After six and a bit weeks on the road, I have finally arrived back in Melbourne. Good cafes, broadband internet, my own bed and, most importantly, Sharn.
Sharn and I just had brekky together and then she went off to bed (she's currently working nights). Now, just to emphasize the bizarre nature of both of our schedules, I'm off to another MTC bump in and won't be finished until 3am... Could someone please remind me again why it is that I want to work in the arts?
Now that I'm back at home and not having to struggle with dial-up modems and timed local calls (thanks very much Mr. Hotel Manager sir) there'll be a bit more action on this blog... Maybe...
Check in soon for my thoughts on sunny Wollongong...
I'm constantly amazed by just how talented and incredible some of closest friends are. It's heartening to know that when the cynic in me starts to despair at the general mediocrity of the world I need only look to my friends for a reaffirmation of my faith in humanity.
For a while now I've been meaning to point you all towards some of the things that my friends have been up to and as this seems as good a time as any -
Firstly I want to offer up a huge "congrats" to Sharon
, whom I do not hesitate to describe one of my nearest and dearest even though she is based in Adelaide and we've spent a sum total of about two days in each other's company during the last three years. For the last year Sharon and her husband have been trying ever trick in the book to get pregnant. Well now it's happened, so it's time for "congrats" all round and a dance of joy in my hotel room (arms in the air, wave 'em around like I just don't care).
The second lot of congrats goes to one of my college buddies (and fellow Fitzroy-ite) Harry Saddler, who apart from authoring the impressive online serial "Instant Life Substitute
" has also just had his very first book "We Both Know: 10 stories about relationships" published by Ginninderra Press
. It's fantastic news which should put the rest of us who aspire to have our names on book spines to shame...
The final thing that I want to leave with you today is the admission that I must have been living with my head up my arse fo the last few months. How else can I explain the fact that I missed the fact that Suzy now has a blog
? It seems that Suzy is determined to swim to the moon which is, without a doubt, the most ambitious goal ever set by one of my friends. Despite certain apparent impracticalities (namely there not being water or air in space), I have no doubt that she'll be successful... Good luck Suzy, but you better send me a postcard once you get there or I'll be miffed...
has been doing his damnedest to put me to shame, I figured it was about time for me to once again take up the "32 Songs" Challenge.
The decision to do this entry now was influenced more than a little by my recent visit to Newcastle.
Graham's 32 Songs - #18 "Even When I'm Sleeping" By Leonardo's Bride.
"don't be confused by my apparent lack of ceremony, my mind is clear.
i may be low or miles high off in the distance,
i want you near.
i love you
even when i'm sleeping.
when i close my eyes you're everywhere"
In 1989 the city of Stockton (located just outside of Newcastle) was rocked by the rape and murder of a 14 year old school girl named Leigh Leigh. It would be an understatement to say that the incident devastated the community. Senseless and horrifying, the murder of Leigh Leigh, and subsequent trial, remains one of Australia's most memorable murder cases.
Struggling to find a way in which to respond to the incident, Newcastle's Freewheels Theatre Company commissioned one of Australia's most prominent playwrights, Nick Enright, to pen a play which addressed the tragedy. The result was "A Property Of The Clan" a heart-rendering and confronting examination of how a community deals with tragedy, the nature of friendship and the line between morality and loyalty. As a play it was extremely well received and Enright later revised and re-released it under the title "Blackrock." It was under this title that the script was transformed into a movie in 1997.
A year before the release of the movie, in late 1996, one of Canberra's amateur theatre companies, Free Rain, decided to perform "A Property Of The Clan" and I was engaged as the production's lighting and sound designer.
Early in the production process the directorial team and I identified the need for a very special song. One of the play's most prominent characters is a young girl who was a friend of the girl who is murdered. Throughout a number of scenes this character visits her friend's grave and plays, on a portable cassette player, her friend's favourite song. After some discussion, a consensus was reached that the most appropriate song for this scene was the beautiful ballad "Even When I'm Sleeping".
As luck would have it, Leonardo's Bride were playing a gig in Canberra on the weekend after this consensus was reached and so it was decided that as Nickos, Adam (son of the director) and I were intending on attending the gig we should attempt to find out what we'd need to do to secure the rights.
