Monthly Archives: July 2014

India Small

Think ’84 Charing Cross Road’, ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and you’ll have the basic premise behind this quiet Indian gem. Now take away the Hollywood happy-ever-afters to give it some reality, replace the above’s semi-affluent locales with an overcrowded, poverty riven city and a picture starts to emerge of how this sub-continental offering differs from the aforementioned.


In a beautifully nuanced performance Irrfan Khan plays lonely, ageing widower Saajan Fernandes. He ponders over figures all day in a dreary insurance assessment office, one step up from a sweat shop, with little in life to give pleasure. Then something goes badly awry. The normally ever-reliable Mumbai dubbawalahs (lunch delivery men) have uncharacteristically stuffed up, with his tiffin (hot lunch) being delivered in the wrong dubba (tin lunch box). From a normally mediocre repast he is taken to food heaven. Rather than coming from a street stall, it emerges the preparer is the young, lustrous but maritally ignored Ila (the gorgeous Nimrat Kaar). When this error is perpetuated a paper, correspondence commences and they are taken into each others’ lives quite intimately, albeit never face to face. Ila soon realises that any attempt to curry favour – oh dear, terrible pun – through her culinary skills and other obvious attractions, with hubby, is doomed to failure. Her focus turns more decidedly to Saajan and she attempts to set up a meeting. At this point it all goes pear shaped. Meanwhile, our reluctant hero has developed another significant relationship – this time with an underling (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) whom he is supposedly meant to be training up to replace himself once he takes impending retirement. Between Shaikh and Ila Saajan starts to get a life back – but where will these relationships lead?


This is a treat of a movie, but when the end credits suddenly appeared there was an intake of breath from the audience Leigh and I shared the movie with. This was not meant to happen – all was supposed to come together perfectly with no issues unresolved. Hollywood life is like that, but is that always the case in the real world? What it did do was to give the lovely Leigh and I fodder for a discussion on our homeward bound journey over the ‘what ifs’ abounding in the movie’s abrupt termination. And maybe that was just the point of the piece. It was delightful, just delightful – so for something just a tad away from the usual do try and see it soon at a home of quality cinema near you.

‘The Lunchbox’ official trailer =


Death, Death Again

We laughed. We laughed till there were tears streaming, did Leigh, reclining opposite, as well as I. We probably fed a bit off each other – proving again how our senses of humour are usually in tune. We surely missed at least ten minutes of the show, holding our bellies till we could catch our breath – but a prolonged chortle is therapeutic. Proven fact. Billy will do that to one – as he has been doing for decades with his stand-up, movies and riding his three-wheeler to various locales for television. In this it was his tale of the ninety-degreed hunchback stiff and the issues that ensued trying to fit such a body into the narrow confines of a coffin – and the mayhem that developed when it all patently came unstuck during the viewing as the poor old bugger sprung upwards to attention. The way the Big Yin delivered it, in that lilting Scottish brogue he possesses, laughing along at the hilarity of it all, was, as always, priceless. It certainly defeated all the barriers I possess to uninhibited guffawry.

The topic of this ABC offering was something unavoidable, the thought of which we do not relish – death. This is not usually a topic redolent in levity – unless Billy Connolly  is your guide. But his journey to look at the excesses and strangenesses involved also possessed pathos, a liberal dose of sadness and that song. You know the one – the one that ranks Number 3 in the hit parade of tunes to be played as one’s ultimate send off. It’s the one that comforted Christ in the irreverent pisstake that was ‘The Life of Brian’ and, along with ‘The Lumberjack Song’, is the Monty’s greatest contribution to the history of music. It was delivered by a still fine voiced, twinkly eyed Eric Idle, with Billy accompanying.

billy and eric

Sadly, though, our Billy is, like the rest of us mere mortals, not indestructible. He’s been quiet of late on our screens and for good reason. In the one week he was diagnosed with both prostate cancer and Parkinsons – the latter by a Tasmanian specialist who happened to notice his unsteady gait whilst in transit at an airport. The prognoses aren’t as bad as they could have been and we are reliably informed that he’ll be around for a while yet – thanks be to She in the sky. Once ageless, our beloved Billy is now showing everyone of his seventy-two years. In ‘The Big Send-off’ that marvellous mane is now snowy white, his face drawn and he’s seemingly lost his physical bounce, but certainly not his verbal. A world without Billy doesn’t bear thinking about. In his eyes, though, there is still that sparkle, still a sprinkle of forever-dust. And with this small screen offering he is still deliciously delighted by the absurdities of life on this planet. Long will he continue to point them out for our benefit.

