Category Archives: annual reviews

The Blue Room’s Best Television 2019

Putting together a simple list of the best ten television programmes for the year used to be a fairly simple matter. Now, with the explosion of platforms, – we added Amazon Prime in 2019 – it has become a more problematic. Once upon a time, for my retirement, I planned ploughing through a mountain of great books. Boy, has that taken a back seat to powering through the best the Golden Age of Television has to offer. And so far I still haven’t viewed the final season of GofT! And then there’s the issue of first run movies being shown on the small screen simultaneously as they’re released in the cinema. Where do they go? The venerable Stratton included three of them in his best new films of the last twelve months. The other thing that has tickled me in recent times is that my dear mother seemingly is now addicted to Mad Men, still to be bested as my favourite tele series of all time. In a perfect world I’d be re-watching it with her – but where is the time for that as quality new releases come streaming down seemingly almost daily. All that being stated, here goes my best for ‘19, along with those that almost made it.


1. The Loudest Voice (Stan)– when brave women stood up against a despicable man, brilliantly portrayed by Russell Crow.

2. Patrick Melrose (ABC)the Cumberbatch has never been better and its Princess Margaret rocks.

3. A Confession (7Plus) – never has the law been an ass more than in this tale based on true events

4. The Crown (S3) Netflix – Margaret doesn’t rock quite as much but the quality continues with new headliners playing the royals.

5. Catch 22 (Stan) – the utter stupidity of war.

6. Mindhunter (Netflix) – you just can’t take your eyes off those serial killers.

7. Perfume (Netflix) – the best of several terrific German contenders – stylish and intriguing.

8. The Hunting (SBS)the standout in an excellent year for local product, with the added bonus of being set around, for better or worse, the teaching profession.

9. Five Bedrooms (10Play) – for me ably filled the void left by ‘Offspring’, ‘House Husbands’ and ‘800 Words’.

10. The Pier (SBS) – sultry and intelligent, the best of several Iberian offerings I watched this year.


The Best of the Rest – Love on the Spectrum – ABC, Press – ABC, Total Control – ABC, The Roosevelts – an Intimate History – Netflix, State of the Union – ABC, Carnival Row – Prime, Mrs Wilson – ABC, Aberdeen – ABC, Killing Eve – ABC, The Cry – ABC, Endeavour – ABC, Grantchester – ABC, Monty Don’s French Gardens – Netflix, Australia in Colour – SBS, Billy Connolly’s Made in Scotland – 7Plus, Pagan Peak – SBS, Blood – SBS, Collingwood From the Inside Out – ABC, Nigel Slater’s Middle East – ABC, The Mediterranean with Simon Reeves – SBS, Hinterland – Netflix, Bad Move – Stan, Project Blue Book – SBS, The Spanish Princess – Stan, Diary of an Uber Driver – ABC, Utopia – ABC, Rosehaven – ABC, Unbelievable – Netflix, Tin Star – SBS, Years and Years – SBS, The Red Line – SBS, Outlander – Stan, Modern Love – Prime.


Graeme Blundall’s Best Television for 2019 – The Crown, Succession, Unbelievable, Pennyworth, Mindhunter, Watchmen, Lorena, Russian Doll, Chernobyl, Years and Years, The Cry, Lambs of God, Total Control, What We Do in the Shadows, Undone.

NB – Sad to see ‘Poldark’ finish up.

The Blue Room’s Best Music 2019

Richard Hawley is a late bloomer. He was born into a working class Sheffield family in 1967, his childhood blighted by a cleft palate. With musical parents, he was soon learning the guitar and forming a high school band. After graduation he worked around the local music scene as a jobbing musician and became a member of Longpigs, who had some success in the ‘90s. His first taste of real stardom had to wait until the new millennium when he joined Pulp, fronted by Jarvis Cocker. For years beforehand Hawley had been quietly writing a catalogue of songs. Jarvis and other band members convinced him to play a few for them, were impressed and advised him to record them under his own steam. He built up a following with a few releases early in the noughties and some of the critics started to push his oeuvre. He had success with a tune entitled ‘Nights are Cold’ before the 2005 release of ‘Coles Corner’, the album that really set him on his way. It raised his profile nationwide in the UK and certainly caught my interest. Many regarded it as Britain’s album of the year with it being nominated for many gongs. Since that time, with each new collection of songs, he has retained his following and quality of product. ‘Truelove’s Gutter’ was industry magazine Mojo’s best album for ‘09. The music has kept coming this decade, decorated with his melodic baritone and lush arrangements. Many of his songs reference the city of his birth and his latest release, ‘Further’, tops my list for 2019.


