Monthly Archives: November 2016

Not So Baschful Barbara

Imagine it! The names! Anita Ekberg, Jane Fonda, Grace Kelly, Anouk Aimee, Brigitte Bardot, Candice Bergen, Eva Marie Saint, Jody Foster, Kim Novak, Sharon Tate, Sophia Loren and Barbara Nichols. ‘Barbara Nichols?’ you might ask. ‘Who in the hell is she?’ Well, we’ll come to her later. But the known ones were only the tip of the iceberg for the German American glamour photographer who captured for posterity the prominent stars of his period, many of them when they were mere starlets, during the 50s and 60s. If this wasn’t dazzling enough, Mr Hefner’s organisation often commissioned him to grace his famous publication with unclad beauty. So, if you also go checking him out in the ether, beware there is some NSFW material, as well as his fine Hollywood imagery.


(Anouk Aimee)

Peter Basch was a Berliner, born in 1921, to parents heavily involved in the theatre and film scene of the anything-goes Weimer Republic period. With the rise of the Nazis they saw the writing on the wall and took their son to America in 1933. They opened a restaurant in NYC, which provided Peter’s first job as a member of its wait staff. His interest in photography was aroused when, during the war, he served in the US Army Air Force’s motion picture unit. After peace came, he studied at UCLA, but took a side job photographing – providing young hopefuls with the type of cheesy images they hoped would get them started on the road to stardom. He soon built up a reputation in the glamour industry, his ‘moments in time’ appearing in mags such as ‘Look’ and ‘Life’, as well as ‘Playboy’. His popularity rested on his penchant for taking his models out of the studio situation, which helped to make them seem more normal; more human. This worked particularly well for those who were already names. But he too became a victim to changing tastes, so, as the seventies dawned, his photographic star waned. His books, on the art of taking pictures of beautiful girls, kept him going. I suppose it was inevitable that he would marry an actress, as he did in 1951, producing two offspring. He passed away in 2004.

As for Barbara Nichols – it was his image of her that I came across in cyberspace that first led me to her story, followed by his. See – I have time to spare in this unfettered retirement of mine. His image of Barbara, up to her chest in water, was so fresh looking and attractive. When I investigated further, in other pin-ups of her, she appears hard of face and singularly, to our modern tastes, somewhat unappealing. There is a comely softness to Basch’s depiction of her. But who was she?


As it turned out, Barbara Nichols, at least in her public persona, was more a creature of those other camerasmiths who lacked the finesse of PB. She was your stereotypical New York blonde bimbo; one who was never going to make it truly big on the screen. But if a producer needed someone to heat said screen up in the bland days of the Hayes Code, she was your gal. Getting her start in beauty contests, she garnered such titles as Miss Mink of 1953, Miss Dill Pickle and Miss Welder. Soon her glamour snaps were finding a wider audience with the male of the species and she started to gain stage gigs – usually as a gum-chewing, wise cracking platinum blonde of the Mae West variety. Her roles were small, usually playing a floosie, barfly or stripper – and this remained the case when she graduated to the movies. She possessed a natural comedic timing on the few occasions she was given some dialogue, but she was mainly employed for her cleavage. Once censorship restrictions were loosened there were soon found to be plenty of young things who were eager to reveal all their assets on stage or screen, so the days of just giving a hint of what lay beneath were over. Barbara’s career in the industry hit the skids. Guesting on television became her mainstay, with appearances on such fare as ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’, ‘The Untouchables’ and ‘Twilight Zone’. For a short time she even had a regular role, on an outing titled ‘Love That Jill’, which ran for a couple of seasons in the late fifties.

By this time she had been involved in two quite severe car accidents that, as time wore on, gave her long term health challenges. She was forced to retire from acting completely and it eventually shortened her life. She died at age 47.

Sadly she was definitely a second leaguer, following in the tail wind of Jane Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren and Diana Dors. Way out in front, of course, was you know who. But for a moment in time, with the camerawizardry of Peter Basch, she was lifted momentarily above the pack of wannabes in an image that made her truly beautiful for all eternity.

A Gallery of Peter Basch Photography =

Beauty, Bemusement and Blushes in Subtitled Fare

The State Cinema takes me all around the world. In recent months I visited Spain, Italy and South Korea. One film had me marvelling at the beauty of its small moments, another had me bemused as to why it became its homeland most popular in many a year and the other, decidedly, had me blushing.

Bemusement – Think a cross between Forest Gump and Karl Pilkington and then you have Checco Zalone – evidently a character who has reached a legendary status in Italy akin to a Norman Gunston or a Basil Fawlty. Checco (Luca Medici) is a slacker. He’s employed by the public service which, in his country, means a cruisy existence for life. All that’s expected of Checco is to stamp a few forms, but the job is choc full of generous entitlements such as ample vacations, leave loadings and a comfortable retirement. When the government comes down heavily – by Italian standards – on this cushy existence, Checco finds he’s the only one in his region who doesn’t meet the liberal criteria for staying on. Although he’s not the greatest workaholic going around, he’s no fool and he’s not going to make it easy for the powers to be to make him go. Eventually they decide to send him to the worst postings imaginable to force him to resign, but the man always comes up trumps. That is until he is sent to an Italian research station in the Arctic Circle and he falls in love. Then he gets a taste of the real world – life in no nonsense Norway. This soon sees him scurrying back to his land of sunshine and lassitude. In the end, the constant battle against authority becomes too much and he ends up, where else, but in deepest, darkest Africa about to become a meal for cannibals. As to how this happens? Well, you’ll just have to see this offering.


As with New Zealand’s ‘The Hunt for the Wilderpeople’, this movie has been an unexpected hit in Oz, particularly in Melbourne with its large population of Italian heritage – but that’s nothing compared with its popularity in its country of origin. ‘Where Am I Going’ (‘Quo Vado’) this year, in terms of attendance, has booted its nearest rival, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ out of the ball park there. As well, ‘Checcomania’ has been a boon for the art houses world wide.

