Monthly Archives: July 2017

Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira

For a novice it is pretty okay – but I wouldn’t rave. I’m an adult, though, an adult male who, at 65 moreover, is as probably as far away from the intended audience as I can get. So maybe I am no judge.

Reading a few of the gushing reviews of ‘Love Letters to the Dead’ on-line, it seems I am way in the minority. And the author has gone on, since this 2014 effort, to scribe ‘In Search Of’, with ’17 Years’ coming in 2018. ‘Love Letters to the Dead’ would seem like a great idea – tell a story through letters to notables who have departed the planet. This Laura undertakes, initially, as a part of an English assignment for her teacher, Mr Buster – the only character I took to, again displaying my age and previous vocation. The author/Laura uses all the usual suspects: Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin – you get the picture. But in the mix were also Amelia Earhart, Judy Garland, ee cummings, the poets John Keats and Elizabeth Bishop with Alan Lane tacked in as well. Never heard of him? Nor had I, but he is the voice of ‘Mr Ed’.

Laura doesn’t hand in her initial letter, addressed to Kurt C, to her teacher. But it starts off a frenzy of epistle writing as her way of coping with all the issues of life that have occurred, in the digital age, to this young person of such tender years. This sort of format has been done before, of course, but in Dellaira’s hands we have nothing really out of the ordinary, despite this means of conveying the narrative. There’s the angst of her grief for a dead older sister, the requisite love interest and these days, the seemingly almost requisite gay relationship all involved. It seems all very ‘he/she did this’ and ‘I then did that’ and should I or shouldn’t I give him what he wants.’

To me it is all pretty soapish without the class of writing that would place this with the best YA wordsmithery. The author, a SoCal resident, had Stephen Chbosky (‘The Perks of being a Wallflower’) as a mentor and guiding light – but with the plethora of quality stuff out there for the age group I’d suggest there’s better to be had. But I suspect ‘Love letters to the Dead’ has appealed to many much, much younger readers and the Dellaira oeuvre will continue to do so.

The author’s website –

Hunger – Roxane Gay

It’s a word, well, two actually, that should be chucked in the dustbin of unpalatable and unnecessary labels that consign added punishment to people who have been and still, in some cases, are sadly classified and defined by their connotations. Think ‘coloured’, ‘spinster’, ‘retarded’. Should the same happen to one so often cited as the epidemic of our modern society – ‘obesity’, with its big brother/sister, ‘morbid obesity’?

Roxane Gay, author of the remarkable ‘Hunger’, prefers the term ‘woman of size’. It, or ‘man of size’, has a better ring about it, doesn’t it? When beautiful daughter handed me this book I didn’t then realise its creator was the same person towards whom, back in May this year, an insensitive Mia Freedman (of Mamamia fame) caused a brouhaha by putting in the public domain Ms Gay’s list of requirements, on her part, to allow for the smooth running of an interview. Naturally the requirements were weight related. Related to Roxane Gay’s weight.

With ‘This is Us’ on our televisions screens this year, scooping awards right, left and centre, often it is Chrissy Metz’s role as the weight-challenged (???) Kate Pearson that is the most talked about around the office water station. With it and Ms Gay’s book, the world is seeing this issue from the point of views of women of size, rather that society’s hither too unfavourable perception of them. ‘Hunger – A Memoir of (My) Body’ is the literary equivalent of ‘This is Us’. Both Chrissy/Kate and Roxane get us to see modern life in a new light, with the restrictiveness it imposes on their ilk – the physical all too often leading to a negative impact on the mental.

The now accomplished wordsmith’s own journey commenced with a shocking act of sexual violence, impacting on her before she even reached her teenage years. As a result, to this day, her life has been an extremely taxing one and despite her latter day success, she still has her battles, as the Mia F incident pointed to. Prior to this book, recognition for her has also come from previous publications ‘Bad Feminist’ and novel ‘An Untamed State’.

The shame she has felt over the years should have been soul crushing – indeed it was at many stages. The shame forced her to try and hide or disguise a body she couldn’t control. It was the shame of it and the horrible transforming event of her youth that has so marked her attitudes towards sex, towards men and her love/hate relationship towards food. That a few good men and women have entered her life and loved her has been a salve to some extent, but she remains fixated on the one particular boy who so betrayed her at her most impressionable time of life. It is hard to imagine anyone ever coming to terms with such a repugnant act being perpetrated on one’s body. Being able to write about it, in such a brave and open way, hopefully has assuaged the damage somewhat. In ‘Hunger’ her chapters are short and sharp, succinct and often hard-hitting. That being said, it is an easy read even if, at times, the reading isn’t easy, if that makes sense.

Which brings me to the ‘…glaring, harsh, often cruel’ (her words) way reality television compounds the issues for those suffering with being what the producers thereof obviously consider as vastly over-weight. One of her best serves in this book is saved for ‘The Biggest Loser’ and its spin-offs, such as ‘Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss’, ‘Fit to Fat to Fit’, ‘My 600lb Life’ and ‘Revenge Body’. All this small screen dross only serves to encourage the trolls of this world who seemingly rejoice in inflicting as much pain as possible on women of size in their visits to social media. They also reinforce the view ‘…that self-worth and happiness are inextricably linked to thinness.’ The shows simplify an issue that is bound up in so much more than ‘how could these people allow themselves to get into the shape they’re in?’

Also revelatory is how so much this planet, despite the so-called epidemic, is not geared up to cater for those with larger bodies. Gay relates that even going out for a meal with mates is fraught with traps such as whether the seating can bear her weight and of course, the unpleasantness of other diners with their stares and tut-tutting over the amount of tucker she has on her plate. There’s also the ignorance of the fashion industry and retailers who rarely cater for women of size with anything remotely wearable, in stylish terms. This despite given these days a large amount of their demographic is plus sized. Attitudes are changing, but at glacial pace.

No, ‘Hunger’ is not a fun read for light entertainment, but it such an enlightening one. Kudos to Gay for having the courage to be the one enlightening us – and let’s hope the mass of humanity can become kinder to men and women of size.

