Dog-prived

Cinema Going. Gone. Pub meals. Gone. Cafe coffee breaks. Gone. Weekly city jaunt. Gone. Connecting with my dealer The Stamp Man. Gone. Connecting with friends and family face to face. Gone. Treks to the homelands. Gone. Hugs from the grandchildren. Gone. So much is gone, gone, gone. And they’ll be missed. Course they will.

But we can find replacements. As we proceed into time-on in the first quarter (good analogy Mr Gutwein), we are discovering adequate replacements with social media, television platforms and a greater appreciation of home fires and the beautiful, irreplaceable person you’re sharing your fortress abode with.

But Mr Wright, in the weekend’s Age, bought home to me something I cannot replace. The bastard virus has taken away my own Lulus, Bolts and Kokomos.

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I had a string of house/dog sits lined up for 2020 that would have given me the canine company I will now sorely miss. I so relish my times with Jasper down in Howrah, Sandy up at Sisters Beach and Summer, along with buddy Bronson, in Devonport. I was particularly looking forward to spending more time with Memphis, my son’s big, beautiful and gentle malamute at Bridport, as well as getting acquainted with his not so new, now best buddy, Pat the Dog. I love the place and it’s been a while.

The solution, you well may think, is obvious. But it’s not so simple with the lifestyle Leigh and I hope to return to when all this shit disappears, as it will. These wonderful animals have been part of the fabric of my life for the past few years and I’ll miss them.

Budgies? Not so much budgies. But feeding the birds at Stefan and Denise’s, the birdsong and the variety at Sisters and Briddy are special too. I’ll just have to content myself with the occasional avian raptor and all the water fowl here by the river, as well as the blue wrens flitting around the garden. And contented I’ll be.

Now, over to Tony W.

Tony Wright’s column = https://www.smh.com.au/national/of-old-dogs-babies-and-birds-companions-in-a-time-of-isolation-20200402-p54gg6.html

De-stressing in the Time of CV 02

Dear Friends

Courage – Yes, I know, it’s another supermarket tale. The supermarket is about the only place we’re getting out to these days. It must have been so hard for someone so young to be confronted with something so huge, even beyond the experience of all who will read this missive, with all our decades. Yet she had the courage to rise above it.

She was of such tender years. I doubt if she had even left her secondary years at school. Yet she was carrying on as best she could. All those lines of people she was expected to marshal through her check out. All the new rules she had to adhere to, especially ones as potentially confronting as the product limits. As well, many of the people she’d be shepherding by her till would be as anxious about the whole thing as she was.

Our first experience of New Norfolk Woolies had been positive, so, as the numbers climbed and the plans for complete staying at home seemed to be coming closer, my lovely Leigh and I decided to do a big shop to set us up for the coming week and a fair way beyond. And it continued to be a far more pleasant experience than our regular go-to grocery venues. All seemed fine at the checkout after we had completed our rounds. But then I asked her the question. ‘How has your day been?’ She tried to be brave. She tried to keep it in. I don’t know why she told me and I could tell she was struggling, trying to hold it together. The lower lip quivered, ‘I was abused earlier on. He had too much milk. I tried to explain it to him but all I got was abused.’

She gave me a weak smile and I told her how sorry I was that that had happened to her. She was rattled, but she put her head down and ushered our goods through her scanner. A little later she asked Leigh for help with the customer behind her who was breaking the rules about loading her goods onto the conveyor without being instructed it was her turn. Leigh handled that with her usual poise.

Courage? Well I think so. She was still standing after some dick had given her a mouthful, doing her job in a world gone crazy. She’s at the front line, too, in a time of trouble that even us old fogeys get a tad wobbly in. They seem a lovely, lovely bunch at the NN branch when supermarkets are rising in the general esteem. I’m sure, when her colleagues found out, they would’ve gotten around her and been as supportive to her as they are to their community. She’s clearly brave, that girl – perhaps out of her depth, but doing what she feels is expected of her. And no, there was no toilet paper that day either.

At the time of writing, to put it all into perspective with how well we are off here in comparison, sixty Italian doctors have died as a result of the coronavirus bug. You can never counter that with a positive, but millions of Chinese, on the other hand, are staring up at blue skies in wonder. The planet will recover, but there are some things that are emerging that should not be let go of again. Neither should we let go of all that which allows us to de-stress.

Curmudgeonly – Jack Dee. I first came across the 58 year old UK stand-up comedian in ‘Lead Balloon’, but I’d probably had encountered him, as well, beforehand on numerous British panel shows without him actually registering. He even has hosted one himself – ‘Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue’. ‘Lead Balloon’ lasted for four seasons up until 2011. In it Dee played Rick Spleen, a comedy writer for television. The name says it all. On it he vented his spleen at every opportunity. He was forever glass half empty; sarcastic to a fault. His world was full of annoyance and he’s a cynic as he battles to write laughs, with his partner, for his shows. Jack Dee was, in fact, a co-writer himself for ‘Lead Balloon’, as well as for his latest series. For me LB is one of the very best examples of Brit comedy.

