Beautiful enough for me

June 18, 2018

It’s June so it’s time for the film festival.

I bought a 10-ticket flexipass and then for one reason or another let the long weekend pass without selecting any films.  D wasn’t especially in the mood and, maybe it’s my age, but rather a lot of the films which take my fancy seem to be scheduled earlier than our weekend (or weekday, for that matter) lie-ins allow.

I especially like to get to the State Theatre.  On Wednesday night we managed it, seeing The Kindergarten Teacher.  The titular teacher becomes fixated on one of her charges whose poetical utterances, passed off as hers at the poetry class she attends, are more warmly received than her own efforts.  Think Ern Malley meets Wordsworth:  clouds of glory  coming up against shades of the prison house.  You keep wondering about her obsession – how can this end?  surely not well.  You are spared the worst with a poignant final line that still resonates.

This is a New York remake of an Israeli film. I was surprised, when I saw some trailers for the Israeli original, how faithful the remake was.  I enjoyed it and (spoiler alert) it turned out to be D’s favourite.

On Thursday D caught a documentary about a Chinese woman venturing into Parisian haute couture and on Friday night we saw a Turkish film Butterflies.  These were both at the multiplex Event cinemas on George St.  It is not a particularly empathetic venue for a film festival.

Back on Saturday night to the State for The Wild Pear Tree, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and set in Çanakkale – when one character refers to “our heroes” he means the soldiers  who beat the ANZACs and the rest of the British expeditionary force at Gallipoli.  At about 3 hours this was far too loooooooong for D.  I, too, found the lengthy discussions in a foreign language a bit taxing – it’s a wordy film.  Still, it was beautiful and the elements rather than just the wordiness came together at the end in the way often happens in long works, in part I always suspect because by then you have so much invested in them.

People linger in the State Theatre.  It’s partly the festival atmosphere but more it’s the decor.  On both nights we were there for the last film of the day, and the staff had to push people out the door at the end.  “Good night, sir” said the more senior usher as I dawdled up an aisle, which was a polite way of going about it.

I still had 3 tickets to use so despite the beautiful sunny Sunday took the train and bus to Cremorne at 1pm to see a Polish film, Cold War at the Hayden Orpheum.  This was definitely arty – in black and white and in an old-fashioned film size. It’s about 2 lovers who first meet when the man (a pianist) recruits the woman (a singer and dancer) for a state-sponsored folk ensemble brought into being as part of the new people’s democracy after the war.

D refused to come because he suspected it would be anti-Communist.  He’s very loyal to Chairman Mao.

Cold War  had some terrific music – especially, for my money, the recreated folk-song collection sequences at the start and the (in the film rather derided) performances by the folkloric ensemble.  Taking soup in a nearby cafe afterwards I overheard an older group (this is Cremorne on Sunday afternoon) discussing the film.  As ever, it seems practitioners are impatient of cinematic recreations of the artistic process.  One half of what I took to be a gay couple was particularly critical, though surely he spoke with authority as he prefaced an opinion with: “When I was performing in the Netherlands…”

D drove over later for a 4pm session of 3 Faces, an Iranian film directed by Jafar Panahi who also plays himself, as does the lead actress, Behnaz Jafari.

The Orpheum cannot match the State but it still makes a pretty good heritage effort with what it’s got and they too make a bit of an effort with retro staff uniforms.

The title to this post comes from one of the kindergarten child’s poems.  The first two lines are:

Anna is beautiful,
Beautiful enough for me.

Delightful Breasts

May 24, 2018

Today to a matinee [11.30!] performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music of Poulenc’s opera Les Mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tiresias).

The Tiresias of the title is Therese who, tiring of the role of submissive wife, loses her breasts and becomes a man, Tiresias. (That’s a nod to Greek mythology – the original T was a man who was punished for annoying Hera by spending 7 years as a woman.) She leads her fellow women on a sex strike and her husband takes on the woman’s role and bears more than 40,000 babies in one day. At the end Tir reverts to Ther and the couple reconcile and urge the people of France to regenerate/repopulate after the ravages of war. It is a surreal piece, based on a play by Apollinaire. There are a few sub-plots I have left out in this summary.

Stephen Mould conducted a student cast and orchestra. Kate Gaul directed.

