Wednesday, 6 June 2018

"Macbeth" by Jo Nesbo - The Scottish Ploy

This is one of the latest adaptations in the Hogarth Shakespeare project.
It must have sounded good at the time - Scandi-noir adapting Tartan-noir. What a ploy to get thriller fans queuing at the nearest Waterstones.
Och, it is such a yawn. At over 500 pages, it never seems to end.
I fondly remember the modest film from 1955, "Joe Macbeth" -  American gangsters, Sid (Carry On) James as "Banky"/Banquo.
Nothing new here. This bloated effort features some cringe-worthy dialogue and tedious plotting.
Initially it's fun - the setting is a dismal 1970's industrial wasteland/doomed city - very dystopian.
Hecate (and the weird sisters) manufacture "brew" (SWAT boss-Macbeth's drug of choice, as well as most of the town). Lady Macbeth is "Lady", an ex-madam, now running Inverness's classiest casino. Both Macbeth and Lady were sexually abused as children. Does this account for their psychosis and lust for power?
But it's soooo drawn out. There is a cliched subplot with Duff having an affair with forensic officer, Caithness (female in the book) and the Mayor (of this 70's Gotham) is called Tourtell (which accounts for a lame joke toward the end of the book).
Please, Mr Nesbo, keep your novels set in Norway. The one set in Sydney, Australia ("The Bat") is another case in point.

If you want a decent Shakespeare adaptation, try Edward St Aubyn's take on "King Lear" - "Dunbar".

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Applying for a Letter of Probate without a solicitor (Australia). Save at least $1000

Most people go straight to a legal firm or trustee company, probably whoever is holding the will of the deceased. This is not necessary in most cases. You can spend $1500 - $2000 on an average estate (not including Supreme Court costs, see below).
Request the will, if it is held by a solicitor. The funeral director organises the death certificate.
With these two documents, you are ready to do-it-yourself.
You need:

  • Original Will
  • Death Certificate
  • A computer and printer
  • Application forms (filled in by typing or clearly printed)
  • Advertisement (see below)
  • DIY Probate kit suitable for your state/territory (recommended but not essential)

If you live in the state of Victoria, Australia, paste this in your browser:

Other states or territories will have similar sites.

Supreme Court of Victoria website is clear to follow, set out step-by-step. For extra help and tips, you can buy a D.I.Y Probate Kit online that includes stationery and application form templates according to a wide variety of cases - e.g. original executors, substituted (in the event of death) executors, multiple executors and beneficiaries.
The Supreme Court gives you a link to LibreOffice (used for entering in your application for probate that you simply print out and take to the Probate Office in Melbourne).

Costs (in Victoria, as of June 2018):

Advertising your intention to apply for probate through the Supreme Court website) $45.50
Application fee (paid on the day you go to the Probate Office)  $320

Optional D.I.Y. (I used Legal Kits of Victoria) guide $99 + $15 postage (money well spent)

In my situation I found the only tricky part was finding out the full names and addresses of witnesses to the will (written nearly 40 years ago, it there were two indistinct signatures). However, my father's solicitors had this information on file and emailed me this (at no cost).
The staff at the Melbourne Probate Office (Level 2, 436 Lonsdale Street) were friendly, helpful and not intimidating to a legal-newbie like myself. Note, the office is only open on weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Cathay Pacific's Airport Lounges - Hong Kong International Airport - review

Got a late night/early morning flight at Hong Kong Airport? Flying Cathay Pacific in Business Class?
Why not spend the afternoon/evening exploring Cathay's four lounges? Just ensure that you wind up at the closest lounge to your departure gate for your late flight.
The Cathy reception staff stamp your boarding pass so you can enter/re-enter any of the four lounges.