Ms Gay’s website –

Drought in Oz, Drought in Maine The Dry – Jane Harper The Stars are Fire – Anita Shreve

Australia is the land of drought, but one doesn’t usually associate the far north-eastern state of Maine, in the US, with that climatic affliction. But a dry spell, with serious consequences, occurred in the autumn, or should I say fall, of 1947. The land became tinder arid, seeing forest fires break out, soon raging beyond control. 200,000 acres of the state burned, whole towns and half of Arcadia National Park were lost, as were the lives of sixteen souls. 2500 were rendered homeless. The events at Shreve’s Bar Harbor, in ‘The Stars are Fire’, put me in mind of the happenings at Dunalley, in the south of my island, only a few years back. In fact, the scenario the author conjures of the ’47 conflagration with the Holland family sheltering on the beach bought back the iconic image of a mother and her children, attempting to escape from the flames in armpit deep water, under the little Tassie town’s jetty. That family survived; as did Grace Holland and her little ones, but only just. The effects of the drought and the resulting wildfires are, though, the main focus of the novel. Throughout we wonder what happened to her ‘difficult’ hubby. He was on the other side of the town fighting back the flames. Gene was last seen walking towards them as his colleagues fled. Naturally everyone assumes he perished, but no body was found. So Grace gets on with her life as best she can. A caring doctor and a mysterious piano man enter her orb as romantic possibilities – and then the unthinkable happens.

As with all Anita S’s output, ‘The Stars are Fire’ is immensely readable – it should be, she’s been successfully at it for long enough. It’s just not one of her best – it does stretch for plausibility as we wait for what most suspect will come to pass – and it does. That doesn’t mean it rings true.

Sadly Shreve is battling cancer and not for the first time. She trusts she will again beat it, but she was unable to travel to promote this, her latest work. She has been a reading staple of mine for decades so fingers crossed she survives to write on.

Jane Harper, in contrast, has just one novel to her name – but what an impact it has had. It’s won awards, been optioned by Hollywood and published (or about to be) in, at last count, twenty overseas countries. It’s truly a rip-snorter. It is perhaps not the greatest example of wordsmithery going around, but it is a yarn this reader couldn’t put down from get-go to last paragraph. One reviewer likened it to Peter Temple’s ‘The Broken Shore’ or Garry Disher’s ‘Bitter Wash Road’ as this country’s great crime novel of recent times. As I haven’t read these, I’ll throw in Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’ or, another stunning debut, Holly Throsby’s ‘Goodwood’. Both are set, like ‘The Dry’ in parched and thirsty country towns.

In Harper’s offering it’s Kiewarra, ravaged by an endless drought, with the local men and women on the land at their wit’s end about how they’re going to make it through till the rains come. One, Luke Hadley, guns down his wife and all bar one of his kids before putting a rifle to his head in a paddock. It’s thought to be a cut and shut murder/suicide – that is until city cop, Aaron Falk, turns up for the funeral of his childhood friend. He starts digging and it all doesn’t quite add up. As far as the locals are concerned he already has a cloud over his head. You see, he too was once a local and left town after another of his former mates, this time a girl, disappeared in mysterious circumstances. It again is a presumed suicide. Before long there’s a whole range of motives and possibilities concerning the two, perhaps in some way, linked events. Our jaded (aren’t they always?) returned policeman tries to nut his way through it all and eventually a culprit emerges, but it’s an enjoyably convoluted process. Just when you think he’s nailed it, up pops another prospective murderer. I must admit I didn’t pick it – but looking back there were clues dotted along the way.

This is a story well told and in Aaron Falk Harper has a protagonist worth a few more whodunits. Her sophomore publication, ‘Force of Nature’, due October ’17, again features Falk investigating the disappearance of a whistle blower. As for Harper, I reckon she will become a real force of nature herself on the Australian writing scene.

Anita Shreve’s website –

Jane Harper’s website –

This Abluting Life

Breakfast television largely passes me by. It’s not that I don’t like it, it is just that I’d rather start the day in a different fashion. I know in recent times, via the New Idea (I only take it for the recipes, puzzles and to pass on to a darling daughter who claims to love to read the celebrity false news), breakfast host Karl Stefanovic has millions of my fellow Australians almost breathless with each installment of his fascinating private life. I also know that the general consensus is that Auntie’s show, around the same time, is pretty good, but certainly doesn’t drag in the ratings like the two behemoths ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Today’. And thanks to my lovely mother and my lovely lady’s equally lovely daughter, both fans of the former, that show has entered my life.

So picture this. Not so long ago I was calmly sitting at my mother’s breakfast table, possibly reading or writing or puzzling over ‘That’s Life’, when some words emanated from the screen behind me, causing me to spin around, aghast and disbelieving.

Now I had no idea what the subject matter was. I did ask said mother – Nan to all – what was going on on the Koch-helmed show, but, as she wasn’t really concentrating on it, she couldn’t help me out. When I focused on what was beaming out I espied three ladies in a row, perched on a sofa, straight-backed like three parrots in incandescent plumage. They were going at it hammer and tongs, verbally, with much laughter and eye-rolling. They seemed to be competing with each other to be heard and whatever they were on about made little sense to me, but had Mr Koch mildly bemused by their squawkings. This trio of gaudy macaws (they are probably very, very lovely, sweet-natured ladies and I know I am being just a little bit naughty with my avian references) had Kochie’s co-host in stitches over the goings-on on the sofa and the inanities being uttered by the perky cockatiels holding the floor.

And the words that one of these anything but dun-coloured peahens uttered, causing me abruptly to choke on my morning coffee? Well, they were of great personal affront to my sensitivities and all because they dissed an important part of my morning routine. That is, I always have been; hopefully will continue to be until my dying day; a bathtub person. I have written before of my total aversion to taking a shower. I have an inability to understand why masses of humanity prefer to do so. What joy is there to be had standing under spurting drops when one can be immersed in scented, warm and sudsy water for half an hour or so. Once upon a time I planned my school day while I lolled in blissful comfort. These days, well, I ruminate on my humble scribblings. So, yes folks, I bathe in perfumed waters – never in anything, I hasten to add, that would cross the line into rose, lavender or other florals. I choose the more manly ones such as certain fruits – mango, coconut, pineapple, etc. At the moment I use the Original Source range, available at any chemist or supermarket. The labeling assures me they are 100% natural fragrances. My favourite is the mint and tea-tree option. Imagine, they pack 7,927 leaves of both into each bottle! How do I know? It tells you that on the container. Yep, it’s only the masculine smells that I wallow in, which brings me back to those three shrieking galahs – very comely ones admittedly, on David K’s settee that morning whilst I was up north. The words that I heard – and I have no idea which lorikeet espoused them – if you can imagine, were, ‘I have real problems with any man who takes a bath.’ And then, the person in question, went on to say that any fellow who does so has ‘…real issues.’ Issues with what, I wanted to know – but she didn’t elaborate.