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His ‘Bad Move’ is not in the same league, but the half hour episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 on Stan are just what the doctor ordered to de-stress in a coronavirus world, particularly after the oft heavier fare we watch during our evenings. Steve (Dee) and Nicky Rawlings (Kerry Godliman – ‘Extras’) have moved away from the city to more bucolic surrounds, only to find life out in the sticks isn’t all it’s cut up to be. Their woebegone, tumble-down rural house is a nightmare. To make matters worse, on one side their neighbour is a crackpot rock god, whilst on the other is a new-age family with perfectly adorable kiddies. Steve gets on okay with the former, but barely tolerates the latter. It’s twee, it’s predictable, striving a bit too hard for laughs and Jack Dee just plays himself. But for someone who, like me. loves his persona, the series is gold; sugar on a stick.

Irreplaceable – the bastard virus has gotten hold of John Prine

The last check I did before scribing this, his wife reported that he is stable, after a much more dire prognosis a few days back. He’s a fighter, is Prine. He has battled cancer since 1998, but continues to perform when he can.

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Some time after 1973 my brother lent me a bunch of vinyl. At the time I was stuck on the BeeGees, Johnny Cash and Dean Martin (still love them, mind) – the wildest I got was knowledgeably declaring that the Kinks were far superior to both the Beatles and the Stones. Kim was more up to date – ‘with it’, having broader tastes by far. In the little collection he gave me I spotted an album cover with a good looking, denim-clad rooster spread out languorously over some roadster type automobile. When I got around to playing the tracks within that one, being ‘blown away’ didn’t come close. I changed my musical direction in one stroke. It lead me on to other people such as Eric Anderson, Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Jerry Jeff Walker. I’d discovered, via Kim, Americana.

Sweet Revenge’ contained tunes like ‘Dear Abby’, ‘Christmas in Prison’, ‘Blue Umbrella’ and ‘Onomatopoeia’. It was Prine’s third album. I rushed out and purchased the previous two and have continued to collect him ever since. His voice is of the ‘love it’ or ‘loathe it’ type – you know which category I fall into – but it’s his songsmithery I love just as much. It’s what has made him a legend and multi-Grammy winner. ‘Sam Stone’, ‘Angel from Montgomery’, ‘Hello in There’, ‘Speed of the Sound of Loneliness’ and ‘Illegal Smile’ are just a few classics from his oeuvre.

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Prine was ‘discovered’ by Kristofferson and Kim ‘discovered’ him for me. My thanks go to both and I’ll be listening to him over and over in the days and weeks that lie ahead. Hang in there JP.

Sultry – As Helena in ‘Hache’ she shimmers and pouts her way out of dire and tricky situations in the Barcelona of the 1960s – and she sure took my mind off the woes of the world. I first came across Adriana Ugarte in the Pedro Almodóvar film of four years ago, ‘Julieta’. In it she played the younger version of the female protagonist in a movie by the great director based on the short stories of Alice Munro. She also featured stunningly in the sensually tropical colonial epic ‘Palm Trees in the Snow’, available for you to feast your eyes on with Netflix, as is ‘Hache’. In the latter, the thirty-five year old dominates the small screen as a former prostitute, falling on hard times, then seizing the day by attaching herself to a heroin addicted crime-boss operating out of a nightclub. She wins his trust and he brands her as one of his female associates. But she doesn’t kowtow to anyone – she quickly becomes a devious force to be reckoned with as she connives her way to where the money is. Try not to be too put out by the quite, for my taste, confronting sex scenes in Episode 1.They lead to a rip-roaring story with more substance than steam. And it has been commissioned for a second series as Hache, Helena’s nick-name, continues to bend with the wind till the frenetic climax of the final episode of the first season. If you can bear sub-titles this will bear you away from thoughts that are far harder to bear – see what I did there?

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Ghost Town – This week I fear I said goodbye to my city excursions for a while, most of my haunts being closed in any case. Whilst I was in there it was, well, deathly quiet. It seemed to me that all that was open were the two places I had to visit, a chemist and the post office. In reality I felt safer in there than any supermarket, although I must admit, even around the groceries, people seem to be getting the notion that this is serious.

We’ll wait it out, Leigh and I – careful, relatively content and positive that there’s always light amidst the gloom.

 Steve

Trailer for ‘Bad Move’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmRBwaPB0Dc

Trailer for ‘Hache’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I27cgz2p-Xo

For more on John Prine = https://www.johnprine.com/

De-stressing in a CV World 01

Dear Friends

It’s a little, perhaps even slight story amidst the tsunami that’s breaking over us, but it’s buoyed me in recent days. My beloved Leigh and I decided, for a change, to go upstream rather than down, for a few items we needed, some of which were beginning to become difficult to attain in the city. Whether its from blind fear or not-so-blind greed, this panic buying thing is a pain. We were largely successful in our aims at New Norfolk’s Woolies, a place that seemed less frenetic than it’s cousins closer in to the CBD. That, though, is not the point of this scribing. Whilst in there, out of curiosity I sauntered over to the area where the toilet paper should be housed when I spotted her. She was a largish girl, her face very flushed, heaving huge packets of Sorbent up onto said shelves. A colleague walked over to her, presumably her overseer, as she took a breath between hefts and I was close enough to overhear their brief conversation:-

He said, ‘I’ve called in Paul. He can do your shift for you tomorrow. You’re pushing it too hard girl. You need a break. Please take it.’

