Category Archives: Television/DVD review

Reboot 05

Even the Grass…

Sisters Beach sunshine is beaming this morning in one of my homes away from home. Whilst Hobart and surrounds received a drenching, I was having the vagaries too – but for a couple of days it was divine as if She up there was saying, ‘See what I can do. You didn’t expect such bliss at this time of year, did you?’

And at Sisters I am blessed to have some local friends – Richard and Narelda, Mary and Cheryl – to visit for company. Of course there’s a dog and beach walks. My dear mother’s close by, as are old friends and teaching colleagues.

On such a dazzling day to my new eyes, even the North West grass looks so much greener. Tomorrow I head home, but I’ll be back – over and over again I hope. Thank you Kim and Ruth.

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Nanny Naps and Blaze

During COVID days the afternoons saw me more often than not taking to my bed for a few hours. I insisted to myself it was to read, lying on top to start with back in those March days. But as the iso went on and on, gradually I succumbed to slipping under the doona as autumn morphed into winter. Instead of copious pages of my novel, I’d soon pass into slumber to the accompaniment of my man-cave music machine or, increasingly, the radio. During that period a skilled practitioner was in the process of righting my eyes for the remainder of my days – and they needed resting, especially after some screen time. Well that was as good an excuse as any for continually drifting off. Leigh had her shows to watch and pod-casts to listen to and I was more than content in the world I had fashioned for myself in the once spare bedroom. Here my photographs surround me and my books were stacked – if only I could get to the latter. As the news become worse before it became better, I was insulated.

One such afternoon I was emerging from a restorative shut-eye when the local ABC radio presenter announced, ‘And here’s a special voice for you now…’ and on came Townes Van Zandt. ‘Fancy the Auntie playing Townes,’ was the thought that crossed my still sleepy mind. But, listening more closely, I started to realise that it wasn’t the legendary Tennessee troubadour, but this voice had the same low lonesome drawl. ‘That was the wonderful Blaze Foley. And now it’s news time.’

Wide awake now, I reached for my hand held device and did some delving for this guy, to me, was an unknown. And as I read his biography I soon realised I could have been reading about Van Zandt himself. Strike me down with a feather – turns out the two were mates back in the day. Like Townes, he too met an untimely and unseemly death well before his time.

The Arkansas singer/songwriter, born 1948, was a scruff of a man who lost numerous gigs, the love of his life and ultimately his life, full stop, to an overindulgence in alcohol. His stage name was a tip of the hat to his namesake and hero, Red Foley. Former partner, screen-writer Sybil Rosen, stuck with him for perhaps longer that she should have, but eventually she had seen him drunk senseless too many times and when he moved on, she didn’t. When Foley and TVZ crossed paths, they would go on unholy binges together and any progress he had made with the demon drink was blown away. He thought he was made when Merle H recorded his signature song, ‘If Only I Could Fly’, but there was no follow up to lead him to stage or recorded success, so he drifted back to his old temptation. At various times names such as Lucinda Williams and Kimmie Rhodes tried to give him a helping hand, but eventually he was beyond assistance. He could not be swayed from his destructive ways.

In 1989, after a night on the booze, he had an altercation with the son of a friend and was shot. He hardly went out in a blaze of glory. Despite attempts by some, including his former love interest, Rosen, who made a film feature of his life, he has not reached anywhere near the cult status of Townes – and perhaps never will. It’s a tragic story I woke up to that afternoon from a nanny nap.

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Mark Seymour and the Undertow – ‘Slow Dawn’ – Music for these Times

He’s getting on now, like the rest of his demographic, but the former lead singer of Hunters and Collectors has lost nothing of his vocal chops, has Mark. His 10th studio album again excels.

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On the Couch

It is its most popular foreign language series and Netflix is milking it for all its worth with four seasons to date. ‘Money Heist’ features a well organised gang’s raid on the National Mint in Madrid. The expertly drilled drilled crew soon find themselves besieged by the city’s finest. But how will the police coordinator’s relationship with her mysterious new friend pan out? Series One was quite riveting, so I’ll soon be taking in the next. Moving north to Belgium, another group is also besieged – but this time it is by fact or lie as a jury attempts to nut out if the one culprit is responsible for two murders a decade apart. It’s a tad clunky in places, but well worth time spent in SBSonDemand for ‘The Twelve’. A viewer will see the back story of the case as well as that of some of the jurists, for they are all not squeaky clean either. And he’s madder than ever, is Tim Roth’s alcoholic Jack Devlin in the second instalment of ‘Tin Star’ (SBSonDemand) – with a third and final season approaching. There’s mayhem a plenty as the daughter joins a religious community whose leader just happens to be in cahoots with a Mexican drug cartel. Stay tuned for the final shootout as Jack’s Liverpool back history arrives to bite him on the bum big-time.

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A Tome to Re-emerge With

It’s a rude, raucous and vibrant picture of an extended indigenous family of entertainingly disparate parts, but so powerful it took out last year’s Miles Franklin. See the Blue Room’s review of Melissa Lucashenko’s ‘Too Much Lip’.

I’m Hanging Out

Mozzarella and pickle croquette, African chicken curry with eggplant and okra, Katso fish sando’ – I don’t think so Mr Durack. I’m a more ‘days of yore’ man. Why, last Saturday night, at Launceston Best Western’s Tram Bar, I partook of the ever ubiquitous parmi – and darned good it was too. A reasonable steak does me just fine too. Yep, the pubs have reopened and the aforementioned venue was my first sally forth. I waited till the iso was far enough in the background so certain watering holes were operating close to their past glory, but I still couldn’t have what I have really been hanging out for. Sadly, I am yet to enjoy a pulled pint. The Tram Bar offered only table service and bottled brew. Good, admittedly, but it’s not the full experience till on tap comes back on. And please, She up there, we are back to you, can we not follow Melbourne’s example and have to pull our heads back in? Obviously not only for this reason, but I’m craving draught beer again.

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More about Blaze Foley here – https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/blaze-foley-movie-biopic-songwriter-ethan-hawke-718036/

Mark Seymour’s website = https://markseymour.com.au/

Trailer for ‘Money Heist’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMANIarjT50

Trailer for ‘The Twelve’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aL9uDVYIrkY

Trailer for ‘Tin Star S2’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_dI36NYpgs

FB for the Tram Bar, Great Western Launceston = https://www.facebook.com/thetrambar/

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.

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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.

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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 ‘allthatsinteresting.com’ on line.

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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.

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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.

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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’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fl6pnOgq3E

Trailer ‘Country Music’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fZ_S_wlx0Q

Reboot 04

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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Terry and his Lists

Since retirement my brain has become somewhat befudged – befudged being a good way to describe it. Befuddled seems a tad extreme although, after I’ve said something completely obvious, stupid, random or provided a poor segue, the way Leigh looks at me I may have to revise the descriptive term for the harsher one.

