Category Archives: Cycling

revisiting your own past

1989-09-24 Armidale NSW_01

World premiere performance, concert version, Claudio Pompili’s “Songs for Ophelia” for unaccompanied female voice. Given in Lazenby Hall, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, as part of the Musicological Society National Conference concert, on 24 September 1989.

Sometimes, as the years slide past, you forget the details of the good things as well as the bad. In my case, the bad might include mistakes I sometimes made mid-performance but the good definitely includes how stellar some of my vocal performances actually were. Luckily for my memory and the possibility of sharing some of that splendour with possible future grandchildren, recordings can bring a reminder. A few months ago, Dr B and one of his old schoolmates were working on Dr B’s motorbike together. They’re neither of them entirely capable of staying on the point, so their conversation wandered from motorbikes and strayed across many strata of music composition and performance and getting inside the technical stuff; and their physical presence wandered from the shed into the house for some musical evidence.

Some of the recordings Dr B used to illustrate points were of me singing his music (that’s not uncommon). A couple of works I’d practically forgotten, it’s so long since I recorded them and I probably never performed them more than a few times anyway (they were to some extent experiments by Dr B and not well suited to my vocal range or timbre but I sang them anyway in the spirit of collaboration and because they were too beautiful to let such minor details deter me utterly). Dr B’s Songs for Ophelia remain perhaps the most spectacular things I have ever performed, with all sorts of wondrous vocal pyrotechnics whose sparkle and agility still have the power to surprise even me; and I was the one pulling them off.

I would perform them differently now for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which would be that my voice is considerably older and darker than it was then (1989 – 1990) and, because rarely used nowadays, distinctly lacking in the sparkle and agility. I reckon, though, I’d still get the kind of reaction from the audience that I got the other day from the old schoolmate: a recognition of something special. (And a chuckle from YoungB who reckoned the resulting warbles were remarkably akin to those produced by the damn magpies when they start up at about 4.00 in the morning, as we well know from years of being up at that hour for rowing training.)

Now, you’re probably going to ask where can you hear any of this spectacular stuff and, I’m sorry, I can’t upload without going Premium. That’s probably not going to happen on our single income, particularly when this blog is not an essential part of anyone’s life.

However, I hope I’ve added a link to the page of Dr B’s recording where the Songs for Ophelia can be found; if you have time to scroll down the page. Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s Day is short – we’re talking 22 seconds – but stunning, if you’d like an idea of why I’m pleased to have unexpectedly revisited that part of my past (yes, unexpectedly because, in the normal run of things, you wouldn’t expect motorbike maintenance to end up encompassing the sharing of what are now close to vintage recordings).

I tested the link, and it worked for me. I hope it will work for you, too 🙂 And of course the photo is of me singing my little heart out to a sizeable audience. The recording was made at the Ultimo studios of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (usually referred to as the ABC, the Abe – think the Beeb – or Auntie). I believe the original recordings have since gone the way of the dodo in one of the many clear-outs; but note that the copyright was originally with the ABC.


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an even bigger sideways wallop

Addio, Maurizio; your final ride was on a road something like this.

Addio, Maurizio; your final ride was on a road something like this but on the other side of the world.

On Thursday morning we woke to devastating news from Italy: one of the cousins had been killed in a motorbike accident. Yet again, plans for future meetings and shared learning went out the window. We’ve been a bit of a mess ever since.

Yesterday, however, YoungB and his fellow-student girlfriend, Dr B and I spent a delightful day: exhibition, lunch at one of YoungB’s favourite and highly-recommended burger joints, coffee at a chain we probably have – or should have – shares in by now, then a short reception prior to the local premiere of an Italian-Australian film (happily, set in Dr B’s part of northern Italy), showing at a nearby cinema and part of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival 2016. After the film, a Q and A session with the director and her producer husband (information here), and a chat with YoungB’s Italian professor who was also in the audience, it was dinner time. We trundled across the road for that, then hiked back to the car. We had coffee and cakes at a same but different locale (Glynde) before finally coming home some eight hours after setting out.

