Monthly Archives: December 2018

The December Lull

The big guns are coming. They had been held back until Boxing Day and are now almost ready to burst out into the megaplexes down to the art houses all over. Myself, I’m looking forward to ‘Colette’, ‘Vice’, Cold War’ and ‘The Favoutite’ in particular. Let’s trust 2019 is a great year for the movies (just like this past one). Still, there were films of merit to be had pre-Christmas, in December. I moseyed off to the State to see a couple.

Now, unlike ‘Juliet Naked’, be warned that ‘Normandy Nude’ does incorporate actors naked, as we clearly see in the opening scene. But it is sparse, fleeting and benign – think a slightly more explicit version of ‘Calendar Girls’ and you get the picture. Its major attraction is the presence of Francois Cluzet, star of ‘The Intouchables’ and the perfectly realised ‘The Country Doctor’. In the hands of the director of ‘The Women on the 6th Floor’ (Phillipe Guay) the combination should be a real winner. Whilst ‘Normandy Nude’ doesn’t reach the heights of that esteemed trio, it is still quite a blissful way to spend time in front of the big screen for lovers of Frenchiness.


Cluzet plays Mayor Bulbuzard, the political head of a struggling French rural community trying to come up with ways of attracting the attention of big city types to the woes of the countryside. As luck would have it, renowned American photographer Newman (Toby Jones), a specialist in mass naked shootings a la Spencer Tunnick, is just passing through. In doing so he spies a field he considers just perfect for one of his nude extravaganzas, so he and the mayor conspire to make it happen. That will certainly gain the tiny burb’s plight some publicity, but if only he can convince all his fellow townspeople to shed their clothing in unison for the cause.

Not all are liberal enough to meet the challenge – how’s he to convince them? Adding another impediment to the disrobing is that the exact ownership of said verdant field is in dispute.


Of course we would expect all the problems to be resolved and Newman to be clicking away at a largish amount of exposed flesh, but it’s not quite as Hollywood as that. It is Tinsel Town, though, in the number of rustic stereotypes it delivers, but there is a warmth to ‘NN’ that counters that. It doesn’t set the film world on fire for any reason – but I still found it most engaging.

As is ‘Puzzle’. Now my son Richard, when it comes to the business of piecing together complicated jigsaw puzzles, is a whizz. But he’s got nothing on Kelly Macdonald’s Agnes. In the appropriately titled ‘Puzzle’, she discovers she is a super-whizz.


Ms Macdonald’s career hasn’t exactly set the film world on fire either, but she’s a solid enough thesp as many of us who viewed her performance across a number of seasons of ‘Boardwalk Empire’ can attest to. She’s perfect for the understated role here. This is a slow burn of a movie, so if you’re after something that goes at the speed of the digital age, this is not for you. Still, it’s not without its nuanced joys, such as the role performed by Irrfan Khan as a rich emigre and Agnes’ eventual partner in speed jigsawing competitions. Will he become her preferred bed partner as well; preferred to stolid mechanic hubby Robert (David Denman)?


Now sadly, because I was perhaps not paying close enough attention in the opening stanzas of the movie, I did miss the significance of it’s concluding scene. But in response to the question as to whether the humble jigsaw puzzle can change one’s life for the better, at least we receive an answer to that. How? Well, you’ll just have to spend some time in the slow lane and see it.

Trailer for ‘Normandy Nude’ =

Trailer for Puzzle =

Puddin’ and Dumplin’

They are gorgeous, these girls. Willowdean Dickson and Millie Michalchuk would turn heads in any situation for their sassiness and plus-sized curves. They possess a beauty that is radiant and their allure appeals to any number of the opposite gender. Pat of the issue, though, is often the owners of such charm and comeliness just can’t see it.

Julie Murphy’s ‘Dumplin’ was a NY Times bestseller and hit a chord with a YA audience craving for ‘real’ role models. This wasn’t lost on director Anne Fletcher, star Jennifer Aniston or songbird/national treasure Dolly Parton. They have combined to present a film version now streaming on Netflix.