So, along with my befudgement, lists have become essential to me. Top 10 lists have always been a part of my life – I love compiling them and comparing with others. I list books read, tele shows and movies watched; as well as what I send in the mail to my dear friends – otherwise I’d drive them mad with repetition. Probably do in any case. But a comprehensive shopping list, as with Terry Durack (see his column following), is new – a result of these times we’re living in.

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Gone is my daily romp into Claremont Village to pick up The Age and as a sideline, whatever I may need for that evening’s meal if it’s my turn to play chef. Now it’s a more complicated process of both Leigh and I compiling our own grocery requirements for our once only weekly excursion to the supermarket. I consult recipe books to assist. Leigh is more free range. Before we head off Leigh does a check to ensure we haven’t doubled up and Bob’s your uncle. We’ve taken to doing the necessary at Woolies in the Village early on a Monday morn. That place has so impressed with their commitment to social distancing, hygiene and big heartfelt smiles that it becomes a wholly pleasant experience.

There’s something, I don’t know, reassuring about a long grocery list. It’s quietly comforting to have it clutched in your hand as you perambulate the various aisles, after which checking it off to make sure all items are in the trolley. Them there’s the checkout – a longer process these days with disinfectant, followed by the only part that got me flustered, the self packing – now a thing of the past as we emerge out the other side of what for us wasn’t a pan- but more, in comparison to the chaos caused overseas, a mini-demic. It could have been so much worse without all our precautions. But more time allows for more communication with the guys and gals doing the scanning and that is another small joy in days that do have a habit of becoming very routine.

I’m wondering, as it becomes more certain that we have indeed got the plurry thing beaten, if Leigh and I will revert to our more ad hoc ways. We’re certainly spending far less time in supermarkets, but, dear me, how we have come to appreciate them so much more.

Dustyesky

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Now and again ‘Australian Story’ (ABCiView) produces a tale that both amazes and touches the heart. This one is how a largely previously unheralded group of mostly bearded Mullumbimby gentlemen have warmed the frosticles off the denizens of the Land of Putin – a country that, despite what its leader and cronies may proclaim, is doing it hard with the CV. The episode examines how this winning of Russian hearts came about. The choir they formed, specialising in traditional tunes of the motherland, were, as a result, invited to the biggest May Day parade in the world. Coronavirus spoilt that, but they still got to perform digitally for that country’s major television network. And the locals lapped it up, along with their tanks and missiles. Amazing and well worth a gander. Go Dustyesky.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Music for these Times

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Reunions’ is lovely, lovely stuff from the reformed Alabama crooner. He’s turned his life around and is now producing the best music of his career.

Paula and Billy

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If you’re a fan of the financial machinations of ‘Billions’ (Stan) then I have a great treat for you. It can be found on SBSonDemand, can that star attraction’s German equivalent, ‘Bad Banks’. There’s the same heartless, scheming, suited money-grabbing grubs to be found, dealing daily in squillions and the ruination of the lives of others. This time, though, it’s two women to the fore, including the youthful Jana, played with intensity by Paula Beer. It’s difficult to discern if this career driven young lady does indeed have the pumping organ in her body as she uses all her feminine wiles, tears and street smarts to get the deals done, no matter the cost. And she’s not above betrayal either. Ms Beer is certainly entrancing and I’m hooked, ripe for the second season.

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But sadly I’ll have to unhook myself from Billy Campbell. In Season 4 of the Canadian production, ‘Cardinal’, he appears even more grizzled and woebegone than before as he steels himself to come to terms with some particularly gruesome murders in the snow in this North American take on scandi-noir. All seasons have been addictive and bingeworthy. There has been his younger female sidekick as a possible love interest throughout, but will they get it together before this last season’s episodes run out? I won’t let the cat out of the bag, but in the final stanza there is room for hope that his world could become a little less dour. ‘Cardinal’ is highly recommended by this fan on the same platform as above.

A Tome to Re-emerge With

Dervla McTiernan’s ‘The Good Turn’ is a rip-snorter of a whodunnit. Her third novel is set in Ireland and I’ll be chasing up the Australian author’s other two. Read my review of it in the Blue Room.

David and the Angel

Daughter – ‘Mummy, what’s that smell.’

Mother – ‘It’s nature, darling.’

Daughter – ‘It’s like all the birds are wearing perfume.’

The smells of our forests, here on my island, are remarkable, unforgettable. You hanker for them if you’re away for a while. I imagine, as our wild places open up again as we reboot, many kids, long cooped up, would be asking similar questions about the majestic trees and creatures of the bush. No more so than those embarking on reacquainting themselves with the forests surrounding Tassie’s capital city, within eyesight of everyone in town, but for months forbidden.

In his long, but thoroughly readable and all-encompassing essay on the state of the forests, published in The Age’s Good Weekend magazine recently, journalist David Leser asks, ‘Exactly how loudly does she (Mother Nature) have to scream?’ And scream she did over this past summer. And then:-

Trump and Co – ‘There is no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.’

Mother Nature – ‘Here’s a virus. Practise.’

We did and it worked. But, already, with our tentative re-emergence, the signs are not promising that we have learnt from the experience. We just have to.

Lesser’s report, entitled ‘Trunk Call’ (type author and title into Google), takes us from Victoria’s national parks to the Styx and the Weld locally. He explains how the world’s first nations were miles ahead of modern humankind in their husbandry of the vital asset; how the great fungal lines aid trees in ‘communication’ and he takes us on journeys with writers and activists trying to alert the planet as to how urgent action is. They, I suspect, but hope otherwise, will continue to struggle to be heard above the noise of the digital age. Unless we heed their advocacy, Mother Nature will give up on us and deliver a final cataclysmic blow. We have been warned.

Despite its length there’s plenty more food for thought with Leser’s writings here. And, to be fair, I know most of the world’s leaders are on to it – but they’ll need the same sort of help most have been giving to bring us through the pandemic. Trump, of course, is beyond help.

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The author also re-introduces us to the Angel of the Weld, Allana Beltran, who bought the attention of the planet to the situation within Tasmania’s old growth forests. What made us all sit up and take notice was attained by her positioning herself on a tripod, wreathed in feathers, at the entrance to the Weld. Back in 2007 the visual artist took her stand to ‘…pray for the forests and for people to realise what they are doing. I was ready to stand up for these ancient forests.’ In no uncertain terms she did.

It’s simple. If we can’t save the forests we can’t save the planet. The bastard virus has given us and Mother Nature some breathing space, but, by all indications the pause will not last much longer. In many parts of the world, though, wild places are breathing again. ‘Nature is speaking to us very loudly now. We’d do well to listen.’

So please seek out his article on line. Read it and ponder.