I went out of curiosity because it was a rarity. I wasn’t sure what to expect at all though probably something a bit astringent. In fact the music was a confection reminiscent most of all of Offenbach (other French composers up to Ravel were also in there) – pastiche enhanced by Poulenc’s melodic flair. I can’t say I took the story too seriously: instead I relished the music, especially the lush orchestra – a particular luxury at the ticket price of $40.

Sure, it’s a student performance and some allowances had to be made for that – more for the vocalists than the orchestra. But the standard remained creditable and always enjoyable. In their different ways, I particularly admired Gavin Brown (a big sing as the husband and brilliant stage movement) and Haotian Qi (eloquent prologue).

Originally advertised as running for an hour and a half with an interval, the interval has been dropped (wisely) and it runs for just under an hour. There is one more performance, on Saturday afternoon.

It really was a delicious treat.


May 22, 2018

On Saturday to hear the SSO conducted by John Wilson with piano soloist Lukáš Vondráček at the SOH.

The program was:

Bach arr Elgar: Fantasia & Fugue in C minor, BWV 537
Prokofiev 3 (piano concerto, that is)
Elgar 2 (symphony).

The foyer seemed strangely underpopulated as I foregathered there with the Dulwich Hill gang.

That was the first thing that was odd about the evening, and it carried forward into the concert hall which disclosed a similarly thin attendance.  Where was everyone?  It was the patchiest Saturday night attendance at a Masters series I have seen for years.

The next odd thing was the Bach arr Elgar.  Others of the gang liked it whilst describing it as “a hoot.”  Of course it is a great work.  The Bach original is an organ piece and I suppose if you imagined a big rendition on a big fat organ (eg, the Sydney Town Hall or any similar English municipal instrument of the period) then an orchestration of that might just sound like this.  It felt like band  music for orchestra. If it seemed a bit of a muddle when things got busy that could have been the ungainly instrumentation and the acoustic conspiring together.

The Prokofiev was exciting and taken at a brisk pace from the outset.  V. is a big young fellow with bear-like hands (ie, not one of those long-spindly-fingered pianists).  You’d think he would power through anything but my one reservation about the performance was that the orchestra, when loud, was a bit too loud.  I enjoyed it. Some gave Vondráček a standing ovation (well, some people stood).  He played Brahms Op 118 No 2 as an encore.

Lx, one of the Dulwich Hill gang, to whose opinion I should always defer as he was my Year 9 English teacher and when I was in Year 12 gave me his castoff complete World Record Club set of the Solti Ring, is a fan of the Elgar symphonies.  In its honour he had already heard the program once and thought highly of it, even from the cheap seats.  R, another DH gangster, owed his allegiance to Elgar to an introduction by Lx. By contrast, another friend confided (a confidence now broken, I suppose, to an extent – let’s call him “X”) that it was a bit of a curate’s egg for him.

I was expecting to enjoy it but when it started I realised I had been thinking more of Symphony No 1.

It is possible this cast a shadow over my appreciation, but I found myself siding rather with X on this occasion.  I liked bits of it, and especially the slow movement and very especially the ending of that movement.  Even so, I was bemused by the oboist noodling along practising a bit of the Bach arrangement at one point.  – That’s not what the oboist is really doing, as resort to recordings when I got home established, but it seemed like it at the time.  For my taste on the night there was just too much going on a lot of the time – either too many people playing or too much figural decoration – at one stage half the first violins were doing something rather complicated but though I could see them fiddling away I couldn’t really hear it.

When I told Lx this afterwards he brushed my view aside by reference to Joseph II’s alleged remark to Mozart about “too many notes.”

The symphony sounded a lot better when I listened to bits of it on the internet when I got home, which is food for thought.

Outside, there were signs of preparations for the impending Vivid festival.  “Have we already had peak Vivid?” asked one of the gang, jaded sophisticate that he is.

Speculation returned amongst our group to the reason for the thin attendance.  We couldn’t think of a Jewish holiday.  The program seemed excellent, unless those who liked Prokofiev hated Elgar and vice versa.  Depressingly, the best explanation we could find is that everyone was at home (or out – could Sir Frank have been invited back to Windsor?) watching the Sussex wedding.

Chez Schumann

May 19, 2018

On Saturday with P to UNSW to hear the Australia Ensemble in its last concert before the traditional mid-year break.