It’s a production with a heart as big as Texas. Willowdean, played with elan by Aussie Danielle Macdonald, is a 17 year old student of Clover City High and a diner waitress. Her mum (Aniston) is a fading local beauty, running the annual pageant Miss Teen Bluebonnet, being a former winner back in the day. She tries to be a good mother but is not entirely tactful when it comes to her daughter, throwing around the family’s pet name for her. Dumplin’ is not always impressed. The younger Dickson, partly in retaliation, spunkily decides to enter the beauty/talent contest, but her spark of defiance quickly morphs into something else. It becomes a rallying cry for a few other outsiders – the larger than life Millie and lesbian goth Hannah.


Bo (Luke Bernard) is the love interest here. He obviously adores Willowdean’s curves, as well as her other more cerebral attributes, but it takes a while for our heroine to accept his advances as genuine. It is a delightful journey, this adaptation. We know exactly how it will all pan out in the end – and that doesn’t take away the shine at all. It is a comfortable way to spend some time with a small screen. The author gets a minute cameo (can you spot her towards the end?) and it is also worth checking out Dolly on YouTube performing ‘Girl in the Movies’ from the soundtrack. Just beautiful.


Meanwhile Ms Murphy has produced a companion volume to coincide (deliberately or otherwise) with the release of ‘Dumplin’. ‘Puddin’ is certainly a match for its predecessor in the readability department, focusing on Willowdean’s mate Millie. It’s basically an odd couple tale as circumstances bring Miss Michalchuk and school dance queen turned bad girl Callie together. This tome, despite its 400 plus pages, is an easy peruse as Millie works at chipping away Callie’s rough edges, as well as trying to figure out what is going on with her hot and cold beau-hopeful Malik. It features many characters from the first book and it is interesting comparing the movie’s version of Millie with how one pictures her in print. With ‘Dumplin’ featuring in many awards on release, its follow-up should be equally popular. Maybe there’ll be a version on a big or small screen of it too!


Netflix site for ‘Dumplin’ =

Julie Murphy’s website =

Dolly Parton performs ‘Girl in the Movies’ =

Melissa’s Courtney

She’s spunky, feisty, boganish – so much so she’d pass muster this side of Hobart’s Flannie Line. In fact, her formative years were partly spent in this city, although she was born in Sydney in 1987, growing up on the Northern Beaches. When she was 16 her family moved to Hobs. Listening to Darren Hanlon and Paul Kelly inspired her to try songwriting herself and learn guitar. 2011 saw a move to Melbourne and she started to make inroads into that burb’s music scene. And as we say, with her winning the gong for Best Rock Album at this year’s ARIAs, the rest is history. I think she’s amazing; her two album releases – this year’s ‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’ and 2015’s ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit’ – fantastic. Her lyrics are just so good. Courtney Barnett is proudly gay, as she should be; in a relationship with fellow muso Jen Cloher.


But it’s not the ARIAs this piece is focused on, but more that other award ceremony that raises great interest, the Archibalds. Yep, she was up for that too. ‘Courtney and I are friends. I’m a big fan of her music with its mix of rock, folk, indie and grunge. I also love her guitar playing, and see her as a strong representative of the positive shift happening for women in Australian music.’

When I went into the ether to check out the finalists for the famous artistic award, one image in particular caught my eye. Initially that was for its in-your-face colour and its background design. It took me a second glance to realise the sitter was Courtney. For the artist, she was considerate of two factors when designing how she would portray the increasingly popular rockster. Her ‘…music and witty lyrics are quite colourful, so I have used a lot of colour. The background is inspired by 1930s Australian art deco paintings.’ The result speaks for itself.


Like her subject, Melissa Grisancich was born in ‘87 and is Melbourne based. She cites as her influences Henri Rosseau, Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, To my eye her rendering of Ms Barnett was one of the standouts in the competition eventually won by Yvette Coppersmith’s self portrait. I also liked the depictions of Jimmy Barnes (Jamie Preisz), which won the Packing Room Prize, as well as Guy Pearce’s (Anne Middleton). So in a round about way Courtney drew me to Melissa and her works. They’re daubings that would brighten the dullest of moods.

Melissa Grisancich

The artist has been exhibiting since 2011, so her career also kicked off around the same time as Courtney’s. She commenced working in oils, but has now moved on to acrylics. As well as having favourite artists, she is also drawn to old record covers, street art, retro movie posters and vintage Soviet photography to provide stimulus to get her imagination going. Melissa’s bright product, as well as appearing on canvas, also graces clothing and fabric. 2017 saw her first showing, entitled ‘Moonshine’, outside Oz, in a San Francisco gallery.