So, dear reader, you will understand why I was mortified. All these years I’ve been broadcasting to the world around me about my morning ritual, with, particularly the female cohort thereof, probably thinking to themselves, ‘Gee, poor old Steve has real issues.’ Was the wagtail in question, on the tele, casting aspersions on my manhood? Am I less of a male than those hairy-chested showerers who are, presumably, able to go forth into the world scot-free of ‘issues’ due to their preference for getting under a shower rose? Oh dear. Oh dear.

Thinking about all this later (yes, in the bath – I refused to be shamed into taking a shower by the words of some know it all, strident bustard sitting on a couch), I wonder if she, that morning, realised the fine and outstanding history of the ceramic bathtub? A past that is far more worthy than that of johnny-come-lately the shower.

Baths, dear friends, have been around since the Bronze Age, whereas artificially produced showers, as opposed to standing under a waterfall or successfully shouting, ‘Send ‘er down Hughie.’, came later on. And remember, here, with the latter, we’re talking about standing in a cubicle with water raining down on one’s body through some form of plumbing. That came much later, with the Greeks, who had spray tepidly descending from above over naked bodies, much in the same way as some communal sporting facilities provide today. But still no cubicle. They were invented by William Feetham around 1810 – for cold water only. The fortunate had been luxuriating in warm baths from well before that.

I blame the French Army. In 1872 one François Merry Delabost ordered that bathing for soldiers would have to replaced by showering as a cost cutting method – thus commencing the modern trend towards the quick dousing of one’s body. Delabost had invented a newly devised apparatus for such purposes, thereby lining his own pockets in the process. Showers replaced baths, then, in prisons, followed on by boarding schools – thus adding more to the pain involved in the atrocious habit of sending young children away from home for their schooling – and by the 1920’s were in many US homes. The English, bless them, were slow to catch on. They only became common there in the ’60s. Americans are always in such a rush so quick showers suited their frenetic lifestyle. Now the water-scrooges play around with the size of the holes in shower roses and sternly recommend how long this form of ablution should take. They leave us, who prefer the older method, largely alone.

Yes, I know some claim the shower is more hygienic, but where is the bliss factor? And, having bathed all my life, I am still around and still, touch wood, healthy. In a bath a poor man can feel he’s as rich and as spoilt as the Kardashians. In a bath he/she can let one’s mind run rampant, just wallowing in the luxuriousness of the experience. We could even imagine ourselves back in the Middle Ages where servants would ply their masters with food and alcoholic beverages whilst in the tub. Or we could wander back to Roman times when scantily clad maidens would meet all needs for those bathing – just check out the recent television series ‘Spartacus’ for some eye-popping examples of this practice.

Of course, way back in the mists, most weren’t as scrupulous with their cleanliness as we have become. When Columbus returned from the New World he bought back news of the Taino people who bathed, to the shock of his gobsmacked audiences, daily. His Queen Isabella, for instance, had only taken to her bath twice in her life. The Tudor Queen Elizabeth was much more modern – she insisted on hopping into scented waters a couple of times a month. The Spanish Inquisition completely banned bathing, preferring to go smelly than indulge in habits associated with the sweeter smelling Jews and Muslims. Henry VIII bathed in musk of civet in order to alleviate his leg ulcers which were a right royal pain in the ass. Propaganda from the Republicans claimed Versailles was a filthy place, but it had running water for tubs since the time of Louis XV (1715-1774). By 1860 plumbed water was so common that baths, for the average person, no longer had to be portable and could be made of any material – in other words, like our own household essential.

Sadly though, I admit, it is sometimes necessary to take a shower. Nowadays, with travelling, unfortunately few hotel rooms now have a bath. Oh my unalloyed joy when I find I’ve booked one that does! New houses are finished without them – and old bathrooms are renovated, doing away with much pleasure, to be replaced by flashier showering facilities. My son and daughter-in-law have recently done this – but with what they have installed the showering experience in their abode is, well, maybe just a tiny bit joyful.

But, back to my ‘Sunrise’ shock. I do apologise to all the wonderful women that have and still do inhabit my life for being a man with such obvious issues. But, come hell or high water, there is no way I’ll forsake my lifelong indulgence. I’d rather have the issues – just tell me what they are. Please!

First Berlin, then Paris

It must be every parents’ nightmare. Parents would seem to have so much to worry about in this fraught age we live in without that. Seeing ‘Berlin Syndrome’ put me in mind of the Graeme Connors song, ‘Louisa’, a later highlight of his career –

Lying in bed drifting in and out of a late night talk back show
I hear this live cross news reporter coming over the radio
seems a bomb’s gone off in a train somewhere on the London Underground
with unconfirmed reports there are several Australians among those who can’t be found
and of course I thought of you my dear
that’s why I’m here on this phone
Louisa come on now I want you here with me
it’s a crazy world these days I need to know you’re somewhere safe
Louisa darlin’ please why don’t you take the next plane home
it’s not the time to see the world I’m worried ’bout my little girl Louisa

A father, worrying himself sick over a daughter travelling in Europe, imagining all those ‘crazy bastards out there‘, willing to take innocent life in the name of crackpottery. And in the film offering, the travelling girl sure meets one crazy bastard in Andi (Max Riemelt). He, despite outward appearances, is completely off the show. Thankfully my own daughter’s travels in Europe were in the company of her good man. If your own footloose treasured one cannot be convinced against soloing it through Europe these days, you’d be wise to not go and see this – or, perhaps even better, get her to view it.

Andi has seriously nasty intent towards Clare (Teresa Palmer). Normally an offering about a guy lording it over a girl he’s trapped in a room, preparing to do dastardly acts to her, is not one I’d rush out to see, particularly as the esteemed DS – we all know who that is – dissed it in no uncertain terms. As well, there were plenty of other films beckoning at my art house around the time. But it captured the attention of my lovely lady’s equally lovely daughter, after she’d watched a promo of it on the tele, so she sweetly nagged me to add it to my list. For all her admirable talents I find Ilsa someone it’s hard to say no to, so off I toddled.

Now I cannot pretend I thoroughly enjoyed it, but with director Cate Shortland at the helm – after all she did give us the very worthy ‘Somersault’ – it was somewhat more subtle than what I would take to be the norm for this sort of thing ie, a fantasy project for male auteurs. Does Clare get a dose of the Stockholms, or is it just a matter of taking the course of less resistance as she tries to find a chink in her captor’s armour and seemingly inescapable digs? This is as far away from ‘Fifty Shades…’ as it is possible to get. It’s Berlin in wintry and dun-tones; our heroine’s confines being in the grottiest of neighbourhoods; with this being essentially a two-hander between the leads. We have a largely pointless sub-plot involving Andi’s father – set up, I presume, just to allow for a tender moment between captor and victim. Andi is also making eyes at one of his students – he’s an English teacher, you see – but this goes on to have much, if confused, relevance for the climax of the piece. The movie is stretched out to a long couple of hours and I wasn’t too sure about its eventual ending, but it’s certainly a brave performance from Palmer. Clare displays plenty of Aussie grit and determination in her attempts to get through her ordeal and ultimately it does possess much to recommend it.

