Ken and Alice

Q1. Which American President-to-be had the unfortunate occurrence of both his mother and beloved wife dying, of unrelated causes, in the same house on the same day?

Q2. Which American President-to-be took as his bride a woman whose maiden name bore his own surname?

A1. Theodore Roosevelt A2. Franklin D Roosevelt

Earlier in the year SBS treated its viewers to ‘Country Music’, tracing the genre from its roots to the last decade of the 20th century. In recent times I have also watched ‘The Civil War’, being the epic series making the name of its now revered documentarian, ‘The Dust Bowl’ and ‘The National Park: America’s Best Idea’. So I was excited when SBS programmed his latest series on the music genre I love, narrated, as have been all his recent offerings, by the great Peter Coyote.

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Ken Burns, the Michigan born film-maker, made his first documentary, featuring the Brooklyn Bridge, back in the 1980s. He progressed onto ‘The Shakers’, ‘The Statue of Liberty’ and ‘Huey Long’. The eleven hour ‘The Civil War’, from 1990, remains his crowning glory. Burns works entirely with archival footage – none of this penchant for re-enactments that so often blight today’s documentary work.

And ‘Country Music’ was special and I was so enjoying it once it commenced. Then I read that the BBC had butchered it for its UK showing, reducing its length to fit its schedules – and this is the version we received. I was horrified to the extent I’m considering buying the box set to gorge on the missing bits. With so many platforms these days it seems an extravagance. We’ll see.

But we’re not here to talk solely about Ken or SBS ripoffs. We’re here to talk also of Alice.

Now the exercise to commence this scribbling were titbits from another Ken Burns’ masterpiece entitled ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’. It’s a six episode opus, made in 2014, concentrating on the big three – Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor. It was narrated by Coyote as well, with assistance from Meryl Streep and Paul Giamatti.

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During watching some of the first episodes I met Alice. She was the incredible, rambunctious and maverick daughter of the 26th President, for two terms, of the USA. This US leader was also the hero of the Battle for San Juan Hill, leading his legendary Rough Riders. I was intrigued by the girl, but soon she faded from view as I encountered other fascinating feminine figures, including the predominately lesbian group of women who gave succour to Eleanor while Franklin was conducting his personal relationships with various other partners.

Then my own beloved daughter also discovered Alice. She sent me a link, as is her practice when she comes across someone who may tickle my curiosity. I was tickled and started delving, eventually being won over. That other interesting bunch Burns pointed me to will have to wait.

So let me introduce you to a young lady who, in her youth, ‘…breathed new life into the very idea of young womanhood in the early 20th century as the suffrage movement was gaining steam. She herself would be involved in that… movement and the sexual revolution some half century later.’ Leah Silverman ‘Alice Roosevelt Longworth: The Original White House Wild Child’ Check it out on ‘allthatsinteresting.com’ on line.

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To do so, though, I’ll have to take you back to that fateful day of February 12th, 1884, that we started with in Q1.

The day Alice was born, to a delighted Teddy Roosevelt, she was named after his beloved wife. Two days after delivering his daughter she died of kidney failure. It was a double whammy for the future POTUS as, elsewhere in the house, his own ailing mother succumbed to her illnesses. The 25 year old father was almost paralytic with grief and soon after hightailed it off to the Badlands of North Dakota to play at being a manly, hairy-chested cowboy and big game hunter. Although he took a distant interest in his little girl, he was happy enough to leave her in the care of his sister for three years. Anna, Alice’s Aunt, was a woman of strength and independence. As a role model she definitely had more influence on her niece than her oft absent father as she was growing up. Sadly, Teddy could never call his daughter by her given name, inventing nicknames for her instead. This reflected how he felt being so bereaved, but indicated little care for the daughter’s feelings. This refusal carried on into his next marriage, to a childhood sweetheart, Edith Carow, after his return, in 1886, from his self imposed isolation.

