Friday, December 31, 2021

Good Riddance to 2021

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Bingo, still missing, on the prowl 2020

After enduring two years of the covid pandemic and its concomitant restrictions, I’m sure I’m not the only one glad that 2021 is almost over.

Not that anything will really go back to normal, but I am feeling cautiously optimistic for an improvement in life in 2022, despite the rampant Omicron variation that is afflicting the world at present.

What a determined little virus it is!.

Just when we thought it was safe to go back into society, being fully vaccinated and boosted, we feel uneasy once more and I for one continue to be vigilant when out and about and wear a mask.

2021, as years go, was pretty awful with very few uplifting experiences; in fact I can’t think of a single one. No wonder I seem to have grown more cynical this year!

The lowlight was of course the disappearance of our beautiful cat Bingo. We still miss him and feel bereft having no companion animal after numerous decades with cats being part of the household.

Perhaps we’ll acquire a new kitten in 2022, as it is very doubtful that we’ll ever see Bingo again. That’s something to look forward to at least.

I did not read any new books that blew me away with their brilliance or originality, but I did enjoy Neal Stephenson’s take on climate change in his latest novel titled Termination Shock, and Amor Towles ( of a Gentleman In Moscow fame) Lincoln Highway, a sort of road novel set in the 1950s with a cast of interesting characters.

Also read and enjoyed were the new Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land, and Panenka by Ronan Hession, author of the wonderful Leonard and Hungry Paul, my favourite recent comfort read.

The computer game discovery of the year was undoubtedly the Monkey Island series; a great time killer with the just the right amount of levity and absurdity to take one’s mind off the dire state of the world, and keep one’s spirits up.

This New Year’s Eve is a hot 38ÂșC, a sizzling summer day in Melbourne, but the Ivanhoe house being well insulated  is cool inside. As usual we will not be celebrating the New Year in any particular way – staying home and retiring to bed well before midnight.

We went to my brother’s place in Ocean Grove for Christmas lunch – a surfeit of sociability that  left me tired at the end of the day. It was however pleasant to see my niece and nephew again, and note how the great nieces and nephews have grown over the year since I last saw them.

Verry Elleegant winning the 2021 Melbourne Cup

It was disappointing to miss the Melbourne Spring racing carnival, but exciting to watch on my computer. I was suitably thrilled when Verry Elleegant won the Melbourne Cup as I’d had a wager on her of $3.00 each way and she paid generously, winning me $73.50.  I would have loved to have been there and have taken a photo of James McDonald’s extravagant reaction as she crossed the line, but with tickets costing $120.00, I gave it a miss.

Looking forward to 2022 I hope to go back to the track on Australia Day, for the Blue Diamond previews. In the meantime the Magic Millions meetings in Queensland in January are always interesting to watch.

Every year at this time I have expressed a hope that John Crowley’s Little, Big 25th Anniversary edition will finally be published.  This time there is every expectation that the book will be in my hands early next year. I hope I’m not proven wrong again.

Other books I’m looking forward to in 2022 are the new Jennifer Egan novel, The Candy House, a sort of sequel to her wonderful A Visit From the Goon Squad, and a new John Crowley novel called Flint And Mirror, both to be published in April.

I’m also intrigued by the news that G.H. Morris, author of the marvellous Brightside Trilogy that was published way back in the 1980s, has a new novel purportedly called A Brotherhood of the Disarranged being published in 2022.

Though world peace is standing on shaky ground at present with Russia and China rattling sabres, and with the covid pandemic continuing relentlessly to infect mankind, we can only hope that 2022 is an improvement on 2021.

Happy New Year for what it’s worth.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A Zipping Farewell to the Boss at Caulfield

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Glen Boss parades in the mounting yard after riding his last race

For a change it was a warm and sunny day at Caulfield last Saturday and crowds were once again welcomed back trackside – if you were fully vaccinated that is.

As I hadn’t been to the races since All Star Mile Day back in March this year ,and was disappointed to miss the Spring Racing Carnival, I took the opportunity to finally use my Caulfield Casual Membership card and headed off to the Eastern suburbs.