The program was originally advertised as:

Natalie WILLIAMS | New work (Letters to Clara) – first performance (2018)
Clara SCHUMANN | Piano Trio in G minor Op. 17 (1846)
György KURTÁG | Hommage à (Robert) Schumann Op. 15b (1990)
Robert SCHUMANN | Piano Quintet Op. 44 in E flat major (1842)

On the night the Kurtag was replaced by Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen, Op.132 (1853), written, like the Kurtag, for the Mozart “Kegelstadt” combination of piano, viola and clarinet. That came first.

P was a bit pessimistic. By an opus number as late as this, she declared, Schumann’s inspiration was flagging.  That is the conventional view but I found the Märchenerzählungen better than that.  I liked the odd-numbered ones – quirky and dreamy romanticism respectively, more than the Rumpelstiltstkinish mood of Nos 2 and 4 which showed Schumann off in what I think of more as his boots-and-potatoes mode of rustic folkishness.

Natalie Williams’ piece  was a tribute to Clara and was threaded with all sorts of musical allusions.  This is a crowded field because Robert and Clara and their circle did rather a lot of this person-referring musical intertextuality themselves.  Inevitably Robert’s theme which is the subject of Brahms’s variations Op 20 got a Guernsey as well as Clara’s theme quoted there as a tribute to a reference by Robert.

Brahms-Schumann snippet

The mode of homage was relatively direct, so that most of the time we were in the same harmonic world as the source material.  At times it sounded  a bit like theme music for a Jane Austen television adaptation. The instrumentation and how it was treated had something to do with that.

The piece was better than that and I hope there will be a chance to hear it again if the concert is broadcast.  (Microphones were present but it is now impossible to tell from the ABC website when anything is going to crop up in the future.)

Had the Kurtag remained on the program we would have been able to compare Williams’ piece with one where the mode of homage was considerably more indirect – not to say probably totally cryptic to the mere listener.

I’ve heard the Clara a few times before – it gets broadcast airings quite frequently.  It’s always being talked up and yes, it is not a negligible work, but it is more Mendelssohnian than (Robert) Schumannesque.

That really became obvious in the second half with the Schumann Quintet.  Would a lady have even permitted herself so muscular an opening?

The quintet felt so familiar that I was surprised to see that the Australia Ensemble last performed it in 2010. I have since  realised I’d heard the Goldner Quartet part of the AE play it more than once in the Sydney Piano Competition in 2016.

Some of the audience stood to applaud at the end and P then wished she had.

Last Saturday was the second or third day of a cold snap in Sydney (and south eastern Australia generally). I don’t know if that was why the John Clancy Auditorium was unusually cold.  Most of the audience kept on their overcoats, scarves and even, in a few cases, gloves.


Internecine shenanigans

April 30, 2018

When judgments are published on the internet, they are published with a section, supposedly for indexing purposes, called “catchwords.”  The cognoscenti have been having a bit of a chuckle over the catchwords to Gladys Hargraves v Susan Eveston [2018] NSWSC 505, a judgment by Justice Hamill:

CIVIL LAW – unpleasant litigation – contract dispute – loans from mother to daughter – internecine family dispute – where loans formalised by deeds – whether terms of deeds varied by subsequent conversation between parties – dispute as to whether conversation occurred – where neither party presents as a witness of credit – financial shenanigans – palpable personal animosity – dark looks across the public gallery – tsk-tsking – objectively established chronology – not satisfied conversation occurred.

The case was about a loan for $1.7 million from Gladys to Susan.  There was a written agreement documenting this loan. Susan did not dispute that she had to repay it, but claimed that as a result of a conversation with her mother in September 2016 she did not have to repay it until another family dispute (in which she and her husband claimed to be owed a similar amount by a family company) was resolved.   This was the conversation  which Justice Hamill was not satisfied occurred – basically because the first mention of it by Susan was very late in the piece.

There was some colourful detail because Susan was forced to admit in cross examination that she had stolen some money from a family company (she said that she had worked in family companies for some years but was not paid at a level commensurate with her responsibilies).  Maybe this was the stuff which elicited the “tsk-tsking.”  Otherwise  it wasn’t really a very complicated or legally  interesting case, apart perhaps for the considerable wealth of the family involved.

Meanwhile, a more humble family has been slugging out before Justice Robb the question of who owned 14 Prout Street Cabramatta. His judgment is Lay v Pech [2018] NSWSC 460.

