Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Gallic Bucolic Charmer

List them – they all roll off the tongue. There’s Sophie Marceau, Emmanuelle Béart, Cécile De France, Marion Cotillard – just to get one started. The doyen is, of course, the magnificent Catherine Deneuve, still continuing along in fine form on the screen. Then there’s this scribe’s particular favourite – the sinewly sensuous Charlotte. Gainsbourg. These luminous ladies light up the silver screens of art house movie venues all around the world with their chic, their Frenchiness, their certain something Hollywood damsels have never been able to replicate. They are rightly revered in their homeland and I revere them as well. And there’s another who has been strutting her chops for decades now and illuminating many a movie with her porcelain beauty – the ageless Isabelle Huppert. Often noted for roles where she plays icy cool, in ‘Folies Bergere’ she glows with inner warmth.

There is an old adage that an affair can have a positive impact on a marriage – refresh it, liven it up. I suspect that in at least ninety-five percent of cases that is not the case, but Brigitte (Huppert) is bored, in a rural rut. Hubby Xavier (a fine, nuanced performance from Jean-Pierre Darroussin) is about to discover if that old saying it true for his stale relationship. These long term marrieds run a stud for those exquisitely hefty bovines, the charolais, in the French countryside. He is your typical ‘hide your feelings at all costs’ rustic. But Brigitte stands out with her millinery, as well as being, at around the fifty mark, still a beauty, a head turner – except for that pesky skin complaint on her chest that simply will not go away no matter how many exotic unguents she applies. She meets a younger slick city type at at local party she is cajoled to attend, with the result that horizons suddenly expand. Can he be the catalyst to lift her out of that rut? Using the treatment of her eczema as her excuse, Brigitte becomes cougar. She heads for the City of Light to track down her quarry in his own environment. When that does not exactly go to plan, she substitutes a Danish dentist (Michael Nyquist of ‘As It Is In Heaven’ and ‘Dragon Tattoo’ fame).


By now Xavier senses a rat and followers her to the sinful city, engages in a bit of detective work and spots her with her new beau. He knows by her body language she is not partaking in an innocent encounter. He doesn’t confront – he will bide his time. Eventually she’ll have to return to the farm, but what then? Can it really all be the same again?

There are some stunning scenes in this – several that will particularly linger. The couple’s son has eschewed inheritance of the farm to indulge his passion for circus skills. He is at odds with his father over this, but when Xavier surprises with a visit to where he trains it is revelatory. As it is when Brigitte finds evidence that she has been sprung. Her reaction displays just what an actress the venerable Huppert is!


And we also discover if smothering a nasty rash in passionate kisses can be a cure for the complaint. Well then, does our heroine truly find that it is never too late to live a little? Do there always have to be negative repercussions for bedding someone out of wedlock? I saw this French charmer in a week when a cafe siege and the slaughter of innocent children dominated the news. This sublime movie truly made me feel better about the planet. It will put you in a better place too.

Official Website =

Not Much to do with the Clash

You’ll remember him if, like this scribbler, you’re of a certain vintage and back last century you had any form of relationship with the cinema. And he’s still lookin’ good – most dapper in all white Arab garb. He still has that sparkle, a certain glint in the eye. He’s now a venerable octogenarian, but back in the day he was something special – Alexandria’s great gift to the world. He shone in such movies as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Funny Girl’ and more recently, ‘Monsieur Ibrahim’. But for this film tragic he remains the centrepiece of a triangle of love as two luscious beauties of the time, Geraldine Chaplin – who I felt was far decidedly more luminous than her rival – and Julie Christie vied for his character’s affections. I remember the iconic scenes – the train in the snow, the battle charge and the sheer desperation of being in Russia on the losing side during its revolution. ‘Dr Zhivago’, hitting our screens way back in 1965, was and still is a classic. The same could be said for Omar Sharif. He is wonderful as the ghost in ‘Rock the Casbah’.


And again, in this movie, he is surrounded by a bevy of stunning women as a family comes together for a funeral. Sofia (Morjana Alaoui), a reasonably successful actress based in LA, flies in to join her sisters Miriam (Nadine Labaki) and Kenza (Lubna Azabal). Also present are the bereaved mother/wife (Hiam Abbass) and a feisty grandmother. It is illuminating watching the Islamic way of burying their loved ones as the Hassan cohort grieve for patriarch Moulay. This French/Moroccan effort is pure Hollywood as kin, friends and servants gather to point score and settle old insults – prior, during and after the internment. But within the family there is a secret that threatens to turn relationships awry. As well, an old, explosive affair is rekindled and there’s also the proverbial black sheep to be thwarted.


