Monthly Archives: July 2020

On the Couch01

Line of Duty – In Season 4 Leigh finally convinced me to sit down and watch this series with her. ‘You’ll love it,’ she reckoned – I did and have continued to do so. One of the features I appreciated about the UK police procedural was, that as well as the regular cast, well-knowns appear as guests. In 4 it was Thandie Newton and Lee Ingleby. Stephen Graham – if you don’t know the name, you’ll know the face – was in the next instalment and a 6 is promised as soon as the wretched virus allows it to be filmed. Given this, I have retraced my steps back to the very beginning and have now watched what I had been missing out on. Season 1 (Neil Morrissey and Gina McKee), 2 and 3 (Keeley Hawes) were also thoroughly revelled in as I came to know the regulars. Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) is the head of AC-12, a section of the men and women in blue that investigates corruption within – bent coppers in other words. He’s experienced, straight as a dye but with a few issues of his own that become apparent. He has two main off-siders, Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure), who specialises in going undercover, and Steve Arnott (Martin Compston). They are worthy adversaries to the small percentage who are in league with big crime. Now I’m up to date I can safely say it’s one of the best of its genre on the box – available both on Netflix and Stan.

lof d01

Hannah – The former platform above brings the Taswegian Gadsby back with her outstanding new one-woman show, ‘Douglas’. The Smithton lass changed the face of international comedy with her previous effort, ‘Nanette’. This time she tones it down somewhat in front of an American audience. They greet her to the stage with a standing ovation, such is her standing now in, well, stand-up. She then right royally manages to take the piss out of her hosts with hardly a mention of the T-word, Trump. There’s much else to delight, other than the knocking of the Yanks. She is unique – and if she’s not already a living national treasure, she darn well should be.


Mother Father Son – This Brit series (ABCiView) hasn’t totally won over the critics, but my lovely lady and I have found it a reasonable watch, even if the ending took a little believing. But it’s worth it mainly to see Richard Gere go to work on the British class system in his capacity as an unflinching press baron, who puts everything into giving the people exactly what he thinks they want – everything.


Hightown – Who knew Provincetown, Massachusetts was the gay party capital of the USA? I didn’t, but I sure do now. It’s a pretty hedonist place sitting out there on Cape Cod. In this series on Stan, recently renewed for another season, fisheries inspector Jackie Quiñones (Monica Raymond) is in the thick of it. Then a body is washed up on the beach. Being a Starz production, there’s plenty of sex, drugs, swearing and violence. But pushing all that to one side, it’s also a rattling good story.


The Cumberbatch – Missing the charismatic Pom on the small (or big) screen? Well, you can catch him in ‘Brexit, an Uncivil War’ (on Stan too). He plays one of the faceless men behind the victorious Exit campaign in the referendum that will eventually forever change the face of Britain. And he’s pretty fantastic in this too. As a television movie it has won plenty of gongs. A bonus is the guy (Richard Goulding) who attempts to replicate Boris’ uniqueness. He’s a hoot.


Alfie – On the same platform you can see an undoubted worldwide treasure, in Sir Michael Caine, host ‘My Generation’. It takes all of us who can remember, as well as those of us who’d like to, back to the Swingin’ Sixties. All the cultural notables are featured, reminiscing about the short time when Britain again ruled the world. We can marvel at how gorgeous Marianne Faithful, Joanna Lumley and Twiggy were back in the day. Still are of course. We hear the voices of these and other major players as they spin tales of those exciting days before drugs and the war in Vietnam bought it all tumbling down, ruining a generation’s spirit.


Movies on Stan – There are some terrific titles here that, in recent years, I caught on their cinema release. If they passed you by, they’re worth a gander – ‘Love and Mercy’ (the story of the Beach Boys), ‘Sing Street’ (music is at the heart of this Dublin drama), ‘Military Wives’ (who form a choir to take on the world), Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan shines), Sully (no plans to fly anytime soon, have you?), ‘Mr Turner’ (biopic of the crotchety artist), Normandy Nude (just a little nudity but mainly a ripping yarn), ‘Hell or High Water’ (the best contemporary western you’ll ever see) and ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ (terrific performance from Annette Bening).