I must be missing something. She’s good, no doubt about that. But ‘World’s Greatest Actress’, as she’s spruiked for this film – well, there’d be a few English dames who’d have something to say about that, not to mention Streep, Blanchett and I could go on. And in no way was ‘Things to Come’ ‘One of the Best Films of the Year’ nor was it ‘A Stunning Achievement’ and it sure wasn’t ‘Perfect’. ‘A Quiet Jewel’? Well, maybe, as long as it was a lesser stone. It’s certainly not a diamond.

It isn’t that Isabelle Huppert doesn’t have acting chops – she does, in abundance. She’s brave and does French sang froid very well. In this she showed more nuanced emotion than is usual for her. But it’s boring. The film is simply boring. I struggled to see it through and in the end was thinking about my bladder far more than what was going on up on the screen.

‘Things to Come’ is from the producer of ‘Rosalie Blum’ and the director of ‘Father of My Children’ – both excellent. But here, together, they have come up with something far less than the magic of those two. And, sorry if I let the cat out of the bag here, but the ‘romance’ that watching the trailer led us to believe was going to happen between younger man/older woman just didn’t occur – apart from a couple of meaningful looks.

Parisian teacher of philosophy (Huppert) gets high from intellectual discussion and is quite stunned when she discovers hubby (Andre Marcon) isn’t going to love her forever for it. She wants to know, in typical French fashion, why he simply couldn’t keep his dose of the Peter Pan’s, resulting in an affair with a younger woman, a secret from her. But he was forced to spill the beans by their not so understanding daughter. He soon departs, around the same time as she is dropped by her publisher – her texts are no longer flavour of the month with the student cohort.. Her mother, compounding her woes, is starting to lose the plot, leaving her with a moggy she definitely does not want and needs to quickly find a home for. Trips away from Paris to the Brittany Coast and into the mountains abound Grenoble – the latter with that spunky young hunk, who has his girl friend in tow, help to clear her mind.

Gradually she accepts her situation and moves on, but I really wanted more bang for my buck with this. I was sucked in by the hype and the full page ads for it in a certain Melbourne newspaper. But, sorry Isabelle World’s Greatest Actress, your film comes up way short here for this punter.

Trailer ‘Berlin Syndrome’ =

Trailer ‘Things to Come’ =

The War We Can't Let Go Of

At an early stage, in the film ‘Denial’, a young legal eagle asks, ‘What is there about this war that we can’t let go of?’ – or words to that effect. He was greeted in the chambers by stony silence and stern looks, surrounded, as he was, by souls who realised there was a Jewess in their number.

There were three films, set in the second great war of the previous century, on at the State in the week I ventured out to see this offering – indicative that we can’t let go. They were ‘The Innocents’, ‘Their Finest’ and this one. The ‘Zookeepers Wife’ was slated to arrive soon after. I also viewed the second listed. I am not a fan of any supposed entertainment involving the heroics of American GIs slaughtering enemy forces and saving the world. That was a part of my upbringing – ‘Combat’ on the tele, John Wayne et al on the big screen. Today, thankfully, even Hollywood has become somewhat more subtle and sensitive and the two offerings here had something special as an added enticement to attract me.

I love a good courtroom drama and that is essentially what ‘Denial’ is. It’s roots are, though, in the shock to humanity that was the Holocaust. There are none of the harrowing imagery of mass-extermination here, but, at one stage, the main protagonists visit Auschwitz where they stand on the roof of what was once a gas chamber. That was chilling enough as they contemplated what once occurred beneath their feet during those years..

The movie details a court case involving a Holocaust denier. How can such people exist? It features the odious David Irving who is still spruiking his noxious views to the sort of people who maybe voted for Trump and Le Pen. American Scholar Deborah Lipstadt – the aforementioned Jewess in the room – sets out, along with the publishers of one of her books on the topic, to prove, not that these events occurred (that would further stress the survivors of the death camps), but that the man, Irving (Timothy Spall), is a liar. He is suing Lipstadt (a feisty Rachel Weisz) for his defamation in one of her publications. This takes us to an intriguing quirk of British law that sets the scene and brings into the picture Richard Rumpton QC. In the role Tom Wilkinson steals the show as the unshakable stickler for principle which, at first, doesn’t go down well with the Yankee brigade, aghast at the archaic vagaries of UK law.

Spall also thrives as the denying villain. One critic describes his presence in this as all ‘… courtly manners masking a snarling junkyard dog beneath…’. I also particularly liked ‘Sherlock’s’ Andrew Scott as solicitor Anthony Julius. Written by David Hare, the movie has much to commend it, even if we know how it all ends. That this case savaged Irving’s reputation, yet he still manages to go on putting out his falsehoods as gospel – the ultimate fake news – is quite obscene. At times the world is a weird place.

Age reviewer Sandra Hall claims there was a time when she ‘…couldn’t see the point of Bill Nighy.’ That was during his television years, usually playing a womanising rogue. Well, it was one of those series where he was cast as a philandering university academic, of the most disreputable kind, that first attracted me to one of my favourite actors. And then along came ‘Still Crazy’ in 1998. Hall reassessed him, I became even more enamoured and thus have remained ever since. For most he’ll be always remembered for that unlikely hit, ‘Love Actually’ – but, for my money, his best performance came with 2005’s ‘Girl in the Cafe’.

‘Their Finest’ is a take on the old chestnut of making a film within a film – this one’s mainly set in the London Blitz. The inner movie is a ‘based on true events’ incident, during the Dunkirk evacuations, whereby two Norfolk sisters rescued soldiers in their father’s fishing boat. Nighy plays a once well recognised actor, now down on his uppers, cast as a drunken uncle for the propaganda effort, aiming to lift local spirits. Scripting it (or providing the slops, as a woman’s perspective was evidently termed back then) is Catrin Cole (the versatile and beauteous Gemma Arterton). Sam Caflin – the death wish quadriplegic from ‘Me Before You’ – is Cate’s fellow writer who becomes the love interest. Richard E Grant and Eddie Marsan get a look-in as well.

