Monthly Archives: December 2019


As with Shane, I miss those days. Although life with my beautiful lady, in these years by the river, provides me with ample fun, I do still miss the glee of those years. Shane misses it because she is a victim (of sorts) of #MeToo. I was out of it and retired before that – and I stress this necessary movement took place. There were indications of what was up ahead in my later years and that more care needed to be taken in one’s working relationships with the opposite gender.

shane watson

I am largely comfortable around women. Many of my dearest friends are women – women I have mostly met in the schools I have practised my profession in over the decades. I developed a bond with them and I take pride in saying they are still incredibly important to me. On the staffs of my experience an easy collegiality existed. On occasions I saw romantic relationships develop in others, but behaviours were perhaps tempered by the abundance of young minds about. I never experienced a toxic workplace, nor one where it seemed to me that women would feel sexually threatened on a day to day basis. I’m male though. How am I to judge? There were flirtations (I may have very mildly participated at times), as well as the sort of contact around the corridors that may raise eyebrows now.

As I aged I became increasingly wary around young female staff – and it is perhaps because of that I retain friendship with some of them to this day. Over the years I did encounter a few male types who were overly attentive to the younger women on staff, but I was more in my comfort zone with staff members of the opposite gender closer my own age. I enjoyed the cosy familiarity I shared with them, at times even comforting them when the occasion arose without it posing in any way as something out of order. I wonder if that could happen today? These women seemed as secure in their own skins as I became under the influence of my wonderful Leigh. And they enhanced my life each and every day.


Has #MeToo now rubbed off in the sort of staff rooms I worked in? I have no real way of knowing. Most workplaces, by their very nature, encourage close contact and lines can be crossed – deliberately or otherwise. Any boss who feels she or he can control affairs of the heart under their watch is deluding him/herself. It’s human nature to put the heart before the brain, or at least how the brain is ordained to behave. And, anyway, this is distinctly different to the systematic, ingrained harassment of the female gender that has raised its ugly head in the armed forces, hospitals, banks and even on the musical stage in recent times.


I do admire the women who were the whistle-blowers in this regard. Odious men of the ilk of Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein need to be called out. The former has been brilliantly portrayed in all his rottenness by Russell Crowe in one of the year’s best tele-series, ‘The Loudest Voice’, with the forthcoming big screen production ‘Bombshell’ soon set to further blacken his name. Hopefully Hollywood will similarly turn on Weinstein. These are repugnant guys and not at all reflective, I would hope, of most of my gender.


The fun police have had their beige way with so much in how the world operates in these early decades of the 21st Century. Is a sterile staff room, office or industrial site more productive than one where, in Ms Watson’s words, ‘…something slightly inappropriate…’ is turned a blind eye too in the name of keeping morale up? For me, close and caring encounters with the beautiful women of my orb, now completely away from the workplace, gives my life extra fizz. And, to my mind, the human condition needs all the fizz it can get these days.

Shane Watson’s opinion piece =

Islands – Peggy Frew

Recently my lovely lady started to watch ‘Yellowstone’ on Netflix. It had positive reviews and possessed a fine cast headed by Kevin Costner. What would be not to like? Leigh enjoyed the introductory movie-length first episode, but once she proceeded into the regular series, she found it too fractured – the timelines were all over the place, so much so she hadn’t much idea what was going on. I’m not sure she persevered with it.

It was like that for this reader with Peggy Frew’s ‘Islands’ – only I carried on till the end. Her earlier publications – ‘House of Sticks’ and ‘Hope Farm’ were exceptionally good but, as with Leigh and ‘Yellowstone’, despite the book’s positive reviews with the critics I consulted, I struggled.


That Ms Frew is not a fine practitioner was not the problem – her wordsmithery excels. What one reviewer described as her succeeding with ‘…an uncomfortable and disorientating narrative’, I found just such tough going. I struggled to get a handle on what was going on in this tale of a dysfunctional family unit coming to grips with the disappearance of one of its number.

The island of the title is Victoria’s Phillip Island; home of little penguins, glorious seascapes and a tourist destination of repute. It provided a holiday escape for the family in question, as it has for the forty-something author in her own life. She has stated she has been working on the manuscript for this book since her twenties.