We have also recently savoured ‘Baptiste’ (ABCiView), with Tom Hollander to the fore as well as the redoubtable sleuth, ‘Great Asian Railway Journeys (SBSonDemand)’ featuring Portillo at his vibrant best (just wait to you see him try his hand at Thai boxing), Monty Don in raptures over his ‘Japanese Gardens’ (ABCiView) and, taking us back in time, ‘America in Colour’ (SBSonDemand).

His Bobness

Dylan. Like all of us he’s getting on now. 79. The end is nearing – one way or another. But, for his Bobness, there never really will be an end, will there? He’ll just go on and on.

My first encounter with him would have been courtesy of my parents back in the early 60s. They were fans of Peter Paul and Mary and had a few of their LPs. Yes, LPs. ‘Blowing in the Wind’ and ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’ were on high rotation in my family household for a while. Of course, much later, I was to realise that the writer of those protest songs was Bob Dylan.

Photo of Bob DYLAN

It was an album cover, though, that introduced him fully, leading on to his music. I’ve no idea what year that would have been as the memory is of the vaguest nature. It must have been well pre-uni. I was rifling through a stack of somebody’s records – whose I haven’t a clue – when one caught my eye. This was before said covers became an art form – they then usually merely portrayed the performer(s) grinning cheesily back at you. This one was different. It stood out, having a couple seemingly snugly hunkered up together against the elements, walking along a city street. There was a kombi in the background – very popular at the time.


What if Suze Rotolo had stayed home on July 29, 1961?’ This query and possible answer, written by Mark Ellen and an inclusion in a collection of pieces on the Minnesota folk singer – as he was back then just starting out, looking improbably young – my beautiful daughter gifted me a while ago. Thank you Katie. The answer to the question is that we probably wouldn’t have had Bob and all the wonderful music he’s gifted all of us. Suze was the young lady snuggled up to him on that cover. I assumed then that the first song listed on ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ would have caught my eye – was it the tune I recognised from one of Mum and Dad’s albums? Methinks I would have then asked my host if he/she would give it a whirl on the gramophone to see. ‘My,’ I would have presumably ruminated, ‘that ain’t like how P, P and M did it at all.’ The voice, with its rasp and sneer, was like nothing I’d heard before, but, along with so many others, I just knew it had something. It undeniably had something. Perhaps even I might of thought he could be a new voice for my generation. It sounded as though he really meant it, being his songs were without the usual syrupy accompaniment you got back in the day. It was so raw. Many would say now that the album’s collection of protest was Dylan’s first hoax.

Suze Rotolo

Rotolo is no longer with us, succumbing to cancer in 2011. But, aged just 18 when she made the trip to be in the audience that day for a radio broadcast at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, billed as ‘An Afternoon of Folk Music’, she was as far left as it was possible to be. Her parents were avowed communists, very supportive of a Russian spy they knew. She was already a member of CORE. Dylan was apolitical at the time, but Suze changed all that. Roger McGuinn, another habitué of Greenwich Village at the time, reckons the folkster only penned his anti-war songs to impress Suze. You see, he was smitten and remained so during an on again, off again relationship, lasting through till ‘64. So Dylan’s entry into famedom was largely down to her – and ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ is regarded, by those in the know, as a kiss-off song preceding the final break-up. ‘Freewheelin’ included two other tunes that have stood the test of time in ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ and ‘Masters of War’.

Soon I too was buying his albums as they came out. I can’t remember if the one that first attracted my attention was in my collection or not. If it was, I have no idea where it is now as, once upon a time, vinyl was out of fashion. Who’d have thought! I adored ‘Nashville Skyline’ (1969) and ‘Self Portrait’ (1970) back in my uni days.

Will I buy ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’? I don’t automatically purchase these days so I’ll have a listen on YouTube or Spotify. So we’ll see.

We do owe thanks to Suze Rotolo, I guess – and then to your Bobness for giving the universe so many anthems of a generation. His crotchety, scratchy greatness will never be dimmed, even by his eventual ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.