1. Further – Richard Hawley

2. Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen

3. CrushingJulia Jacklin

4. Three Chords of Truth – Van Morrison

5. Tides of a Teardrop – Mandolin Orange

6. Ruins – First Aid Kit

7. Can’t Make You Love Me – Geena Rose Bruce

8. All Mirrors – Angel Olsen

9. Wild Seeds – Seeker Lover Keeper

10. Fever Breaks – Josh Ritter

HMs – Years to Burn – Calexico/Iron and Wine, My Finest Work Yet – Andrew Bird, The Saint of Lost Causes – Justin Townes Earle, Part of the Light – Ray LaMontagne, Texas – Steve Earle, Fever Dream – Of Monsters and Men, Not Dark Yet – Allison Moorer/Shelby Lynne, Aviary Takes – Dan Sultan.

EG Entertainment Guide, the Age – Our Favourite 10 Albums of 2019 – Craig Mathieson

Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsGhosteen

Lana Del Rey Norman F—ing Rockwell

Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Brittany Howard – Jaime

Lizzo – Cuz I Love You

Julia Jacklin – Crushing

Sampa the Great – The Return

Tropical F— Storm – Braindrops

Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow

Wilco – Ode to Joy

HMs – Amyl and the Sniffers – Amyl and the Sniffers; FKA Twigs – Magdalene; Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next; Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy; Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka; The National – I Am Easy to Find; Rustin Man – Drift Code; Sleater-Kinney – The Centre Won’t Hold; Solange – When I Get Home; Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride.

The Blue Room’s Best Movies 2019

News came late in the year that the hallowed institution of Hobart film goers, The State, was no longer an indie, having been sold to the Reading Cinemas. The State for years has been drawing the crowds with a cerebral mix of art house, foreign and the best of mainstream. Let’s hope that formula will survive under the new owners, for I doubt its longevity if it simply apes the Hollywood dross of the multiplexes. What has already made a visit to the movies, North Hobart style, more problematic was the decision of the HCC to triple the charges in NoHo’s only viable car park for cinema goers, thus adding $9.00 to the price of a movie ticket at the State. Despite outrage from the merchants along the strip at the sorry state of parking in the vicinity, it further convinces customers to spend their money elsewhere. The city fathers/mothers(?) seem to be sticking to their notion that squeezing every last cent out of the area’s patrons is the way to go. I suspect many, like me, will now change their cinema going habits, particularly if Reading shows similar disrespect to the State’s rusted on clientele.

The quality of this year’s list of ‘Best Of’ is somewhat down compared to previous twelve month periods. That being said, for various reasons, including the one stated above, I did miss many offerings I would normally make the utmost effort to attend.


1. Who You Think I Am – full of surprises and twists and turns, this French offering, with a cast headed by Juliette Binoche, is a stunner.

2. Green Book – a worthy winner of Best Film Oscar early in the year, this journey into the southern states of the US, still clinging to Jim Crow, by a gay musician and his minder, was a revelation

3. Cold War – From Poland this post-war love story, in stark black and white, was a winner at many festivals and a winner with this viewer.

4. Stan and Ollie – they were well past their prime but decided to have one last hurrah by touring Britain before they were completely clapped out – in both senses of the pun. Wistful and poignant.

5. Wild Rose – other music centred offerings, such as ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Rocketman’, may have had higher profiles, but to me this tale of almost rags to riches outshone them all. It helps to be a devotee of country music. Pleased to see the star, Jessie Buckley, get a BAFTA nomination.

6. Colette – This possessed the sumptuously winning combination of Keira Knightley and ‘Poldark’s’ Eleanor Tomlinson heating up the screen, as well as being a rattling tale of the life of the iconic writer – enough to win over any audience. It certainly did me.

