Reboot 02

Bernard

In the blancmange of days during the great lockdown, time breaks free of the reference points that hold down all we know firm and steady. In lockdown world there are no appointments, no weekends and no need to set an alarm to beat the traffic.’

I love the ‘blancmange’ reference to describe our times where many are still struggling to point our noses above our homely parapets to align ourselves with beseeching politicians and the caution of the health experts. ‘Come on. Come out. It’s safe, we think. Test the waters. You’ll see.’ The ‘blancmange of days’ aptly nails it to describe what we’ve been through. Once we get out, hopefully we’ll never have to return. But do we believe they’ve got the balance right? We don’t want to have to go scurrying back. Ours has been a period when ‘One day blurs into another. The weekend evaporates into the ether’

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The italicised quotes are from his weekly column in the Weekend Oz on the state of society. He was the man who alienated a generation against the Boomers, with a call to arms from the hipsters and assorted younger generations, with the Great Avocado Smash Brouhaha. The hide of him stating, ‘I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbed feta on five grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more.’ He claimed doing that several times a week, as the inner-city latte-sippers obviously did, was the reason they couldn’t afford to place a deposit on a house. Outrage! The protestations caused a mega-storm in a flat white cup. Pull your head in Salt!

Bernard Salt has obviously still struggled with the lassitude and ennui induced with being cooped up, despite his high profile. He’s let himself go, forgetting appointments; mixing up his days. He reports his failures in ‘All at Sea’, one of his latest columns for the Weekend Oz.

Strangely, looking back, I suspect some will miss these days. For us retirees, in the main, there is little divergence from our day to day routines of pre-CV when we were largely home based in any case. The only difference is that, for us now, we cannot be anywhere else but home based. But for many, more time with family, appreciating the value of teachers with home schooling, avoiding the daily rush hour by working from home – maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

A few days ago I made my first sojourn, for around six weeks, into an eerily quiet city centre. Today I plan to visit Mr Murphy, if the car park isn’t too full. Dining out and the cinema are still a long way off, but maybe a cafe visit in a week or so is beckoning. Soon, all being well, I may venture again up north when intra-state travel is permitted. Visits to and from the grandchildren are now within touching distance. I know we’ll keep a space between us and others till the final all clear is given, but as for going back to ‘All at Sea’, I hope not.

Unique Tasmanian

They’ve been there most mornings of late as I sit here to scribe. Many’s the time I break off, look out and watch them scrabbling around. It’s normality. To most Tasmanians they’re barely worth a glance they are so ubiquitous, but I observe them up close. They, in their matriarchal clusters, fascinate me.

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As the virus approached, however, they seemed to disappear. For weeks I couldn’t spot them anywhere near our abode by the Derwent. I was quite nonplussed. Was it the breeding season? Feral cats had been seen. Were they to blame for their absence? Snakes perhaps? I’m told the rushes, on the river bank, are lousy with copperheads. Raptors? Whatever, they were gone.

Then, as we started to emerge from our semi-iso, so did they. For the last little period they have been at it again – venturing onto our lawn, sometimes coming right up to the flowerbed beneath my window to eyeball me. The native hens are back and I softly rejoice. A sign.

A joke for these times

A guy walked into a bar….lucky bugger.’ Soon. Soon.

Shane Howard – Music for these Times

Continuing to reflect on the state of the nation, his new collection, ‘Dark Matter’, is as tuneful as it is insightful.

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A Tome to Re-emerge With

Deep Water’, Sarah Epstein, contains a feisty lead who is seeking to discern which of her flawed circle of mates is responsible for the disappearance of another of her sidekicks. Its a ripping YA read for any age. Read my review of it in the Blue Room.

Hollywood Times 3

My delightful viewing partner and I finally managed to catch up with ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ – one of the premier gong-collecting movies from the awards season earlier this year. And with Pitt, DiCaprio and Robbie in its ranks, amidst a cast of fine repute, this re-creation of Tinsel Town in the sixties took its time to burst into life. You’re thinking this is okay, but what’s all the fuss about? Then, just when you thought you had what was about to happen down pat, Tarantino turns it all upside down and unleashes. And the dog! That dog! Leigh and I let out a collective ‘Wow!’ when we emerged from the carnage.

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With the Netflix attraction ‘Hollywood’, be prepared for actors to carry on with gay abandon as we delve into the machinations of a movie house struggling to stay afloat in the late forties. It’s attempting to take a more balanced view of discrimination of all hues with its product. It flagrantly plays with the cinematic history of the time and its ending defies credibility – but then, perhaps it meant to, being more tongue in cheeky cheek than anything else. But it was fun and my lovely lady and I gave it a tick of approval.

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City of Angels’ (Stan) claims to be a ‘Penny Dreadful’ – but that’s a dreadful misnomer. Transferring the action from London’s smoggy gloom and settling it down in the Los Angeles glare, several decades later, is so wrong on many counts. It does pall, too, in comparison, but that said, Natalie Dormer is always watchable in anything. It has a strong Latino influence with some ‘Day of the Dead’ antics to the fore. There’s Nazis, as well, as it’s set in the lead up to WW2. City Hall corruption is played out with strong violence and it’s an okay effort, but if you’re expecting a ‘reboot’, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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Axe and Chuck

How could she (see Kate Simmons’ take on ‘Billions’ following) be rooting for Axelrod. It’s difficult to find anything positive about this Gordon Gecko for a new century. He’s an unfettered money-grabber who destroys, legally or otherwise, anybody who stands between him and his garnering of shit-loads of moolah. Could it be a gender thing for Kate S with her and Bobby A. Damien Lewis, he of the thin lips and piercing blue eyes, plays him to the hilt. Perhaps he is one sexy unit with all that monetary power.