I like her artistic boldness and hopefully, with her portrait of the musician turning heads, she will gain greater recognition for her distinctive style. Maybe her career will also take off internationally like that of the female rockstar.

An interview with the artist =

Courtney’s website =

Nagle and the Strumpet

Portsmouth 1804

He informs me he’s had hundreds, but you can’t tell with him. You name any port, he’s had a rumpy-tumpy there. Give me a port and I’ll tell you a fine story of an abedding, he says. He gets that silly grin on his face and you think he’s telling pork pies. But who knows? It could be true. But he tells such tales – and so many. Could he have really done all that? But I give him this. He knows how to treat a woman. He’s gentle, he is. If I am anything to go by all those poor lasses; all those whores, harlots and strumpets he’s fadoodled with, wouldn’t have had it so bad. He takes his time, tries to give pleasure as well as take. I have rightly become attached to him – and I don’t say that lightly. But he’s a restless soul, I know that for a fact.

And he’s different. He sticks out. In part it’s because he dresses like a toff – you’d be thinking he was gentry. He brags he’s just not any common seaman. His waistcoats, best britches and silk jackets – you’d believe he was a dandy in the king’s court. And you can tell he’s from far away by the way he says stuff to me; to everyone when he’s in a tavern in his cups or chatting with the girls downstairs. He has a funny way of saying it – and he looks at you all queer-like when you say you don’t get his drift. Took him a while to tell me about where he came from – almost as if he was scared of saying it. And it’s quite a story, I can tell you.


I first laid eyes and bedded with him back in ‘94 or 5. That’s when I found out he had his letters. He’d scribe me notes to tell me when he’d be visiting my premises and have a boy deliver them. There’d be a verse or two on them most likely. But they’d make you blush, some of what he wrote with me in mind. What he planned to do with me. How good I’d feel after the business. But he was caring, caressing till he made me quiver. The others were mostly a rough and ready bunch until I worked my way up a bit, even if, in the main, they meant a girl no harm. No, you don’t meet many sailors who can put words together so tidily like him.

And now he’s here in Portsmouth. He’s took leave of his last ship a month or so ago and he’s been visiting my premises – well, in truth visiting me, a couple of times a week. He keeps me busy, he does, what with me trying to keep things orderly and making sure my girls are clean, if you know what I mean. I insist they must be fresh after each and every shaking of the sheets, ready and respectful for the next customer. And I teach them well – how to dress, with just enough showing to interest any gentleman who comes along. These days I don’t open my doors to sailors and the like. Just Jacob, for, you see, I know him from our time together in India. I run a classy establishment now, I do. The lasses I have, they’re young and very well skilled. They are very comely to the eye and most have all their teeth.

One of those girls picked him up in a tavern in the town and bought him here, fooled by the cut of his jib. Once he laid eyes on me, though, he was no longer interested in her. Not one little bit. He remembered me. He remembered me very well. He only wants me. He tells me, the devil, that there’s nobody as well versed as I. That I know his tastes to the letter. And I am happy for him to have his way with me. He is very generous – always has been. And he treats me right. Considerate-like. He says he likes my ways and it doesn’t worry him that I’m carrying a bit of lard these days. Reckons it adds to his desire for me. But he’s getting on. With a twinkle in his eye he tells me he’s only three score-something in years. He doesn’t rightly remember. But I reckon he’s more than that. I have to work on his todger a bit these days – not like back when we met up and had rumpy in India. But now the seas are free of that evil Bonaparte, he tells me he’s going back to the land of his birth. Back to what they now called the United States of America.

Can you believe he recalls when he first copped a gander at me – and I know it is no fib for he tells it right. I also well remember the day well. We’d been cooped on that wretched boat, the Lady Juliana. Bound for Botany Bay, it was nothing but a floating brothel. Most of us had been on the game one way or another before we were hauled before the assizes for our wrongdoings. Me, I stole a ring from an upper crust turd in an inn. Wasn’t even real gold, but I still got my seven years transportation. It could have been my neck I suppose, but now I count it as my lucky day as it turns out. On board that foul brig I quickly found my mark and I was on to him. He didn’t stand a chance once I gave him the eye and the smile I knew was one of my assets. I could tell he’d never met my like before and I was soon cosseted in his officer’s cabin. He was a bit of a pompous type in some ways, but he was kind. He made it clear if I gave him my favours he would look after me once we landed. I soon cottoned on that he was spoken for back home, but that didn’t matter. Where we were going was far, far away. He knew it. I knew it. But he said he could better me and we started with my letters. By the time our final Land Ho was on the horizon I had mastered them. Lieutenant William did right by me and while we were together I didn’t hussy around. I had my hopes for him in the end, I must admit, but it wasn’t to be.