Young Alice rejoined the family when they moved to Long Island, but as she grew up and Edith kept producing step-brothers and sisters, five in all, tensions rose between the step-mother and the wilful eldest daughter. Edith was always wary of her husband’s undying regard for his departed first wife and that seemed to effect how she related to Alice. The fact that, as she progressed through her teenage years, her father still didn’t address her as Alice, continued to weigh heavily. But she resisted bowing to her problems. These were compounded when her father threatened to send her to boarding school to get, she presumed, her out of the way to improve familial cohesion. She fired up big time, confronted her father and in the end he backed down. The event was an important life lesson for the sassy youngster. The compromise was that she would return to her aunt’s home. Thinking she’d won a victory, Edith started to gossip that the girl was out of control, haring around the town with all the local lads instead of engaging in the prim and proper activities expected of the fairer sex at the time. In reality, Alice distrusted all men intensely, probably a legacy of her fraught relationship with her father, who always had weightier matters on his mind. She told all and sundry she’d never marry – and she never did, in the conventional sense.

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TR’s burgeoning standing as a mercurial public and political figure bought the spotlight onto his eldest child. The equivalents of our New Idea and Womans Day back then had a field day with her, due to her non-conformist ways, to the joy of her gender and generation. But that was also to the increasing chagrin of Teddy. His career continued to advance, only problem was, so did Alice’s notoriety. Sadly he started to see her as a millstone. At eighteen Alice had the eyes of the nation on her and he increasingly felt they should have been on him. She even caught the attention of the Kaiser of Germany during a visit – so much so he named a yacht after her. So is it any wonder the public started calling her Princess Alice? And then Teddy, in 1901, unexpectedly assumed the Presidency.

She still gave him plenty to think about, though, apart from the affairs of the nation. She took to driving cars – outrageous enough for a woman, but worse, she drove then exceedingly fast. She smoked and chewed gum in public – unheard of! Like any fella she took to wearing pants, slept in till noon regularly, particularly after partying hard into the night. Her headlines appeared on the front page of the dailies – her father’s policy-making in the inner pages. He fumed and fumed, but no matter the entreaty from him, nothing stopped her. She even had one of those newspapers keeping a daily tally of the events she attended. It was noted that, in a fifteen month period, she made it to 1706 engagements that made either the social pages or the scandal sheets. ‘I must admit a sense of mischief does get a hold of me from time to time. I’m a hedonist. I have an appetite for being entertained,’ she gushed in one interview.

She was banned from the White House on occasions – once when she took a dislike to the future President Taft’s wife and held a ceremony to bury a voodoo likeness of her on the grounds.

President Roosevelt continued in office till 1909 and during that time Alice drew crowds to rival him. But as time went on so her interest in the issues of the day captured at least a part of her mind. And by now she was in love – sort of. The object of her attention was Congressman Nicholas Longworth. He was rich, older and came to her with a long history of newsworthy entanglements with women. And he also had a passing resemblance to her father. They became a couple, out and about partying up a storm and keeping the punters interested with a string of affairs each. All that continued after their marriage, at the White House, in 1905.

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By the 1920s Teddy had passed away and Alice took up with a Senator William Borah as her new bit on the side. The daughter she bore during that time – well, she really couldn’t say, could she, who was the father – her Congressman hubby or the Senator. Typical – and more fodder for the press.

But age does catch up. She remained forthright and fearless in her opinions, not afraid to share them around. She was a vocal pacifist until Pearl Harbour and later gave counsel to the Kennedys, Johnsons; even the Nixons. She was also loud in her advocacy for women’s rights in her later years, right up until her health deteriorated in her eighties. No longer a wild child, but forever venerated, she passed away in 1980.

It was a long and boisterous life – and here’s a final word on her from Jimmy Carter, ‘She had style, she had grace, and she had a sense of humour that kept generations of political newcomers to Washington wondering which was worse – to be skewered by her or ignored by her.’

If her father didn’t notice her enough, she made sure the rest of the world did. You can meet up with her and many other fascinating figures associated with this great US family on YouTube. Just plug in ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’. Yes Katie, your Alice was a standout.

