Formulaic, and then there’s Formulaic

The Power Game – Meg and Tom Keneally     An Unsuitable Match – Joanna Trollope

Initially I felt the father daughter combo Meg and Tom Keneally had hit on a winning formula – and obviously, so did they. They have planned for twelve books, in total, for the ‘Monsarrat’ series and so far have released three. After reading the first two I was hooked – I thought they were really onto something. ‘With the ‘Soldier’s Curse’ we were introduced to soon to be ticket-of-leave man Hugh Llewelyn Monsarrat whom, with his incisive housekeeper, added to his own smarts, was part of quite the investigative team for colonial times in early Australia. By the third novel they had already put away a couple of souls who wouldn’t have faced their comeuppance otherwise without their input. First this occurred in early outstation Port Macquarie, then later, in Sydney, at the Parramatta Female Factory in ‘The Unmourned’. In these we are given a colourful taste of life in the first half of the Nineteenth Century, in a new land (for Europeans), for both convicts and those overseeing them. The sparky relationship between the two redoubtable sleuths was a delight. As a bonus, in the second title, there is more than a hint of developing romance between feisty Grace O’Leary and our main man.

So, with all that, I was looking forward to another knotty problem for the duo to unravel. An added interest would be the promise of a VDL setting with hopefully the romance factor blossoming in Hobart Town. This, on all accounts, was not to be. In ‘The Power Game’ all too soon we were transported from my local turf south(?) to Maria Island where we remained. It therefore became largely reminiscent of the two authors’ first outing, complete with another presumed poisoning of a beautiful commandant’s missus. And Grace was hardly mentioned, being stuck back in Sydney, although our hero did plenty of pining. The two duly solve the case, as is to be expected. For much of the tale the main suspect was Thomas Power, an Irish rebel roughly modeled on William Smith O’Brien (whose real story is well worth investigating.) To me this outing seemed to plod along without any of the freshness of the first two. The only really entertaining elements being the repartee between our two investigators and the antics of the local geese. In the end, job done, we discover that the editor of the Sydney Chronicle has been done away with so our duo set sail for bustling Sydney where (spoiler alert) our dapper hero discovers that Grace has been dispatched to the back country. I’ll take advice, though, but I think this is where I’ll leave the pair to go on solving their crimes without me. I don’t think I’ll be lining up for No.4.

So let’s turn our attention to another author who could be said to write in a formulaic, predictable manner – but, although she’s been doing it for decades, I’ll never leave her. As her work continues to sell well to devoted followers, she has no real need to deviate far away from her template. I’ve been hooked on her for decades and starting on her latest was akin to snuggling down, under the doona, on a chilly winter’s afternoon.

It is decidedly more of the same with Joanna Trollope’s ‘An Unsuitable Match’ as she introduces the reader to sixty-something Rose Woodrowe, whose hubby has just taken up with a much younger model and scarpered off to Oz. Soon into the book she encounters the charming Tyler, who is not backward in admitting he is smitten by her and she, seemingly, with him. But is Tyler the real deal? Rose’s offspring have their doubts – and then there’s Tyler’s two to consider as well. The new beau very quickly seems to have his and Rose’s future together all mapped out – but will Rose go with the flow despite the objections of the family. Some of these are quite needy in the love department too. Ms Trollope ensures we fully get to know them and their foibles as well. This is all magnified as the pair prepare to marry and questions arise over money – or the lack thereof for one. Just what is Tyler bringing to the party? Rose considers him a keeper, but at what cost.

And I lapped it all up, as I always do. That it deals with romance in later life is a bonus. ‘An Unsuitable Match’ is Ms T’s twenty-first novel – all of them aimed at her legion of women fans – and just quietly (Shhhh), me.