Really, apart from the two leads, this film has not a great deal going for it – even if it was granted an extended run at the State. The look of the offering is meant to be redolent of the period as it tries to capture the stiff upper lipness of the times – and it was interesting to see how they devised special effects in the era before digital technology. It’s all a tad twee, but even in second rate material Nighy and Arterton are class acts worth watching.

It’s seven decades on from the end of World War Two, but I am sure there are many, many stories have yet to be milked from those tumultuous six years of conflict – but we never learn from them, do we? There’s a mad man again loose, this time in North Korea; a Syrian leader prepared to slaughter children in their schools and a guy in the White House fully a few threads short of a jumper.

Trailer – ‘Denial’ =

Trailer ‘Their Finest =

Tram Mayhem – Melbourne Vignettes – Winter '17

‘Come here Sahs! Come here quickly. There has been an incident. An incident on this very tram. This very tram, Sah! My tram in fact. I am very distressed. Very distressed but I will be all right. I will be okay. Come on …come in, if you please, Sahs.’

Always a joy travelling around on Melbourne’s trams – but sometimes things can go awry. But we’ll be back to this incident later.

I shouldn’t have been ear-wigging – I really shouldn’t, but the following conversation tickled my fancy. And, being packed into a No.11, making slow progress up Collins, it was hard not to overhear as the pair were pressed up against me. But he, well, he was more than pressed up against the young lady in question. He, of swarthy Med/Middle Eastern appearance, was decked out in full St Kilda regalia, obviously off to Etihad Stadium to witness the Saints demolition of an inexplicably lacklustre Tigers outfit later that night. She was a slim brunette, dressed in mufti, white-bread white in contrast to her partner – but obviously infatuated by him. They fondled, they caressed, they gently pashed with, as he nibbled her on earlobes, it going something like this after a quick reference, between nibbles, to his hand-held device.
‘Guess what, Babe. GWS have just drawn with the Hawks!’
‘Sweet – well that’s, like, rad. Really rad.’
Yeah Babe – it might even be some sort of record, having two draws in a row (It wasn’t. Carlton also did it back in 1921). How incredible is that?’
‘Amazing. That’s, like, just so amazing.’
You could tell she wasn’t really interested, but she was trying for his sake, in between planting sweet kisses all over his face. But, well, there’s nothing like the romance of tram travel to warm the cockles, but more about adventures on the city’s transport system later.

Van Gogh, to be honest, despite being the main focus of the trip, was something of a let down. Through a variety of events the trip was later in the year than I intended, it coincided with Victorian school hols and the exhibition at the NGV St Kilda Rd was in its last days. Taking all this into account, my goal was to be there on the dot of ten, opening time according to the gallery’s web-site. I achieved that, only to find people had been pouring in for a good hour – special opening times you see. Poop. Hundreds, thousands maybe, were lining up and once eventually in, it was difficult to get close to any of the works. It would have been fascinating and engrossing had there been less of a throng, so I contented myself taking pictures of those who could peer at the sad master’s works. So many starry, starry nighters were determined not to miss out that the only consolation for me was that the line up was even longer as I exited the show.

Making up for that was the excellent Aardman exhibition at ACMI – Wallace & Gromit and Friends. As well, there was the examination of the world of creepy-crawlies at the Melbourne Museum, Bug Lab. Looking at the enthralled faces of the children of all ages viewing these, I cannot but highly recommend both to anyone travelling to Yarra City, with kiddies, in the near future. The pair of attractions sure bought out the inner kid in me. The creators of the first, with their claymation, have set a new standard for the entertainment of young and old alike – and the display at Fed Square was brilliant in conveying their artistry. I took in the atmospheric images of the controversial Bill Henson, also at the NGV I, as well as the retro photographic installations of Patrick Pound at its Federation Square mate. I also did my usual trip up Swanston Street to take in the interesting offerings at the Ian Potter Gallery, University of Melbourne.

It was such a treat spending time with my beautiful sister Frith and gorgeous niece Peta. I took the former to a couple of my favourite haunts around the market at South Melbourne. We basked in the balmy winter sunshine to the tasty soft-bunned delights of the Goodegg (303 Coventry Street). Be warned, here the hipster coffee is only trendily luke warm, but the tucker made up for it. I took Frith to the duck shop, Licorice Home (8 Union Street – off Coventry). There was an array of cute and cheap wooded animals on display but sis went for the ducks, as you would. She came away with three. Peta drove us with zing and elan through the ‘burbs to ‘Little Saigon’, in Richmond, where I thoroughly relished my prawn rolls and stewed duck soup at Than Ha2 (120 Victoria Street). It was jam-packed with an ethnic cross section of Melburnians enjoying it’s fare – intestine soup anybody?

I wonder if some think that the taggers’ overlays make it a more authentic experience – to me it’s just plain ruinous. Hosier Lane is always a must on any trip over to Yarra City, sitting as it does opposite Fed Square, between Flinders Street and Lane. There are invariably new and beguiling-to-the-eye street art to be found on each occasion – but this time the taggers seemed to have outdone themselves in defacing those works with any semblance of artistic merit. I can’t comprehend the logic. Do those perpetrating it need to stake out their territory like a dog? Do they do it to big note to their ilk? If my opinion is shared and given this lane-way is in the epicentre of the arts precinct, drawing hundreds each day to snap away with camera and mobiles, surely, for the city’s reputation, something needs to be done. A night-watchman perhaps? Now that wouldn’t be too much of an impost on the rate payers there, would it?

The Kino (45 Collins St) brings to the CBD the best of the new releases, both from Hollywood and the world of art house. In 2017 it is celebrating its thirtieth year of doing so, so late Saturday arvo I had the choice of sitting in a pub over a few ales watching the footy or taking in a film. I chose the latter, with a couple of beers at the Kino’s bar either side of ‘My Cousin Rachel’. With Rachel Weisz as the cousin, she’s the older woman who first marries a young man’s ailing guardian and then, after his demise, presumably sets her sights on his ward (Sam Caflin). She’s after his inheritance, no doubt. But is this temptress all she’s cut out to be? Sam’s character falls for her big time and is soon handing over the dosh, but in the end does not know quite what to believe about her. Does he make the right call before it’s all too late? Set in Poldark country, it possesses the same vibe as the tele series, is based on a Daphne du Maurier novel and is directed by Roger Michell. I did not regret my choice.

