Monthly Archives: March 2020

De-stressing in a CV World 01

Dear Friends

It’s a little, perhaps even slight story amidst the tsunami that’s breaking over us, but it’s buoyed me in recent days. My beloved Leigh and I decided, for a change, to go upstream rather than down, for a few items we needed, some of which were beginning to become difficult to attain in the city. Whether its from blind fear or not-so-blind greed, this panic buying thing is a pain. We were largely successful in our aims at New Norfolk’s Woolies, a place that seemed less frenetic than it’s cousins closer in to the CBD. That, though, is not the point of this scribing. Whilst in there, out of curiosity I sauntered over to the area where the toilet paper should be housed when I spotted her. She was a largish girl, her face very flushed, heaving huge packets of Sorbent up onto said shelves. A colleague walked over to her, presumably her overseer, as she took a breath between hefts and I was close enough to overhear their brief conversation:-

He said, ‘I’ve called in Paul. He can do your shift for you tomorrow. You’re pushing it too hard girl. You need a break. Please take it.’

She said back, in a take no prisoners manner, ‘No. No way. This is my job. It needs doing properly and I’m doing it.’ Then she bent down and laboured another couple of dozen rolls up onto its proper place.

I’ve thought about her reaction to her boss’ desire to give her some time away. I reckon working her arse off is probably more than just doing her bit. My notion is that she is probably struggling to come to terms, like the rest of us, with what is happening to our planet. Working like a navvy is her way of trying to block it all out. Trying to cope with it all till we get to the other side. Thank heavens and thank you to the shelf-stackers. We plan to go back up to NN the next time we need to replenish. Maybe I’ll spot her again to discern how she’s doing.

Trump. Trump makes me angry. Always Trump. Then there’s the ineptitude and just plain dumbness of the NSW Department of Health, or whoever it was that, in cavalier fashion, allowed the Ruby Princess to disgorge its thousands of sitting ducks for the virus out onto the streets of Sydney and beyond. Our island is paying a heavy price for that stuff-up and that has made me quietly simmer. And I cannot adequately find the words for humans who mount organised raids on regional supermarkets. But I find if I focus on that girl who was busting a gut, just doing her bit, for whatever reason, I know there is another side. I must not let the anger get on top. It helps to push it aside. What else?


There’s the stuff I love that I can bring to the fore to replace all of those routines I have already lost – but do not, thankfully, spend too much time lamenting. I can still soak cares away with my morning sudsy ablutions to get a day off to a calm commencement. Then comes my music. Katie and her Leigh organised some magic remote headphones so I’ve been losing myself in Missy Higgins, Clapton, the Boss’ ’Western Stars’ of late. As I pen this I am swooning to a glorious new album of Tom Waits’ covers, ‘Come Up to the House’ by some queens and princesses of Americana – Patty Griffin, Rosanne Cash, Shelby Lynn, her sister Allison Moorer and others. Just delectable. Katie sourced it for me on-line. She’s a marvel.

When my own Leigh emerges to start her day she is all calmness and common sense. I know, once we are through this, I’ll cherish and adore her even more, if that’s possible. Eventually, during our days, we’ll get stuck into our latest picks from the plethora of attractive series/movies on our platforms. At the moment we’re hooked by ‘The Capture’ (ABCiView). That will take your mind off anything. We’re also enjoying ‘Secret City’ (Netflix) and ‘The Last Tycoon’ (Amazon Prime). I’m finding ‘The Test’, also on Prime, taking me from Sandpapergate to retaining the Ashes, simply enthralling. And sporting-wise, with the demise of the AFL season, at least I won’t have the angst of a close match involving the Hawks.


But the best balm of all? Late last Sunday afternoon I had, in quick succession, calls from my daughter, Rich and my dear mother. She’s confined to barracks. She’s lived through the Depression, as well as a hot and cold war, so she’s no stranger to adversity. She just keeps on keeping on, surrounded and cushioned by a caring staff at Umina. It felt so good hearing from them; such a salve, those conversations. Family need to be close in these times.

We’ll find a way through all this, as that young Derwent Valley lass is doing. My best wishes to you all as you ride out the storm in your own ways. My missives will keep on coming, She up there beyond the silver lining willing. Know they, too, are soothing for me, helping me keep it in perspective; keeping the bigger, wilder thoughts away


More on ‘Come On Up To the House’ –

Trailer ‘The Capture’ –

Trailer ‘Secret City’ –

Trailer ‘The Last Tycoon’ –

Trailer ‘The Test’ –

Fab Feb Films

Bill Nighy. Just love him. His oft tremulous demeanour, tics and twitches have been the highlight of many a movie and television show for me. There’s the wonderful ‘Girl in the Cafe’ and ‘Gideon’s Daughter’ with the latter. And who can forget him his marvellous opening to proceedings in ‘Love Actually’. There’s his burnt out rock star in ‘Still Crazy’ and I relished him in ‘Wild Target’, ‘Best Marigold Hotel’ and 2018’s ‘Sometimes, Always, Never’. And later in March I’ll have the pleasure of seeing him again with Annette Benning in ‘Hope Gap’.