Me, I’m a Chuck man. He’s far from perfect, mind you, with his taste for the fetish side. There’s also a hunger for power too, his of the political kind. Chuck Rhoades is also not adverse to cosying up with the Axe when it suits him, but generally they are at each other’s throats. Notionally he is on the side of right, but he’s a devious cur and Paul Giamatti plays him with relish. Its this relish I relate to.

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Around these two are a biomass of mostly grubby suited slime-bags, with just one or two rising above the morass on occasions. This is the ‘Mad Men’ for the first decades of the 21st Century and although, at times, it’s a little difficult to follow all the machinations that go on, it still makes for great television.

As for my wonderful partner in all this – she thinks they’re both despicable with no redeeming features what so ever, but nonetheless is still glued to all their devious plan hatching as Stan drip-feeds us Season Five.

Bernard Sal’s article for the Weekend Oz = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/coronavirus-lockdown-befuddlement-syndrome-is-real-and-insidious/news-story/42783d24fab99be21160fd04e59fa0a4

Shane Howard’s website = https://shanehoward.com.au/

The Blue Room’s review of Sarah Epstein’s ‘Deep Water’ = stevelovell.id.au/2020/05/22/deep-water-sarah-epstein/

Trailer for ‘Once Upon a Tine in Hollywood = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELeMaP8EPAA

Trailer for Hollywood = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybN5pVJw-_A

Trailer for ‘City of Angels’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7BOjN3_M2A

Trailer for ‘Billions’ Season 5 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aILMB1h8x7I

Deep Water – Sarah Epstein

I’m Tasmanian. We’re basically one big sleepy small town so I can spot a fake a mile away.’

It’s fun reviewing books. I don’t have tickets on myself that I’m particularly good at it, but I enjoy doing it immensely. I form my own opinions, but between finishing a tome and sitting down at my favourite nook, here beside the river, to write it up, I always take to the ether to see what others have made of it.

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Just occasionally, what I read there may make me see the work of fiction, or reality, I’ve just completed in a new light. Sometimes, what I’ve struggled with, they have loved or, conversely, panned what I’ve adored. It’s always interesting. I suppose I should not have been surprised to see, when searching for what better scribes than I had to say about Sarah Epstein’s ‘Deep Water’, that the first one I hit on was written by my own daughter. After all, she had recommended it to me. I ask her to pass on the best of the YA she reads as I love the genre too – but she is far more up with it. A very fine novelist herself – I am biased, I know, but I think it’s a fair call – she’s eminently well positioned to comment on others. That’s especially the case when it comes to those set in small communities, as is Sarah’s – thus the opening quote from Katie’s review. As well, she is well placed to know the vicissitudes of the writerly life; of putting yourself out there in a work of art.

Obviously she loved ‘Deep Water’, as I did. In a way it is a pity that it is catergorised as YA and would be on the shelves of that section for most booksellers. Obviously the YA market is massive and burgeoning in itself, requiring skilled wordsmiths to sustain it , but it does mean this fine whodunnit would be bypassed by more mature readers. I’m fortunate to have my daughter passing them along to me. Like Katie, I have been recently converted to crime after I cottoned on to Jane Harper, Chris Robotham and now Dervla McTiernan.

And I concur with everything Kate says about the work and its wonderfully well delineated characters, especially the feisty lead. So, if you’re a devotee of crime, move across to the YA section and seek this oh so proficient author out if you’re in the same demographic as myself; that is OA (Old Adult). She’s a great addition to those who are currently making this a golden age for Aussie crime writers, whether they’re setting their sagas in the US, UK, Ireland, the parched outback, hardscrabble regional centres or in our cosmopolitan cities.

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 I can’t wait to read more Sarah Epstein. Her website = https://sarahepsteinbooks.com/

Katie’s review = http://www.justkidslit.com/book-review-deep-water-by-sarah-epstein/

Reboot 01

Tomfoolery’s ‘The Great Realisation – 2020 Hindsight’, I suspect, has gone viral. Does over half a million hits on YouTube count as going viral? If it hasn’t come into your orbit, do view it on that platform. In it a father is reading to his kiddies a ‘before and after’ picture book – the world pre- and post-CV. The latter is, in anybody’s language, far better. It’s a wonderfully optimistic vision; beautifully and poignantly presented.

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And I sense a little bit of optimism has crept onto our planet out of alignment, sensing that it all can be better afterwards. A reboot? Well, that may be a tad presumptuous at this early stage, but, by the time you read this, dear friends, we’ll perhaps have an inkling if it was only wishful thinking or the real deal. I wouldn’t want to jump the gun.

Ms Squires, though, is on board in her accompanying thoughtful piece, accentuating the possible positive outcomes that the dire period we have all been through presents. You feel our globe has taken a deep, deep breath and is currently inhaling gulpfuls of the air we’re so used to in Tassie. Will it be allowed to continue to do so out the other side, or will humankind go back to choking it to death? For all this to happen, first we need to rid ourselves of the abomination that is Trump – what an excellent start that would be.