Now the trams. The plaintive cries I started this account with were part of the first of several happenings that occurred to me journeying the network over my four day stay. The plea for assistance came from the driver of the one taking me out to visit Brother Jim in Camberwell. Pulling up to a stop, this agitated driver leapt out of his compartment and yelled his complaint to two approaching safety-vested fellows about to board. One of these took control of the tram, the other sat the poor guy down a couple of seats ahead of me. He kept repeating that he’d be all right, but he obviously had had a scare sometime prior to my embarkation. I presume the burly person sitting next to him was a counsellor or an official sent to debrief. I couldn’t hear much of the conversation, but nurses and pharmaceuticals were mentioned. At one stage the bigger fellow chuckled, only to be rebuked by the smaller stating that clearly, for him, it was not a matter for laughter. I suppose it is a credit to the poor driver that he had continued on his journey given his distressed state without any hint of something amiss, at least to this passenger. Yarra Trams, the next morning, presented me with a breakfast bar as a way of apologising for my trip along St Kilda Road being interrupted by roadworks – very thoughtful of them. Two nights in a row journeys on the three-carriaged No 96 were diverted, this due to bingles between trams and pedestrians, both requiring the attention of first responders and road blockages. Then, travelling down Fitzroy Street one night, back to my home away from home in the world’s most liveable city (personally I wouldn’t swap Hobs for it), the Cosmopolitan Hotel, I heard a tapping on the tram’s window whilst it was still in motion. I turned and looked into an anguished male face, thirty-odd in years I’d say, peering back in at me mouthing, ‘Let me in. Let me in.’ Now, even if I’d wanted to, I could not have opened doors programmed not to do so until a stop had been reached. As I turned away, the conveyance suddenly shuddered to a halt between said stops, the driver alighted and the tram-surfer disappeared. But what beats me is how he managed to cling on. There is a narrow running board outside, under the doors, but on the sleek chassis nothing I could discern could have given any purchase for one of his hands, allowing the other to tap frantically. Quickly our driver re-entered unperturbed at events and we continues our trip, but the mystery plagued my mind for the rest of my stay.

But all too soon that was over and I was jetting my way back to home. After we touched down, a few seats ahead of me, I heard a little cherub ask, ‘Have we landed in Bali Mum?’
‘No, darling, I did explain. Tasmania is an island, just as Bali is. Don’t you remember? I didn’t say we were going back there. I’m sorry sweetheart. I though you understood.’
‘Oh dear, Mum. I thought we were going to Bali.’
I hope Tassie didn’t disappoint the little one too much.

Trailer for ‘My Cousin Rachel’ =

Ditzy Jenny and Rosie

She called it her funk. Some days were better than others. She was determined she wouldn’t let it beat her; it wasn’t in her nature. Not now anyhow. But, golly-gosh, it was hard. She’d tried topping herself once and found it definitely not to her liking – so she threw herself back into her charity work as a substitute – something she hoped the kids in her native Hungary would one day thank her for. It gave her a purpose. If only she could prevent herself dwelling on all that she had lost she felt she could make it through to the inevitable that lay up ahead. Dwelling on it, well, it only made her feel funkier – and if she gave into the bleakness, god knows where it would lead her to again. No more Irving, no more Jenny, thinking back to the occasions she nearly died. Why, sometimes she even thought of Harry, gone now for almost two decades. Harry, she knew, only had eyes for Miss Jenny – but she liked Harry a lot too. More than liked him, if she was honest with herself. That, at one time, made her appallingly green-eyed towards her Jen. That girl in turn dangled herself before and flirted outrageously with the man, but, despite his most becoming entreaties, usually revolving around money – money he couldn’t afford – she just would not commit. She, herself, would have been his in an instant had she been given the same chance. And, as to her cursed funks, she knew exactly the day they first came to her.

In a small way I was proud of myself. It was only a tiny win, this victory of sorts, in a game they try to play with us for reasons beyond me. I rarely watch programming on the commercial networks, apart from the footy and cricket. The ads are enough to drive me bananas and mainstream American television doesn’t do much for me, with the exception of the exceptional ‘This is Us’. There are a few Aussie staples, as well, we regularly commit to our hard drives to watch at our leisure – ‘House Husbands’, ‘800 Words’ and ‘Offspring’ for instance. I’ve witnessed my lovely lady, until the advent of our own T-Box, being regularly frustrated trying to follow some of her favourites on Ten, Nine and Seven. Shows would disappear without notice, not adhere to the tele-guide times or turn out to be repeats when a newly minted episode is advertised. Others would be shunted off to the subsidiary channels and often, trying to find them there, was like searching for a needle in a haystack. No wonder viewers are turning away from free-to-air in droves to other platforms. Occasionally, though, on these networks there would be a Brit show I’d be particularly keen to watch – the venerable ‘Downton’ being a case in point. Not that they would have dared tamper with that behemoth. But, unfortunately, that was not the case with ‘Mr Selfridge’. I really was partial to this show – and sure, the first couple of seasons rated well enough, for whichever network it was on, to keep it stationary with a regular time slot. But once Series 3 and 4 came along, with ratings presumably dropping or the need to find room for some of their crass reality dross, ‘Mr Selfridge’ disappeared from sight. Then it suddenly reappeared on one of the additional channels. There it would chop and change time-slots and days willy-nilly. It completely disappeared for a while, mid-season, only to, you guessed it, reemerge much later to finish off the remaining episodes. My victory was that I managed not to miss an episode – I persevered to catch every one, free-to-air. Of course I stacked them up on the hard drive so I didn’t have to sit through endless inane ad-breaks. But I had my victory over those pesky programmers who seem to make it their business to take every bit of enjoyment out of viewing their particular network by endlessly playing their little sport with any less than signature show. I didn’t succumb to the temptation of rushing off to JB’s to buy the final series or ask for it from rellies proficient at downloading from various maybe not quite legal sites. Yes, it’s a trifling thing, but it gave me a degree of satisfaction.

During her later decades she took to researching the special connections that exist between twins for, you see, she’d been born one of a pair. She had now survived her twin sister by a long shot. It was hard to imagine that, once upon a time, she could not have contemplated existing without her look-alike. It seemed, too, that her sister was of the same opinion. During their time in the spotlight her sibling had countless marriage proposals. The excuse to reject them was, invariably, ‘I couldn’t marry that man, sis! Have him take me away from you. No! No! No!’ The bond between the two of them was special but, back then, she wasn’t so aware of her feelings; she had no inkling her almost second sense concerning her twin was not commonplace. But she also knew that, whilst they were together, they offered the world something that was unique and something that was in high demand. For a lengthy period of time they had the planet at their feet, slavering for more. They were the chosen pair, dancing their way into the hearts of thousands – and breaking many of those same hearts. Men fawned after them on two continents; their ‘champagne and caviar’ lifestyle being broadcast to the world in the print media. Now she watched the Marilyn Monroes and the Elizabeth Taylors of her present day take on that mantle and be fêted globally. Her most melodramatic of sighs, back then, would have male pulses racing – these days the same would be considered the hammiest of acting. Nowadays men wanted so much more. She knew this as she kept an eye on the popular entertainment in the newspapers and magazines she took. Sometimes what she read made her blanch. It was an effrontery to her sensibilities the wanton titillation that was going on – in her very own city too. Even at their height, they would be out of their depth in modern times. She smiles wistfully as she recalled their era on Broadway; of the gay abandon of their frolics in Paris, Cannes and Biaritz – or wherever the glamour set hung out. And then, of course, there was Irving, the love of her life. He left her far too soon. But as well, for a time and well hidden, or so she thought, her heart, too, had belonged to Harry.