She said back, in a take no prisoners manner, ‘No. No way. This is my job. It needs doing properly and I’m doing it.’ Then she bent down and laboured another couple of dozen rolls up onto its proper place.

I’ve thought about her reaction to her boss’ desire to give her some time away. I reckon working her arse off is probably more than just doing her bit. My notion is that she is probably struggling to come to terms, like the rest of us, with what is happening to our planet. Working like a navvy is her way of trying to block it all out. Trying to cope with it all till we get to the other side. Thank heavens and thank you to the shelf-stackers. We plan to go back up to NN the next time we need to replenish. Maybe I’ll spot her again to discern how she’s doing.

Trump. Trump makes me angry. Always Trump. Then there’s the ineptitude and just plain dumbness of the NSW Department of Health, or whoever it was that, in cavalier fashion, allowed the Ruby Princess to disgorge its thousands of sitting ducks for the virus out onto the streets of Sydney and beyond. Our island is paying a heavy price for that stuff-up and that has made me quietly simmer. And I cannot adequately find the words for humans who mount organised raids on regional supermarkets. But I find if I focus on that girl who was busting a gut, just doing her bit, for whatever reason, I know there is another side. I must not let the anger get on top. It helps to push it aside. What else?

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There’s the stuff I love that I can bring to the fore to replace all of those routines I have already lost – but do not, thankfully, spend too much time lamenting. I can still soak cares away with my morning sudsy ablutions to get a day off to a calm commencement. Then comes my music. Katie and her Leigh organised some magic remote headphones so I’ve been losing myself in Missy Higgins, Clapton, the Boss’ ’Western Stars’ of late. As I pen this I am swooning to a glorious new album of Tom Waits’ covers, ‘Come Up to the House’ by some queens and princesses of Americana – Patty Griffin, Rosanne Cash, Shelby Lynn, her sister Allison Moorer and others. Just delectable. Katie sourced it for me on-line. She’s a marvel.

When my own Leigh emerges to start her day she is all calmness and common sense. I know, once we are through this, I’ll cherish and adore her even more, if that’s possible. Eventually, during our days, we’ll get stuck into our latest picks from the plethora of attractive series/movies on our platforms. At the moment we’re hooked by ‘The Capture’ (ABCiView). That will take your mind off anything. We’re also enjoying ‘Secret City’ (Netflix) and ‘The Last Tycoon’ (Amazon Prime). I’m finding ‘The Test’, also on Prime, taking me from Sandpapergate to retaining the Ashes, simply enthralling. And sporting-wise, with the demise of the AFL season, at least I won’t have the angst of a close match involving the Hawks.

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But the best balm of all? Late last Sunday afternoon I had, in quick succession, calls from my daughter, Rich and my dear mother. She’s confined to barracks. She’s lived through the Depression, as well as a hot and cold war, so she’s no stranger to adversity. She just keeps on keeping on, surrounded and cushioned by a caring staff at Umina. It felt so good hearing from them; such a salve, those conversations. Family need to be close in these times.

We’ll find a way through all this, as that young Derwent Valley lass is doing. My best wishes to you all as you ride out the storm in your own ways. My missives will keep on coming, She up there beyond the silver lining willing. Know they, too, are soothing for me, helping me keep it in perspective; keeping the bigger, wilder thoughts away

Steve

More on ‘Come On Up To the House’ – https://www.folkradio.co.uk/2019/11/various-artists-come-on-up-to-the-house-women-sing-waits/

Trailer ‘The Capture’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSSmitzvmUU

Trailer ‘Secret City’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2R-DPhzfFY

Trailer ‘The Last Tycoon’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDz-hm3yS28

Trailer ‘The Test’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9g8exCgVP4

Fab Feb Films

Bill Nighy. Just love him. His oft tremulous demeanour, tics and twitches have been the highlight of many a movie and television show for me. There’s the wonderful ‘Girl in the Cafe’ and ‘Gideon’s Daughter’ with the latter. And who can forget him his marvellous opening to proceedings in ‘Love Actually’. There’s his burnt out rock star in ‘Still Crazy’ and I relished him in ‘Wild Target’, ‘Best Marigold Hotel’ and 2018’s ‘Sometimes, Always, Never’. And later in March I’ll have the pleasure of seeing him again with Annette Benning in ‘Hope Gap’.

In ‘Emma’ he was again marvellous. He didn’t do much except fret about pesky draughts, but he did it magnificently. Without Bill I might not have been tempted to see yet another film adaptation of a Jane Austin novel, but with him featuring and Katie winning some tickets, off I went to Eastlands with two beautiful ladies either side. And I had a ball with it. Anna Taylor Joy was indeed a joy as the eponymous heroine, meddling her way through other people’s lives and forgetting about her own. She was surrounded by a fabulous supporting cast including, besides Bill, the wonderful Miranda Hart and Rupert Graves. This treat also saw the emergence of Johnny Flynn onto our collective radars as a tuneful George Knightley. Better known in the UK as a musician, he did some warbling in ‘Emma’ and has already a fine list of well-received albums to his name. He next appears as Bowie in ‘Stardust’.

