Monthly Archives: July 2018

Both Sides of the Channel

On the English side the pace was glacial, it truly was. Sometimes a ponderous gait is not a negative and ‘The Bookshop’ did have its pluses. Any movie featuring Bill Nighy is worth consideration and this film also demonstrates that nothing much changes with the world – that the you and me types will always be shat on from great heights as soon as we poke our heads above the ramparts. In the class wars, only the high and mighty win out. Hollywood, in fact all cinema, thrives in the little guy/gal overcoming this supposition, but that’s not reality, is it? Would it happen in this offering from Old Blighty?

The little East Anglian village of Hardborough, in 1959, seemed ripe for a bookshop. A semi-derelict building on the high street, known locally as simply the Old House, seemed the perfect location. As Florence (Emily Mortimer in a performance that requires little more than going through the motions) gets its development underway, it comes to the attention of the ville’s queen-pin, Violet. Playing her is American actress Patricia Clarkson and I was looking forward to seeing her in action again after her stealing the show in ‘The Party’. Here she’s the chief villain of the piece, but her role is muted and colourless in comparison. The lady of the manor once thought that the Old House would be perfect as an artistic hub, a drawcard for the town. But she’d done little about it. When Florence comes on the scene the notion is revitalised and Violet suddenly takes it on herself to try and thwart Florence at every step. At first the shop owner does okay selling books. She finds she has an ally in Mr Edmund Brundish (Nighy) who comes to her aid, initially, when she has to decide whether or not to stock the controversial ‘Lolita’. They come down soon the side of definitely, although her largish order seems a tad extreme for a place so small. But it wasn’t fault with the garnering of product to sell that threatens to do her in. Violet, when her machinations to ruin Florence have all been batted away, hits on the idea of backing someone to open up in opposition. Will this be the ploy that brings the uppity Florence to heel?

There’s a hint of romantic spark between the widow Florence and the reclusive Brundish. Will that ease the bookseller’s pain at the loss of her husband? This is real ‘Heartbeat’ territory in the village cast it throws up – but, unfortunately, without the whimsy. The big question is – will we have a ‘Heartbeat’ ending? Based on an award winning book by Penelope Fitzgerald, it takes an eternity to get there. When it came I found I didn’t really care.

Crossing to the French side, ‘Aurore’ is a different kettle of fish altogether. We’re almost immediately smitten by Agnes Jaoui in her eponymous role here. It will almost certainly be recalled as her signature outing. She’s no classic beauty, to be sure, but there is just something about Aurore. It helps, of course, that she’s French and we’re increasingly attracted to the bewitching woman as her platform gets its narrative underway. There’s a certain earthy sexiness about her; a mature woman and distinctively stunning. She’s battling to make ends meet, a boss who wants her to be even more sexy, a hubby divorcing her and hot flushes indicating ‘change-of-life’. Oh yes, she’s about to become a grandmother too and she’s not really sure she knows what to think about that.

I know I’m a sucker for anything French and romantic, but I adored this film. Just when Aurore’s life couldn’t get any more complicated along comes not one, but two men who vie, in various ways, for her attention. The fact that sparking the flame doesn’t come easy for all men is not shied away from in this movie either – a rarity in this industry that sees older men bedding younger damsels at the drop of a hat.

Writer and director Blandine Lenoir has created a fine feature keeping it real and believable in contrast to so much that is light, fluffy, sudsy and totally too good to be true in rom-com land. ‘Aurore’ has received critical plaudits around the world, largely due to the lead’s performance, although Pascale Arbillot, as her sidekick Mano, for many of her hit and miss adventures, deserves kudos as well. Now there’s a dame with front.

I could have stayed with ‘Aurore’, her family, mates and wannabe lovers for much longer. Seeing this must have you leaving the cinema ready to take on the world with renewed vigor. The Brits, even with Nighy, were left in her wake. Far too long-winded about the tale it had to tell. Sound familiar?

