Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wildlife in the “Burbs”


The above photo is of a blue tongued lizard, sunning itself in our front garden. There appears to be a family of them living under the house – mum, dad and babies. Willy the cat fortunately ignores them, the large ones anyway, but the local wattle birds persistently attack the lizards on sight. 

blue tongue lizard_willy
Willy eyeing off a blue tongued lizard.

We also noticed the other day two delightful little spotted pardelotes stripping bark from the honeysuckle vine for nesting material.

pardelot 006

pardelot 010 Spotted Pardelotes

They are a rare sight in the suburban back garden, the bulk of the avian population being blackbirds, Indian mynahs, wattle birds and pigeons, with the occasional flock of rainbow lorikeets dropping by.

Lorikeet Chick

lorikeets 001_resize 
Adult Lorikeet in plum tree

As you can see from the photo above, the plum tree is looking ragged and chewed. This is due to depredations of possums, both of the brush tailed and ring tailed varieties, who inhabit the garden at night. In the past, the two blood plum trees were laden with fruit during summer. For the past two years, as the possum population has grown, the trees have yielded less than a handful of plums.  The possums eat the blossoms and then get stuck into the new leaf growth, effectively eating themselves out of any future bounty. In other words, they are pests, but protected by law, so you can’t dispose of them.

The brush tail possums are amazingly bold and friendly. They saunter up to you and would even try climbing your leg, if you let them.

Willy the cat won’t tackle them, fortunately – he’d come off worse in a tussle with a brush tailed possum. He’s even running scared of the mynahs and wattle birds who are extraordinarily aggressive birds.

We have new next door neighbours, so Pinto the feisty kitten has gone to live in Castlemaine with her owners and no longer troubles our backyard . However, the new neighbours, who recently emigrated from the UK, have two cats who are due to come out of quarantine tomorrow. They are bengal/burmese cross cats, a male and a female,  so I’m really interested in seeing  them, but Willy is in for a shock.  Hopefully they’ll co-exist in harmony with the local felines.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Songbird – Emmylou Harris At the Palais

Emmylou Harris – live at The Palais Theatre 10/11/12

A full house greeted Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys at the Palais Theatre last night, and they performed a show to treasure and remember for years to come.

Emmylou and band were in spectacular form and generously gave of their talent and time for a solid two hours.

Appropriately enough Emmylou started the show with the song My Songbird, emerging solo, to be joined by the band a few minutes into the song.  There was no doubt, even at that juncture, that we were in for a great show.

She followed that up with a song from her latest record Hard Bargain the stirring Six White Cadillacs, then performed a cover of Orphan Girl a wonderful, early Gillian Welch song which Emmylou Harris included on her 1995 album Wrecking Ball. She sang two another songs from that record later on, Bob Dylan’s Every Grain Of Sand and Julie Miller’s All My Tears.

In all, the band performed 25 songs non stop over two hours, with a mix of ballads and more upbeat country numbers – an exhilarating set list of unusual songs: unusual in the sense that they were not standard fare.

The band was first class as you’d expect and was composed of Ricky Simpkins on mandolin and violin, Will Kimbrough on guitar and mandolin, Chris Donohue on bass (both electric and upright), Phil Madiera on keyboards and accordion and Bryan Owings on drums. Emmylou played an acoustic Gibson guitar.

As I’m feeling bleary after the late night – the concert finished at 10.50pm and it took an hour to get home – I’ll keep this short.

Suffice to say, Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys were a quality act and it was a rare pleasure to see them live in concert. Worth every penny of the ticket price and then some.

I had a good seat in Row D of the Orchestra section, a bit to the side, but excellent for viewing the show. I chanced a few photos at the end  of the show and they’re not perfect, but sort of OK considering the circumstances and heads in the way.

 Set List:
( update: Thanks to Red Dirt Boy for completing the list )

1. My Songbird

2. Six White Cadillacs

3. Orphan Girl (Gillian Welch

4. Making Believe

5. Hello Stranger (The Carter Family)

6. Evangeline

7. Hickory Wind (Gram Parsons)

8. Green Pastures

9. Wheels

10. My Name Is Emmett Till

11. Get Up John

12. Red Dirt Girl

13. Two More Bottles

14. Luxury Liner 

15. Prayer In Open D

16. Darlin’ Kate

17. Every Grain Of Sand (Bob Dylan)

18. All My Tears (Julie Miller)

19. Bright Morning Stars

20. Ship On His Arm

21. The Pearl

22. Together Again

23. Born To Run


  1. Old Five And Dimers Like Me (Billy Joe Shaver)
  2. Pancho And Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)

Friday, November 09, 2012

Another Musical Interlude – Lisa Miller at Basement Discs


What a pleasure it was to see Lisa Miller performing live and close up again. Lisa was launching her new CD Meet The Misses at Basement Discs at lunchtime today, playing a mini concert to an appreciative crowd.