Now neither I, nor I suggest Billy, or even you, dear reader, can possibly know the time, exact setting or, to a lesser degree, the cause of our ultimate demise. But what if that were not the case? What if, indeed, it was a mere seven days away? The location was to be a sandy strand and you possessed a strong suspicion as to whom would be administering your coup de grace.. Then, knowing these facts, which don’t involve languishing on death row, what if added there was an out clause if so desired – a possibility of avoiding it – well, you would take the out, wouldn’t you? That, though, was not entirely a given in the magnificent Irish movie ‘Calvary’. It is a stunner. Here there’s Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran as you’ve never seen them before. I’ve waxed lyrical on the charms of Kelly Reilly in another recent blog and yet again, she lights up the screen in this. Towering above them all, though, is Brendan Gleeson, in surely what will become his signature role. As the village priest he is informed, in the confessional, that this is his last week on earth and is given the precise details of his date with the hereafter. Sounds illogical? No, there is a good reason, even if Father James has no record of the usual misdemeanours associated with men of the cloth. He’s guiltless – and that’s the point of the exercise.

Kelly Reilly and Brendan Gleeson in Calvary

The narrative follows him through his last remaining week and we meet all the likely suspects – what a mixed bag they are! He has some big decisions to make, does our good man of the church – and not all to do with the should I go or should I stay quandary. In some quarters ‘Calvary’ is being pushed as a comedic gem, but there’s not too much humour to be had in the way the movie concludes. I was stunned. The cinema-goers I shared it with were stunned. It was so powerful – but there was also redemption at hand as well. The ending was almost too much for this punter to bear – wait for it if you dare! But do see it if it comes a-calling near you.


The Trailer to ‘Calvary’ =

All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

It was a shock. I was genuinely shocked that it won. All the knowledgeable money was on Richard Flanagan. Had I been a betting man my hard earned would have been too. Leaving aside the predominately awe-struck reviews for what fellow nominee Winton described as a ‘masterpiece’, there were the sales. Never far, for months and months, from the top of the best-seller lists, ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ is truly a remarkable book. I defy anyone to get through it without weeping at some stage – I certainly did so more than once. Not so it seems the flinty hearted on the judging panel. At the time of its gong Wyld’s winning title had sold a paltry 1200 – now of course the author will feel as if she’s won the lottery. Of course sales should never be the sole criteria – but public response must count for something. Maybe the ‘wise’ trio adjudicating were intent on giving a newbie a legs up, or were they still wearing the scars of sexism directed at another judging panel for the Miles Franklin a few years back. Perhaps they feel the last world war has been done to death (sorry about the pun) – although the story was surely about so much more. Admittedly Flanagan doesn’t need the exposure, nor reassuring that what he has produced is the real deal – but I suspect he must be wondering, as many are, how could they turn from his opus to this relatively unknown and palpably inferior effort. I cannot claim to have read all other tomes on the short-list, but as soon as I recovered from feeling miffed on Flanagan’s behalf, I got stuck into Wyld’s book, just in case it I had it all wrong. I hadn’t.

Now that I have completed it, I will admit ‘All the Birds, Singing’ is a fine novel. I have no qualms now about the praise the judging panel heaped on it :-

Commenting on behalf of the judging panel, State Library of New South Wales Mitchell Librarian, Richard Neville, described Ms Wyld’s writing as “spare, yet pitch perfect”, with her novel being both “visceral and powerfully measured in tone. ‘All the Birds, Singing’ draws the reader into its rhythm and mystery, through wonderfully and beautifully crafted prose, whose deceptive sparseness combines powerfully with an ingenious structure to create a compelling narrative of alienation, decline and finally, perhaps, some form of redemption,” Mr Neville said. “Flight from violence and abuse run through the core of the novel, yet never defeat its central character. ‘All the Birds, Singing’, an unusual but compelling novel, explores its themes with an unnervingly consistent clarity and confidence.”