Newspaper article Meg and tom Keneally = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/two-of-us-tom-and-meg-keneally-20160309-gnebdz.html

Joanna Trollope’s website = https://www.joannatrollope.com/

The Cloak of Invisibility

Even when in my pomp I was hardly a head-turner. As a young teacher, walking into a female dominated staffroom never ‘…made me feel like a rather small gazelle alone on the savannah.’ Being male is a whole different ball game to the world of a younger Maggie Alderson, Sadie Frost, Sally Brampton et al. But there’s much more to it. I can relate to much in what the first listed wrote about in the accompanying ‘The Many Upsides of Being an Invisible Woman’. She writes of her ‘cloak of invisibility’ now that she’s a woman in her late fifties, comparing today with then. I would say, judging from the images of her in the ether, that, although she may no longer be in her pomp, she is certainly in her prime. It’s a tad different in my case.

Teaching in a relatively small community one of the things I used to yearn for was that cloak of invisibility. Streets of my town would be filled with students, present and former; parents thereof and of course, my colleagues. I remember vividly the weekend of my first date with the beautiful woman who was soon to be the love of my life. I was greeted back at school the following Monday with copious questions of ‘Who is she?’ In small burbs nothing is secret.

Moving to Hobart on retirement removed all that and when I do return to the homelands, being pulled up on Wilson or Goldie Streets for a chat is a welcome pleasure rather than a usual event. I was never wolf-whistled from across the road, but I can still recall when former students, of dubious quality, let fly with invective against me, usually to big-note themselves in front of their yobbo mates. That was a rare occurrence, but it stung nevertheless.

But in the Elizabeth Street Mall I have no worries of that ilk. I am completely invisible – an old man of 66 who doesn’t rate a glance from those I share the space with, going about my business wholly anonymously. As with Ms Alderson, I like being able to ‘…breathe physically and emotionally.’ and even retreat into ‘…elastic waist bands and gnarly toenails…’

Yes, I like it, but I also relish being connected to the human race too – to have the cloak lifted for a short time when I am out and about on my tod in my city; in any city. I love the face to face encounters at the check-out (I abhor the automatic variety) or from behind a retail sales counter. The conversations maybe fleeting but can be surprising and in some cases, affirming. If a lovely younger female (and let’s face it, these days, taking into account my age and the nature of the labour market, then that’s the usual) offers me, at no extra charge, a gracious smile I usually compliment her on it. I am further buoyed if that results in a radiant reprise. And then, suitably uplifted, I can relapse into my cloak and am happy to revert to ‘…the older you…the real you who you’ve been hiding away for years.’ The perfect balance.

Maggie Alderson’s article = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/the-many-upsides-of-being-an-invisible-woman-20180327-p4z6h6.html

The Museum of Modern Love – Heather Rose

Marina Abramović was born in Belgrade the year after the end of World War 2. Both her parents had been partisan heroes during that conflict. Her upbringing, in part by her grandparents, was a deeply restrictive and religious one. But from an early age she developed an interest in art and later, taking this interest further, she graduated from both the Belgrade and Zagreb academies of fine arts, specialising in performance art. All throughout her now long career she has attempted to extend the boundaries as to the definition of art. ‘Using her own body as a vehicle, she has pushed herself to the ultimate limits, often exposing herself to lethal hazards to create performance art that is shocking, challenging and deeply moving.’ Now a resident of of Amsterdam, her fame takes her world-wide to the great galleries. In 2010 she landed in NYC to present a marathon seventy-five day performance piece at MoMA, ‘The Artist is Present’. It consisted of Ms Abramović seated at a table opposite a chair to be filled by patrons willing to sit with her for a while. It attracted large audiences, polarised and for some opposite the main attraction it was a profound experience.

It is around this event that Heather Rose’s 2017 Stella Prize winning novel ‘The Museum of Modern Love’ is framed. I was delighted to see a local take it out, especially as I had so enjoyed ‘The Butterfly Man’ (2005), as well as, to a lesser extent, ‘The River Wife’ (2009). Rose (as Angelina Banks) also writes, with Danielle Wood, the children’s series ‘Tuesday McGillycuddy’.

In Rose’s tome, Arky Levin becomes addicted, as an observer, to Abramović during her New York stay. He’s a composer of musical scores for films with a seriously ill wife. As he works through the issues involved in his life at that time the performance by the artist becomes his salve. He feels he has to see her artistic marathon through to the end. In this process we get to know others similarly drawn, some of whom connect to Arky in various ways. Rose also weaves in the artist’s back story and the strain on herself of the daily ritual she undertakes to present her piece.