Trailer for ‘The Bookshop’ =

Trailer for ‘Aurore’ =

Pack Weavers

Watch him on YouTube. Maybe, if you’re my vintage, you’ll remember him, but the clips on the digital carrier of the player in his pomp are still eye-opening – as they would be to younger souls who never witnessed him play. Of course modern football, with its fast and furious gut running, is a very different kettle of fish to when he was up and about but, no matter your age, can you see the similarity? Can you see the magic he weaved? Do you reckon, like I do, that he also had that same special x-factor as the guy we said goodbye to this past week?

Dusty breaks up packs with pure strength, escaping them, ball in hand, with don’t argues. Selwood burrows in with head down cunning. But the Doc wove his way through and even if he didn’t have ball in hand, he was still in control of it. And that’s the case with Cyril.

Darrel Baldock’s glory years in the VFL were back in the sixties, but he was a star even before he crossed to Yarra City. I have a very early memory of my father pointing him out to me before he left and telling me what a champion he was. Tasmanians had champions back then, some even seeing no necessity to leave the island. But the Doc did and all we islanders know what happened when he donned a St Kilda guernsey. I only fully remember him when he came back to the North West to captain/coach Latrobe in the local comp, the NWFU. Back then Tasmanian footy was vibrant and watched by thousands, continuously producing those champions who found Melbourne fame. It was a far cry to the pitiful state of the local product today, thanks to the behemoth that is the AFL, the digital age and maladministration. By his return the champ had lost most of his magic and at times his focus wasn’t always on the ball, but he was still miles above any opponent placed on him.

I wrote recently how I’m drifting away from AFL as a viewer of copious hours of it on tele. Sure, we’ve still got Buddy and Eddie for a while longer, but the loss of Cyril doesn’t help. As Tim Boyle wrote in a tribute piece for the Age, ‘Now it will be harder to laugh at the footy.’ for the player was pure entertainment. He dazzled, leaving others at the height of their powers looking stupid in his wake. And boy, could he get up in the air for a hanger.

I loved the way Bob Murphy, who also penned a piece in homage, commented as a recent player that, when he had the ball against the Hawks and scanned the way forward, if he couldn’t see Rioli, he knew he was in trouble.

Today’s game needs the magic that Cyril can produce as so much of it, unlike in Baldock’s era, is waged in close. I have wondered how the Tasmanian would have coped with today’s style of play. Certainly he couldn’t have held down a key position as he did for the Saints, but I’ve no doubt he would have found a way. He, like Cyril, was a pack weaver. The Hawthorn player could transform a game with only a few stats against his name, as he did in one of the four grand finals he played in. On this day the crowd, crammed into the ‘G, was in no doubt who the judges should award the Norm Smith to for best afield. The chant went up and they had no choice. It could only be one man.

He’s struggled these last two seasons in body and mind, especially in the latter which has been in another place. I’m probably too old to see another pack weaver of his or the Doc’s quality in my lifetime, but their deeds will live on, thanks to the digital world. Many scribes are expecting that one day in the not too distant future Cyril will return, but in some ways that will be a tad sad too. As his body slows down guile will come to the forefront, replacing the dazzle and magic. It wouldn’t be the same. Let’s remember him as one who left us breathless – you wouldn’t want him coming back to the pack.

Bob Murphy’s article =

Timothy Boyle’s article =

In the Garden of the Fugitives – Ceridwen Dovey

It took me a while to warm up to Ms Dovey’s creation, although I never doubted her aptitude to wend together, with able wordsmithery, the two dominant strands of her tale. It just took a time for me to become engrossed in it – right up to the final chapters in fact. For much of the reading of it I found the history involved in the archaeological dig around Vesuvius, an aspect of one of the threads, far more interesting than the interlocking saga of the two main protagonists.

Vita is a middle-aged academic living in, of all places, Mudgee. After a life rotating around Oz, RSA and the US, why choose this place to settle down? In the end it becomes clear. Her birthplace was South Africa, a country she returns to as a younger woman to pursue her art in a somewhat desultory way. I should imagine this nation these days isn’t an easy one to love. It would have perhaps not so been the case during the apartheid days, depending on what side of the equation one was on. She gives her returns to her home country her best shot and challenges its outside perceptions.