It is all run of the mill stuff in narrative terms – there are no surprises here. It’s the gorgeousness and charisma of these women that will engage the audience. They certainly charmed me in the way Ms Chaplin did all those decades ago. Despite an exotic locale on show and practises foreign to us Westerners, this movie demonstrates that some features of the human condition are universal. These are strong, resilient ladies – all of them. In secular Muslim communities such indomitable creatures still run the show. As in our society, the menfolk are no match. Director Laila Marrakchi infuses the proceedings with a rich glow; his lenswork assisting in giving his offering immense warmth. Who knows how many more times Sharif will grace the world’s screens? ‘Rock the Casbah’ is worth a view for this alone – the added excellence is a bonus.


Trailer for ‘Rock the Casbah’ =



It was delicious to be out on deck after all this time. The rolling waves were finally abating, the skies were clearing and I was feeling refreshed. For so long we had been confined to the suite of cabins my employers were allocated for the duration of the voyage. Since our departure from Southampton sea-sickness had wracked the SS Peshawar, the vessel taking us home to Australia. My own stomach had roiled as a result, but many were far worse off – bedridden even. So, really, I had little to complain about as I went about my duties These mainly consisted of keeping the children entertained in such circumstances. Naturally exuberant, there was little space for their usual carefree shenanigans. They had displayed great self control during trying times in a constricted space. How those cramped poor souls below decks had survived the effects of the ferocious spring storms, for eight long days and nights, was beyond me.

That day was the first occasion we, as a party, could safely walk the decks to take the sea air. Sir William and Lady Janet had dressed in their best to promenade and I had difficulty keeping the little ones in check as all they wanted to do was scamper about. The sun was showing its face for the first time on the voyage and I took the liberty of wearing a veil to protect my complexion, as was the fashion back then, even if the tropics were still a way off. The adults in our group were all feeling quite languorous, the after effect of many sleepless nights. Then, all of a sudden my employer became quite animated and started gesticulating to a lone man staring out to sea, shouting to him and calling him over. As the stranger turned to investigate who was causing the commotion I lifted my veil, placing it atop my hat so I could better discern the cause of Sir William’s out of character performance.

florence mFlorence Morphy

I wonder who it will be? Which Australian will bowl that first bouncer of the summer’s test series against India? As our team attempts to recover from the awful event that has shattered the early days of the season and tries to gear up to face the visitors, our national sport is in dire need of a happier story. Thanks to a recent discovery under the roof of a girl’s school in Kent, England, here’s one that will put a smile back on the face of any cricket tragic/romantic at heart.

Over all our years together he would tell me many, many times it was that lifting of the veil. It did him in. He told me he was smitten from that moment on, remaining so for the rest of his years on our good earth. Something tells me it will not be too long before I join him; not long before I share that space alongside him in our Kentish churchyard.

It transpired that the gentleman in question did indeed know Sir William and he hurried over to shake his hand. He cut a very fine figure indeed. He possessed a most handsome moustache, pleasantly dark features, wonderfully twinkling eyes and was kitted in the most fashionable manly attire for travel on the high seas. I was most taken with him. He greeted us colonials with a deep bow, then tipped his hat to Lady Janet as he was introduced to her, followed by shaking hands with each of the children – making them feel very important indeed. When my employer came to me this elegant chap took my hand and raised it almost to his lips – as if I too were a person of some note, not merely a lowly governess. Sir William and our new acquaintance, we were informed, had moved in the same circles in London society during our long stay there. I knew Sir William Clarke was a devotee of the game of cricket as he had built an impressive ground back at Rupertswood, the family residence at Sunbury, on Melbourne’s outskirts. So it was no complete surprise to me that the young gentleman, who I took to be around my own age, was introduced by the older man, in a voice of some gravitas, as the captain of the English touring party. His team were en route to play some games against our antipodean cricketers. He was Ivo Bligh. I only partially listened to the discussion the two had about recent events in the sport as I was pre-occupied with the little ones, but there seemed to be much jocularity to do with Grace’s team being beaten. Mr Bligh told us all that it was his solemn duty to go to our shores and bring back some ashes that Grace managed to lose. What I did discern, though, was that each time I looked towards the two men, Mr Bligh’s eyes seemed to be on me. I also realised that his distraction from his conversation, by me, was not going unnoticed by Lady Janet. With her perceptiveness a propitious seed was sown.