In ‘Emma’ he was again marvellous. He didn’t do much except fret about pesky draughts, but he did it magnificently. Without Bill I might not have been tempted to see yet another film adaptation of a Jane Austin novel, but with him featuring and Katie winning some tickets, off I went to Eastlands with two beautiful ladies either side. And I had a ball with it. Anna Taylor Joy was indeed a joy as the eponymous heroine, meddling her way through other people’s lives and forgetting about her own. She was surrounded by a fabulous supporting cast including, besides Bill, the wonderful Miranda Hart and Rupert Graves. This treat also saw the emergence of Johnny Flynn onto our collective radars as a tuneful George Knightley. Better known in the UK as a musician, he did some warbling in ‘Emma’ and has already a fine list of well-received albums to his name. He next appears as Bowie in ‘Stardust’.


Not to be confused with Sorentino’s deliciously sensual treat, ‘The New Pope’, on SBSonDemand, ‘The Two Popes’, on Netflix, is equally worth taking in, being another highlight of summer’s last month. As with the other Academy Ward nominees from this platform, this offering shines on the small screen. How could it not with the acting chops of the great Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, both the receivers of Oscar nods. The former plays the dour Pope Benedict, whilst the latter the far more shiny Cardinal Bergoglio/Pope Francis. The film tells of the negotiations and conversations between the two as Benedict prepares to step down. Essentially he is symbolic of the tortuous past of the institution he represents when there is somewhat of a yearning for a new broom. We get a glimpse into the background of the charismatic newbie who, in the past, had a fractious relationship with the generals and the church during Argentina’s dark days. He professes a love, as well, for soccer and ABBA. And he’s such a contrast to the Germanic Benny, but what began as a standoff in negotiations ends up as a grudging friendship – or so the movie would have it. Please do not be put off by the fact that little of what the movie portrays actually happened. In the hands of gifted writer Anthony McCarten (‘The Theory of Everything’, ‘The Darkest Hour’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’) this is easily the equal of the bracketed.


If you’re a fan of the ABC’s ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’ series on the box you will enjoy it’s big sister in the cinemas. ‘Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears’ has received a mixed and underwhelming response from the critics, but is ablaze where it counts – at the box office. It certainly has its faults, but it’s light, trite, fluffy and much fun. And it’s good seeing both Johns, Waters and Stanton, strut their venerable selves around in the frolic.


Clint Eastwood is a legend and still going strong at 93. His latest, ‘Richard Jewell’, has had some strong notices, but also raised some controversy – as well as having a mixed response at the box office. Paul Walter Hauser is exceptional as the hero/villain of the Atlanta Olympic’s bombing – and he’s assisted by a competent supporting cast. Katy Bates gives a strong performance as the mother drawn into the mess her stay-at-home, dim, nerdy and over-weight son has inadvertently drawn her into. Sam Rockwell fares well as yet another down-at-heel shambolic lawyer who rises to greatness when his moment of fame comes around. It’s basically a tale of trial by media, all adding up to a pretty griping yarn. The issue lies with the over-the-top portrayal by Olivia Wilde of a press reporter. She broke the story of Jewell as the man who she accused of, not only saved many lives, but was in fact responsible for the device’s placement under some stands in the first place. She uses her body to worm the information out of a rather dim, square jawed detective (who better than John Hamm for such a role?) Only problem for Eastwood was that the real life, but now deceased, newshound, Kathy Scruggs, was nothing like her in her professionalism. Her nearest and dearest were understandably upset at the besmirching of her name. If you can cut the renowned director some slack for this, it is a saga worth seeing.


Some cool days bought summer to an end with my final movie’s greyness matching the skies outside the State. It was based on John Lethlean’s best-selling novel with a Tourette suffering private eye, Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) at its core. The actor drove the production of this feature, responsible for moving the time frame from the 90s back to the 50s. Surrounded by quality off-siders in the telling, including Bruce Willis, Bobby Cannavale, Willem Dafoe and Alec Baldwin, it’s a hard-boiled tale of a lowly investigator up against big city corruption. Norton is outstanding, but who’d have thought his tics and squawks would make for perfect scatting in harmony with a jazz band? ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ shines despite the gloomy world the gumshoe inhabits and it’s well worth your time when it appears on a platform near you.


So farewell to the old month and hello to the new. I wonder what treats lie in store for me, at the movies, up ahead, coronavirus permitting!

