Monthly Archives: March 2018

And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson

I, like Simone H in ‘Echo of the Boomers01’, wonder what did come first for me, the movie or the song? It was so long ago – but then again, it could have been yesterday, laying eyes for the first time on Mrs Robinson, up there on the screen, her stockinged leg inducing the young man she was about to seduce. I suspect she came to me first via Simon & Garfunkel too. Hollywood movies, back then, took a while to get released here in Oz in any case, but I recall it was the movie that changed my perception of film, it pointed me in the direction of my future viewing habits. ‘The Graduate’ as well as, later on,. Woody’s ‘Annie Hall’ were, to me, far more real than the pap I’d been used to up until then. They’re both movies I’ve returned to over the years and yet they still seem so fresh. By ‘The Graduate’s’ appearance in 1967 Tinsel City had moved away from the restrictiveness of the Hays Code, giving with this release the world an early taste of the fantasy that is the older woman, the cougar if you like. So, my my, ‘The Graduate’ has turned 50. Anne Bancroft is now gone, Dustin Hoffman has had his star tarnished and the gorgeous Katharine Ross is now 76.

By the time this film came around Ms Bancroft’s best days were behind her. It seemed to me her remaining beauty was a hard one – but it was beauty nonetheless. Benjamin Braddock was no match for the alcohol sodden temptress. She was also quite something for my younger self up there on that giant screen. To me daughter Elaine (Ross) was no match as the object of one’s lust. I doubt, though, if I ever get to San Francisco one day, that I’d go on The Graduate Walking Tour of Berkeley. I’m enamoured of the movie, yes, but not that enamoured.

So, when ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ came along and Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame worked her wiles on an only too willing Peter Turner (Jamie Bell – who does a little reprising of Billy Elliot), it took me back to Mrs Robinson and ‘The Graduate’. Grahame, an Oscar winning 1950’s actress, come the seventies had fallen on harder times. She was touring Britain with a two-bit company giving what glamour she still possessed to the great English unwashed. And although she was semi-washed out herself, there was still beauty to be had, of a softer ilk in this film than Mrs Robinson’s. She had a beauty that was still capable of lighting up the footlights in a timeless way, as has Ms Bening. Peter Turner, a real Liverpool born actor, writer and director, has recounted his memory of his affair with the star of silver screen in a memoir. Director Peter McGuigan has done the rest.

It was an affair that was never going to last, but not because of the age difference. Peter gets a taste of some of her faded Hollywood glamour when he visits her in the US to meet her family, but soon Gloria has more to worry about than keeping a younger lover on the leash.

The star of this tale is of course the present day actress who is anything but faded. It’s a stellar performance, one I would have thought worthy of an Oscar nod. It’s brave, too, as she does not shy away from the lines of age nor indeed sagging breasts. The story had me absorbed from go to whoa.

Reviews have been mixed but I loved it. It will never outshine ‘The Graduate’, but then what could? I’m no longer that callow youth transfixed by Mrs Robinson. Now I am in my dotage but still transfixed by women of a certain age; transfixed by Annette Bening’s Gloria Grahame.

Simmone Howell’s article –

Trailer for ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ –


Stephanie G

Melancholia. It’s not something I suffer from as a rule. But I had it that last morning in Sydney. And I really had no strong notion as to why. As I set out from my hotel I was flat as. The melancholia shouldn’t have been there. I’d had a marvellous time in Sydney. And at the same time I was also relishing getting back to our abode by the river in Hobs and catching up, after a week away, with my lovely lady. She’d been working assiduously to improve the décor of our little house and I was keen to get back and see the results. I should have been far more buoyant, but there it was, a malaise had come over me. Was it because summer was drawing to an end? That usually got to me once upon a time – but not during my retirement years. The skies over Harbour City were dank and gloomy for the only time during the visit. Perhaps that was it? Maybe it was because I had been anticipating this sojourn for a fair time and now it was drawing to an end. I couldn’t see it as all expectations had been met. It was a trip made partly in memory of a mate who had always planned to accompany me this particular time. I miss him. Could that be the source? Whatever the cause, I needed a lift in spirits before I headed home that afternoon.

