NaNoWriMo Winner!

Woo hoo!!

So for the past 29 days, I have been busily bashing away at my keyboard, bringing this story to life. I’ll admit to rebelling a little (I wrote about 3,000 words for part 2 of the story, but since it’s sort of the same thing, I guess it doesn’t really matter). It’s quite an odd feeling, really, having written 50,255 words in the last 29 days. Because when you think about it, that is a lot of words. It is also a lot of listening to music on YouTube (and a bit of Chris Evans on Radio 2).

Time to let my Inner Editor loose, and get editing!

Queenstown – October 22

My first full day in Queenstown and it was a big one. The clouds had cleared and the sun was shining, so this morning I got my first proper look around, and to see Queenstown as it really is, with all the mountains and the Remarkables and everything else. It is properly beautiful.

So what’s the first thing one does when in Queenstown? How about a jet-boat ride? Yep! So after getting very wet and cold out on the lake I went and had early lunch/very late breakfast at Fergbakery, and got myself one of their fabulous pork and apple pies. My goodness are those pies something!  Then I headed up to the cable cars, up the hill, and had two rides on the luge – fantastic fun and highly recommended. After a rather adrenaline filled morning, I decided I needed more – this time heading up Bowen’s Point. I didn’t make it all the way up, but the views from where I ended up were spectacular. Once I got back down into Queenstown, I went for another ride out on the lake, this time on the Million Dollar Cruise, much more relaxing than the jet-boating, and a different sort of fun. Then I had a massive serving of Indian takeaway for dinner. After a bit of a relax back in my apartment, I headed back to the cable cars and up the hill for a session of dark sky star gazing. I hadn’t done this before (this day was rather full of things I hadn’t done before!), and it was amazing. I unfortunately can’t remember the name of our guide, but she was from Ireland, and the tour was supposed to go for an hour, but she spoke for nearly two, and it was just fantastic. I’m very glad I did this early in my stay in Queenstown, as it was the only clear night I was there. A highly recommended activity, and, once you get back inside, they give you a complementary hot chocolate – much needed after standing out in the cold night for two hours (Canadian goose-down coats are provided, but it still gets cold!). Then I caught a cab home from Skyline because I couldn’t be bothered walking – plus it was well after 11pm, and I had to be up at 6 the next morning.

A very high-adrenaline day, that’s for sure.

Christchurch – October 19

Finally, a bit of a lazier day, I was not up at the crack of dawn to go touring, but was able to sleep in. I didn’t leave the hotel (Ibis) until well after 9, when I went to find some breakfast. I ended up at the excellent Hummingbird Cafe in the Re:Start Mall, which was just one block away from where I was staying. I had a delicious bacon, egg and tomato toasted sandwich, and, it being such a glorious morning, ate outside. The Re:Start Mall is made up of shipping crates converted into shops, so after I finished eating, I had a look around there, as well as at the Saturday Market in the street, and then to the other Saturday Market in Gloucester Boulevard. After that, I went to the Canterbury Museum, on the outskirts of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Then I went punting along the River Avon, something I’ve not done before, but it was wonderfully fun and relaxing, especially as there the River winds through the Botanic Gardens. Then it was time for lunch, which I ate at the cafe on the River, then went for a stroll through the beautiful Botanic Gardens. After that, I went for a walk through Christchurch itself, but one can really only do that for so long, as it is quite depressing. Almost everything is either boarded up, fenced up, covered in scaffolding or shipping crates or is simply gone. It looks a lot like Europe did after WWII. But it is obvious that the people of Christchurch are trying to move on, so it’s sort of positive, but it’s still a bit depressing. Despite that, definitely worth the visit.

A quick note on Christchurch and the destruction: Christchurch is more or less divided east and west by the River Avon. Everything on the east of the river is reclaimed swampland, whereas the west is solid ground. When the earthquake hit a couple of years ago, the east, reclaimed land pretty much just fell apart, whereas the west shook and rumbled a little, but it pretty much entirely safe and intact. So half of Christchurch looks completely normal. The other half is a demolition zone.

The Australian Ballet Season 2014 Launch

The Australian Ballet have launched their Season 2014, and I must admit, I’m pretty impressed. I’m sure I’ll have my subscription renewed for next year before I see La Sylphide on Friday night (not to mention Cinderella in a few weeks)! There are a couple of things lined up that I have seen before, but I am actually quite excited to be seeing them again.

Season 2014:
Something old: Manon
Something new: Stanton Welch’s La Bayadere
Something Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
Something with two: Ballet Imperial and Suite en blanc double bill

The 2014 Season will begin with Sir Kenneth MacMillon’s Manon, which was the first ballet I ever saw. I would not recommend Manon for ballet-beginners, as it is quite a case of jumping in the deep end and discovering you’re not sure if you can swim, but I did enjoy it when I saw it (five years ago now! Blimey time flies!) despite not having the foggiest as to what was going on in either the storyline (cue constant consultations with the programme) or the dancing. I am happy to say that now I am a much more seasoned ballet attendee, as well as having nearly four years of ballet classes up my sleeve, when I see Manon early next year, I’ll actually ‘get’ it! This is the same production of Manon as used by the Royal Ballet and a number of other companies, and it is stunning. I have been hanging out for the Australian Ballet to put it on again, and now my ‘first’ ballet will also become my ‘first production second’ (vis: first ballet that I see the same production of a second time).