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Not to be confused with Sorentino’s deliciously sensual treat, ‘The New Pope’, on SBSonDemand, ‘The Two Popes’, on Netflix, is equally worth taking in, being another highlight of summer’s last month. As with the other Academy Ward nominees from this platform, this offering shines on the small screen. How could it not with the acting chops of the great Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, both the receivers of Oscar nods. The former plays the dour Pope Benedict, whilst the latter the far more shiny Cardinal Bergoglio/Pope Francis. The film tells of the negotiations and conversations between the two as Benedict prepares to step down. Essentially he is symbolic of the tortuous past of the institution he represents when there is somewhat of a yearning for a new broom. We get a glimpse into the background of the charismatic newbie who, in the past, had a fractious relationship with the generals and the church during Argentina’s dark days. He professes a love, as well, for soccer and ABBA. And he’s such a contrast to the Germanic Benny, but what began as a standoff in negotiations ends up as a grudging friendship – or so the movie would have it. Please do not be put off by the fact that little of what the movie portrays actually happened. In the hands of gifted writer Anthony McCarten (‘The Theory of Everything’, ‘The Darkest Hour’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’) this is easily the equal of the bracketed.

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If you’re a fan of the ABC’s ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’ series on the box you will enjoy it’s big sister in the cinemas. ‘Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears’ has received a mixed and underwhelming response from the critics, but is ablaze where it counts – at the box office. It certainly has its faults, but it’s light, trite, fluffy and much fun. And it’s good seeing both Johns, Waters and Stanton, strut their venerable selves around in the frolic.

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Clint Eastwood is a legend and still going strong at 93. His latest, ‘Richard Jewell’, has had some strong notices, but also raised some controversy – as well as having a mixed response at the box office. Paul Walter Hauser is exceptional as the hero/villain of the Atlanta Olympic’s bombing – and he’s assisted by a competent supporting cast. Katy Bates gives a strong performance as the mother drawn into the mess her stay-at-home, dim, nerdy and over-weight son has inadvertently drawn her into. Sam Rockwell fares well as yet another down-at-heel shambolic lawyer who rises to greatness when his moment of fame comes around. It’s basically a tale of trial by media, all adding up to a pretty griping yarn. The issue lies with the over-the-top portrayal by Olivia Wilde of a press reporter. She broke the story of Jewell as the man who she accused of, not only saved many lives, but was in fact responsible for the device’s placement under some stands in the first place. She uses her body to worm the information out of a rather dim, square jawed detective (who better than John Hamm for such a role?) Only problem for Eastwood was that the real life, but now deceased, newshound, Kathy Scruggs, was nothing like her in her professionalism. Her nearest and dearest were understandably upset at the besmirching of her name. If you can cut the renowned director some slack for this, it is a saga worth seeing.

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Some cool days bought summer to an end with my final movie’s greyness matching the skies outside the State. It was based on John Lethlean’s best-selling novel with a Tourette suffering private eye, Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) at its core. The actor drove the production of this feature, responsible for moving the time frame from the 90s back to the 50s. Surrounded by quality off-siders in the telling, including Bruce Willis, Bobby Cannavale, Willem Dafoe and Alec Baldwin, it’s a hard-boiled tale of a lowly investigator up against big city corruption. Norton is outstanding, but who’d have thought his tics and squawks would make for perfect scatting in harmony with a jazz band? ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ shines despite the gloomy world the gumshoe inhabits and it’s well worth your time when it appears on a platform near you.

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So farewell to the old month and hello to the new. I wonder what treats lie in store for me, at the movies, up ahead, coronavirus permitting!

Trailer for ‘Emma’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsOwj0PR5Sk

Trailer for ‘The Two Popes’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5OhkFY1PQE

Trailer for ‘Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ1JC9ue8Y8

Trailer for Richard Jewell = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSMxBLlA8qY

Trailer for ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fru8IkuDp_k

Mailed Missives and Andrea’s Book

It aptly emerged around Valentines Day last month, the one-sided cache of letters that the Tasmanian Archives were letting the Hobart public in on to celebrate something or other, maybe just the day of Cupid’s arrow itself. A story was published in the local newspaper, an interview on ABC radio. Through those letters the tyranny of distance was writ large, even when the distance only amounted to that from Bushy Park, up in the Derwent Valley, to the inner city suburb of Newtown. Nothing today. They were his letters. No record of her replies remain. He later was to become the head of a family prominent in Tasmanian affairs, but as a young man, in the 1870s, he was working in the hop-fields and kilns of the Valley. Long hours; daylight to dusk. To visit his town girl back then would require a horse and trap down to New Norfolk, followed by a river steamer into the city. Getting together was therefore problematic, thus the missives between them. They amounted to nearly 200 from him to her, over a period of around two years. The words in these paper communications were delicately intimate, but also gave a portal of intricate detail into a working man’s life amidst the hop-bearing vines in our neck of the woods. Records show they did eventually marry and started to spend a life together. But after a couple of years she was taken from him by TB – but her memory, as well as their devotion, will now last an eternity. Letters allow that.