Trailer ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fl6pnOgq3E

Trailer ‘Country Music’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fZ_S_wlx0Q

Sorry, it’s Shmith – not Smith

I wonder how may times the above had to say that during his lifetime?

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I reckoned I purchased it sometime in the early 70s at OBMs, a book emporium on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth in Hobs. I remember purchasing novels there too – Graham Green, Andrea Newman, Margaret Drabble, Françoise Sagan. It’s long gone now, replaced by an Angus and Robertson and now it’s a chemist franchise. Lord knows where the book is now, but it was my first. As my confidence grew, others followed – but, being my first, it was a bit special.

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The recent release of a set of stamps by Auspost – Mid-Century Fashion Focus, featuring the cream of the local photographers of the genre at that time, took me back there. One such, Helmet Newton, went on to great world-wide fame and presumably, fortune – renowned for his fine art nudes as well as his fashion portfolios. The others had local renown only. One, Athol Shmith, dabbled in nudes as well. And it was his book of beautiful women I forked out for, probably placing it amidst some other volumes to lessen the embarrassment, back in my uni days. I remember thinking how classy it was compared to Playboy and the other glamour magazines around then. As for the models – he went on to marry three of them whom he captured for public perusal. An extra allure was that they were local lasses. To me the emphasis was on ‘art’ rather than ‘nude’ – or, at least, that’s my excuse. Such publications, I recall, were quite rare back then on the shelves of genuine bookshops.

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Today there’s some glorious beauty to be had at the helm of a keyboard, but Mr Smith – sorry, Shmith – introduced me to eye-opening bewitchment, which I engaged with some more on one of my recent trips to Melbourne where the State Library had an exhibition of his fashion prints. Like OBMs, Athol S is long gone. But one can still view his images at various sites on-line – and now we have a stamp in his honour as a lasting tribute.

More images here – https://cv.vic.gov.au/stories/creative-life/athol-shmith/

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No, stop, too soon. I don’t want the world to go back to normal again. The only anxiety I have is about the old way of being that’s now roaring too soon at us, snapping at our heels to jump back on the treadmill all over again. And actually, I’m not quite ready to be strapped into the bra just yet. Not ready to face those congested, manic, indignant roads; there’s a lot of aggro out there and lockdown has provided a much-needed respite from it. The experimental, home-shaved heads of various sons have not grown out sufficiently for the world to see, and marvel at, plus a household freed from the stresses of the daily commute has been a thing to behold.’

Nikki Gemmell ‘No Going Back’ Weekend Australian Magazine June13-14, 2020

The great unfettering is occurring as I type. It commenced over the June long weekend when Premier Gutwein unleashed the shackles and evidently we exploded out from the cities to shackdom, coastal resorts Tassie style and walking tracks through the virgin bush. As a result, the Westpac Rescue helicopter was hard at it, ferrying injured hikers up out of the wilderness to the new helipad at the Royal. The news also reported, tongue in cheek, that a quarter the population of Launceston had migrated to the seaside gem of the North-east, Bridport, for the three days. Don’t blame them myself. Why, even the said Premier was there in the town chillin’ out. From here on in I suspect it will be full steam ahead for many – racing to get back to pre-COVID19 lunacy. Is it fair to call it that – lunacy? Yep, many, including a favoured columnist in Nikki Gemmell, who will feature heavily in this scribing, and I liken it to that. Some thrive with life in the fast lane, but then, on the other hand, you have this:-

People are trying to cope by loving being in lockdown, by creating a cocoon of safety, a haven, to make the whole experience more tolerable … Ironically that can create problems later on because people can love their lockdown too much and become anxious about going outside.’ (‘No Going Back’ ibid)

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Love lockdown? Well, yes and no. It’s certainly been no chore, sharing it with my wonderful Leigh. But, you could say, we’re ready to spread our wings, although we’re not being bullish about it. We’ll take it gradually. Trips to the north are first cabs off the rank and that will start to occur as June morphs into July. It’ll be after that, sometime, that we will start to venture to the cinema and restaurants, but I am starting to crave a beer and a steak at one of our preferred counter meal venues. Cafes will be the go sooner than that.

