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2012-01-15 - 4:18 p.m.
I'm going to wrap up 2011 while it is still the first month of 2012.
I've covered work. I've covered health. I've covered family planning. I've covered thoughts of moving out of the Inner West.
My brother got engaged I think on Boxing Day 2010. His fiancee/wife (more on that distinction later) is from a Sikh family, so marriage as far as it is defined by their traditions is very important to them. Her Grandfather was over from India for a defined period of time and her Dad had been sick, so there was a few reasons a short engagement was desired.
So it was that they were married in a Sikh temple in Griffith in early April 2011. This was a family affair (a small 200+ gathering), and a more "Western" reception was always on the cards. They made the decision not to involve a registrar or celebrant, so that the Western reception (which will be in the Hunter this coming September) still had some significance. And that is why as far as her family is concerned they are married but as far as the Commonwealth of Australia is concerned they are not.
I enjoyed Griffith, including the drive through lush countryside to get there (Jo actually did a fair bit of driving on this trip). Parts of the 2 day wedding celebrations were predictably stressful- nobody ever seems to know what they are supposed to be doing or when they are supposed to be doing it- but it was a fun week all-in-all. We visited Jo's pal Barbara (plus hubby and 4 year old son) in Orange on the way home (as we did way back on our Vic/SA roadtrip in 2005, when it was just the 2 of them).
Then in July my sister got engaged. She's getting married in the Blue Mountains in November this year. Also about a month before we were due to head down to Griffith, we were casually informed that Jo's brother was getting married in a couple of weeks at the Registry. He had been with his now-wife for about a year-and-a-half so there was nothing so shotgun about it except it was pretty much a quick decision in response to Visa issues (she's German).
In October my Grandfather (on my Mum's side) passed away at the age of 87. He's had a few health scares in the last 5 years, and when Jo and I visited between Christmas and New Year in 2009 I knew there was a good chance we wouldn't see him again. He was actually in pretty good health when we saw him, given that he had a health scare earlier that year. He had some sort of hotline set-up to the heart specialist in Brisbane (and if I'm not imagining it they could monitor his pacemaker remotely), but was still driving, and enjoying the odd beer. In the end while he was getting steadily worse he went downhill over about a 2 week period which included a couple of falls, and was at home with a lot of family around at the very end. Most of my emotion was around the fact that due to them being in Queensland we didn't really spend a lot of time around my Grandparents, while to many of my cousins their house (that they retired to in 1984) was like a second home. I wouldn't be surprised if my Grandmother made it another 10 years, but you never know- all things must pass.
It's been a long time since we haven't factored a substantial overseas or interstate trip into our plans. 2004 was my big 6 week round-the-world trip. 2005 (9 months of which was spent off shift so I had to deal with less holidays) was our aforementioned 3 week Vic/SA roadtrip. 2006 was moving Jo to Berkeley in February, then visiting for a month in August before going to Vanuatu for 10 days). 2007 was a little over a week in New York in July, then Singapore and San Francisco and (in January 2008) Costa Rica. Most of 2008 involved wedding planning, plus we had already been to Costa Rica, Jo moved back to Sydney (and started a new job with a zero holiday balance) and our honeymoon would be in March 2009 (3 weeks in Vietnam) so we needed to save most of our 2008 leave. 2010 was UK (featuring Glastonbury) and Italy.
So last year, we spent a week in Perth and the Margaret River (around a Friday and Monday that Jo was working in Perth), then a week in Griffith, and a number of 3 day weekends (Blue Mountains in October to make use of a holiday house we bid for at a Trivia night in 2010 with Wendy, Ross, Steve, Bek, Dave and Wendy's friend Caroline; Robertson in November for Phillipa's 30th, and then in December the Hunter Valley for some general boozing with Wendy and Ross as well as...
Sir Elton John at the Hope Estate Winery- December 3rd 2011
You're always a little worried that ageing rockstars are going to disgrace themselves when they tour well into their sixties (and long after they've released a good album). There was no such issue with Elton- even after hearing that he'd come down with a bout of bronchitis- a fantastic show of hits, a well rehearsed band, great piano playing and... adequate vocals. His vocal performance has been criticised as he's got older, but (and this is a strange thing to hear from me) I don't think the vocals mattered that much- the music was that good. I had also had a couple of bottles of wine over the day by the time he came on, so any imperfections may have been let slide as I was having a great old time.
A sample of the classics played- Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting (opening song), I'm Still Standing, Tiny Dancer, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, Candle in the Wind, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Sad Songs, I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues, Rocket Man, Bennie and the Jets, Honky Cat, Daniel, Crocodile Rock (main set closer) and Your Song (encore).
Splendour in the Grass- July 29-31 2011
If I'd written this entry in August it would have warranted a massive entry of it's own, but as it is I'll be brief. Took a week off work, drove up in two days via the Pacific Highway(staying in Ballina) and also back in two via the New England Highway (staying in Armidale). Best set up festival I've been to in Australia spoiled a little by the complete unavailability of anything other than bad mid strength beer in cans and pre-mixers. Highlights of the first couple of days were Jinja Safari (crazy kids jumping around the stage), Gotye (hands down highlight of day one), Jebediah, Children Collide, small snippets of Foster the People and Sparkadia, Seeker Lover Keeper (though we could have done without the pashing twenty-somethings) and Grouplove (my favourite discovery of the festival- sunny folk pop).
Then there was the final day- or as Jarvis Cocker described it- "Pom-Day". Featuring the Vaccines, Elbow, the Kaiser Chiefs and the festival closing performance of a still-got-it-live Coldplay. But it was Pulp that stood out as probably the best festival set I've ever seen. Beating Muse and the Edge covering "Where The Streets Have No Name" at Glastonbury and the mindblowing Flaming Lips at the Big Day Out in 2004. Jarvis Cocker oozed charisma, the songs sounded so fresh (and depraved), and the lights also rated a mention (particularly during "Sorted For E's and Wizz" where Jarvis claimed to have left an important part of his brain "somwhere in a field near Brisbane".
Setlist: Do You Remember The First Time/ Mis-Shapes/ Something Changed/ Disco 2000/ Sorted For E's And Wiz/ I Spy/ Babies/ Underwear/ This is Hardcore/ Sunrise/ Common People
Other musical highlights of 2011 included Randy Newman at the Opera House and Sebadoh at the Metro. The Grates and The Panics (separate shows) at the Oxford Art Factory are worthy of mentioning but I left both a little underwhelmed, while the Pajama Club (Neil and Sharon Finn with former Grate Allanah on drums and a fourth collaborator whose name escapes me) was a pleasant display of new experimental material.
In some semblance of order of impressiveness, our fine dining experiences in 2011 ranged from:
Berowra Waters Inn for Jo's birthday- we were there for a solid 5 hours on a Sunday afternoon and left stuffed but the food was amazing.
Est for our 2 year wedding anniversary- better than Quay, Marque and Bilson's, ranks with memories of Assiette and Becasse and probably even gives Tetsuya's a run for their money.
Billy Kwong's for no real reason with Nathan and Nat- some of the best straight up Chinese I've ever had.
Four-in-Hand Dining Room for my birthday celebrations- we had a whole suckling pig. Enough said.
Marque for my birthday- a nice enough degustation experience but I didn't actually find many of the actual courses that impressive.
Mezzaluna's at Pott's Point for Jo's birthday celebration- not so much fine dining as flashy but unpretentious Italian fare with a definite party atmosphere.
So I'll leave it there, with just a taste (pun intended) of 2011.