Monthly Archives: May 2018

Two Days – Two State Visits

For a while, nothing. Then, all of a sudden, there was a plethora of enticing new movies airing at the State – in my eyes of course. So obviously my usual routine of a movie a week would have to be upped. I triaged these releases according to the amount of staying power they would have at the venue. ‘Chappaquiddick’ had the least number of screenings per day, so it was my obvious first choice.

This is an offering for my generation. When I was chatting to my beautiful savvy daughter about it, the strange word meant little to her. She’d vaguely heard of the small island off the eastern end of Martha’s Vineyard, that playground for the rich and famous, but had little notion of it’s significance for the career of the scion of the most notable American political family of the latter half of last century. On it an event occurred, on the same day that man first walked on the moon, that would similarly reverberate down through the decades. And questions remain unanswered. Was he or wasn’t he in a relationship with Mary Jo Kopechne? How hard did he try to save her? Just why did it take him so long to contact authorities? Mary Jo (Kate Mara) was a promising campaign operative still grieving the loss of Teddy Kennedy’s big brother Bobby. As a result of her losing her life that night, when Edward Kennedy drove off the bridge, plunging into a creek on the island, his quest to follow a brother into the White House was over. He served the nation well the following decades, but he could never make up for that deed.

Jason Clarke is quite convincing as the presidential hopeful and we have fine performances from Ed Helms and Bruce Dern in their roles, particularly the latter as father Joe. John Curran’s re-imaging is absorbing enough, but he gets it very wrong in one sequence. When the Democratic Party’s big guns gather to spin Kennedy out of his mess, the overly choreographed reactions to each of Teddy’s revelations, seemingly played for laughs, were so out of kilter as to be jarring. That lost it points for this viewer. After the Dallas assassination and Robert’s murder, Chappaquiddick marked the final death knell of Camelot continuing for the USA. What the big brothers promised, little bro threw away finally and forever.

And there’s a touch of ‘ Chappaquiddick’ in ‘Tully’ to which I accompanied my lovely lady the following day – as well as a hint of ‘The Shape of Water’. There’s a vast difference between the world of America’s political elite and that of Marlo (Charlize Theron) and her family. She, at movie’s start, has one on the way, but is already struggling with an autistic son and a put upon daughter. Hubby, a loving but somewhat disengaged character, is submerged by his work and tiredness. Marlo doesn’t get a break with her son struggling at school and her lack of energy. She can’t even manage to put decent food on the table. She’s definitely in need of a circuit breaker and along it comes, once a newborn is released from the womb. Her rich brother provides her with a night nanny (MacKenzie Davis) – something I didn’t know existed and who are evidently life-savers for well-to-do US mums. The nanny takes control of the situation as Marlo starts to get her life back.

This is an excellent offering, a tribute to writer Diablo Cody, director Jason Reitman and their lead actress in a role low on glamour but high on spunk.

As the relationship between Marlo and her night help, Tully, develops, an uneasy feeling emerges that something isn’t quite right. But when the saga takes a very unexpected turn, it still comes as a shock. What were the clues along the way? This is what Leigh and I chatted about as we drove home in the aftermath.

Theron is marvellous and I enjoyed Ron Livingston as the dad Drew. This is billed as a comedy and there is some dark humour, but it’s much, much more than that. See it if you can.

There are more movies to get to at the State in the weeks ahead before I go north. I’ve my fingers crossed I can manage to see them all. I am back there today.

Trailer for ‘Chappaquiddick’ =

Trailer for ‘Tully’ =

Extinctions – Josephine Wilson

Worthy. That’s the best description of Wilson’s novel. It was a worthy winner of last year’s Miles Franklin. It will never be looked back on as a great winner, but there’s no doubt of the author’s worthiness in turning a collection of words worth our while perusing. This tome, unlike many other winners of the prestigious award, had not been purchased but passed on to me. The words my writerly daughter used were, ‘You’ll enjoy this.’ She knows. I did.

There is a worthy trend in British film making at the moment, with many of their great thesps getting on in years, to produce for us in the older demographic. Usually they are fairly mushy, but nonetheless enjoyable for that. They are tales about falling in love again when that was felt something for earlier decades. Cite the ‘Marigold Hotel’ duo and the more recent ‘Hampstead’. There’s numerous others. Also, some ponder on the meaning of love itself at our age. ‘Extinctions’, the novel, constantly reminded me of, not an English speaking movie, but the Swedish gem, ‘A Man Called Ove’. A curmudgeon is softened by a female influence.