Terry Durack’s column on lists = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/don-t-leave-home-without-the-shopping-list-it-s-too-dangerous-20200424-p54mym.html

Australian Story Dustyesky = https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-25/australian-fake-russian-choir-dustyesky-goes-viral-mullumbimby/12270670

Jason Isbell’s website = https://www.jasonisbell.com/

‘Bad Banks’ = https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/program/bad-banks

‘Cardinal’ Season 4 = https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2020/05/21/revenge-dish-served-very-very-cold-final-season-cardinal

David Leser’s essay on the forests =https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/environment/climate-change/call-of-the-wild-listen-up-people-time-is-running-out-20200424-p54mzq.html

Reboot 02

Bernard

In the blancmange of days during the great lockdown, time breaks free of the reference points that hold down all we know firm and steady. In lockdown world there are no appointments, no weekends and no need to set an alarm to beat the traffic.’

I love the ‘blancmange’ reference to describe our times where many are still struggling to point our noses above our homely parapets to align ourselves with beseeching politicians and the caution of the health experts. ‘Come on. Come out. It’s safe, we think. Test the waters. You’ll see.’ The ‘blancmange of days’ aptly nails it to describe what we’ve been through. Once we get out, hopefully we’ll never have to return. But do we believe they’ve got the balance right? We don’t want to have to go scurrying back. Ours has been a period when ‘One day blurs into another. The weekend evaporates into the ether’

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The italicised quotes are from his weekly column in the Weekend Oz on the state of society. He was the man who alienated a generation against the Boomers, with a call to arms from the hipsters and assorted younger generations, with the Great Avocado Smash Brouhaha. The hide of him stating, ‘I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbed feta on five grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more.’ He claimed doing that several times a week, as the inner-city latte-sippers obviously did, was the reason they couldn’t afford to place a deposit on a house. Outrage! The protestations caused a mega-storm in a flat white cup. Pull your head in Salt!

Bernard Salt has obviously still struggled with the lassitude and ennui induced with being cooped up, despite his high profile. He’s let himself go, forgetting appointments; mixing up his days. He reports his failures in ‘All at Sea’, one of his latest columns for the Weekend Oz.

Strangely, looking back, I suspect some will miss these days. For us retirees, in the main, there is little divergence from our day to day routines of pre-CV when we were largely home based in any case. The only difference is that, for us now, we cannot be anywhere else but home based. But for many, more time with family, appreciating the value of teachers with home schooling, avoiding the daily rush hour by working from home – maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.

A few days ago I made my first sojourn, for around six weeks, into an eerily quiet city centre. Today I plan to visit Mr Murphy, if the car park isn’t too full. Dining out and the cinema are still a long way off, but maybe a cafe visit in a week or so is beckoning. Soon, all being well, I may venture again up north when intra-state travel is permitted. Visits to and from the grandchildren are now within touching distance. I know we’ll keep a space between us and others till the final all clear is given, but as for going back to ‘All at Sea’, I hope not.

Unique Tasmanian

They’ve been there most mornings of late as I sit here to scribe. Many’s the time I break off, look out and watch them scrabbling around. It’s normality. To most Tasmanians they’re barely worth a glance they are so ubiquitous, but I observe them up close. They, in their matriarchal clusters, fascinate me.

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As the virus approached, however, they seemed to disappear. For weeks I couldn’t spot them anywhere near our abode by the Derwent. I was quite nonplussed. Was it the breeding season? Feral cats had been seen. Were they to blame for their absence? Snakes perhaps? I’m told the rushes, on the river bank, are lousy with copperheads. Raptors? Whatever, they were gone.

Then, as we started to emerge from our semi-iso, so did they. For the last little period they have been at it again – venturing onto our lawn, sometimes coming right up to the flowerbed beneath my window to eyeball me. The native hens are back and I softly rejoice. A sign.

A joke for these times

A guy walked into a bar….lucky bugger.’ Soon. Soon.

Shane Howard – Music for these Times

Continuing to reflect on the state of the nation, his new collection, ‘Dark Matter’, is as tuneful as it is insightful.

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A Tome to Re-emerge With

Deep Water’, Sarah Epstein, contains a feisty lead who is seeking to discern which of her flawed circle of mates is responsible for the disappearance of another of her sidekicks. Its a ripping YA read for any age. Read my review of it in the Blue Room.

Hollywood Times 3

My delightful viewing partner and I finally managed to catch up with ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ – one of the premier gong-collecting movies from the awards season earlier this year. And with Pitt, DiCaprio and Robbie in its ranks, amidst a cast of fine repute, this re-creation of Tinsel Town in the sixties took its time to burst into life. You’re thinking this is okay, but what’s all the fuss about? Then, just when you thought you had what was about to happen down pat, Tarantino turns it all upside down and unleashes. And the dog! That dog! Leigh and I let out a collective ‘Wow!’ when we emerged from the carnage.

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With the Netflix attraction ‘Hollywood’, be prepared for actors to carry on with gay abandon as we delve into the machinations of a movie house struggling to stay afloat in the late forties. It’s attempting to take a more balanced view of discrimination of all hues with its product. It flagrantly plays with the cinematic history of the time and its ending defies credibility – but then, perhaps it meant to, being more tongue in cheeky cheek than anything else. But it was fun and my lovely lady and I gave it a tick of approval.

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City of Angels’ (Stan) claims to be a ‘Penny Dreadful’ – but that’s a dreadful misnomer. Transferring the action from London’s smoggy gloom and settling it down in the Los Angeles glare, several decades later, is so wrong on many counts. It does pall, too, in comparison, but that said, Natalie Dormer is always watchable in anything. It has a strong Latino influence with some ‘Day of the Dead’ antics to the fore. There’s Nazis, as well, as it’s set in the lead up to WW2. City Hall corruption is played out with strong violence and it’s an okay effort, but if you’re expecting a ‘reboot’, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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Axe and Chuck

How could she (see Kate Simmons’ take on ‘Billions’ following) be rooting for Axelrod. It’s difficult to find anything positive about this Gordon Gecko for a new century. He’s an unfettered money-grabber who destroys, legally or otherwise, anybody who stands between him and his garnering of shit-loads of moolah. Could it be a gender thing for Kate S with her and Bobby A. Damien Lewis, he of the thin lips and piercing blue eyes, plays him to the hilt. Perhaps he is one sexy unit with all that monetary power.

Me, I’m a Chuck man. He’s far from perfect, mind you, with his taste for the fetish side. There’s also a hunger for power too, his of the political kind. Chuck Rhoades is also not adverse to cosying up with the Axe when it suits him, but generally they are at each other’s throats. Notionally he is on the side of right, but he’s a devious cur and Paul Giamatti plays him with relish. Its this relish I relate to.

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Around these two are a biomass of mostly grubby suited slime-bags, with just one or two rising above the morass on occasions. This is the ‘Mad Men’ for the first decades of the 21st Century and although, at times, it’s a little difficult to follow all the machinations that go on, it still makes for great television.