We were all physically tired but somewhat restored in spirit, even if poor YoungB’s feet were hurting after the amount of standing and walking he’d done in totally inappropriate shoes. End-of-season sales saw that situation remedied this morning, so he went off to watch soccer while Dr B and I pottered about at home: he in the garden, I in the laundry. Oh, the thrill of it all 🙂

But the burning question I’m asking myself is, can I knock up a dress before Thursday’s AGM? I’m tired of winter, tired of being cold, fed up with wearing trousers and not that fond of the idea of a skirt. A dress? There’s potential in the idea. You know me, it’s unlikely to happen. But it makes me feel a little less inadequate to have it as a sort of non-plan when my knitting doesn’t make sense to me because every time I pick it up to do any, there are interruptions. Never mind. We’re alive and well and aren’t we lucky to have that?


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but there weren’t any blisters

Where we weren't walking yesterday but where we w ill be walking in September: blue skies and seas to cheer us on

Where we weren’t walking yesterday but where we w ill be walking in September: blue skies and seas to cheer us on

Yesterday, in relatively mild conditions, Dr B came with me on a 15-Km training walk, a loop along our nearby riverside park. I appreciated his company and was most impressed by his efforts, particularly as he’s one who’s normally far more comfortable on a bicycle. He was silly enough to point out at one stage that, had we been on bikes, we could have been to the city and back again in the time it took us to walk about halfway. He might have been, I had to remind him, but I’d be a tattered and bloody mess and still at the beginning, having already fallen too many times to feel confident of continuing. So we walked and, as a concession to his weary legs, caught a bus home for the last uphill bit.

Today the weather is distinctly wintry, so he’s been clearing the last of the grapevine prunings and is presently off listening to pub bands. I’m achieving nothing I would like to – any sort of crafting work – and not much that I’m meant to – though dinner didn’t magic itself into the oven any more than the laundry hung itself on the indoor line – but tomorrow is a working day and I’ve reached the point of believing that it’s more important to get a good night’s sleep than to finish knitting anything, no matter its urgency.

Is that heresy? I fear so. Better hang me, then 🙂 I hope your prospects are cheerier, whatever your weather or crafting tendency.

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Posted by on June 14, 2015 in Cycling, Knitting



and then there’s this

Alternatively, I could just gallop around the soccer ground a few times while I'm waiting for the bus

Alternatively, I could just gallop around the soccer ground a few times while I’m waiting for the bus

You know how one careless remark can change everything? I think that happened the other day when Youngest Aunt casually mentioned this. It’s now firmly in our sights and I seem to have roped in a workmate and a couple of her friends as well! She’s a far more serious walker than I am, but has been having time away from it for health reasons so we are probably closer in fitness and ability now than we might once have been. We have a training plan of sorts, loosely titled “Camminiamo insieme” which means “Let’s walk together” – she and I share a love of Inspector Montalbano 🙂 – and will try to get out on longer walks with her friends on a semi-regular basis.

I understand about champions being made in winter – considering the amount of time I spend rubbing shoulders with Audax cyclists and rowers, how could I not? – and I appreciate that it’s a fantastic time of year to toughen up with lots of freezing-cold morning training sessions. Most of that assumes no employment or, if you have employment, getting up in the middle of the night to exercise, or that you have sufficient dedication to train all weekend and let the domestica go hang. I don’t, factually, meet any of those criteria though I could probably manage a couple of them at a time, every now and then. Despite the training plan, it’s my suspicion that that’s what will happen: it will all be fairly ad hoc with some adjustments around what training machines we have in the house and the occasional bit of organised chaos. So long as we get some very long training walks in prior to the Bloody Long Walk, I think we’ll be fine without necessarily doing the entire course beforehand.

But when will I manage to do any knitting??


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and on the last day

The suitcase still wasn’t packed and there were problems finding the electrical adaptors and the sleeping bag was forgotten and we had a lovely, long lunch with Nonna who accepts the idea that YoungB is going to be away for a year without too many qualms and we hope she’ll be here to share his tales when he returns and then after lunch we struggled a bit more with the suitcase and at the eleventh hour were thinning the ranks of the clothing in order to fit critical bits of technology and finally we said that what was done was it: we were ready to leave for the airport. Which we did. And nobody cried at all (though I can tell you that it is now remarkably QUIET in these parts). And lots of YoungB’s mates from school (with some of whom he’s now sharing university studies) came to wave him goodbye and they had the sense to give him a collective gift of a neck pillow because they said he couldn’t possibly endure such a long flight without one and I think that’s probably right.