But largely we’re still in lockdown and I’m woolly. I examined myself in the bathroom mirror this morning and crikey, so woolly. Admittedly there’s precious little hair on top, but around the sides my fluff is sprouting in perpendicular fashion and the neck hairs have reached my shoulders.

And I guess that’s quite the big one, isn’t it. Nobody outside of my family, with the possible exception of my dentist (yes, a gorgeous female too), gets so up close and personal with me as the two lovely ladies at Lorraine’s Coiffure in Claremont who attend to what’s left of my hair. I’ll soon have to take the bit between the teeth, make an appointment with Jane or Hannah, to get the deed done before people will start thinking I’m a throwback to Black Bobs. I’m a little anxious about it, but I don’t think I’ll freak out. For me, facing crowds is still a long way off but, yes, I’m coming out.

Giving Consent Here, in Ireland and the USofA

When it came, early in ‘Normal People’ (Stan), it was stunningly frank, brave, beautiful and tender. He looked after her, he really did, did Connell. He’s a school sporting hero with a brain. He is a complex character – intensely private with considerable hang-ups that impacted on any relationship he could have with the opposite gender. When they first met he tried to keep his love for Marianne hidden from view. She was considered ‘different’ by the in crowd. Marianne was delicate, feisty, fragile and an outsider. She was from an affluent background with a distant, strange mother and an arse of a brother. His deflowering of her and the subsequent sex scenes, liberally scattered throughout the episodes of this series, are as intensely intimate and revealing as anything you’ll have witnessed on the small screen. These no doubt aided in propelling ‘NP’ into the stratosphere in the ratings, here and overseas. It’s also very Irish. Its impact launched two largely unknowns in Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal into celebrities – why even the fellow’s gold chain, that he wears around his neck, has its own FB page. Throughout it is unflinchingly honest as the two squander chance after chance to build something permanent from their obvious obsession with the other. It’ll no doubt be marked by many as one of the year’s best.

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Contrast the care that Connell takes with his Marianne’s virginity to the way Nikki Gemmell loses hers, as she laid out to the reading public via the Oz in ‘Age of Consent’. Such a marked difference. For the columnist there was no tenderness involved – an experience she’d rather forget. Ms Gemmell reckons the scene from ‘Normal People’ should be compulsory viewing in sex education classes around the country, especially for our young men.

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Another series that provided some excellent viewing is the Reese Witherspoon driven ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ (Prime) where, as critic Karl Quinn describes it in a recent review, she plays the obsessive mother who is the adult version of ‘Legally Blonde’s’ Elle Woods. This, as well as ‘Normal People’, is based on a well regarded novel. Leigh, having read the source for this series, constantly remarked that the tele version little resembled the print, but that perhaps worked in my favour as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Witherspoon’s Elena has her ultra-perfect life upended when Mia (Kerry Washington) comes to town. The coloured woman is soon taken on as Elena’s ‘maid’, for want of a better, if not more appropriate, word. The stereotype is obvious, but Mia’s no shrinking violet. Her daughter, the impressive Pearl (Lexi Underwood), soon takes a shine to Elena’s youngest son, Moody (Gavin Lewis). They become close cross-racial mates. However, when Pearl considers who to lose her virginity to, she rejects him for his moronish jock of an elder brother, Trip (Jordan Elsass), on the grounds that he’d be more experienced. The doing of deed was, unfortunately, more akin to Nikki G’s story and of course he cannot be blamed for any shortcomings, can he? By the final episode, though, he realises, to an extent, his failings and a bond does develop between the two, much to the chagrin of Moody.

This is only one strand of a fine product that focuses far more on the relationship between Elena and Mia, with both having an impressive back catalogue of secrets which they’d hate to have revealed. The inevitable happens. It is a step down from ‘Normal People’, but still a worthy binge.