There will then by a classical double bill consisting of George Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial and Serge Lifar’s Suite en blanc. I saw Suite en blanc in the Australian Ballet’s 2009 Season in a double bill alongside Divergence, and I remember it as being very pretty. That was actually the second ballet I saw after Manon, so it’s quite a coincendence that it will be my ‘second production second’ ballet. I haven’t seen Ballet Imperial, but from the few seconds from it in the preview video, it looks like it will be a fantastic showpiece. And I love a good tutu showpiece.

Chroma is a contemporary production. I’m not sure that this will be included in my subscription package, and, if not, I can’t admit to be particularly worried about missing it. There will also be Bodytorque: DNA in Melbourne, the first time the Bodytorque series has been brought to Melbourne. Again, I’m not that interested, but each to their own.

Season 2014 also includes the Australian premiere of Stanton Welch’s La Bayadere. I’ve not seen this ballet either, and am looking forward to it. It has sumptuous production design and looks great in the video, so it should be good.

Finally, back by popular demand is Sir Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker. This will actually be the third time I’ve seen The Nutcracker, the second time with this production, and once at the Royal Ballet in London. This production is the version that Sir Peter did for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and it differs in design and slightly in choreography to the Royal Ballet (Covent Garden) version. When I saw The Nutcracker with the Australian Ballet it was good, but nothing overly special (and unfortuneately the first act was ruined for me by the small child sitting next to me whole spoke through the WHOLE thing, and her mother would reply to everything she said, then say ‘shhh’. I could have strangled them both). However, Lana Jones was just so amazing as the Rose Fairy in the Act II Waltz of the Flowers (she received a larger applause at the end of the show than either Clara or the Sugar Plum Fairy), that she managed to redeem the show for me. The Nutcracker with the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden, however, is the best ballet I have ever seen, and I have never experienced anything like the electricity in the Royal Opera House during the Act II Pas de deux.  I love the Tchaikovsky score, I love the magic and the Chirstmasness (though this will probably be in Melbourne in September) and this whole ballet in general. So I really hope this will be good.

Good things are coming for the Australian Ballet’s Season 2014.

The Cricket Masters Over 70’s Ashes

The captains Hugh Milner and Gordon Ives hold the urn - actual ashes not included

(Start at 28:40)

This could be just another feel-good story about old blokes out playing sport and having a good old time representing their respective countries in a match of cricket between (friendly) rivals Australia and England. And it is. However, it’s a lot more than that, because one of those fantastic old blokes was my sport teacher at school in Years 7 and 8. Mr Dunn has been teaching at my school forever (he was teaching there when my mum was there back in the late ’70’s/early ’80’s), and he still teaches sport today, as well as representing the country in cricket. Mr Dunn’s wife Pam is interviewed in the video (nor the picture above), and while old Dunners himself isn’t, he does feature in a few clips; he’s a skinny bloke with a beard and a full head of hair.

Mr Dunn is a proper legend (even one of the houses at my school is named after him (all the rest are after old nuns and bishops!)). The Aussie Masters Cricket Team may have lost their ‘Ashes’ tour, but so did our ‘proper’ First XI, so it doesn’t matter. Good on you, chaps, battling the old enemy.

Liverpool FC vs Melbourne Victory


Before anyone gets excited, no, I am not at this game. I am merely watching it on TV, although, now that I see it, it would be rather brilliant to be there. This match is a friendly between the famous Liverpool FC and the not-so-famous Melbourne Victory, which is one of the top teams in the A League (Australia’s Premiere Football/Soccer League). The game is being played at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground – home of the Boxing Day Test match and main stadium for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and, back in the day, when it looked entirely different, the 1954 Olympics, not to mention AFL). The MCG holds 100,000 (official number: 95,446) people and it is FULL, and by all reports, it’s 100,000 Liverpool fans.

That’s one of the strange things about Australians, or perhaps just my household: we don’t follow the A League, and only ever see the highlights of the British/European leagues, but put Liverpool in Melbourne, against the Melbourne team, and my goodness, we will support Liverpool the whole way!!

The reason I’d most like to be at the game is for the atmosphere. The crowd is SO loud, and singing and chanting: Australian sport crowds just don’t do that! But the atmosphere, especially in the dying minutes was just phenomenal.

Also interesting to see British ads at the MCG (for Standard Chartered and Continental).

Final score: Liverpool 2:0 Melbourne Victory. In the last seconds MV scored an own goal. Duds.