Maybe there was less eye-rolling and tsk-tsking because, as his Honour observed, the parties were all of Cambodian background.  This was relevant on at least one parties’ case because of the obligation of a son to look after his mother according to traditional Cambodian values.

Ms Lay sued her son, Poly Pech, for orders that she was the beneficial owner of a house which was legally in Pech’s name.  The legal owner of the property at the time of its purchase in 2010 was  Mr Tai, her then-de facto, who joined Ms Lay as plaintiff.

Ms Lay and Mr Tai said that Mr Tai had bought the property in 2010 because Ms Lay lacked an income which would enable her to obtain a mortgage.  Later, in 2015, it was transferred to Mr Pech.  Ms Lay and Mr Tai said that this was part of a de facto property settlement between them, but that the intent of the transfer was that Ms Lay become the beneficial owner and not Mr Pech.

Mr Pech said that the property had always been his, and that it had first been purchased in Mr Tai’s name because Mr Pech had a bad credit rating, that Pech had provided the initial deposit, and that payments made by his mother or Mr Tai were explicable as rent paid to him.  The transfer to Mr Pech in 2015 was not part of a de facto settlement between his mother and Mr Tai, but rather because he was by then in a position to obtain a mortgage.

Mr Pech faced at least two difficulties.  The first was that he said he was earning about $50,000 a year at the time the property was purchased, whereas for a number of years his PAYG summaries and tax returns only referred to an income of $20,000.  This, Justice Robb said, did not reflect well on his credit (ie, his believability).  It probably also means that he was substantially paid in cash.  The second (and this is my interpretation) was that even on Mr Pech’s case,  mortgage payments made by Mr Pech were made by him to his mother who was then the person responsible for paying these into the bank which turned up as amounts deposited in NSW (for much of the time Mr Tai was away working in Queensland).  This meant that when Justice Robb went to analyse the banking records, he only gave Mr Pech credit for what was actually banked by Ms Lay.  Is it possible that Mr Pech paid his mother more than she banked?  Justice Robb does not appear to allow for that possibility. Maybe she wasn’t asked that.

That may be because his Honour had other reasons for favouring Ms Lay’s and Mr Tai’s account, including patterns of payment and expenditure on renovations which Robb J found more consistent with Ms Lai being the intended beneficial owner, and what his honour considered to be exaggerations in Pech’s account of his involvement in undertaking renovation work.

But Ms Lay herself also had a bit of a problem, which is that (as far as I can amount) she had been receiving Centrelink payments (as an invalid pensioner) on the basis that she was a single person for the period of her de facto relationship with Mr Tai, when every indication is that his income would, if the truth were know to Centrelink, wholly or very substantially preclude her receiving such payments.  She may also have been receiving rental assistance in relation to her occupation of a property which she now says she was the true owner of all along!  (Correction: I initially wrote “all along” but actually that was an issue which she and Robb J both danced around and away from probably because of this.  But it still doesn’t seem as though she was ever actually paying rent.)

Ms Lay’s status as a Centrelink recipient is probably why it appears to have been common ground that she was never the source of monies paid off on the mortgage, on the assumption that her living expenses fully accounted for her Centrelink income.  Indeed it appears that Mr Tai subsidised her living costs.

It’s obviously a murky tale.  I wasn’t there at the trial but I get the distinct feeling that the entire story has not been told on either side.

Pech made a last-ditch submission that if the judge found for Ms Lay, he should still decline to make an order in her favour because of the illegality of her conduct.  Justice Robb rejected this argument, on the basis that the illegality was not sufficiently bound up with the reason for the equitable ownership that she now claimed.

Further, as Robb J put it (at [63]):

Mr Pech went so far as to submit that, if his defence of illegality was not accepted by the Court, the Court should not grant the relief sought by the plaintiffs without imposing a condition that Ms Lay first make a disclosure to Centrelink, and then pay whatever amounts are required by Centrelink to remedy the consequences of her unlawful conduct. While that may be a proper course for the Court to take in an appropriate case, it may be observed that this was a very aggressive submission for Mr Pech to make against his mother.

I’m a bit surprised that Robb J found “aggression” in the context of such litigation, where, incidentally, Ms Lay’s lawyer had effectively pinged Pech for tax evasion, to be at all remarkable.  I expect there was a fair bit of antagonism on both sides.  Maybe (too many “maybe”s in this post, I know) what his Honour meant was that it was a vindictive submission: making his mother pay Centrelink back would not advance Pech’s own position in the slightest.