7. Blinded by the Light – a Pakistani teenager falls in love with the music of the Boss and thus begins a life-long infatuation, resulting in a memoir and this most attractive feature.

8. Yesterday – for my generation, as well no doubt for the many following us, the magic of the Fab Four is still as fresh today as it was back in our pomp – given here an extra lustre through imagining a world without it.

9. Downton Abbey – the story line may have been twee but, oh dear, the yearning and the nostalgia!

10. Palm Beach – same as per above for the narrative, but with Bryan Brown, Sam Neil and Richard E Grant, how could you go wrong?

HMs – Fisherman’s Friends, Late Night, Rocketman, Tolkien.


David Stratton’s Best Movies for 2019 – Apollo 11, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Burning, Pain and Glory, The Irishman, Parasite, The King, Sorry We Missed You, Marriage Story, Stan and Ollie.

The Blue Room’s Best Books 2019

Dud books. I read my share this year – although, as per usual, I tried to be positive in my reviews of them. Perhaps I should be more ruthless – only read good books. But how do you know until you actually get amongst the pages? Some of these duds were recommended by critics I respected; others were by authors of the ‘when they’re good, they’re very good’ variety. And, as with Amelia, my yearly average in recent times has not been high. Bit higher than hers – but not by much. Yep, I should be more ruthless. I plug away at a tome I’m clearly not relishing, reluctant masochistically to let the dud go even as my pile of ‘to reads’ increases. In the back of my mind I think that within them some real gems may lie. Sadly, none of those emerged in 2019 for me. Nothing completely rocked my world, in part because of my stubbornness. Still there were some titles that were worthy, listed below. The real highlight of my reading year was the arrival of the adventures of Juno Jones, my daughter’s new series for emerging readers – available for the young things in your world at a bookstore near you.


Others I rated highly were:-

The Lost Man – Jane Harper

The Whole Bright Year – Debra Oswald

The Year of the Beast – Steven Carroll

After the Lights Go Out – Lili Wilkinson

Erebus – Michael Palin

Preservation – Jack Serong

Upstairs at the Party – Linda Grant

The Carer – Doborah Moggach

Good Girl, Bad Girl – Michael Robotham

The Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green

As a result of reading the accompanying column from Amelia Lester, maybe I should add Tana French’s ‘The Wych Elm’ and Delia Owens’ ‘Where the Crawdad’s Sing’ to that ever burgeoning pile in the man cave. We’ll see how my summer reading progresses.

Amelia Lester’s column =

2019 – Twelve Months in the Year of Wonder Weeks

1. Grandfatherhood. There was a time when what I wanted most in the world was a granddaughter. I have no logical reason as to why I hungered for one gender more than the other. I knew I could love a him too, but that was just the way it was; just the way I felt about it. My beautiful daughter and my beautiful daughter-in-law stepped up to the plate and they each gave me one and I was beside myself with happiness and contentment. But, in between the amazing Tess and the equally amazing Ollie, something else quite wonderful happened; something that changed my way of thinking. Along came Brynner. He’s not one of my own in the strictest sense, but is grandson to my darling Leigh. She loves him and brother Tobias fit to bursting. But Brynner. Being close to him – the joy he has not only given me, but those around him, who adore him dearly – and the endearing nature he possesses soon meant I began to wish for a grandson too. One of my very own. Brynner has shown me that, yep, boys are certainly different – as if I didn’t know that from my teaching days – but they are endowed with charm as well. Particularly Brynner. He is a boys’ boy. He’s no namby-pamby. He is not adverse to mischief, nor the rough and tumble. There can be a bit of devilment in those eyes. But his Mum and Dad run a tight ship. He knows there are boundaries and crossing over them means meaningful trouble – and that’s the way it should be. But I love his patience too – the ability to follow something through to a worthy final product. I love his desire to help others, particularly those whom he perceives to need a bit of assistance in a tight situation. I love that he is now a reader and that his school reports reflect what a virtuous young man he is at his core. But, best of all, I am so drawn to him through the way that he relates to our precious Tess. They are not blood kin, but in the truest sense they might as well be cousins. She doesn’t need looking out for, but he does any way. The rough and tumble is moderated as they play, often with heads together trying to nut out something or other. I know Tessa gets very excited when she knows Brynner is coming to town for the fun that will be had. I’m hoping he’ll come to town again very soon.