And Fred, in ‘Extinctions’, has Jan for this – maybe. A tragic event has bought them together, even though they’re next door neighbours. Fred’s life has been marked by misfortune – the passing of his wife; the accident causing his son to be in high-dependency care. As a result Fred has retreated to a retirement village, pulling his past behind him to wait out his own extinction. He is going to stew in his own juices, but Jan attempts to jolt him into action, to get him into gear. It is, without giving anything away, a transformed Fred we have at novel’s end – but transformed in a positive way?

Frank’s previous work was high in academia, in the field of concrete no less. Oh dear, we might all sigh, but there’s more to cement than meets the eye. Design fascinates the old fellow and in the past he has collected significant examples, some of which he cannot bear to part with as he downsizes. He drags them into his gated community.

Jan also has a tale to tell about her life. She can see what Fred could be and doesn’t give him an inch. His daughter has a back story as well. She’s affected by her origins and has temporarily escaped to England.

No, there’s little lovey-doveyness to be had here like those Brit cinema offerings. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t light – and perhaps, just perhaps, a few second chances as well.

David Desbois and GofT

For most of it I’ve had no idea about what’s going on; no idea whatsoever. I feel as if I need one of those family tree thingees, the sort some books provide to help out with tons of characters. I can’t get my head around those houses – House of Stark, House of Lanister, House of Baratheon and so it goes on. It puts me in a spin that I am so clueless. My lovely lady has no such trouble, but I don’t like to keep on asking for fear of spoiling it all for her with constant interruptions of, ‘What’s going on?’ So I’ve just sat back and let it wash over me – the whole glorious shebang with its, to me, mess of characters, hideous deeds, rapturous gore, triumphant and not so triumphant nudity and Machiavellian plotting. And I love it. I just love it. It’s the visuality, the immensity, the convolutedness. Is it the pinnacle of present day small screen viewing? After all, the experts now refer to these times as our golden age of television.

‘Game of Thrones’ is a marvel of the age, but it is only with this last released season that I have any notion of a handle on events as we close in on the final showdown. There is so much to relish – the dwarf, Emilia Clarke’s beauty, the stoicism of those guarding the Northern Wall, the White Walkers, those wildly gory weddings and the fact that, at any given moment, a major hero of goodness and chivalry can be hideously dispatched. I was talking to an acquaintance, just the other day, who has refused to watch any further seasons because they beheaded Sean Bean at the end of the first series. But anybody is considered fair game, as long as they don’t dispatch the dwarf. They wouldn’t, would they? Then there was the battle. You all know what I am referring to – the most amazingly choreographed clash that we have ever witnessed in our lounge rooms. The pile on pileness of it left me breathless. And then there are the dragons. I adore the dragons.

Canadian artist David Desbois has been caught up in it too. His regular job, appropriately, is in film and television. He plies his art part time, struggling to keep up with demand for his character work built around GofT and other iconic offerings of our popular culture. He, using coloured markers, creates collector card sets of the major stars of multiple series and franchises that may be readily viewed on deviantART. As well as his work on the behemoth that has emerged from George RR Martin’s sagas, he’s also come up with product from several other of my favourites, including my current obsession, ‘Dexter’, as well as ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Downton’. There’s also character studies for ‘Star Wars’, ‘Harry Potter’, the Marvel and DC comic super-hero gangs, together with much, much more. Check him out.

There will come an end, all too soon, for ‘Game of Thrones’ and no doubt I’ll feel the same way as I did when ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Mad Men’ and the other series I became fixated on over the last decade ceased. After each, for a while, there is a tiny hole in my life, leaving me to seek something to plug it with. But I fail to see, I really do, how GofT will ever be bettered.

David Desbois on deviantART =

Do You Really Need Another One?