Karl and his List – Music for These Times

In years to come, we may look back on this time as ‘The Age of Lists’. Facing the prospect of months in isolation, people looked forward to what they might watch, read and listen to and backwards over their favourites. One of the more popular iterations has been the ‘10 albums that inspired you’ meme on Facebook.’ The Age Spectrum June 13, 2020

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Karl Quinn, in his piece ‘The Soundtrack to a Life’, realised that his selections* for the meme were not only just inspiration, but more. Being invited into the meme by lovely friends, here is my contribution. These are the soundtracks to my own life during the hiatus that COVID19 has incurred, in no particular order:-

Dylanesque – Bryan Ferry (2007) – I love both his Bobness and Ferry, so the combination of the two is irresistible.

Freya Ridings (2019) – In the early days of the pandemic’s visit I’d wake up edgy. This English songstress’ debut soothed.

Pay the Devil – Van Morrison (2006) – It was his 32nd studio album in which the Man goes country. He’s a constant.

I Still Do – Eric Clapton (2016) – any release from Ol’ Slowhand is to relish. This is the latest I’ve purchased so it’s the most frequent in my music machine.

Standard Songs for Average People – Mac Wiseman and John Prine (2007) – Mac passed last year and the bastard virus took John a couple of months ago. It remains a magic pairing.

Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen (2019) – He’s promised a new E Street, but until that this will just have to suffice – and boy, does it ever!

Come On Up to the House – Women Sing Waits (2019) – Tom’s unique rasp is replaced with honey as the best voices in Americana, and one Australian, do justice to his songs.

Charcoal Lane 25th Anniversary – Archie Roach(2015) – Containing the original, plus interpretations of its tunes, including the iconic ‘Took the Children Away’, by some of our best. He’s a living national treasure.

Great Country Songbook – Troy Casser-Daley and Adam Harvey (2013) I spent a wonderful evening with my beautiful daughter listening to these two live sing up a storm. So many of their (and my) heroes have gone now. But fear not – Willie’s still around.

Tides of a Teardrop – Mandolin Orange (2019) – It’s a sweet, sweet collection of songs from the North Carolina married duo – one of my latest obsessions.

These all helped me through – and, all things considered, personally it hasn’t been too tough. I know for so many, here and overseas, that has not been the case. Hope they have had some music with them too.

Normal people trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1JQuWxt3cE

Nikki Gemmell ‘Age of Consent’ = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/why-the-sex-in-normal-people-is-a-breath-of-fresh-air/news-story/7fa839ca1aafda662dbdda302abdb2d2

‘Little Fires Everywhere’ trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWGkX8ClhBI

Karl Quinn ‘Soundtrack to my Life’ article = https://www.smh.com.au/culture/music/the-soundtrack-to-a-life-my-top-10-albums-20200514-p54t14.html

* Karl’s list – Sladed? by Slade, Sound Affects by The Jam, Swingshift by Cold Chisel, Before Hollywood by The Go-Betweens, Doolittle by Pixies, The Stone Roses, Rubber Soul by The Beatles, 13 by Blur, Lemonade by Beyonce and Marquee Moon by Television.

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Terry and his Lists

Since retirement my brain has become somewhat befudged – befudged being a good way to describe it. Befuddled seems a tad extreme although, after I’ve said something completely obvious, stupid, random or provided a poor segue, the way Leigh looks at me I may have to revise the descriptive term for the harsher one.

So, along with my befudgement, lists have become essential to me. Top 10 lists have always been a part of my life – I love compiling them and comparing with others. I list books read, tele shows and movies watched; as well as what I send in the mail to my dear friends – otherwise I’d drive them mad with repetition. Probably do in any case. But a comprehensive shopping list, as with Terry Durack (see his column following), is new – a result of these times we’re living in.

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Gone is my daily romp into Claremont Village to pick up The Age and as a sideline, whatever I may need for that evening’s meal if it’s my turn to play chef. Now it’s a more complicated process of both Leigh and I compiling our own grocery requirements for our once only weekly excursion to the supermarket. I consult recipe books to assist. Leigh is more free range. Before we head off Leigh does a check to ensure we haven’t doubled up and Bob’s your uncle. We’ve taken to doing the necessary at Woolies in the Village early on a Monday morn. That place has so impressed with their commitment to social distancing, hygiene and big heartfelt smiles that it becomes a wholly pleasant experience.