In a dusty attic in the roof space of a girl’s school in deepest Kent some renovating workmen discovered a trunk full of attire from a bygone era. The only item that was not clothing was a thin manilla folder containing a dozen or so sheets of lined foolscap paper, covered in a shaky, spidery scrawl. They passed it on to one of the masters at the school, who duly took it to the local historical society to see if it was of any relevance for their records. On examination it turned out to be first draft of some memoirs. After close reading it was realised that, yes, what was so painfully scrawled was of import, but not so much to local history. As will be discerned from the following extracts, it was of considerable significance for the sport we love.

ivo01Ivo Bligh

As the weather continued to improve our party encountered Mr Bligh and his fellow cricketers many times, not only on the promenading decks, but in the ship’s staterooms as well. Although I never spoke a word to him during these encounters, I felt his eyes return to me over and over again. At one stage, as an entertainment, the ship’s officers challenged the sportsmen on board to a tug-of-war. When Mr Bligh took his turn he seemed to injure his wrist during the exertions. It was a few evenings later that the Clarkes were due to sit at the captain’s table for dinner. To my delight, Lady Janet informed me I would be accompanying them on this special occasion; that a suitable young lady from below decks had been hired to put the children to bed for the night. In my careful preparations for the dinner I had the feeling that, for me, this night would be auspicious, maybe even a turning point. I had little inkling, though, just how momentous it would prove to be. To his dying day my dear Ivo claimed he took no part in the arrangements at that high table, but on being seated I discovered my place-card was sited along side his. My suspicions fell on Lady Janet, but when I politely queried her on a later occasion, she feigned no knowledge.

From the commencement of the meal Mr Bligh was most attentive, seemingly wanting to know all about my life at Rupertswood, my employer’s country estate. I noticed that the poor man’s wrist was tightly bound and asked if it was healing. As I did so, I unthinkingly laid my hand on his arm. Mr Bligh then reached for my hand and raised it, this time fully to his lips, proceeding to kiss it most fervently. He didn’t seem to care who was watching. I duly noted that Lady Janet again had not missed the unexpected display of affection from a gentleman barely of my acquaintance

It was at that instance I knew. This fine vision of British manhood would become important in my life. As the night wore on we talked and talked, almost oblivious to those around us. Mr Bligh seemed to consume a goodly amount of wine to the degree that, by the time dessert was served, he seemed to be somewhat agitated. He finally leaned in closer to my side and whispered in my ear, ‘I simply must see you again at he earliest convenient opportunity.’

Doing so was not easy – he had his duties and I had mine. But in Lady Janet I soon found I had a discreet ally. The morning after our meal, at high table, she took me aside and indeed asked if there were ‘feelings’ developing between myself and Mr Bligh. I replied in the affirmative. She told me she thought that news was wonderful, continuing by asking if she could be of assistance in ‘helping the relationship along’, as she put it. I confided to her my admirer’s final request to which the good Lady replied that I was to leave it to her – she would see to a suitable arrangement. After that it became quite easy to organise our assignations. Lady Janet became an effective conduit between myself and the man who was quickly winning my heart. There could be no suspicion attached to her passing on notes between myself and Mr Bligh as this was done entirely in Sir William’s presence. If he was privy to what was occurring I had no way of knowing.

By this means we communicated throughout the remainder of the voyage and we gained enough time together for a true fondness to develop between us, albeit it with precious little privacy. Still, by the time we rounded the Cape of Good Hope and set forth into the Indian Ocean we had shared embraces, kisses and confessed our fealty to each other. I also knew by then he was a man of some means – was regarded as a future leader of men, off the sporting field as well as on it. By then he had truly become my very dear Ivo.

The SS Peshawar’s journey to Australia was not without incident. Off the coast of Ceylon the boat collided with the barque Glenroy. English paceman Morley was so injured he took very little part in the games on colonial soil and died soon after his return to his home country.


The English Touring Team

As our battered craft docked at Port Adelaide Ivo and I knew the time was not far off before we would be forced to be parted. He had ceremonies to attend in the South Australian capital, as well as some matches to play against the locals. Our party, meanwhile, would carry on to Port Phillip. By now Lady Janet was very much out in the open as my co-conspirator in managing time with Ivo. Prior to disembarkation she saw to it that our suite of cabins were empty well before time so my beau and I could say our farewells unseen. It was there that I felt for the first time the ardour of Ivo’s longing for me. Although I was determined to remain chaste till my wedding day – be that with he or some other suitor – his physicality had a powerful effect on me. I found myself swooning on more than one occasion.

Wonderfully, the first two test matches between the MCC and the combined antipodean team were to be contested in Melbourne. My good lady saw to it that Ivo was a constant presence around Rupertswood, when his schedule permitted. By then, as a result of our times spent in each other’s close company, he knew all there was to know about me, down to my inner most thoughts. He was privy to the fact that my father, John Morphy, had migrated to Victoria and in 1836 met and married my mother, Elizabeth Styles. He knew my childhood was spent in nearby Beechworth. I came into the world in 1860, soon making the discovery I already had six siblings preceding me. But I was very fortunate in being quick with my letters and adept at the keyboard. He knew that, with the latter, I had achieved some modest local fame, to the degree that the Clarke’s took me on as their children’s governess and music teacher.