Undoubtedly this is a very clever and astute novel on all manner of subjects, ranging from the question of what is art to the nature of friendship and love. Unfortunately it occupied a rarefied atmosphere that this reader had some difficulty with. I can attest to it being something special but I could not connect to it. Perhaps the nature of the performance artist’s oeuvre affected the tone of author’s writing, in a deliberate way, placing it out of my comfort zone. My brain told me I should be enjoying it, but my heart wasn’t in it. I am disappointed in myself for not being able to embrace it – but there you are. Like much of the work of her subject, it just wasn’t my thing.

Of course Marina A is just David Walsh’s thing. It’s wonderful that, when the artistic megastar visited Mona in 2015, as a performance piece Ms Rose read an excerpt from her novel to the great woman. Now that is special

The author’s website = https://heatherrose.com.au/

Gorgeous Awkwardness

Irish-American (born in the Bronx, but residing in County Wicklow) actress Saoirse Ronan is not your typical Hollywood beauty. She is too angular and plain of face for that, but god she is so stunnng. Already having lit up screens in fare such as ‘Atonement’ (2007) and ‘Brooklyn’ (2015), she comes of age with the titular role in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Lady Bird’. She won a Globe for it but missed out on the golden man due to the stiff opposition. The movie, too, as a whole, is a lovely piece of work. If we cast our minds back to Gerwig’s own seminal ‘Frances Ha’, we get the tone of her directorial debut, set in Ms G’s home town, Sacramento. This burb is portrayed in the movie as a nothing place, only good for escaping from.

As with ‘Frances Ha’, the film is a creeper. This indie doesn’t hook from the get-go, but takes hold by sleuth, gradually immersing one in an ordinary world – ordinary but luminous.

Christine McPherson has rechristened herself Lady Bird. She’s a high school senior ripe for the escaping, or so she thinks. She has little hesitation in ditching her best mate (Beanie Feldstein) to be included in her school’s cool clique and she’s not above telling a few porkies to grease her way. Several boyfriends (Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet) come and go as well. Almost as good as the lead is Laurie Metcalf (nominated for best supporting actor) as mum Marion, a woman at times driven to despair by her daughter. Calm dad (Tracey Letts) is a treat. I don’t think I dozed off at any stage, but there were a couple of aspects in the story that confused me – the provenance of Christine’s brother, for instance, as well as what actually became of the teacher/priest? But, overall, I loved this movie as Lady Bird battles to free herself from a second rate life, in her eyes, to attack the bright lights of the big city of her choice full on. Does she make a go of it? You’ll love finding out.

Trailer for the Movie – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNi_HC839Wo

Jimmy

I’m witness to the fact that Jimmy’s voice is still in great nick. As for his body and mind – well that is another story. But, he assures us, both are on the up and up – he’s a hell of a lot better than he used to be. But, he also confides, he still has a way to go. By rights, with what he’s done to himself, he should be gigging with Bon, Michael H, James F and Billy T up there beyond the silver lining. They were all mates of his along the journey. He tells the tale of how they were wheeling him out of Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, after he had recovered from his heart op, just as they were wheeling Billy in to die. That’s salutary for you, but not salutary enough for JB. Michael Hutchence and James Freud both went the same way. Jimmy tried it too with a dressing gown cord, but he was too grog/drug addled to succeed. He recalled nothing of the attempt the morning after except the cord hanging from a hook, noose in place. It was searing stuff from the rock legend; he was laying it on the line for us, imploring the men in the audience to do what he eventually did if any of us found ourselves in a similar dire straight – seek therapy. He reckons it saved him, that and his loved ones gathering around him – at least three of whom he didn’t know for decades he fathered.

There was one picture he bought up on the screen, taken at his lowest point, around the turn of the millennium, that really shocked me. That wasn’t Jimmy! He looked like a cross between a scrawny Johnny Rotten and an even more wasted Keith Richards – dead-eyed and sunken cheeked. Just terrible.

