Category Archives: Uncategorized

On the Couch01

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

Reading in the Time of Coronavirus

Paris Echo – Sebastian Faulks

Next month I’m having my eyes done – or, at least, that’s the plan. Who knows, in these uncertain times, what the world will look like next week let along half way through May. For me, though, it may look so much brighter. I’m told that after the two laser treatments – our country’s most common medical procedure – I’ll only require reading glasses. Having worn specs since my early teens, that’ll be a game changer. Also the layers of cling wrap, as my lovely optometrist described what my fading vision was like, would melt away, revealing the clarity I haven’t known for years. Perhaps the tired eyes I carry daily will also disappear. I’ll no longer doze off just after opening my book. I’ll no longer feel the need for an afternoon nanny nap. I’d just love to be able to read more.

I started reading Sebastian Faulk’s ‘Paris Echo’, having so enjoyed earlier works including ‘Birdsong’, ‘Charlotte Gray’ and ‘On Green Dolphin Street’, as the bastard virus descended on our world. When I started it cruise liners were still sailing up the Derwent, our year’s travel plans were still intact and visits to and by grandchildren the thing that made our hearts soar.


It took so long to complete it’s three hundred odd pages. It wasn’t such a bad book; it wasn’t that heavy going. I think, as COVID19 took hold and our personal orb shrank to the home and little else, the radio, newspapers and constantly checking news feeds took prominence. Now newspapers have started to leave the equation as that requires a daily journey to collect. Most out-and-abouting by car is frowned on. Still, the tome was eventually finished, but in all honesty I cannot say it was relished. I suspect that is mostly due to the times rather than its quality.

Once I was reading Faulks’ novels as they came out, but my enthusiasm for them waned as time went on. ‘Paris Echo’ had received positive reviews so I gave SF another burl, just as CV hit town.

Youthful Algerian Tariq and older American Hannah arrive in Paris around the same time. For an adventurous young man, dragging himself up by his bootstraps, his eyes are still opened by the Paris the tourist rarely sees. For Hannah, an academic, she is returning to research her latest project, still haunted by her now lost lover from a previous excursion to the city of love. By chance they become the unlikeliest of house-mates as the lad gains employment frying chicken and she reconnects with an old friend. He has little adventures riding the metro and connecting with mysterious women, as well as a half-crazed puppeteer. She engages with her topic, the women of Paris during the war years. She looks at case studies of those who collaborated with both the Resistance and their Nazi overlords. Faulks also treats the reader to some of these women’s stories as well. Meanwhile, her North African flat mate discovers something of the more recent troubled relationship between his homeland and France.


Perhaps there was too much happening in the book; but methinks more than likely too much happening outside of it, with our planet completely off its axis. I just couldn’t settle to it – returning in fits and starts with no real enthusiasm.

We’re informed we have months ahead of this semi-isolation as the disease is battled. But we’re also told the world will return, hopefully renewed – just like my own eyes. This will be looked back on as an aberration – a telling one, mind.

The author’s website –

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!)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


7K Distillery web-site =

Marianne Faithful’s website =

‘The Hook-up Plan’ trailer =

‘Hidden’ Season Two trailer =

‘Babylon Berlin’ Season Three trailer =

Miss Manhattan

You can find an image of her, in the ether, from when she was in her glorious pomp. She’s there, proudly, daringly and completely naked, arms outstretched, posing for an artist at his easel. Her present day chronicler has called her the world’s first supermodel – a term as applied to her not strictly adhering to our modern definition. But she was famous, her name on everyone’s lips around the equivalent of the water cooler back then. Her propensity for nudity and the depictions of her being so enough to set most male pulses pumping. At the height of her fame one of her city’s daily rags tagged her ‘Miss Manhattan’, an indication of how her star was burning so brightly in the years leading up to and during World War One. There was none brighter in the firmament – yet she went on to have the longest crash and burn of perhaps any celebrity in history.

It wasn’t the aforementioned photograph that first attracted me to her, but one I came across on an Instagram feed called ‘all_thats_interesting’ – photos with intriguing stories attached. Bit of a goldmine, actually, for someone like me. There I found a more demure picture, a portrait, but it took my eye just the same, along with its caption, that ‘World’s First Supermodel’ business. I was immediately most taken and resolved to dig deeper. What I found was a ripping, if ultimately sad, yarn.


Of course the largest statue of a woman in the environs of NYC is ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’. It’s a symbol of freedom and womanhood, better known to us all as the ‘Statue of Liberty’. The sculptor’s mother was reportedly the inspiration. But the second largest is to be found attached to the municipal buildings in Manhattan. It was modelled for by one Audrey Munson and is sheathed in golden robes. Another prominent one sits atop the Pulitzer Fountain in the forecourt of the Plaza Hotel. It features an unclad depiction of the Roman god Pomona and it’s again Audrey. It is estimated that, of the 1500 statues that graced the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, a goodly 200 or so supposedly were posed for by, yes, you guessed it, Miss Munson, in various stages of undress. But ultimately, it could be said, that it was the West Coast, not her home in the East, that led to her downfall. Had she not gone West, well, who knows?