By our time in Sunbury it was no secret that Ivo and I were unofficially betrothed. His form in the first two tests was wretched. But this did not seem to worry him. As he told me, he was there to captain. This he carried out very professionally, but the word was out – rumours appeared in the press insinuating his mind was far more on me than hitting a leather ball with a bat. That Christmas, prior to those matches getting under way, was the most thrilling of my life till that date. For days on end my Mr Bligh did not have to rush away and we started making plans to spend the remainder of our years together.

England lost the first official test at the MCG with Bligh scoring a duck and six. In the second confrontation the MCC prevailed, but Ivo again didn’t trouble the scorers. Then the English team moved to Sydney where two further encounters against the Australians were played. The first had its fair share of controversy, but the visitors were victorious. A final match was hastily cobbled together and was of an experimental nature. It wasn’t considered official, thus the Bligh’s cohort had achieved their aim – that of capturing the ashes to take back to the mother country. Revenge had been exacted. Of course, at this stage the games between Australia and England were not played for anything tangible – only bragging rights. The famous urn did not exist – but all that was about to change, with Florence Morphy and Lady Janet Clarke soon seeing to that. And the story has an unexpected twist that has only just come to light. For this we return to those thin pages scrawled by a woman who knows her time is short.

Saying farewell to Ivo, if only for a brief time, I found heartbreaking. He had to proceed to Sydney where there was the deciding clash to lead his team in – and that then turned into another match as well. It all caused me much anguish and distress. Would he come back to me as promised? Would he meet someone up there he found more to his liking than I? I didn’t know my Mr Bligh well enough to know that, when he gave his word, nothing would sway him from keeping it. After Sydney was done with he returned immediately, as vowed.

As departure neared, on his stay-overs at Rupertswood he had by now taken to sharing my bed, although we made some attempt to be discreet. But really he seemed not to care who knew we were breaking convention and who didn’t. Of course Lady Janet was privy to this development and gave me some advice to prevent insemination, but Ivo was, till the end, considerate of my desire to remain intact till our wedding night. I found other means to service his needs. And he mine. We had planned our nuptials to occur the following summer, with Ivo returning home at some stage in the autumn. The treasured man wanted to remain with me as long as possible.


Lady Janet Clarke

Before the team left our shores, Lord and Lady Clarke decided to invite them all for one last gathering at Rupertswood. This occurred over the Easter period. A very fine meal was laid on and some humorous speeches made. This evening, though, has gone down in the annals of cricketing history far more because of a small token presented to Bligh and his departing team.

A few days before the announcement of the English visitors’ final festivities at the Clarke’s stately abode, Janet came to me with a devious plan. Yes, she was now Janet to me. I was forbidden to prefix ‘Lady’ to her name, in any situation, for she stated she now regarded me no longer as an employee but one of her closest friends. I was both touched and astounded. I also knew she was delighted with the role she played in creating our love story – that between Ivo and this daughter of a soon to be federated Australia.

In her hand she carried a small urn and was soon drawing my attention to it. When I inquired what she intended to do with it, a wide smile engulfed her face. She told me, in hushed tones, of her plan. It involved burning some cricket bails and placing the ash in the tiny container. They would represent those ashes the men were always finding humour in. They would now take on form. ‘But,’ Janet continued, ‘as I will be presenting this to Mr Bligh, I think it is only appropriate that we burn something more intimate as well. Something to wrap the bails in – something he can only associate with you, his darling love. Something that signifies the union that is about to occur between an English gentleman and a beautiful colonial rose. Do you think that would be a good idea? Only you and he would know that the urn contains the other item. I will not let that cat out of the bag – ever. Now, do you have a notion of what we could use?’



I did indeed. It didn’t take me long to produce an item for Janet. Of course, what else could it be apart from that very veil I lifted from my face on that fateful sea voyage? The act I was engaged in when he first espied me – and I him.

On February 9th, 1884 Florence Morphy and Ivo Bligh wedded at Rupertswood. On the death of his elder brother, in 1900, Ivo Bligh became Lord Darnley and he and Florence took up permanent residence in Cobham Hall. The little urn, which the lord of the manor considered a personal gift, knowing full well what else it contained apart from the ashes of a bail, became a fixture on a mantelpiece in the family seat’s library. Ivo passed away in 1925. Two years later Florence, Lady Darnley, presented the urn to the MCC at a function attended by a young tyro from Australia, Don Bradman. Florence later joined her husband, by being buried in a plot beside him, in 1944.

It was not until 1998 that the elderly daughter-in-law let slip in an interview to a magazine what else was burnt, along with some bails. What else was also placed in a minuscule urn, on that occasion, over a hundred years previous.