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But, like Ms Squires, my overwhelming feeling this morning is one of pride in my country. It’s a while since I’ve been able to say that in totality – without reservations. Sure, it hasn’t been perfect – the Ruby Princess, Morrison poking at the Chinese, Dan Tehan’s clumsy attempts to bludgeon kids and their teachers back into the classrooms in a still scary world. But the Feds get a tick for at least positioning us to be one step ahead of the bastard virus. The real winners, politically, are the Premiers and Chief Ministers who have reflected the heartbeat of their states and territories. To date they have been restrained, stoic and have inspired the bulk of their constituents to stay the course; to put lives ahead of a crashing economy – unlike someone else I could mention. They have shown clearly that we are not the shit-storm that is Trump’s USA – there I’ve mentioned the great blowhard again. We know, though, who are the real heroes of our country – the real people to be stunningly proud of. They don’t need listing here. We all know who they are. I’m about to venture out and meet some wonderful examples of them at my local supermarket.

Of course, if we learn nothing from them, their valour has been for zilch. If we regress back to the old pre-CV world it’s been for nought. The planet, it is patently clear, has given us a last chance, once we escape Covid-19, to set up for future generations. If this is not a game-changer, then what’s coming will make CV seem like a sneaky fart in the wilderness.

And what I would dearly love right now is to hug my daughter, son, grandchildren and mother. It’s getting closer.

And now I’m back from getting supplies. The toilet roll shelves were full for the first time in months. It’s a sign.

Wendy Squires column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/was-this-lockdown-the-reboot-into-a-life-really-worth-living-20200430-p54oqn.html

YouTube – ‘The Great Realisation’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw5KQMXDiM4

De-stressing in the Time of CV 05

Dear friends

Trevor – This morning I woke up to –

We’re going on a bear hunt! We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day. I’m not scared

Trevor was a tad perplexed. Of course the ditty has taken on a whole new meaning as spirits are uplifted for young – particularly the young – and old alike as they exercise around their neighbourhoods. But a bonus is being able to spot teddy bears in windows as they do so – furry beacons of hope in dark times. It’s an American president’s everlasting legacy – although the bears he hunted were of an entirely different nature. I wonder what the ultimate legacy of the inane and downright dangerous galoot that currently inhabits the Oval Office will be? Loved hearing Billy Connolly call him ‘The Great Tangerine’ on a recent show, but I digress.

Yes, Trevor was confused. He knew he should know, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Just what were the origins of the chant the little ones would chirp around the streets of the towns and cities of our country as they’re on the lookout? Of course, his listeners were soon onto it, putting him straight. We know it’s from Michael Rosen/Helen Oxenbury’s timeless classic picture book that still sells by the ton thirty years after it was first published. And it also contains the perfect lines for the CV world –

Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go around it. Got to go through it!

And we do.

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Trevor was taking calls from all over Oz as I stirred from my slumber. He has one of the biggest extended families there is on his nights. It consists of a motley array of insomniacs, shift workers, truckies and especially old dears who experience restless, wakeful wee small hours. For all of these Trevor is the voice in the darkness – a friend helping them make it through the night. He’s a mate to countless thousands. The topic under discussion, sometime after four that morning, was the fad for bear hunts sweeping the country. Considerate people were placing the family teddy in a street facing window to give such delight in these constricted times.

One old darling reported to him how she had placed two teddies, as well as the dog from Footrot Flats for good measure, in her portal to the world. Trevor posed the question as to how long it had been since she’d seen her own grandchildren. ‘Three months.’ she replied. ‘I only have one and he gives the best hugs in the world. Oh how I miss those hugs of his!’ We are all missing hugs at the moment.

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Trevor Chappell – no, not that Trevor Chappell of cricket infamy! – is the overnight man, operating out of Melbourne for ABC radio in the 2am till 5.30 slot, Mondays to Thursdays. His show is one of the most networked in the country and he’s my nightly companion. I first got into the habit of leaving the radio on all night in the years of separation, eight in all, I had from my lovely lady last decade. Me in Burnie, she in Hobs – they were long nights. That’s all in the past now, but the habit has been hard to shake. In the end I gave into it. I’m a passive member of his club – I never ring in, but I listen during my interrupted sleeping. He takes my mind off what could become much darker thoughts, during these testing months, as the outside world grapples with the virus. His voice – warm and laconically Australian – is balm-like. He cares. You can tell he has empathy in spades for his nocturnal audience. He’s no shock-jock – that execrable crew.

He once did a summer for Macca and I thought he out-Macca-ed Macca. It was mooted he should take over the Sunday morning slot when the legend calls it a day – but there’s no sign of that. The former West Australian Weagles supporter has been doing this gig since the early noughties and long may he continue. And right at the moment we need all the Trevors we can get.

Did worry me, though, on another topic du jour – that of lock-down fashion. He said he wouldn’t be seen dead in trackies. They, according to the word of Chappell, are a sure sign that you’ve let yourself go. Dear me – I haven’t been out of them for months. I wonder what he makes of crocs?

Freya – Music for these Times – In between playing my old John Prine (didn’t realise I had so many), the album I have been picking up constantly is the self-titled ‘Freya Ridings’. This flame-haired British songstress’ voice soothes and caresses. Check her out on YouTube or Spotify if the name is new to you.