lady juliana

The woebegone clods in Port Jackson the day we landed had been expecting a supply ship, not one full of wanton women on the make. Still victuals wasn’t the only thing they were starving for. Soon most of the lasses were accounted for by the men of the colony in one way or another, but Will made sure I weren’t one of them. We spent our first few nights together in a tent by the cove, but later he had a hut built, then a stone house for us. We were well set up and I thought I had enough of his heart to see us being there for quite a tidy time. But soon my soldier man reckoned he could see a life for himself in this new place with the kangaru and burning sun. But that meant bringing out his betrothed for the family honour. He was remorseful, but he had no option but to cut me loose. But he was thoughtful to the end. He was a good man. I owe him.

It was always lively reminiscing about our time in Sydney Town in the many nights Jacob and I have shared our bed. Jacob tells me he sailed to New Holland in the big fleet, landed in time to see the jack raised and he quickly made friends with the natives. He says that with that twinkle of his. I reckon he‘d be only interested in the female of those primitives. He spent time on Norfolk Island after his supply ship was wrecked on it’s shores. He saved a few lives and was rewarded with extra tots of rum for his troubles, he recalls with a chuckle.

He was there on the beach when the natives speared the guvnor. He boasts that he shot the savage that did it. The wound wasn’t fatal, but Jacob received an extra ration of grog for that deed too.


Once William had made his choice my time in the colony came to an end. Will understood himself enough to know that, while temptation awaited, he couldn’t help himself. He knew the guvnor wouldn’t turn a blind eye once he was wed. He arranged a berth on the next sailing ship out of Port Jackson, which just happened to be making a run to India for extra supplies for the commandant’s store. Why, he even shelled out for a maid, Moll, to accompany me.

Well, I only know one thing, and Molly didn’t take much to convince. We set up in Calcutta with Will’s funds. Soon we had a good passing trade with plenty of sails from foreign shores in port. We even hired some dusky locals to drop their saris as well for those who wanted a taste of the Oriental. Even then I had strict rules with the girls for I had plans of returning to England to set myself up there – but with a quality place and a quality brace of lassies better than just doxies.

It was back in Calcutta that I first laid myself out for Jacob. He was soon a regular while his ship was in port – and he always sought me out as he told me I was more his style than anyone else he had rolly-rolly with in the flesh markets of the world. Soon he was talking to me more respectfully and caressing me as well as expecting his own bits to be rubbed and cajoled. Sometimes Moll would join us and he’d need no cajoling then, but mostly it was he and me and we fitted together most satisfactorily. He would take me out on the town too. We ate in the curry houses. He always said he took as much spiciness in every which way he could.


He loved telling tell his stories, he did, whether the audience was just me or with others crowded around, hanging off his every word. But to me and me alone, or so he said, he told how he came to have this strange way of speaking. Being raised in the Americas he was too cut off from places where you could pick up the King’s English and he’d had little schooling, just enough to know his letters and how to read them. When he was fifteen he told us that his father took him into battle against the redcoats, against us, at a place called Brandywine Creek. Just for my ears he told me he killed an Englishman too. And I could scarcely believe what he was saying. He then fought us at sea, was captured not once but twice – by us and the Frenchies. This was in the Indies. He told all who would listen about the slave girls there and how he caroused with then, but he told me alone that most of his time he was in chains until the French exchanged him for some of their own. And that’s how he ended up on a fleet of boats taking convicts like me to another new world. Taking my like to Botany Bay. What adventures! What an adventurer! All the high seas was his home. Back then I wondered what would become of him for I knew I was only a very little diversion for him.

Soon after his visit Moll and I parted ways She wanted to stay, I wanted to try my luck in Old Blighty – and my luck was top notch. It took a sweet bit of time, but money talks, so they say, even coin made by girls on their backs in India. I soon had a sponsor to share the costs and we set up here in Portsmouth – a classy place catering to the aristocracy and the snobs. And then Jacob finds his way here like a not-so-bad penny.

