time with friends

I tend to have weeks alone, then all of a sudden, several outings with friends all at once. On one hand, it’d be nice to stagger things more evenly, but I much prefer the casual spontaneity of getting together when the mood suits. Time with friends both in virtual and physical spaces, is time well spent. I had a lovely afternoon lunching today with a friend locally as I happened to have a couple of days off.

Caught up with another friend last night and we tried out a couple of the bars I mentioned yesterday: Midnight Special & Bar Racuda. Both were on the quiet side, fair enough given it was a Sunday night, though Hartsyard was packed so we’ll try it another time. Midnight Special do really delicious hot dogs, will happily return just for those. Otherwise though, not really my sort of space; it caters to a different crowd. Bar Racuda was mostly empty and my mate and I had a good evening sitting at the bar chatting to the owner. They did a nice old fashioned too. A comfy sort of space with a nice wooden, welcoming bar. Special was probably a bit too loud for me, whereas Racuda was better suited to chatting…or at least for a deaf bugger like me.

State Theatre FoyerFriday was another night spent locally too: dinner at a pasta/pizza place on King St, followed by a movie at the recently re-opened Dendy. Finally saw Dark Shadows, which was ok and a little bit silly but the story didn’t really hang together very well. I’ve often said, and this confirms yet again, that Burton is a wonderful director who needs a really good writer. Movie was followed by a visit to the Townie which I used to visit occasionally with other groups of friends in years gone by. The fatal mistake of the evening, was that having started on red wine, I finished with a few ciders, not to mention a 2-3am stroll home. Saturday was spent very quietly at home and mostly, in bed :-)

The Wednesday prior was spent with the same group of friends and a few others, a couple of suburbs away playing board games in the Summer Hill Hotel.  Thankfully that wasn’t too late for a work night. All in all, a good round of hanging out with folk. I won’t have much time for socialising over the next couple of weeks. The Sydney filmfest gets underway on Thursday…and not Saturday as I had initially thought. Thankfully, a friend pointed this out to me on the weekend. I start with 2 films on Thursday evening and all up, I think there’s 30 films in my subscription, plus I’m hoping to buy some additional tickets for films outside the subscription series.

a toast to thorpie

I was reminiscing yesterday by trawling through some of my old posts both from here and my earlier handcoded efforts, and came across this one from the days when the argument regarding small bars in Sydney was starting to hit fever pitch. Since then, the laws have changed and the small bar scene has exploded. Initially in a few laneways in the city, no doubt trying to capture some sort of Melbournian effect. In recent times they’ve been expanding out.

Newtown has always had a bar or two, particularly Kuletos, nestled among the pubs and regular fare. To be joined eventually by the now missed Soni’s, Madame Fling Flong’s and Corridor – that last used to be a regular haunt years ago when it was a cafe called Has Beans. A year or so back, The Green Room opened on Enmore Rd and things have been gaining pace ever since. The number of bars in Enmore Rd is rapidly approaching double figures with a few opening in recent months.

wine by the waterThe most recent opener is Hartsyard a few days ago, though it’s leaning toward good beers (via Harts Pub) and more of a restaurant sort of space. Also in recent days, Waterhorse, has opened, and has had a flash outfit. Bar Racuda opened up a few months ago, as did I think, Midnight Special. Not to mention Ra Bar (which I think used to be a wine bar/cafe called Monal), several months ago, as a tapas bar.

I should also mention that there’s The Wine Plate at the city end of King St, though it looks more like a restaurant space with a long series of tables parallel to the long bar. At the opposite end of King St, down past The Chocolate Dog, there’s bench (and opposite them is The Moose). They’ve taken over the old dining space from Pizza Picasso and have the same owners. It’s a tight, friendly space with some rather nice wine choices. I’ve been there a couple of times now, and on last visit, a mate and I, sat by the windows, spending an entire evening chilling out over several glasses of red, some nice tapas, and finishing off with a stunning muscat, All Saints Rare Rutherglen Muscat. As far as I can tell, bench were selling it close to retail too, as a quick google suggests that I can only get it for $10-15 cheaper at best. That’s the best muscat I’ve had. Ever.


Luxuries. Special things. Things I do for me; spaces for myself.

I started hanging out around Newtown in 1989 when my dad moved into a share house there. It was full of cafes and restaurants and had a uni vibe. I was never much of a pub person but developed a liking for cafes and when I finally moved there myself in 2001 (when dad and I bought a house together), Newtown felt like home.

Somewhere in those years, long forgotten now, I started going “out” for breakfast on the weekends.  I would spend hours alone in a cafe, having brekky, and a coffee or 3, while wading through the weekend edition of the SMH. Brekky, in a cafe, with a newspaper is one of my favourite things.

brekkyOccasionally friends would wander by and say g’day, sometimes joining, sometimes not. Everyone knew which cafe they were likely to find me. For around a decade or so, I was ensconced at 381 King St and in that time I think it went through at least 4 owners and 3 different refurbishments, and several names. It had the rare attraction of being a cafe on King St with a view of blue sky and trees across the road. That particular section of King St is home to the School of Performing Arts thus is more open than the rest of the street.