I have a photo of the two of them that I cherish. They’re walking along a Hobartian street, up ahead of the rest of us, hand in hand. It’s just the best image. It says it all.

2. And now I have a grandson of my very own. Max. He’s the smile-iest bub I’ve ever known. There is a feeling that he thrives on the pleasures of life and his happiness is infectious. There’s a sparkle in his eyes that swells my old heart. I know his formative years will be spent growing up in a world of his imagination. He will only have to be taken down the stairs, at his home in Briddy, for that to happen. There he will enter a world of the fantastical with my son’s collection of action hero figurines. Outside the home there is the domain of Shannon’s family to enfold him. There will be such big boys’ toys in their workplace that most growing lads can only dream of. What fun he’ll have there alongside big sister, Olivia. And he’ll have two grandfathers’ wholehearted love. And a special arrival came across the water too– a fine little fellow Beau, loved by all.

xmas delights

3. Someone else who has my wholehearted love is my amazing Leigh. She was at her remarkable best this year, delivering to our little abode by the river a sparkling new kitchen. A kitchen this scribe, who likes to spend a little time in that room, could have once upon a time only dreamt of. As site manager Leigh had countless frustrations, time delays and tradies to cope with, but she did everything with her usual aplomb, patience, customary charm and glass-half-fullness. She overcame all obstacles to gift us something quite superb.

4. Bravery comes in different ways, shapes and forms and I’ve been touched by bravery this year by people close to me. There have also been departures by those who had previously formed part of the fabric of my life.

5. I’ve had terrific times with Sandy and Jasper during the course of 2019 and I love all my canine charges. But, this festive season, I’m with a very special old girl and I’m relishing it. She’s not as nimble as she used to be and I’m told she’s now around a century in doggy time. She’s quieter too these days and her limbs don’t carry her in the same way as they did when she was in her pomp. That’s when I first became enchanted by her, all those years ago, on a visit to the Gold Coast. Summer is adored by her masters, Phil and Julie. A dog such as her, with her loyalty and now her dignity, is pure gold. She receives the best of care I can possibly give in my time with her, does this venerable and giving dear, dear girl.

6. I do enjoy my times in the homes of those who entrust me with their precious pets. I so enjoy feeding the birds with Jasper at Stefan and Denise’s, as well as being able to indulge myself with the luxury of a wood fire there as I did this past winter. As well, there’s no better strand to parade a dog along than the one at Sister’s, particularly if I’m fortified with one or two of Ruth’s Anzac slices.

7. Something called a blue-tooth has increased my ability to listen to the music that I love. I’m still not exactly sure what it is or how it works, but thank you Leigh-lad and Katie for setting it up for me.


8. Cricket is on at the ‘G as I write and that sport produced so much that was positive in 2019. I loved listening on overnight radio to two Lauderdale born and bred willow-wielders batting together, helping win a test that put us well on the way to retaining the Ashes in a classic series. One of those guys is now the captain, dragging us out of a dark time after Sandpapergate. He is not the best going around in terms of run making, but he is in the Mike Brearley mould – a man who can lead men at a time when there was a culture to raise away from the boorishness of the past.

9. The AFL also delivered its great stories. In the women’s game a photo came to represent all that is magnificent about our female athletes in any sport – that and the vast numbers who turned up for the AFLW GF in Perth. On the men’s side, how could we not be moved by Sydney Stack’s celebration of the wizardry of Eddie. Sometimes something just transcends team rules. The final dance also produced a story for the ages when an Aboriginal player, with a dodgy history, debuted and almost stole the show.


10. I received much pleasure in and from forwarding on Richard Glover’s letters from his dog, Clancy, to his canine mum and dad back in the bush.

11. The best cinematic experience of the year came, not from the movie I was viewing, but in the surrounds I was doing so in. It was my first visit to Launceston’s Star Theatre. I hope it won’t be my last.


12. Through all the good times I had during the last twelve months, as well as the few downers, my cherished Leigh was by my side. She is quite extraordinary – but, of course, you all know that. I’m blessed to have her love, as well as that of my son and daughter, together with my glorious grandchildren. And I can’t forget my dear mother. Nan’s still going strong at 93.