He’s still chirpy, but now and again there’s a sadness. He’s getting older and he’s not as twitchy as he once was; not so energetic in the boudoir. But I like that. We are not so young these days. Then one night he told me of the girl he loved – ‘a lively handsome girl in his eye’ was how he pictured her for me. They had two little ones, in Lisbon, but when he was at sea the fever took them – all three of them. He nearly lost himself, as he tells it. He said he made a vow never to allow himself to feel the same way about another lass. For the rest of his life it would be whores, harlots and strumpets. He resolved to be a free spirit, but it seemed to me he was half-hearted in saying it. It was then I saw and felt another side to Jacob. With me he ceased his boasting. He became quieter with his tales, listened to others more. He decided he would go home, home to the Americas.

May I speak freely? In truth that has hit me harder than I expected it would. These last weeks in Portsmouth he has come to mean more to me that just a regular johnny. I think he’s someone I could love, really love. I had that feeling for Will too – and look how that turned out. There’s more to our rumpy now, but tomorrow he sails back to family and god knows what. Back to where his funny words come from. But I’ll have my memories to warm the cockles. Not his boastful stories, but his gentleness in the bed chamber, his quiet words, his head pressed agin my breasts, his fingers gently stroking. He could melt my heart, Jacob Nagle. Tomorrow it will be business as usual, but I’ll go down to the docks, but I’ll have plenty of bosom showing, just to say to him that these mams and I will miss him.


Jacob Nagle was an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life.’

Combining the ‘Harlots’ of SBS tele fame, the sailor I read about at the ‘UNESCO Six’ exhibition put on by the State Library of NSW and the line from the Fellowship of First Fleeters website ‘...he voyaged to Madras and Calcutta where he met two convict women from Sydney who had established a brothel.’ came the basis for this scribing.

He, Jacob, intrigued me, but it was relatively easy to find information on him in the ether, not so the two prostitutes. There was nothing about how they made the move from the unknowns of Sydney Cove back to the relative knowns of a teeming Indian city so early in our nation’s history, so that aspect is my imagining.

Nagle wrote his memoirs in later life and historians reckon he got the details pretty accurate.

He frequented prostitutes, towards whom he acted charitably when he thought their case merited it.’

After Nagel left UK shores to return to the US he visited family members and discovered his parents had passed away. From that time he continued to serve on British and American merchantmen. He visited Central America, the West Indies again, China, Canada and other parts of his own country. He was shipwrecked once more, this time off the coast of Brazil – and he liked that country so much he remained there from 1811 till 1821. Was there another woman involved?

By 1824 he’d had enough of his nomadic lifestyle and returned back to his relatives, couch-surfing around them, often outstaying his welcome. The end came in Ohio on 1841.

During his life he had ‘…suffered severely from scurvy, felt the lash on his back, saw men killed in battle and executed, He was robbed and cheated of his money...’ An extraordinary life indeed.


Jacob Nagle’s original journal

Fellowship of First Fleeters account of Jacob Nagle =

Queen Bee

Author’s note – contains spicy writing. NSFW

She shimmered and sashayed down the steps towards him. Not a glance did she cast, though, toward the ageing photographer. Invisible. But he noticed her. How could he not? She was clad, loosely, in a vaguely metallic sheathe; full breasted, full-lipped, voluptuous, delicious – with her flowing, wiry hair all akimbo. Dusky-skinned, she was. Succulent was a word that seemed to him to be appropriate for her. He continued on his way, but she lingered in his mind. He was killing time, snapping the blooms, as you do. A sprinkler had been on earlier, the droplets remaining on the petals. Tiny bees were buzzing about. He clicked away, but it was a woman in full bloom he was thinking of.


The gardens that spring day were glorious still, but it was all about to turn as the summer approached. He took the opportunity to point his camera around as he waited to meet his friend down at dockside. Through the lens he caught sight of her again. This time she was accompanied by two others, both on her left side. He could see that, in relation to her, they were dowdy. Dressed in dun colours, with short cropped hair for convenience, they looked as if they came from a completely different world. They resembled two female drones around their queen bee. They were nondescript, a bit like him, he supposed. It was as if, no matter how much effort they put in, they couldn’t outshine her, so why bother? Almost as if they dressed down to heighten the difference. He caught her walking away in the corner of the frame and captured her for his posterity. The other two, if they appeared, he’d crop out later. He liked figures in his photographs. He was always careful to click from a discreet distance. It added something – and, there, another. He could now keep the vision of her with both.