This wasn’t without difficulty as trains from the city to Caulfield were not running due to the Victorian Government major works blitz that affected the Frankston line.

So I had to bus it from the city (or rather Burnley Station) to Caulfield and was obliged to stand the entire trip, which made it doubly tedious.

It probably didn’t take that much longer than usual, but seemed so, but I arrived at Caulfield in plenty of time for Race 2, the Sandown Cup which was my intention. My friend Rebecca was also there, so it was good to catch up with her. We last met on Blue Diamond Stakes day in autumn.

Though the race card was not that interesting there were a few horses I was looking forward to seeing, notably Spanish Mission in the feature race, the Zipping Classic where Glen Boss was set to ride in his last race. This race was later in the day, scheduled for 4.20pm, so there were six races to watch and practice photography on before that event.

It’s rare to see a race at 3200 metres, so I guess you could say it was a treat to watch the Sandown Cup which is run at the Melbourne Cup distance.

The winner, Dragon Storm who raced at the rear of the field, came into contention a short way from the winning post to score a narrow victory over True Marvel  with Sweet Thomas running third.

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Dragon Storm (nose roll) about to draw level with True Marvel

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Dragon Storm on his way to the barriers

Dragon Storm is New Zealand bred, a son of 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Shocking, and started at big odds, his form being nothing to write home about.

Race 3 was the Twilight Glow Stakes, a race over 1400 metres for three year old fillies. 

Lady of Honour led from the start and held on to win  by half a length from fast finishing race favourite Decent Raine. Lavish Girl ran third.

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Lady of Honour burns up the straight

Enthaar, whom I  had last seen running in the Blue Diamond Stakes, started as favourite for Race 4, the Doveton Stakes, a sprint over 1000 metres, and didn’t disappoint winning comfortably over Streetcar Stranger with Yulong Command running third.

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Enthaar on her way to winning the Doveton Stakes

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Enthaar in full flight

It was a bright sunny day which you would think would be good for photos, but I was testing out a new camera  (D5600 Nikon) and hadn’t quite worked out the controls. If I could have found a way to turn on Active D Lighting, my photos, especially facing back towards the winning post may have been better.  But it has always been problematic at Caulfield facing into the sun.

There was a fairly big crowd in attendance, quite like a normal pre Covid race day, but Bec and I had no trouble getting to our preferred fence position for taking photos.

Even the stalls area was accessible though  it had changed quite a bit with new stalls areas making it confusing to find a particular horse. We did however manage to get a photo of Melbourne Cup third placer, Spanish Mission, in his stall.

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Spanish Mission in his stall

Race 5, the Group 3 Summoned Stakes, was up next. Run over 1600 metres, it is a race for mares four years old and upwards.

Steinem  started as favourite and prevailed in the end fighting out the finish with Quantum Mechanic to win by a head. Perfect World was third a length behind.

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Steinem (gold cap) fights out the finish with Quantum Mechanic

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Steinem on her way to the barriers

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Quantum Mechanic on her way to the barriers

By this time there was only one race to run before the feature, and this was the Group 2 Sandown Guineas, run over 1600 metres. I can’t say I’d ever heard of  most of the field, so the win by 20./ shot Blue Army meant little. He won by half a length from Blazerro , another 20./1 shot with race favourite Festival Dancer running third.

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Three horse race – Blue Army, Blazerro & Festival Dancer

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Blue Army  on his way to the barriers

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Blazerro on his way to the barriers

The feature race was heralded by a band and singer and old Zipping, special guest from Living Legends, led the field into the mounting yard. The Zipping Classic (2400 metres) used to be named the Sandown Classic and run at Sandown until this year, the week after the Flemington Spring Carnival and was won by Zipping four years in succession from 2007 to 2010, hence the name change.

Spanish Mission was the hot favourite and Glen Boss was booked to ride him. Everyone was hoping that Glen Boss would go out a winner in this, but it was not to be. Sound, who won this race last year, made it back to back victories, narrowly winning from Dr Drill  and race leader Wentwood.