I did try e-books, thanks to, as is the case of so much that is positive in my life, the urging and digital savviness of my beautiful writerly daughter. And now that we know, despite that format, real print and paper books will continue to be published, contrary to dire predictions of their demise. I have nothing against them; in fact I enjoyed flipping the pages of them on my phone but, for whatever reason, I didn’t get hooked. I reverted to my old-school ways. As with one’s mobile, a book is easily transportable. So too is a newspaper. My daughter happily exists in both worlds, her NoHo home filled to the brim with tomes, many of which she passes on to me. She has an acute sense of what her old man enjoys. Our treasured Tessa is a bookaholic and I am so chuffed to be able to buy books for her and her dear cousin Olivia up in Bridport. My lovely Leigh; my mother, the amazing Nan as well as my siblings and son are also great readers. I remember, from an early age, accompanying Nan to a little private lending library at the bottom end of Wilson Street in Burnie. I seem to recall Georgette Heyer was a favourite. There were also my Dad’s Zane Greys around the house. My early world was filled with Enid Blyton, ‘Look and Learn’ magazine and Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encyclopaedia. In my school years I was a constant borrower at the old Cattley Street public library, long gone. Fiction occupied the ground floor, Dewey assembled non-fiction up the stairs and that was where I largely hung out. In my teaching career I had responsibility for school libraries.

So my love of books had an early grounding and has continued down through the decades. Along with other out-of-fashion obsessions such as music on CD (rather than from the ether), stamps (again, thank you Nan) and photographic images produced in tangible form (rather than floating in a cloud), buying books is a constant in my world. I can’t stop, even if my man cave by the river is clogged with unread ones. But, unlike Daniel Broadstock, I don’t blame my city’s excellent bookshops. I accuse the weekend newspapers for encouraging my habit. The Age and the Australian have much to answer for.

Sure, like Daniel’s subjects, I could spend hours in Fullers and Dymocks in the CBD, or the Hobart Book Shop down in Salamanca, but usually I enter them with a set purpose in mind after my Saturday and Sunday perusals of the reviews in those gazettes. And I am certainly not a ‘…a literary voyeur…more interested in possessing books than reading them…’ My volumes are definitely not just for show – they are intended for reading and usually passed on then to family and friends, or donated to a local community lending house. Only the most esteemed, or signed copies, are retained. Sadly, though, because I purchase so many, they do have to be ‘triaged’ once home. And, oh dear, some simply do not get drawn back down off the self and eventually I come to the conclusion that I will not get to them and they are disposed of.

Fellow bookophiles, you all have your favourite authors, whether you follow them on the ‘…vile dictatorship of the (mobile) phone…’ or in the form that has ‘…texture, weight…’, as well as scent and which can be closed with an emphatic slam on completion. I will not list mine here, but I am a slave to them. I love, also, to branch out, to discover new writers, just as I do with performers in the case of my music. I relish, often with my daughter’s help, discovering fresh young talent. And for that aspect of my craving I also rely on those weekend reviews to guide me to new literary realms. The critics possess their own wordsmithery to tantalise and seduce. I am helpless before their blandishments. And when I, at the end of a tome, concur with their judgement of worthiness, I am inwardly elated; proud of myself as can be as though I was the sole person responsible for the new find. Silly, I know – and I feel the same way discovering a new recording artist.

Yep. There is no feeling in the world like ‘… a book pressed to your chest in wonder.’

Daniel Broadstock’s article =

A Feast of Winton

Is Tim Winton our greatest living author? With his latest print offering a case could be mounted for this accolade. His Australianness makes him unique, particularly when he comes up with such use of the vernacular, in such crude poetic glory, as in ‘The Shepherd’s Hut’. It’s up there with ‘The Riders’ and ‘Dirt Music’; its Jackson (Jaxie) Clackton with Scully, Luther Fox and the denizens of ‘Cloudstreet’. This outback centred stunner will linger long in the synapses. After the relative disappointment of ‘Eyrie’ and his memoirs, for this fan, our GLA is back on song.

Just as we can celebrate this, we can also re-celebrate ‘Breath’ anew. His 2008 publication sang of the sea, the coastal littoral and some of the mystique of surfing culture. Simon Baker’s directoral debut for the big screen has bought this Winton work back to life – and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

The movie takes us to a surfers’ paradise, but as far removed from sun blasted beaches as it is possible to be. Set around Denmark, on the south coast of WA, I do not think the sun settled once, for the duration of the film, on the bleached hair and kombis of this part of the surfing landscape. There, like my own island, could be considered as part of the Australian sport’s new frontier. Pikelet (Samson Coulter) and Loonie (Ben Spence) are in their early teens, just putting their toe in the water as far as this recreational outlet is concerned. Along comes former surfing god Sando, Baker himself, as their mentor – and he’s full of it. He’s a bit of a dick, actually, as he challenges the lads’ manhood, virtually forcing them to take on monster breaks that would make any parent shake in their boots at – if they knew. Loonie, as his name suggests, is up for anything and knows no fear, but the far more reticent Pikelet isn’t so swayed by Sando’s reputation (just who did leave those old surfing mags lying around?) and bullshit.

