted something like 38 years ago. As I was paying my bill, he mentioned that he knew me when I lived in a mansion in Parkville with W, my boyfriend at the time. He was a friend of W and I had met W at the place they shared at that time.

Anyway it brought back memories of living at Mount Ievers, the mansion in question.

mount_ievers (Small)

It does sound rather glamorous, but in fact I lived in the back garden in a small self contained one roomed hut. It was a great place to live. The mansion was a grand old towered structure called Mount Ievers set in a large garden, situated on Royal Parade. The main house was divided up into flats and also had about 10 dwellings out the back in various shapes and sizes. My hut was furnished with a bed, a wardrobe, table and chairs and had a tiny stove and a sink. Someone once remarked to me that it looked like a gypsy caravan. It was set out in the back garden, up against the old inner circuit railway cutting. Trains only ran occasionally, about one a day, so it was generally pretty quiet. There was a motel on the opposite side of the cutting. (See picture here - my room was on the left bank)

I lived at Mount Ievers for five years and only left when the place was sold to a developer who promptly demolished it and built a block of flats in its stead. I doubt if they would be allowed to do this these days. Mount Ievers was built in 1890 and was the family home of William Ievers, a prominent early Melbournian. It still belonged to the family when I lived there in the late 1960s. Old Mrs Ievers, who lived in another beautiful mansion a few doors down from Mount Ievers used to sit out in the garden and supervise the gardener. We paid our rent to her grandsons who lived in other grand houses in the Parkville area.

My hut cost me $9.00 a week - rather expensive - considering my weekly income at the time was about $20.00, but well worth it. It was close to Melbourne University and afforded me an independent lifestyle in a beautiful setting.

When I first moved in (1968) most of the back garden residents were elderly, but this changed over the years as more students occupied the vacated units. The social life of the place livened up no end after that, and I remember afternoons of lounging around in the garden with the other young residents, playing cards and drinking wine. They were fun days, full of sunshine and laughter.

mount_ievers_front (Small)

The huts were attractively built and furnished with what today would be antique furniture. I still have a very handsome oak chair I took as a memento from Mount Ievers when I moved out. The backyard residences also had odd features like stained glass windows and decorative pressed tin ceilings. I ended up living in three different places, moving from my original hut to a slightly larger one (it had two rooms), then on to one which had its own shower. That flat was at the very back and looked out on an orchard of quince trees. Ivy was invading the shower space, so it was pleasant showering amid greenery.

mount_ievers_hut (Small) AS Mt Ievers2

My first hut seen through foliage

The second dwelling

I lived there with two cats, Morgan and Tam, and when I was forced to move took them with me. Alas Morgan disappeared shortly after I moved into the new place, then Tam vanished as well.

The five years I spent at Mount Ievers were some of the best of my life. I started my book collection about then, and I remember reading Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier in that first little hut, so Mount Ievers in my memory has a sort of lost domain, Proustian glow. I still dream of it every now and then.

Here’s what I wrote in my diary when I first saw the place.

diary_110568 (Small)

I swear I wrote the bulk of this entry today at work, and only this evening hunted through my old diary for this entry. It's uncanny how the young Anne of the diary echoes the sentiments of the old Anne writing this blog.

As always click for larger images...

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Roumanian Quartet by Paul Park

With one cat or another on lap, I’ve spent the mornings of the past four weekends reading Paul Park’s unusual fantasy tetralogy which comprises A Princess of Roumania (2005), The Tourmaline (2006), The White Tyger (2007) and The Hidden World (2008).

It’s taken me a while to get going on this series of novels, even though I have been collecting each volume as it has been published. I originally read the first volume A Princess of Roumania back in 2005 with enjoyment but with a few reservations. There was something about the writing style that put me off at the time, hard to say what it was. Perhaps the prose struck me as drab in comparison to other authors who are masterful prose stylists. However, the story itself was unusual and the alternate historical setting I thought highly original in concept. Also it had one of the most remarkable literary villains in the character of Baroness Nicola Ceausescu. She steals the show from the heroine Miranda Popescu and is the most interesting character in the novels, psychologically complex, murderously wicked and deceitful - but somehow appealing.

Now that I have all four of the books, I started reading them from the start and found A Princess of Roumania engrossing this time around, and eagerly moving on to the successive volumes, finished the final volume, The Hidden World, last Saturday morning.

As I read on, the story developed, the plot thickened, and it became a gripping, edgy and complex narrative.

There are vengeful ghosts aplenty, animal spirits, demons, shapeshifters, black and white magic and mysterious objects with extraordinary powers. The action passes back and forth between several points of view as a particular character takes centre stage.

There are several other main characters, besides the Baroness and Miranda. Firstly there are Miranda’s two companions, Peter Gross and Andromeda, who have been transformed from adolescent high school students to Pieter de Graz and Sasha Prochenko, reincarnated heroes of an older Roumania. Time and space is fluid in this series and the characters change in strange ways, both personally and physically. Also prominent throughout is the Baroness’ valet Jean Baptiste, Police Chief Luckacz who is torn between his duty to the State and his helpless love for the Baroness, Kevin Markesev the magically created child, a coven of old women magicians, the old Princess, Miranda’s birth mother and a host of secondary characters whose actions affect the plot in unforeseen ways either aiding or impeding the heroine’s progress towards her destiny.

In the alternate Roumania the spirit or hidden world is close to the surface. Magic works and sorcery is used for both good and evil purposes. As in Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials world, each person has an animal spirit, though it is normally not visible and only manifests at death. In the hidden world people are seen through their animal personas, and Miranda is purported to be the White Tyger returned to save Roumania from invasion by Turkey, emulating her ancestress, the original White Tyger Miranda Brancoveanu.

Having read the quartet in its entirety, I can truthfully say that The Roumanian Quartet is a highly original fantasy series and an engaging reading experience, from which you emerge as if from a dark dream, full of colour and the swirling movements of an alternative history that even so has echoes of the contemporary world.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

New Blog - Eye Candy for Bibliophiles

I've started a new blog to show off my private library as the result of an interest expressed by Jeff VanderMeer in seeing its contents.

As Cat Politics is a general, hodge podge sort of blog, I decided to create a new one and dedicate it to displaying my library.

It's now up and running at
Eye Candy for Bibliophiles so check it out.