I was gifted a ticket to this stop on Jimmy Barnes’ tour, which forms a parallel promotion to his best selling book of the same name, ‘Working Class Man’. It’s a follow up to his mega-selling ‘Working Class Boy’. To my shame I must admit that I haven’t read his tomes, but daughter Katie has and she reckons they’re exceptionally good and as with his show, he doesn’t hold back on his demons. It isn’t all bleak and black – there is much levity to be had with many of his yarns as well, but, at times, you could hear a pin drop when he was relating the pitifulness of his condition at its nadir. What this man subjected himself to! But he makes us laugh too – there was the time, for instance, when he and John Farnham got together to record a duet. He reckons his singing pal is no angel, particularly when he gets on his favourite tipple of cheap brandy, but he is only a two pot screamer, not a seasoned guzzler like his Scottish self. Farnham became so inebriated that Jimmy, doing what all good mates do, had to bundle him in a cab to get him home. Half an hour later Jimmy receives a call from the cab company stating that the Voice was so far gone he had no idea where he lived. He reckons the Angels were soft as they so loved playing frisbee when on tour. One of the best tales was the unlikely genesis of ‘Working Class Man’, the song, itself.

Don’t go to this performance expecting the legendary front man to churn out Chisel hits, or those from his solo career. We get a taste, but mostly he belts out other tunes that have been significant along the way. On this night he took us through his history, from the formation of the Chisel to the present day, culminating with the time he finally listened to his family, mates and his body and accepted help. It seems this was just in time. He describes it as the first time he stopped running away and made a courageous decision.

The Hobart stop is an early one on a tour that doesn’t conclude till he reaches his home city of Adelaide on June 10th. It’ll take some amount of stamina and fortitude for the ol’ fella to get through it, but he does pace himself far more than what would be possible out front of the band. You wonder why he feels the need to do it? Is it part of his therapy? To get all that bad shit out of his system by telling as many as he can not to fall into the same traps as he did – and certainly, to do something about it if we have. The message he gives is crystal clear. He pulls no punches. He seemingly needs to drill it into every male he confronts from up there on the stage.

The Glaswegian Belter is a marvel and I am grateful to my son and his beautiful wife for their generosity in allowing me to be in the presence of one of my musical heroes for an evening. Cheers Rich and Shan

Jimmy’s tour info = https://www.frontiertouring.com/jimmybarnes

And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson

I, like Simone H in ‘Echo of the Boomers01’, wonder what did come first for me, the movie or the song? It was so long ago – but then again, it could have been yesterday, laying eyes for the first time on Mrs Robinson, up there on the screen, her stockinged leg inducing the young man she was about to seduce. I suspect she came to me first via Simon & Garfunkel too. Hollywood movies, back then, took a while to get released here in Oz in any case, but I recall it was the movie that changed my perception of film, it pointed me in the direction of my future viewing habits. ‘The Graduate’ as well as, later on,. Woody’s ‘Annie Hall’ were, to me, far more real than the pap I’d been used to up until then. They’re both movies I’ve returned to over the years and yet they still seem so fresh. By ‘The Graduate’s’ appearance in 1967 Tinsel City had moved away from the restrictiveness of the Hays Code, giving with this release the world an early taste of the fantasy that is the older woman, the cougar if you like. So, my my, ‘The Graduate’ has turned 50. Anne Bancroft is now gone, Dustin Hoffman has had his star tarnished and the gorgeous Katharine Ross is now 76.

By the time this film came around Ms Bancroft’s best days were behind her. It seemed to me her remaining beauty was a hard one – but it was beauty nonetheless. Benjamin Braddock was no match for the alcohol sodden temptress. She was also quite something for my younger self up there on that giant screen. To me daughter Elaine (Ross) was no match as the object of one’s lust. I doubt, though, if I ever get to San Francisco one day, that I’d go on The Graduate Walking Tour of Berkeley. I’m enamoured of the movie, yes, but not that enamoured.

So, when ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ came along and Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame worked her wiles on an only too willing Peter Turner (Jamie Bell – who does a little reprising of Billy Elliot), it took me back to Mrs Robinson and ‘The Graduate’. Grahame, an Oscar winning 1950’s actress, come the seventies had fallen on harder times. She was touring Britain with a two-bit company giving what glamour she still possessed to the great English unwashed. And although she was semi-washed out herself, there was still beauty to be had, of a softer ilk in this film than Mrs Robinson’s. She had a beauty that was still capable of lighting up the footlights in a timeless way, as has Ms Bening. Peter Turner, a real Liverpool born actor, writer and director, has recounted his memory of his affair with the star of silver screen in a memoir. Director Peter McGuigan has done the rest.