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Trent – His ‘Tales from the Bunker’ is four weeks in now. The Weekend Australian’s regular feature, put together by Mr Dalton, again caught my perusing eye with several vignettes. There’s eleven year old Emily of Holland Park, South Brissy, who has started up a neighbourhood newspaper, which she hand delivers to the residents of her vicinity. Headed ‘The Corona Times’, it contains all the news of the doings in her street, as well as jokes and a ‘Neighbour of the Week’. Also from the same city is seventy years young Susan of Paddington who gives thanks for all the wonderful people in her life, but ponders why she’s wracked with guilt. Eventually she concludes it’s because ‘…the whole country is being held to ransom to safeguard those of my generation.’ Yep, it’s wonderful of the generations that follows us, isn’t it? After all, those in our age group haven’t exactly been kind to the planet we’ll be leaving behind to them.

Kate, from Port Melbourne, has been struggling, living in such close quarters for an extended period with a sullen, morose and non-communicative spouse. She feels that the period will most likely finally break her marriage as she ‘…hugs the kids and tries to give them something solid to build a life on.’ But, then, she succeeds in finding relief ‘…in the beauty of the autumn sun slanting into the kitchen of a morning…We have the winter coming, and this forced seclusion is beautiful,…’ but finishes with, ‘… but God, you cannot escape the fissures in your relationship.’ I count my lucky stars each and every day I have Leigh.

Noel – I was awake, probably because, in the back of my mind, I wanted to do it. So at 5.45 I reached for my clothes and dressed, rummaged around in various drawers for a torch and walked out to the end of our driveway. It was so still. The lights of Granton-side were shimmering off the Derwent, just across the road. Our wonderful neighbours, Noel and Jane, appeared on their front deck, Noel extracting a trombone from its case. On the dot of six he placed it to his lips and pierced the silence with an evocative ‘Last Post’. Between that and the more up-tempo ‘Reveille’, I thought of a father, a brother-in-law and a nephew who either went to war, or were in uniform, prepared to do so. To the best of my recall it was my very first dawn service – and I couldn’t have been in better company.

Fergus – I’d never heard of him – and that’s not surprising given my only slightly tongue-in-cheek disdain for the sport some of us now call football, but I’ll always refer to as soccer. Of course, compared to Aussie Rules, it’s a game for wusses, but it seems, unfathomably, to be quite popular.

So who was Fergus Suter? Well, it seems this Glaswegian stonemason was the first to give up his trade and accept money to play a sport which had previously been the preserve of young, entitled upper-crust toffs. These guys hated the smelly, unrefined riff-raff and regarded anyone like Suter as toxic. You played for the joy.

The English Game’ (Netflix) tells his story and it’s an intriguing upstairs/downstairs affair with the fledgling soccer tale being only one of the threads. Julian Fellowes had a hand in this so, like his behemoth, ‘Downton Abbey’, this is also concerned with the class system, as well as the role of women in late Victorian society. So if you’re a fan of that incredibly popular English series or, heaven forbid, soccer, then this is one for you. I thought there was much to recommend it.

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Missing those charismatic bloodsuckers Sookie and Bill Compton from ‘True Blood’? Then the same platform as above offers up ‘Vampires’, a French take on the genre. I doubt it’ll have the legs of the US game-changer, but it’s just the same sort of mindlessness that’s so de-stressing for this fraught period of our collective lives. It’s just transferred from the Deep South to the underbelly of Paris. There’s blood a-plenty and a bit of the other as well, taking our minds off a less visual horror. And a second series of this offering was planned before that other horror hit.

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A book to while away the hours as we wait for the curve to flatten out some more – Michael Robotham’s ‘Life or Death’ is a departure from his usual UK settings, but is still a page turning one – and prestigious prize winner to boot. See my review of it on my blog ‘The Blue Room’.

Peter – During the finishing off of this scribbling I listened to our state’s Premier, Peter Gutwein, give his daily press conference. I am impressed with him There’s even some great to see bi-partisanship here with both Bec from Labor and Cassie from the Greens stating he’s doing a sterling job. That’s along with his wingwoman, Health Minister Sarah Courtney, as well. Yep, we’re all in this together in Tassie. I’ve never voted Liberal in my life and probably never will. But, if he was in my electorate, next time around, I’d be sorely tempted. He’s made it possible to think we’re in the third quarter with a bit of lead on the opposition. I hope we hang on and win.

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Profile of Trevor Chappell = https://www.abc.net.au/radio/people/trevor-chappell/7347210

Freya Ridings website = https://freyaridings.com/

‘The English Game’ trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBOlhdSYhv8

Vampires Trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUNXFhyZnzY

Blue Room’s review of Michael Robotham’s ‘Life or Death’ = stevelovell.id.au/2020/05/01/life-or-death-michael-robotham/

Life or Death – Michael Robotham

There seems to be two types of people in this world. Those who love Michael Robotham, and those who haven’t heard of him yet.’ Andrew Cattanach, writing for Booktopia.

I suspect many more will come to know him, at least in his home country, for the tele version of his 2017 novel ‘The Secrets She Keeps’. It commenced on the Ten Network just this past week at time of writing, presumably being available, as well, on 10Play. Star Laura Carmichael was advised not to take on her lead in this by none other than Julian Fellowes. He reckoned it would detract from her image after years of being a vital cog in the ‘Downton Abbey’ wheel, or so I read. We’ve viewed the first episode and so far it’s done justice to Robotham’s fine telling of suburban deceit.

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Life or Death’ predates all this, being published in 2014 and it is a stand alone, taking place in the US, as opposed to his usual UK settings. And it’s a ripper, like all of his later stuff, winning Britain’s Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger Award for the Sydney based writer.