The Rocks Market was my destination as I hopped on the train at the Museum Station, heading for Circular Quay. When I arrived the stallholders were still setting up so I had a bit of time to kill. I just wandered aimlessly around, pointing my camera here and there – something that usually has a positive effect on me, but not this time. It all felt somewhat desultory.

I like buying artisan greeting cards at markets, particularly ones created from the artworks or photography of those selling them. I’d also, during my days there been to the Manly and Paddington Markets as well, but the pickings at those outlets were slim. I did a preliminary circuit once back at this market and I could already feel myself lightening up. Now this was more like it.

I noticed her work offerings very early on in my rambling around the stalls and I was immediately back after I had completed my initial looksee. Her selling space was covered in cards featuring her quirky pen and water colour illustrations. I knew two beloved granddaughters who would especially appreciate them and I was soon absorbed in choosing.

And the first thing I noticed about Stephanie, their talented creator, was a gloriously welcoming smile as I handed over my selection for purchasing. I placed her vintage as being around late twenties and although I am notoriously bad with assessing the age of the opposite gender, I later discovered I was around about the mark. But no matter her years on the planet, she was radiant and as it turned out, she was up for a chat. I let her know I was from Hobart and that was a springboard for our conversation. She was familiar with my city, had visited Mona and as it happened, her parents had recently moved to somewhere around its outskirts. She was looking forward to visiting them in the little city under kunanyi. The English born beauty then confided that this was the first time in a while she’d been able to be present at the market as she had only just recently returned from the land of her birth. From there she explained she had in tow with her somebody very dear to introduce a life Down Under to. I sensed she was very excited about this prospect as her eyes were sparkling with joy. By now she had this old fella mesmerised in the best way possible.

But, sadly, I became aware, after five or ten minutes, that I’d already taken up too much of her time as others were now similarly engrossed in her wares. I had to force myself to say farewell and be on my way. Before I did so, though, she gave me her card and requested that I contact her with any suggestions I may have about how to spend one’s time in Hobart. In doing so I was graced with another beaming smile. I was cured. I was back to glass half full, the spring had returned to my step, I looking forward to, on my return to Tassie, fulfilling the task she had set me

Like all of the random people met during my travels it is unlikely our paths will cross again although, hopefully, that visit will not be my last to the Rocks Market, so you never know. I will remember the vivaciousness and charm of Stephanie Gray who, during our conversation, told me how she had her start in her artistic endeavours, a story she also told for the pages of the Daily Telegraph a little further down the track. Seems it all commenced by her designing a set of playing cards for her parents. Now that, in my view, has expanded into something quite special. Of course, once back in my abode by the river, I had taken to the ether to discover more about this person who lifted the gloom for me that day.

Her loveliness lit up the remaining hours till my flight and I returned to my very own vivacious and gorgeous lady without a blue feeling in the world. So thank you to Stephanie. There must be something in the name.

Stephanie’s website =

Daily Telegraph article =

Alone Again, Unnaturally

I am alone in my hotel room in Sydney. The day lies ahead and I know I’ll enjoy it very much, but I also know the joy will be tempered because she’s not with me. She adds to the lustre. Yep, it’s not ideal and sometimes, when I’m on my tod, I also get those feelings Wendy had about not leaving her hotel. But I do and I’m always glad I did. At least I’ll have something to report back when the nightly phone call goes south. It’s perfectly understandable. There are reasons such as work and family commitments, as well as climatic factors, that preclude her from sharing some of my travels. I just adore it, though, when she can.

There was a year I lost my mojo completely. She, for various reasons, wasn’t free to get away at all and I, always craving her company, thought ‘Bugger it, Hobs has plenty to offer year round so I’ll just stay put. At least I’ll save some dough.’ I did, but eventually my mojo came back and I regretted being so silly.

Being ‘alone again, unnaturally’ usually just means sojourns to the north or across to Melbourne – and now Sydney. Over the years I’ve managed to have interesting little adventures. I’ve had them this time too, here in Harbour City, which I daresay I will write up on my return, fodder for my scribblings.

They are very mini compared to Ms Squires’ encounters in Paris with drag queens, the Rajasthan wedding or the Osaka tour guide, but, nonetheless, there always seems to be something that lobs up unexpectantly to remove some of the nagging aloneness of being away from she who makes my life complete.