Sando has a missus. Eva, a former skiing champ, is recovering from a possible career ending accident on the piste. She is a distant and dissatisfied figure, clearly not all that enamoured of Sando’s big-noting to the boys. When he pisses off to Indonesia, the susceptible Loonie in tow, Eva seduces the at-a-loss Pikelet. He starts to see the world, as a result, from a different perspective and begins to become the man, we suspect, neither Loonie or Sando could ever be. Although the sex aspect caused some minor gnashing of teeth, it was tastefully handled by Baker.

The brooding coastline, capable of producing maelstroms with little notice; the surfing under grey and always foreboding skies, were a masterful, evocative aspect of both the book and film. At times, though, the lack of acting chops by the two young thesps – they were chosen for their looks and prowess in the swell – is on show. As well, the movie almost outlasted my bladder – there could have been a bit more judicious editing. But it is a worthy match to the great man’s own words – and as a bonus the writer himself is the adult narrating voice of Pikelet.

And his words don’t get much better than in ‘The Shepherds Hut’. With young Clackton he has gifted us a character for the ages. With verbal brilliance the author takes us on a journey with Jaxie to the great beyond of nothingness that outwardly are the West Australian deserts. Inwardly, Winton’s wordsmithery makes them come alive, giving up their primal burnished beauty, becoming the exact opposite.

Winton’s hard done by, but bush savvy, hero flees out into the scrub when he discovers his violent excuse for a piece of shit father squashed and lifeless under the Hilux. He calls his obnoxious old man Captain Wankbag and has had a lifetime of being belted mercilessly by him. It’s a fact well known around the blowfly blown community that’s the pair’s home. His mother, similarly pummelled by the vicious Sid, has, perhaps thankfully, succumbed to cancer a while back. The old bastard is the town’s provider of meat – to call him a butcher would denigrate that profession – and is therefore tolerated despite his unpalatable ways. Jaxie knows a suspicious eye will be placed on his culpability for what occurred to the scumbag beneath the ute, so off he goes. Besides, there is a solitary shining light in his life and she lives in another blighted collection of buildings on up the road a fair distance. He knows he must avoid civilisation at all costs, but he’s woefully under-prepared for a bush bash, although he is at peace with the lie of the land and that must count for something.

Even so, he’s on his last legs when he encounters the wonderfully monikered Fintan MacGillis. He’s a mystery, seemingly biblically banished to the arid wastelands to largely live off the land, as barren as it is. He is slowly addling-up through loneliness. But such is their collective predicament, when Jaxie comes across him, they very soon discover they are in dire need of what the other can give. The worn, fat ex-priest has a hut – and that’s salvation for the boy. But can the unlikely duo cope with such a harsh, unforgiving environment and survive, given its about to give up a few secrets?

Like the best of Winton ‘The Shepherd’s Hut’ compels; it mesmerises in a way akin to the mirages on the salt lake that is close company to the shanty the two protagonists share in wary proximity. It’s a truly beautiful work, even in its brutality and brutal language. It tells us there has to be hope – there just has to be.

The author’s FaceBook page =

Trailer for ‘Breath’ =


My mission that morning was to find something special and I too, never remotely ‘cutting edge’, knew the place to go.

You see, one of the four ultra-special people in my life was about to turn six. I adore all of them – they bring their zing and gloss to my retirement – and who says blood is thicker than water. The birthday girl and her three cousins – Olivia, Brynner and Tobias are all different, as should be, but three sets of parents are working hard to make their childhoods magic kingdoms of the mind. Tessa Tiger’s mother and father have surrounded her with books, Doctor Who and Harry Potter as she finds her own fantastical realms with My Little Pony and Andy Griffiths. That I am included in her world; in their worlds, is a source of joy. I wanted something special for my precious Tess that morning – not because she expected it, but because I love doing it. She gives me more than I could possibly give her in return. They all do.