It was an affair that was never going to last, but not because of the age difference. Peter gets a taste of some of her faded Hollywood glamour when he visits her in the US to meet her family, but soon Gloria has more to worry about than keeping a younger lover on the leash.

The star of this tale is of course the present day actress who is anything but faded. It’s a stellar performance, one I would have thought worthy of an Oscar nod. It’s brave, too, as she does not shy away from the lines of age nor indeed sagging breasts. The story had me absorbed from go to whoa.

Reviews have been mixed but I loved it. It will never outshine ‘The Graduate’, but then what could? I’m no longer that callow youth transfixed by Mrs Robinson. Now I am in my dotage but still transfixed by women of a certain age; transfixed by Annette Bening’s Gloria Grahame.

Simmone Howell’s article – https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/on-the-streets-of-berkeley-in-search-of-the-graduates-life-and-times-20180111-h0gly1.html

Trailer for ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCwt4kYWOHA

 

Stephanie G

Melancholia. It’s not something I suffer from as a rule. But I had it that last morning in Sydney. And I really had no strong notion as to why. As I set out from my hotel I was flat as. The melancholia shouldn’t have been there. I’d had a marvellous time in Sydney. And at the same time I was also relishing getting back to our abode by the river in Hobs and catching up, after a week away, with my lovely lady. She’d been working assiduously to improve the décor of our little house and I was keen to get back and see the results. I should have been far more buoyant, but there it was, a malaise had come over me. Was it because summer was drawing to an end? That usually got to me once upon a time – but not during my retirement years. The skies over Harbour City were dank and gloomy for the only time during the visit. Perhaps that was it? Maybe it was because I had been anticipating this sojourn for a fair time and now it was drawing to an end. I couldn’t see it as all expectations had been met. It was a trip made partly in memory of a mate who had always planned to accompany me this particular time. I miss him. Could that be the source? Whatever the cause, I needed a lift in spirits before I headed home that afternoon.

The Rocks Market was my destination as I hopped on the train at the Museum Station, heading for Circular Quay. When I arrived the stallholders were still setting up so I had a bit of time to kill. I just wandered aimlessly around, pointing my camera here and there – something that usually has a positive effect on me, but not this time. It all felt somewhat desultory.

I like buying artisan greeting cards at markets, particularly ones created from the artworks or photography of those selling them. I’d also, during my days there been to the Manly and Paddington Markets as well, but the pickings at those outlets were slim. I did a preliminary circuit once back at this market and I could already feel myself lightening up. Now this was more like it.

I noticed her work offerings very early on in my rambling around the stalls and I was immediately back after I had completed my initial looksee. Her selling space was covered in cards featuring her quirky pen and water colour illustrations. I knew two beloved granddaughters who would especially appreciate them and I was soon absorbed in choosing.

And the first thing I noticed about Stephanie, their talented creator, was a gloriously welcoming smile as I handed over my selection for purchasing. I placed her vintage as being around late twenties and although I am notoriously bad with assessing the age of the opposite gender, I later discovered I was around about the mark. But no matter her years on the planet, she was radiant and as it turned out, she was up for a chat. I let her know I was from Hobart and that was a springboard for our conversation. She was familiar with my city, had visited Mona and as it happened, her parents had recently moved to somewhere around its outskirts. She was looking forward to visiting them in the little city under kunanyi. The English born beauty then confided that this was the first time in a while she’d been able to be present at the market as she had only just recently returned from the land of her birth. From there she explained she had in tow with her somebody very dear to introduce a life Down Under to. I sensed she was very excited about this prospect as her eyes were sparkling with joy. By now she had this old fella mesmerised in the best way possible.