As for my wonderful partner in all this – she thinks they’re both despicable with no redeeming features what so ever, but nonetheless is still glued to all their devious plan hatching as Stan drip-feeds us Season Five.

Bernard Sal’s article for the Weekend Oz = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/weekend-australian-magazine/coronavirus-lockdown-befuddlement-syndrome-is-real-and-insidious/news-story/42783d24fab99be21160fd04e59fa0a4

Shane Howard’s website = https://shanehoward.com.au/

The Blue Room’s review of Sarah Epstein’s ‘Deep Water’ = stevelovell.id.au/2020/05/22/deep-water-sarah-epstein/

Trailer for ‘Once Upon a Tine in Hollywood = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELeMaP8EPAA

Trailer for Hollywood = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybN5pVJw-_A

Trailer for ‘City of Angels’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7BOjN3_M2A

Trailer for ‘Billions’ Season 5 = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aILMB1h8x7I

De-stressing in the Time of CV 05

Dear friends

Trevor – This morning I woke up to –

We’re going on a bear hunt! We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day. I’m not scared

Trevor was a tad perplexed. Of course the ditty has taken on a whole new meaning as spirits are uplifted for young – particularly the young – and old alike as they exercise around their neighbourhoods. But a bonus is being able to spot teddy bears in windows as they do so – furry beacons of hope in dark times. It’s an American president’s everlasting legacy – although the bears he hunted were of an entirely different nature. I wonder what the ultimate legacy of the inane and downright dangerous galoot that currently inhabits the Oval Office will be? Loved hearing Billy Connolly call him ‘The Great Tangerine’ on a recent show, but I digress.

Yes, Trevor was confused. He knew he should know, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Just what were the origins of the chant the little ones would chirp around the streets of the towns and cities of our country as they’re on the lookout? Of course, his listeners were soon onto it, putting him straight. We know it’s from Michael Rosen/Helen Oxenbury’s timeless classic picture book that still sells by the ton thirty years after it was first published. And it also contains the perfect lines for the CV world –

Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go around it. Got to go through it!

And we do.

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Trevor was taking calls from all over Oz as I stirred from my slumber. He has one of the biggest extended families there is on his nights. It consists of a motley array of insomniacs, shift workers, truckies and especially old dears who experience restless, wakeful wee small hours. For all of these Trevor is the voice in the darkness – a friend helping them make it through the night. He’s a mate to countless thousands. The topic under discussion, sometime after four that morning, was the fad for bear hunts sweeping the country. Considerate people were placing the family teddy in a street facing window to give such delight in these constricted times.

One old darling reported to him how she had placed two teddies, as well as the dog from Footrot Flats for good measure, in her portal to the world. Trevor posed the question as to how long it had been since she’d seen her own grandchildren. ‘Three months.’ she replied. ‘I only have one and he gives the best hugs in the world. Oh how I miss those hugs of his!’ We are all missing hugs at the moment.

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Trevor Chappell – no, not that Trevor Chappell of cricket infamy! – is the overnight man, operating out of Melbourne for ABC radio in the 2am till 5.30 slot, Mondays to Thursdays. His show is one of the most networked in the country and he’s my nightly companion. I first got into the habit of leaving the radio on all night in the years of separation, eight in all, I had from my lovely lady last decade. Me in Burnie, she in Hobs – they were long nights. That’s all in the past now, but the habit has been hard to shake. In the end I gave into it. I’m a passive member of his club – I never ring in, but I listen during my interrupted sleeping. He takes my mind off what could become much darker thoughts, during these testing months, as the outside world grapples with the virus. His voice – warm and laconically Australian – is balm-like. He cares. You can tell he has empathy in spades for his nocturnal audience. He’s no shock-jock – that execrable crew.

He once did a summer for Macca and I thought he out-Macca-ed Macca. It was mooted he should take over the Sunday morning slot when the legend calls it a day – but there’s no sign of that. The former West Australian Weagles supporter has been doing this gig since the early noughties and long may he continue. And right at the moment we need all the Trevors we can get.

Did worry me, though, on another topic du jour – that of lock-down fashion. He said he wouldn’t be seen dead in trackies. They, according to the word of Chappell, are a sure sign that you’ve let yourself go. Dear me – I haven’t been out of them for months. I wonder what he makes of crocs?

Freya – Music for these Times – In between playing my old John Prine (didn’t realise I had so many), the album I have been picking up constantly is the self-titled ‘Freya Ridings’. This flame-haired British songstress’ voice soothes and caresses. Check her out on YouTube or Spotify if the name is new to you.

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Trent – His ‘Tales from the Bunker’ is four weeks in now. The Weekend Australian’s regular feature, put together by Mr Dalton, again caught my perusing eye with several vignettes. There’s eleven year old Emily of Holland Park, South Brissy, who has started up a neighbourhood newspaper, which she hand delivers to the residents of her vicinity. Headed ‘The Corona Times’, it contains all the news of the doings in her street, as well as jokes and a ‘Neighbour of the Week’. Also from the same city is seventy years young Susan of Paddington who gives thanks for all the wonderful people in her life, but ponders why she’s wracked with guilt. Eventually she concludes it’s because ‘…the whole country is being held to ransom to safeguard those of my generation.’ Yep, it’s wonderful of the generations that follows us, isn’t it? After all, those in our age group haven’t exactly been kind to the planet we’ll be leaving behind to them.

Kate, from Port Melbourne, has been struggling, living in such close quarters for an extended period with a sullen, morose and non-communicative spouse. She feels that the period will most likely finally break her marriage as she ‘…hugs the kids and tries to give them something solid to build a life on.’ But, then, she succeeds in finding relief ‘…in the beauty of the autumn sun slanting into the kitchen of a morning…We have the winter coming, and this forced seclusion is beautiful,…’ but finishes with, ‘… but God, you cannot escape the fissures in your relationship.’ I count my lucky stars each and every day I have Leigh.

Noel – I was awake, probably because, in the back of my mind, I wanted to do it. So at 5.45 I reached for my clothes and dressed, rummaged around in various drawers for a torch and walked out to the end of our driveway. It was so still. The lights of Granton-side were shimmering off the Derwent, just across the road. Our wonderful neighbours, Noel and Jane, appeared on their front deck, Noel extracting a trombone from its case. On the dot of six he placed it to his lips and pierced the silence with an evocative ‘Last Post’. Between that and the more up-tempo ‘Reveille’, I thought of a father, a brother-in-law and a nephew who either went to war, or were in uniform, prepared to do so. To the best of my recall it was my very first dawn service – and I couldn’t have been in better company.

Fergus – I’d never heard of him – and that’s not surprising given my only slightly tongue-in-cheek disdain for the sport some of us now call football, but I’ll always refer to as soccer. Of course, compared to Aussie Rules, it’s a game for wusses, but it seems, unfathomably, to be quite popular.