After reading the tome, it is hard to disagree with those sentiments, but in my view it possesses none of the power of the favourite for the gong. I know Flanagan’s effort will become an Australian classic. Wyld’s sophomore book will have a brief honeymoon and then be largely forgotten.

all the birds singing

‘All the Birds, Singing’ had been sitting on my ‘to read’ shelf well before it was put forward for the major award. It was there due to the enjoyment I received from Ms Wyld’s first published offering, ‘After the Fire, A Still Small Voice’. In truth, although much the same theme was evident in both, her second was no disappointment, in itself, either. It was also based around fleeing one’s past/demons. In the first it was into the Australian bush/outback. In the follow-up it was to the fringes of our country’s central void – and then on to as far away as is possible – an island off the UK’s northern coast. Neither broke new ground on this well travelled path, but both were well wrought and worthy of their critical acclaim. The hero of the second, Jake, is a fractured soul plying her trade as a hooker at a truck stop in a Pilbara mining town. She escapes this to former customer Otto’s ‘care’ on his fly-blown property out on the desert rim. Here she picks up some handy hints on how to shear sheep. This puts her in good stead when she joins a motley crew working the sheds during the season – and finds a new partner to share her lodgings. But her past is never far away, so she decides to take her savings and chances to the other side of the world. The sun-blasted landscapes of this country are exchanged for an Arctic-wind chaffed isle in another hemisphere. By now she had graduated well and truly from using her orifices to raise a buck to becoming a fully fledged sheep farmer – but of course there are more roadblocks to come for our feisty Aussie lass. Something is taking her animals – something that is sinisterly bigger than the known local wildlife and she has had hints of it in the periphery of her vision. Are these flashbacks, or is she going cabin-crazy? She then develops a relationship of sorts with another fleer from reality as she attempts to move towards a form of atonement.

evie wyld

Yes, there is much to admire about Wyld’s work. She certainly knows her canines as dogs feature as major characters. Her narrative dips and weaves through the years forming a seamless narrative. For a second timer, she undoubtedly has a strong future in the industry as a result of the Miles Franklin misjudgement. But she is simply no Richard Flanagan.


Evie Wyld’s website =

Journeys Long, Journeys Short

I jumped at the chance to do it. The invitation to spend six weeks in one of my island’s special places – a seaside village that comes alive during the summer months – was too good to pass on. This location is surrounded by a stunning coastline and across the water from it are golfing links of world renown. I am not in any way into the sport, but visiting them in the past, to dine at the restaurant with arguably the best views of a seascape in the state, well – they are stunning just to observe. I pictured myself on walks, with a beloved canine, along coastal and riverside tracks that abound around the little town – and this certainly occurred to the pleasure of both participants. Summer it was not to be though, but nonetheless Bridport still had plenty of positives about it during the off season. Used to Hobart’s dour, chillsome winters – Bridport sparkled in dazzling June sunshine in my time there – and with the sea mist rising up in response off Anderson Bay as each morning dawned I was favoured by sublime vistas all around. My camera, of course, had a good workout in such photogenic circumstances. As I expected, the local populace was a friendly species, no doubt relishing the slower pace of the mid-year months. They were always up for a chat at their shop counters. On the pavement of the main drag there were always jaunty ‘good mornings’ to greet my regular saunter down to the newsagent for the day’s Age. Next door to my house-sit was a supermarket, with next to that being a bottle-o – so all needs were met within a short stroll. As if my retirement years have not produced quietude enough, there was now even more time to write, read and work my way though DVD box-sets. And at my heels everywhere I went were two dogs, intent on not letting me out of their sight. No matter what opinions I expressed, they always nodded their heads sagely in agreement, giving me a bit of a lick before collapsing to the floor for another slumber under the motes rising up from their sunny spots. Of course, accepting my son’s thoughtful invitation would mean that there would be special people and places back in Hobs to be missed – but a few visits eased this missing – and I coped with that. I figured I’d suffer a tad without my weekly dose of art house fare at the State, but in reality there was only one movie I was, in the slightest way, peeved at not being able to attend – and the newly minted 2JJ, with Myf at the helm, was feasted on, giving me scope for new talent to search out when I was back to access JBs again.