Mark Mordue on Dylan –

Shame Anson – Just Shame

The hide of the man. He has been one of my favourite columnists for years, but now, after last weekend’s shocker, I’m not so sure. I was appalled, truly I was – and on behalf of all Hobartians, I’m speaking out. How dare he!

My beautiful lady and I love cruising. It’s a wonderful way to see a little of the world, where the getting there is often more enjoyable – and certainly more restful – than the various destinations en route. We would have been eagerly awaiting out third voyage, one over to our Kiwi neighbour, this coming summer, but the wretched virus put paid to that. We have postponed it till next November and who knows what the world will look like then. But to describe us and all our fellow travellers, on the high seas, as being constantly ‘…drunk on vodka slushies…’ – well, I was highly offended. Granted, a certain small percentage do drink themselves stupid from dawn to dusk, but the vast majority of our maritime companions on board, like us, tipple only in moderation. So, stick that in your cap Mr Cameron. But, if only that was the worst outrage he inflicted in his scribing! That jibe was easily surpassed by what came later in the scandalous column entitled ‘Welcome to the Wasteland’, as you will discover when you read on.

Now nothing beats sailing into Sydney’s magnificent harbour to visit, or terminate, a cruise, but doing so along that gorgeous entrance to my own city must come close. As for Melbourne, as much as I love the place myself, after steaming up the featureless Port Phillip Bay, there’s no comparison to either. I’ve done so on the Spirit (of Tasmania) and, seeing for myself what the main thrust of what Anson’s column is on about, it’s no wonder that the TT Line will soon be docking at an obviously more attractive site in Geelong’s Corio Quay. The Age writer does adequately describe Port Melbourne’s inadequacies as a destination for vessels bringing in Taswegians and other voyagers to Yarra City. It is, yep, dullsville. I had a more detailed look on a later stay when I hopped on the 109 from the city to explore the area around Station Pier. I was soon hopping back on that tram.


Cameron is so ashamed of that bayside suburb as a disembarkation point – and I can hardly type these words – that he is actually advocating passing it off as Hobart. My city, because of its vibrancy, arts scene and its stunning location under the ramparts of kunanyi, attracts far more cruise companies these days than does poor old Melbourne. It is his contention that, as the travellers coming off the boats would be so pissed anyway, they’d be none wiser. If they had any recollection at all, then changing the sign, atop the pier, to ‘Welcome to Hobart’, would place them in no position to cast any aspersions on his only remotely fair city. They would denigrate mine instead. Yes, that’s right dear reader, he is trying to pass off Victoria’s capital’s dour first disappointments as being those caused by our beautiful burb on the Derwent.


Now the Age, the vehicle for this contributor’s misplaced mischief, does not have the biggest readership in these parts, so I am alerting all my fellow islanders so we can rise up – yes, rise up – and nip this travesty in the bud. The audacity and repellent attitude of the man to want to place a Welcome to Hobart sign across the old tatty pier! Just as well that city, across the Strait, has a more pressing matter to think about at this time. Perhaps indeed it is his ploy to take minds off that. Well, it hasn’t worked, sir. I’m on to you.


Anson’s reprehensible column =

Pemulwuy et al

They were so brave, those lads who went north to the sweat and swamps of New Guinea to hold the line. This was against a possible Australian invasion if the Japanese broke through on the Kokoda Trail. They should be venerated, along with many of our wartime leaders. So it always seemed an anomaly that our powers to be do not afford the same to the First Australians who also attempted to hold the line against a foreign invasion. If not outnumbered, back in those early days, they were certainly outgunned, from the time of the first European settlement to well into and past colonial times. Historians know their names and many are advocating for a change. Perhaps their leaders will never be in the same league as Blaimey, Monash, Pompey Elliott or Weary Dunlop. But these too were leaders of men and women who took it up to the enemy. They should be at least recognised as such, particularly in our national war memorials.