Spanish Mission failed to fire in the straight and finished fourth.

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Zipping Classic finish – Sound (purple silks) about to overtake Dr Drill

Despite Spanish Mission failing to win, the crowd cheered Glen Boss back to the mounting yard., where he paraded for an enthusiastic audience.

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Glen Boss delighted with the crowd’s acclaim parades in the mounting yard

Glen Boss will always be remembered as the rider of Makybe Diva in her three Melbourne Cup victories, as well as many other notable wins over the 36 years he has been involved in racing.

I left the course shortly after this so missed Glen Boss stripping off and throwing his various garments to the crowd.

Rather than face another bus ride back to the city, I caught  a tram and enjoyed a relaxed scenic trip through St Kilda to Flinders Street.

It was enjoyable being back at the races, and I must admit you do get plenty of badly needed exercise to and froing around the course. I was quite foot sore when I finally got home.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Weird & Wonderful – Treasures of the Natural World

Dodo postcard purchased at  Museum shop

Last Wednesday I took advantage of my fully vaccinated state and headed off to Melbourne Museum to see the current major exhibition Treasures of the Natural World, featuring a very odd collection of objects, both big and small, from London’s Natural History Museum.

This was my second attempt to get to the exhibition as I’d previously booked to attend on September 1st, but as whatever number lockdown came into effect on that date, the Museum was closed to visitors and only recently reopened.

As is the case in the new normal. you had to wear a mask and check in via QR Code to prove vaccination status, as only fully vaxxed persons were permitted in the museum.

I got there an hour before my scheduled exhibition entry time, so killed the hour by cruising through the main museum, naturally checking out Pharlap as I usually do when I go the museum, and watched the newsreel of him winning the 1930 Melbourne Cup yet again.

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Pharlap display – horseshoes, saddle photo etc

As previously mentioned. the Treasures of the Natural World were a bizarre collection of curiosities, ranging from skeletons of extinct beasts such as a Moa and Sabre Tooth Tiger…

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Moa skeleton

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Sabre Tooth Tiger skeleton

…to a Cursed Amethyst and a Black Death flea (which you can’t actually see.

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Cursed amethyst

Bubonic plague flea

Charles Darwin was naturally  featured with several items, a first edition of his Origin of the Species,  a page from his notebooks,  his tortoise and sketches of finches from his journal.

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Origin of the Species First Edition

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Page from Darwin’s notebook

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Darwin’s Tortoise

Finches illustration from Charles Darwin’s Journey

Palaeontology appears to feature quite a few women, notably Mary Anning and Dorothea Bate who unearthed rare fossils in the 18th Century and early 19th Century.

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Mary Anning information display

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Mouse goat skull discovered by Dorothea Bate

There were extinct beasts such as this fish


and a giant crab


I was pleased to see a model of a dodo

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And a reference to the Famous Piltdown Man fraud

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Piltdown Man jawbone

In all it  is a fascinating exhibition if your tastes run to the weird and wonderful.

Various exhibits were accompanied by short films depicting digitally inserted extinct animals in action. For instance there is an impressive film of a Moa stalking through the Museum of Natural History and another of Dodos fighting and socialising.

A final photo is of an ostrich egg purportedly owned by T E Lawrence given to him by Charles Montagu Doughty, English poet, adventurer and explorer.

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Ostrich egg owned by Lawrence of Arabia

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It takes an hour or two to go through the exhibition, depending on how long you linger at the exhibits.

I must admit I enjoyed it quite a bit and highly recommend it  as a curiously interesting and enlightening experience.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Painted Ladies

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Paintings after conservation treatment

Many years ago there used to be an Antiques Shop opposite the Queen Victoria Market in Elizabeth Street that had many beautiful things for sale. After doing my market shopping I was wont to drop in to the shop and browse their wares. The owners of the shop were a mother and son who were lovely people and knew their trade well. They also grew to know my taste in antiques and I rarely resisted buying the objects they tempted me with.