As for me, yes, it was moderately amusing and there were some delightful aspects to its zaniness. I loved the bit where Checco attempts to teach his Nordic partner’s son to play soccer Italian style – that is, to fall to the ground and writhe in agony at the drop of a hat. We all know about that.


Last November the Italian region of Umbria advertised ninety-six life time positions in its public administration – and received 32000 plus applications. Will Italy overcome the ‘fannullone’ (slacker) issue in its work force? At least ‘Where Am I Going’, by taking the mickey out of it all, seems to have set some wheels in progress. But I think you really need to be Italian to get the full hilarity of this from director Gennaro Nunziante.

Blushes – Oh dearie me. Now I know this movie was R-rated – so be warned. But for most of its length I did actually wonder as to why. In its final stanzas I was left to wonder no more – and how. Its final sex scene was like nothing I’d seen before in a cinema. It was, to my mind, beyond erotic and bordering on pornographic. Or maybe, as I have related in several pieces of late, I am just not as worldly as I imagined. This certainly tested me. I was most uncomfortable watching it – relieved when the two interlocked bodies broke apart and departed the screen. It warrants the rating – and then some.


‘The Handmaiden’ is a take on Sarah Waters’ ‘The Fingersmith’, bought to the small screen in a mildly juicy bodice-ripper fashion back in 2005 by the BBC. Here it gets the Oriental treatment from Korean director Park Chan-wook, best known in Western cinema for ‘Stoker’. This is, like the original novel, a story told from three perspectives. The first is from the fingersmith (pick-pocket) herself, played by Kim Tae-ri, sent to fleece an heiress of her wealth by her Svengali, Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo). The second installment is his take on proceedings, followed by that of the rich kept woman herself (Kim Min-hee). The Count is out to seduce her, dispose of the fingersmith and live richly ever after. As each stage progresses the director ups the erotic wattage until, well, it spills over.


The movie ducks and dives time-wise so much that, for this watcher, it was difficult to get a handle on – especially as he also had trouble at times differentiating between the two leading actresses, once the story was underway, when they weren’t on screen together. Visually the film is a feast for the senses, gorgeously put together, set at the time when the Japanese controlled the peninsula just before the last great war. It is a thriller of sorts, but for many, as far away from the pace expected of the genre as it is possible to be. And, I repeat, it is very, very sexy.

Beauty in the Small Moments – Two actors, Emma Suárez and Adrianna Ugarte, play the same woman – at different stages of a life. This film displays the great Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar at his best, manipulating his story through various time periods. These days this auteur is regarded as one of the world’s most adept with the medium, responsible for such offerings as ‘Volver’, ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’, ‘High Heels’ and ‘The Skin I Live In’ – to cite a few. He adds another with the very fine ‘Julieta’. The central figure, initially a woman of a certain age (Suárez), is preparing to leave Madrid to start a new life with her lover in Portugal. Her plans are dissembled when she bumps into a friend of her long estranged daughter. News of her is so momentous that Julieta immediately cancels her plans. She wants to be in place if said daughter finally decides to make contact. It doesn’t occur, but what we do get is the back story as Ugarte takes over for some of the narrative. Here we are presented with the explanation for the no-speakies.


This is milder Almodóvar than some of his other productions, though it still abounds in the symbolism of colour and object. An example is the annual birthday cake that Julieta makes for her daughter – and then disposes of when she is again a no show. And there’s a truly beautiful moment when said daughter Antía (another role played by two actresses) dries her young mother’s hair. What emerges from the towel is then the older Julieta. Some critics have expressed a preference for a change to the ending to make it tidier – as per Hollywood mainstream – but I felt it was just fine as is. We suspect it will all be all happy ever afters – and that is enough.


And for me this Iberian outing was the pick of the bunch. It is a considered, intelligently structured movie with two actresses shining as the same persona, battling with the curve-balls life throws at her, but with the promise of light at the end of the journey. It is also garnished throughout with those delectable moments of beauty making this cinematic experience one to relish.

Trailer for ‘Where Am I Going’ =

Trailer for ‘The Handmaiden’ =

Trailer for ‘Julieta’ =

The Timathon

‘The Boy behind the Curtain’ ‘Island Home’ ‘Scission’ – Tim Winton

He’s a living national treasure. In his fiction Tim Winton takes the pulse of what has and does make us tick as Australians, particularly those of us who grew up on our nation’s great littoral and away from the mega-cities. He connects us to the sea – and to where the bush or desert meets the sea. His books, like the television series such as the iconic ‘SeaChange’ and these days ‘800 Words’, despite the latter being set in NZ, help nurture the urge to make our own lives more elemental, less digitalised; less rapacious. Perhaps just plain simpler – maybe somewhat the way it used to be.


Of course ‘Cloudstreet’ has been the golden egg for him – and for many Australians it is the best book written in this country. It’s a classic, but if this scribe had just one of his to choose from to snuggle up to on a desert island with it would be ‘The Riders’ – perhaps with ‘Dirt Music’ in reserve. But no less important has been his fare for younger folk. His ‘Lockie Leonard’ trilogy hit a nerve for a generation, linked in with its own televsion series. The lad going scumbusting was a favourite staple of mine in the classroom for years. ‘Blueback’ is another treasure.

As Malcolm Knox, no slouch in the wordsmithery department himself, has commented on Winton that he ‘...has been shy about revealing himself through the clearer glass of non-fiction writing.’ This has changed, though, in recent times. Long content to pass on certain messages through the words of his fictional characters, he first started to expose himself with the fight to save Nigaloo Reef. Then, last year, TW peeped further above the parapet with ‘Island Home’. And in 2016 went bravely over the top with ‘The Boy Behind the Curtain’ – so in his later years the shyness has dissipated.