But, sadly, I became aware, after five or ten minutes, that I’d already taken up too much of her time as others were now similarly engrossed in her wares. I had to force myself to say farewell and be on my way. Before I did so, though, she gave me her card and requested that I contact her with any suggestions I may have about how to spend one’s time in Hobart. In doing so I was graced with another beaming smile. I was cured. I was back to glass half full, the spring had returned to my step, I looking forward to, on my return to Tassie, fulfilling the task she had set me

Like all of the random people met during my travels it is unlikely our paths will cross again although, hopefully, that visit will not be my last to the Rocks Market, so you never know. I will remember the vivaciousness and charm of Stephanie Gray who, during our conversation, told me how she had her start in her artistic endeavours, a story she also told for the pages of the Daily Telegraph a little further down the track. Seems it all commenced by her designing a set of playing cards for her parents. Now that, in my view, has expanded into something quite special. Of course, once back in my abode by the river, I had taken to the ether to discover more about this person who lifted the gloom for me that day.

Her loveliness lit up the remaining hours till my flight and I returned to my very own vivacious and gorgeous lady without a blue feeling in the world. So thank you to Stephanie. There must be something in the name.

Stephanie’s website = http://erlenmeyer.com.au/portfolio.php

Daily Telegraph article = https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/sydney-artist-stephanie-gray-draws-crosssectional-home-portraits-in-incredible-detail/news-story/846fde7cb64b9deda9e2bebc108a9283

Alone Again, Unnaturally

I am alone in my hotel room in Sydney. The day lies ahead and I know I’ll enjoy it very much, but I also know the joy will be tempered because she’s not with me. She adds to the lustre. Yep, it’s not ideal and sometimes, when I’m on my tod, I also get those feelings Wendy had about not leaving her hotel. But I do and I’m always glad I did. At least I’ll have something to report back when the nightly phone call goes south. It’s perfectly understandable. There are reasons such as work and family commitments, as well as climatic factors, that preclude her from sharing some of my travels. I just adore it, though, when she can.

There was a year I lost my mojo completely. She, for various reasons, wasn’t free to get away at all and I, always craving her company, thought ‘Bugger it, Hobs has plenty to offer year round so I’ll just stay put. At least I’ll save some dough.’ I did, but eventually my mojo came back and I regretted being so silly.

Being ‘alone again, unnaturally’ usually just means sojourns to the north or across to Melbourne – and now Sydney. Over the years I’ve managed to have interesting little adventures. I’ve had them this time too, here in Harbour City, which I daresay I will write up on my return, fodder for my scribblings.

They are very mini compared to Ms Squires’ encounters in Paris with drag queens, the Rajasthan wedding or the Osaka tour guide, but, nonetheless, there always seems to be something that lobs up unexpectantly to remove some of the nagging aloneness of being away from she who makes my life complete.

In recent times my attention has been drawn to Singapore where a combination of family and friends have reported that they had a magic time. They also reckoned I’d cope quite well on my own. But really that would start getting up there into Squires’ territory. Will I challenge myself to go that one step further in being ‘alone again, naturally’ on foreign soil? I’ll give it some serious bath time rumination.

Wendy Squires’ column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/wendy-squires-there-are-plenty-of-reasons-why-you-should-travel-solo-20171213-h03rcb.html

Robert and Greg

Grant and I – Robert Forster    Tex – Tex Perkins

They fronted two of my favourite Aussie bands. They are two legendary outfits – even if, with one in particular, the legend outweighs the legacy. Their bands are not top rung – never came within close proximity to the international sales of, say, AC/DC, INXS, Little River Band, Crowded House and certainly never had the following of Cold Chisel or the Oils. They weren’t perhaps even second tier, but the Go-Betweens and the Cruel Sea are loved by thousands and their respective auras only enhance as the decades pass. And, as to be expected, what you see on stage is what you get reflected in the style of the two books. ‘Grant and Me’ is written by the bombastic, eccentric and cross-dressing co-lead of the band Brisbane City Council, appropriately, named a bridge after. Call it somewhat high-brow if you will. Tex Perkins – only his mum calls him Greg – is the other author, assisted by acclaimed journalist Stuart Coupe. He gets his story sufficiently down there and dirty. Call it low brow.