He creates a resourceful and intriguing hero in Audie Palmer. His long prison sentence is about to end, but the day before he’s due for release he escapes. Go figure! What could possibly have led to such seeming stupidity? As we discover in his back story, what slowly comes to light, as the saga progresses, is that there are two kinds of luck for Audie – the very best and the very worst. He’s hoping for a bit more of the former as he tries to make his audacious bid for freedom and tie up the loose ends of his life. And he’ll need it. He’s assumed to know the location of millions of dollars stashed away after a bungled robbery. But, of course, not all is as it seems – giving the author plenty of scope to play, throwing in hints along the way that keep the pages turning. As it ploughs towards its breathtaking, frenetic conclusion, we have a game of good cop (the diminutive Desiree) and bad cop (no spoilers here). There’s also reference to the felon’s brief marriage, his dodgy brother and even dodgier former boss, both of whom caused him to be on the radar in the first place. They are the ones who’ve progressively led an intelligent kid to darker waters.

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In the world of coronavirus we need all the escapism we can muster and with this title and the tele-series, Robotham is delivering and delivering.

Michael Robotham, international crime writer
visiting London

26.07.2010

picture: Stefan Erhard

The author’s website = http://www.michaelrobotham.com/

De-stressing in the Time of CV 04

Dear Friends

Hugs – I wondered how it would go, the arrangement between Trent Dalton, best known for mega-seller ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ (a tome I seem to be in the minority with as I have never perused it) and the Weekend Australian’s magazine. The notion was that he’d receive emails from the reading public with their own stories of surviving and waiting out the virus in their own abodes.

The first of his ‘Tales from the Bunker’ appeared in the Oz this weekend, at time of scribing, just past. Lovely and reaffirming it was too. Hopefully it will be on-going in future weeks. If so, it will be worth buying the Murdoch Press masthead for it alone. Truth be told I only buy the Saturday broadsheet for that magazine insert and its Review section. Dalton relayed many quite poignant tales in the issue. One that struck the heart was the story of Kate, an 8 year old, the same age (almost) as my beloved Tess, who understands that her grandparents are especially susceptible to the bastard virus. Her reaction was to design a sign her Nan and Pop could display at their front door. ‘Stop,’ she wrote, ‘VIG! Very Important Grandparents.’ Under those words she repeated the dose with ‘First class grandparents. Please wash hands.’ Dalton goes on, ‘The whole suburb now knows that Kate is a VIG as well – Very Inspiring Granddaughter.’ As is Tessa. My very own VIG makes sure that she has a wonderful drawing or something else she’s written or crafted for her own Poppy, each time I call, to take home to treasure.

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Another correspondent sent in a homage to a tireless friend, a nurse, who works in the oncology ward of one of Brisbane’s hospitals. Sadly she relayed her disgust that even that place had been targeted by the gutter slime who thought their needs were greater than those struggling against another demanding disease. All the sanitiser had been removed from her place of work by them.

But that was an aberration – mostly the article contained a wholly positive vibe. He had an emailer telling of her still very active mid-80s dad who was having trouble, as do many of us, curbing his out-and-abouting, even with his usual haunts shut down. He took to any excuse to get to Bunnings, the chemist and anything else that he could think of that was still available to him. Three weeks ago this guy met his first great grandchild – through a window of course. The old fella reckoned it was the best day of his life. The emailer’s prayer was that one day the dear guy would actually get to hold this brand new life in his arms.

Trent D started this weekend’s collection by asking, ‘Remember hugs?’ We’re all so deprived of them at the moment. He related another person who took the trouble of contacting him. Toni, who has tested positive, hasn’t had one cuddle from her own brood for three weeks as she waits for her symptoms to disappear.

Of course I’m blessed with hugs from my lovely lady to keep me going, but how I miss them from my Tess, Katie and even Rich. I’d give anything to hold my little grandson again. And to see his Shirley Temple-like sister who’s way away, for now, tucked safe in Bridport. The situation is hard for grandparents; hard for grandchildren. But then, there’s no real isolating, is there? It’s just the physical contact we can’t do at present. I give thanks that the digital age has something, these days, to recommend it.

Dalton’s project does not take us away from it, but after reading of all that goodness I felt buoyant; hope renewed and feeling de-stressed.

Odile – Being a fan of almost anything to do with her home country, way back I was chuffed to have a French penfriend. It was the pre-digital age and writing letters to people overseas was, well, I guess you’d call it a hobby – and I thrived on it. We know any form of letter writing these days is a dying art. AusPost and social media seem to be working hand in hand to kill it off. I’m hoping our present straightened circumstances will bring it back a little, if only on a national scale. The links to the outside world are diminished, except via the ether. We communicated quite regularly back in the 90s and into the new millennium. She lived in a town on the outskirts of Paris and I thought she was quite chic.

Then most of my overseas correspondents drifted away. From most of them, including Odile, I only heard sporadically, usually around Christmas. But out of the blue, a few nights ago, I she came back into my orbit.

Now, during the years of writing to each other, she found she had another connection to my island. A long lost cousin turned up as the mayor of a Tassie locality – the colourful Bertrand Cadart. His domain was the East Coast municipality of Spring Bay. With his Portillo-ian fashion sense, French brogue and larger than life personality, he was known to some as the Crowbar Man after a small role he attained in one of the Mad Max movies. Odile was contacting me to let me know of his passing.