So, as our national team prepares to take the field in Adelaide for what will not doubt be an emotional return to combative cricket at the highest level, we can reflect on this happy story and the fact we are not too distant from another Ashes campaign. The tiny piece of pottery is now worth a small fortune and is far too fragile to travel from its home – but the story of its gestation is indeed a remarkable one. It was borne of love, the type of love that in recent times a nation has bestowed on Phil Hughes. May the battle begin.

'Game Day' – Miriam Svede versus 'The Family Man' – Catherine Harris

‘Best not to bring wives and girlfriends to this party,’ advises Laurie (their coach) with a grin as he hands out the details….Or they won’t be your wives and girlfriends no more.’

It is difficult to imagine a coach of an AFL football team giving such advice to young men in the modern era, but, according to Catherine Harris in ‘The Family Man’, this was still happening as late as the 2006 season after her hero – Harry Furey – and his team won the premiership. But whilst the idiocy of and potential for public relations relations disaster that is Mad Monday still lingers (but for how much longer?), nothing, I guess, would be impossible. The event the players were given the aforementioned advice about was a ‘sportsmen’s night’ – an alcohol fuelled ‘entertainment’, complete with a second rate stand-up cracking gags of dubious taste and inebriated dicks encouraging young, in one case very young, dancers to, ‘Show us yer tits.’ Not much, to my mind, sporting about that! At the particular evening in question an unspeakable, but unquestionably newsworthy, act occurs that is at the core of Harris’ debut novel.

Now it seems that the Weekend Australian’s book critic, Ed Wright, had the same notion as I for the December 6 edition of his newspaper – to read (and in his case review) two local writers attempting their first novels. Both chose the unique Australian brand of footy for this and – perhaps surprisingly – both are female. Brave? Well it shouldn’t be, should it? There is no earthly reason in this day and age why writing about a man’s sport should be the prerogative of just the lads. We’ve long moved on from that notion, even if the club Harris references is still seemingly in the neolithic period when it comes to attitudes towards women. Age columnist Caroline Wilson has been writing on our great game to stunning effect for years, albeit not in fictional form.

Mr Wright is a tad more positive about Harris’ project, as well as Miriam Sved’s ‘Game Day’, than I. It must be said, though, that there is not exactly a deluge of novels about our sport to compare them with. Wright cites ‘Salute to the Great McCarthy’ and ‘Deadly Unna’, but for my money the pick to date is Paul Carter’s ‘Eleven Seasons’ from 2012. The reviewer is correct in his assertion that ‘Game Day’ is the better of the duo, and I did like the way Sved structured her tale of a year in the life of a footy club. She took a number of major and minor players and examined their impact on the team’s campaign for a flag – coach, potential star, injured recruit, team doctor, team groupie and so on. There’s Luke Campenous (do we read Wayne Carey), a centre-half with a golden boot, but boorish to the max off-field. It’s all mildly intriguing stuff. The author’s prose is also somewhat better than Harris produces but, nonetheless, I found myself not being won over by it to the same degree as Wright.


Game Day CVR SI.indd

Reading the above, though, was not the same league of struggle I had with ‘The Family Man’. Perhaps it was the title that put me off. My team, Hawthorn, prides itself on being the ‘family club’, but the events of the ‘sportsmen’s night’ were anything but family orientated. But then, as with the recent unconscionable indiscretion by a young Hawks wannabe, unseemly acts can gain adverse publicity for even the most squeaky clean of operations. I suspect, as does Wright, that Harris is attempting a fictional take on Anna Krien’s ‘Night Games’. Is the supposedly toxic culture of St Kilda in recent times her model? Gary Ablett Senior would be a dead set for Harry Furey’s dad, disgraced former champion Alan. Harry carries with him, through the off-season, the terrible truth of what really happened on that night and his role in it. His participation, we discover, is not quite what we may have expected. But really, I had lost interest long before that. Her over-wrought, at times over-ripe, writing style, didn’t really set the appropriate tone. I persevered as I wanted to achieve my aim, but was relieved when I finished that last page.


There is no doubt both these authors have potential in the industry and our local publishers are to be given credit for continuing to put into print those who aspire to a career as a wordsmith. Hopefully these two can be supported enough so a more successful sophomore novel may be produced in due course.

In the same column that these two tomes were given the treatment by his critical, but fair eye, Ed Wright also passed judgement on Kylie Ladd’s ‘Mothers and Daughters’. It was a very positive review and this author stuck to traditional fare for writers of her gender. I won’t say it – I simply will not. Deep down I admire Harris’ and Sved’s guts for having a go in, if you like, foreign territory.