‘Island Home’ was much about the landscape and its effect on the mind. With the latest publication, it is more about the mind itself – revealing what, indeed, makes him tick. But, of course, I, as a long time reader, thought I had a fair handle on that anyway. I was wrong. We all know of Winton’s love of the briny, particularly surfing, that, for some, can take the form of a religion. Then there’s his impressive ‘get’ of our indigenous people’s connection with country. In both of these non-fiction tomes there’s passion expressed on the big issues, developed through his personal history. He may be slow to rouse, but in the end, he’s pulling no punches. He knows the way it has to go – all of us do if we have a brain to bless ourselves with. But with the likes of Abbott – as well as Abbott-lite in Turnbull – we’ll never get there. In the bigger picture, throwing Trump into the mix, it would seem the task is pretty hopeless. Knowing doesn’t develop the collective will, but Tim W’s writing in both of these outings sure gives encouragement to make headway.


The major aspect of the author’s make-up I didn’t know was his connection to evangelical religion. When Winton was a kid his father, a motor cycle cop, had a near death experience when he came off his bike. A pall came down on young Tim’s household as his dad battled to recover from his ordeal. One of his carers was deeply into religion and his father was converted. Back in the day this resulted in the whole family becoming church-goers. Most of us are formed by home upbringing and school as the power of organised religion wanes. For Tim it seems it was family and the Bible. ‘Even if the Australian society of my childhood was militarily irreligious, the church was my first and most formative culture. It was, in effect, the village I was raised in, and in many senses this meant I grew up in a counter culture, although it was the sort in which beads, feathered hats and granny glasses were worn without the sense of performance that arrived with the hippies.’

His family became happy-clappers, joining the Church of Christ, an Americam import. All this ran kilter to my impressions of Winton, but undoubtedly it had a profound impact. In the tale ‘Twice on Sundays’, from ‘A Boy Behind the Curtain’, even though some of what occurred to him as a member of this church’s congregation seems a tad spooky, it was here, rather than at school, that he was exposed to story. And we, as his readers, excusing the pun, thank heavens that he did.

Much in both books has seen the light of day in stand-alone airings for newspapers and journals, but there is mint new writing as well. In ‘TBBTC’s’ ‘Stones for Bread’ we have an example of his passion as expressed back in March of 2015 for the Fairfax Press. Here we have Winton using his pen to scribe his disappointment at our politician’s appalling treatment – anti-Christian treatment – of those refugees asking our country to keep them safe. With this article his whole being is exposed for pot-shots to be aimed from the far right and our odious shock jocks – but, of course, there’s safety in numbers, to an extent. His is by no means a lone voice decrying our leaders’ hypocrisy, on many fronts, in placing the innocents into such dire situations on off shore islands.

As one would expect, there’s some lovely stuff in ‘Island Home: A Landscape Memoir’. The image on the cover and endpapers, with their immense beach and tiny human figures, gives our first indication of how this writer views the vastness of a country, a vastness that isn’t entirely confined to the Outback alone. There are a humongous number of kilometres of almost untouched coastline. Early on here he remarks on how he found the difference from his homeland to what he found on his European adventurings. Visiting that continent he struggled with scale, in that ‘...the dimensions of physical space seemed compressed. The looming physical pressure of mountains cut me off from the horizon. I’d not lived with that kind of spatial curtain before…For a West Australian like me, whose default setting is in diametric opposition, and for whom space is the impinging force, the effect is claustrophobic. I think I was constantly and instinctively searching for distances that were unavailable, measuring space and coming up short.’

I loved the essay ‘Barefoot and Unhurried’. Here Tim writes of the pleasures of grandfatherhood – of how he’s watching his offsprings’ children ‘…taking the world in through their skin…Being short and powerless kids see the world low down and close up…In childhood you own little more than your secret places, the thoughts in your head…’ and so on. Magic stuff – stuff that I see in my own precious granddaughter and will see in the one on the way. He went on to recount his own childhood of freedoms where there was, ‘...strange comfort in the hiss of the stick I trailed in the dirt all afternoon, and in the whispery footfalls on the empty beach.’ That bit got to me. What got to Delia Falconer, in her review of ‘Island Home’, was when Winton went exploring the cliffs facing Ningaloo and he happened on a cave. He entered and discovered it seemed to be the place the local kangaroos came to die, their carcasses then mummified by the dry desert air. These were, he writes, ‘…still themselves, still beautiful…like an ancient priestly caste keeping vigil even in death.’

For a while our four times Miles Franklin winner-to-be lived in Albany in the era when Australia’s last whaling station was in operation. As a callow kid he loved going down to where the flensing yards were located to watch the tourists, on their viewing platforms, turn green and retch at the smell and sights before them as the behemoths from the deep were disemboweled. ‘This was what the town was built on – a century and a half of seizing, killing, breaking and boiling.’ That kid went on to write ‘Blueback’. He tells of the men, in ‘Corner of the Eye’, that helped shape the values he holds today in regards the environment. They came to him, via television, into his family lounge room. There were Harry Potter, Vincent Serventy and dare I say it, Rolf Harris, in ‘Rolf’s Walkabout’.

Another strong impression was made on his mind by a recluse. This story is told in ‘Waychinicup’, relating to an area now a national park. Frank was ‘… a squatter in search of peace and quiet.‘ and the future Booker Prize double nominee became ‘… a puppy like nuisance intruding on the space of a bloke who treasured his privacy.’ Frank, with his wheelbarrow, used for carting goods to his remote location, became the inspiration for the old hermit a lost couple encounters in his tale ‘Wilderness’, featured in his first short story collection, ‘Scission’, from 1985. Several yarns, the now 56 year old, relates from his childhood in the two books under review here, such as when he and his father came across an accident victim during his youth, were inspiration for tales in this collection.