Her old mentor Royce is not a well man and it soon becomes evident that, what he had with Vita, was of a closer nature then purely to guide her in the ways of academia. After a long estrangement he reconnects with her in the old fashioned way – by letter. Initially the book is in the form of a reproduction of their missives to each other, but soon its alternating chapters morph into the story of, for a time, their shared lives. But Royce has something on his conscience – his unrequited infatuation with a fellow university class mate, Kitty. He later follows her to a scientific excavation in Pompeii – her special interest being the Roman gardens of the time. Despite Royce’s best efforts, Kitty falls in love with a most alluring fellow who is not the solid, devoted beau Royce feels he could be to her. So, in his correspondence with Vita, there’s a secret he just has to laden her with.

It all made for a very interesting piece of work but, despite the surety of Dovey’s construction, it was a slow burn for me, measured by the weeks it took me to get through it. It was not a novel I rushed back to each day.

The author’s website =

Reflections of Glenorchy, a Legacy

I hadn’t heard of Kate Spade at all. Anthony Bourdain I vaguely knew made television, the vaguely giving the clue I have never watched an episode of his work.

I remember well my first visit to Mona – the walk down the steps to the tennis court and across to the underground temple of sex and death. I was quite gobsmacked by it all and only outraged in minimal doses. It was and is fantastic.

I had my camera with me and I quickly became fascinated, even before I stepped in the door, snapping away furiously. Surrounding the ingress was a mirrored wall, reflecting the souls standing in front of it, but, more spectacularly, giving a reverse view of the houses of Glenorchy, founder David Walsh’s birthplace. He has given back to that bogan-burb in spades, as well as to the city beyond. I had never given that feature, though, much credit as to its thoughtfulness of positioning and its genesis. It is a very clever, well-done thing and had I really considered it, an art work in itself. The man behind it took his own life, at the age of 53, earlier this year.

You can read of some of his achievements in Gabriella Coslovich’s following article, including about his last installation, a symbolic land bridge connecting Victoria to this island.

His public works are spread out across the nation and he had gifted his attention to overseas countries as well, often combining a commission with teaching local wannabe sculptors and stone masons. Receiving his talent included Florida in the US, Zimbabwe and Cambodia. His thirty-plus years of artistic endeavour were soundly based on skills picked up from his Dad as a child. John, a builder, loved crafting wood, especially for marine craft. Matthew Harding underwent training for his artistic future in Canberra and lived there throughout his career. As well as wood and stone, he also fashioned stainless steel.

Harding is deserved to be wider known – as widely as some of his eye-catching, for better or worse, product. Coslovich reports he did struggle at times financially, but I’ve no idea as to why he took the courageous step to end it all. I know there are some who bleat their opinion that suicide is the coward’s way. Maybe doing that horrendous deed is a result of an unwillingness to confront whatever demons is bringing the victim undone, but even in despair, it still takes courage. And I can’t imagine a person taking that step, allowing for state of mind, not considering those left behind.

But yes, what of Matthew Harding’s children – Arabella (10), Lulu (9), Polly (6) and Hugo (4)?

Matthew Harding’s website =

Gabriella Coslovich’s article =

Driftin’ Away and Blaming Rich

‘Don’t buy it Rich. Don’t buy it! Why would you want something that big???’ would have been my advice, except he never asked for it. Naturally he wouldn’t consult with me – why should he? But I’ll blame him any way. With that purchase of his and his lovely wife Shan’s, the dye was well and truly cast.

I am the direct opposite to you Monica Dux, the direct opposite. But it’s waning, dear me, it’s waning.

My beautiful Leigh is the love of my life and sharing an abode with her here by the river is pure bliss. She is many things to me, almost everything. But one aspect of life we do not share, to any degree, is a passion for the native game. She is not a footy person and I respect that, just as she respects my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to stage musicals, which I find, to quote Monica ‘….silly, nonsensical and boring’ (unless rock music is attached). I do admire, though, women with a passion for Aussie rules, like my dear friends Steph, with her devotion to Essendon and Laurel, the Cats.