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We had a conversation via Messenger, comparing notes on our respective CV situation. She thought she may have had the dreaded virus a while back, but her symptoms were not severe enough to warrant testing or hospitalisation – so, around a month into the French lock down, she is none the wiser but feeling better now. Although it took some sad news to bring her back into communication with me, I hope it will become more regular now as we are both in a similar situation at opposite ends of the Earth.

Scores and Numbers – Last Saturday eve I was waiting for the numbers to arrive. I recalled that at the same time last year they were of a different ilk as I’d be following, on my hand held device, the latest from the AFL. I’d have one eye on whatever it was that my lovely lady and I were watching, one eye on that other smaller screen, especially if the matches were close. And of course, if a tight contest involved my Hawks, my stress levels would be rising. I suppose millions would be waiting on all Saturdays for the lotto numbers to arrive on screen, but that’s not me.

Now I find it de-stressing before bedtime to have another set of numbers come in– from the Tasmanian Department of Hearth’s coronavirus website, telling me of the amount of positive cases on my island for the previous twenty-four hours . Once they’re up, usually around 9.30 to 10.00, I find it, if not too dire, somewhat comforting to go to bed with that knowledge; to know we’re not being swamped, so to speak. Sadly the numbers of late for those contacting the disease in my old homeland around Burnie have been quite alarming. I sincerely hope, by the time you’re reading this, that those, too, have abated.

Millions of Indians can look north and see the majesty of the Himalayas for the first time in their lives. Without the cruise liners and the tourists the lagoon and canals of Venice are clearing of pollution. What are the chances of that remaining the case after we come out the other side?

A book to while away the hours as we wait for the curve to peak and flatten – the wonderful ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens. See my review on my blog – The Blue Room.

Threesomes to Relish – One of my regular routine treats, pre-CV, was my weekly jaunts into the city to connect with my two dealers. They give me great service, do the savvy people at AusPost stamp-central in Bathurst Street, as also do David and Kim at ‘The Coin and Stamp Place’ in the Trafalgar Arcade. I know this habit and their servicing of my philatelic tastes will resume when we all come out the other side, but I miss it.

Australia Post goes on releasing new issues and March saw their annual ‘Austraian Legends’ come outwith their 2020 recipients of the honour. This year it is dedicated to those who make us laugh – and one of the set that has delighted me in particular. I don’t dismiss the talent Noeline Brown, Magda Szubanski or Garry McDonald, but this guy, at a jam-packed Wrest Point showroom, held a vast audience in the palm of his hand a few years back, including my lovely lady and myself. He had all the punters there that night in his thrall, telling yarns both fantastical and with a kernel of truth, keeping us in fits for several hours. He has found immense success in the UK, taking over from Clive James as television’s Australian pricker of pomposity, with his show ‘The Last Leg’. At the same time he has become a leading spokesperson for the disabled.

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For most of us, though, Adam Hills’ lasting legacy will remain his role as the genial host of a show that just keeps on giving with its regular repeats on ABC Comedy. We all know it – Spicks&Specks’. And last night Leigh and I tuned into its ‘00s Special’ to help us de-stress our way through these challenging days. Here we reacquainted ourselves with regular panelists Alan Brough and another Aussie living treasure in Myf Warhurst. It bought hilarity into our lounge room. It’s part of a yearly clutch of hour long episodes to keep the flame burning and long may they be presented. It was interesting watching it as, music wise, I realised the noughties must have completely passed me by, yet Leigh was singing along to all the ditties on the show. They reminded us all of what we lost when the series was finally canned back in 2011. You can catch these special editions on ABCiView.

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Sometimes the chemistry is magically just right for a panel show and with Adam, Myf and Alan Auntie hit the jackpot. The regard they have for each other is palpable; the musical knowledge Alan and Myf possess immeasurable. With a range of well known guests participating, everyday and now these abnormal woes, disappear.

And this too is decidedly the case with another tele-treat that sees David Mitchell and Lee Mack verbally go at each other under the watchful eye of Rob Brydon, making sure things do not completely descend into comedic anarchy. With a diverse range of media celebrity appearing alongside, but never outshining them, this pair engage in ‘take no prisoners’ repartee and we all have to decide, in ‘Would I Lie To You’, if they are telling the truth or outrageous porkies. Mitchell has remarkable wit delivered in droll style whilst Mack is dynamite with his quick comebacks. This extremely entertaining product first appeared on the Beeb back in 2006 and you can delight in its thirteenth season now on iView.

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Currently Leigh and I are devouring the third series of ‘Ozark’ on Netflix and family Byrde descend even further into dysfunctionality with their crooked enterprises. It’s one of that platform’s best.

The signs are positive as we enter the second quarter. We’re all holding our breath to see if the flattening of the curve continues. But it remains a sinister foe, does the virus, as Burnie is currently showing. Fingers crossed.

Steve

Trent Dalton at the Australian = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/author/Trent%20Dalton

Bertrand Cadart’s Incredible Life = https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-29/why-bertrand-cadart-keeps-a-ferrari-red-coffin-in-the-loungeroom/11587310

Tasmanian Department of Health’s coronavirus website = https://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/publichealth/communicable_diseases_prevention_unit/infectious_diseases/coronavirus

Spicks and Specks website – https://iview.abc.net.au/show/spicks-and-specks-specials’

‘Would I Lie to You’ website – https://iview.abc.net.au/show/would-i-lie-to-you

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Nature. In troubled times it’s a salve. I’m lucky. I have a little pocket of nature here to help me through the most troubled time I’ve known in my longish life. It’s not a wide expanse, but it’s enough. Across the road the reedy bank of the Derwent harbours families of native hens, as well as the water birds that grace the river. Raptors are often on patrol above and smaller birds flit about our lawns. It’s not the vast acres of Southern swamp-lands that Kya Clark has at her disposal but, with what else I have, it’s enough and I’m thankful for that.