With ‘Scission’ one can see that, at this early stage, his writing is not the powerful beast it becomes. And not all his stories work – for this reader anyhow. To me he was fine in the core, but endings were problematical. Perhaps he learnt that he’d be more at home in the longer form – he certainly would be once he prised the remarkable ‘Cloudstreet’ out of himself. Still, there was much joy to be had in ‘Scission’ with tales such as ‘A Blow, a Kiss’, ‘Thomas Awkner Floats’ and ‘Neighbours’. In these we can sense the future.

When I was a kid I liked to stand at the window with a rifle and aim it at people.‘ This was the unsettling opening sentence to ‘The Boy Behind the Curtain’. We’re sucked in from the get-go. For Winton, as for me, guns were a part of life as a child in our shared era. We were easy around them. My father taught me the fundamentals and the dangers – and in no uncertain terms were we to not deviate from the guidelines he laid down for their use. We knew where the ammo was kept – and there it would stay, unless we were in his company to discharge it. For our country Port Arthur changed everything, but I had long before distanced myself from any form of gun culture. But as a kid it was fun to imagine – even if Winton took it a little further.


And in another story I found out what a boodie is. Reading about this animal here I felt a bit like Martin Clunes who came to Tassie as part of his documentary series, ‘The Islands of Australia’, discovering, as well as actually holding, an animal he’d never heard of – our quoll. I doubt I’ll ever handle a boodie. Winton had never heard of the creature either until he was outback and a station leaseholder, John Underwood, introduced him to the animals’ deserted burrows. John explained to Tim that the little creatures were extinct on the mainland since the 1960s, but still could be found on a couple of isolated islands in Shark Bay. Tim was explained to that the boodie was a relative of the woylie??? It became clearer for Tim when he heard they were types of bettongs. Tim doubted he would ever get to see one. Slowly, carefully the boodie is now being introduced back into highly protected areas on the mainland. It was a delight to read of the author, along with Tim Flannery and Luc Longley, of basketball fame, helping to introduce boodies to their new surrounds. So Tim got to handle a boodie.

In ‘The Boy behind the Curtain’ there’s so much to give pleasure. His paean to Elizabeth Jolley, an early mentor, is very engaging. He also takes us into the arguments concerning sharks’ rights, when it comes to the shallows, and he examines his own role, when he first put his head above the parapet, in ‘The Battle for Nigaloo Reef’.

We rise to a challenge and set a course. We take a decision. You put your mind to something. Just deciding to do so it gets you half way there. Daring to try.’ This quote is from Winton’s 2013 novel ‘Eyrie’. The legend has been a published wordwrangler since 1981 and as with the quote, he has dared himself in so many ways, when he’s been at the crossroads during his career. He dared to write at so young an age, dared himself to get involved in causes that were right and he dared to open himself up to scrutiny in ‘Island Home’ and ‘The Boy Behind the Curtain’. You can keep the reader at arm’s length with fiction, but now we know much more about the man, thanks to these two publications. What will he dare to do next I wonder? We wait in anticipation.

Link to Winton’s 2015 Fairfax article ‘Stones for Bread’ =



Along with the street talk, musings and whisperings of Oslo Davis’ cartoon oeuvre, Judy Horacek is a favourite constant in my newspaper of choice, the Age. She also shares a small space, as well, with the likes of Dyson and Weldon in this metropolitan daily most days. When so much that has been savoured about our newspapers is being lost as they attempt to stay afloat in the digital age, there are still treats to be had, such as those small treasures provided by Judy H et al. Newspapers, it is presumed, will eventually disappear – I just trust this does not occur in my lifetime. Reading a newspaper on-line is nothing I would relish. Perusing them off-line is the way to go for me – but then so much about the world I was once comfortable in has changed.


Judy Horacek, in my view, is one of our very best conveyers of a message, through a simple illustration, in the form of a cartoon. Simple though the drawings may be, in them often the message can be the cause of much contemplation. At other times, what she produces is pure whimsy. She’s had thousands of her marvellous images published in all forms of print media and as well, her distinctive figures, with their regulatory pointy noses, grace greeting cards, tea towels and t-shirts. She is also an illustrator, sometimes to the words of Mem Fox. Together they produced the beloved ‘Where is the Green Sheep?’ The two have recently toured together, including to our island, promoting their delightful new collaboration, ‘This and That’.


Under her own steam Judy H has published children’s picture and board books to further enchant Australia’s future. She’s had seven books of her own cartoons published, which brings me to the point of this scribbling. I like Avant postcards – those free cards that spruik new product or emerging artists’ work, found on stands around our major cities. I’m a frequent visitor to them here in Hobs. On one last weekend I spotted Horacek’s unique style – complete with a green sheep, many pointy noses, a red heart and kissing fish – so I grabbed a handful.


Perhaps it shouldn’t have saddened me, as I probably had the bull by the horns, but reading the little descriptor on the reverse of the image, I found this Avant offering was a plea for some crowd-funding to get Horacek’s next book of cartoons off the ground. I immediately thought this was a negative reflection on the state of Australian publishing – the fact that such a well-known contributor to our culture cannot get her product out there with the support of our publishing houses. As difficult as this is now, it will soon be made much harder by yet another crazy, short-sighted proposal from our Federal leadership. As it turned out, on discussing this with my beautiful writerly daughter, there may be other factors at play. Judy H’s decision to go down the crowd-funding route may be a reaction to the time it takes to get something ready for the market place through normal channels; or it could be a means of cutting out the middle man.


I would have liked to have made a contribution to her cause, but my reluctance to use the ether to hand over money prevented me. In compensation, I will buy the end product if I spot it in my travels, as I did when I recently picked up Oslo’s new offering. People like Davis and Horacek are national treasures and warrant taxpayer’s support, along with opera companies and symphony orchestras. They reflect our times and ping our consciences.