In recent times my attention has been drawn to Singapore where a combination of family and friends have reported that they had a magic time. They also reckoned I’d cope quite well on my own. But really that would start getting up there into Squires’ territory. Will I challenge myself to go that one step further in being ‘alone again, naturally’ on foreign soil? I’ll give it some serious bath time rumination.

Wendy Squires’ column =

Robert and Greg

Grant and I – Robert Forster    Tex – Tex Perkins

They fronted two of my favourite Aussie bands. They are two legendary outfits – even if, with one in particular, the legend outweighs the legacy. Their bands are not top rung – never came within close proximity to the international sales of, say, AC/DC, INXS, Little River Band, Crowded House and certainly never had the following of Cold Chisel or the Oils. They weren’t perhaps even second tier, but the Go-Betweens and the Cruel Sea are loved by thousands and their respective auras only enhance as the decades pass. And, as to be expected, what you see on stage is what you get reflected in the style of the two books. ‘Grant and Me’ is written by the bombastic, eccentric and cross-dressing co-lead of the band Brisbane City Council, appropriately, named a bridge after. Call it somewhat high-brow if you will. Tex Perkins – only his mum calls him Greg – is the other author, assisted by acclaimed journalist Stuart Coupe. He gets his story sufficiently down there and dirty. Call it low brow.

Forster makes the Go-Betweens sound greater than the sum of the whole. In their first incarnation they were, at best, just staying one step ahead of struggle-town, even succumbing to the enormity of the task on occasions. They never really made it then – just had glimpses of what could be if they could hold their shit together. They rarely did for an extended period. They were the real deal, but the cards they were dealt always weren’t quite the full hand. Commercial success, with the exception of only one certifiable hit (‘The Streets of Your Town’) didn’t really come their way then. The hard graft of paying their dues eventually caught up with them as, in Fleetwood Mac style, relationships tore the group asunder in the end.

Along with that other unique outfit, the Saints, the Go-Betweens were a product of Joh’s Brisbane – Hicksville in other words. Both bands attempted to take their music to the world with shambolic optimism, only to return to Oz with their tail between their legs. Both collapsed in the after-story. Forster’s band did reform around the turn of the millennium, but things were still strained between the personnel, even if their approach was far more professional. They had some success and the future again seemed full of potential, but all that was snuffed out with Grant McClennan’s untimely passing in 2006. Forster struggles on as a solo act and wit about town, still, no doubt, a legend in his own lunchbox. I like the man and I buy his quality albums, but for all the gilding of the lily, the story of that terrific band is one of what might have been. But still their songs were quite sublime – and such treasures as ‘Cattle and Cane’, ‘Lee Remick’ (Forster meets her), ‘Quiet Heart’ and my favourite, ‘Dive For Your Memory’ are timeless.

And, in a lovely segue, Tex Perkins writes of seeing Forster and his mates performing at the Exchange Hotel, Fortitude Valley when he was a young buck, back in ’81. Tex is pure rock’n’roll; perhaps our answer to Keith Richards. He’s had a life, but has never aspired to the glory, unlike Forster – or that’s how he would have us believe it. He is perhaps better known these days for presenting an authentic Johnny Cash tribute to the punters all around Oz. But he is, as well as was, so much more. I’ve seen his impersonation. It’s great and he is touring the land again as I write with it. Tex, living up to his name, has never hid his love of country music, despite fronting some of the best pub-rock bands Australia has produced. He writes candidly of his days with Tex, Don and Charlie, the Dark Horses, the Beasts of Bourbon (a new album on the way) and the one that I’m enamoured of, the Cruel Sea. We even had his take on the supposed piss-take that was the Ladyboyz.

My entry into the joys of Tex came in reverse fashion – with the Cash show, then a duet he did on RocKwiz with Clare Bowditch, ‘Fairytale of New York’, that made me sit up and take notice. Then I discovered the Cruel Sea and I was sold on him. As you would expect, after years in the industry, Perkins tells some great yarns, especially about close encounters with rock royalty that didn’t quite go to plan – Mick J, PJ Proby, Kurt Cobain etc. Tex is as much about the swagger as anything else and that is the way in which this very readable tome is composed.

Along with Forster, he has earnt his place in the local rock pantheon, but unlike the former, I bet he couldn’t really give a dam – or so he would have us believe.