I purchased many items from them over several years, antique glass vases, a Japanese kimono, a mahogany writing box, an embroidered silk scarf to name just a few items I acquired at the time.

This blog entry however relates to my acquisition from the said antiques shop of a pair of small (7” x 5”) portraits painted on cigar box lids.

Initially I had them hanging in the hallway of the Northcote house, but took them down for some reason and stored them away in a cupboard. And there they stayed for decades.

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Paintings in original state before conservation treatment

However, they were never far from my mind as after watching the ABC TV show The Repair Shop, and observing the rejuvenation of various objects brought in to the shop, especially the paintings that had been cleaned and touched up, I wondered if my old paintings could be given the same treatment, as they were dark and yellowed with age and a bit chipped. In my reckoning they are over 100 years old.

A search on Google for ways to clean old oil paintings convinced me that if I attempted such a process I would be sure to stuff it up, especially as the paintings were very old and reportedly can be tricky to clean.

Though the paintings are probably not that valuable, I did a further search on Google to see if there was a painting conservator in Melbourne who could do the work. There are a few, but I settled on Helen Gill who has a studio in Brunswick and by all appearances knew a great deal about the process and had years of experience in conserving old paintings.

Helen had just reopened her studio after the Covid lockdown, so I took the paintings to her and she completed the conservation work in a surprisingly short time. I must say that she did a wonderful job on cleaning the old paintings, and also rehoused them in their original old frames.

Though the cost for this service was quite expensive, I was happy to see my old yellowed paintings restored to their original colours and thought it was money well spent.


Who knows who these young women are, but I suspect they were painted by John Mather, a Scottish born artist who was active in Australia at the same time as the famous Heidelberg School.

The paintings are signed with the initials JM, and by chance some years ago I bought a card that had a painting by John Mather on its front and included a signature that looked remarkably like the signature on my paintings – a stylised JM.

John Mather also was acquainted with Louis Abrahams, – indeed painted a portrait of him - art patron and tobacconist associated with the Heidelberg School, who supplied the artists with the cigar box lids on which they famously painted and displayed in the 9 x 5 Impression Exhibition of  1889. The back of my paintings contain the name of an obscure cigar brand  - Chiamosta - that were manufactured in Dusseldorf.

Whether my speculations are correct will only be solved by having the paintings valued by an expert.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Group 1 Glory –The Cox Plate 2021

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Winx on her way to winning her Fourth Cox Plate in 2018

Alas, despite Melbourne’s extended lockdown finishing today, nothing really goes back to normal, and that includes attending my favourite race meeting.

Yes, the Cox Plate is the feature race at Moonee Valley tomorrow and I’d love to be there to witness Zaaki and Verry Elleegant fighting out the finish, if indeed that scenario plays out.

Whatever the result, it is a Must See race – the small field of nine contenders being most interesting with a number of winning chances outside the two obvious top picks.

Zaaki will start as favourite no doubt, and is probably  the one to beat, this time regaining the services of James MacDonald as his jockey, after his shock loss in the Caulfield Stakes, where he was ridden by Craig Williams.

The Caulfield Stakes (now renamed the Might and Power) was won by wonderful New Zealand mare, Probabeel who is also one of the field in the Cox Plate and if the track stays dry would feature in the finish. However, if the expected rain arrives, and the track is downgraded to slow, that more than likely stymies her chances as she is less effective in soft conditions.

Heavy/slow tracks really play into Verry Elleegant’s favour as she thrives in such conditions.

Mo’unga who beat Verry Elleegant in the Winx Stakes surely is worth consideration being ridden by Hugh Bowman, experienced in the vagaries of the Moonee Valley racecourse after riding Winx to her four victories and Mugatoo in the All Star Mile earlier this year.

There are two three year old colts in the field – Caulfield Guineas quinella Anamoe and Captivant – both light weight chances, and two International contenders in Irish horse State of Rest and well credentialed New Zealander Callsign Mav.