Islands’ centres on two sisters, Junie and Anna, with the latter being the missing mystery figure. Did she simply run away or was there something more sinister involved? She was a wild child so all options were open. We approach the story from events occurring in all decades, it seems, since the sixties, but not presented in an exactly straightforward manner. One thing the novel does do, along with some very fine television I have been watching of late (‘A Confession’ being one example), is to convey the utter devastation a missing child can cause. Just awful, especially if no closure is gained.

The author’s FB page =

Electric Hotel – Dominic Smith

Vamp. What has the world done to deserve your European contempt and mockery? How we let you into this country is beyond a thinking man’s sense. You should go back to your homeland where they eat babies and drown in sexual vice.’

Sabine Montrose, you represent perhaps the greatest threat to civil society. In regards to your recent film ‘The Electric Hotel’ I am writing to tell you that Christian married women everywhere will mull your name alongside the devil’s, for it is in his company that you belong. An archangel seductress and a Vampyre ripped from Poe.’

So, if you think trolls are are a modern-day phenomenon, think again. They existed in the early decades of the C20th too. I suspect they’ve always existed, just in differing forms. Back then they spread their toxic vitriol via snail mail – the only difference being to our digital age that it therefore occurred at a more languid pace. The greats of the silver screen have always had their fan mail from the adoring multitudes, but the post was also a vehicle to communicate the bile of the haters. In ‘The Electric Hotel’, by Australian-American writer Dominic Smith, the fictional Marilyn Monroe of the era he set his tome in, Sabine Montrose, is, in part, forced to retire from making the earliest of movies by the strong criticism she received for her role in the book’s eponymous film. What also defeated her was the result of the stranglehold various trusts (read monopolies) had over various industries, despite the best efforts of Presidents Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson to curtail the damage they were doing. The villain of the piece here was Thomas Alva Edison. He controlled the early film industry with an iron fist. He was in no mood for compromise if an upstart indie tried to take a slither of his turf.


As a read ‘The Electric Hotel’ was full of interest but had the potential to be so much better. It deals with a fascinating time as the movie business starts to show signs of what it would become – ie today’s behemoth – in the eyes of the public. If a reader is interested in this era there is much to relish. As we know, at the moment archivists all over the world are struggling to restore the windows on a bygone world before reels of disintegrating footage in canisters, stored for a century or more, turn to mush. If the publication had of stuck to those exciting times, this would have been a more successful tale. When it leaves, as war approaches, it continues on and loses its sheen.

Claude Ballard, the central protagonist, paid his dues in Europe, working for the Lumiere Brothers at the birth of modern cinema. Later, in New York State, teaming up with producer Hal Bender, Australia stuntman Chip and the redoubtable Sabine, they set about making an early Gothic horror epic, seemingly unaware of the legal implications of trying to compete with Edison and his cronies. Claude is completely infatuated with the ageing but intensely mercurial Montrose. Earlier he had filmed her in the altogether taking a bath, as well as his own sister’s untimely death. Both shorts certainly caused the Edwardian Age to sit up and take notice of the new medium. One got the men folk very hot and bothered indeed.

As for what was, at the time, a forerunner to a full length feature, Edison scarpered the completed product well and truly, sending the careers of the filmmakers and the star into debt and personal nosedives from which they all struggled to recover. But the book opens and closes decades later with a more modern day film student seeking out the now elderly Ballard. He’s living in a seedy NYC hotel with his ancient completed film stored under his bed. It had only managed one public showing back in the day of the silent screen. The student resolves to make right the earlier travesty and present a restored copy to a modern audience.


There are pleasures to be had with Smith’s rendering of his fictional account, but as some reviewers have also stated, they come in fits and starts. It’s impact is distilled as it becomes yet another war story for much of its length. Its descriptions, though, of early film making, before health and safety concerns prevented caution being thrown to the wind, are enthralling. Stuntmen defied death even if disguised as women, dirigibles aflame fell from the skies and women with womanly desires had yet to be excised by the Hays Code. A beauty such as Sabine could cause a public meltdown the nature of which is hard to imagine in our flesh saturated world.

The author’s website =