And as to which I relished the most? Well, Tex wins hands down. Telling it how it was will always win hands down.

My City

It was a random meeting in another city. She was beautiful. A card was exchanged with a request. To tell about my city for, you see, she was expecting to visit in the near future. So this is for that beautiful lady, for you as well, for anybody and everyone.

Of course I love my city. In my eyes it is perfect in every way, especially its size. From my abode by the river, on the outskirts, I can be in the city centre in about twenty minutes and out to the other side in around thirty.

I love its weather. The seasons are distinct, not blurred and from its CBD it is possible to see snow atop kunanyi at any time of year. What other capital can give one that?

I love the harbour or, as we say, the river. I love going to a place with a view across it, perhaps Wrest Point. There I can sit up in the Sportsman’s Bar, by its vast windows, whilst my lovely lady is having an occasional little flutter. With book or newspaper in hand I am totally at bliss, supping on an ale, as well as checking out the ever-changing aspect across the river. Further upstream, from our much smaller windows at home we can look across the same but very different river. It’s magic, a magnet for my eyes.

I love the vibrancy of my city’s arts scene. Mona has given it an amazing lift and in itself is amazing. But the TMAG (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) is worth your attention as well. There are smaller galleries dotted about Salamanca and I particularly relish exhibitions at the Long Gallery in the arts centre there. I am a regular at MAC, the Moonah Arts Centre too. I know the local writing and music scene are on a roll as well.

And there are restaurants to love. I’ve read the talk of the town, at the moment, are the following – Dier Maker (123 Collins), Franklin (30 Argyle) and Etties (130 Elizabeth). Leigh and I are not talk of the town type of people, but we have our own favourites – the Roaring Grill (301 Elizabeth), the Italian Pantry (131-133 Murray St ) and Urban Greek (103 Murray). On the outskirts the Agrarian Kitchen (11A The Avenue, New Norfolk) recently received 4.5 stars from the Australian’s respected critic John Lethlean. In the same neck of the woods we delight in the Patchwork Cafe (15 George) at the Willow Court Complex. Check out the antique emporiums whilst you are in New Norfolk – they are fascinating. We also frequent 12 Stones at Pontville for special occasions. Immediately across the river from our home is the Stefano Lubiana Osteria for special wines and tucker, as well as spectacular views. If hamburgers are the go, we head to Burgerhaus in North Hobart (364A Elizabeth).

Love coffee? My lovely lady and I are happy enough with Coffee Club, Banjo’s and Hudsons, but here’s the hype. The best in the city, reportedly, has always been Villino (30 Criterion), but Pilgrim (48 Argyle) and Yellow Bernard (1/109 Collins) are snapping at its heels. If in Moonah, step into the Magnolia Cafe, on the main drag (73), for something a little different.

I love my city’s markets. Of course the Saturday one at Salamanca is the jewel in the crown, but I think there is an even better vibe at Sunday’s Farmgate in the CBD. If you’re in Richmond of a Saturday, go to its delightful village variety and for something completely rustic there’s Collinsvale, held monthly. Beautiful drive up behind kunanyi to it too. The Saturday High Street Market at New Norfolk is worth a visit as well.

Do you love just rambling around? I do too. Salamanca, Battery Point and dockside are ideal. At the latter slip into the Brooke Street Pier. It floats. The IXLside, opposite Salamanca and in the old disreputable part of town once called Wapping, is great for browsing. The Drunken Admiral with its famous seafood meals (17/19 Hunter) can be found here and if the nation’s oldest pub, the Hope and Anchor (65 Macquarie) is open, go in, have a bevy by all means, but be sure to check out upstairs. Daytrips to the Tasman Peninsula, detouring to the Sorell Berry Farm for some fruit picking in season, are popular. Take the Southern Expressway, too, up over Vince’s Saddle to the Huon gems of Cygnet and Franklin. Go the other way to Kettering and catch the ferry across to Bruny Island. It has oysters, cheese and it’s own brewery. What more could you want? Scenery? That’s stunning on the island too. Richmond is close by to Hobs and the trip in from Cambridge has multiple stopping off places for fine wine or some repast. Back in town, one of my favourite hang-outs is the State Cinema complex in North Hobart for mainstream and art house flicks, as well as its cafe and bookshop. Other esteemed retailers of the printed word are Fullers (131 Collins St) and the Hobart Bookshop in Salamanca. A great shop is Red Parka (22 Criterion) for something quite unique and across the road is Cool Wines (Shop 8, MidCity Arcade) boasting eclectic wines and beers.

