‘No, stop, too soon. I don’t want the world to go back to normal again. The only anxiety I have is about the old way of being that’s now roaring too soon at us, snapping at our heels to jump back on the treadmill all over again. And actually, I’m not quite ready to be strapped into the bra just yet. Not ready to face those congested, manic, indignant roads; there’s a lot of aggro out there and lockdown has provided a much-needed respite from it. The experimental, home-shaved heads of various sons have not grown out sufficiently for the world to see, and marvel at, plus a household freed from the stresses of the daily commute has been a thing to behold.’
Nikki Gemmell ‘No Going Back’ Weekend Australian Magazine June13-14, 2020
The great unfettering is occurring as I type. It commenced over the June long weekend when Premier Gutwein unleashed the shackles and evidently we exploded out from the cities to shackdom, coastal resorts Tassie style and walking tracks through the virgin bush. As a result, the Westpac Rescue helicopter was hard at it, ferrying injured hikers up out of the wilderness to the new helipad at the Royal. The news also reported, tongue in cheek, that a quarter the population of Launceston had migrated to the seaside gem of the North-east, Bridport, for the three days. Don’t blame them myself. Why, even the said Premier was there in the town chillin’ out. From here on in I suspect it will be full steam ahead for many – racing to get back to pre-COVID19 lunacy. Is it fair to call it that – lunacy? Yep, many, including a favoured columnist in Nikki Gemmell, who will feature heavily in this scribing, and I liken it to that. Some thrive with life in the fast lane, but then, on the other hand, you have this:-
‘People are trying to cope by loving being in lockdown, by creating a cocoon of safety, a haven, to make the whole experience more tolerable … Ironically that can create problems later on because people can love their lockdown too much and become anxious about going outside.’ (‘No Going Back’ ibid)
Love lockdown? Well, yes and no. It’s certainly been no chore, sharing it with my wonderful Leigh. But, you could say, we’re ready to spread our wings, although we’re not being bullish about it. We’ll take it gradually. Trips to the north are first cabs off the rank and that will start to occur as June morphs into July. It’ll be after that, sometime, that we will start to venture to the cinema and restaurants, but I am starting to crave a beer and a steak at one of our preferred counter meal venues. Cafes will be the go sooner than that.
But largely we’re still in lockdown and I’m woolly. I examined myself in the bathroom mirror this morning and crikey, so woolly. Admittedly there’s precious little hair on top, but around the sides my fluff is sprouting in perpendicular fashion and the neck hairs have reached my shoulders.
And I guess that’s quite the big one, isn’t it. Nobody outside of my family, with the possible exception of my dentist (yes, a gorgeous female too), gets so up close and personal with me as the two lovely ladies at Lorraine’s Coiffure in Claremont who attend to what’s left of my hair. I’ll soon have to take the bit between the teeth, make an appointment with Jane or Hannah, to get the deed done before people will start thinking I’m a throwback to Black Bobs. I’m a little anxious about it, but I don’t think I’ll freak out. For me, facing crowds is still a long way off but, yes, I’m coming out.
Giving Consent Here, in Ireland and the USofA
When it came, early in ‘Normal People’ (Stan), it was stunningly frank, brave, beautiful and tender. He looked after her, he really did, did Connell. He’s a school sporting hero with a brain. He is a complex character – intensely private with considerable hang-ups that impacted on any relationship he could have with the opposite gender. When they first met he tried to keep his love for Marianne hidden from view. She was considered ‘different’ by the in crowd. Marianne was delicate, feisty, fragile and an outsider. She was from an affluent background with a distant, strange mother and an arse of a brother. His deflowering of her and the subsequent sex scenes, liberally scattered throughout the episodes of this series, are as intensely intimate and revealing as anything you’ll have witnessed on the small screen. These no doubt aided in propelling ‘NP’ into the stratosphere in the ratings, here and overseas. It’s also very Irish. Its impact launched two largely unknowns in Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal into celebrities – why even the fellow’s gold chain, that he wears around his neck, has its own FB page. Throughout it is unflinchingly honest as the two squander chance after chance to build something permanent from their obvious obsession with the other. It’ll no doubt be marked by many as one of the year’s best.
Contrast the care that Connell takes with his Marianne’s virginity to the way Nikki Gemmell loses hers, as she laid out to the reading public via the Oz in ‘Age of Consent’. Such a marked difference. For the columnist there was no tenderness involved – an experience she’d rather forget. Ms Gemmell reckons the scene from ‘Normal People’ should be compulsory viewing in sex education classes around the country, especially for our young men.