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Fast forward, now, to a novel that I loved, set a century and a bit further on in the Melbourne of around the Bicentenary year. Here Russian woman, Galina, after a chance meeting in St Petersburg, has migrated to Yarra City to begin a new life. Once here she has the other party in that meeting, who loves her, as well as his parents, to assist her in assimilating.

Mother Sylvie collects old letters, an inclination that later turned into a passion. It commenced when she uncovered an enticing one under the floorboards of her home. She finds peering into the lives of others, by reading their mail, is a salve to the mundane everyday existence with her husband, Leopold. Later she is obliged to write a life changing letter of her own. Hubby adores her, but their lives are defined and constrained by his secret.

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It’s a beautiful journey, working our way through ‘Invented Lives’, as Galina Kogen disentangles herself from her Russian Jewish past and embraces Australian life, even if she cannot completely embrace Andrew Morrow, who adores her. He’s the man who, in part, was the reason she was in this often perplexing new land, having made a perilous escape to arrive here. She found life with democratic freedom very different to being under the communist thumb. The choices in the shops: just the choices all around. And when she starts to think she has found her forever home on the other side of the world, the past comes crashing back again.

This is a tale of memories, Russian snow and Australian heat, culture clash, different forms of love and the power of letters.

Of course these days digitality has cruelled the standing of letters as a means of personal communication. Auspost has yet again informed the country, in its yearly report, of the ever-diminishing returns from their letter carrying operations, causing another postage price rise and notice of further cutbacks being a possibility for mail delivery services. The world of Galina and Sylvie was perhaps the last hurrah for the post as a force in people’s lives.

In a way she (Sylvie) couldn’t explain her letters acknowledged her – much like an absorbing novel did, although in a more personal and targeted way’. As she related to Galina, ‘I get to experience other times, places, people, emotions through letters…I feel remade.’

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Sylvie is speaking of her letter collection. She has been doing some soul searching of late about the paucity of her life with the urbane Leopold and is confiding in her new friend, a friend whom she hopes will soon move to the next level in her relationship with son Andrew. ‘Then there’s handwriting. You’re reading something direct from another’s hand. You’re touching their hand – that’s how it feels to me. And I particularly like letters that are hard to decipher. You have to pour over these; it’s the intensest intimacy.’

And how much more precious does a letter become – not to me, the collector, but the original recipient – when the writer of the letter has died. Think of it: for the wife who lives on after her husband, the man whose brother has passed away, the woman who’s lost her best friend, death does not alter their letters…You’re able to sit by yourself reading your beloved’s words. Savouring them, responding to them, just as you did when they were alive. Death, which changes almost everything, leaves letters untouched.’

…all letters are communications’, Sylvie continued on page 218, ‘all letters speak to someone, all letters invite the reader into the heart and mind of the writer. There’s something deliciously clandestine about letters. I love everything about them.’

Little did Sylvie know what was just around the corner. I’m sure, as with myself, she’d be saddened by the demise of her passion in the world of the C21st. There are some throwbacks, battling against the tide; some lovely people, whom I cherish, even continuing to send off epistles to me. But back in the 90s I had my own world wide net – people from all over the globe who wrote to me and I wrote back. They were called pen-friends. Going to the letter box was a highlight of the day. These days my mail box is full of requests for money, envelopes with windows and unsolicited advertising – apart from a few treasured items. Emails, as well as platforms like Messenger etc, fill the void, of course. They are exceedingly welcome, but it’s not quite the same.

Sylvie’s world will never come back, but I still sit here many mornings scribing away anyway. Hopefully the recipients are, like her, not being put off by my increasingly indecipherable scrawl – for, you see, I just love it.

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Andrea Goldsmith’s web site = https://andreagoldsmith.com.au/ =

Small Screen, Big Movie

It took a while too, Nikki, to come to terms with it. A-class movies being shown on the small screen after a limited, or non-existent, release in the movie houses. Netflix leads the way with this. I too, like you, Ms Gemmell, watched ‘Marriage Story’ and ‘The Two Popes’ in fits and starts – and I kinda liked that way of doing it. My difference was I did it on the tele, not i-pad or mobile. I can’t come at that, but I know many – and I include some at my age too – who can. I haven’t tackled ‘The Irishman’ yet – it’s mixed reviews and length making it less appealing. I’ve read that many couldn’t make it through.

That being said, the magic of the big screen is still alive for me. I come from a time when people actually dressed to the nines when going to the cinema of an evening. It was the adult thing to do. I can also remember that often a B-grade offering was shown first before intermission, with a newsreel to boot. As a kid, the Saturday matinee was the go, with often the line to get in extending around the block. There were uniformed ushers with torches flashing and jaffas raining down from on high. Those days and antics are long gone. Now my grown-up movie going is during the day, but it still excites me. Considering I’m ageing, it does require an effort as I have to drive a distance into the State, or to Eastlands. With the former parking has become problematic of late, making it less attractive. I therefore tend to be careful with my choices, going with the critics, or a favoured actor or director. I like to blog my opinions on what I’ve seen too, hopefully encouraging one or two to see a gem they may have missed otherwise.

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I am prepared to view something I wish to see on my tod, but nothing gives me more pleasure than accompanying my lovely lady to a film. On the extremities our tastes diverge. She adores big screen Hollywood and action heroes, I’m more taken by art house and foreign language. Thankfully there’s much middle ground where we can merge and it’s heaven.