Anyway, with a lot of giving Ms Lay the benefit of the doubt and declining to draw in my opinion almost inescapable conclusions along with a lot of dodging around what the position was for the almost 5 years up to the date of the transfer to Mr Pech when Ms Lay was almost certainly receiving rent assistance in relation to claimed rent paid to Mr Tai, his Honour declined to impose such a condition.  He didn’t even refer the papers.






Grinding slow

April 24, 2018

News is in this morning (well, yesterday by now) of the conviction of Ron Medich for the murder of Michael McGurk.  McGurk was shot in December 2009 outside his home in Cremorne.

How could the wheels of justice grind so slow?

I asked my neighbour in chambers, who is more au fait with the criminal law. His explanation was the layers of hitmen, getaway driver and fixer that had to be worked through first, sentenced and turned prosecution witness. (It was never the crown case that Medich fired the gun himself.)

Another which occurred to me is the capacity of a well-resourced defendant to delay things by prolonging the committal process.  It is true, as my neighbour pointed out, that where witnesses (as here) are informants that is a recognized category where you will be entitled to have a crack at them in a committal hearing.

Medich’s committal hearing was way back in 2013.  That was a mere three years or so after Medich was arrested, so hardly accounts for the delay.

No fewer than 18 22 36 judgments (the last one is No 2324 26 42) by Justice Bellew relating to the trials (over which he presided) and proceedings leading up to them have now been published .

The first trial was initially set down for 25 August 2014.

Medich applied  for the trial to be permanently stayed.

Bellew J reserved judgment and vacated the  trial date – R v Medich (No 1).

He vacated the trial date because he anticipated an appeal either way he decided the application and there would not be time for that before the scheduled start date.  His judgment includes this (retrospectively) delicious passage:

I also recognise the fact that the deceased’s family would no doubt want a trial to take place at the earliest possible time so as to have some closure of the matter. I also recognise that the accused wishes to have his trial at the earliest possible time. Notwithstanding all of those matters, the practicalities of the situation are that there is no alternative other than to vacate the trial date.

In September 2014 Medich’s application for a stay was dismissed (R v Medich No 2).  (So it turned out vacating the trial date must have taken the heat off Justice Bellew to deliver a decision as well.)

So far no judgments on any appeal against that by Medich have been published.

UPDATE, 23 May 2018:

A judgment has now been published online: MEDICH v R [2015] NSWCCA 281. This was heard in August 2015 with the appeal dismissed on 13 November 2015.

In November 2015  Medich’s trial was listed to commence on 11 July 2016, with an estimate of 3 to 4 months.

On the morning the trial was due to commence, the prosecution provided two lever-arched folders of documents to Medich’s legal team.  The jury, which had already been empanelled, was discharged and the trial date vacated.   (R v Medich (no 6))

The first trial finally ran from January to April 2017.

Yesterday’s conviction was after a second  trial which started at the beginning of this year.

For the record

April 22, 2018

Just a short post, cut down from a longer one which was getting boring.

On Friday 13 to the SOH for SSO conducted by M  Suzuki performing Haydn’s Symphony 95 and Beethoven’s Mass in C.

I enjoyed the Haydn and it’s hard to believe that the SSO has only played it once bfore, in 1969 or so.  Well, Haydn symphonies are a crowded field and I can see why it might have slipped down the list.  Suzuki drew a lean early-instrumenty sound from the orchestra.

I wish I could the same about the Beethoven Mass in C (apart from the lean sound, which continued) but despite having enjoyed it when I was once in it, I’m forced to the conclusion that it’s a piano duet of Beethoven masses – more fun to be in than to be in the audience for.  I also find myself impatient in my (approaching) old age with the Philharmonia’s big choir. Actually, when they sing loudly they’re fine but when they get softer there is a lack of focus.

Probably the two most memorable things about it were that bass soloist (in his case a baritone) Christian Immler appeared to be wearing an a-la-Beethoven stock, and the clarinet playing of Ben Mellefont, a bit of an expat wunderkind currently playing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.  Could he be another tryout for the currently vacant principal job?

On Saturday with P to the Australia Ensemble for a concert entitled “French Connections.”