And back I am now and yes, that’s good too. Rich and his delightful partner Shan have returned to Tassie, with two reportedly very happy doggies a-welcoming them. As yet there hasn’t been the time for tales to tell from the pair, but those will be forthcoming in future weeks as they wind down from their journey long and get back into work mode. But I know a little of their weeks OS due to their communications during. I am so chuffed that they visited a few of the places that certainly impacted on me during my UK and Continental tourings three or more decades ago – Stonehenge and Chartres for example. Rich was also able to follow up on some of his passions – sampling various Irish and Belgian brews, visiting Harry Potter World as well as the Giger Museum in Switzerland. I was very envious of the pair heading off to the Folies Bergère, something that would definitely be on my bucket list if such a beast existed.


Like all first time travellers, Rich and Shan will now have a taste of what is possible and fatherly fingers are crossed that there will be future occasions to take the three hour journey short to fair Briddy to again bask in such a magic setting. For a multitude of reasons I am so proud of my son and travelling vicariously with him and Shan around Europe has been a joy. The time also proved that something I thought mightily about as a retirement option for me would have been possible in terms of its contentment factor. That I chose another course I have no regrets, as that has been fantastic too – so my thanks go to my son and Shan for that as well. Am I sad that it would seem I will not be repeating, in my dotage, two trips to Europe undertaken when I was far more in my pomp? No, not really. Financially I could up and go tomorrow if I so desired, but that urge has largely deserted me. Besides, every day I spend with my beautiful Leigh, tucked up in our abode by the river, I figure, is equivalent to a northern hemisphere holiday in any case – so no, there’s no real hankering there. We have trips planned together, Leigh and I, to less distant locales and the thought of those more than keeps me happily planning.

Now – about that aforementioned movie. I thought I would have to hold fire and view it eventually on the small screen. It started it’s cinema run the day after I headed north, but to my very pleasant surprise, its popularity had given it an extended stay. It was in its final week on my return. Yay! And on viewing it, I understood why it had struck a chord. It was delightful. The people of Hobart were indeed ready ‘…for seconds’ in response to the query featured on the film’s promo.

‘The Trip’ – in both movie and television format – has become a cult classic, in a similar way to ‘Fawlty’, ‘The Office’ and ‘The Royle Family’. In it we followed the perhaps not so unlikely pair of Steve Coogan (‘Alan Partridge’, ‘Philomena’, ‘The Look of Love’) and Rob Brydon (Gavin and Stacey’, ‘Would I Lie to You?’) on their meanders and musings around England’s Lake District. These two first came together on the set of director Winterbottom’s ‘Tristram Shandy’, obviously striking up a natural rapport over an attachment to fine wine, top drawer nosh and the ability to take the piss out of each other – and they both share delight in impersonating their fellow thespians. They continue to do all that, to treat us, in ‘The Trip to Italy’. Their mutual take on Michael Caine near the start is a classic. So, given a jaunty car, more stunning vistas such as the Amalfi Coast, a slight fictional overlay with the narrative and more posh restaurants, we have all the necessary ingredients for another enjoyable ride. They ruminate on many matters of varying import, not the least of which being their frustration at ageing. They feel they have both reached that milestone in life when the young fillies they espy in their travels now find them invisible – or do they, Rob? There is also pathos and angst in the offering – but mostly it is filled with the good humour involved with just how fortunate they are to be in such a place with such company. Then there is the glorious, glorious tucker. It almost made me want to hop on the next Q-bird to Rome for a bit of la dolce vita myself.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in Camogli, Italy

Hopefully we will again see this gregarious duo off on continued adventurings, under Winterbottom’s guidance, to another exotic spot on the planet soon – and methinks I read that there is a television follow up to this. So here’s to journeys long, journeys short and journeys middling. Long may we be on the planet to indulge in them, even if one does not have to leave one’s home abode to do so.