I hasten to add that Leigh doesn’t actually hate the game – she’s just ambivalent to it. She’ll watch a bit of pre-game carry-on with me, or maybe enjoy a bit of the repartee on ‘Footy Classified’, but as for actually watching a game she’s not interested, just as I wouldn’t be sitting with her through ‘The Sound of Music’ or ‘Cats’ in any way, shape or form. Nor would I expect her to give up pole position in the lounge room so I can watch the footy in the main arena and send her off to watch ‘Big Bang Theory’ in another room. In the past it’s been my practice to do that – to take myself off to the small screen in the spare room. Once upon a time I was perfectly happy to do so, but not anymore. And so now I am worried, that in the digital age, I’m driftin’ away, bit by bit, driftin’ away. It seems I’m doing the same with AFL as I once did with cricket. If passion for a sport is measured by viewing hours – well, I’m almost gone.

There are reasons for it – and not one is to do with the state of the game, so bandied about in the media. I dispute the claim that the style of play these days makes it less of a visual attraction. With footy, you won’t hear me saying it was so much better back in the day

So the first reason for my slow drift away has already been alluded to. I just enjoy my lady’s company – simple as that. Watching a show together, tucked up in the lounge room, is just so pleasurable. We can discuss our shows, often including testing ourselves as to exactly who is that actor we know we know but just cannot place. Then there’s her delightful habit of disputing the way certain medical procedures are done and I’m blessed with her perceptiveness in finding holes in the story that I always miss, especially when it comes to continuity. And as I watch and engage with her, I am able, all the while, to sit in comfort on our new sofa with a device in my hand that keeps tabs on the scores, be it from the summer or winter game. Perhaps the sofa, too, is a cause of the issue in itself.

Another reason is that we are in the midst of a golden age of television, or so we are repeatedly told. And I wouldn’t demur from that conclusion. So many platforms now that we have added Netflix and Stan; so many excellent series that these days movies on the small screen do not get a look in. Given the choice between watching the Gold Coast play Carlton or Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons taking on the world in Game of Thrones, it’s no contest for me. Which would you choose?

And the ads. OMG the ads. After every goal, every single one – and often there are two in succession shouting at you to buy wood-fired heaters or bargains at Hardly Normal. They drive me, especially when a team has a run on or it’s getting towards the end in a tight one, bananas. Just ruins the flow, detracts immensely from the spectacle. I know I could go ad free for a not expensive amount, but it’s hardly worth it given, yes, I’m inexorably driftin’ away.

Maybe, just maybe, a factor could be that I am totally sated. My cup has runneth over supporting the Hawks, they at least having given me one, if not more, premierships in all the decades of my life since the Sixties. What more could a follower ask of his/her team? The Doggies winning in ’16 and the Tigers last year, because they’re both such great stories, gave me perhaps as much, if not even more, pleasure than if Hawthorn had emerged victorious in the final dance again.

I’ll never, ever become Ms Dux in my attitude to the sport. I still relish reading about a Hawthorn victory in the Age and the opinions of its columnists on footy matters, especially now with Robert Murphy back in the fold. I could still hold my own in any conversation about the weekend’s results. But, increasingly, it’s becoming a smaller and smaller part of my life.

And lastly, I blame you Richard Lovell. That big screen television of yours and Shan’s, that I get all to myself when I’m house/Memphis sitting whilst you both are somewhere sunny, is a trap. And up at Bridport, last weekend, I watched a whole game for the first time this season – the Swans v West Coast – and I almost swooned with the ecstasy of it. It was a terrific contest – imagine how crabby I was the following Sunday when I fired it up to watch the Tigers/Geelong match up only to find, bless their hearts, it wasn’t on Southern Cross! Now going from that to the little screen in the spare room just doesn’t cut it. And whereas the giant screen is perfectly at home in your spacious abode, Rich, it would indeed look ridiculous in ours. What we have, for me, is just fine – but, at home, I’ll simply be driftin’ away.

Monica Dux’s column =