The London experience

The London experience

As you can see from Dr C’s photo above, Life is pretty good! YoungB has seen a few of the sights from a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and cycled hither and yon with Dr C and managed to enjoy a run with her the evening he arrived and coped well with London’s rail and underground systems and met up with friends new and old and had lunches and a lovely holiday in a city that, at its summer best, can be quite beautiful. Now he’s off to Paris for a couple of days, for what will be almost the last of the holiday before the intensive language course begins. Paris will be beautiful, too, but entirely different. And then Rome will be beautiful but different again. And you know why I like that photo, apart from the fading light and the warm, late-in-the-day colours? That’s my baby in London (gasp!) and, guess what? He’s wearing a shirt that once belonged to my Dad. I’m hoping that YoungB has had a beer or two at the very least, if not a Guinness (can’t help it; that’s the Irish side of the family, right?), and toasted his grandpa’s memory. That would be perfectly appropriate, don’t you think?



toobs and tubes

YoungB [thought he’d] lost his original toob. I said I’d make him another. He promptly came up with a couple of eminently reasonable suggestions for modifications. For example, he asked, would it be possible to make it so that half was double thickness and half single thickness, meaning he could simply turn it around in the really, really cold weather for extra protection and warmth on his nose? Sure, I said. I even offered to make the second layer in a different colour so it would be immediately obvious to him which bit was the thicker half. The original toob has since turned up, hidden under several others and a jacket or two, on the back of Dr B’s chair. We don’t think it was done maliciously; we know very well that Dr B has a habit of assuming that anything at all likely looking is his! I think I’m probably off the hook for immediate purposes with the toob, though it would be interesting to see if I can come up with something like the one YoungB is after. I’ll update on that if and when it happens.

Tubes? Not good for me if they’re skirts. I never did look terribly good in pencil skirts, which have a tendency to slide around because I have the wrong shape to keep them in place; and I’ve been stung before trying to make a “simple” tube skirt. The differential between my waist and my hip is too great for any of those simple solutions to produce a respectably wearable result. Out comes the old Justknits pattern #96867 and a bit of tinkering takes place. But still, you know, I’ve had a lot of years to accept that a tube skirt is not my best friend. All the same, with winter well and truly knocking on the door – I say that at a time where the week’s outdoor temperatures have been in the mid-20s; most unseasonable indeed for late May – I’m sure I’ll be able to come to terms with any less than happy outcomes of shape if it means having a warm skirt that I can wear at home and/or abroad (in the sense of ‘out of the house’). Then it’s just a matter of finding time and being dedicated and all that. I’ve got as far as cutting out and pinning a new, winter skirt. Getting around to sewing it? Yeah, not so much.

But I did manage to thread my new machine and fill a bobbin. Do you reckon that counts as progress?


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We had an unwontedly social weekend, Dr B and I. He went to a school reunion on Saturday, I to a reunion with some old workmates on Sunday. Perhaps a common theme might be cycling. Dr B and Mate E are both motorcyclists and Mate E was a cyclist back in the day. Dr B, as you would know, still is.

Precisely. copyright remains with Mike Flanagan

My group of former workmates also have cycling fixations. We’re of an age where health considerations are more prominent than they might have been when we first met each other a very long time ago indeed, so fitness is also a large theme in our conversations.

One is married to a former professional cyclist and cycles a lot herself. Others of the group cycle for pleasure – pleasure, they say; and they don’t, at first blush, appear to be masochists – and generally can’t understand why everyone else isn’t the same; indeed, how anyone could not enjoy cycling. Most of the others – notice I say most but not all – are of the view, “How could you fall off a bike?” When that comment was made to the other member of the group who’s like me, my immediate response in her defence – and my own, of course – was, “How could you not?”

Even professional cyclists fall off occasionally (just think of some of the spectacular spills we see annually in any of the Tours). How many kilometres of road have they travelled? How vastly more than simply competent are they? How experienced? How careful and clever? And still they have accidents. So, please, just leave us poor non-cyclists to our walking and running pursuits. We have enough falls in those arenas without adding the element of greater speed to the equation!

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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Cycling, Musing