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I thought long and hard about whether to include the Netflix innovation in my blogging, but when venerable figures like David Stratton and Oscar did so; it tipped the balance. To my mind both variations have their pluses. I just hope, as the years mount up, I can continue to make that effort. I just love it.

Nikki Gemmell on Going to the Movies = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/going-to-the-movies-moves-me-heres-why/news-story/9efaafb369f682f23d68603728a98eb2

Miss Manhattan

You can find an image of her, in the ether, from when she was in her glorious pomp. She’s there, proudly, daringly and completely naked, arms outstretched, posing for an artist at his easel. Her present day chronicler has called her the world’s first supermodel – a term as applied to her not strictly adhering to our modern definition. But she was famous, her name on everyone’s lips around the equivalent of the water cooler back then. Her propensity for nudity and the depictions of her being so enough to set most male pulses pumping. At the height of her fame one of her city’s daily rags tagged her ‘Miss Manhattan’, an indication of how her star was burning so brightly in the years leading up to and during World War One. There was none brighter in the firmament – yet she went on to have the longest crash and burn of perhaps any celebrity in history.

It wasn’t the aforementioned photograph that first attracted me to her, but one I came across on an Instagram feed called ‘all_thats_interesting’ – photos with intriguing stories attached. Bit of a goldmine, actually, for someone like me. There I found a more demure picture, a portrait, but it took my eye just the same, along with its caption, that ‘World’s First Supermodel’ business. I was immediately most taken and resolved to dig deeper. What I found was a ripping, if ultimately sad, yarn.

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Of course the largest statue of a woman in the environs of NYC is ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’. It’s a symbol of freedom and womanhood, better known to us all as the ‘Statue of Liberty’. The sculptor’s mother was reportedly the inspiration. But the second largest is to be found attached to the municipal buildings in Manhattan. It was modelled for by one Audrey Munson and is sheathed in golden robes. Another prominent one sits atop the Pulitzer Fountain in the forecourt of the Plaza Hotel. It features an unclad depiction of the Roman god Pomona and it’s again Audrey. It is estimated that, of the 1500 statues that graced the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, a goodly 200 or so supposedly were posed for by, yes, you guessed it, Miss Munson, in various stages of undress. But ultimately, it could be said, that it was the West Coast, not her home in the East, that led to her downfall. Had she not gone West, well, who knows?

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After an unsettled childhood Audrey and her mother moved to the Big Apple where the fifteen year old soon found work in the risque chorus lines springing up in entertainment venues all over the city; the novelty being recently imported from Europe and going gangbusters, as exemplified by the Ziegfield Follies. No, she wasn’t plucked from those, just being one of the alluring young lasses all hoping their ‘hoofin’ and ‘bump and grinding’ would lead to fame and fortune. That they would be the one plucked from obscurity. Yes, she was indeed the lucky one, but it didn’t come from her stage work. And she certainly ended up gaining plenty of the fame, if not the other hoped for commodity. Her finding was an even more a clichéd story than that.

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Felix Benedict Herzog, it was, who discovered the young Miss Manhattan-to-be. Audrey and her mum were out and about, doing a bit of window shopping, when she was spotted by the inventor, electrician (back in those days the equivalent of being a start-up whizz in these) and camera fancier. Felix, in his fifties, excitedly introduced himself to the pair, engaged in some small talk, complimented Audrey on her looks and deportment before asking if she would consider tastefully posing for him. With her mother’s permission and agreement to act as chaperone the proposal was accepted. For her first session the girl was tastefully draped and Herzog was soon discerning she was a natural, so he introduced her to his circle. It wasn’t long before mother and daughter were being asked to consider Audrey being less well draped. A smooth-taking sculptor asked her to disrobe completely for a work he was planning portraying the Three Graces. He rabbited on about artistic purity and so on to the degree that the mother and daughter agreed. Once that step was taken she was on her way to the notoriety she later achieved. She was soon in high demand and the fact that she charged peanuts (around $15 in today’s terms) for a session aided her popularity.

Herzog knew the traps such a young and vulnerable lass could fall into once she went down the path of posing nude and despite the age difference, he was willing to marry her in order to protect her from those that might take advantage of her. Had this occurred her journey may have been entirely different, but he suddenly passed away in 1912.

When she posed for a fully-armed replica of the Venus de Milo, ordered by Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands, she cracked the big time as far as being a celebrity of the age was concerned. She was now fodder for the media of the time – her ample figure and vibrant good looks ensured she was destined to be continuously in the public eye, her every move filling the gossip columns. It is safe to say it went to her head a bit. She now determined that she would find the perfect man who would be a suitable fit for her perfect body. That led to an interest in the science of eugenics, well and truly discredited now, but all the rage then.

And then Hollywood, or its pre-WW1 equivalent, came calling. The film industry hadn’t entirely migrated to the area around LA then, still being active on the East Coast. Of course the attraction of Miss Munson was obvious and she was soon participating in the first silver screen nude scene. Pornography had already found moving pictures a vehicle for the salacious, but Munson’s ‘Inspiration’ was meant to be for the general public. But various American church organisations had other ideas, with the movie soon being shut down all over the country. The template was set though. Henceforth the modelling community would be a breeding ground for future stars – and so it remains today.