So who was Fergus Suter? Well, it seems this Glaswegian stonemason was the first to give up his trade and accept money to play a sport which had previously been the preserve of young, entitled upper-crust toffs. These guys hated the smelly, unrefined riff-raff and regarded anyone like Suter as toxic. You played for the joy.

The English Game’ (Netflix) tells his story and it’s an intriguing upstairs/downstairs affair with the fledgling soccer tale being only one of the threads. Julian Fellowes had a hand in this so, like his behemoth, ‘Downton Abbey’, this is also concerned with the class system, as well as the role of women in late Victorian society. So if you’re a fan of that incredibly popular English series or, heaven forbid, soccer, then this is one for you. I thought there was much to recommend it.

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Missing those charismatic bloodsuckers Sookie and Bill Compton from ‘True Blood’? Then the same platform as above offers up ‘Vampires’, a French take on the genre. I doubt it’ll have the legs of the US game-changer, but it’s just the same sort of mindlessness that’s so de-stressing for this fraught period of our collective lives. It’s just transferred from the Deep South to the underbelly of Paris. There’s blood a-plenty and a bit of the other as well, taking our minds off a less visual horror. And a second series of this offering was planned before that other horror hit.

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A book to while away the hours as we wait for the curve to flatten out some more – Michael Robotham’s ‘Life or Death’ is a departure from his usual UK settings, but is still a page turning one – and prestigious prize winner to boot. See my review of it on my blog ‘The Blue Room’.

Peter – During the finishing off of this scribbling I listened to our state’s Premier, Peter Gutwein, give his daily press conference. I am impressed with him There’s even some great to see bi-partisanship here with both Bec from Labor and Cassie from the Greens stating he’s doing a sterling job. That’s along with his wingwoman, Health Minister Sarah Courtney, as well. Yep, we’re all in this together in Tassie. I’ve never voted Liberal in my life and probably never will. But, if he was in my electorate, next time around, I’d be sorely tempted. He’s made it possible to think we’re in the third quarter with a bit of lead on the opposition. I hope we hang on and win.

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Profile of Trevor Chappell = https://www.abc.net.au/radio/people/trevor-chappell/7347210

Freya Ridings website = https://freyaridings.com/

‘The English Game’ trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBOlhdSYhv8

Vampires Trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUNXFhyZnzY

Blue Room’s review of Michael Robotham’s ‘Life or Death’ = stevelovell.id.au/2020/05/01/life-or-death-michael-robotham/

Life or Death – Michael Robotham

There seems to be two types of people in this world. Those who love Michael Robotham, and those who haven’t heard of him yet.’ Andrew Cattanach, writing for Booktopia.

I suspect many more will come to know him, at least in his home country, for the tele version of his 2017 novel ‘The Secrets She Keeps’. It commenced on the Ten Network just this past week at time of writing, presumably being available, as well, on 10Play. Star Laura Carmichael was advised not to take on her lead in this by none other than Julian Fellowes. He reckoned it would detract from her image after years of being a vital cog in the ‘Downton Abbey’ wheel, or so I read. We’ve viewed the first episode and so far it’s done justice to Robotham’s fine telling of suburban deceit.

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Life or Death’ predates all this, being published in 2014 and it is a stand alone, taking place in the US, as opposed to his usual UK settings. And it’s a ripper, like all of his later stuff, winning Britain’s Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger Award for the Sydney based writer.

He creates a resourceful and intriguing hero in Audie Palmer. His long prison sentence is about to end, but the day before he’s due for release he escapes. Go figure! What could possibly have led to such seeming stupidity? As we discover in his back story, what slowly comes to light, as the saga progresses, is that there are two kinds of luck for Audie – the very best and the very worst. He’s hoping for a bit more of the former as he tries to make his audacious bid for freedom and tie up the loose ends of his life. And he’ll need it. He’s assumed to know the location of millions of dollars stashed away after a bungled robbery. But, of course, not all is as it seems – giving the author plenty of scope to play, throwing in hints along the way that keep the pages turning. As it ploughs towards its breathtaking, frenetic conclusion, we have a game of good cop (the diminutive Desiree) and bad cop (no spoilers here). There’s also reference to the felon’s brief marriage, his dodgy brother and even dodgier former boss, both of whom caused him to be on the radar in the first place. They are the ones who’ve progressively led an intelligent kid to darker waters.

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In the world of coronavirus we need all the escapism we can muster and with this title and the tele-series, Robotham is delivering and delivering.

Michael Robotham, international crime writer
visiting London

26.07.2010

picture: Stefan Erhard

The author’s website = http://www.michaelrobotham.com/

De-stressing in the Time of CV 04

Dear Friends

Hugs – I wondered how it would go, the arrangement between Trent Dalton, best known for mega-seller ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ (a tome I seem to be in the minority with as I have never perused it) and the Weekend Australian’s magazine. The notion was that he’d receive emails from the reading public with their own stories of surviving and waiting out the virus in their own abodes.

The first of his ‘Tales from the Bunker’ appeared in the Oz this weekend, at time of scribing, just past. Lovely and reaffirming it was too. Hopefully it will be on-going in future weeks. If so, it will be worth buying the Murdoch Press masthead for it alone. Truth be told I only buy the Saturday broadsheet for that magazine insert and its Review section. Dalton relayed many quite poignant tales in the issue. One that struck the heart was the story of Kate, an 8 year old, the same age (almost) as my beloved Tess, who understands that her grandparents are especially susceptible to the bastard virus. Her reaction was to design a sign her Nan and Pop could display at their front door. ‘Stop,’ she wrote, ‘VIG! Very Important Grandparents.’ Under those words she repeated the dose with ‘First class grandparents. Please wash hands.’ Dalton goes on, ‘The whole suburb now knows that Kate is a VIG as well – Very Inspiring Granddaughter.’ As is Tessa. My very own VIG makes sure that she has a wonderful drawing or something else she’s written or crafted for her own Poppy, each time I call, to take home to treasure.

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Another correspondent sent in a homage to a tireless friend, a nurse, who works in the oncology ward of one of Brisbane’s hospitals. Sadly she relayed her disgust that even that place had been targeted by the gutter slime who thought their needs were greater than those struggling against another demanding disease. All the sanitiser had been removed from her place of work by them.

But that was an aberration – mostly the article contained a wholly positive vibe. He had an emailer telling of her still very active mid-80s dad who was having trouble, as do many of us, curbing his out-and-abouting, even with his usual haunts shut down. He took to any excuse to get to Bunnings, the chemist and anything else that he could think of that was still available to him. Three weeks ago this guy met his first great grandchild – through a window of course. The old fella reckoned it was the best day of his life. The emailer’s prayer was that one day the dear guy would actually get to hold this brand new life in his arms.

Trent D started this weekend’s collection by asking, ‘Remember hugs?’ We’re all so deprived of them at the moment. He related another person who took the trouble of contacting him. Toni, who has tested positive, hasn’t had one cuddle from her own brood for three weeks as she waits for her symptoms to disappear.