Judy H’s website =


For many of us Leonard Cohen was the greatest songwriter of them all. Utterly unique and impossible to imitate no matter how hard we tried. He will be deeply missed by so many. – Nick Cave


I was so sad when Katie texted through the news. I purchased the ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ when I was still in uni. He has been a constant in my orb down through the decades. A few years back we saw him perform in Hobart. It was special reaching for Katie’s hand and holding it as he entered his irreplaceable voice into the strains of ‘Hallelujah’, the favourite song of many, along with ‘Suzanne’, ‘Bird on the Wire’ and countless other choices. Mine, though, was the song he opened his concert with that evening. It always makes me think of my beautiful Leigh and the life we share together – a life that I hope will go on and on till the end of time.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh, let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


Leonard Cohen’s Letter to his ‘So Long, Marianne’ Muse Before Her Death
Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road .

She, his lover on a Greek island paradise during the 60s, reached out her hand when the missive was read to her. She passed two days later. And Leonard was right. He followed Marianne on up into the arms of Her beyond the horizon to the silver lining in the sky where they’ll both dance on – on until the end of love . RIP Leonard.

Another Night in Mullet Town – Steven Herrick

In the north western homelands of my youth I became a mullet fisherman. That was post-mobility though. Prior to my father giving me my first banger, a Fiat with suicide doors, I was confined. I couldn’t get to mullet. My fishing was down at what is now termed Burnie Port which is, in this litigious age, well and truly off limits to the general public. But back in my youth it was a mecca for kids having their first fishing experiences. On the seaward side of Ocean Pier was a ledge, and we wanna-be fishermen flocked there after such piscatorial delights as ‘couta, mackerel and cod. A barracouta was the prize and we all possessed a supply of ‘couta lines. They were so delicious, fried and doused in vinegar – it seems a rarity these days. We’d walked through the gates of the wharf area, dodge the trucks and trains disgorging their wares and say good day to dozens of stevedores working at unloading the cargo vessels in those halcyon pre-containerisation days. My town’s seawater was decidedly polluted from the heavy industry around Burnie’s shores, all spewing effluent into the waters of Bass Strait, giving our briny a red tinge most of the time. But we would have our mum’s cook up our catch – it hasn’t seemed to have done us any lasting harm.


Obtaining my wheels freed me up to take my rod and reel to more distant locations in search of heavier bags of fish. One such destination was the mullet hole on the Inglis River, just west of Wynyard. The main feature of this angling nirvana was that the hole just happened to be under a pipe that would gush bloody waste from a chicken processing factory on the opposite bank. If our luck was in and the pipe had recently deposited we simply had to cast our multi-hooked line in and there were dozens of mullet for the taking, and sometimes some tasty by-product, such as bream, as well. Mullet is considered poor eating by some aficionados, only good for cray-bait, but I thought they were just fine – even if, from that particular source, they had a slight poultry flavour. It didn’t matter much what you baited those hooks with there. In the feeding frenzy those silvery fish engaged in there any grub or sand-worm looked much the same as chook gizzards. Bag limits didn’t exist in our world, so you pulled them in until you were tired of it. The fish could be filleted and frozen, given away to the neighbours or provide cat tucker for months.

All good things come to an end and heading south to uni virtually ended my days as a fisherperson. But I am delighted that my son now possesses the urge to take to sea in search of scaly denizens of the deep, so I cast my line in these days vicariously. But it’s not mullet that excites him, I’m afraid.

So maybe I was destined to love Steven Herrick’s evocative verse novel ‘Another Night in Mullet Town’. I have followed Herrick’s career since he took up wordwrangling thirty or so years ago – once he realised he wasn’t going to be the next Beckham to take the soccer world by storm. He has been producing sublime reading fodder for youngsters and the young at heart for decades now, many in the verse format. Earlier titles such as ‘Love, Ghosts and Nose Hair’, ‘Water Bombs’ and Love Poems and Leg-spinners’ I once used in the classroom to bring joy to my students, as well as to prove to them that poetry was alive and well and a living art.


‘ANinMT’ focuses on two mates, mullet catchers Jonah and Manx, living in almost coastal Turon, a place that has seen better days – but with property developers circling to make a bucket with the sea-changers. For now, though. the place is a struggle-town and marriages, including those of the parents of the two boys, struggle too. So when a big-city moneybags comes sniffing around, complete with an obnoxious offspring, who joins their Year 10 class, the life for the lads becomes suddenly more complicated. The obsequious money-bags, Mr Lloyd-Davis, is intent on buying up all he can in Turon town to turn the hamlet into another blandsville full of McMansions. He figures he can make a killing. The lads mount a guerrilla campaign to thwart him. Here we have shades of ‘Lockie Leonard Scumbuster’ and from the tele, ‘Sea Change’, with more recently, ‘800 Words.’ But Herrick does it so well he is not at all derivative. The book is a mere 200 pages, easily consumable in one or two sittings and it’s more than a David and Goliath tale. It’s about sticking by your mates, familial love and coming of age. Jonah has his eye on Ella, Manx on Rachel – two feisty young townsmaidens. It takes a bit of courage to step across the line and make the first move on them. It’s as hard to commit. Herrick writes engagingly on just how getting to grips with girls is not easy – the body is ready but the mind just cannot find the right words. Ella is a beautiful creation. She tenderly guides Jonah into losing his virginity in such a beguiling way. Herrick handles this with utmost sensitivity, indicated by his depiction of the reaction of Jonah’s dad when he realises just what has occurred for his son.


Herrick’s 2011 offering, ‘Black Painted Fingernails’, was a recent favourite of mine. ‘Another Night in Mullet Town’ is up there with that. So I say well done Mr Herrick – may you continue to give us these gems of books for young and old for many years to come. And you’ve given me cause to return, in my mind, back to those faraway days when I pulled the humble mullet out of a river by a chook factory.