He woke to gentle stroking, her head close to his. She was smiling broadly. He noticed she had reapplied her lipstick and she smelled of something sprayed on, something musky, almost earthy. It was the same scent as last night – a turn on in itself. The stroking had become more urgent. ‘More?’, she inquired. ‘Gee for a bloke getting on, Mr Business Man, you were quite something last night, weren’t you? Let’s see what we have left to work with this morning.’

He knew it was going to be expensive, but the visit to the city, from his provincial town, was another opportunity. He’d lash out this time though, treat himself to something special. He’d done it before on previous trips – frequented brothels or hired a call-girl for a couple of hours. But he’d never felt really satisfied. He knew they went into robotic mode – the deed was done and sometimes it was all over before it could present him with anything like the other relief he was desperately looking for. He needed, just for a time, to forget his soul-less life, his hectoring sexless wife, the big house she kept soul-less to impress her social circle. So soul-less it was as barren and as unwelcoming to him as his parched marriage. He wanted to forget his two sons who thought they owned the world, as long as they were well supplied with his money, as he slaved to earn their exorbitant private school fees. He disliked their sense of entitlement immensely. Well, this night he was going to be entitled for a change. He’d paid for a whole twelve hours. He booked her on-line. He knew much of it was spin. But she sure looked like that something special. He hoped beyond hope she would be worth it. That next morning he knew it was. He knew what it was to feel alive again.


He answered the knock shortly after ten and she strutted in. He sensed by her demeanour that she’d done this many times before. She put her hand out without a word and he handed over the agreed amount. ‘Tell me what you want, Mr Business Man. Tell me what you like.’ He thought, then replied, ‘Just you around me for a whole night. It’s been a while.’

We’ll soon fix that, Mr Business Man.’ She took a packet of condoms out of her bag. ‘Guess we’ll need a few of these. What do you reckon?’ She didn’t wait for an answer before ordering him to dispense with his trousers and underwear. ‘Now, let’s have a look at you.’ After her examination she covered his penis. She was out of her dress and her own undergarments in a flash, pushing him down onto the bed. She roused him to erection with her hand, straddled him and as he suspected it would be, it was over before he could count to ten.

He started to apologise. ’Don’t worry about it. That’s normal in your situation. It’ll be the second one you remember. I’ll make sure of it.’ He would, as it turned out. He’d remember it forever.

Next morning she raised herself up and over him, rubbing herself against him. She tried, but it was to no avail. He’d felt a tingle, but essentially he was spent. He gave her a wan smile and a pat to indicate he wasn’t up to it and she lay back down beside him.


As he relaxed beside her he cast his mind, happily, back to that promised second time. She knew how to treat a man, that was evident. She got his juices going again. Slowly, tenderly, almost lovingly their foreplay had continued for, it seemed, hours. She licked, his tongue explored – he breathing in her fragrant skin. And she made all the right noises at the end of it all, but he suspected they weren’t the real deal. But him? Well, he felt exultant in the aftermath. A weight had been lifted.

He was then drawn from his reverie by more tugging on his penis. There was some urgency to her action this time. He realised she was beside him pleasuring herself – and this time the orgasm was real. ‘Well, Mr Businessman, we’re both happy now. And thank you for last night, sir. It was yummy.’ She gifted him with a deep kiss and his organ one last squeeze. ‘There’s plenty of life in you yet, don’t you worry.’

She hopped out of bed, reached into her bag and placed a card on his chest. ‘For the next time you’re in these parts.’ Donning her clothes, including her green shiny dress, she then sat in front of his mirror to touch up her make-up. He enquired about what she was doing for the rest of the day. He was reluctant to let her go, thought maybe she might be interested in breakfasting with him. When he asked she responded, ‘Sorry sweetheart. That’d be just lovely. Maybe next time, but now I’m due to meet a couple of girlfriends coming in on the train from the ‘burbs. They’re both mums with young kiddies and I’ve known them both most of my life. We’re going across the road to the gardens. You can see them out your window. We’ll have a coffee in the cafe there and catch-up on the goss. They reckon I spice up their lives with my glamorous one. I don’t tell them everything though. Only the good bits. And you’re one of the good bits, don’t worry. If they only knew, Mr Businessman.’ With that she slipped on her shoes and was out the door.