‘Mr Selfridge’ told me the tale of the founder of the eponymous department store and tracked its ups and downs from its genesis in 1909, through the Edwardian years, the Great War and into the Jazz Age. American Jeremy Piven played Gordon Selfridge across the four seasons; Australian actress Frances O’Connor his wife, Rose. There were many other characters I particularly enjoyed – Miss Mardle (Amanda Abbington), a self- made woman attempting to break glass ceilings; Mr Crabb (Ron Cook), the fastidious accountant who gave his heart and soul to his boss; the extremely odious Lord Loxley (Aidan McArdle) who hated Selfridge to his core and Mr Grove (Tim Goodman-Hall), the store executive with a tortured personal life. It was a great show – a period soapie the Brits do so well.

Rózsika and her identical twin sister, Janka, were born in Hungary on October 25, 1892. With their parents, Julius and Margaret, they migrated to the USA in 1905. As children they trained to be dancers, getting their first gigs, for small change, in the beer halls of NYC; debuting on the vaudeville circuit in 1909. They were soon hits, making their first foray into films in 1915. At their peak, in the US, they were pulling in $2000 a week, unheard of for those times.

After the war the sisters moved to France, purchasing a chateau as a base for their tours of the Continent. Their popularity kept them in plenty of coin and their crowning moment was an invitation to perform at the Moulin Rouge. They received $1200 a night for that!

Looking back, looking back. She was always looking back. It didn’t help her funk, she considered. She was almost a septuagenarian, but despite the dangers going back to those times, contrarily, her old face now creased into a smile. Memories.

It was sunny in the apartment. A few tipples had made her feel nostalgic. She could look back at Diamond Jim, surely, without coming over all funky. He was their early champion. Diamond Jim Bundy – now there was a hell of a man. Business man, financier, philanthropist (and it has to be said, glutton). He loved jewels, once loved the great Lillian Russell, too, but the instance the twins battered their eyelids at him, he loved them as well. He was in his last years then, but he regaled them with tales of how he once owned the first automobile in New York City, bragged about the huge meals that made him legendary and of his adoration of Miss Russell. He showered her sister, in particular, with gifts; from diamond rings to a Rolls Royce, presented in ribbons and bows. They were mere slips of in those days, not fully adults, having just turned twenty. But they played to his vanities and, boy, did they stir him up – they knew which side of the bread to butter. He was their sugar daddy and wanted nothing in return apart from their company.

As for their act, they were fairly chaste. They didn’t flaunt themselves on stage like the outrageous Josephine B and her ilk – no siree. They left it all up to the imagination of their audience. She knew that a wink with a few come hither posturings and beckonings could work magic on the male gender. And as for her sister, well, she was a little more provocative – but nothing tasteless, that’s for sure. No doubt the green genie would arise in the female dates out in the audience. But the menfolk adored them. They were a class act – nothing too tawdry. That was the way to win affection. Keep ’em guessing

One of the many aspects of Mr Selfridge I savoured was the introduction of actual historical figures into the show. There was Serge de Bolotoff, the Russian Prince. Selfridge was not happy when his precious daughter, Rosalie, fell in love with this chancer. Even if he was an aviation pioneer, he was also a notorious scamp. It was all sure to end in scandal and tears – and more than likely some monetary loss for her Pa. Edward VII visited his department store, as did Louis Blériot – it was all great publicity. Antarctic explorer Shackleton had a cameo and Anna Pavlova graced the first series with her presence, taking refreshments in the store’s tea room. Rose was her hostess who, by this stage, knew of the secret premises hubby kept in the city for his dalliances. For Selfridge these icons of his age, coming to his premises, was a masterstroke. Having the famous ballerina sip tea there, for instance, why, the papers were full of it for days. Later, in the same season, came Arthur Conan Doyle, at this stage of his life deeply into seances and talking with the dead. Mack Sennett visited the retailers, as well, in Season 2. In the episodes of the fourth and final offerings we find the great shopping magnate ageing and in danger of losing control of his empire, due to his extravagant ways. Rose was long gone and he was again being seduced by other temptresses.

In the Big Apple she often wondered, usually during her battles to prevent herself being submerged in the funk, if her life may have been easier if she had not been so keen to throw money around on the gambling tables of Europe. Sometimes it was from her own funds, not always being somebody else’s dosh. Those casinos and gambling clubs had been so much fun – but she could now do with some of what she frittered away, with so much panache and so little thought to the future, back in that era.

An element of the retail tycoon’s lifestyle was getting out of hand towards the end too. It was Selfridge’s own penchant for gambling. The London clubs had a hold over him too and gleefully fleeced him of his money. Just like that old woman sitting in a NYC apartment, decades into the future, he would be also adversely affected by the Wall Street Crash; it ending the good times for both. For Selfridge a new era was dawning, the shop’s colossal profits were in the past and now it was so wildly irresponsible of him to toss away his hard earned on the roll of a dice or fall of a card. He lived to a ripe old age – but he also died in penury.

Rózsika recalled that Diamond Jim, as well as showing them a fabulous time, frequently took them to the track, encouraging her and her twin to bet on the ponies. Of course he picked the horses and they were invariably, as well as mysteriously, first past the post. On their tours for Zeigfield and whilst on the continent, their various beaux would always provide the wherewithal to have a flutter. The great casinos of Biarritz and the Riviera became their domain. She recalled a frequent companion, back then, by the name of David. He liked a good time and had a habit of bobbing up wherever they were. They became fond of him for a while. She knew there was much speculation in their circle as to whether it was all just coincidental – or was he, in fact, bedding one or the other, or both. For her part, she knew his minders never allowed him too much leeway for things to get ‘serious’, but she couldn’t vouch for her sister. She had her suspicions but kept stum. She was most taken back when, fifteen years down the track, his retinue failed to keep him away from a certain Mrs Wallis Simpson.

