In line with our new post-cancer resolves, we have been making an effort to take time off to do things that don't involve books or computers or meetings.
A brief account of three such events over the last week.
Last Sunday we climbed on our bikes and rode the other (west) half of the Capital City Trail that rings Melbourne. In the past we've gone along the Merri and the Yarra down to Southbank; a ride of about 21 ks. We have then typically stopped for pancakes and icecream before putting the bikes on the train to come home. But last week we headed in the other direction, along the path Joel rides to school, across Princes Park, then Royal Park, past the Zoo (technically, the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens: you'd never tell we were once an English colony, would you?), then down the new bike path that runs alongside the Moonee Ponds Creek, where Paul used to play as a kid, under the Citylink freeway and the Bolte bridge, and down to the Docklands. It's a shorter ride of about 8 or 9 k: check out a map here. By no means such a pleasant ride, since you ride under freeways and past concrete pylons, as opposed to leisurely gardens, boathouses, waterbirds, the Children's farm, the Abbotsford Convent, and the wide brown river. We didn't go all the way down to Southbank, but stopped for fish and chips at one of the rather soulless cafes at Docklands, a new settlement of fancy high-rise apartments, and watched small groups of people walking up and down wondering what they were supposed to be looking at. Pleasant to be by the water, though, and see the city from the west. We avoided the football crowds and rode home, fuelled by excellent potato cakes and fresh scallops.
Then on Monday night Paula and I went to a concert in the Town Hall put on the University's Music Faculty. Sibelius's Fifth Symphony, Dvorak's Te Deum and the premiere of a new work by Tim Shawcross, "No Longer will the Ancient Souls Ascend", a wonderful meditation on the flight of the albatross and the fact that 19 out of 21 species are now endangered. Brilliant percussion section against resonant strings and triumphant brass. The Sir Bernard Heinze award was also presented to Graham Abbott, a Handel expert who spoke about music. He rhapsodised: "Music is really the most amazing ... stuff," and the whole town hall broke into applause. I was wondering how he was going to complete that sentence! I frequently listen to music as I work, but truly, it was wonderful, and quite a different thing, to sit very still and see and hear the orchestra and choir.
Yesterday we went off to the touring Pixar exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. This is what you see as you approach from Swanston St:
Then as you get closer, you see the big ball up on the steps, and remember those gorgeous animations of the parent and child light and the ball...
Inside is a wonderful exhibition of drawings and models, and interviews with animators and story-tellers. Lots of highlights for me, even though I've not seen Cars or The Incredibles. But I have watched Toy Story and Toy Story 2 many, many times with great enjoyment; and the installation showed the detail and care with which they put characters, dialogue and story-lines together. Some sequences on show were slide-show sequences showing how a pen-and-ink shape was gradually developed into a fully-painted scene. So at one level the show demystified the process and showed you all the work and labour behind the movies; and at another level made that magic all over again.
They had also made an amazing zoetrope on a grand scale. You enter a darkened room and stand around a glass enclosure with a display spinning round, with tiers of characters from Toy Story 2 moving: Jessie tossing her lasso, the toy soldiers parachuting out of their tub in the centre at the top, the aliens and Squeaky (?) Squeezy (?) the penguin playing on a see-saw and disappearing into a black hole in the ground. The strobe lights come on and you witness the full vision of repeated action; your eyes telling you that the characters are moving. Then the lights come on, and the display stops spinning, and only then do you realise that none of the figures is moving. It's a fixed display: thirty Jessies with her lasso positioned at different heights.
But still, it's the emotion that makes a good movie: I can remember seeing Toy Story 2 with Joel in Edinburgh when he was just 5, and him putting his fingers up to feel the tears running down my face when Jessie sang about the girl who grew out of cowgirl dolls... Waaahhh!!
We ate lunch in a cafe looking down over a courtyard into Flinders St; the top half of all the windows open to the north, with sun and warmth and spring streaming in, and picking up the luminescent green of a handful of leaves on the tree beneath us. So transfixed by it, I forgot to get out the camera.