Steven Herrick’s website =

The Satisfaction of a Secret Affair

See what I did there? Up above – with the title of this scribbling? I amalgamated the three television series under review – ‘The Affair’, ‘The Secret’ and ‘Satisfaction’ – to make a cogent heading. Clever or what? Do I discern eyes rolling?

But let’s commence at the basement and work our way up to the attic. Down in the cellar, by a long shot, belonged to ‘Satisfaction’. And let us not confuse this with the Australian series of last decade. Even if that one was set in a brothel, it is a darn sight better than this American travesty. The US product lacked any class – and was only marginally better than the execrable ‘UnReal’, which the Blue Room gave a massive thumbs down to on a previous occasion. Incredibly – as with the series telling of odious goings-on on the set of a reality tele show – ‘Satisfaction’ did garner a second installment. The pilot episode to this woeful production should have put me off. This consisted of hubby seeing wifey in coitus with a handsome young gigolo and such was his horror, he promptly decided to join that profession. We then see him pleasuring and catering to the desires of some unhappily hitched matrons. Tacky? You betcha. It is a bland, timid version of ‘Hung’. Naughty bits are not to be displayed at any cost, with the sexual action being as unbelievable as the plot. On top of this, the warring couple’s daughter (Michelle DeShon) feels it’s a good idea to sing about the affair of two of her teachers at the school concert. Then she promptly goes off to seek fame in the music industry with a black beau. I found I was fast forwarding this narrative thread as it gave me the irits even more than the nonsense her mum and dad were up to.


I suppose seeing your wife in a compromising position with a male escort could send a middle-aged fellow off into a doozy of a mid-life crisis, but Neil Truman (Matt Passmore), when he’s not penetrating other women, gets himself involved in a protest about a delayed flight, seeks counsel from a Japanese guru to get his head sorted and decides he is going to invent a website to guarantee personal happiness. As if. I must admit my interest in all these wretched proceedings did perk up whenever Katherine LaNasa appeared on small screen as the rich-bitch head of the escort service Neil worked for. It’s a bit of trivia that Katherine LN, at 22, was once married to 53 year old Denis Hopper – it didn’t last. In ‘Satisfaction’, to this male’s mind, she has being sexy down pat, but even her character was submerged in sudsy soap by the end. Of course, she had fallen in love/lust with the silly Neil. As wife Grace, Stéphanie Szostak has charm, but why in any way would she succumb to her empty-headed young paramour is anybody’s guess. Good in the sack I guess. Her decision to pose nude for a photographer – without any nudity, if you know what I mean – is totally out of whack with her previously zipped up, in public, character. The camerasmith, who captured her unclad form for posterity, also soon develops an attraction for Grace, despite the fact that he is dating her sister. This sets it up for more machinations in the next season. But don’t waste your time on this garbage as I did. It was cancelled after its second run of episodes. Just desserts. I can’t get that time back.


Much more believable is ‘The Affair’. Again it’s an American series – but with two imported UK actors in the lead. Maybe that’s the difference with the above. Dominic West plays Noah Soloway; Ruth Wilson is the object of his illicit affection , one Alison Lockhart. Maura Tierney has the role of Noah’s jilted wife Helen. Far grittier, far more forthright and more grounded in the possible, this take on a male with a bad case of PPS (Peter Pan Syndrome) was nominated for three Golden Globes in ’15, winning two – Best Series; Best Actress. It is also an advertisement for its Montauk, Long Island setting; but its winning feature is that the story is presented from the perspective of both adulterers. And the tale they tell, once an associated murder investigation is underway, would seem to indicate that one or both are telling great big porkies about their relationship. Noah was once happily married – at least that was the outward appearance. His life, together with associated collateral damage, was thrown out of kilter by a waitress at a truck stop who possesses many dark secrets to her background – part of the attraction I presume.

Although my lovely lady wasn’t quite so enamored of this, I enjoyed this take on the disintegration of a marriage. It was commissioned for a second series and in this it is promised we will see the points of view on the events from the two cuckolded spouses. A third season started screening at the end of ’16 in the US. This was time better spent.

Now let’s go right up to the attic with ‘The Secret’, from Northern Ireland, featuring James Nesbitt. This one’s based on real events. In fact James’ sister was mates with one of the victims involved in the very sorry tale he helped bring to wider knowledge. This recently aired on SBS and was excellent.


Nesbitt is also back on our screens, as well, in the marvellously rebooted ‘Cold Feet’; but playing a cold, calculating killer in ‘The Secret’, he pulls no punches. He takes us to the world of a god-fearing, Bible-bashing dentist Colin Howell. He develops the hots, big time, for Sunday school teacher Hazel Buchanan (a brave performance from Genevieve O’Reilly) – so big time that he is prepared to dispatch spouses to rid himself of the barriers to having his lustful way with Mrs Buchanan. He devised a very cunning plan – and it almost worked. It was nigh on ten years before the murderous couple were forced to atone for their evil ways – a period during which they both built separate lives for themselves. And just how much Hazel was involved, as her life unraveled, in what happened to said spouses is still open to question, thanks to the evil doings of her former lover. And Colin’s excuse for what he did in the end? Well it was what his god would have wanted.

It’s almost as riveting viewing as Nesbitt’s outing earlier this year in the ‘The Missing’ – coming back, minus the Irish actor, in ’17. ‘The Secret’, along with ‘The Affair’ and ‘Satisfaction’, is out now on DVD. But folks, I really wouldn’t bother with the last mentioned.