When the fire hit it felt the soul had been taken out of the city. For months after, even years, the CBD floundered. The retailers around the smouldering ruins, as well as later with the gaping hole, struggled – a few moved, some stuck it out and others shut up shop completely. With that and heavy competition from developments on the outskirts and in the suburbs, it was feared the life would be drained out of Hobart’s only just beating heart.

Myer management made all the right noises after the conflagration almost wiped out their store, but the fear was always present that they would cut and run. They didn’t. A collective sigh was released when they formally announced they would rebuild bigger and better than ever, doing their best to remain trading whilst that occurred. They have stayed true to that course, despite a severe flooding during the construction period and despite their own brand’s worsening bottom line. When there’s much to dislike about our country’s mega-profit driven corporate sector, Myer locally have displayed something that goes beyond screwing the public for every cent.

They have reopened in stages and that morning was the first time I’d have the whole shebang at my disposal. I knew children’s wear was on the top floor and that was the way I was preparing to head as I entered the store, not quite in the rush Laura McGeoch was on her morning before the nuptials. And at the end of that little journey, up the escalators, I’d be making a small vow to myself.

In truth, before the fire, the CBD of Hobart was tired. Myer and the Cat and Fiddle Arcade, with its little performance on the hour every hour, was the fulcrum, but it was worn and in need of a little loving. Fast forward to today, with the new department store and the arcade completely refurbished, there’s a bit of big city pizzazz in the air. Flanked on one side by Centrepoint, also undergoing jazzing up, as well as newish Wellington Court on the other, the heart and soul has returned. And, unbeknown to me before I entered Myer, something else was happening.

What I first observed was that the ground floor was just about empty of customers, mirroring Ms McGeoch’s experience in the Melbourne sister store. I was a tad stunned by that, but I was soon to discover why. Out the back I could see, even from a distance, that there was, beyond the reopened entrance to the arcade, a brace of mint-new stores. I deviated to investigate One of these newbies, Mecca Maxima, was sucking the life out of Myer and most of the outlets around it. At its Murray Street entrance the punters, mainly young women each toting a large pink gift bag, were lined up down the block and around the corner. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of eager shoppers were patiently waiting their turn to be guided in by the contingent of security hired for the occasion. I was quite mildly gobsmacked. Mainland big city retail glamour had come to our little city.

I had a quick squiz at the other new kids on the block before making my way to my destination. Up there, to start with, it was like a graveyard too.

Should I feel self-conscious, in this era of man-blaming, rifling through racks of young girls’ clothing? Maybe, but I love it. That I have two stunningly gorgeous female beings to select attire for, to me, is bliss. If any askance glances are cast my way I am oblivious and couldn’t give a toss. I was on a mission for Tessa Tiger and I was wholly immune. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything to my taste on the generous number of sale racks, but, as I am no cheapskate when it comes to my granddaughters, I proceeded on to the other stock. I found two garments I hoped she’d love, so I approached the counter. Whilst I had been engaged making my selections some other customers had actually arrived and there were a couple of them being attended to by staff, a male and a gorgeous Myer lady in ‘…trademark black and white.’ I’m not ashamed to say I was a tad disappointed when it was the guy who was ready for me first, but the dapper young gentleman was absolutely lovely. He apologised for my wait, even though it’d only been a minute or so and chatted with me while he processed my purchases. When I passed over my Myer card I explained to him that I had some queries about its benefits and that I didn’t seem to have had any of the expected communication from the store regarding my points tally. He tried to discover what what amiss without success. He then wrote down a number for me that would avoid the oxymoron that is dialing up customer service. Shortly after arrival back home my problem was quickly sorted as a result. I was impressed by him as I have always been by the staff both here and across in Yarra City. He made my day and was the cause of my self-promise to become a more regular shopper there.

Hobart’s town centre is now a happening place with its centrepiece in situ and I too keep my fingers crossed for the struggling Myer, just as Laura McG does, for it kept its faith in and with Hobart. Now that, because of the Mona effect, tourists are flooding in all year round and with the increase in the uni student presence there, it is a wonderful place to people watch, let alone do anything else.

Buying for my grandchildren, as well as Leigh’s, is an indulgence, I know – but, really I’m only indulging myself. I just adore doing it. And I know Tess will love her outfits because they come from her Poppy. Gee life’s good.

