Trees in the City of Unley vs Geneva

I have been involved in a discussion lately about trees in Geneva – are there enough? Are they being cut down when they shouldn’t be? This will sound familiar to anybody living in Adelaide, but especially in my local area, where public trees are such an important part of the character of the neighbourhood.

My intuitive thought, based on living in both places, is that Geneva is a bit of a concrete jungle, but that it has magnificent parks. Unley, in contrast, has lovely street tree settings, but its public green areas are dire. They have little shade, no aesthetic aspect whatsoever. They are often totally utilitarian, there for sport and dogs. Anybody wanting a pleasurable experience of sitting in a beautiful green place need not apply.

Indeed, the facts bear this up. Geneva, being a typical medium density city, has an area of about 16 square kms with a population of 200K. The City of Unley has about 39K population in an area of 14 sq kms. Unley has 2728 persons/sq km, while Geneva has 12,000/sq km. Geneva has 40,000 public trees, whilst Unley has only 26,000.

However, the makeup of where those trees are, is incredibly different in the two areas and I think each could learn from the other. Geneva’s public trees are mostly in parks. Unley Council must do something about this. It’s such a shame that your green areas are the very opposite of the pleasing areas they should be. On the other hand, Unley has a huge number of street trees compared with Geneva: about 23,000 compared with 5,000 in Geneva. Thus the street scenes are all lovely in Unley – shady and verdant and utterly vital to making this part of Adelaide what it is.

This is not to suggest that the residents of the City of Unley have no obligations. We should all have as many trees as possible on our own property, but it all goes together. The beautiful gardens of the area are visually enhanced by the street trees. One has only to compare areas with nice gardens – eg the beach suburbs around Somerton Park – and no (or stunted) street trees to see the striking difference. The street trees give a continuity that makes the area one big garden. Maybe that explains why I often feel like I’m walking in the country when I’m walking down my street in Clarence Park.

Which is why it’s so disappointing to hear the idea expounded in Unley that trees on footpaths should be cut down so that people in wheel chairs can cruise around enjoying the gardens of the area – it’s their ‘right’. But take away the street trees and you’ve taken away a lot of the impact of the gardens too. They are symbiotic. And without the trees, there is not the shade which is crucial to walking around the area. This is not an option. In fact, noting that the Unley Council has put the occasional bench on streets in the area with signs saying that these are old people friendly, the very idea that benches have any purpose at all without being in shade is hard to understand. Ditto, one might add, for the CBD, where along North Terrace etc public seating places are rarely put where they can be used in summer/sun.

Thinking of my own back yard, something like 15M x 3M, I’m amazed at how many trees one can have in a small area and the fabulous visual, psychological and practical impact. The Unley Council should be a driving force in stepping up the process of increasing green tree coverage of public spaces, both streets and parks, and the local residents should be doing everything they can to facilitate and extend this into their private space. We should, in short, be a leader in making green matter.

 

 

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Spaghetti with asparagus….

One of my staple sauces for spaghetti has long been the bacon/spinach/pinenuts concoction. Today we bought asparagus at the market and I have to say it is actually an improvement on an already fine dish.

Ingredients

  • asparagus, stems snapped, tops left whole and the nice part of the stem chopped into a few pieces and then into quarters longwise, if they are thin stems.
  • garlic, finely chopped
  • pine nuts toasted in a frying pan and not burnt (wish I’d remembered that today)
  • bacon or lard fumé if you are in some part of the world that doesn’t do bacon.
  • olive oil for cooking
  • best olive oil for serving
  • parmesan

Method

While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the bacon or equivalent (pancetta is okay too) in olive oil, add the garlic and then the asparagus. You want all this to cook on a really gentle heat, maybe even off heat some of the time. When the spaghetti is boiled, drain and mix it thoroughly into the sauce, add the pine nuts.

Serve with black pepper ground at the table and parmesan. I found this a beautifully sweet dish, which perhaps did not even need cheese. We did add best olive oil at the table.

 

 

 

Roseate House, London: a model small hotel

Truth be told, I don’t like surprises in my accommodation, much as surprises can be good as well as bad. In London I therefore head for the big chains where I know exactly what I’m going to get and it’s adequate. Heating’s going to work, the wifi will be okay, the beds are often excellent without having to spend a fortune. The rooms in the centre of town will be small but not unworkable.

But every now and then I decide to try out a small hotel and….it’s always been a mistake. Looming large in my memory is an establishment in Kensington with a circular hole in the window, some inches wide, and a room so small that had I been male I could have relieved myself without leaving the bed (assuming a good aim, that is). That after I’d paid for an upgrade to a larger room – I was assured I was in the right place upon asking. Breakfast best left undescribed.