The Blue Room’s Best Movies 2018

2018 gave us ‘Juliet Naked’ and ‘Normandy Nude’, but by far and away the best ride we’ve had for many a year in a cinema house was ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. It tops the list down below and deserved all the gongs garnered during the award season earlier in the twelve months just past. It was perfect in every way, from its casting to its over the top blaspheming. I just adored it. So best movies 2018:-

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.


2. A Star is Born – Lady GaGa is mesmerising and what a set of pipes co-star Bradley Cooper possesses.


3. Bohemian Rhapsody – Freddie comes back with all his strut with Rami Malek almost as mesmerising as the Lady.


4. The Shape of Water – an odd fish of a movie, but wonderful with Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon standouts.


5. Ladies in Black – This Aussie delight took all of us who can remember back to a nostalgic place in time.

6. Custody – Brings to the movies, in sledgehammer fashion, the scourge that is domestic violence.

7. Ladybird – Saoirse Ronan is so unbearably and achingly beautiful in oddball fashion.

8. Tully – a bravura performance from Charlize Theron when all is not how it seems

9. Phantom Thread – ‘Das Boot’s’ Vicky Krieps lights up this 50s fashion house affair with great performances from Daniel Day Lewis and Lesley Manville.

10. The Wife – for Glenn Close revenge is so sweet

The Best of the Rest – Chesil Beach, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Juliet Naked, The Party, Back to Burgundy, Molly’s Game.

The Blue Room’s Best Music 2018

Not sure how I came across him, but I reckon I must have read something or other about him in the print media. I vaguely remember that someone described him as an Aussie version of a young Leonard Cohen. Anyway that would have piqued my interest and sent me to YouTube to have a listen/watch – and from there I was hooked enough to source his CD. Certainly there are similarities to the great Canadian poet/songsmith, but the local product has more strings to his bow than just that. After two EPs, this is the Melbourne lad has now a fully realised long play, and what a gem it is. Hopefully 2019 will be his break out year, taking his music and sublime voice to a much wider audience. And so to the best music of 2018:-

1. Ryan Downey – Running


2. George Ezra – Staying at Tamara’s. Just that superb voice.


3. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel. The part-Tasmanian’s sophomore collection has all the spit and polish of the first.


4. Jack River – Sugar Mountain – Another new discovery for 2018 and another Aussie to boot. Thanks Paul.


5. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Live from the Ryman. Culled from his sold out shows in 2017, this alt country discovery has the ‘it’ factor in spades.

6. Cat Power – Wanderer. She’s had a troubled time of late but has hit back with this collection of well honed tunes.

7. DMA’s – For Now. On first appearance these guys look like rap artists, but they’re something else entirely.

8. Marlon Williams – Make Way for Love. Bradley Cooper plucked the New Zealander from semi-obscurity for a cameo performance in ‘A Star is Born’, but those in the know have been with him for years.

9. Lucy Dacus – Historian. A vibrant new voice just hitting her straps.

10. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – Tearing at the Seams. Music to make you sweat is a good call.

The Best of the Rest – Sarah Blasko – Depth of Field, Catherine Britt and the Cold Hearts, Kenny Chesney – Songs for the Saints, Willie Nelson – My Way, Mia Dyson – If I Said Only So Far I Take It Back, Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It, Kasey Chambers – Campfire, Missy Higgins – Solastalgia.

The Blue Room’s Best Television 2018

A gay woman from the north west tip of my island had a year to remember for all of us. It started with her contemplating retirement from stand up and ending with her being in the running, in the light of ‘Me Too’, to host the Oscars. Hannah Gadsby is a true original and moved the planet on its axis and changed the face of her profession with the searing ‘Nanette’ for Netflix. She is thankfully no longer contemplating giving the game away. She is marvellous. Do we all now say a collective ‘Sorry’ for what never should have been and hopefully never will be again?