I’ve written of the exploits of Pemuluwuy in another place. He scared the be-jesus out of the Brits and their convicts in the very early days, keeping them from venturing out in into the bush, away from the safety of numbers. Later on, along came Windradyne. In Western Australia there was Yagan and decades on, up in the Kimberlies, the redoubtable Jandawarra. On our own island, during the Black Wars, noteworthy were Musquito and the fearless Aboriginal woman, Wayler.


All of these leaders mounted gutsy rearguard actions to try and stem the tide, but of course the odds were so massively against them. Undoubtedly there was cruelty on both sides, but that is the nature of any conflict and these were desperate times, even if one side’s cause was realistically hopeless.

There’s no suggestion here that we should engage in a rush to erect statues to these heroes of the frontier skirmishes, but nor should we put to one side that these warriors were defending their lands as much as our boys at Kokoda.


As for Captain Cook? He was undoubtedly a great explorer of the seas, navigator and cartographer, but an argument could be mounted that his role in our history is overrated. Should he, though, be to blame for his discoveries leading to the forced foreign incursion to these shores? I don’t think so. It certainly, in my view, does not warrant the tearing down of statues honouring him, akin to what’s going on overseas with former slave owners and traders, as well as Confederate generals. Just don’t put up any more to him. Please!

Peter FitzSimon’s commentary =

Ingenious Indigenous Treats

Heat and Light – Ellen van Neerven, Too Much Lip – Melissa Lacashenko

She’s been around a while, has Melissa Lacashenko, publishing laudatory novels since 1997. The other, Ellen van Neerven, also an accomplished poet, is the new kid on the block as far as indigenous fiction is concerned. In their works we meet the Kresingers and the Salters, with both taking us on some journey.


Seriously,’ I thought to myself, ‘plantpeople, a new seaweedy species of ‘humans’ emerging from the mangroves of an island off the coast of Queensland. This is not my thing at all.’ But it was. I continued and I’m glad I did. For me the section ‘Water’, of Ellen van Neerven’s ‘Heat and Light’, was the stunning highlight. Set in the future, but in many ways taking us back to the past, it’s a contrast to the contemporary nature of the bookends, ‘Heat’ and ‘Light’, as we meet generations of Kresingers in linked vignettes. None, although exhibiting quite glowing wordsmithery, attracted me to the extent of Kaden’s story. She’s a young liaison officer to those studying, read subduing, the new species. They are trying to pave, read clear, the way for a development project. A relationship grows between her and Larapinta, one of the supposed ungendered plantpeople. The treatment of the ‘specimens’ hark back to our black, black history which gives, to this day, such discomfort to Australians of British descent. It is brave and adventurous writing for van Neerven and the collection won the NSW Premier’s Award for 2016.


We mightn’t have plantpeople, but we do have talking totems, crows and sharks, in ‘Too Much Lip’ by Melissa Lacashenko. I don’t know about too much lip, but the plethora of f-bombs and c-words were much too present for my normal taste. It does, I guess, make the novel ‘real’. We all know the type – people who open their oral orifices to produce sentences in which at least one word has to be an expletive – otherwise their standing as hard men or women would be lowered. If the awardees of 2019’s Miles Franklin can live with that, then so can I. The author has produced a rip-roaring yarn and it’s a worthy winner.


When sassy Kerry Salter roars back into her home burb, to rejoin her family, as the patriarch is near departure, she discovers the Salters are just as dysfunctional and disparate as when she left them. She comes to escape, as well, from some heat for misdeeds in her previous location and is firmly of the belief she’s gay. Boy, is she in for a surprise – and not only with her proclivity. When she discovers the plan the devious white local mover and shaker, Jim Buckley, has for a river island sacred to the Salters, she and the rest of her family are up for a fight. There’s Pretty Mary, her mother who, when the going gets tough, takes to her fruity lexia. There’s brother Black Superman, a Sydney-sider , as well as brother Ken, too, a said hardman with an explosive temper. Add to this more unique characters in the extended family and the only one who’s missing is a sister who did a runner many years back.


There’s never a dull moment with the collection of rellies as with the tome. This, as well as ‘Heat and Light’, indicates that the literature of the first people of our country is as strong as ever in the age of #blacklivesmatter.