There were others – of course there were others. King Alfonso of Spain was always hanging around as if he didn’t have a country to rule. She remembers such gay fun with the Aga Khan and Prince Esterhazy of Hungary. She recalled the night when Janka took all comers for around half a mil – in today’s money, mind you, at chermin de fer. That was the best night, but they splurged and it was soon gone. She had a couple of great evenings at the tables too, surrounded by all the glitterati – a pretty vacuous lot, she now realises, in hindsight. They were so keen to help her spend her winnings too. Well, a girl had to be popular. But her sister had the bug worse than she did and once Harry came on the scene, the rot really started to set in.

When the two look alike sisters swept into Season 4 of ‘Mr S’ I thought that these good times gals were entirely fictional. I’d never heard of them, this pair of almost identical twins – Jenny and Rosie. But, as is usual these days with such matters, I was on-line and came across an old sepia image of a pair of showgirls and thought nothing of it until I espied the appellation underneath – ‘The Dolly Sisters’. As it turned out, from my later reading of other info in the ether on the sisters, the series followed historical fact pretty closely. Harry Selfridge – yes, everyone called him Harry – was smitten. They were marvellous creatures, these girls. They were the epitome of Roaring Twenties flappers – and so willful, so glossy. They were flirtatious; always teasing of what could, just might, happen if he wooed hard enough – but he was never able to quite grasp the nettle and push the point for fear of losing them. Or losing Jenny. She was the one. She was the one he had his eye on. She was the one, he figured, most likely to fall to his charms; his persistence; his money. But deep down he knew he was just another old man throwing away his ever decreasing resources on them, providing the means to keep the girls in the lifestyle they didn’t want to let go of. And nor did he. But at 69, though, Harry was well past it. He soon discovered he was in no physical condition to keep up. But the poor guy was in love and Jenny, the habitual gambler of other people’s wealth, had to be satisfied.

Selfridge’s owner could often be found sitting behind Jenny (in the tele series played by Zoe Richards – Emma Hamilton was Rosie), peeling off notes in large amounts each time she ran out. He bankrolled her for a decade or more, covered her in expensive jewelry and she had carte blanche in the London store. Some have even speculated it was Jenny Dolly, more than anyone else, who ruined it all for him. But despite all his largesse; despite all his entreaties; she refused to wed him.

From the tele-series Mr Selfridge’ – the Dolly Sisters

Back then, though, Jenny’s survivor, sitting in a ray of sunshine as the dust motes rose in her NYC apartment, reflected she would have had Harry in a heartbeat. Maybe she could have influenced the ultimate outcome. After all, she was capable of restraining her own extravagance – or that’s how she remembered it. But then there was Irving. He became the real love of her life. How she misses him so terribly now. Just when she thought the zing was disappearing, along he came and reinstated all her old zest for life in the fast lane. Admittedly, she’d been to the altar twice before – but those marriages hardly appeared on her radar anymore. Those men were mere triflings compared to Irving. She was initially drawn to him because, like Harry, he was a retail baron, owning a department store in Chicago. It was he who took her away from Jenny to his home in Illinois. Eventually she found her quieter life, a little way out of the Windy City, suited her.

She’d had her near death experience in ’28, spending a great deal of time in hospital until recovery. At one stage they were packing ice around her to keep her going, so high was her fever. Appendicitis it was – a terrible, terrible time for her. She knew she’d never return to the stage after that. And around that time she also received word that her sister’s behaviour was becoming more and more erratic. Jenny had adopted two homeless orphans from Budapest, but really her sister was in no condition to adequately look after them. Rosie guessed their sole purpose was to keep her company – that she was incredibly lonely. The ’29 crash hit her twin hard, then, on top of it all, she got herself into trouble with the French authorities over some jewelry. Rosie felt great remorse over her own actions, or lack of them, on behalf of her sister. She was so smitten with Irving, so comfortable in her own existence and still not entirely well, so she didn’t speed to the rescue. She was too blinkered to see how Jenny was struggling. Then the silly girl became mixed up with that gangster fellow. He was seven years younger and saw Jen as a ticket to something or other. Her unsettled sister should have known better. The ravages of time were catching up with Jen, with some assistance. Her face, her once beautiful face! It was that that took Jenny to the brink more than any other factor Rosie, looking back, assumed. The losing of her looks. It was enough that she was getting old – but it must have been so tough to do so with a shredded face from that shocking accident. That idiot man was driving too fast. Rosie shook with sobs over her guilt – but decided she had better set to and pull herself together or the funk would settle back in and she’d be down in the abyss for days. She shouldn’t think of her sister’s final days, but as the light dimmed in her abode, it was difficult not to. It was that invitation, or lack of it, that was the final nail in the coffin for Jenny. That long ago holiday weekend, with war looming, back in ’41, Jenny should have been with her and Irving. She could picture her sister waiting and waiting to be invited across to them in the Mid-west, but she waited in vain. Rosie never sent it. But then they had other matters on their mind. Irving’s business was starting to appear if it would go the same way as Harry’s, so just looking at that face would be so hard to take at a time when Rosie needed to be carefree and loving for her man. Oh dear! Oh dear! When it was obvious Rosie had now disowned her dear Jenny took the sash from her dressing gown and hung herself in her own living room. Her poor Janka. Her poor, poor Jenny……

Rosie always attributed her attacks of the funk to her sister’s unimaginable demise on that day as another great conflict loomed. Irving died in 1943 of a heart attack – he was only 53. They were together for only eleven years. After that Rosie sank from public view. She devoted her remaining years to her charitable work, mainly to do with the children of her native land. She too, when she was at her wit’s end due to the funk, attempted suicide, but she lived on till 1970 when she passed, aged 77. Of course the television series in which, for a while, she was a character, was still decades ahead. But she did live to see the Dolly Sisters come to the big screen in an eponymous 1945 movie. The soldiers’ sweetheart, Betty Grable played her sister, June Haver was Rosie. It played out as a musical comedy and was quite forgettable.

The old lady collected up her memories on this day as the sun was about to set on her own existence. Razzle dazzle, she ruminated, can only count for so much. Now she was at last aligned with her sister’s dark thoughts as she battled away against the funk in her own living quarters. She’d beaten them off each time though. They didn’t completely overwhelm her. But the thoughts of Harry, of Irving and the good she would still do will keep her going for a little while yet. Good thoughts and doing good. If it were only so simple. Jenny often said, ‘Pinch me, I’m dreaming.’ during those good times when they were the toast of New York, London and Paris. Maybe that was all it was – just a dream.

Rosie and Irving

YouTube trailer for ‘Mr Selfridge =