Another time we tried the Montague near the British Museum. They don’t describe the size of their rooms on their site, which should have set alarm bells ringing. Their basic room is, I only discover now from looking at booking.com is 15sqm. We found in practice that if we used the desk where it was located, it was impossible to get out of the room and even upon moving it, this meant that the room could only be navigated by the other person by climbing over the bed. We were really disappointed by this. To be fair, upon writing to the management subsequent to our trip, we were offered a subsequent upgrade should we stay there again, but we didn’t take that up, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in a larger room without a free upgrade. It was never going to be a regular hotel for  us, in other words.

Back to Hilton, Holiday Inn, Pullman, Novotel for a while. We even tried an Ibis. But looking for somewhere close to Paddington Heathrow Express for a one night stay last week, I happened to notice Roseate House. It was time to try a small boutique hotel again. And, for the first time ever I can define the experience in two words ‘no regrets’.

I do have to say that we were upgraded from the basic room to the next size which gave us a couple of extra square metres, but the basic room is still 20sqm, according to their site, which is so much more generous than the Montague’s 15sqm.

When we fronted at reception, we’d been on the road for 36 hours, the long haul from Australia, carrying way too much luggage (five months away) and it was 9am. Would they take pity on us and let us check in early? Very early? Personally I think that if there’s a room available there is no reason for keeping a guest out, but there are hotels in London who expect you to pay extra – let’s avoid those places if we can.

So, here we were faced by smiling staff upgrading us and telling us about the biscuits which we’d find in our room – definitely worth a special mention, we discovered. Along with the ubiquitous Nespresso machine and – three cheers for this, a kettle too. In Europe hotels don’t understand that water has to be boiled properly for tea and that Nespresso machines are not adequate. Say what you like about Brexit, the English ARE different from Europe proper. Knowing how to do tea being top of my list.

Our room was on the lower floor – basement, I guess  you’d say – but it had a window with a lovely garden view and the wifi was good, so being low down was no punishment. Sitting in an armchair with a cup of tea in hand, looking out onto the garden, life was definitely looking up. Shower, clean clothes, and we were starting to feel human again.

To continue the comparison, the Montague’s stylish furnishings are rather flamboyant and lavish compared with Roseate House. Here we have a more true to English nature gentle quirky quaintness. We loved our room, professed by Manny to be the best we’ve stayed at in London. It felt like home. The quality of everything was excellent, the bed, furnishing generally, bathroom products, good shower (over bath, which we did not try). Towels were on a warmer rack. That made me so happy!

Next a visit to the small dining room and bar for a proper pot of tea. And indeed, it was impeccably served, excellent quality tea, pot and china all held up to my stringent conditions. After lunch and an afternoon out, we decided to try the hotel for dinner. There is an excellent cocktail menu. Manny couldn’t resist the idea of a blue cheese cocktail and S-L had to try Breakfast with Granny.

  • Breakfast with Granny £9.50
    Hayman’s Sloe Gin, Lime, Grapefruit, Vanilla, Blackcurrant
  • Say Cheese £12.75
    Blue Cheese, Hayman’s Gin, Parsley

The Hyde Bar is famous for its special whisky collection, to be sampled, perhaps, another day.

Special mention has to be made of the music. I wonder why it is that so many establishments, even if they are five star – or so posh that they are beyond stars – think it’s okay to put on random shuffled music at too loud a volume. The music here fitted the style of the bar and never interfered with conversation. That gives it a very big tick from me.

Overall, we found the food and tea to be better than The Montague, which is not to damn it with faint praise. In fact we didn’t try breakfast at The M. but here we were offered full breakfast for two at the price of £25. The standard of both the buffet and the cooked to order dishes was excellent. We tried the full English and avocado with poached eggs delicately presented on crustless toast. The eggs stayed runny until they were dispensed with. I don’t know how typical that price is for the hotel, but take it if you can as I don’t think you can get a better value breakfast in London.

We’re thinking of London in July and I see these rates come up for three days in their most basic room:

  • Roseate House £600
  • The Montague on the Gardens £747

What are you getting for that? The Montague is fabulously situated for the tourist. You really do step out into the heartland of London sights. Maybe that makes up for the 5sqm you will be missing in your room. It’s also bigger and busier and some people want that.

Roseate House has larger rooms which are finely furbished, different character but at least on a par for quality. Both have excellent service, but simply because it’s smaller – about half the number of rooms – Roseate House is more personal. All the staff were wonderful.

And for us Roseate House is in a great location, uncrowded, untouristy. It’s a walk to Regent’s Park, Marylebone High St and the surrounding neighbourhood for food and Daunt’s Bookshop. The fabulous Satay House is nearby and Kendal St etc a bit further, followed by Hyde Park. London’s so teensy. But in any case, Paddington Underground is a few minutes’ walk away should you prefer. If you know London, I think you’d find Roseate House perfectly located.