Ellen van Neerven‘s website =

Melissa Lucashenko’s website =

Ken and Alice

Q1. Which American President-to-be had the unfortunate occurrence of both his mother and beloved wife dying, of unrelated causes, in the same house on the same day?

Q2. Which American President-to-be took as his bride a woman whose maiden name bore his own surname?

A1. Theodore Roosevelt A2. Franklin D Roosevelt

Earlier in the year SBS treated its viewers to ‘Country Music’, tracing the genre from its roots to the last decade of the 20th century. In recent times I have also watched ‘The Civil War’, being the epic series making the name of its now revered documentarian, ‘The Dust Bowl’ and ‘The National Park: America’s Best Idea’. So I was excited when SBS programmed his latest series on the music genre I love, narrated, as have been all his recent offerings, by the great Peter Coyote.


Ken Burns, the Michigan born film-maker, made his first documentary, featuring the Brooklyn Bridge, back in the 1980s. He progressed onto ‘The Shakers’, ‘The Statue of Liberty’ and ‘Huey Long’. The eleven hour ‘The Civil War’, from 1990, remains his crowning glory. Burns works entirely with archival footage – none of this penchant for re-enactments that so often blight today’s documentary work.

And ‘Country Music’ was special and I was so enjoying it once it commenced. Then I read that the BBC had butchered it for its UK showing, reducing its length to fit its schedules – and this is the version we received. I was horrified to the extent I’m considering buying the box set to gorge on the missing bits. With so many platforms these days it seems an extravagance. We’ll see.

But we’re not here to talk solely about Ken or SBS ripoffs. We’re here to talk also of Alice.

Now the exercise to commence this scribbling were titbits from another Ken Burns’ masterpiece entitled ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’. It’s a six episode opus, made in 2014, concentrating on the big three – Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor. It was narrated by Coyote as well, with assistance from Meryl Streep and Paul Giamatti.


During watching some of the first episodes I met Alice. She was the incredible, rambunctious and maverick daughter of the 26th President, for two terms, of the USA. This US leader was also the hero of the Battle for San Juan Hill, leading his legendary Rough Riders. I was intrigued by the girl, but soon she faded from view as I encountered other fascinating feminine figures, including the predominately lesbian group of women who gave succour to Eleanor while Franklin was conducting his personal relationships with various other partners.

Then my own beloved daughter also discovered Alice. She sent me a link, as is her practice when she comes across someone who may tickle my curiosity. I was tickled and started delving, eventually being won over. That other interesting bunch Burns pointed me to will have to wait.

So let me introduce you to a young lady who, in her youth, ‘…breathed new life into the very idea of young womanhood in the early 20th century as the suffrage movement was gaining steam. She herself would be involved in that… movement and the sexual revolution some half century later.’ Leah Silverman ‘Alice Roosevelt Longworth: The Original White House Wild Child’ Check it out on ‘’ on line.


To do so, though, I’ll have to take you back to that fateful day of February 12th, 1884, that we started with in Q1.

The day Alice was born, to a delighted Teddy Roosevelt, she was named after his beloved wife. Two days after delivering his daughter she died of kidney failure. It was a double whammy for the future POTUS as, elsewhere in the house, his own ailing mother succumbed to her illnesses. The 25 year old father was almost paralytic with grief and soon after hightailed it off to the Badlands of North Dakota to play at being a manly, hairy-chested cowboy and big game hunter. Although he took a distant interest in his little girl, he was happy enough to leave her in the care of his sister for three years. Anna, Alice’s Aunt, was a woman of strength and independence. As a role model she definitely had more influence on her niece than her oft absent father as she was growing up. Sadly, Teddy could never call his daughter by her given name, inventing nicknames for her instead. This reflected how he felt being so bereaved, but indicated little care for the daughter’s feelings. This refusal carried on into his next marriage, to a childhood sweetheart, Edith Carow, after his return, in 1886, from his self imposed isolation.