If wine is indeed the go for you, around the outskirts are numerous cellar doors. Our fav is Puddle Duck (992 Richmond Rd ). A tour of the historic Cascade Brewery is very interesting, with Hobs also gaining a reputation for its craft brewers. We visit Shambles, 222 Elizabeth St, between the city and NoHo (North Hobart).

For history buffs the Female Factory is a must and then there are the festivals – the Taste of Tasmania around the new year, the amazing Dark MoFo at the height of winter and the biannual Wooden Boats.

So come to my city of Hobart, compact and small. It can no longer boast a rush minute rather than a rush hour, but the pace of life is certainly a tad slower than in the big boys on the island to the north. I am lucky enough to partake of some of the world’s freshest air and purest water each and every day as well. And our wine, beer and whiskey are top notch. I love it. You will too

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

She didn’t like it. I was taken aback. I hadn’t been quite sure if ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ was given to me by her as a gift or as a loan of one she had very much enjoyed. I love reading what my gorgeous writerly daughter passes on – which is usually of the YA genre. She does have, I must admit, a strong instinct for what I like. But I have requested her to only pass on the tomes she’s relished. So, when I did ask the question of her as to whether she had read it and had given it a high ratting, in reply I received back an emphatic yes to the first and then an equally emphatic no to the second. She said she had a complete lack of connection with it. Needless to say I loved it. Does my daughter know my tastes so intimately that, even with an offering she is less than enamored with, she can see in it something that would appeal to me? I do mightily treasure Katie’s gift in this regard.

I’ll concede the story took a little getting into. But once it grabbed me, I was utterly engaged in Eleanor’s transformation from a disfigured ugly duckling of a social outcast to a swan.

Eleanor initially reminded me of Sofia Helin’s portrayal of the socially inept, but extremely competent, Saga Norén from the original Scandinavian version of ‘The Bridge’, now back on our television sets for a fourth season. Eleanor has a repetitive job in an accountancy firm. She can barely relate to her fellow drones; they are dismissive and just a tad wary of her. In return she doesn’t mince words; doesn’t pull any punches on the few occasions she is called on to give an opinion.

Her boss, as it turns out, sees something in her, as does a nerdy computer guy called to her rescue when the machine she is using misbehaves. The former promotes her, the latter takes her to lunch. Out and about the unlikely couple are first responders to a medical emergency, thus beginning Eleanor’s journey to what will hopefully be a much better place for her. But there is much angst and many horrible memories to let go of once this process commences. And can she break free of her addiction to cheap vodka? At one stage the narrative threatens to become a tale of stalking, such is her irrational attraction to an unpleasant musician in search of super stardom. But her story, thankfully, veers away from that into something far more interesting. And apart from the guitar plucker, there are no real baddies in this.

Since the novel is already a film in production, possibly to star Reese Witherspoon, I am not the only one to fall in love with Eleanor O. In the end we find out all is not as it seems, but that doesn’t take away from a thoroughly enticing effort on the part of author Gail Honeyman.

So darling Kate, if you are holding more tomes akin to this one, even though you haven’t particularly liked them, but something tells you your ever-loving father may, don’t hold back.

Gail Honeyman; ‘I didn’t want Eleanor Oliphant to be portrayed as a victim’ =


Sydney – A Tale of Two Mates

He did, in totally non-salacious fashion, warn me; Chris did. But I didn’t expect it to be so in your face. Specifically, in my face, literally.

Chris was mates with my lovely Leigh before I came on the scene. Chris built houses, marvellous houses on the sides of mountains and in the Tassie bush. Chris is very clever, both with his hands and with his mind.

Our paths continued to cross at intervals, over the years, since those early days of my relationship with my wonderful partner-in-life. Chris has put down roots in various places, away from us, since then, only to uproot and move somewhere else. But these days he’s a cat/house sitter up and down the East Coast of Oz. On a recent visit to our abode by the river, in Hobs, he invited me to spend some time with him during his commitment in Sydney over the summer of ’18 – to stay a few days at Coogee by the sea.