Ed Wright’s reviews =

Old Lady

My son and his partner recently visited the City of Love. As with many like souls who see their future as eternal togetherness, they made the journey to one of the bridges of locks across the Seine. Rich and Shan duly attached their commitment to each other. And now my lad’s beautiful partner is my daughter-in-law to be – to my great delight. And the rite of passage in placing a lock on a Parisian river crossing has a small, but significant, role to play in ‘My Old Lady’.

my old lady

Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas are two actors who, as they age, have taken on more ‘interesting’ roles, with the result that they’ve become even ‘sexier’. And as for the grand dame, Maggie Smith – well, has she ever been young? Of course, as the real star of the behemoth that is ‘Downton Abbey’, she is in her pomp. She gives any side project, such as this, true pulling power. She is a marvel.

‘My Old Lady’ is basically a three-hander featuring those three thespians – quite a stage-y one, betraying its origins. One assumes at the start that this Israel Horowitz offering will be a droll comedy revolving around a French law that complicates property inheritance. It seems that when destitute, bedraggled Mathias (Kline) discovers he is heir to prime Parisian real estate he reckons all his Christmases have come at once. Thanks to the law, all is not as straight forward as it seems for, with it, comes a non-evictable tenant in nonagenarian Mathilde (Smith). Also in residence is her life-disappointed daughter, Chloe (Scott Thomas). Once the set up is done with, we soon enter darker territory as it emerges their links to each other are much deeper than the trio could possibly imagine. There are bursts of humour throughout to alleviate the downward spiral in tone, the latter thanks to the ever increasing self-loathing of the younger duo. One returns to the bottle, the other gives a lover the flick. Then, a decision has to be made – so enters a bridge of locks and Hollywood pap.


This effort will please those of us who like to leave a cinema with a smile on our faces. There was, though, provision here, given the set up, for a little more straying from the predictable, thus producing a more compelling piece. Still, the movie is time well spent staring up at a silver screen. The three old stagers can do this sort of stuff in their sleep – it is no stretch to their actorly bona fides. Looking at the still beauteous Ms Scott Thomas, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with it.


‘My Old Lady’ trailer =

Cookie of Hahndorf

Bill Nietzsche was sitting back in a favourite recliner – one he’d bought over from the old place when he and Dora had downsized – there was no way he was going to be parted with it. Downsized – another new word he had picked up from the younger people about town – many who’d done exactly that to move to this idyll in the Hills. Of course, with Bill being well into his eighties now, most he encountered on his daily perambulation were indeed younger than he. There were other expressions he had only come across in recent times – ‘having a tree change’ or ‘going down the Fleurieu for a sea-change’. He thought how curious it was that language changed with each new generation. Even some of his oldest mates had said those last words as they packed up to be closer to the briny. That’s not for him. He reckoned the summers were too hot down there and he was too ancient to be immersing himself in salty water – even if he was an old sea salt. When they’d ‘downsized’ it’d been to only around the corner. Their old abode had been down in the gully by the river – now they were in some units, right in town. They had help come in at regular intervals to support them, especially now as Dora was largely confined to a wheel chair. He still managed her okay, but he could see it wouldn’t be too long before she was beyond him. That didn’t bear pondering on too heavily. He preferred to be positive – upbeat.


He did enjoy his decades by the river though – something so soothing are his memories about that. It was really only a creek, the Onkaparinga, with a few big water holes at various spots. When he was a lad it was where all the kids dashed to after school on summer afternoons. It was where, later, he courted his Thelma. She was a striking looking young filly back then. He went on to love her dearly till her death some dozen or so years past. They had a passionate romance before he decided he needed to see the world. That was simple to do back then. He just went down to Port Adelaide and found a job on a freighter. In the end he didn’t see that much more than the galleys of a number of ships, but it was a good life. Thelma swore she’d be still waiting for him once he got the wanderlust out of his system. She was true to her word. He’d had a few adventures in several ports around the world with the womenfolk, but Thelma’s constant letters soon enough reminded him that he could do no better than the lass who was waiting back home. A Lutheran wedding followed. He had sown his wild seeds – his married life had been bliss. But going to sea gave him the nickname he’s lived with all these years. Most wouldn’t know his birth name at all. To all in the town he was Cookie.

He hooked up with Dora soon after Thelma passed away. It seemed sensible. He’d known her for yonks. Her hubby and he had been good mates, but he’d died back in the nineties. He and Dora had never been intimate. Too old for hanky-panky, they’d agreed. He thought it would sully his memory of Thelma, so he was happy with that. Dora was a kindly, mothering soul. He’d had a few comfortable years with her before her health had deteriorated and they realised maintaining the old place was beyond them. Now she can’t leave the unit under her own steam, but she seems happy enough. She still has her books – loves to read in their little court-yard when it’s not too warm, or too chilly. Occasionally he wheels her out, down to the main drag, but that takes it out of him these days.