The program was:

Pierre BOULEZ | Dérive (1984)

Claude DEBUSSY | Sonata for flute, viola and harp (1915)

Jean FRANÇAIX | Clarinet Quintet (1977)

Gabriel FAURÉ | Piano Quartet no. 2 Op. 45 (1886)

Artistic director Paul Stanhope conducted the Boulez.  At the start he gave  us a little talk on what some of these “French connections”  were, illustrated by some musical examples played by those on stage.  I sensed some impatience from at least one of the musicians about this, though I may have been projecting.  Just get on with it!

I was just really getting into the Derive when it finished. Apart from the music, it had delicious sounds from the marimba.

In his talk, Paul S described the Françaix as inspired by “cafe music.”  I wish he hadn’t said that, because then it was filed away in that box from which it only with difficulty escaped. I enjoyed the slow movement the most, as is my wont, but by the end I found myself thinking of the clarinet part “Who does he think he is?  Till Eulenspiegel?”

I loved the Debussy.  It’s a cliche but towards the end  I really was feeling zoned out in a beautiful dream.  The harp helped.  I’m a sucker for it.  I guess, as with the marimba, too much delicious sound could cloy, but we never got to that.

Second half was the Faure.  (You can see I’m cutting down on those acutes and graves.)  Oh my god are there a lot of notes in the piano part. Just sometimes I thought there could be just a few less to give the piano part a chance to stand back and join in the whole.  The mix of Germanic feel and modal harmonies the distinctive thing about this work.  At the risk of getting stuck in a groove here…well any regular reader of this blog can guess which movement I enjoyed the most but the whole thing was pretty good.

Someone who comes to the AE is on some kind of a ventilator which occasionally lets out a bit of a wheeze.  I am a bit intolerant of extraneous noise at concerts but I can handle this – that could well be me one day and you can hardly begrudge someone breathing.

What I find harder to deal with is hearing-aid feedback.  It’s so insidious and of course pitched, though not at a pitch to which I could assign a note value.  Presumably those whose aids cause the problem cannot hear it.  Their neighbours should tell them but they may well have the same problem, especially at higher pitches.  And what can you say?  If the concert organizers make a “turn it down!” announcement then the risk is the people who had not caused a problem will now be unable to hear the music as they conscientiously adjust their hearing aids for the sake of a problem one or two. That’s so unfair. I do recall a successful announcement on this topic at a previous Australia Ensemble concert.  Successful for me, that is.  Maybe not for those who never needed to turn their aids down in the first place.

Apart from that, it was a particularly enjoyable concert.


April 20, 2018

You can view the footage here. (update: or here) It’s a news story on Channel 9.

Police have boarded a bus to arrest an intoxicated and unruly passenger for assaulting other passengers.  He is seated and refuses to get off the bus and lashes out with his hand when a police officer reaches forward to remove him.

Then the officer (a sergeant, no less) lets fly with his taser before a bunch of police pile onto the man to subdue him.  The sergeant continues to use the taser.

Why?  The man is sitting down.  He’s not a danger to anyone.  His hitting out with his arm has been purely defensive, albeit an unlawful response to an arresting officer.  He can be removed eventually.  You wouldn’t shoot him in such a situation (I hope) so why would you taser him?

To me this is totally inappropriate use of a taser – as with much police violence, it is to punish the resister and by terror establish the police’s power  rather than necessary for his apprehension or to protect others.

I know policing is a tough job but this footage raises serious doubts for me as to whether  Sergeant Latham from Surrey Hills police station is up to it.

All the same, I’m not so surprised by his actions.  Tasers are routinely deployed to subdue people and truculent intoxicated people are probably especially likely to receive such treatment.

More  shocking to me is the Channel 9 voice over: (on the original story, now removed from the link though the raw mobie phone footage by a passenger on the bus  survives with a channel 9 watermark)(original story still here)

“the officer is forced to use his taser.”






April 18, 2018

ABC “Classic” FM continues to disappoint.

The weekend before last, when I was in Canberra, there were numerous broadcast interruptions.  At least there was a kind of automated announcement made about these.

Much worse was to come on Sunday night when I was driving back to Sydney and, from Sutton Forest on, making the journey bearable with the (delayed) live broadcast from the Met of Strauss’s Elektra.