But its getting ridiculous, the good stuff that keeps lighting up our small screens, from a plethora of platforms. And the beauty is that most who now read the lists below can, by pressing a few buttons on a hand held device, view most of the items at any time they desire. And so to television 2018:-

1. Nanette – Netflix


2. Babylon Berlin – Netflix. Germany just before Hitler was a goldmine for those on the make as well as the bohemian.


3. Bodyguard – Netflix. Action, action, action at a frenetic pace – and the surprises! Love Keeley Hawes.


4. Killing Eve – ABC. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer spectacular as the odd couple in this violent delight.


5. Endeavour – ABC. Every episode eminently watchable and atmospheric of a time that we can only hanker for.

6. The Bridge S4 – SBS. Sad to see her and it go. It was the epitome of Scandi-noir.

7. Black Mirror S1- 4 – Netflix. Uneven, but at its best this omnibus is terrific for imagining what lies ahead of us in the digital age.

8. Squinters – ABC. Such a simple concept of mates, travelling together through the traffic, just having a chat.

9. The Kominsky Method Netflix. Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin taking us on a different sort of journey through the pitfalls of old age.

10. Monash and Me – ABC. Peter Greeve brings a wartime hero back to earth.

The Best of the Rest – The Ozarks – Netflix, The Sinner – Netflix, Simon Reeves Burma and Russia – SBS, Shetland – ABC, Get Shorty – Stan, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Netflix, Spin – SBS, Howard’s End – ABC, Cardinal – SBS, Food Safari Water – SBS, Great British Food Revival – SBS, Shameless (US version) – Netflix, Jack Whitehall Travels with my Father – Netflix, Apple Tree Yard – ABC, The Split – ABC, Line of Duty S5 – ABC, Poldark – ABC, Loch Ness – ABC, Das Boot – SBS, Tick, F***ing Tock – ABC, Joanna Lumley The Silk Road – ABC, Dying Laughing – SBS, Jimmy Barnes Working Class Boy – Seven, Springsteen on Broadway (Netflix), A Private Life (Netflix),Vikings (SBS).

Guilty Pleasures – Doctor Doctor – Nine, 800 Words (sad to see it go) – Seven, A Place to Call Home – Fox..

Special Mention – the Noni Hazlehurst and Ernie Dingo episodes of Who Do You Think You Are – SBS.

The Blue Room’s Best Books 2018

In 2018 the reading public saw Tim Winton return to the top of his game, but the highlight of the year, of course, for me was the publication of my daughter’s beautiful release ‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’. Stay tuned for more from her in the new year. So best books 2018:-

1. Kate Gordon – Girl Running, Boy Falling


Tim Winton – The Shepherd’s Hut


2. Richard Glover – Flesh Wounds. Hilarious, poignant – it rivals Clive James’ ‘Unreliable Memoirs’.


3. Gregory Day – A Sand Archive. Features love amidst the sand dunes of France and the Great Ocean Road.


4. Alex Miller – Passage of Love. Autobiographical or not, there’s few better than Miller when he’s on song.

5. Roger Averill – Relativity. A son endeavours to escape the shadow of an infamous father. Terrific.

6. Carrie Cox – Afternoons with Harvey Beams. Have we the new Nick Earls?

7. Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine. Perfectly fine she isn’t, at least to start with. A great journey.

8. Holly Throsby – Cedar Valley. A sophomore novel every bit as good as the debut.

9. Gabby Stroud – Teacher. What a farce is NAPLAN!

10. Bob Murphy – Leather Soul. Tall tales and true of AFL from a footy icon who can actually write.

The Best of the Rest – Tex Perkins – Tex, Joanna Trollope – An Unsuitable Match, Colin Melloy – Wildwood, Martin Flanagan – A Wink from the Universe, Gayle Foreman – I Have Lost My Way, William McInnes – Fatherhood, Susan Midalia – The Art of Persuasion, Steven Herrick – The Bogan Mondrian, Julie Murphy – Puddin’, Josephine Wilson – Extinctions, Michael Robotham – The Other Wife,

2018 – Twelve Months in the Year of Wonder Weeks

1. Nervous. I was decidedly nervous. Not pacing up and down nervous when the nerves are almost on top of me – but nervous nonetheless. For, you see, I hadn’t done it in this fashion for decades. Babysit. She was so tiny – just a year old and a bit. I’d agreed to it. Why wouldn’t I? I loved her dearly and as 2018 has progressed, I can see she is going to be someone so special, my second born granddaughter. My son and his wifeare busy people, but they care so well and much for this darling imp, lavishing love and attention on her. She is secure in her world of the big gentle dog (with new addition) and a town/business tied to the sea and sea-faring, as well as with her grandparents on the other side. But, that morning, it was me taking on the responsibility of that precious little being for a few hours as Mum and Dad beavered away preparing for another sailing north to the Furneaux Group. Ollie’s incredible mother had bustled in and placed her in her cot up in the nursery and with a cheery, ‘You’ll be right Steve.’ she was away.