For most of her life Kya, aka the Swamp Girl, had been an unknown, fleeting figure for the small communities in her region – sometimes talked about, but rarely seen. As a result of her notoriety, she soon becomes a suspect contributing to the death of a local fellow. The evidence linking her to it is flimsy, but will it be enough?

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By the age of six her mother and siblings have deserted her, succumbing to the rages and drunkenness of their father/husband. He remains with her for a while, actually pulling himself together to do some nurturing, but soon returns to default and bails on her too. She’s alone but, despite her tender years, has attained enough savvy to eke out an existence. With her own troubled times showing no signs of departing, she becomes a child of nature, finding solace in the seasonal rhythms of her watery world.

Eventually some tenuous relationships form with other humankind – the protective coloured couple who run the local supply shop; then a generous, supportive lad ventures into her wilderness and becomes a companion. She allows him to take the mantle of also progressing to being her teacher of sorts as she’s only ever known one day of schooling. But even Tate deserts her in the end. Then she turns to Chase. With him, though, for a while she has some hope. Sure enough, Swamp Girl discovers he was only using her for bragging purposes. After him the world closes in on her.

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Delia Owen’s world wide best seller sings off the pages as it too flits around. It darts in and out between the time periods of Kya’s semi-isolated life and the investigation into the death at the fire tower. Reese Witherspoon has optioned it so it will be interesting to see if a movie or tele-series emerges. It’s a perfect fit for our own time of semi-isolation and I had no trouble returning to this tome to while away the hours as we wait for the curves to peak and flatten.

The author’s website – https://www.deliaowens.com/

Reading in the Time of Coronavirus

Paris Echo – Sebastian Faulks

Next month I’m having my eyes done – or, at least, that’s the plan. Who knows, in these uncertain times, what the world will look like next week let along half way through May. For me, though, it may look so much brighter. I’m told that after the two laser treatments – our country’s most common medical procedure – I’ll only require reading glasses. Having worn specs since my early teens, that’ll be a game changer. Also the layers of cling wrap, as my lovely optometrist described what my fading vision was like, would melt away, revealing the clarity I haven’t known for years. Perhaps the tired eyes I carry daily will also disappear. I’ll no longer doze off just after opening my book. I’ll no longer feel the need for an afternoon nanny nap. I’d just love to be able to read more.

I started reading Sebastian Faulk’s ‘Paris Echo’, having so enjoyed earlier works including ‘Birdsong’, ‘Charlotte Gray’ and ‘On Green Dolphin Street’, as the bastard virus descended on our world. When I started it cruise liners were still sailing up the Derwent, our year’s travel plans were still intact and visits to and by grandchildren the thing that made our hearts soar.

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It took so long to complete it’s three hundred odd pages. It wasn’t such a bad book; it wasn’t that heavy going. I think, as COVID19 took hold and our personal orb shrank to the home and little else, the radio, newspapers and constantly checking news feeds took prominence. Now newspapers have started to leave the equation as that requires a daily journey to collect. Most out-and-abouting by car is frowned on. Still, the tome was eventually finished, but in all honesty I cannot say it was relished. I suspect that is mostly due to the times rather than its quality.

Once I was reading Faulks’ novels as they came out, but my enthusiasm for them waned as time went on. ‘Paris Echo’ had received positive reviews so I gave SF another burl, just as CV hit town.

Youthful Algerian Tariq and older American Hannah arrive in Paris around the same time. For an adventurous young man, dragging himself up by his bootstraps, his eyes are still opened by the Paris the tourist rarely sees. For Hannah, an academic, she is returning to research her latest project, still haunted by her now lost lover from a previous excursion to the city of love. By chance they become the unlikeliest of house-mates as the lad gains employment frying chicken and she reconnects with an old friend. He has little adventures riding the metro and connecting with mysterious women, as well as a half-crazed puppeteer. She engages with her topic, the women of Paris during the war years. She looks at case studies of those who collaborated with both the Resistance and their Nazi overlords. Faulks also treats the reader to some of these women’s stories as well. Meanwhile, her North African flat mate discovers something of the more recent troubled relationship between his homeland and France.

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Perhaps there was too much happening in the book; but methinks more than likely too much happening outside of it, with our planet completely off its axis. I just couldn’t settle to it – returning in fits and starts with no real enthusiasm.

We’re informed we have months ahead of this semi-isolation as the disease is battled. But we’re also told the world will return, hopefully renewed – just like my own eyes. This will be looked back on as an aberration – a telling one, mind.

The author’s website – https://www.sebastianfaulks.com/

De-stressing in the Time of CV 03

Dear Friends

The 7K Man – He appeared in the local paper and on FB spruiking his wares so we decided to pay Tyler Clark a visit. His spread is halfway between our spot by the river and Brighton. The sign is small, discreet – speedsters would miss it. The turn-off leads onto a dirt track and up to a hillside home. Tyler’s passion is a little further elevated behind. It overlooks a stunning view of our part of the world with the Derwent shimmering in the distance. The landscape was verdantly greening up after some recent rain.