Trailer for ‘Emma’ =

Trailer for ‘The Two Popes’ =

Trailer for ‘Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears’ =

Trailer for Richard Jewell =

Trailer for ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ =

Mailed Missives and Andrea’s Book

It aptly emerged around Valentines Day last month, the one-sided cache of letters that the Tasmanian Archives were letting the Hobart public in on to celebrate something or other, maybe just the day of Cupid’s arrow itself. A story was published in the local newspaper, an interview on ABC radio. Through those letters the tyranny of distance was writ large, even when the distance only amounted to that from Bushy Park, up in the Derwent Valley, to the inner city suburb of Newtown. Nothing today. They were his letters. No record of her replies remain. He later was to become the head of a family prominent in Tasmanian affairs, but as a young man, in the 1870s, he was working in the hop-fields and kilns of the Valley. Long hours; daylight to dusk. To visit his town girl back then would require a horse and trap down to New Norfolk, followed by a river steamer into the city. Getting together was therefore problematic, thus the missives between them. They amounted to nearly 200 from him to her, over a period of around two years. The words in these paper communications were delicately intimate, but also gave a portal of intricate detail into a working man’s life amidst the hop-bearing vines in our neck of the woods. Records show they did eventually marry and started to spend a life together. But after a couple of years she was taken from him by TB – but her memory, as well as their devotion, will now last an eternity. Letters allow that.


Fast forward, now, to a novel that I loved, set a century and a bit further on in the Melbourne of around the Bicentenary year. Here Russian woman, Galina, after a chance meeting in St Petersburg, has migrated to Yarra City to begin a new life. Once here she has the other party in that meeting, who loves her, as well as his parents, to assist her in assimilating.

Mother Sylvie collects old letters, an inclination that later turned into a passion. It commenced when she uncovered an enticing one under the floorboards of her home. She finds peering into the lives of others, by reading their mail, is a salve to the mundane everyday existence with her husband, Leopold. Later she is obliged to write a life changing letter of her own. Hubby adores her, but their lives are defined and constrained by his secret.


It’s a beautiful journey, working our way through ‘Invented Lives’, as Galina Kogen disentangles herself from her Russian Jewish past and embraces Australian life, even if she cannot completely embrace Andrew Morrow, who adores her. He’s the man who, in part, was the reason she was in this often perplexing new land, having made a perilous escape to arrive here. She found life with democratic freedom very different to being under the communist thumb. The choices in the shops: just the choices all around. And when she starts to think she has found her forever home on the other side of the world, the past comes crashing back again.

This is a tale of memories, Russian snow and Australian heat, culture clash, different forms of love and the power of letters.

Of course these days digitality has cruelled the standing of letters as a means of personal communication. Auspost has yet again informed the country, in its yearly report, of the ever-diminishing returns from their letter carrying operations, causing another postage price rise and notice of further cutbacks being a possibility for mail delivery services. The world of Galina and Sylvie was perhaps the last hurrah for the post as a force in people’s lives.

In a way she (Sylvie) couldn’t explain her letters acknowledged her – much like an absorbing novel did, although in a more personal and targeted way’. As she related to Galina, ‘I get to experience other times, places, people, emotions through letters…I feel remade.’


Sylvie is speaking of her letter collection. She has been doing some soul searching of late about the paucity of her life with the urbane Leopold and is confiding in her new friend, a friend whom she hopes will soon move to the next level in her relationship with son Andrew. ‘Then there’s handwriting. You’re reading something direct from another’s hand. You’re touching their hand – that’s how it feels to me. And I particularly like letters that are hard to decipher. You have to pour over these; it’s the intensest intimacy.’

And how much more precious does a letter become – not to me, the collector, but the original recipient – when the writer of the letter has died. Think of it: for the wife who lives on after her husband, the man whose brother has passed away, the woman who’s lost her best friend, death does not alter their letters…You’re able to sit by yourself reading your beloved’s words. Savouring them, responding to them, just as you did when they were alive. Death, which changes almost everything, leaves letters untouched.’

…all letters are communications’, Sylvie continued on page 218, ‘all letters speak to someone, all letters invite the reader into the heart and mind of the writer. There’s something deliciously clandestine about letters. I love everything about them.’

Little did Sylvie know what was just around the corner. I’m sure, as with myself, she’d be saddened by the demise of her passion in the world of the C21st. There are some throwbacks, battling against the tide; some lovely people, whom I cherish, even continuing to send off epistles to me. But back in the 90s I had my own world wide net – people from all over the globe who wrote to me and I wrote back. They were called pen-friends. Going to the letter box was a highlight of the day. These days my mail box is full of requests for money, envelopes with windows and unsolicited advertising – apart from a few treasured items. Emails, as well as platforms like Messenger etc, fill the void, of course. They are exceedingly welcome, but it’s not quite the same.

Sylvie’s world will never come back, but I still sit here many mornings scribing away anyway. Hopefully the recipients are, like her, not being put off by my increasingly indecipherable scrawl – for, you see, I just love it.


Andrea Goldsmith’s web site = =