The gig was incredible! Abby Dobson and Dean Manning were amazing and held the audience in the palm of their hand for well over two hours.
At the end of the gig (thanks mostly to the fact that Nick and I were friendly with the bar owner) we managed to wrangle our way backstage and were able to explain to Dean the manner in which we wanted to utilize his song. At the time I was struck by how human and unpretentious both he and Abby Dobson were. This was a real eye-opener for me. Up until this point I'd always had an extremely romanticized image of professional musicians, but here were two of Australia's best just hanging out and chatting with us.
After a bit of explanation Dean announced that the use of the song sounded like a great idea, but he wanted to see a copy of the script first. Adam arranged for a script to be sent and within a few weeks we received a letter which authorized the use of the song and stated that Dean was incredibly touched that we wanted to use it in the context of the play.
As it turned out, we weren't the only ones who thought that "Even When I'm Sleeping" was the most appropriate choice for that scene of the play. A year later when "Blackrock" was released I discovered that the movie's sound designer agreed with us. At a number of moments during the movie (especially during the funeral) "Even When I'm Sleeping" can be heard playing softly in the background.
It's a beautiful song which never fails to tug at my heart-strings, but it also serves the purpose of reminding me that musos are just ordinary people with extraordinary talents...
Let's talk about... Newcastle.
Due to the almost never-ending computer debacle that I've experienced over the last month, I've been less than thorough when it came to relating tales of the tour that I am currently undertaking. It is my hope to remedy that now with a brief reflection upon my time spent in Newcastle.
For those of you with a limited knowledge of Australia, Newcastle is a coastal town located about two hours drive north of Sydney. It is, in parts, a picturesque city, but one which lives under the shadow of recent hardship.
In 1999 the Newcastle Steelworks closed. It is the single event which has most determined the modern make-up of the city. Up until 1999, Newcastle was a steel-works town and B.H.P was one of the city's biggest employers. With the closing of the steelworks, 4000 people lost their jobs and Newcastle experienced a near fatal blow to its soul.
The evidence of this injury to the cities economy and psyche is everywhere. Many of the shopfronts on Hunter Street (Newcastle's main thoroughfare) have been abandoned and there seems to be an overabundance of pawnbrokers and 2nd-hand retailers. In addition, to the casual observer, Newcastle also boasts an extraordinary high number (by Australian standards) of homeless and destitute individuals.
Now all of that might make the city sound incredibly dire, but Newcastle also seems to be well on the road to recovery, a fact which has probably been heavily influenced by its proximity to Sydney and its plethora of beautiful beaches.
Walking down the main street of Newcastle was a fascinating experience. Midway between the hotel and the theatre I passed a series of shopfronts which, at first glance, appeared to have been converted into squats. The floors were covered in excess building materials, empty pizza boxes blocked the doorways and there was an inordinately high number of brown couches located within. On closer examination, however, it soon became apparent that these shopfronts weren't just squats. Why? Because the walls were covered with interesting art, all of which was for sale.
I'm still not entirely sure what to make of these squats/art galleries, but they certainly added an unexpected element of colour to the main street.
In addition to this propensity for squatters to become artists (or have I got it wrong? Should that read "artists to become squatters"?), Newcastle also appears to have a vibrant music culture (I found the number of live music venues to be incredibly encouraging) and a healthy cafe culture (albeit confined to a single strip of Darby street). The pumpkin and sage gnocci that I ate in the "Three Monkeys" cafe would easily rate as one of the most enjoyable meals I've ever experienced.
The most negative aspect of the city was, unfortunately, the venue we performed in. Whilst beautiful to look at, the theatre was suffering from some serious internal politics issues. As a result of certain personality clashes (within their own crew), the majority of the people working for the theatre really didn't want to be there and had no real interest in making our experience easy or enjoyable. This made for an extremely difficult bump in and, as that accounted for four of the seven days I was in Newcastle, greatly coloured my experience of the city. Which is a shame, as I got the impression (when I was anywhere but the venue) that the rest of the residents of Newcastle were extraordinarily lovely and interesting people.