Photo from LFC Twitter.

Roast fishcakes with smokey bacon (and orange mash)


This is one of the many recipes from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain cookbook that I absolutely love. These fishcakes look so fancy and restaurant-esq, but, despite having a number of steps, are quite easy to make. And the results are most impressive.

I made a couple of adjustments to the recipe, mostly using a fresh chilli instead of dried, and using a tin of smoked salmon, rather than fresh. I served these fishcakes with the Creamy Leek Gratin, also from Mr Oliver’s Great Britain cookbook, some boiling broccoli and orange mash (sweet potato and carrot, peeled, chopped and boiled until soft. Drained. Knob of butter, good pinch of salt and pepper. Bit of nutmeg. Mash. Serve).

I’ve not transcribed this recipe, partly because it’s very long, partly because I highly recommend buying this cookbook, and it defeats the purpose if every recipe can be found online!


Prom 10 – Mozart, Schumann and Rachmaninov

Prom 10 was conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano with the Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome. It was the first time this season that I think we’ve had encores (one at the end of the first act, and another at the end of the show). I thought this Prom was good, but not as good as others. Nothing wrong with the playing or anything, it just didn’t do it for me on the whole the way other Proms have, like the Gospel Prom or Prom 9.

Prom 10 started with Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D major, K385, ‘Haffner’, which was stated before it started as being Mozart’s “happiest symphony”. I’m not really the biggest Mozart fan, but I did like this piece, and it was very happy indeed. I find music like this symphony to be very easy to listen to, and great to have playing while doing other things. It was just very nice.
Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but was this the first Mozart for the 2013 Proms Season? I think it might have been.

Jan Lisiecki

Following the Mozart was Robert Schumann’s Concerto for Piano in A minor. I’ve said before that I’m not the biggest fan of piano concertos, and this didn’t change my standing on that front. It was very pretty and well played by soloist Jan Lisiecki, but I’m a bit, well, take it or leave it. It’s the sort of piece that would be nice to have playing while you go off to sleep. The crowd, however, sounded as though they loved it, and received an encore of Fredric Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor. Again, lovely, but more ‘going off to sleep’ type music.

After interval was Sergei Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor. I have heard this symphony before, and it is good, it’s just not my favourite piece by Rachmaninov, or maybe it was lacking something in this performance? I don’t know. Anyway, it was good. This piece also received an encore, this time it was Amilcare Ponchielli’s La Danza Delle Ore (finale), which is really bouncy and fun.

Creamy leek gratin

Creamy leek gratin, from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain cookbook, is probably my favourite side dish ever. I add an onion for a bit of extra bulk. It’s just so delicious. It’s so, so good, and goes with anything and everything. I don’t know what else to put here. Make this recipe.


Serves 4-5 as a side.

2 rashes bacon
Olive oil
Bay leaf
350g (approx 2 large) large leeks, washed, top-and-tailed, out leaves peeled
1 onion
Salt and pepper
250ml chicken stock
5 tablespoons single cream
50g Caerphilly, Cheddar or other delicious cheese, crumbled
3 slices bread, crusts removed
1 clove garlic
Thyme leaves (fresh or dried)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 8. Finely dice the bacon, add to a pot on a medium heat with the olive oil and a bay leaf. Cook until golden. While the bacon is cooking, wash and chop the leeks into 2cm slices. Roughly chop the onion. Add the leeks and onion into the pan with the bacon, along with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock and cream. Give it a good stir and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes with the lid off.

While the leek mix is simmering, place the bread, garlic clove and thyme leaves (fresh or dried, whatever you’ve got) into a food processor and wiz them up. Crumble the cheese.

Once the leek mix has been simmering for the ten minutes, add about two thirds of the cheese and give it a stir. If the pot you’ve used on the cooktop isn’t oven-appropriate, decant the leek mix into an oven-safe dish. Pour the breadcrumbs on top of the leek mix, and top with the rest of the cheese.


Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until bubbling, golden and delicious.

Camp NaNoWriMo Week 2 Round-up

Well, we’ve made it to the half way mark! I’m quite happy with my 11,247 words: I’m keeping to my planning 5,000 words per week challenge that I set for myself, so that’s something. Interestingly, tonight my story was hijacked by two characters who decided they wanted a scene written with their POV and in which none of my four main characters feature! Oh well, it was nice to write and explore some of the secondary characters further.

One of the main aspects of Camp NaNoWriMo which differentiates if from regular November NaNo is that participants are placed into “Cabins”, or private discussion boards, with just you and seven others. Some cabins can be very successful, with all members activity chatting with each other and meeting daily word counts. Though there is a little chat in my cabin, we have one member who was rather pushy about meeting the daily word expectations, and was always going on about she was the one ‘carrying’ the cabin. Thankfully, one of the other members told her to stop this, as it was putting people off, and she since has.

I am enjoying my story, the ability to escape into this world which I have created, and the ability to further flesh out this world with every scene I write.