Forster makes the Go-Betweens sound greater than the sum of the whole. In their first incarnation they were, at best, just staying one step ahead of struggle-town, even succumbing to the enormity of the task on occasions. They never really made it then – just had glimpses of what could be if they could hold their shit together. They rarely did for an extended period. They were the real deal, but the cards they were dealt always weren’t quite the full hand. Commercial success, with the exception of only one certifiable hit (‘The Streets of Your Town’) didn’t really come their way then. The hard graft of paying their dues eventually caught up with them as, in Fleetwood Mac style, relationships tore the group asunder in the end.

Along with that other unique outfit, the Saints, the Go-Betweens were a product of Joh’s Brisbane – Hicksville in other words. Both bands attempted to take their music to the world with shambolic optimism, only to return to Oz with their tail between their legs. Both collapsed in the after-story. Forster’s band did reform around the turn of the millennium, but things were still strained between the personnel, even if their approach was far more professional. They had some success and the future again seemed full of potential, but all that was snuffed out with Grant McClennan’s untimely passing in 2006. Forster struggles on as a solo act and wit about town, still, no doubt, a legend in his own lunchbox. I like the man and I buy his quality albums, but for all the gilding of the lily, the story of that terrific band is one of what might have been. But still their songs were quite sublime – and such treasures as ‘Cattle and Cane’, ‘Lee Remick’ (Forster meets her), ‘Quiet Heart’ and my favourite, ‘Dive For Your Memory’ are timeless.

And, in a lovely segue, Tex Perkins writes of seeing Forster and his mates performing at the Exchange Hotel, Fortitude Valley when he was a young buck, back in ’81. Tex is pure rock’n’roll; perhaps our answer to Keith Richards. He’s had a life, but has never aspired to the glory, unlike Forster – or that’s how he would have us believe it. He is perhaps better known these days for presenting an authentic Johnny Cash tribute to the punters all around Oz. But he is, as well as was, so much more. I’ve seen his impersonation. It’s great and he is touring the land again as I write with it. Tex, living up to his name, has never hid his love of country music, despite fronting some of the best pub-rock bands Australia has produced. He writes candidly of his days with Tex, Don and Charlie, the Dark Horses, the Beasts of Bourbon (a new album on the way) and the one that I’m enamoured of, the Cruel Sea. We even had his take on the supposed piss-take that was the Ladyboyz.

My entry into the joys of Tex came in reverse fashion – with the Cash show, then a duet he did on RocKwiz with Clare Bowditch, ‘Fairytale of New York’, that made me sit up and take notice. Then I discovered the Cruel Sea and I was sold on him. As you would expect, after years in the industry, Perkins tells some great yarns, especially about close encounters with rock royalty that didn’t quite go to plan – Mick J, PJ Proby, Kurt Cobain etc. Tex is as much about the swagger as anything else and that is the way in which this very readable tome is composed.

Along with Forster, he has earnt his place in the local rock pantheon, but unlike the former, I bet he couldn’t really give a dam – or so he would have us believe.

And as to which I relished the most? Well, Tex wins hands down. Telling it how it was will always win hands down.

My City

It was a random meeting in another city. She was beautiful. A card was exchanged with a request. To tell about my city for, you see, she was expecting to visit in the near future. So this is for that beautiful lady, for you as well, for anybody and everyone.

Of course I love my city. In my eyes it is perfect in every way, especially its size. From my abode by the river, on the outskirts, I can be in the city centre in about twenty minutes and out to the other side in around thirty.

I love its weather. The seasons are distinct, not blurred and from its CBD it is possible to see snow atop kunanyi at any time of year. What other capital can give one that?

I love the harbour or, as we say, the river. I love going to a place with a view across it, perhaps Wrest Point. There I can sit up in the Sportsman’s Bar, by its vast windows, whilst my lovely lady is having an occasional little flutter. With book or newspaper in hand I am totally at bliss, supping on an ale, as well as checking out the ever-changing aspect across the river. Further upstream, from our much smaller windows at home we can look across the same but very different river. It’s magic, a magnet for my eyes.