So who will win Group 1 Glory this weekend? I’m leaning towards Zaaki, though would love it if Verry Elleegant or Probabeel wins.


What  a disappointing Cox Plate it was this year.

Zaaki was scratched early in the day and favouritism was shared between Verry Elleegant and Anamoe.

Irish horse State of Rest ended up the winner, fighting out a controversial finish with star three year old Anamoe and surviving a protest. Verry Elleegant tried to her best to catch the leaders and ran third. Mo’unga ran fourth and Probabeel finished fifth.

Friday, October 01, 2021

If Wishes Were Horses

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Winx after winning the 2017 Turnbull Stakes

It now appears that due to the continued infestation of the Delta variant of Covid 19, public attendance at this year’s Spring Racing Carnival will not be permitted.  This is disappointing news, but I can hope for a normal Autumn carnival next year.

I’m particularly aggrieved  at not being able to attend the Cox Plate. I did purchase an early bird ticket to the Cox Plate in the hope that by the time it was run in late October that Covid  would not be still an issue, but I received a phone call from Moonee Valley Racing Club the other day advising that that public attendance was not allowed and that they will refund my outlay on the ticket.

If I could have attended next Saturday’s Turnbull Stakes meeting at Flemington I would have been somewhat mollified at missing the Cox Plate, as the Turnbull Stakes features several horses that I would have liked to see in the flesh.

It looks a great race with star mare Verry Elleegant, whom I have not seen in action since her three year old days, up against potential new star of the turf and current favourite for the Melbourne Cup  Incentivise and 2020 Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet. Verry Elleegant won the Turnbull Stakes last year, and will be out to emulate the great Winx who won the race in consecutive years in 2017 and 2018. She has to beat Incentivise who won the Makybe Diva Stakes and six consecutive races in Queensland prior to that.

I also would have liked to see triple Derby winner Explosive Jack and Golden Eagle winner Colette  who I’ve not seen in action before.

On the up side of lockdown at least the distance one is permitted to travel has been extended to 15 kilometres, so I could go to the Victoria Market yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve travelled on public transport since early August.

I’ve almost forgotten what normal is after nearly two years in lockdown. Who knows what the new normal, when everyone’s vaccinated and borders open, will be like. It’ll be different from the old normal I suspect.

My current killing time reading is the wonderful Gods, Graves, and Scholars: The Story of Archaeology by C W Ceram which I have read a couple of times before and reviewed on this blog back in  2009. For light relief, on my Kindle, I’m reading Domestic Bliss and Other Disasters by Jane Ions, a well written witty contemporary novel. It’s been shortlisted for the 2021 Comedy Women in Print Prize.

As for computer gaming, Monkey Island is still keeping me amused at present.

And alas Bingo remains missing, though never far from our thoughts.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Good News At Last

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Little, Big – 25th Anniversary Edition Dust Jacket
Check out large version on the Little. Big  site

Way back in February 2005 I subscribed to acquire a numbered copy of the 25th Anniversary edition of Little, Big by John Crowley, from Incunabula, a boutique American publisher.

I wrote about it enthusiastically in September 2006 on this blog but to date have yet to receive the book.

Through all the years since I subscribed I have maintained my faith in the project, despite the set backs experienced by the publisher over the 16 years it has been in production.

The good news is that the book will finally be published by the end of this  year. I almost don’t believe it, but the recent revelation of the dust jacket, and latest update on the Little, Big site, convinced me.

It has certainly perked me up in this endless lockdown, while still missing Bingo the cat.

Judging by the dust jacket the final book will be an object of supreme beauty which I am longing to finally receive.

The illustrations throughout are by noted American artist Peter Milton and are astoundingly apposite to the book. Though John Crowley and Peter Milton did not know of each other whilst they were creating their works, it is almost as if unconsciously they were in collaboration all along.

So it has been a long wait, but I feel strangely privileged to have lived through this extensive period – sort of one of a chosen few who subscribed to Little, Big  25 way back when and have followed its progress ever since. And of course, when I finally  have  the book in my hands it will be a rare and precious edition like no other in my possession.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Four Years On

The Ivanhoe residence

Today, 7 September 2021,  is the fourth anniversary of our move to Ivanhoe from Northcote.