YouTube trailer – ‘Satisfaction’ =

YouTube trailer – ‘The Affair’ =

YouTube trailer – ‘The Secret’ =

Wonderful Then, Wonderful Now

In the sunset years of my teaching career Fridays were always music days. I’d regale my sixes and sevens with tales of pop music folklore. These were perhaps well known to my generation, but not so to most of them. I’d relate sagas of the greats and not so greats. I’d tell them of the rock ‘n’ roller who started off our local industry and taught us how to shout with the best of ’em. I’d tell of the four Liverpudlian lads who conquered the world and had my students scream in the introduction to ‘Revolution’ in time with John Lennon – no easy feat, but they loved having a go. There were always lyrics provided so they could sing along to the tunes. They’d belt out ‘Friday on My Mind’, for instance, to celebrate the fact the weekend was almost on them. Another annual regular was teaching them to stomp in time with ‘Surfin’ USA’ and sing along to the California Sound’s paeans to sun and surf. They were already adept at ‘twistin’ the night’ away to Sam Cooke. I’d tell the tale of that man always dressed in black having his life turned around by the love of a woman and I would introduce them to the greats of our indigenous performers – Archie, Kev and Uncle Jimmy. Another Jimmy would also get a look in each year as well. I’d have them examining the lyrics of his Bobness’ ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and an old Canadian’s ‘Hallelujah’ to see if they could figure what made the two tunes, so often credited as being the best ever written, tick – they couldn’t. Can the rest of us?

And the other regular story was of a beautiful young model who inspired three of the greatest love songs ever written, scribed by two firm friends who were besotted by her. ‘Imagine if you can’, I’d say, ‘having these two guys fighting for your affections – and doing it through the allure of their poetry put to music. Imagine you being the reason ‘Something’, ‘Layla’ and ‘Wonderful Tonight’ came into being.’ They’d have the words, I’d play the songs and they’d vote on which was the most appealing to them. Usually it was ‘Layla’.

Many of us will know that that youthful woman was Pattie Boyd who married first George Harrison, the pensmith who gave us ‘Something’, only to to be wooed away by Eric Clapton, who gifted us the other two classics. She was a stunner, was Pattie. If you watch carefully ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, the Beatles 1964 movie, she’s in it playing a schoolgirl, chasing the Fab Four all over town. She later went on to have a career as a model – then a long way down the track wrote a best-selling memoir, aptly titled ‘Wonderful Tonight’.


But these days there’s another claim to fame for her. She’s touring the world in another guise. For, you see, she recorded for posterity, with her camera, her brush with fame by being married to two rock gods. All through her time with Clapton and Harrison she snapped intimate photos of them during their down time, as well as in performance.


Of course, the fiftieth anniversary of so much of what went on during those heady days is on us and she’s in high demand to show her work around here, there and everywhere. Her product was included in Scorsese’s 2011 biopic ‘George Harrison: Living in the Material World’ and she is making guest appearances all over – a business she frankly admits she struggles to pull off due to her inherent shyness. These days she’d much rather be behind a camera than doing any sort of posing or Q and As.


Back in the sixties, though, she was in high demand to appear in shoots for the greatest camera-smiths of the era, eventually using her fees to purchase a range of photographic equipment to try, to some degree, to emulate them. It became a consuming passion. The great David Bailey taught her some of the finer points of the art with what she describes as sweet helpfulness. Later. her association with the quiet Beatle, as well as the man carrying the appellation ‘Slowhand’, gave her a head start as she could catch these men in their more private moments – although her product didn’t see the light of day, in the public sense, for some time. After the breakdown of her marriage to Clapton in 1989, Boyd decided to try and take her hobby one step further by enrolling to study photography and dark room printing, erecting a purpose built studio in her garden. These days she’s getting on, but still works as an occasional freelancer for magazines and is happily adapting her expertise to the challenges of the digital age.


Now her illuminating oeuvre is in the ether for all to see – and there’s some marvellous stuff. It is hard to go pass the image of hers, from 1968, of George after meditating in the Himalayas; or of Eric in ‘Yet Another Hotel Room’. There’s more up to date work, too, including Keith R and his daughter from 2004 and a delightful portrait of the sadly departed George Martin from ’03. Of course, if you’re in the money, copies are available for purchase – the Martin will set you back 1250 (pounds, that is).


What I didn’t know, back in those classroom days, is that one year after her official parting with the greatest living guitarist, he wrote to her. He informed Patttie that his new album, the terrific ‘Journeyman’, featured yet another song relating to her, ‘Old Love’. It dealt with the aftermath of their years together. He asked her not to be offended by it:-
‘To know that the flame will always burn
I’ll never get over
I know that I’ll never learn.’
Boyd was mildly miffed, but there is much irony in the fact that Clapton’s collaborator on this new set of songs was none other than Harrison. Further on down the track, Clapton put together the tribute concert for George after his passing. So we now have some sublime visual reminders of this Beatle and his times – the ‘Concert for George’, ‘Living in the Material World’ and Boyd’s photography of their time together.


Of all her images, the one that this scribe is most taken by is that of Eric C, in late afternoon silhouette, his back to us, playing to the adoring masses at the Blackbush Festival, Surrey, in 1974.

In the 1980’s Pattie met Rod Weston, a property developer. In 1994 they officially became an item. In 2015, at the age of 71, she finally married for the third time, to Rod. This fellow hung around.

Pattie Boyd’s Photography web-site =

Willie, Ray and Me

I like Willie. I shouldn’t need to apologise for that, should I? I was once expected to – but that’s another story. I hope Willie, like Keith Richards, can go on forever – that the drugs that addled their past, but left the music undiminished, will be as death-defying for Willie as for KR. For Willie, his DOC (Drug Of Choice) is the weed – will that embalm him, too, even if it’s a softer tote to what the Rolling Stone has imbibed down through the decades? And to be cliched, I’m hoping there are many more years of him giving us great music and being still frisky enough to get out there to be ‘on the road again’. All this brings me to Willie’s latest – ‘For the Good Times’, a tribute to Ray Price. Who’s Ray Price, you may ask? For unless you’re steeped in country music history, he may have passed you by. Well he was no less than Nashville royalty – and I owned him, once upon a time, on vinyl. On this new album Willie works his way through some classics Ray recorded during his long career. One of the titles, though, did make me ponder on the reasoning behind its inclusion. It’s a Willie original – and one that I love. So I took to the ether and as a result of that puzzlement, discovered a tale that was, or is, a thing of beauty.