So I rocked up to a small, but stunning, 1.8 million dollars worth of luxury pad there that he’s responsible for, caught a whiff of briny and settled in. After a while, in response to a query as to what I’d fancy doing, I replied a visit to a mecca of hedonism would be the bees’ knees. In my 66 years I have never had the pleasure of experiencing that mecca – Bondi Beach.

He did warn me that, although he himself was no great fan of that iconic strand of sand, there may be some eye-brow raising sights to be had in the environs of Bondi as far as the clothing choices were concerned, or lack thereof, from some libertine-like young ladies. Now that wouldn’t faze me, would it? After all my experiences of the French Riviera and local hot spots Noosa and Byron Bay in my lifetime, I’m a man of the world aren’t I? A parade of comely youthful flesh wouldn’t be a hassle, surely.

Now, contrary to Chris, I was just so impressed by the beach in question, scenically. Until the completion of our bus trip there the Sydney skies had been gloomy. But as soon as we alighted from our conveyance the sum broke forth and the golden sands were soon covered by an array of hedonists disporting themselves in supine fashion, or parading up and down. We soon joined the latter group, although I, at my age, have lost the ability to disport very much at all. I had my camera at the ready, but I was ultra-conservative in terms of where I chose to snap so as not to cause even the slightest hint of impropriety towards the sunworshippers. But on that Monday they, too, were being very conservative. There was nothing to get even the most prudish of onlooker excited. To me it didn’t matter a jot. I loved being there.

After our perambulations to both ends of Bondi we took to the local retail outlets. They were, with a couple of exceptions, nothing exceptional – generally dreary and predictable.

We then took the bus back up the hill where Chris’ intention was to do some grocery shopping at the Junction. He was quite excited about showing me Aldi and that was a revelation. Why haven’t we got it on our fair isle to give the big boys a run for their money? I’d doubt I’d ever go back to Woolies or Coles. And the world is a small place. We lined up behind an attractive woman and as there was a bit of a queue, we took to chatting with her. And would you believe it? Turns out she was Burnie born and bred. By this stage I had recovered from a sighting, in more ways than one, of the over-exposed skin Chis had originally cautioned me about. There was little of it where I expected it to be, but the ride from Bondi to Bondi Junction was a different matter.

The No.333, grinding its way up the incline, was extremely crowded, perhaps even dangerously so as the driver refused to take on passengers after we had left the shoreline terminus. Chris and I were quickly jostled apart and I was thinking I’d be standing the entire journey until a gorgeous Asian girl offered up her seat. I didn’t refuse. The seat proffered to me was quite low to the floor. That fact created the serious issue that was about to befall me. No sooner had I accepted it than the driver was yelling for all those upright to move towards the back of the vehicle. Shuffling followed, thus commencing my unsettling confrontation with a pair of sun-kissed bum cheeks.

She came towards me in reverse. The slim figure was attired entirely in denim blue. On her top was a singlet stretched over small shapely bosoms, but it was the bottom half that was coming increasingly closer to my face. This part of her shapely contours was wearing cut-off shorts – very, very cut-off denim shorts. Wholly the lower half of her tanned posterior was fully exposed and was reversing in a direct line to me. She was tall, with golden brown pins right up to her armpits it seemed. I feared a collision between that attractive, but way too close, part of her lower anatomy and my equally exposed face. I had no where to go as she manoeuvred ever closer and realistically, I had no where else to look except at that comely rear end an inch from my probiscus. Oh dear! Oh dear! Out of the corner of my eyes I could see a couple of fellow male passengers with bemused grins on their faces, obviously transfixed by my predicament, just waiting to see what the outcome would be. One possibility could be that any lurch by the bus and my nose would be embedded. Thankfully that never occurred and by the time the 333 had breasted the hill the crowding diminished and my non-cognizant tormentor at last removed her quite mesmerising buns away from any danger of direct contact. But it was a closely run thing.

Mate Chris was completely unaware of my situation when I related the tale to him later. But he recalled her and had had a view of the opposite side of the beauty and reckoned she was an out and out stunner. I was totally discombobulated by the whole affair. For poor me it was anything but sexy.