It was great to hear once more such great songs as Safe As Houses, Versions Of You, Hang My Head and Trade among others.

Lisa was accompanied today by ace guitarist Shane O’Mara with Ashley Davies on drums. Lisa played an acoustic guitar. But she hardly needs any accompaniment having one of the best voices in the country, or even the world. Aptly described as “blue eyed and broken hearted” it is the sort of voice that never cloys, is expressive and bitter sweet.

She can do slow burners and rockers, and demonstrated both styles today to great effect.

Meet The Misses is in fact a reprise of songs from her first two records, Quiet Girl With A Credit Card and As Far As Life Goes, to which two recordings she has lost the rights.  So if you have never heard either of those earlier albums, Meet The Misses is well worth acquiring for the great songs and THAT voice.

Speaking of great voices, I am really looking forward to seeing the silver tongued Emmylou Harris live in concert tomorrow night at The Palais in St Kilda.  I have seen her twice before, though not for a long time and she was totally wonderful both times. I’ve got good seats in Row D so hopefully I can snap a sly photo or two.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Who will win the 2012 Melbourne Cup?

As I gaze at the 2012 Melbourne Cup field and ponder the imponderables, I’m still at a loss as to who is the likely winner. Of the 24 horse field only 5 are locally bred, the rest are imports or International contestants here especially for the Cup, and thus hard to gauge.

But first here’s a snippet of Australian racing history – the field for the 1961 Melbourne Cup, scanned from my old scrapbook.

1961_melbourne cup field

Lord Fury won that year 1½ lengths from Grant Print with my old fave Dhaulagiri 4 lengths away third. Look at the prize money, compared to today’s $6 million, a mere £20,000, which I suppose was a fair amount of money in 1961.  The fledgling TAB was operating at this time, having been opened in Victoria in March of that year. I notice that bets accepted for the 1961 Melbourne Cup had to be lodged 10 minutes before the race. A much younger Bart Cummings had a runner in the 1961 Melbourne Cup – three year old colt, Sometime, who looks to have been a handy type. He won the 1963 Caulfield Cup as well as several other prestigious races.

That was then, when the field was predominately Australian and New Zealand horses…

This year it seems the International runners will again take out the Cup. But which one? If Dunaden had not been penalised for his win in the Caulfield Cup he would have been the top pick to take out the Cup a  second time.  Despite his weight he still has a good chance, I think, as does 2010 winner Americain. After all we know they can run the distance. I’ve also got a fancy for Kelinni who made it into the Cup field at the last minute by winning the Lexus Stakes on Saturday and carries a light weight as well as the added bonus of Glen Boss in the saddle. The Cumani runner Mount Athos cannot be overlooked either, despite not racing for two months, and Red Cadeaux who was pipped at the post by Dunaden last year, and meets him with a weight advantage this year, has to be a top contender.

Of the locals Ethiopia looks the one most likely. His run in the Cox Plate was excellent and he is a genuine stayer with the Zabeel factor in his blood lines. Lights of Heaven, Zabeelionaire and Maluckyday were all sired by Zabeel so aren’t without hope. Lights of Heaven is the only mare in the race, so is one for the girls to cheer on.

And of course there is the Bart Cummings factor. Has he got the winner up his sleeve? Take your pick between Precedence and Sanagas.

As usual picking the winner of the Melbourne Cup is virtually impossible. Just hope the stars are in your favour tomorrow and that fortune deigns to  smile on your wagers.

It’s supposed to rain on and off tomorrow, in fact it’s already drizzling in Melbourne today, so the track will probably be on the soft side of dead.

Update Tuesday afternoon

Melbourne Cup Result:
1. Green Moon
2. Fiorente
3. Jakkalberry

Well, I totally overlooked Green Moon in my calculations or dismissed him out of hand after his poor performance in the Cox Plate so it was a real surprise to see him win the Melbourne Cup. Don’t ask how I fared in my flutter on the Cup, none of my fancies came anywhere. Wishing for better luck next year.

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Musical Interlude – Suzannah Espie at Basement Discs

suzannah espie 021112
From l to r – Liz Stringer, Suzannah Espie, Chris Altmann – live at Basement Discs 2/11/12

I’m glad I made it into the city today to catch Suzannah Espie’s performance at Basement Discs. It was a beauty!

Suzannah was promoting her latest CD Sea of Light which was “recorded over three 40 degree days in February 2011, when Liz Stringer, Chris Altmann and a heavily pregnant Suzannah Espie sat around a couple of microphones in Jeff Lang’s shed and played and sang together.”