Now I knew Ray and Willie went way back, even if Ray is old style Nashville and straight as a dye. Willie, of course, is the godfather of outlaw country and not afraid to flaunt the rules in every way, including his copious partaking of the weed. So imagine the stir when Ray, the Grand Ole Opry superstar, was pinged, back in 1999, for the possession of marijuana. Yes, he had been consorting with Willie.

Ray was a Texan, born in 1926. Growing up he had aspirations of becoming a vet, but learnt the guitar and found he possessed a high lonesome style of singing that was popular then. He started plying both around his local area during his teenage years. He achieved some recognition on Texas radio and then tested his luck by moving to Nashville in the early 50s. For a while he actually roomed with Hank Williams. Remember the Engelbert Humperdinck’s hit ‘Release Me’ – well Ray successfully covered that song a decade beforehand when he was honky tonkin’ around the traps. In the sixties he joined the singers who converted to the Nashville Sound that WN and co abhorred – lush ballads, with a big orchestral backing and a chorus of thousands. He blanded out Kristofferson’s ‘For the Good Times’ and had a huge hit with it.

Now for much of his career Ray’s producer was long time friend Fred Foster. When the time came around for a new album Fred’d send around to RP a stack of songs on cassette for consideration. Ray would drive up and down the country roads of his vicinity in his pick up, listening to the tracks, settling his mind as to which would feature on his new product. It was his tried and tested method that worked right up till and into our new millennium. In these later years he began touring with Willie and Merle Haggard, now also sadly departed, as a trio, in Highwaymen style. He was well into his eighties when he recorded ‘Last of the Breed’ with his touring buddies. This contained some of the threesome’s favourite tunes and was his third collaboration with Mr Nelson, released in 2007. A few years later, in 2012, Fred rang Ray’s wife, Janie, asking her, ‘How does it feel to be the most loved woman in the world?’

So the composition that interested me on Willie’s ‘For the Good Times’? The song was in the mix with tracks such as the title tune, as well as ‘Heartaches by the Number’, ‘City Lights’, ‘Make the World Go Away’ and ‘I’m Still Not Over You’. I thought when Willie originally recorded the particular song in question Ray would have been long gone, but I was wrong. He was still very much around, as is obvious from the above, when it came out on a Willie album. ‘It Always Will Be’ was the eponymous song of a 2004 collection that I think is the best of the great man’s recent product. The lyrics are a heartfelt paean to the love of a woman – a track that is lovingly sung as only Willie can do. When I first heard it it sent shivers up and down my spine – still does each time I play it. With its inclusion again on this new 2016 selection of songs, it takes on a whole new meaning.

By 2012 Ray knew he was dying. He’d confirmed to the press he had pancreatic cancer, but joked that, at 87, he was far too young to go. By then he had contacted Fred, telling him that, despite the odds, he thought he had one more in him.

Price had married Janie way back in 1970. She was the love of his life, but the dying musician was concerned that he had never really expressed that fact to her. As Janie herself states, ‘Ray wasn’t a mushy man, and there wasn’t all that ‘I love you’ stuff. If I’d asked, he’d just say, ‘I would not have married you had I not loved you‘. Ray and Janie were a Nashville success story as far as marriages went. Compare him to fellow country troubadour Steve Earle who has been married and divorced seven times. The couple worked as a team. Janie managed all his paperwork and had an input into his song selections for recording on all of his discography, except for this last outing.


Just before his death the couple were riding home in the pick-up, after a painful bout of chemotherapy, when Ray’s phone rang. It was Foster, calling him to say the final mix on his album had been completed and the results would be in the mail the next day. Ray then passed his mobile over to Janie and Fred posed her that question. Janie asked Fred what he meant by it and the producer explained. He told her that her husband’s final album would be dedicated to her and contain her favourite tunes – a duet with Martina McBride on ‘An Affair to Remember’, ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, ‘Among My Souvenirs’, ‘I Believe’, ‘Beauty Lies Within the Eye of the Beholder’ as well, of course, as ‘It Always Will Be’, amongst others.

When she heard this news, Janie was overcome with emotion – so much so that she had to immediately park the vehicle. In the car park of a local restaurant, old Ray, at death’s door, turned to his soul mate and stated, ‘All these years you’ve asked me if I really loved you, and I have been remiss in telling you how I feel.’ He was now doing it, albeit somewhat late in the piece, in the best way he knew how. ‘I want you to have it to listen to when I’m not here, to hear me telling you how much I love you.’ The album’s title? ‘Beauty Is’.


The following day Ray took his beloved Janie to the pick-up to listen to his mint new, but final, collection of songs. On hearing it in full, she cried and cried and cried. She knew what it meant. And within two months the old country crooner was dead. Nowadays she still goes through a box full of tissues each times she listens to it. Perhaps a tear will also come to your eye if you travel to YouTube to source either Willie or Ray’s version of ‘It Always will Be’ – where there also resides much else by the great Ray Price.


Now your scribe has an atonal voice like a foghorn, but there is a Janie in his world too who is remarkable and much loved – his beautiful Leigh. I can’t leave such a heartfelt musical legacy to her, but my dear lady you do know that forever and a day – ‘It always will be. It always will be.’

YouTube – Willie Nelson ‘It Always Will Be’ =

YouTube – Ray Price ‘It Always Will Be’ =