About an hour later just before the beginning of the M7 and M5 (I had stopped briefly at Pheasant’s Nest if you are being finickity about times) the music stopped and was replaced by a terrible hissing sound.  It wasn’t just one station – the noise was on all the alternative stations/frequencies for ABC “Classic” FM I could find.

Grimly determined to wait this out, I continued listening until I got home, a bit over 20 minutes later.  Still the terrible noise – though I turned the volume down in order to bear it.

Was nobody at the ABC paying attention?  Does anyone listen to the stuff they broadcast to check for quality?

I did not turn on the radio when I went into my house, so I didn’t know how long this state of affairs continued.

But now, even more shockingly, I do know, because the hissing, in all its glories, is retained in the “listen again” feed on the website (this link will presumably go dead in a few weeks).  Here is my rough analysis according to time elapsed from the beginning of the program:

  • 00:00:00 – program begins
  • 1:09:48   hissing – towards the end some more radiophonic noises as though somebody might be trying to do something about it
  • 1:54:54   silence
  • 2:09:09   hissing resumes
  • 2:10:00   silence
  • 2:11:35  music resumes.

Unbelievable.  And no sign, as far as I can make out, of any acknowledgement of the slip up.  And with the preservation of the fault on the “listen again” facility, so much for the bruited redirection of efforts to an online audience.

I have belatedly submitted a “complaint”/”enquiry” to the ABC and shall say here if I ever receive any response to it.


Thank you for your message and apologies for the interruptions to broadcast which you encountered. The technical issues behind these disruptions have been investigated and measures put in place to avoid the situation of them occurring again. We hope you will continue to enjoy listening.

Not what I would call an informative or even individuated response.  Do the measures include any actual person in real time listening or monitoring what is going on?

The “listen again” link has now (I’d say prematurely) been pulled.




Ashfield Pool

April 17, 2018


Ashfield Pool was opened by the then Premier of NSW in 1963.


That was the ceremonial opening.  It seems actual swimming started the November before that.

The pool has been looking pretty tatty for a while – areas of tiles have been coming off the side of the pool, other bits of the walls have been taped off and most recently even the jury-rig metal stairway on one end of the shallow end had to be cordoned off as it threatened to slip away from the real stairs if you stepped on it:


Physical deterioration is the least of the threats facing public pools. Cash-strapped councils are always looking for an excuse to close them, and the public land on which pools stand is always vulnerable to land grabs by the more muscular and well organized, as at Parramatta where an expanded stadium pushed a pool aside last year.

Now formally known as an “aquatic centre” the pool is closing for renovations, scheduled to reopen in time for the 2019/20 summer.  These have been a long time coming and were a close-fought thing.  The then Ashfield Council had to go to IPart to have the necessary rates increase specially approved, and even then the job stalled when they couldn’t get anyone to agree to do the job for their price estimate.  In the end the merged Inner West council has gone ahead with an even more expensive proposal.

When the centre reopens, it will be reconfigured. A gym will be included.

I’m not so keen on the addition of a gym. Why can’t we just have a pool?  In my experience it almost always leads to an upping of the admission price.  I suppose I should be grateful that, in Sydney at least, the tide seems to be turning against closing outdoor pools and replacing them with indoor pools only.  Now, for my taste, we just need to lower the temperature to which pools are heated, especially in summer, when it can be hard to get a refreshing swim except in the sea.

My own time at Ashfield Pool is mostly since I returned to Sydney in 2002 after two years in Perth.  Before that I had lived opposite Petersham Pool which, when open (it was not and still is not a year-round pool), would have been my pool of first resort.  At some stage in the 1990s, Ashfield was heated and open over winter, and that’s probably when it first came onto my radar.  Since 2002 however I have often had recourse to it, especially on weekend afternoons when the sea was too distant or too cold, and much more after I moved to Ashfield in 2012 within easy walking distance  and qualified for a multiple-visit pass.

I went on Saturday for my last paid visit. On Sunday the pool was open for free and I went again. Ashfield Pool is a low-key kind of place – that’s its charm – so there was no big bash.  There were still plenty of people taking a sentimental farewell.  Phones make the pictorial aspect of that much more accessible.

I still have one visit left on my multiple visit card. I could fill in a form to have this refunded or transferred to Leichhardt Aquatic Centre. Neither seems worth the trouble. Call me optimistic. I shall wait until the pool re-opens.