The Wing (near Gate 2) - our least favourite, even though it's the newest (too hot, glaring late afternoon sunlight), showers downstairs

The Deck (near Gate 18) - cosy, intimate, lots of smaller sitting areas - noodle bar, relaxation room

The Bridge (near Gate 35) - our favourite
Turn left from reception desk - it's quieter on that side - bistro, IT room, coffee/ice cream bar (where you can also order champagne), showers
Turn right from desk (for some reason most people do) - busier - bakery/TV lounge/noodle bar

The Pier (near Gate 65) - it's HUGE - it has everything, right at the end of this expanse is a tea-room followed by relaxation/massage rooms

The Deck - cosy

The Pier - huge space
The Bridge - quiet and classy - remember to turn left

Flying to Europe via Asia with Finnair Business Class

We flew Melbourne-Singapore-Helsinki-London-Helsinki-Hong Kong-Melbourne on a multi-destination ticket. This fare allowed 3 stops so we opted for Helsinki (with St Petersburg only 3.5 hours away on high speed train), London and Hong Kong.
Watch for Business Class sales with Finnair. Unbeatable price. Finnair has other Asian destinations for stopovers. The flight to Hong Hong was a remarkable 9.5 hours. We had a tight connection LHR-HEL-HKG but the Finnair gates were close together.
Helsinki Airport (Vantaa) is expanding. You may have to use a bus rather than a sky bridge to board your plane (e.g. HEL - LHR).
A train station is underneath Terminal 1. Fare to Helsinki Central Station ("Helsingfors" on noticeboard) is 5 euros. Travel time 28 minutes.
On the LHR-HEL leg, the Business cabin was just a curtained-off section with Economy seats, but the middle seats were left vacant so you could stretch out. Service was definitely Business.
On the long haul flights, if you are a tall or large person,you might find the lie-flat beds a wee bit cramped (especially the foot well).
Food in Business Class is plentiful - wholesome/comfort food rather than fancy/fiddly.

 Baked salmon for dinner Singapore-Helsinki

Cameras in the tail and under aircraft make great viewing in A350-900 planes, particularly if you have a middle seat in the plane.

Huge breakfast - but there are other options if you want something light.

Suburban train links directly with airport. Central Station Helsinki is 28 minutes away.
Information screen on board Helsinki-Vantaa train

Finnair Lounges - there are two, one for flights within EU zone, the other for flights beyond


Love the slippers (Large size too) provided on Airbus 350-900

Friday, 25 May 2018

Hotels and bottled water - cutting down on waste

Why don't more hotels provide refillable, reusable plastic bottles? Hilton hotels in Finland do. So does Novotel Century Hong Kong.

Monday, 21 May 2018

What to do with one day in Edinburgh - for free & avoid the tourists

Avoid the crowds, noisy guides, selfie-snappers, tourists coaches and the like. These activities are free as well.
For a great overview of the city and environs, climb Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park (at the east end of the Royal Mile).
Trails start near the car park, there is a visitors centre with free maps

Free guide with map

View from the summit, 252 metres above sea level
The Museum of Edinburgh (Canongate, close to Holyrood Park) has rooms of fascinating exhibits (don't miss Greyfriars Bobby's dog collar and bowl) in a historic house.

Visit Greyfriars Kirk (off Grassmarket).

The National Galleries of Scotland comprises 3 galleries - all free, except special exhibitions.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Russian high speed trains

The "Sapsan" takes three and a half hours to travel from Moscow to St Petersburg (over 700 km away). For the cheapest ticket, book with the Russian Railways (RZD) website, 60 days in advance. Avoid third-party ticket sellers (you will pay at least double the price).
"Allegro" (travelling between Helsinki and St Petersburg) is jointly run by Finnish Railways (VR) and RZD. Ticket prices are the same, whether you book with VR or RZD. As of May 2018, prices were as low as 29 Euros (Fri-Sun period).

Comfortable restaurant car on Allegro (St Petersburg - Helsinski

Second Class on Allegro - Why pay double for First Class (Business Class)?

Helsinki's 5 Euro travel bargain - Suomenlinna Sea Fortress by public ferry

Take the Suomenlinna ferry for Helsinki's 5 Euro travel bargain. Allow at least 2 hours to explore the historic sea fortress and township spread six islands. A free map is available at the ferry terminal ticket office. This means you can take a self-guided tour at your leisure.
The return ticket has a 12 hour travel period

Departs from ferry terminal on Market Square 

Suomenlinna - 18th century sea fortress