Another series that provided some excellent viewing is the Reese Witherspoon driven ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ (Prime) where, as critic Karl Quinn describes it in a recent review, she plays the obsessive mother who is the adult version of ‘Legally Blonde’s’ Elle Woods. This, as well as ‘Normal People’, is based on a well regarded novel. Leigh, having read the source for this series, constantly remarked that the tele version little resembled the print, but that perhaps worked in my favour as I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Witherspoon’s Elena has her ultra-perfect life upended when Mia (Kerry Washington) comes to town. The coloured woman is soon taken on as Elena’s ‘maid’, for want of a better, if not more appropriate, word. The stereotype is obvious, but Mia’s no shrinking violet. Her daughter, the impressive Pearl (Lexi Underwood), soon takes a shine to Elena’s youngest son, Moody (Gavin Lewis). They become close cross-racial mates. However, when Pearl considers who to lose her virginity to, she rejects him for his moronish jock of an elder brother, Trip (Jordan Elsass), on the grounds that he’d be more experienced. The doing of deed was, unfortunately, more akin to Nikki G’s story and of course he cannot be blamed for any shortcomings, can he? By the final episode, though, he realises, to an extent, his failings and a bond does develop between the two, much to the chagrin of Moody.
This is only one strand of a fine product that focuses far more on the relationship between Elena and Mia, with both having an impressive back catalogue of secrets which they’d hate to have revealed. The inevitable happens. It is a step down from ‘Normal People’, but still a worthy binge.
Karl and his List – Music for These Times
‘In years to come, we may look back on this time as ‘The Age of Lists’. Facing the prospect of months in isolation, people looked forward to what they might watch, read and listen to and backwards over their favourites. One of the more popular iterations has been the ‘10 albums that inspired you’ meme on Facebook.’ The Age Spectrum June 13, 2020
Karl Quinn, in his piece ‘The Soundtrack to a Life’, realised that his selections* for the meme were not only just inspiration, but more. Being invited into the meme by lovely friends, here is my contribution. These are the soundtracks to my own life during the hiatus that COVID19 has incurred, in no particular order:-
Dylanesque – Bryan Ferry (2007) – I love both his Bobness and Ferry, so the combination of the two is irresistible.
Freya Ridings (2019) – In the early days of the pandemic’s visit I’d wake up edgy. This English songstress’ debut soothed.
Pay the Devil – Van Morrison (2006) – It was his 32nd studio album in which the Man goes country. He’s a constant.
I Still Do – Eric Clapton (2016) – any release from Ol’ Slowhand is to relish. This is the latest I’ve purchased so it’s the most frequent in my music machine.
Standard Songs for Average People – Mac Wiseman and John Prine (2007) – Mac passed last year and the bastard virus took John a couple of months ago. It remains a magic pairing.
Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen (2019) – He’s promised a new E Street, but until that this will just have to suffice – and boy, does it ever!
Come On Up to the House – Women Sing Waits (2019) – Tom’s unique rasp is replaced with honey as the best voices in Americana, and one Australian, do justice to his songs.
Charcoal Lane 25th Anniversary – Archie Roach(2015) – Containing the original, plus interpretations of its tunes, including the iconic ‘Took the Children Away’, by some of our best. He’s a living national treasure.
Great Country Songbook – Troy Casser-Daley and Adam Harvey (2013) I spent a wonderful evening with my beautiful daughter listening to these two live sing up a storm. So many of their (and my) heroes have gone now. But fear not – Willie’s still around.
Tides of a Teardrop – Mandolin Orange (2019) – It’s a sweet, sweet collection of songs from the North Carolina married duo – one of my latest obsessions.
These all helped me through – and, all things considered, personally it hasn’t been too tough. I know for so many, here and overseas, that has not been the case. Hope they have had some music with them too.
Normal people trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1JQuWxt3cE
Nikki Gemmell ‘Age of Consent’ = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/why-the-sex-in-normal-people-is-a-breath-of-fresh-air/news-story/7fa839ca1aafda662dbdda302abdb2d2
‘Little Fires Everywhere’ trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWGkX8ClhBI
Karl Quinn ‘Soundtrack to my Life’ article = https://www.smh.com.au/culture/music/the-soundtrack-to-a-life-my-top-10-albums-20200514-p54t14.html
* Karl’s list – Sladed? by Slade, Sound Affects by The Jam, Swingshift by Cold Chisel, Before Hollywood by The Go-Betweens, Doolittle by Pixies, The Stone Roses, Rubber Soul by The Beatles, 13 by Blur, Lemonade by Beyonce and Marquee Moon by Television.