There’s something, I don’t know, reassuring about a long grocery list. It’s quietly comforting to have it clutched in your hand as you perambulate the various aisles, after which checking it off to make sure all items are in the trolley. Them there’s the checkout – a longer process these days with disinfectant, followed by the only part that got me flustered, the self packing – now a thing of the past as we emerge out the other side of what for us wasn’t a pan- but more, in comparison to the chaos caused overseas, a mini-demic. It could have been so much worse without all our precautions. But more time allows for more communication with the guys and gals doing the scanning and that is another small joy in days that do have a habit of becoming very routine.

I’m wondering, as it becomes more certain that we have indeed got the plurry thing beaten, if Leigh and I will revert to our more ad hoc ways. We’re certainly spending far less time in supermarkets, but, dear me, how we have come to appreciate them so much more.

Dustyesky

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Now and again ‘Australian Story’ (ABCiView) produces a tale that both amazes and touches the heart. This one is how a largely previously unheralded group of mostly bearded Mullumbimby gentlemen have warmed the frosticles off the denizens of the Land of Putin – a country that, despite what its leader and cronies may proclaim, is doing it hard with the CV. The episode examines how this winning of Russian hearts came about. The choir they formed, specialising in traditional tunes of the motherland, were, as a result, invited to the biggest May Day parade in the world. Coronavirus spoilt that, but they still got to perform digitally for that country’s major television network. And the locals lapped it up, along with their tanks and missiles. Amazing and well worth a gander. Go Dustyesky.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Music for these Times

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Reunions’ is lovely, lovely stuff from the reformed Alabama crooner. He’s turned his life around and is now producing the best music of his career.

Paula and Billy

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If you’re a fan of the financial machinations of ‘Billions’ (Stan) then I have a great treat for you. It can be found on SBSonDemand, can that star attraction’s German equivalent, ‘Bad Banks’. There’s the same heartless, scheming, suited money-grabbing grubs to be found, dealing daily in squillions and the ruination of the lives of others. This time, though, it’s two women to the fore, including the youthful Jana, played with intensity by Paula Beer. It’s difficult to discern if this career driven young lady does indeed have the pumping organ in her body as she uses all her feminine wiles, tears and street smarts to get the deals done, no matter the cost. And she’s not above betrayal either. Ms Beer is certainly entrancing and I’m hooked, ripe for the second season.

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But sadly I’ll have to unhook myself from Billy Campbell. In Season 4 of the Canadian production, ‘Cardinal’, he appears even more grizzled and woebegone than before as he steels himself to come to terms with some particularly gruesome murders in the snow in this North American take on scandi-noir. All seasons have been addictive and bingeworthy. There has been his younger female sidekick as a possible love interest throughout, but will they get it together before this last season’s episodes run out? I won’t let the cat out of the bag, but in the final stanza there is room for hope that his world could become a little less dour. ‘Cardinal’ is highly recommended by this fan on the same platform as above.

A Tome to Re-emerge With

Dervla McTiernan’s ‘The Good Turn’ is a rip-snorter of a whodunnit. Her third novel is set in Ireland and I’ll be chasing up the Australian author’s other two. Read my review of it in the Blue Room.

David and the Angel

Daughter – ‘Mummy, what’s that smell.’

Mother – ‘It’s nature, darling.’

Daughter – ‘It’s like all the birds are wearing perfume.’

The smells of our forests, here on my island, are remarkable, unforgettable. You hanker for them if you’re away for a while. I imagine, as our wild places open up again as we reboot, many kids, long cooped up, would be asking similar questions about the majestic trees and creatures of the bush. No more so than those embarking on reacquainting themselves with the forests surrounding Tassie’s capital city, within eyesight of everyone in town, but for months forbidden.

In his long, but thoroughly readable and all-encompassing essay on the state of the forests, published in The Age’s Good Weekend magazine recently, journalist David Leser asks, ‘Exactly how loudly does she (Mother Nature) have to scream?’ And scream she did over this past summer. And then:-

Trump and Co – ‘There is no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.’