Website for ‘The Trip to Italy’ =

The Husband's Secret – Liane Moriarty

I know around when it happened. I know precisely where it happened. I was staying at that old stalwart, the Victoria Hotel on Little Collins Street. It was some time in the early Nineties. For whatever reason, I was staying on my tod. I cannot recall if it was during the same visitation as that other embarrassing occurrence happened. Of course the ablutions were down the corridor from the room. Of course I stupidly went to my morning bath just clad in undies, t-shirt and thin white hotel towel. Of course, after my cleansings, I realised that I had locked the door-key in the room and of course, that required a visit, in that form of undress, downstairs to the front counter in order to gain assistance. And of course I had to join a line of punters checking in/out. I doubt if the other event would have happened that same morning – two shocks to the system would have been simply too much.

I loved breakfasting in Melbourne cafes – still do. And there was an excellent one a couple of doors up from said hostelry – sadly not surviving into this century. As I settled in with my copy of the Age and a cappuccino, I noticed there was a ceiling mirror immediately above my head. And staring back at me was a large bald spot – a large bald spot that was mine! I had no idea that I possessed such a thing. Nobody had told me I had one. I was appalled for a while – quite shaken. I know I spent the rest of the trip, as well as for sometime afterwards, continuously patting the top of my head – as if that’d make it go away. I thought, over and over, ‘How can that be? When did that happen?’ In the end I just accepted it, it was something I could live with – and life went on as normal. It certainly didn’t send me into a mental nosedive. I didn’t get, as a result, an attack of the ‘Peter Pans’, unlike poor Will.

‘I got my hair cut, right? And my normal guy wasn’t there, and for some reason the girl held up this mirror to show me the back of my head…I nearly fell off the back of the chair when I saw my bald spot. I thought it was some other bloke’s head. I looked like Friar Bloody Tuck. I had no idea.’

And Will confessed to his wife that it was at this point it all started – that downward spiral into his personal attack of the ‘Peter Pans’. Very soon after he decided he was in love with his missus’ best mate, causing Tess to flee from Yarra City to her mum’s in Sydney – and so it all began.

Meanwhile, a Coathanger City housewife discovers a mysterious letter from her hubby while ferreting around in the attic. And nearby, Rachel, still grieving for the loss of a murdered daughter, discovers she now has to grieve the departure from her life of a grandson. One of the mentioned characters has had to coop up inside him, for decades, a horrible, horrible secret – and Rachel thinks she knows who is responsible for her Janie’s unexplained death. Is it the same person? That answer is the nub of the fascinating ‘The Husband’s Secret’.

husbands secret

In truth this is probably not a bloke’s book, so for me it didn’t quite live up to the hype displayed on the front and back covers. But Liane Moriarty is a canny, canny writer in several ways. The novel is quite clever in the manner the back histories of the three main protagonists are interwoven until, in the end, it becomes one story. The decisions made by some of the characters, towards the finale, could be chewed over for hours, I suspect, in a book club forum. And, although it is clearly set in Oz, she has somehow made it mid-Atlantic in tone – thus topping the best seller lists in both the UK and US. Each time I read an Aussie place name I was jolted back to the fact that the setting was indeed home-grown – so more power to her authorly capabilities.

A couple of aspects did jar for me. The epilogue, going into forensic detail about Janie’s demise, just messed up an otherwise believable narrative strand and certainly didn’t enhance it in any way. A pet peeve of mine are also authors who have to give the reader the death-throe thoughts of a victim. Again, going back to the day Janie died, added zilch.

But with a million plus in sales and translations into multiple languages, Ms Moriarty sure takes the reader on some ride with this. It wasn’t quite the page turner I expected – this being measured in how long I take to get through a tome – but in no way did I regard reading it an onerous task – quite the contrary.

The Australian market is so small that even some of our most gifted struggle to make a living at their craft. Getting a book out there involves a huge amount of often underpaid work – so full credit to the author to have had the immense success she has out in the wider world – and that is reason enough to find out what all the fuss is about by garnering your own copy.


Ms Moriarty’s website =