Of course I’m blessed with hugs from my lovely lady to keep me going, but how I miss them from my Tess, Katie and even Rich. I’d give anything to hold my little grandson again. And to see his Shirley Temple-like sister who’s way away, for now, tucked safe in Bridport. The situation is hard for grandparents; hard for grandchildren. But then, there’s no real isolating, is there? It’s just the physical contact we can’t do at present. I give thanks that the digital age has something, these days, to recommend it.

Dalton’s project does not take us away from it, but after reading of all that goodness I felt buoyant; hope renewed and feeling de-stressed.

Odile – Being a fan of almost anything to do with her home country, way back I was chuffed to have a French penfriend. It was the pre-digital age and writing letters to people overseas was, well, I guess you’d call it a hobby – and I thrived on it. We know any form of letter writing these days is a dying art. AusPost and social media seem to be working hand in hand to kill it off. I’m hoping our present straightened circumstances will bring it back a little, if only on a national scale. The links to the outside world are diminished, except via the ether. We communicated quite regularly back in the 90s and into the new millennium. She lived in a town on the outskirts of Paris and I thought she was quite chic.

Then most of my overseas correspondents drifted away. From most of them, including Odile, I only heard sporadically, usually around Christmas. But out of the blue, a few nights ago, I she came back into my orbit.

Now, during the years of writing to each other, she found she had another connection to my island. A long lost cousin turned up as the mayor of a Tassie locality – the colourful Bertrand Cadart. His domain was the East Coast municipality of Spring Bay. With his Portillo-ian fashion sense, French brogue and larger than life personality, he was known to some as the Crowbar Man after a small role he attained in one of the Mad Max movies. Odile was contacting me to let me know of his passing.

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We had a conversation via Messenger, comparing notes on our respective CV situation. She thought she may have had the dreaded virus a while back, but her symptoms were not severe enough to warrant testing or hospitalisation – so, around a month into the French lock down, she is none the wiser but feeling better now. Although it took some sad news to bring her back into communication with me, I hope it will become more regular now as we are both in a similar situation at opposite ends of the Earth.

Scores and Numbers – Last Saturday eve I was waiting for the numbers to arrive. I recalled that at the same time last year they were of a different ilk as I’d be following, on my hand held device, the latest from the AFL. I’d have one eye on whatever it was that my lovely lady and I were watching, one eye on that other smaller screen, especially if the matches were close. And of course, if a tight contest involved my Hawks, my stress levels would be rising. I suppose millions would be waiting on all Saturdays for the lotto numbers to arrive on screen, but that’s not me.

Now I find it de-stressing before bedtime to have another set of numbers come in– from the Tasmanian Department of Hearth’s coronavirus website, telling me of the amount of positive cases on my island for the previous twenty-four hours . Once they’re up, usually around 9.30 to 10.00, I find it, if not too dire, somewhat comforting to go to bed with that knowledge; to know we’re not being swamped, so to speak. Sadly the numbers of late for those contacting the disease in my old homeland around Burnie have been quite alarming. I sincerely hope, by the time you’re reading this, that those, too, have abated.

Millions of Indians can look north and see the majesty of the Himalayas for the first time in their lives. Without the cruise liners and the tourists the lagoon and canals of Venice are clearing of pollution. What are the chances of that remaining the case after we come out the other side?

A book to while away the hours as we wait for the curve to peak and flatten – the wonderful ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens. See my review on my blog – The Blue Room.

Threesomes to Relish – One of my regular routine treats, pre-CV, was my weekly jaunts into the city to connect with my two dealers. They give me great service, do the savvy people at AusPost stamp-central in Bathurst Street, as also do David and Kim at ‘The Coin and Stamp Place’ in the Trafalgar Arcade. I know this habit and their servicing of my philatelic tastes will resume when we all come out the other side, but I miss it.

Australia Post goes on releasing new issues and March saw their annual ‘Austraian Legends’ come outwith their 2020 recipients of the honour. This year it is dedicated to those who make us laugh – and one of the set that has delighted me in particular. I don’t dismiss the talent Noeline Brown, Magda Szubanski or Garry McDonald, but this guy, at a jam-packed Wrest Point showroom, held a vast audience in the palm of his hand a few years back, including my lovely lady and myself. He had all the punters there that night in his thrall, telling yarns both fantastical and with a kernel of truth, keeping us in fits for several hours. He has found immense success in the UK, taking over from Clive James as television’s Australian pricker of pomposity, with his show ‘The Last Leg’. At the same time he has become a leading spokesperson for the disabled.

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For most of us, though, Adam Hills’ lasting legacy will remain his role as the genial host of a show that just keeps on giving with its regular repeats on ABC Comedy. We all know it – Spicks&Specks’. And last night Leigh and I tuned into its ‘00s Special’ to help us de-stress our way through these challenging days. Here we reacquainted ourselves with regular panelists Alan Brough and another Aussie living treasure in Myf Warhurst. It bought hilarity into our lounge room. It’s part of a yearly clutch of hour long episodes to keep the flame burning and long may they be presented. It was interesting watching it as, music wise, I realised the noughties must have completely passed me by, yet Leigh was singing along to all the ditties on the show. They reminded us all of what we lost when the series was finally canned back in 2011. You can catch these special editions on ABCiView.

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Sometimes the chemistry is magically just right for a panel show and with Adam, Myf and Alan Auntie hit the jackpot. The regard they have for each other is palpable; the musical knowledge Alan and Myf possess immeasurable. With a range of well known guests participating, everyday and now these abnormal woes, disappear.

And this too is decidedly the case with another tele-treat that sees David Mitchell and Lee Mack verbally go at each other under the watchful eye of Rob Brydon, making sure things do not completely descend into comedic anarchy. With a diverse range of media celebrity appearing alongside, but never outshining them, this pair engage in ‘take no prisoners’ repartee and we all have to decide, in ‘Would I Lie To You’, if they are telling the truth or outrageous porkies. Mitchell has remarkable wit delivered in droll style whilst Mack is dynamite with his quick comebacks. This extremely entertaining product first appeared on the Beeb back in 2006 and you can delight in its thirteenth season now on iView.

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Currently Leigh and I are devouring the third series of ‘Ozark’ on Netflix and family Byrde descend even further into dysfunctionality with their crooked enterprises. It’s one of that platform’s best.

The signs are positive as we enter the second quarter. We’re all holding our breath to see if the flattening of the curve continues. But it remains a sinister foe, does the virus, as Burnie is currently showing. Fingers crossed.