And I knew it would be. They were only down the road if required. But I still wondered how would she react to me on waking for, after all, I couldn’t be the presence in her life I would love to be due to distance. I wondered, when the magical alerting device told me she was awake, if she would cry with gusto and displeasure that it was me coming to bring her back into the world outside her bedroom? Would she be irritable, crotchety or worse, sob inconsolably at this unforeseen change in her routine? So yes, I was a tad on edge, waiting.

But there were no cries to tell me she was no longer in the land of nod, just quiet murmurings and soft chortles. There seemed to be no resistance to this semi-foreign old fellow picking her up and cradling her out into the lounge room. I sat down on the sofa and arranged her on my lap. She seemed content enough just to look up into my eyes as I whispered words of affection and praise to her. It was a cherished time, a time to be repeated on several other occasions when I was able to visit during the year. Eventually she grew a little restive so I delved into her book draw and retrieved several tomes to read to her. She remained very at ease as I worked my way through the small pile, just occasionally reaching out to turn a page or to pull down a flag to see what it revealed. And then, little by little, she wearied of that as well, so we turned on the big screen and tuned into ‘Where is Spot’. When Mum returned we were both happily snuggled up together, watching the canine’s mild adventurings. I had had the loveliest, loveliest time. Nothing beats being a grandfather.

2. Money doesn’t buy happiness. I’d be happy with my Leigh even if we were were dirt poor living in a hovel. But, with retirement approaching, I knew she was, if not exactly worried about finances post that event for I would would always have her back, but wondering just how careful she’d have to be. She’s has always been independent in this regard and was resolved to continue to be. Then, out of the blue, a few days into ‘18, we were called into the back room of a newsagents and told some astonishing news. The amount wasn’t huge huge, but it was enough. And I know I am not biased by saying that it couldn’t happen to a more deserving recipient. Leigh is just so giving – giving in her personal relationships; giving in her working situation. We all know that.


3. Presents come in all forms and I have received some glorious ones over the last 12 months. A highlight were the hugs and back pats I was gifted from my other beloved granddaughter with her greeting to me on the occasion of turning yet another year older back in August. She is a radiant sunbeam in my existence. Leigh presented me with tickets to ‘We Will Rock You’ which I thoroughly enjoyed, perhaps not quite as much as I did, though, watching Jimmy Barnes unwrap his life on stage. That was a wonderfully thoughtful present from my son last Xmas. Did I say enjoy? Perhaps not the best word for some of the tales Barnsey told that evening. And this Christmas Katie gave me the best t-shirt ever. Again, from Richard, came the best gift of all in 2018 – news that, in a brand new year, I am going to be a grandfather again. Another granddaughter? My first grandson? It doesn’t matter. I am just so chuffed. To make the year complete my gorgeous, gorgeous niece across the water will soon give my sister/brother-in-law another grandchild. Some reading this will know just how special that is.


4. My life is being continually enriched by friends. Some, from Sydney, are newly back in my orb after a long absence. Anthony W, Andrew I and Andrew R’s re-entry have given my existence some extra polish. Whisk and Co is the venue for my regular coffee and treat with Rob W and I relish it, as do I the sharing I have had this year of a Coogee residence with old mate Chis B. Leigh and I have reconnected with past Burnie pals Karin and Michael C. Denise W (with Stefan) and Denise G continue to be a wonderful presence in our lives, as do world’s best neighbours Noel and Jane S. All these people add the lustre that continues to make our planet such a treat to be on. Thank you.