Young Alice rejoined the family when they moved to Long Island, but as she grew up and Edith kept producing step-brothers and sisters, five in all, tensions rose between the step-mother and the wilful eldest daughter. Edith was always wary of her husband’s undying regard for his departed first wife and that seemed to effect how she related to Alice. The fact that, as she progressed through her teenage years, her father still didn’t address her as Alice, continued to weigh heavily. But she resisted bowing to her problems. These were compounded when her father threatened to send her to boarding school to get, she presumed, her out of the way to improve familial cohesion. She fired up big time, confronted her father and in the end he backed down. The event was an important life lesson for the sassy youngster. The compromise was that she would return to her aunt’s home. Thinking she’d won a victory, Edith started to gossip that the girl was out of control, haring around the town with all the local lads instead of engaging in the prim and proper activities expected of the fairer sex at the time. In reality, Alice distrusted all men intensely, probably a legacy of her fraught relationship with her father, who always had weightier matters on his mind. She told all and sundry she’d never marry – and she never did, in the conventional sense.


TR’s burgeoning standing as a mercurial public and political figure bought the spotlight onto his eldest child. The equivalents of our New Idea and Womans Day back then had a field day with her, due to her non-conformist ways, to the joy of her gender and generation. But that was also to the increasing chagrin of Teddy. His career continued to advance, only problem was, so did Alice’s notoriety. Sadly he started to see her as a millstone. At eighteen Alice had the eyes of the nation on her and he increasingly felt they should have been on him. She even caught the attention of the Kaiser of Germany during a visit – so much so he named a yacht after her. So is it any wonder the public started calling her Princess Alice? And then Teddy, in 1901, unexpectedly assumed the Presidency.

She still gave him plenty to think about, though, apart from the affairs of the nation. She took to driving cars – outrageous enough for a woman, but worse, she drove then exceedingly fast. She smoked and chewed gum in public – unheard of! Like any fella she took to wearing pants, slept in till noon regularly, particularly after partying hard into the night. Her headlines appeared on the front page of the dailies – her father’s policy-making in the inner pages. He fumed and fumed, but no matter the entreaty from him, nothing stopped her. She even had one of those newspapers keeping a daily tally of the events she attended. It was noted that, in a fifteen month period, she made it to 1706 engagements that made either the social pages or the scandal sheets. ‘I must admit a sense of mischief does get a hold of me from time to time. I’m a hedonist. I have an appetite for being entertained,’ she gushed in one interview.

She was banned from the White House on occasions – once when she took a dislike to the future President Taft’s wife and held a ceremony to bury a voodoo likeness of her on the grounds.

President Roosevelt continued in office till 1909 and during that time Alice drew crowds to rival him. But as time went on so her interest in the issues of the day captured at least a part of her mind. And by now she was in love – sort of. The object of her attention was Congressman Nicholas Longworth. He was rich, older and came to her with a long history of newsworthy entanglements with women. And he also had a passing resemblance to her father. They became a couple, out and about partying up a storm and keeping the punters interested with a string of affairs each. All that continued after their marriage, at the White House, in 1905.


By the 1920s Teddy had passed away and Alice took up with a Senator William Borah as her new bit on the side. The daughter she bore during that time – well, she really couldn’t say, could she, who was the father – her Congressman hubby or the Senator. Typical – and more fodder for the press.

But age does catch up. She remained forthright and fearless in her opinions, not afraid to share them around. She was a vocal pacifist until Pearl Harbour and later gave counsel to the Kennedys, Johnsons; even the Nixons. She was also loud in her advocacy for women’s rights in her later years, right up until her health deteriorated in her eighties. No longer a wild child, but forever venerated, she passed away in 1980.

It was a long and boisterous life – and here’s a final word on her from Jimmy Carter, ‘She had style, she had grace, and she had a sense of humour that kept generations of political newcomers to Washington wondering which was worse – to be skewered by her or ignored by her.’

If her father didn’t notice her enough, she made sure the rest of the world did. You can meet up with her and many other fascinating figures associated with this great US family on YouTube. Just plug in ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’. Yes Katie, your Alice was a standout.

Trailer ‘The Roosevelts: an Intimate History’ =

Trailer ‘Country Music’ =