Initially this former tradie was an avid collector of Australian whiskey – so he started harbouring dreams of his own distillery – and I assure you this is not going the way you may think, knowing my love of the juice of the peat (although someone is being aided in de-stressing as a result!)

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Purchasing a couple of shipping containers, he was soon on his way to achieve his dream. But at some stage during his story he took off on a different tangent, perhaps because of the flood of new Tasmanian enterprises in the art of making the glorious brown liquid. He turned his attention to a clearer one.

Now, neither Leigh nor I were partial to the stuff beforehand. His major offering was the last thing on our minds. That wasn’t the lure that attracted us out that fine morning. Because of the publicity, approaching our destination, we expected a car park full of other desperate punters as what he was offering couldn’t be found on any shelves around Hobs. As it was, parking facilities were minimal and we were the only customers. We were after his byproduct and we had the place to ourselves. He was offering hand sanitiser.

In any case, he was starting to struggle – he had plenty of the liquid, but as his containers came from China – well, you know the story there. But he still had a few jars worth we could decant, so we snapped them up. And Leigh decided to buy a small bottle of his main game – gin. ‘And it’s beautiful,’ says my lovely lady. ‘I always thought gin tasted of paint-stripper,’ but the berry infused concoction sure found a fan in her.

And Tyler is a lovely, thoughtful chap. When Leigh rang for a second helping – sanitiser as well as the tipple – she was told to keep an eye on Facebook. But the very next day he was on the blower to her. He had made some more. We went back poste haste and now Leigh is itching to try her latest blend based around citrus.

Tyler is planning to set up a proper shop in Moonah when the dust settles on all this. In that we wish him well. In the meantime, if gin’s your tonic to de-stress your way through these CV times, you could do worse, according to my lady, than to go to the 7K web-site and order some of his nectar – and the by-product, too, if it’s difficult to attain in your neck of the woods.

French Fluff – Much of what we watch, although some of the best offerings of the Golden Age of Television, are not particularly uplifting or designed to give us light entertainment. Scandi-noir, bleak British police procedurals and recently, the depressing, so depressing ‘Stateless’. The latter will not leave one smiling as it cuts pretty close to the bone. So what better antidote would there be to de-stress than a pretty mindless rom-com. Of course, these abound on our television platforms, but for something a tad different, in recent days I’ve opted for French escapism in ‘The Hook-up Plan’. This is the Paris of not so long ago and tells of indeed a plan, but one that goes so horribly wrong. Thirty-something Elsa (Zita Hanrot) is in the doldrums over her love life – or lack thereof. A beau has left her for another woman and she’s pining over that loss and worries that she’ll be left on the shelf. One of her besties decides that a very fine thing to do would be to hire a male escort (Marc Ruchmann) to pretend to fall in love with her over a couple of dates. That will fix her woes, surely. Of course Elsa predictably falls head over heels. Why not? The guy is a sweetie in the game for all the right reasons – and, guess what? He becomes smitten too. That wasn’t meant to happen. And when our heroine finds out, well, it’s not pretty or forgiving.

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It’s low maintenance viewing with a handsome cast. Season one finished with everything up in the air, so I’m looking forward, sometime soon, to settling into the next series to see how it all pans out.

As Tears Go By – The bastard virus has gotten hold of Marianne Faithful.

What a ‘Whoa!’ moment it was when I first heard ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ sometime in 1979. That voice – all rasp, a thousand cigarettes and a life badly lived. Could this really be the same person who trilled ‘As Tears Go By’, fifteen years prior, in a voice as pure as virgin snow? I quickly got hold of ‘Broken English’, which included, as well, her iconic version of ‘Working Class Hero’ and that shocking rant, ‘Why Ya Do It?’. Gawd, talk about a virgin no longer! I went on to add, to my collection, more albums of hers over the years, but nothing matched the impact of that incendiary release as the 70s came to an end.

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Sadly that other afflicted hero of mine didn’t make it through to the other side. John Prine succumbed to the virus on 7 April 2020. RIP.

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Weird English – Taking our minds off Marianne, JP and CV, Leigh and I have been de-stressing to ‘Hidden’, season two of which is showing on Stan. It’s a police whodunnit, quite gripping, where the cast flit between English and sub-titled Welsh at the drop of a leek. For me, Series 3 (with 4 recently approved) of ‘Babylon Berlin’ is underway on Netflix, as the Weimar Repblic is on its last legs with the spectre of Nazism well and truly on the horizon. Can hero Police Commissioner Gereon Rath solve the crime as the world spirals out of control in the vice and sin-ridden German capital, with his own personal demons still lingering? So far not as sexy as the first two seasons, but still an excellent way to shut our own spiralling world out.

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Let’s hope the demon of a virus doesn’t linger though. We’re a way to go, I’m sure, but keeping it all in perspective and keeping one’s head down we’ll soon be surging into time on of the first quarter – thanks Mr Gutwein – with hopefully our noses in front.

And we have toilet paper thanks to my daughter’s on-line capabilities and us hitting the sweet spot at the supermarket. Yay!

Steve

7K Distillery web-site = https://www.7kdistillery.com.au/welcome

Marianne Faithful’s website = http://www.mariannefaithfull.org.uk/

‘The Hook-up Plan’ trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1kdkjIjCb8

‘Hidden’ Season Two trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xx-CEo6Fl7M

‘Babylon Berlin’ Season Three trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCbs4634t4E

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