Laura McGeoch’s article =

Wildwood – Colin Meloy

I didn’t intend to read the book straight away. It was described as America’s ‘Narnia’. I hadn’t ever read any of the that esteemed series and I’d already earmarked a local great’s latest as next on my list. ‘Wildwood’ was with a number of tomes my beautiful daughter had handed over to me in the expectation that I would enjoy them. I usually did, but ‘Wildwood’, on initial appearances, didn’t appear to be my thing. Besides, it was hardly newly published, dating from 2011. As well, it was long. Anything over 500 pages, for me, is long. It would take me forever to get through. Nup, it looked suspiciously like a non-starter.

Meanwhile, Katie had also been telling me about a new, to her, band she had discovered that she also thought I’d enjoy – the Decemberists. And I did, when she sent me a link to them. She informed me that the lead singer, Colin Meloy, was also quite the wordsmith, as songwriters have to be. He had also tried his hand at writing novels and had had a few published. She was currently reading one and would pass it on when she had completed it. Initially I didn’t make the connection when she handed it over, in amongst a collection of other tomes, further down the track.

So I put ‘Wildwood’ aside, thinking maybe I’d get to it one day, when I’d finished some more pressing titles.

Last week I was about to start the Winton, but beforehand had a look at Katie’s pile. Flipping through ‘Wildwood’, I was struck by the illustrations it contained – retro gorgeousness. They were akin to something from my own childhood. When I sought out information about the illustrator, Carson Ellis, turns out she is the author’s wife. Then the penny dropped. That guy was the Decemberists’ front man. Well that was worth reading the first few pages for. I’d get a feel for it before tackling ‘The Shepherd’s Hut’. Then I was hooked, wasn’t I? Tim W would have to wait.

I did enjoy ‘Wildwood’ very much. It was a real page turner and I was through it in less than a week. Good going for me. Meloy has struck the right chord (hum) with a style suited to his target audience. The tweenies, I suspect, would immediately be attracted to it. He doesn’t pander to them – he sets challenges as far as the language he chooses is concerned. It also had this ancient adult enthralled. It was a lively narrative of daring-do in an alternate world where animals can talk and live on equal terms with the human inhabitants. Eagles and owls, to my delight, play a prominent part. Our lead girl, Prue McKee (adore the name), is a feisty construction from Meloy. She is determined to save her baby brother from evil forces after he had been stolen from our world by a murder of crows. I was particularly drawn to Prue’s offsider, Curtis, who found himself embroiled in the girl’s adventures all because he indulged in a bit of harmless stalking. He’s a real nerd hero.

It’s a wonderful collection of principalities invented for us in the Impossible Wilderness. Katie, you handed me a ripper. Thank you.

The Wildwood Chronicles’ site =

Anzac Morn

On this Anzac Day morning I think and I remember. I remember my father, long passed, who fought for his country far away from home in the war against Hitler and Japan. I think of my brother-in-law who went to an ultimately unpopular conflict and had to wait so long for the recognition he and his comrades deserved. I spend a little time considering the fact that my sister’s and his son who, in the era of Iraq, Afghanistan and terrorism, was also bravely prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if called upon. Three courageous men I am proud to call family. And, this morning, I think back further of the two shots in anger that bought a war very close to home.

On Sunday mornings it has been my habit, of late, to venture to Northgate to collect the papers and then to mosey up to Banjos to peruse them over a flat white and date scones. The Sunday just past, in doing so, I sidetracked to a photographic display the shopping centre had set up to commemorate all those Aussies who were prepared to sail to war zones worldwide. The selection of images concentrated on, not our troops at war, but the home front. There were servicemen preparing to depart, parades and their return. It focused on the Boer War and the two great conflicts of last century and it focused on Tassie. There were men and women – soldiers, sailors and aviators.

My eyes were drawn to the World War 1 images, particularly those showing aspects of the preparatory training the men underwent at Claremont Camp, established where Cadburys is now sited. It was set up when it became clear that the regular facility at Brighton couldn’t cope with the numbers required. That is just up the road from our abode by the river and Claremont Village is where we regularly travel to for mail, groceries and newspapers. I looked at the faces of the men at this training ground and wondered if any of them had been responsible for those shots on another morning on the little island, off the coast, that Leigh and I had so recently visited.

It was a special three days Leigh treated me to on Bruny Island. There is much to attract the visitor there – it’s scenery, tucker and wildlife for example. But there also is its history. It was the latter that my mind goes to as I sit by the river this Anzac morn, looking out over the Derwent. For, on a small patch of Bruny, a war came to Southern Tasmania.