In  September 2017, Covid 19 was not around, and little did we know that three years after that move  our world would change to a new grim dystopian reality of lockdowns, curfews and mandatory mask wearing.

Like everyone else I am heartily sick of lockdowns. I have not been anywhere interesting for months and hardly dare book for any event that might relieve the tedium of life under restricting Covid 19 conditions in case it’s cancelled.

Added to the that, the mystery of Bingo’s disappearance just makes life more depressing and sad.

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It is now 20 days since Bingo went missing and even though I am coming to accept that we may never see him again, the memories of his droll presence still take one unawares quite often and cause the heart to catch.

In the photo above he is playing with his favourite toy, a ratty old catmint cushion that he loved to retrieve when you hurled it up the hall.

His absence has left a huge vacancy in our lives that can only be filled with a new cat of Bingo’s calibre.

Covid 19 restrictions of course stymie any idea of acquiring a new feline companion, if we could find one that is.

Despite being fully vaccinated I have yet to experience (other than not catching the virus) any benefits for being so.

It was with a slight lift to my spirits that I read that vaccinated people  may be able to go to  public events in the near future. Hopefully that includes getting back to the races for some of the Spring Racing Carnival.

God knows I need a distraction as I find myself unenthused by most of the things I used to enjoy spending time on, such as reading books and playing computer games.

The only books I really enjoyed recently were two rereads of Michael Chabon novels Telegraph Avenue and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and entirely due to the quality of Michael Chabon’s dazzling prose.

After Bingo’s disappearance the only computer games I felt like playing were the Monkey Island series, simply because of their humour,  light-heartedness and absurdity.

Even though I have got used to living in Ivanhoe, this fourth anniversary finds me sad and dissatisfied.

No doubt if Bingo was still around I would be feeling more cheerful and optimistic.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Desolate & Downhearted

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I’m glad that I snapped several good photos of Bingo recently, because it is very doubtful at present whether I will have another opportunity to capture his beauty again on camera.

Bingo has been missing since the early morning of Wednesday 18 August, and despite all our efforts to find him, he remains lost to us.

We are heartbroken and torn between hope and despair –hoping to see him walk through the door, and trying to accept that he’s gone for good.

Tuesday night all was normal, Bingo sleeping on the bed with us as was his wont. He got up at around 2.30 am and we knew something wasn't right when he failed to to turn up for his breakfast. He always started hassling B at 6.30 am to get up and feed him. We were not overly alarmed at this stage as he occasionally became obsessed with something that caught his fancy in his cat world and would be home soon after.

We searched everywhere on Wednesday, multiple times over the day and in the evening. Calling his name and rattling a container of dried cat food would normally catch his attention and cause him to emerge from where he was lurking or communicate vocally, which to a Siamese cat is second nature. However, not a peep did we hear in all our perambulations through the streets of Ivanhoe.

So we are left wondering what disaster befell Bingo between the hours of 2.30 am to 6.30 am on that Wednesday morning.

Was he stolen?

With Melbourne currently being in hard lock down, very few people would have been abroad  so early in the day with dawn currently occurring around 6.30 am, so it is unlikely that he was catnapped. Besides, Bingo was very shy of strangers, even if they were visitors to the house, so he would have been hard to catch and would not willingly have entered a cage.

That he was trapped in a garage or shed seemed the most likely explanation of his non appearance, but the Lost Cat posters placed in all the nearby streets have failed to register a response from neighbours.

He’s registered as missing in all the usual places – vets, council, cat protection society and several Lost Cat Facebook pages. We’ve done everything we can to locate him, but as the  days roll by we’re losing hope of ever finding him alive or ascertaining his whereabouts and state of health.