I recall many years ago, that one of the ownership changes was rather sudden: I turned up on the Sat morning, barely awake and looking forward to my first coffee, only to discover it was no longer. I stood there for quite some time as my brain was in no condition to process the new information and in fact for months after, every week, my morning autopilot would bring me to the same spot. At which I would exclaim “bugger” and continue on.

That cafe time, with the papers, has become something of a zone for me. Sometimes I like people about, but sometimes I just need that space alone, a morning ritual, to relax and regain a sense of me. Particularly so when I’m going through major stresses or big changes afoot, that timeout has long been a spot to stop and breathe. Mostly though, it’s a chance to pause, to be at rest.

i need to brag

This space has remained somewhat outside my thinking for a little too long. There is much to add here:

  • I love my flat
  • my books look good on shelves
  • I am on a conference committee again – co-convening a 1 day programme no less
  • I have a space to call my own
  • my job continues to attract me, though I have no idea where to go next
  • I am in the middle of sad times and anniversaries – but still I find a path through
  • I have a much needed week off
  • I am

But on to bragging. I’m in the midst of adjusting to having a proper mortgage once more; a bigger mortgage than I’ve had previously, though not painfully so. Yet, it must be said, that I need to curtail my spending. Especially on books; my spending in that regard has gotten rather out of hand in recent months. To which, all that know me, simply say “and?”. I have restrained myself for several weeks; for several weeks there have been no new orders winging their way toward me, whether of US or UK or European origins. Similarly, I have been remarkably reticient in the flesh. The lists that I have posted here (and the biggest is to come) are testament to the books I have desired but managed not to buy.

All such effort failed me today. I was in Berkelouw’s in Newtown and spied a tome in their cabinet; in their locked cabinet. It appeared to be a limited edition – Folio Society – of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I have never read this book and, having spent the first half of my life as a shy reader, I even pronounced it incorrectly. The word I had in my head was something along the lines of …quick-zot-e…or thereabouts. I would hear Don Key-oat-ay pronounced as a classic but never suspected it was the same book. I realised my error a few years ago thankfully and have been on the lookout for a nice edition ever since.

When I spied said edition in the cabinet at Berkelouw’s, I experienced a pause, a moment; time ceased. It was a Folio Society limited edition (LE in Folio speak), #705 of 1,250 copies. Printed in 2005 to mark the 400th anniversary of first publication of this famous work (what is now known as Part I was published in 1605, its sequel, Part II, was published in 1615. The Folio LE combines both parts). The price: a mere AUD$300. The reaction: eep!

I went home. I spent hours online researching, with thanks to the FS denizens of LibraryThing and other sites, and realised it was a bargain. It currently sells for around GBP580 and US950. The important matter for me was not so much the value as to ensure that I wasn’t being ripped off. Certainly, I could not, nor would not, have paid the higher prices. The price was around that for which it sold initially in 2005.

So I returned to the shop, armed with the fruits of my research; my appreciation of its provenance. I examined it at a separate table: it did indeed include the additional essay by Miranda France, it was in a box (rather than slipcase), it was beautifully bound in goatskin leather. It had delicious illustrations by Quentin Blake, it was translated by Smollett. A note here: there have been later translations including a recent one that are regarded as far superior to Smollet, however the Smollett one does seem to convey a good sense of humour, which is rather promising. I suspect it hasn’t been read, given the way the pages open up, or rather don’t, when stood on its spine. It is, as new, as far as I can tell.

Needless to say, it is now mine. Now will I read it.

another day, another book

Had one of those days where not a lot went right. Had a good night’s sleep but the day seemed to go downhill, even to the point that when I went for a relaxing walk after work, I was nearly run over by speeding cyclists…on the footpath. Oh so Newtown. I yelled my displeasure but the cowards laughed and took off. Probably just as well, if they’d hung about I would have turned coward I reckon. Popped into a bookshop in search of a guide to Newtown that got an interesting review in the paper a few weeks ago. No sign of it and I suspect I’ll have to order it from the Trust. However, in a victory for retail therapy (and a failure for being spendthrift), I found a copy of the Taschen edition of da Vinci’s works I’d been seeking. All his drawings and paintings in a single, very heavy (hurt my finger when I shut it too quickly) volume. Been trying not to buy books, particularly as my nice copy of The Silmarillion had recently arrived. Oh well, it was at least a book I’ve been on the lookout for and nearly ordered from a bookstore in Melbourne where I last saw it. Feeling rather relaxed and content at the moment.