He was soon on his way too. He felt a spring in his step that wasn’t there yesterday. Life, all of a sudden, didn’t seem that bad. He’d try to be more positive. Maybe he could make some changes at home – but he’d make sure he’d keep that card safely tucked away.

On his way back from snapping the flower beds the old guy spotted her again, this time holding court on a seat with her two friends. They were laughing as she smoked and regaled them with some obviously hilarious tale. He took another quick photo. Usually for him a woman smoking was a turn-off, but with her, even at a distance, he found it strangely alluring.


It was almost the appointed time so he headed off, walking past the trio, still deep in conversation. Near a statue he turned to capture it, then realised he could, with the distance, include her for she was just in the corner of his view down through the lens. He did so. He wondered, as he trudged off, if what he did was akin to stalking. Glory be, he had nothing salacious in mind with the beauty – just beauty itself. He didn’t see himself as a pest being so distant from the subject – but who knows in this day and age? Besides, he was a deeply contented man. He had enough warm and wonderful memories of his own to last a lifetime. But that’s the best bit, he concluded. Just the conjuring.

The Master and the Newbie

The Bogan Mondrian – Steven Herrick Cedar Valley – Holly Throsby

He’s been around for a while, has Steven Herrick. A new one from him is a cause for celebration. For Holly Throsby came the big test – her sophomore novel. Her first publication was a ripper, but it is the case with many starting out that the second offering can be problematical. Her first book was well regarded by the critics and public alike. How would number two stack up?

Both authors this time have gone bush to regional centres. Herrick’s is located not too far away from the big smoke, up in the Blue Mountains around Katoomba. Throsby’s is further out, at Cedar Valley, just down the road from Goodwood. It’s set in the recent past, the former novelist’s in the present.


Herrick consistently turns out quality product with engaging characters all YA (and other) readers can relate to. His latest is no exception. If there’s a wrong side of the tracks in Katoomba, Luke’s from there. He’s no fool, but school isn’t high on his list of priorities and he’s sorely missing his knock-about father. He struggles to give emotional support to his grieving mother. He’s into photography, always a plus, likes dogs and a rough diamond of a fellow he meets near his swimming hole, who just may be involved in criminal activity. Charlotte is new to his class and you would think, seemingly, has it all – but something is not quite right with her world either. Her father is knock-about too, but in an entirely different sense. And the lass has a thing for the artist Mondrian. These two damaged souls team up and try to set their worlds to right.


There’s much to relish in ‘The Bogan Mondrian’. I wouldn’t rate it amongst Herrick’s best, but the same deft, sensitive and assured touch he’s used in all his past work remains evident – long may he keep producing these captivating tomes for us to cherish.

On handing over ‘Cedar Valley’ to the lovely assistant in Dymocks I asked had she read ‘Goodwood’. She answered in the affirmative, stating she loved it. She hadn’t read this latest tome, but reported that one of her customers had given the feedback that it wasn’t nearly as commendable. That almost put me off buying it myself. Now I’m pleased I did – pleased to assure that, in my view, that customer was wrong. I thought this the superior of the two. Perhaps it was that, at 21, the main protagonist was a little older than the one in ‘Goodwood’ and therefore appealed more to me. Perhaps it was its link to a very mysterious real event in Adelaide decades ago. Whatever, this was a real page turner.

Benny comes to the small town, temporarily, to find out more details about her recently deceased mother, Viv. She was resident in the valley for a while. The daughter knows little about her mum and is attempting to discover more from Vivian Moon’s old friend Odette. Some of what she finds out isn’t entirely to her liking, but what is is her burgeoning friendship with the older woman, her job at the local pub and the town itself. But how is her arrival linked with that of another soul who turned up on the same day and promptly sat down in the main drag?


Throsby’s pace is quite laid back, taking her time to get around to presenting a neat answer to all the questions the various threads raise. There are also the usual bucolic stereotypes, but the novel wears these well and it never lapses into tweeness. The total package is a joy.

Having already conquered the world of music, Margaret’s daughter has the potential to do the same with her writing. With a bit of luck, one day, when we hear her name, we may think of her latter talent rather that the former. It doesn’t matter though. She’s magic at both.

Holly’s website =

Steven’s website =