Bingo was (hopefully is) a remarkable cat, and it’s only now that he’s gone that I realise what a big part of our lives he was. Every room in the house brings some reminder or expectation of seeing him – the cat toy abandoned in the hallway, the paw prints on the kitchen bench, the habit of closing doors in the house to reduce the places where he can drag his prey to kill,  or get up to mischief.

He took an interest in everything we did and loved his home comforts of food and warmth and laps to sit on.

I am certain that if he could have got home, he would have come home. He knew where he lived, no matter how far he roamed.

He was our sunshine. Without him, the world is a sadder place.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021


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Bingo – photographed today

I’ve been awfully slack on the blogging front, but truth to tell, there has not been much to write about.

With Covid 19 still being a big factor in our lives, there is limited opportunity to do something different or go on outings that do not involve shopping for provisions.

It being winter, a surprisingly mild one at that, the horse racing is not that interesting, but there’s not long to wait for the Spring racing season to start. Of  course Covid restrictions may stymie actual attendance, but hopefully I will get to witness the big races of the Spring Carnival.

I’m looking forward to finally being fully vaccinated in 10 days, which will ease some of the anxiety attendant on any kind of outing, as has been the case over the last year and a half.

The photo above is of Bingo who is thankfully in good health this year, after giving us a scare the last two winters by losing his appetite in early July of both years.

There’s nothing wrong with his appetite this year – he is ravenous – so we worry about him becoming overweight instead.

On the time killing front, I’ve not been doing much mostly replaying the Monkey Island games and reading the odd book. I’m mostly uninspired by the new literature available at present, but have recently enjoyed Ronan Hession’s (of Leonard and Hungry Paul fame) new novel Panenka, which I thought quite as good and as heart warming as the earlier novel. Ronan Hession is a brilliant writer that I’m delighted to have discovered.

Once fully vaccinated I intend to go and soak up some culture, by attending the French Impressionists Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Treasures of the Natural World at Melbourne Museum.

In the meantime I will continue my winter hibernation.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Insult Sword Fighting and other fun stuff

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Secret of Monkey Island promo image

The title of this post refers to the computer games I have been playing over the past few months, a hallowed series of point and click adventure games titled Monkey Island.

The first game, The Secret of Monkey Island was released way back in 1990, and its sequels came out through the 1990s, the golden age of Adventure Games.

For some reason I never played these games back then, and if I had attempted them I probably wouldn’t have finished them as they are quite hard to fathom and complicated, requiring a great deal of lateral thinking to make progress.

However, after recently  playing and enjoying A Vampyre Story, I looked around for other games produced by Lucas Arts or its personnel, and found that the Monkey Island series was highly recommended by its fans, and had a cult following.

As GOG (Good Old Games) had the games at a reasonable price I downloaded the first two games – The Secret of Monkey Island and Le Chuck’s Revenge.

They  follow the mis/adventures of the humorously named Guybrush Threepwood and are great fun to play. Production standards are high, replete with witty dialogue and likeable characters. They’re kind of irreverent and absurdist, the hero being an inept pirate roving the seas of a fictional Caribbean, generally trying to save his love Elaine from the clutches of the evil (and dead) pirate Le Chuck. Though Elaine is no faint hearted heroine, oft times saving herself before Guybrush can stuff it up.

Insult sword fighting

Perhaps Monkey Island’s most absurd in game action is insult sword fighting. Whenever Guybrush has to draw his cutlass against an opponent, victory is decided not by sword thrusts but by who can deliver the most stinging insult.. Guybrush collects an arsenal of barbs that he can use to trash-talk his enemies into surrender. (“You fight like a dairy farmer”; “How appropriate – you fight like a cow!”) There’s also insult arm wrestling and other crazy contests such as a spitting competition and a face off where the combatants must contort their faces in original ways to win.


I’m currently playing the last game in the series, Tales of Monkey Island after completing the four previous games – which along with the aforementioned, include The Curse of Monkey Island and Escape From Monkey Island. I’ve grown addicted to the world of Monkey Island and will be sorry to finish the series having thoroughly enjoyed spending my idle time in Guybrush Threepwood’s absurd version of the Caribbean Islands.