Liz Stringer and Chris Altmann – very fine artists in their own right - were on stage today with Suzannah and my goodness, they certainly sounded wonderful together. With  Sea of Light Suzannah has outreached herself and gone from strength to strength. The songs are exquisite and have a melancholy stateliness that is quite moving.  And the harmony vocals of Liz, Chris and Suzannah, in unison, are rare and lovely.

You can preview tracks from the album and buy it at Vitamin Records here or support a local record store and purchase it at Basement Discs – they accept mail orders from anywhere in the world.

Next Friday (9th November)  the wonderful Lisa Miller will be in store at Basement Discs showcasing songs from her new CD Meet The Misses, which is actually a reprise of songs from her two first CDs Quiet Girl With A Credit Card and As Far As Life Goes with such great songs as Versions of You, Rule#1 and Wipe The Floor… etc.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Flemington Super Saturday – Victoria Derby

ocean park
Ocean Park wins the Cox Plate

We’re infected with spring carnival fever here at Cat Politics, and are keenly looking forward to more great racing action at Flemington this weekend, though only in front of the TV as opposed to being present at the track.

The feature race is the Victoria Derby a race for three year olds over 2500 metres. The result of this race is often surprising and favourites rarely win. It’s A Dundeel will start as the favourite despite being beaten last week. His breeding indicates that he will run the distance, but he’ll have to be at his best to win. His main opposition comes from Hvasstan, Super Cool, Honorius and Fiveandhalfstar.

Before the Derby however there are several other races of interest. The first of these is the Group Two Wakeful Stakes, for fillies run over 2000 metres. Dear Demi has been most consistent, running a place in her last two starts against smarter fillies Norzita (Flight Stakes) and Commanding Jewel (1000 Guineas) so is due for a win.  Her main danger is Zydeco who ran third in the 1000 Guineas and will appreciate the extra distance having the  Zabeel factor in her favour. Others in with a chance are Transonic,  Tyanna and New Zealand filly Kate.

The first of the four Group One events is the Coolmore Stud Stakes, another race for three year olds over 1200 metres. It has attracted a quality field. My top pick is super filly Snitzerland, though the hyped Nechita will start as favourite. Fire Thunderbolt who fought Snitzerland to the post in the Blue Sapphire has be a top chance, as does Hidden Warrior who I witnessed winning at Moonee Valley last week. Lankan Rupee, Sizzling and Jolie Bay could also feature in the finish.

The Group One Mackinnon Stakes (2000 metres) is the last ditch chance for Melbourne Cup hopefuls to win a place in the field. Ocean Park is backing up in this after his sensational win in the Cox Plate, though he is not Melbourne Cup bound. No doubt he will start as favourite and rightly so.  Pitted against him are six other stayers, principally Alcopop who ran second to him (Ocean Park) in the Caulfield Stakes and also took out second place in the Caulfield Cup behind Dunaden. And don’t forget December Draw whose chances are enhanced when he runs at Flemington, his favourite track.  Zabeelionaire is also in with a chance and could run a place.

The final Group One race for the day is the Myer Classic (1600 metres) for mares. Now that Mosheen has been retired, having sustained an injury in the Tristarc Stakes, Streama can stake her claim to being the best mare racing at present.  She took out the Tristarc Stakes comfortably from Pear Tart and Red Tracer who are both contesting the Myer Classic as well, and will no doubt represent a serious challenge along with Secret Admirer and Oasis Bloom.

As well as the abovementioned races there is also the Lexus Stakes, like the Mackinnon Stakes a chance for unqualified horses like Geelong Cup winner Gatewood to get automatic entry into the Melbourne Cup.  As the last two Melbourne Cup winners Dunaden and Americain also won the Geelong Cup before winning the big one, Gatewood would become a serious Cup contender should he make it to the field, so he has to win the Lexus to be part of it.

Saturday’s Flemington races are the start of a week of racing action, with the Melbourne Cup run on Tuesday, the Oaks on Thursday and the Emirates Stakes on Saturday week.

Update – Saturday night

What a shocking day it was for favourites! The major Group One races all resulted in upset wins by outsiders, one at least being a 50/1 shot.

The Coolmore Stud Stakes was won by Nechita (5/1), with Jolie Bay (8/1) running second and  50/1 long shot, Shamexpress, running third.

Good old Alcopop scored his first Group One win in the Mackinnon Stakes beating Glass Harmonium who ran second. Ocean Park managed to  run third.

The Derby was won by Fiveandahalfstar (21/1) followed by Super Cool (5.9/1) and Rawnaq a 90/1 shot.

And the Myer Classic was taken out by Appearance (50/1) with Soft Sand and Secret Admirer running second and third respectively.

The Melbourne Cup is the next Group One race on the agenda. I’ll post my thoughts on that in the next day or so.