So, from a scantily clad maiden, let’s move on to those wearing no clothing at all. Chris did a great job showing me the sights of Sydney. I enjoyed visits to Paddy’s and Manly Market in his company. We had a tasty repast at the ever interesting Fish Markets. We wandered China Town and the Art Gallery of NSW impressed with a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition. And then we ferried to Watsons Bay.

It was a delightful journey out to the quiet hamlet nestled under South Head, home of the famous Doyle’s Seafood Restaurant. We had fish’n’chips at one of its various outlets. But this treat came after our hike up to the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour. Now my friend had another warning. We would be passing by a nudist beach. After the Bondi incident I was very wary of what could befall me in doing so.

It was a delightful amble. I thoroughly enjoyed it and passing by Lady Jane Beach, yes, I espied a naked male wading around in the water. On the return journey the view of this little strip of sand was more revealing (hum). There was a dozen or so souls without a stitch covering their bits, but the aspect that shocked me was on the ledge immediately above them, almost within touching distance from all the nakedness. Squatting on the narrow precipice were a handful of men, not unclad at all, having an up close and personal gawp at the naturalists. I was appalled at this, but should I be surprised? At least there wasn’t a recording device to be seen.

It was terrific being at Chris’ temporary digs, but now it was time to move on. I had three more nights to put in at the Travelodge, Wentworth Avenue, in the city.

I was pacing. I found myself pacing on the platform. Clearly I was nervous. I only pace when I’m nervous. Yes, I had, for me, a complicated train trip to get right, but that wasn’t the reason. It was that I hadn’t seen Anthony for, I guess, close to three decades. Old uni buddies, we were being bought together in memory of another dear mutual mate. Just before Nev’s passing he’d gone to Sydney and reconnected with the third member of our close campus threesome when he was up there for drug treatment. But Neville H and I had always planned to venture north together. That, obviously, was now impossible, but I needed to do it because, well, you just never know. So I was nervous. At the end of this journey Anthony would be waiting for me.

I met him after alighting from the train at Pymble, his stomping ground. He’d changed. Of course he had, physically. But I had very much done so as well. But that was only the externals. I soon realised, as we began chatting, that the inner AJ was still very much present. My nerves dissipated as he drove me on a tour of the Northern Beaches – fresh and marvellous territory for me. We ended up at the Newport Arms, overlooking Pittwater. It was a massive eatery/watering hole and here we raised a glass of Kosciusko Pale Ale to Nev and all the magic memories he’d provided for us.. Red wine would have been more appropriate as that was his favourite tipple, but the day was hot and we were in need of something more quenching. Soon I was at Anthony’s home, meeting his gorgeous daughters and wife. And it all felt very right to me as we reminisced and caught up on respective life journeys during the long hiatus. And I discovered my old pal is a dab hand at, from scratch, making chai and with Thai cooking. I’m hoping there’ll be plenty more comings together between the two of us through the years ahead.

Sydney now seems more accessible to me these days after my two recent visits. I can now zip around the transport system with my reliable Opal card. There was a bus trip to Paddington Market and a meander amidst the ace terraced housing there. I boarded the light rail to take me to a photographic exhibition at the National Maritime Museum and the ferry took me across the harbour to Manly. I revisited the delightful art gallery there, taking in a showcase for the senior art students of the area and also a remarkable solo range of watery works from Martine Emdur. I also was drawn in by the police mug-shots on display at the Museum of Sydney from the days of Squizzy Taylor and the razor gangs. They operated in the underbelly of the metropolis in the twenties.

I had chats with random other people, as well as my two hosts. There was a very loud, almost deafeningly voiced American who told me how he’d just been to my city and was ‘totally blown away’ – his words, not mine – by Mona. There was the lovely lady Chris and I met whilst we lunched in Manly who was making her first foray to Tassie and wanted advice on what to see and do. And then there were smiles from the unknowns that lit up my days in our nation’s first city. There was the friendly lass who took my coffee order at the Art Gallery of NSW and the young lady, rapt in her job, at Harry Hartog Books, Bondi Junction. And I loved returning to breakfast again this trip at the Joe Black Cafe, a few doors up from my hostelry. The cheeriness of the waiting staff there and their scrambled eggs always got the day off to a positive start.

But it was Chis and Anthony who made this trip the joy it was. My thanks go to the both of you.