Mother Nature – ‘Here’s a virus. Practise.’

We did and it worked. But, already, with our tentative re-emergence, the signs are not promising that we have learnt from the experience. We just have to.

Lesser’s report, entitled ‘Trunk Call’ (type author and title into Google), takes us from Victoria’s national parks to the Styx and the Weld locally. He explains how the world’s first nations were miles ahead of modern humankind in their husbandry of the vital asset; how the great fungal lines aid trees in ‘communication’ and he takes us on journeys with writers and activists trying to alert the planet as to how urgent action is. They, I suspect, but hope otherwise, will continue to struggle to be heard above the noise of the digital age. Unless we heed their advocacy, Mother Nature will give up on us and deliver a final cataclysmic blow. We have been warned.

Despite its length there’s plenty more food for thought with Leser’s writings here. And, to be fair, I know most of the world’s leaders are on to it – but they’ll need the same sort of help most have been giving to bring us through the pandemic. Trump, of course, is beyond help.

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The author also re-introduces us to the Angel of the Weld, Allana Beltran, who bought the attention of the planet to the situation within Tasmania’s old growth forests. What made us all sit up and take notice was attained by her positioning herself on a tripod, wreathed in feathers, at the entrance to the Weld. Back in 2007 the visual artist took her stand to ‘…pray for the forests and for people to realise what they are doing. I was ready to stand up for these ancient forests.’ In no uncertain terms she did.

It’s simple. If we can’t save the forests we can’t save the planet. The bastard virus has given us and Mother Nature some breathing space, but, by all indications the pause will not last much longer. In many parts of the world, though, wild places are breathing again. ‘Nature is speaking to us very loudly now. We’d do well to listen.’

So please seek out his article on line. Read it and ponder.

Terry Durack’s column on lists = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/don-t-leave-home-without-the-shopping-list-it-s-too-dangerous-20200424-p54mym.html

Australian Story Dustyesky = https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-25/australian-fake-russian-choir-dustyesky-goes-viral-mullumbimby/12270670

Jason Isbell’s website = https://www.jasonisbell.com/

‘Bad Banks’ = https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/program/bad-banks

‘Cardinal’ Season 4 = https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2020/05/21/revenge-dish-served-very-very-cold-final-season-cardinal

David Leser’s essay on the forests =https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/call-of-the-wild-listen-up-people-time-is-running-out-20200424-p54mzq.html

Bill

Grubby. That’s what I felt. Uncomfortably grubby. Voyeuristic even. It was a bit like watching sexual activity on the small screen that goes beyond what you feel to be acceptable and necessary given the context of what it is you’re viewing. But these were words, not images – intimate words about what a president did to a naive, young and obviously smitten intern.

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These were words I found so hard to listen to, even to the stage I felt like turning ‘The Clinton Affair’ (SBSonDemand) off – despite the fact I found so much of it bloody interesting. But not this aspect. These were the words the Republican right and their ‘take no prisoners’ lawyers used to try and get their quarry. There’s little doubt that, in his younger and middle years, the man was a womaniser, preying on the opposite gender and perhaps even abusing them, in a similar way to what our present odious incumbent was well known for. But, of course, the oranged one is from the far right and therefore immune. In Clinton’s instance no one now doubts it was a consenting relationship that, in the days of Roosevelt or Kennedy, all in the know would turn a blind eye to so they could get on with governing. This POTUS was already under pressure from his previous embroilment with Paula Jones, but that case was mired in legalese and going nowhere. When Lewinski’s affair with the Leader of the Free World came to light, they went in for the kill.

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The treatment, what we would now define as slut-shaming, as revealed in the programme, was vicious – both from the public officials, the media and the popular entertainment world. It was revolting, completely without consideration for the well-being of the victim. Mental health wasn’t much of a factor in those days. But what I found was reprehensible was the way they went for Monica’s mother in an attempt to further entrap her daughter. The mother knew any misspeak would have dire consequences for her much loved offspring and it broke her. They destroyed this hither to resilient woman who had been, up to then, one of Monica L’s few supports. Of course the girl herself became so notorious she had to virtually spend decades underground. She has only just re-emerged into a new public life and is now largely respected. That is a credit to her.