In short, we highly recommend Roseate House as a place to stay in London and we are sure to be back.

 

 

 

Risotto with tuna and parsley

When you live in Geneva, you can’t have too many variations on Things to Do with Tuna, on account of how it’s probably going to be the main non-veg ingredient you can afford. I’m amazed at how well red wine worked in this, we are so used to ‘fish = white’. I will never be able to replicate this exactly as my red wine right now is an amalgam of various bottles people haven’t quite finished lately, including sparkling shiraz and cab sav.

Ingredients

  • Risotto rice
  • Shallot
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Chicken stock
  • Parsley
  • Chilli
  • Tinned tuna
  • Red wine

Method

While the stock is brought up to a simmer: gently fry the shallot and garlic in the olive oil. Add the rice and coat well with the oil. Add red wine – for two people I made that several generous slugs – and raise heat to burn off. Break up the tuna in the pan at the same time. Pour in the juice of the tuna if there’s any left in the tin and quite a bit of the stock. Leave at a fairly vigorous simmer. Start stirring and keeping an eye on it after five minutes (maybe more, I didn’t time it). Add lots of parsley, chopped, and the chilli. When it seems like it’s about done, stir in the butter.

That’s about it. Sorry it isn’t the traditional hover over it the the entire time earnestly stirring, but I find reading a book during that period has no damning effect on the risotto and it’s more fun.

Adelaide Fringe 2018: Lutes and ukuleles

I suppose one could fairly say over the last day we’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Saturday night it was A Medieval Marketplace. The title piece, performed in two parts, was a haunting experience, as sounds lilted around us. The venue, the Barr Smith Reading Room was used to great effect, the audience in the middle, with the performers all around. Medieval sound surround. It was a generous program of beautiful singing accompanied by instruments of the period. I’d never really listened to anything like it live before and it was especially intriguing that the wooden and thin sounds of the instruments fit so well. I wonder why that is?

Really disappointing that, performers aside, there was nobody there under the age of ancient. I’m mystified by why that would be. And yesterday didn’t get much better. A packed house saw the Ukulele Death Squad at the Grace Emily.  So yeah, a slightly younger demographic, but not by much. Why not???

I had no idea when I bought tickets to this show months ago, that it was the one I didn’t know existed. The only show I’ve seen at the Fringe ever that’s been sold out for every performance well beforehand. It didn’t need promos, reviews, half price tickets. My tickets were an impulse buy – names are everything in marketing? – but it didn’t take long to get why this group has such a big following. High octane ukulele. Who knew?

Well. Ukulele and a sax. Brilliant balance and Reuben Legge is a star. He looks about eighteen, but apparently he’s all grown up. Hard to pick.

Another really generous Fringe experience, we left much happier than when we walked in. I hope that’s compliment enough.

 

Adelaide Fringe 2018: Orpheus

Where would we be if theatre wasn’t something owned by everybody? If it entirely consisted of big companies with big budgets and big issues of safety? Companies that can’t afford to take risks, companies for which every empty seat is a failure measured in dollars.

Fortunately there may never be a need to consider that sad world. The government may try its best to leave theatre with nothing, in the end it doesn’t matter, theatre doesn’t stand or fall on what it is handed out. Rather, by what it gives out. And to see the generosity of theatre en masse we have such events as The Adelaide Fringe where night after night performers pump their stuff for a few dimes.

Orpheus is such a show. Two performers, one an actor and one (at least for this event) more of a singer. They’ve taken the ancient Greek tale and turned it into a modern, but still entirely timeless piece with all the power of the original. Local, Vince Fusco, is the teller of the story and he’s fabulous with the simplest of props – the book from which he reads. Phil Grainger has his guitar. The prop of the book is vital. It balances the guitar. It provides something for the actor to do, so he isn’t just staring us down the whole time. And, of course, it is the story line. Vince is telling a story. One could no more do this piece without the book in hand, as inform your children that bedtime reading tonight will be done bookless. Inconceivable! (I do have to note here that one review of this thought that the book was the other kind of prop – that the actor didn’t know his lines and needed it. This will make me go he-he for a long time.)

That’s all you need for a spellbinding hour of theatre. The rest is all the bravery to have a go. I’ve listened to a couple of performers gutted by poor reviews they’ve received this year. It’s impossible for any show here to have no redeeming characteristics. But it’s certainly possible for them to fail – theatre at the Fringe would be a boring thing indeed if nobody did anything that might not succeed. The success of Flanagan Collective‘s Orpheus, is a win for all of the performers who are putting it on the line here.

How real Vince and Phil have made the myth – I guess that’s why myths don’t die, they have a reality that transcends their fiction. I’m hoping to see this one again before I go, that’s a first for this Fringe. But it is selling well, so make your move soon.