Steve

Trent Dalton at the Australian = https://www.theaustralian.com.au/author/Trent%20Dalton

Bertrand Cadart’s Incredible Life = https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-29/why-bertrand-cadart-keeps-a-ferrari-red-coffin-in-the-loungeroom/11587310

Tasmanian Department of Health’s coronavirus website = https://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/publichealth/communicable_diseases_prevention_unit/infectious_diseases/coronavirus

Spicks and Specks website – https://iview.abc.net.au/show/spicks-and-specks-specials’

‘Would I Lie to You’ website – https://iview.abc.net.au/show/would-i-lie-to-you

De-stressing in the Time of CV 03

Dear Friends

The 7K Man – He appeared in the local paper and on FB spruiking his wares so we decided to pay Tyler Clark a visit. His spread is halfway between our spot by the river and Brighton. The sign is small, discreet – speedsters would miss it. The turn-off leads onto a dirt track and up to a hillside home. Tyler’s passion is a little further elevated behind. It overlooks a stunning view of our part of the world with the Derwent shimmering in the distance. The landscape was verdantly greening up after some recent rain.

Initially this former tradie was an avid collector of Australian whiskey – so he started harbouring dreams of his own distillery – and I assure you this is not going the way you may think, knowing my love of the juice of the peat (although someone is being aided in de-stressing as a result!)

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Purchasing a couple of shipping containers, he was soon on his way to achieve his dream. But at some stage during his story he took off on a different tangent, perhaps because of the flood of new Tasmanian enterprises in the art of making the glorious brown liquid. He turned his attention to a clearer one.

Now, neither Leigh nor I were partial to the stuff beforehand. His major offering was the last thing on our minds. That wasn’t the lure that attracted us out that fine morning. Because of the publicity, approaching our destination, we expected a car park full of other desperate punters as what he was offering couldn’t be found on any shelves around Hobs. As it was, parking facilities were minimal and we were the only customers. We were after his byproduct and we had the place to ourselves. He was offering hand sanitiser.

In any case, he was starting to struggle – he had plenty of the liquid, but as his containers came from China – well, you know the story there. But he still had a few jars worth we could decant, so we snapped them up. And Leigh decided to buy a small bottle of his main game – gin. ‘And it’s beautiful,’ says my lovely lady. ‘I always thought gin tasted of paint-stripper,’ but the berry infused concoction sure found a fan in her.

And Tyler is a lovely, thoughtful chap. When Leigh rang for a second helping – sanitiser as well as the tipple – she was told to keep an eye on Facebook. But the very next day he was on the blower to her. He had made some more. We went back poste haste and now Leigh is itching to try her latest blend based around citrus.

Tyler is planning to set up a proper shop in Moonah when the dust settles on all this. In that we wish him well. In the meantime, if gin’s your tonic to de-stress your way through these CV times, you could do worse, according to my lady, than to go to the 7K web-site and order some of his nectar – and the by-product, too, if it’s difficult to attain in your neck of the woods.

French Fluff – Much of what we watch, although some of the best offerings of the Golden Age of Television, are not particularly uplifting or designed to give us light entertainment. Scandi-noir, bleak British police procedurals and recently, the depressing, so depressing ‘Stateless’. The latter will not leave one smiling as it cuts pretty close to the bone. So what better antidote would there be to de-stress than a pretty mindless rom-com. Of course, these abound on our television platforms, but for something a tad different, in recent days I’ve opted for French escapism in ‘The Hook-up Plan’. This is the Paris of not so long ago and tells of indeed a plan, but one that goes so horribly wrong. Thirty-something Elsa (Zita Hanrot) is in the doldrums over her love life – or lack thereof. A beau has left her for another woman and she’s pining over that loss and worries that she’ll be left on the shelf. One of her besties decides that a very fine thing to do would be to hire a male escort (Marc Ruchmann) to pretend to fall in love with her over a couple of dates. That will fix her woes, surely. Of course Elsa predictably falls head over heels. Why not? The guy is a sweetie in the game for all the right reasons – and, guess what? He becomes smitten too. That wasn’t meant to happen. And when our heroine finds out, well, it’s not pretty or forgiving.

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It’s low maintenance viewing with a handsome cast. Season one finished with everything up in the air, so I’m looking forward, sometime soon, to settling into the next series to see how it all pans out.

As Tears Go By – The bastard virus has gotten hold of Marianne Faithful.

What a ‘Whoa!’ moment it was when I first heard ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ sometime in 1979. That voice – all rasp, a thousand cigarettes and a life badly lived. Could this really be the same person who trilled ‘As Tears Go By’, fifteen years prior, in a voice as pure as virgin snow? I quickly got hold of ‘Broken English’, which included, as well, her iconic version of ‘Working Class Hero’ and that shocking rant, ‘Why Ya Do It?’. Gawd, talk about a virgin no longer! I went on to add, to my collection, more albums of hers over the years, but nothing matched the impact of that incendiary release as the 70s came to an end.

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Sadly that other afflicted hero of mine didn’t make it through to the other side. John Prine succumbed to the virus on 7 April 2020. RIP.

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Weird English – Taking our minds off Marianne, JP and CV, Leigh and I have been de-stressing to ‘Hidden’, season two of which is showing on Stan. It’s a police whodunnit, quite gripping, where the cast flit between English and sub-titled Welsh at the drop of a leek. For me, Series 3 (with 4 recently approved) of ‘Babylon Berlin’ is underway on Netflix, as the Weimar Repblic is on its last legs with the spectre of Nazism well and truly on the horizon. Can hero Police Commissioner Gereon Rath solve the crime as the world spirals out of control in the vice and sin-ridden German capital, with his own personal demons still lingering? So far not as sexy as the first two seasons, but still an excellent way to shut our own spiralling world out.

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Let’s hope the demon of a virus doesn’t linger though. We’re a way to go, I’m sure, but keeping it all in perspective and keeping one’s head down we’ll soon be surging into time on of the first quarter – thanks Mr Gutwein – with hopefully our noses in front.

And we have toilet paper thanks to my daughter’s on-line capabilities and us hitting the sweet spot at the supermarket. Yay!

Steve

7K Distillery web-site = https://www.7kdistillery.com.au/welcome

Marianne Faithful’s website = http://www.mariannefaithfull.org.uk/

‘The Hook-up Plan’ trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1kdkjIjCb8

‘Hidden’ Season Two trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xx-CEo6Fl7M

‘Babylon Berlin’ Season Three trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCbs4634t4E

De-stressing in the Time of CV 02

Dear Friends

Courage – Yes, I know, it’s another supermarket tale. The supermarket is about the only place we’re getting out to these days. It must have been so hard for someone so young to be confronted with something so huge, even beyond the experience of all who will read this missive, with all our decades. Yet she had the courage to rise above it.

She was of such tender years. I doubt if she had even left her secondary years at school. Yet she was carrying on as best she could. All those lines of people she was expected to marshal through her check out. All the new rules she had to adhere to, especially ones as potentially confronting as the product limits. As well, many of the people she’d be shepherding by her till would be as anxious about the whole thing as she was.