Then and now it is patently clear she’s no bimbo. Lewinski, in her interview for this, comes across as intelligent and articulate, although the events still pain. She used her assets to win over the man she was in the thrall of and she was his willing partner in those small rooms off the Oval Office. Of course, the argument the Reps et al used was that it wasn’t the relationship, as such, that was the issue, but the misleading. But even to the layman it’s hard to fathom the reasoning that it amounted to grounds for impeachment, as indicated by the end judgement. But to get there they were determined to use the intensely private accounts of what actually happened in those small rooms luridly to enhance their case. Why? It was so heartlessly shaming for the woman involved, if not the Pres.

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Thinking people commended the American public, at the time, for not being taken in. They realised, even if they relished reading about the scandal and listening to the shock-jocks, that here was a man who ran a competent administration and was working hard for their benefit and that of the country. That, for all his personal faults, he didn’t deserve this. He carried on with aplomb throughout, this genial, charismatic leader. His popularity actually increased in his second term while all this was going on.

Virginian-Pilot Newspaper Content

And what of his wife in all this? She went the Tammy Wynette route, as we all know. I doubt I’ll read ‘Rodham’ – see following article – but I’ll be watching the forthcoming series ‘Hilary’ when it debuts on SBS soon. In this, according to Ms Lester, Bill puts forward an excuse for his actions back then. ‘You feel like you’re staggering around – you’ve been in a 15-round prize fight that was extended to 30 rounds, and here’s something to take your mind off it for a while…’ Make of that what you will, but what many of us wouldn’t give for a Bill or a Barak in the White House with the US in free fall, instead of the creepy, pompous, divisive, disastrous arse who inhabits it now.

‘The Clinton Affair’ on SBSonDemand = https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/program/the-clinton-affair

Amelia Lesters opinion piece = https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/what-would-have-happened-to-hillary-if-she-had-never-married-bill-20200424-p54n0i.html

The Good Turn – Dervla McTiernan

I’ve jumped on the bandwagon. She spins a great yarn in ‘The Good Turn’, so now I’m keen to read her previous two, ‘The Ruin’ and ‘The Scholar’. Since the GFC she’s been a resident of Western Australia, but she was born in County Cork, practising as a lawyer on the Emerald Isle. It is perhaps natural that her tomes are set in her birth homeland rather than her adoptive one.

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Her third novel again features Detective Cormac Reilly, whom I hope I’ll encounter again very soon. In this tale he’s figuring that those above him on the slippery slope, giving the orders, may not be as pure as the driven Irish snow. But those notions are temporarily put to one side as a possible abduction is reported. Soon his sidekick, Garda Peter Fisher, is hot on the heels of the supposed perpetrator. Then the latter’s inexperience and brashness upends the investigation and he’s banished to a small town to keep his head down until the furore that’s developed over the investigation subsides. His big problem is that he’s placed in the care of his father, a cop used to taking short cuts to get a desired result. This approach leads to more trouble for Peter when he investigates a supposed open and shut case of a double murder out in the countryside.

Meanwhile, Reilly’s suspicions about the upper echelons have landed him in hot water too, with his personal life catching up with him as well – as is so often the case with jaded coppers. He’s basically not a happy chappy as his delvings start to come full circle.

Peter, back in the boondocks, is up to his neck in similar ordure as he discovers an elderly rellie, formerly in peak condition, is ailing under the care of a reticent newcomer to the community and her silent daughter.

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Eventually the two hard done by policefellows and their investigations collide as McTiernan tidily brings it all back together in a fitting finale. It’s all ripe for a television adaptation and the book has been, justifiably, a top seller on these shores. Aussie crime writing does not get ant better, even if it is set far from the Land of Oz.

The author’s website = http://dervlamctiernan.com/

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.

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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/