Monday night is better – so much better. No more clashes with the Saturday eve footy that invariably took me away from it – and her, the alluring Ms Z. Coupled with Ragnar Lothbrok and his murderously pillaging ‘Vikings’, a double dose of mayhem is provided by SBS, albeit with each being of a very different nature. Yes, I am more than happy to be a ‘RocKwiz’ devotee again.

If nothing else, this loose shambolic affair, being beamed into our welcoming homes from St Kilda’s grand old rock pub The Espy – Esplanade Hotel – has outlasted its more polished and structured – but nonetheless, still at, times hilarious – ABC cousin, the original ‘Spicks and Specks’. It will possibly survive that show’s second coming too. The latter is a brave attempt – but nothing can replace the golden trio of Hills, Warhurst and Brough (so pleasing to have the divine Myf back with us on DoubleJ). Auntie used to build its Wednesday night’s around the old vehicle. The punters loved it – its just not the same.

‘RocKwiz’ isstill going strong and hopefully that will forever remain so. It is essentially Julia’s show. She conducts those collected in front of the live audience with aplomb, somehow conjuring a beast of substance from ingredients pulling in divergent directions. There is a smooth lack of decorum and she keeps her panelists in thrall with her sassy, irreverent and oft flirtatious overtures. The gathered cohort of Melbourne tribes out front are chickenfeed – they are in the palm of her hand from the get go. Occasionally she lets slip some insights into the ‘real Julia’, but for more of that one needs to tune into the glorious ‘Agony’ franchise to see her in a more revelatory mood. Her two wingmen, the loquacious Nankervis and the hairy-armpitted roadie Dougal are cult figures. Over the twelve seasons a fantastic range of of local and overseas luminaries have displayed their vocal wares on the ‘RocKwiz’ stage. Then there is the always the eagerly anticipated culminating duet where the two ‘Who Can It Be’ guest panelists wrap their trills around a hoary standard. We could all sing the virtues of our own favourite combination with this – but for your scribe the pairing of Clare Bowditch /Tex Perkins on the Pogues’ Christmas staple ‘Fairytale of New York’ takes some beating.


So last Monday eve my DLP (Darling Loving Partner) and I had just finished being blissed out on our weekly fix of northern barbarians when we then hunkered down for Ms Zemiro to get the show up and running. This night one of the guest panelists, who sang her way on, I have taken a shine to of late – the former Taswegian Courtney Barnett, who now seems to be creating some overseas momentum as a singer-songwriter in the Dylan mode. Her duet with her male counterpart on the Velvet Underground’s ‘Sunday Morning’ was, I felt, quite sublime.

billy b and courtney

Now I have never been a huge fan of Billy – Billy Bragg – even if I greatly admire him. The sole album I have of his in my collection is his collaboration with Wilco on some previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. ‘Mermaid Avenue’ is a favourite, but I haven’t taken to any other offering from his oeuvre. But on he marched, up to the mic on the platform and launched, accompanied by the ‘RocKwiz’ Orchestra (of three), into his ‘Handyman Blues’

I’m never gonna be the handyman around the house my father was
So don’t be asking me to hang a curtain rail for you, because
Screwdriver business just gets me confused
It takes me half an hour to change a fuse
And when I flicked the switch the lights all blew
I’m not your handyman

It was a good rendition. I looked over to the sofa, where my beloved DLP was in repose, to get her take on it, when on her delightful visage I espied a quizzical smile.
‘What?’ I chortled, ‘What?’
‘He’s singing your song darling,’ she retorted with a laugh – and indeed he was.

Don’t be expecting me to put up shelves or build a garden shed
But I can write a song that tells the world how much I love you instead
I’m not any good at pottery so let’s lose the ‘t’ and just shift back the ‘e’
And I’ll find a way to make my poetry build a roof over our heads

Putting pen to paper to build something around words is truly my idea of handyman-ing. My father’s DIY genes skipped a generation to my son. I love to write and I share that in common with my BTD (Beautiful Talented Daughter), who has done much more with her ability than I ever will with my far more humble word-smithery. I am just a scribbler, but now that retirement has finally provided me with some of that precious commodity, time, I can revel in my new addiction. And yep, on occasions Billy, I’ll have a go at poetry too!

I know it looks like I’m just reading the paper
But these ideas I’ll turn to gold dust later
Cause I’m a writer not a decorator…
I’m not your handyman

At times I do get down on myself for my lack of manly attributes, but fortunately my DLP accepts my limitations in the area and loves me anyway. Thankfully, she can more than capably wend a screwdriver or hammer, tinker under a car’s bonnet and knows what’s what in the garden weed department. As with Billy, it may be the daily rag that sets me off; or a movie at the State; a song that meant something to me once upon a time or, just simply, a tree standing on a hill. It doesn’t take much and I’m away. At this window where I’m sitting now I can view the Derwent flowing by and I am at peace – really in a good place, Billy – just me and some words.

Billy Bragg sings ‘Handy Man Blues  = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ8fPJ7zZSg

Billy and Courtney Barnett sing ‘Sunday Morning’  = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Yg6xDAekPI

Clare Bowditch/Tex Perkins ‘Fairytale of New York’ = Clare Bowditch/Tex Perkins ‘Fairytale of New York’




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