He likes the evenings here. His chair has its back to the television. He reckons it isn’t worth watching these days with all those ads. Dora has a stack of favourite shows. He likes the ABC but wouldn’t get a look in in any case. No, he was content to look down John’s Lane from his window perch. He thinks, snoozes and remembers. He partakes of a few ales in doing so and figures life is, all in all, still worth the effort

ale 4

The help had been in earlier – showered Dora and tidied up a bit. She’d sprayed some stuff around the place that smelt of pine needles. It took him back to his time in Scandinavia and a blonde he’d come to know there – the only one that in any way could have been a match for Thelma. Still, it turns out she’d been quite easy with a few other sailors too when they’d come into port, so he’d thought better of it at the time. He’d wondered what life would have been like had he’d taken the plunge with her. He liked Stockholm – cool, friendly, good beer and that blonde. She spoke English hardly at all, but they figured it out well enough. Thinking about her makes Cookie ache just a little for the love-making he had with her, but more so in spades with Thelma. When she wrapped herself around Bill ‘Cookie’ Nietzsche, all was right with the world.

‘As for this day,’ he mused, ‘well this particular day has been pretty plurry good. Fitzy, from the Gulf Brewery around in Main Street, had called in with a couple of six packs of his brews – gratis of course. I normally just drink Coopers, but his are pretty spot on too. He calls it craft beer and reckons craft beers are all the rage now down in the flash restaurants in Adelaide. I wouldn’t know, but if they’re anything like Fitzy’s, they’re on a winner. The brewer came up from the city a few years back to tap into the tourist trade. My two lads had built his shop. When he said he wanted to know about the history of Hahndorf, well they introduced him to me. I reckon I’ve missed my vocation. I should have been one of them tourist guides. I’ve heard a couple of them spruiking about the place around at the Academy, where the tours start from. They don’t do a bad job, know their stuff, but they haven’t the passion for the place. To them it’s just a way to earn a crust. I’ve lived thorough much of what they drone on about. Yep, I’d be pretty good I reckon.

ale 5

Like with that couple I was talking to today. I bumped into them out the front of the German Arms. Used to be a great pub once, but its gone all ‘Bavarian’ to cash in on the dopey mugs who wouldn’t know a real German pub if they fell over it. Anyway, these two were looking up into the rafters of the Arms’ veranda. There was a mass of pigeons up there squabbling around, making a hell of a racket. Told them what I thought of the bloody pigeons. I said I’d been on to the council for years about them. They’re just vermin. No earthly good. Anyway I got chatting to this couple, as I do. They asked about myself and how long I’d been in Hahndorf. Well, they were like lambs to the slaughter. I gave them the whole shebang. She seemed interested – he had a fancy camera around his neck and he soon wandered across to the Pioneer Gardens and started snapping away over there. To give the council their due, the Gardens do look a treat these days – but the idiots didn’t allow enough room for the buses to manoeuvre around. They come up from the old people’s homes down on the plain. The old dears have a bit of a walk to use them fancy new loos. And don’t get me started on the blessed speed bumps they seem intent on placing every few hundred yards down the main drag – and those senseless roundabouts. Dear me!

ale one

Anyway, her hubby, or partner, or whatever, seemed happy enough pointing his camera here, there and everywhere so I took the opportunity to tell her about us Nietzsches of the Hills. I told her how my people came out on the original boat bringing religious refugees fleeing persecution in East Prussia, way back in the 1830’s. The ‘Zebra’ she was. I spoke of its Captain – a fella called Hahn after who the town is named. ‘Dorf’ means town, I informed her. What a good man that bloke was. Went out of his way and arranged all this land up here for the settlers. Most would of just dumped them dockside and gone about their business. Not Captain Hahn. He is revered in these parts. Course it was a fair old hike down to the markets on the plain, but they were tough buggers back then – especially the women and kids. It was a hard life for my ancestors. As a result of it all this place is still the most German town in the country, even if many of the old families have dispersed since then – off on a sea-change. Silly fools I reckon. When I was a lad it was all timber getting and agriculture. Now, in summer, you can’t move in the place for blighters who want their fill of sausage, sauerkraut and beer. But it keeps the place viable I reckon and blood oath, I’ve had some good chats over the years as a result. One thing I do like doing is having a yak.