During those days, just across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel from here, we visited the remaining buildings of the old quarantine station. Built in an isolated spot, for obvious reasons, near Barnes Bay back in the 1880s. It was at its peak during the horrendous flu pandemic that swept the world immediately after the Great War. All Tasmanian troops, returning from various fronts, had to spend a week at the station to ensure that they were virus free before they could sail on up the Derwent and home. But the most interesting tale, for me, from its years of existence, occurred during he 1914 to 1918 war when perhaps the only shots fired in anger on local soil at the ‘enemy’ happened.

Now, as we know from the recent excellent ABC series on General Monash (whose forebears had been Monasch), anyone with a German sounding name or background could be interned, such was the outrage at the actions of the Hun during the early days of the call to arms. Some bright spark down here in a governmental authority decided that the station on Bruny Island would be the ideal place to house these poor souls, suspected to be aliens, given it was isolated, yet within easy sea reach from Hobart. Somewhere between 50 to 75 such men were sent to the island during this period, including 41 German seamen who had the misfortune of being docked at Port Cygnet when the news came through that Britain, therefore Australia, was at war with Germany. It’s a lovely tale that, on the journey from there to Hobart on the now commandeered SS Oberhausen, the ship’s grog supplies were liberated from a locked storeroom and by the time the city was reached, both crew and captors were right royally inebriated.

By February 1915 the Quarantine Station was housing a range of presumed unsuitables, including the now compulsorily sober sailors. They were put to such tasks as tilling the soil, building wooden huts and erecting a shop to spend their meagre allowances at. Of course ‘no ales or spirituous liquor’ were for sale. The semi-prisoners could, though, take a boat out from shore to fish to supplement rations. But overall the men were bored out of their brains in such a nothing location, as beautiful as it may look to the eye. By July they’d had enough. And when their miniscule wages failed to arrive and they had nothing to spend at the shop retailing their small luxuries, they decided to down tools and go on strike.

The head guy at the camp put in a call to his superiors in Hobart. He had witnessed the sentry on duty being pelted with rocks and the mob refusing to return to barracks. A platoon training at Claremont were transported to the docks, shoved on a ship and waved farewell to go to Bruny to face the break out.

The only record of proceedings I could find on-line reflected the material on view at the little museum where these events took place over a hundred years ago now. It was in the form of a letter from a soldier in the party, a Ray Searle, written to his mother. This account is taken from his missive.

As the troops approached landfall they were ordered to fix bayonets. In reality it was all over in minutes. As the men in uniform were landing a warning shot was ordered to demonstrate they meant business. The armed troops then located all the detainees and frog-marched them down to the beach. Six of the malcontents were arrested and the rest escorted to their cabins.

However the thought of his freedom being again restricted was too much for one of the Germans. He (Searle describes him as a big man) decided to do a runner and he took to the bush. One of the party took aim at him and fired. There is no record of whether the shot hit its target or what happened to the largish wannabe escapee. And that was the end of it.

By the end of 1915 the Federal Government at last got their act together and took over from the states the responsibility of housing all internees. Those at the small facility on North Bruny were sent off across Bass Strait to a much larger one to sit out the war. Apart from the sailors, most had lived quietly and happily in Tassie for up to thirty-five years, yet were still considered a threat – even if many similar, such as Monash, were serving and fighting their former countrymen. Their war, thought there is no doubt, was much better than for most poor sods on the Western Front – but still their fate was so ridiculous and lacking in logic, let alone humanity.

On this Anzac Day morning I awoke to birdsong on my bedside radio. I had opened my eyes and ears to the live broadcast of the dawn service from the nation’s capital; in fact, to the minute’s silence between the Last Post and Reveille (which is French for, appropriately, to wake up). Except, during that minute, it was anything but silent. It seemed all the birds of Canberra had gathered to send off their own gorgeous tribute to the fallen. I wonder if the glorious bird life of Bruny gave any comfort to the men cooped up there during those months. With its honeyeaters, robins, firetails and pardalotes; as well as its water fowl, parrots, raptors and avians of the sea, it is an ornithologist’s paradise. It certainly wasn’t that for the men there, but maybe there could have been some positive memories despite the stupidity of war.
Lest We Forget.