To get away from all that Audrey Munson decided to make a move to a fresh start on the West Coast. Here she used her fame to become an early advocate of ‘wellness’, also a fad of the age, associated with the fascination for eugenics. Movie offers came in, but it soon became apparent that, although she looked a million dollars on the big screen, she actually couldn’t act. When her film, ‘Purity’, tanked at the box office work, full stop, started to dry up. It was then Munson lost the plot.

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The first indication that something was badly amiss was when she wrote to the US government accusing many in her association of pro-German sympathies because they failed to give her, being of English descent, on-going work. The newspapers had a field day with her when a doctor, living in the same apartment block as she and her mother, committed suicide over his infatuation with her. The infatuation that was unrequited.

It was all too much. Mother and daughter, now struggling financially, fled the city for a small town in upstate New York. There mum went out to work daily, now supporting her daughter who was recovering from her own suicide attempt. She’d thought she’d finally found her ‘perfect fit’ in a man. He rejected her. She took poison. Audrey then seems to have retreated into her own mind, with delusions regarding her past and her present straightened circumstances, making her difficult to live with. Her new community came to regard her, at best, an eccentric, at worst a serial pest stirring up trouble in all quarters. Eventually it all became too much for her ageing mother, so, on the former artist model’s fortieth birthday, Miss Manhattan was committed to a lunatic asylum out of harm’s way up near the Canadian border. There she lived, once the talk of the town, with her horizons now so narrow. She died in 1996. She was in her 104th year.

She would have faded completely from view after that had it not been for investigative journalist James Bone. He cottoned onto her story. With the assistance of some family members and the public record, he pieced together her quite sorry saga for his 2016 publication ‘The Curse of Beauty.’

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It’s a salutary story, this one of Audrey Munsom. She flew so high but the wrong turns led her astray. But in the ether she remains, as well as on the pages of a book. Consider her tale, be in awe of her beauty and let that take precedence over her troubled mind during her steep descent.


The Non-Gambler

It was such a pleasant Sunday afternoon this one just past. The sun was out, shimmering off the Derwent; a salve after days of mist and humidity. We’d dined well and extraordinarily cheaply at the bistro and I was happily ensconced by the panoramic windows, watching the boating activity on the briny, supping on some amber heaven and perusing the weekend papers. People all across the room, in singles or groups, were doing the same or similar. I noticed they were mostly of my own demographic, seemingly all quite content and at ease with the world, by the look of it, as I was. My lovely lady had left me for one of the other attractions of the venue. She was having a flutter at the pokies – something she really enjoyed. We do this every couple of months or so, my love and I. Now I’d certainly describe her as a responsible gambler, for she knows ‘when to hold ’em…when to fold ’em’ – so to speak. Many call her Lucky Leigh as she seems to win reasonably frequently on both the machines and Keno – not huge amounts, but she’s had some very tasty ones. As well she had a goodly return from the lotto a few years back, just enough to make proceeding into retirement less financially problematic. It was fair dues, given she’d spent years making a nurse’s salary stretch beyond belief. She’s a marvel money-wise. It’s one of the many reasons I admire her as well as love her.

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We’re going to the ‘No later on. Coming?’

Thanks, but no.’

In the end they gave up asking, my uni mates, at my residential college. Back then, in 1973 and after, for a while, Wrest Point was a happening place – the nation’s first casino. It gave the city of Hobart its first MONA effect. It was the place to be. International stars came to the showroom – why Jerry Lewis opened the whole shebang. The high rollers flew in and the locals came to gawk, dressed to the nines – well, most of them. Word had spread of the beauty and allure of the young ladies manning the gambling tables – one of these honeys later went on to marry a premier.

The lads from Hytten Hall would head down to Sandy Bay and the ‘No of an evening, after they’d completed their studies. They would be attired in a motley array of jackets that had seen better days. Most were bought from the local op shops for that specific purpose for a few bob. Ties were compulsory too to pass the doormen. They’d later regale me with their adventures – the glorious women that were there, or how much they’d had to drink. They couldn’t afford to gamble – but that didn’t stop one or two testing their luck. As I recall, the one-armed bandits were not a feature back then, but I could be wrong, never entering the place. Of course the mainland cities soon caught on, with each having its own equivalent these days – but I’ve never been as comfortable in those as I am at the local one in my dotage. They’re just not my scene. It is.

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As you have no doubt gathered by now I am not a gambler. I’ve never had a bet on the ponies in my life. I had a bit of a go on the pokies with Leigh once, but within ten minutes I’d had enough. I’m just not interested. But that’s not the point. When, at the last state election, Labor’s Bec White tried to lead us all into a pokies free existence, she ended up falling flat on her face at the polls. I could easily see the reason why, apart from the funds the vested interests sent the way of the Libs. She had great intentions after all the horror stories we’d heard, from the Northern Suburbs, of families wrecked through gambling addiction, but I was unsure whether what Bec was attempting could be the answer. Wouldn’t they just find another way to self-destruction?