Cookie of Hahndorf was quite taken by the woman he was chatting to. He reckoned she was somewhere in her early fifties and she was just lovely. Reminded him of his Thelma. She had a dazzling smile and was obviously up for a chinwag as well. He could tell she was a people person – her fellow not so much. He confided in her that since he’d moved to Johns Lane these morning walks of his were the highlight of his day, especially if he met up with someone like her. That gave her a good laugh, he reflected.

ale two

Reckon she was a bit of all right,’ Cookie, in turn, chuckled to himself. ‘Once upon a time I would have turned her head too – but not these days. I told her of my dodgy ticker, part of the reason we had to give away our home by the river. About how I’d had a couple of ops already. The lovely lady told me she had been a theatre nurse back in Tassie and we had quite a discussion about that. I told her about my seafaring days – how once I’d finished to come back to Thelma I took up in the family business. We’d been builders for several generations and my old dad was still alive back then. He was also a Bill, – lots of other Bill Nietzsches around then too – he employed my two brothers and later myself. I reckon we would have built about half the homes around these parts, I chewed her ear. We worked all the way up the old highway, from down in Bridgewater right to Mount Barker itself. When tourism really took off we gained a nice little earner tarting up the shop-fronts on Main Street. Most of the old retailers had been long gone and their shops left empty, but now the place is thriving. I’m too old now, of course, but every so often my lads will pick up Dora and myself, take us around, showing us what they’re working on at the minute. They are proud of their commitment to standards, just as I was back in my day. Some of these cowboys that run around town doing stuff on the cheap makes you want to weep. Their work, in the end, always lets them down. There’s no substitute for quality.

The lady then told me about her old place by the Derwent in Hobart – how much she and – well I think she said Steve – love it, how much she’d done to it over the years. She seemed just so interested in all I had to say. I was enjoying myself. A woman like her – well I could have stayed on that corner and yarned the morning away – but her fellow seemed anxious to move on. I said my farewells and started to head off. But he stopped me, reached out his hand and shook mine. I gave him points for that. And judging by the affection he showed in taking her hand in his as they walked off, I also reckon he knows full well how lucky he is to have someone in his life like her. Oh dear, she reminded me so much of Thelma. Gawd, if I am not careful I’ll get a little maudlin here. But she did make my day.’

Old Cookie of Hahndorf took another sip of Fitzy’s fancy beer and closed his eyes. The tele was humming away softly in the background when he woke with a start. He looked around and could see Dora was contentedly dozing. He started thinking of his plans for the new day tomorrow. He’d saunter off to the news-agency, as he usually did, around nine-ish, to pick up his papers. It was a bit of a struggle for him these days, but knew he had to exercise and he never knew who he might meet en route that’d be up for a chat. He thought of the warmth of the day just past – how summer was on the way. Then sometimes there would be days just too hot for him away from the unit. He reckoned if he could make it and felt okay in himself the next day he might wander up to the ice-creamery and have a kransky for brekkie. They did the best sausages in town by a long shot, did Gio and his daughter. They ran the little eatery. Italians cooking German tucker – what next? Plus, if he wasn’t busy, Gio would give him all the gossip going on around the place. Kept his ear to the ground, did Gio – and his daughter was a sweetheart. Why she hadn’t been picked up by some fellow by now was a mystery to him. If he wasn’t quite up for the longer walk he’d head to Herbees, as was his usual practice. He couldn’t make it up the front steps any more so he’d go to the back door and in through the living quarters. It was run by a lovely Vietnamese family these days. Again, if it was quiet the mum or one of the daughters would sit down with him for a coffee. On these days he usually had it on the house. He loved the eggs and salmon they dished up. It was his regular order. They were lovely, those women – reminded him of a girl, once upon a time, who was especially good to him when he docked in a certain spot up the Mekong years and years ago. One thing, he’d had a few adventures, a few trysts that kept him warm at night thinking about them. Cookie likes learning of the life in Vietnam before the war from the mother, as well as hearing what the girls were up to. Both have boyfriends down in the city and were never in the cafe at the weekends, so he didn’t bother going in then when the place was usually full to the gunnels. Of a week it wasn’t so all hands on deck. These foreigners are all good for the place, Cookie reckons – makes his blood boil what Abbott and his mates are doing to the poor beggars who try to get here these days. The country seems to have lost its heart.

ale 3

Yep,’ thought Cookie, ‘the place is full of people from all over the world who now call the town and its surrounds home. Some of the original families, like himself, still remain, but these blow-ins make life just so much more interesting. And meeting that Tassie lass, having Fitzy deliver around those ales, hearing the parrots in the trees, having my boys bring the grandkids around – well you wouldn’t be dead for quids. Now there’s a couple of pretty new sheilas working in the Menz choccy shop, so I am told on reliable authority. Might just wander up there on the morrow too. Reckon Dora could do with a treat.’

The Gulf Brewery =

Menz Chocolates =

Herbees Garden Cafe =

Ye Olde Ice-creamery (for Kranskies) =