Our first experience of New Norfolk Woolies had been positive, so, as the numbers climbed and the plans for complete staying at home seemed to be coming closer, my lovely Leigh and I decided to do a big shop to set us up for the coming week and a fair way beyond. And it continued to be a far more pleasant experience than our regular go-to grocery venues. All seemed fine at the checkout after we had completed our rounds. But then I asked her the question. ‘How has your day been?’ She tried to be brave. She tried to keep it in. I don’t know why she told me and I could tell she was struggling, trying to hold it together. The lower lip quivered, ‘I was abused earlier on. He had too much milk. I tried to explain it to him but all I got was abused.’

She gave me a weak smile and I told her how sorry I was that that had happened to her. She was rattled, but she put her head down and ushered our goods through her scanner. A little later she asked Leigh for help with the customer behind her who was breaking the rules about loading her goods onto the conveyor without being instructed it was her turn. Leigh handled that with her usual poise.

Courage? Well I think so. She was still standing after some dick had given her a mouthful, doing her job in a world gone crazy. She’s at the front line, too, in a time of trouble that even us old fogeys get a tad wobbly in. They seem a lovely, lovely bunch at the NN branch when supermarkets are rising in the general esteem. I’m sure, when her colleagues found out, they would’ve gotten around her and been as supportive to her as they are to their community. She’s clearly brave, that girl – perhaps out of her depth, but doing what she feels is expected of her. And no, there was no toilet paper that day either.

At the time of writing, to put it all into perspective with how well we are off here in comparison, sixty Italian doctors have died as a result of the coronavirus bug. You can never counter that with a positive, but millions of Chinese, on the other hand, are staring up at blue skies in wonder. The planet will recover, but there are some things that are emerging that should not be let go of again. Neither should we let go of all that which allows us to de-stress.

Curmudgeonly – Jack Dee. I first came across the 58 year old UK stand-up comedian in ‘Lead Balloon’, but I’d probably had encountered him, as well, beforehand on numerous British panel shows without him actually registering. He even has hosted one himself – ‘Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue’. ‘Lead Balloon’ lasted for four seasons up until 2011. In it Dee played Rick Spleen, a comedy writer for television. The name says it all. On it he vented his spleen at every opportunity. He was forever glass half empty; sarcastic to a fault. His world was full of annoyance and he’s a cynic as he battles to write laughs, with his partner, for his shows. Jack Dee was, in fact, a co-writer himself for ‘Lead Balloon’, as well as for his latest series. For me LB is one of the very best examples of Brit comedy.

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His ‘Bad Move’ is not in the same league, but the half hour episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 on Stan are just what the doctor ordered to de-stress in a coronavirus world, particularly after the oft heavier fare we watch during our evenings. Steve (Dee) and Nicky Rawlings (Kerry Godliman – ‘Extras’) have moved away from the city to more bucolic surrounds, only to find life out in the sticks isn’t all it’s cut up to be. Their woebegone, tumble-down rural house is a nightmare. To make matters worse, on one side their neighbour is a crackpot rock god, whilst on the other is a new-age family with perfectly adorable kiddies. Steve gets on okay with the former, but barely tolerates the latter. It’s twee, it’s predictable, striving a bit too hard for laughs and Jack Dee just plays himself. But for someone who, like me. loves his persona, the series is gold; sugar on a stick.

Irreplaceable – the bastard virus has gotten hold of John Prine

The last check I did before scribing this, his wife reported that he is stable, after a much more dire prognosis a few days back. He’s a fighter, is Prine. He has battled cancer since 1998, but continues to perform when he can.

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Some time after 1973 my brother lent me a bunch of vinyl. At the time I was stuck on the BeeGees, Johnny Cash and Dean Martin (still love them, mind) – the wildest I got was knowledgeably declaring that the Kinks were far superior to both the Beatles and the Stones. Kim was more up to date – ‘with it’, having broader tastes by far. In the little collection he gave me I spotted an album cover with a good looking, denim-clad rooster spread out languorously over some roadster type automobile. When I got around to playing the tracks within that one, being ‘blown away’ didn’t come close. I changed my musical direction in one stroke. It lead me on to other people such as Eric Anderson, Guy Clark, Townes van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Jerry Jeff Walker. I’d discovered, via Kim, Americana.

Sweet Revenge’ contained tunes like ‘Dear Abby’, ‘Christmas in Prison’, ‘Blue Umbrella’ and ‘Onomatopoeia’. It was Prine’s third album. I rushed out and purchased the previous two and have continued to collect him ever since. His voice is of the ‘love it’ or ‘loathe it’ type – you know which category I fall into – but it’s his songsmithery I love just as much. It’s what has made him a legend and multi-Grammy winner. ‘Sam Stone’, ‘Angel from Montgomery’, ‘Hello in There’, ‘Speed of the Sound of Loneliness’ and ‘Illegal Smile’ are just a few classics from his oeuvre.

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Prine was ‘discovered’ by Kristofferson and Kim ‘discovered’ him for me. My thanks go to both and I’ll be listening to him over and over in the days and weeks that lie ahead. Hang in there JP.

Sultry – As Helena in ‘Hache’ she shimmers and pouts her way out of dire and tricky situations in the Barcelona of the 1960s – and she sure took my mind off the woes of the world. I first came across Adriana Ugarte in the Pedro Almodóvar film of four years ago, ‘Julieta’. In it she played the younger version of the female protagonist in a movie by the great director based on the short stories of Alice Munro. She also featured stunningly in the sensually tropical colonial epic ‘Palm Trees in the Snow’, available for you to feast your eyes on with Netflix, as is ‘Hache’. In the latter, the thirty-five year old dominates the small screen as a former prostitute, falling on hard times, then seizing the day by attaching herself to a heroin addicted crime-boss operating out of a nightclub. She wins his trust and he brands her as one of his female associates. But she doesn’t kowtow to anyone – she quickly becomes a devious force to be reckoned with as she connives her way to where the money is. Try not to be too put out by the quite, for my taste, confronting sex scenes in Episode 1.They lead to a rip-roaring story with more substance than steam. And it has been commissioned for a second series as Hache, Helena’s nick-name, continues to bend with the wind till the frenetic climax of the final episode of the first season. If you can bear sub-titles this will bear you away from thoughts that are far harder to bear – see what I did there?

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Ghost Town – This week I fear I said goodbye to my city excursions for a while, most of my haunts being closed in any case. Whilst I was in there it was, well, deathly quiet. It seemed to me that all that was open were the two places I had to visit, a chemist and the post office. In reality I felt safer in there than any supermarket, although I must admit, even around the groceries, people seem to be getting the notion that this is serious.

We’ll wait it out, Leigh and I – careful, relatively content and positive that there’s always light amidst the gloom.

 Steve

Trailer for ‘Bad Move’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmRBwaPB0Dc

Trailer for ‘Hache’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I27cgz2p-Xo

For more on John Prine = https://www.johnprine.com/