All-in-all my experience of Newcastle was one of contrasts. There were some aspects which I found extremely appealing and others which left me wanting catch the first plane out of town. In the end, however, I was left with the feeling that, despite it not being a town in which I could picture myself settling, I wouldn't mind visiting again.
Cruising for friends...
As I now have a new computer I thought that it might be time to try a few additional online practices that I have normally avoided like the plague...
One of those practices is online chatting, which I'll now be engaging in thanks to a little program entitled Trillian
Now I need to stress that it's been years since I've done anything like this, so I'm a little out of touch about how it all works. I do, however, know that I now have an ICQ number and that if I publish it here then some of you will be able to contact me.
So here goes nothing - 238734532
Hopefully that means that the next time I log in I'll be greeted by a flood of messages along the lines of "Hello! Welcome to the future...." If, however, there is something else I'm meant to do, then I'd greatly appreciate any advice/help you all might be able to offer.
Back online v3.01
So yesterday the ongoing operetta of my faulty new computer saga reached a crescendo. Here's a brief dramatisation of my day -[phone rings]
Friendly Computer Repair-man: Hello Mr. Henstock. It's the friendly neighborhood computer repair man here. I just wanted to let you know that we can't get the part for your laptop, so you'll have to wait until September 1st to get it back.
Graham: WHAT? That's totally unacceptable...
Friendly Computer Repair-man: Well... You could try calling Toshiba and seeing if they can find an alternative...
[two hours of phonecalls, several CDs of hold music and thousands of dollars worth of dental damage done by grinding teeth, later...]
Toshiba "Customer Relations Girl": Yes sir, I agree it's unacceptable. I'm happy to authorize a replacement computer for you, but as you purchased it from David Jones in Canberra you will need to arrange for them to take delivery.
[another phone call and some more hold music later]
David Jones "Sydney store computer dude": Well sir, according to our policy you're meant to take it back to the place of purchase, but as I can sense the irritation in your voice I'm sure we can come to an arrangement... I'll just need to confirm with Toshiba that the replacement is authorized, so if you could just give them a call and arrange for them to send you a letter and then... What's that sir? You've got the direct number for Toshiba's "Customer Relations Girl"? Oh, and I should call her and sort out the paperwork? Ummm... I guess I can do that...
[phone rings 15 minutes later]
David Jones "Sydney store computer dude": I've just had a chat to Toshiba and they've authorized the exchange, so if you could just bring the computer in here and... Oh... What's that? Oh, of course you can call me back... [another phone call made by me... this time to the direct line]
Toshiba "Customer Relations Girl": Please calm down sir... I agree that you shouldn't have to be doing so much running around... Yes... Okay then... I'll arrange for a courier to pick-up the computer from the repair shop and deliver it to David Jones... Anything to make you stop calling me...
[phone rings 15 minutes later]
David Jones "Sydney store computer dude": Mr. Henstock, I've just received a call from Toshiba and they've authorized me to just give you a new computer... Apparently they've arranged for a courier to pick up the old one...What did you say to them? They don't normally do that...
So the upshot of my hours spent engaging in lengthy phone conversations whilst practicing my best "threatening tones (tm)" is that this morning I was given a whole new computer and so am now back online and able to sort through the mountain of email which is awaiting...
Let's hope that this time I'm here to stay...
Time to become a luddite...
I hate technology.
No seriously, I hate it. With a passion.
Within days of getting my shiny new Toshiba laptop home it started playing up. An annoying event at the best of times, but when you're on tour it just becomes that much worse.
After some calling around I finally located an authorized Toshiba repair place which was at least vaguely near the theatre and checked my new purchase in for it's 100m check-up.Apparently the motherboard is faulty... Oh... And the CD/DVD drive too... Don't worry sir, we'll have the parts in about a week and a half... Oh... What's that? You're only in Sydney for two weeks? Oh, we should be able to have it fixed by then... Yes sir, I'm well aware that means that we'll have spent more time fixing your computer than you have actually had it in your possession... Sorry about that, but this should fix the problem and you should have no hassles after that... Unless, of course, the motherboard isn't actually the problem...
I hate technology!
Maybe it's time for me to buy a luddite computer