Month: July 2011

Sydney Symphony – Pictures at an Exhibition

A group of us went to hear the Sydney Symphony have a go at some Liszt, Schumann and Mussorgsky.  We had a great evening – meeting up beforehand in the Opera Bar and then trekking way up into the gods  for the concert.

The Liszt was worthy but dull;  described as a tone poem – not my thing and possibly not the Sydney Symphony’s either.

Ingrid Fliter then hit the piano with some Schumann.  Her coiffure gave a bravura performance (lots of dramatic hair tossing), supplemented with a great deal of swaying about and ‘being at one with the music’ sort of thing.   She was terrific.  Wouldn’t it be dull if she just rocked up, plonked herself down, picked out the tune then got on a bus and went home?   Great entertainment.

Back to earth with a bump – the interval was spent trying to find the loo instead of luxuriating in the company of the Sydney glitterati.

At the start of the second half of the concert, there was a real buzz in the audience as we waited for the main event – Pictures at an Exhibition.  The orchestra perked up a bit too, getting right into it – the strings scraping, the brass honking (with a fair bit of burbling and near misses); the saxophone wailing silkily.   It gave me goosebumps.   Nobody worked harder than the conductor – he earned his case of VB on Wednesday night.

The only thing missing for me was Neil.  He didn’t want to come because he thought I was going to some sort of concert that also had an exhibition of pictures of helicopters (he was thinking Sikorsky, not Mussorgsky).  This is the truth.

He’s the brightest, cleverest person I know.  But I do wonder what’s going on in there sometimes.

Ruined Castle Walk – Blue Mountains

After the Oaks Trail cycle, we went off to stay the night in Katoomba (via Lastminute.com.au so still no nearer the Georges V).   Had a great curry at Anyi’s  – a very simple place but the food’s really good.

Sunday we were up early and off to the start of the walk.  It was a seriously blowy day but fine once you were out of the wind.  Again blue skies but quite cold (well it is winter after all).

The white stuff in the photo is clouds filling a valley;  Mt Solitary is between the tree branches.

We actually remembered to take food and water with us (good grief).  The path starts with an 800m descent via the Golden Staircase then along a decent track for 3.5km followed by a bit of up to get to the Ruined Castle crag.  There’s a very short but slightly hairy scramble to get onto the top rock of the castle.

Neil was doing his mountain goat impression leaping around all over the rocks but I don’t like exposure much and standing at the top of the ruined castle in a force 8 was a bit too scary for me.

Blue Mountains Bad Hair Day

Ruined Castle; Mt Solitary in the background

This was my second trip out there.  The first was in October 2008 and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.  I was 25kg heavier, very unfit and it was a very warm day.  It was all fine until I got back to the bottom of the Golden Staircase and realised I was going to have to climb up 800m straight up.   It took me an hour to get back up to the car park and it was just a horrible experience. This time it took me 28 minutes and I was fine.

It was a lovely day – although I paid for it for the next 3 days as my legs didn’t realise what had hit them.

The Oaks Trail – Cycling in the Blue Mountains

This was my first time back on the bike since the Canberra Mount Ainslie mega-huff at Easter.

The Oaks Trail is a 28km fire trail ride down through the Blue Mountains from Woodford to Glenbrook.   The first time I cycled this 3 years ago, Neil had advertised it as ’28km straight downhill’.  ‘ That sounds like my sort of day out’ I thought.

28km to go

He lied was economical with the truth.

There was rather a lot of up involved which he’d failed to mention.  I wasn’t fit at the time so this meant getting off and pushing up some very steep hills.  It was also very warm and we’d started in the middle of the day, so I was disgustingly hot and sweaty, plus we had  no food or water.

You hear about mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun but there’s never a word mentioned about the daft Scots who’re out there without even a jammy piece or a tin of Irn Bru.  A bit of downhill at the start....

Once the hilly bits were out of the way, the sweaty misery was forgotten during the magnificent final ride down the trail – the downhill just went on and on for aaaggeeessss.  Brilliant fun.  But that just takes you to the end of the park.  The next bit is just as good – about 5km of really narrow track through dense bush where you could probably kill yourself without trying very hard (cycling into trees/going over the handlebars/bitten by enraged, squashed snake etc etc).

Once this has been negotiated, the final part of the descent is on the road – the cycle trail’s still there but it’s too hairy even for Neil – and a splash through the ford at the bottom.

Then I realised I was at the foot of a cliff face.

Ok, where’s Neil because I was really going to kill him this time.

It was a long, long bike push up to the top – there was no way I could cycle it – it’s vertical.  Neil of course didn’t even get off.   It reminded me of the TV program about a pair of arctic explorers and how they have a gun in case of polar bears. The man in front is always the one who carries the gun because the poor sod trailing along behind him would happily shoot him to end the agony.  I knew what he meant.

The swift application of tea and buns in Glenbrook helped.

Well, that was 3 years ago and it’s now one of my favourite rides.  The second time I did it I managed to get up the cliff face without stopping, which was amazing.  This time I wasn’t so fit so there was a bit of pushing but it was fine.  I know I can do it if I put some more effort into getting fit again.

Had a great beef and burgundy pie in Glenbrook (well worth the effort to get back up the hill).  Did some calf stretches for my foot while waiting for the train back up to Woodford.

Great to get out of Sydney – such a beautiful day – clear blue skies and views forever.   Good to be alive.