So, no. I don’t get upset that my AFL team attracts the highest percentage of its profits from poker machines of all the clubs. Sure, something needs to be done about addressing the advertising for the activity that is associated with the game. Yep, I reckon that’s where the attention needs to be focused. I might be naive, but I reckon most are like my Leigh. They play the pokies sensibly, just loving the expectation that a little windfall might be in the next press of a button. They set themselves a limit and stick to it. It is a social occasion for many – some perhaps not having much else in their lives. My Leigh just loves having a chat with like minded punters in those rooms too. So what if all that is not to my taste. Why should all those that find it convivial and derive pleasure from it be denied? I may be accused of living in a bubble but there it is. Go Hawks 2020.

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James Morressey’s opinion piece = https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/hawthorn-must-end-addiction-to-poker-machines-now-20200203-p53x8e.html

Dear Sweet Pea – Julie Murphy

Once upon a time these girls would have never been A-listers in their milieu – the Dumplins, Pumpkins and Ramona Blues of this world. But, like Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy; dozens and dozens have shown to the now accepting public that an hour-glass figure or super-coolness doesn’t define beauty, talent or the ability to cut it big. These girls are forces of nature and despite the roadblocks, feisty, with the capability of summoning up the wherewithal to plough right on through. These three aforementioned inhabitants of American writer Julie Murphy’s books, all on the cusp of entering the adult orbit, have been huge hits in the US. One has even made it to the big screen and her tale can be viewed of Netflix. I’m talking about ‘Dumplin’. Here Ms Murphy now gives us a heroine for the younger set.

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Sweet Pea DiMarco is truly as sweet as a spring pea in a pod. She’s a lovely creation and she’s about to graduate from her country’s version of primary school, which terminates with Grade 7. The big school, though, holds some trepidation for her, especially as her final year in the lower grades has been tough. Not only has her bestie, Kiera, moved across to that cool set, but her parents have split. The former couple, though, give some of the best messages in the offering. Not only are they neighbours and their abodes almost identical to ease the possible trauma for their girl, they remain close. The mum seems to have had few issues about giving her spouse the room he needs to be his true self. Sweet Pea’s woes are somewhat assuaged by a friendship with one lovely boy, Oscar, struggling a tad in the gender stakes. As well, on the horizon, there’s a potential relationship, of some description, with a new kid on the block.

Sweet Pea also discovers she has an ability as an agony aunt as the result of an unlikely turn of events, finding the opportunity to put it to work in her community’s daily newspaper. Her advice is sensible when she’s not acting on revenge, but we do not find out her response to one plea for enlightenment– a young lady who does not want to spend a first night with her boyfriend as she is frightened she may fart in her sleep. How would a fella respond to that? Help!

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We fully suspect, from the get-go, that it’ll all work out for Sweet Pea – it’s the way these books work. And they’re nonetheless for that. Finding out how is the joy. Here the pages turn easily, there’s little to challenge the reader but more than enough to keep us interested so it’s a no-brainer to rip on through to the positive resolution. And this hoary old fella enjoyed it immensely. Thanks Kate.

The Author’s website = http://www.imjuliemurphy.com/

Damascus – Christos Tsiolkas

Life of Brian’ ‘Damascus’ most certainly isn’t, but Tsiolkas’ gritty, fleshy, reeking and violent take on the life and times of Saul/Paul and his acolytes kept the Python’s classic seeping back into my mind over and over as I read the author’s latest. It’s a departure for both of us, admittedly, but a welcome one. Unlike the movie, there’s little to laugh about with it. And I suppose, given where you are coming from, we may thank these early spreaders of the word, including Thomas and Timothy, for taking a faith out of the Holy Land, into the Roman Empire and its capital, giving our planet another religion.

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Early Christianity was such a fragile thing. The candle could have been so easily snuffed out by the old religion or under the weight of the Roman gods, but it prevailed. Mostly in the imagining by CT there’s an uneasy co-existence with the non-believers – but, of course, the early purveyors suffered great hardship, privation and on occasions, their beliefs cost them their lives. From the printed page you can almost smell the crowded, unwashed, fornicating, lice-infested bodies emanating from Tsiolkas’ prose in this quite remarkable feat of writing. With this author I can’t imagine anything rivalling that unnerving slice of Australian suburbia that is ‘The Slap’. ‘Barracuda’, for me, didn’t even come close, but I think ‘Damascus’ will truly signal him as being up there with the greats of OzLit.

For this stand out effort the Gospels are referred to, as well as other early Christian sources; fiction being added around the unknowns, to give a fetid picture of how it could possibly have really been. Some of his early references acknowledged Christ minus the crucifixion and resurrection, with that forming an aspect of the narrative. The doubts of these early followers are as fascinating as what they knew to be certain, particularly as time passes away from the actual New Testament events, given the Son of God fails to make another excursion back to Earth to visit and inspire.

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Real or false news, the notion of the goodness that Jesus of Nazareth has given us all is one of undeniable purity – but it’s a goodness we repeatedly trash with our collective actions. That shines up from the oft hellish world the author creates. But for this unbeliever (with the wordsmith himself admitting he is not sold either) I was drawn into fecund mire with all the multiple protagonists. We can only think of what might have been and recoil had it been otherwise.

The Author’s Website = http://christostsiolkas.com.au/