I love the vibrancy of my city’s arts scene. Mona has given it an amazing lift and in itself is amazing. But the TMAG (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) is worth your attention as well. There are smaller galleries dotted about Salamanca and I particularly relish exhibitions at the Long Gallery in the arts centre there. I am a regular at MAC, the Moonah Arts Centre too. I know the local writing and music scene are on a roll as well.

And there are restaurants to love. I’ve read the talk of the town, at the moment, are the following – Dier Maker (123 Collins), Franklin (30 Argyle) and Etties (130 Elizabeth). Leigh and I are not talk of the town type of people, but we have our own favourites – the Roaring Grill (301 Elizabeth), the Italian Pantry (131-133 Murray St ) and Urban Greek (103 Murray). On the outskirts the Agrarian Kitchen (11A The Avenue, New Norfolk) recently received 4.5 stars from the Australian’s respected critic John Lethlean. In the same neck of the woods we delight in the Patchwork Cafe (15 George) at the Willow Court Complex. Check out the antique emporiums whilst you are in New Norfolk – they are fascinating. We also frequent 12 Stones at Pontville for special occasions. Immediately across the river from our home is the Stefano Lubiana Osteria for special wines and tucker, as well as spectacular views. If hamburgers are the go, we head to Burgerhaus in North Hobart (364A Elizabeth).

Love coffee? My lovely lady and I are happy enough with Coffee Club, Banjo’s and Hudsons, but here’s the hype. The best in the city, reportedly, has always been Villino (30 Criterion), but Pilgrim (48 Argyle) and Yellow Bernard (1/109 Collins) are snapping at its heels. If in Moonah, step into the Magnolia Cafe, on the main drag (73), for something a little different.

I love my city’s markets. Of course the Saturday one at Salamanca is the jewel in the crown, but I think there is an even better vibe at Sunday’s Farmgate in the CBD. If you’re in Richmond of a Saturday, go to its delightful village variety and for something completely rustic there’s Collinsvale, held monthly. Beautiful drive up behind kunanyi to it too. The Saturday High Street Market at New Norfolk is worth a visit as well.

Do you love just rambling around? I do too. Salamanca, Battery Point and dockside are ideal. At the latter slip into the Brooke Street Pier. It floats. The IXLside, opposite Salamanca and in the old disreputable part of town once called Wapping, is great for browsing. The Drunken Admiral with its famous seafood meals (17/19 Hunter) can be found here and if the nation’s oldest pub, the Hope and Anchor (65 Macquarie) is open, go in, have a bevy by all means, but be sure to check out upstairs. Daytrips to the Tasman Peninsula, detouring to the Sorell Berry Farm for some fruit picking in season, are popular. Take the Southern Expressway, too, up over Vince’s Saddle to the Huon gems of Cygnet and Franklin. Go the other way to Kettering and catch the ferry across to Bruny Island. It has oysters, cheese and it’s own brewery. What more could you want? Scenery? That’s stunning on the island too. Richmond is close by to Hobs and the trip in from Cambridge has multiple stopping off places for fine wine or some repast. Back in town, one of my favourite hang-outs is the State Cinema complex in North Hobart for mainstream and art house flicks, as well as its cafe and bookshop. Other esteemed retailers of the printed word are Fullers (131 Collins St) and the Hobart Bookshop in Salamanca. A great shop is Red Parka (22 Criterion) for something quite unique and across the road is Cool Wines (Shop 8, MidCity Arcade) boasting eclectic wines and beers.

If wine is indeed the go for you, around the outskirts are numerous cellar doors. Our fav is Puddle Duck (992 Richmond Rd ). A tour of the historic Cascade Brewery is very interesting, with Hobs also gaining a reputation for its craft brewers. We visit Shambles, 222 Elizabeth St, between the city and NoHo (North Hobart).

For history buffs the Female Factory is a must and then there are the festivals – the Taste of Tasmania around the new year, the amazing Dark MoFo at the height of winter and the biannual Wooden Boats.

So come to my city of Hobart, compact and small. It can no longer boast a rush minute rather than a rush hour, but the pace of life is certainly a tad slower than in the big boys on the island to the north. I am lucky enough to partake of some of the world’s freshest air and purest water each and every day as well. And our wine, beer and whiskey are top notch. I love it. You will too