5. It is the Golden Age of Television and our extra platforms this year have given us much to talk, as well as write, about. Some of it I savour on my tod, but it gives an extra tinge of pleasure to watch with my beloved. I adore her input. She was never one for a running commentary, just a comment or barb here and there. Often she has to clarify for me just exactly what is going on. I love her commentary on Jo, the news reader’s, fashion sense; ergo Portillo’s utter lack of it as he boards yet another train to blind its passengers. We’ve recently started watching the US version of ‘Shameless’ and I receive the benefit of many audible comments of disbelief, even horror, at Frank Gallagher’s antics. But my Leigh saves her best for when evil family member Regina appears on screen, with her nasty, nasty machinations, to bring chaos to the House of Bligh in the two seasons of ‘A Place to Call Home’ we watched over the winter. There were many, many mutterings of ‘the cow’ emanating from her chair across the way from me. There’s countless reasons why I love my Leigh so much – this is just a minute one.


6. There were some great stories to emerge from the AFL during Season ‘18, but a West Coast premiership, for me, was not one of them. I did, though, think it fantastic, for several reasons (departed Collitragics, my next door neighbour, a mother who loves the coach) that Collingwood made it through to the big dance. There were statements made by various players in various ways, Aliir Aliir and Majak Daw – so sad about his post-season woes; Adam Saad and Bachar Houli; Alex Johnson, as well as, on several occasions, classiness from the Richmond Football club. There were some great games with nail-biting finishes and my Hawks were in the mix into the finals. And, turning to cricket, wasn’t it great seeing Tim Paine leading us to a non-boorish test win?

7. I love stays at Sisters Beach and Bridport, both now second homes to me – so thanks to Kim and Ruth, Rich and Shan for putting up with me. For some of that time, at the former, I’ve had my precious mother come stay too. That truly is a blessing.

8. A very special canine I am lucky enough to be in the company of, as I write, is now a century old in doggy years. She’s at present snuffling quietly in her bed in front of the tele. She is a remarkable and beautiful staffy, much adored by owners, Phil and Julie. It’s always a treat being responsible for her well-being over the yuletide period, together with her furry mate Bronson. I remember my first meeting with Summer, also answering to the Pie, many, many years ago now when Leigh’s brother/sister-in-law lived on the Gold Coast. She won my heart then and still holds it now. Gemma, from a greyhound rescue source, entered my world this year, as did my son’s new addition Pat the Dog (aka Round Hound, aka Square Dog). He’s going to be a ripper. Days spent with Sammy the Spoodle were, as always, delightful and I am looking forward to my dog-sit of another very fine and personable dog, Jasper, early in January. That’ll be a treat.

9. Out and about in Hobart there are terrific people selling wares in various outlets around the city. These give service well above the norm – contact with them being always an enhancing experience. Eleni has looked after our travel requirements at the RACT for years and she’s irreplaceable. My stamp man David, at his Trafalgar Arcade premises, always has time for a chat and what a trove of treasures his premises are. The cheery smile and greeting of Jess at Harvey Norman Glenorchy is always valued as she hands over the endless number of snaps I have developed there. And then, there’s the beautiful Adeleen whom I love encountering at Woolworths, Claremont Plaza. She puts some joy into the often fraught business of shopping for groceries. She goes beyond the call as well.

10. It is my usual routine of a Sunday morning to visit Northgate, mainly to collect the Age and treat myself to a flat white and date scones at Banjos. I’m always greeted out the back, where I normally park, by a cacophony of birdnoise – it’s hardly birdsong. The Australianness of this racket always places me in a more positive frame of mind – as do the efforts of the avian-life of Sisters and Briddy when I visit. And the joy I receive from the blue wrens on our front lawn is endless.

11. Again I have had the pleasure of keeping in touch with many friends through snail mail, so my gratitude goes to all who have received my letters and take the time to read my humble scribings. I love putting them together and will always be thankful to my Katie and her Leigh for giving me the wherewithal. And Lisa, I break out into a great big smile every time I see the contents of my envelopes looking back at me from Instagram.

12. Again I’ve had the pleasure of spending time at Aberdeen and Sheffield on Christmas Day ‘18. Ta muchly Laurel and Craig, Ilsa and Keith. In Laurel’s superb garden, at the former, Tess came up to me, gave me a hug and stated, ‘Do you know what Christmas is really about Poppy? It’s all about family and love.’