After an unsettled childhood Audrey and her mother moved to the Big Apple where the fifteen year old soon found work in the risque chorus lines springing up in entertainment venues all over the city; the novelty being recently imported from Europe and going gangbusters, as exemplified by the Ziegfield Follies. No, she wasn’t plucked from those, just being one of the alluring young lasses all hoping their ‘hoofin’ and ‘bump and grinding’ would lead to fame and fortune. That they would be the one plucked from obscurity. Yes, she was indeed the lucky one, but it didn’t come from her stage work. And she certainly ended up gaining plenty of the fame, if not the other hoped for commodity. Her finding was an even more a clichéd story than that.


Felix Benedict Herzog, it was, who discovered the young Miss Manhattan-to-be. Audrey and her mum were out and about, doing a bit of window shopping, when she was spotted by the inventor, electrician (back in those days the equivalent of being a start-up whizz in these) and camera fancier. Felix, in his fifties, excitedly introduced himself to the pair, engaged in some small talk, complimented Audrey on her looks and deportment before asking if she would consider tastefully posing for him. With her mother’s permission and agreement to act as chaperone the proposal was accepted. For her first session the girl was tastefully draped and Herzog was soon discerning she was a natural, so he introduced her to his circle. It wasn’t long before mother and daughter were being asked to consider Audrey being less well draped. A smooth-taking sculptor asked her to disrobe completely for a work he was planning portraying the Three Graces. He rabbited on about artistic purity and so on to the degree that the mother and daughter agreed. Once that step was taken she was on her way to the notoriety she later achieved. She was soon in high demand and the fact that she charged peanuts (around $15 in today’s terms) for a session aided her popularity.

Herzog knew the traps such a young and vulnerable lass could fall into once she went down the path of posing nude and despite the age difference, he was willing to marry her in order to protect her from those that might take advantage of her. Had this occurred her journey may have been entirely different, but he suddenly passed away in 1912.

When she posed for a fully-armed replica of the Venus de Milo, ordered by Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands, she cracked the big time as far as being a celebrity of the age was concerned. She was now fodder for the media of the time – her ample figure and vibrant good looks ensured she was destined to be continuously in the public eye, her every move filling the gossip columns. It is safe to say it went to her head a bit. She now determined that she would find the perfect man who would be a suitable fit for her perfect body. That led to an interest in the science of eugenics, well and truly discredited now, but all the rage then.

And then Hollywood, or its pre-WW1 equivalent, came calling. The film industry hadn’t entirely migrated to the area around LA then, still being active on the East Coast. Of course the attraction of Miss Munson was obvious and she was soon participating in the first silver screen nude scene. Pornography had already found moving pictures a vehicle for the salacious, but Munson’s ‘Inspiration’ was meant to be for the general public. But various American church organisations had other ideas, with the movie soon being shut down all over the country. The template was set though. Henceforth the modelling community would be a breeding ground for future stars – and so it remains today.

To get away from all that Audrey Munson decided to make a move to a fresh start on the West Coast. Here she used her fame to become an early advocate of ‘wellness’, also a fad of the age, associated with the fascination for eugenics. Movie offers came in, but it soon became apparent that, although she looked a million dollars on the big screen, she actually couldn’t act. When her film, ‘Purity’, tanked at the box office work, full stop, started to dry up. It was then Munson lost the plot.

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The first indication that something was badly amiss was when she wrote to the US government accusing many in her association of pro-German sympathies because they failed to give her, being of English descent, on-going work. The newspapers had a field day with her when a doctor, living in the same apartment block as she and her mother, committed suicide over his infatuation with her. The infatuation that was unrequited.

It was all too much. Mother and daughter, now struggling financially, fled the city for a small town in upstate New York. There mum went out to work daily, now supporting her daughter who was recovering from her own suicide attempt. She’d thought she’d finally found her ‘perfect fit’ in a man. He rejected her. She took poison. Audrey then seems to have retreated into her own mind, with delusions regarding her past and her present straightened circumstances, making her difficult to live with. Her new community came to regard her, at best, an eccentric, at worst a serial pest stirring up trouble in all quarters. Eventually it all became too much for her ageing mother, so, on the former artist model’s fortieth birthday, Miss Manhattan was committed to a lunatic asylum out of harm’s way up near the Canadian border. There she lived, once the talk of the town, with her horizons now so narrow. She died in 1996. She was in her 104th year.

She would have faded completely from view after that had it not been for investigative journalist James Bone. He cottoned onto her story. With the assistance of some family members and the public record, he pieced together her quite sorry saga for his 2016 publication ‘The Curse of Beauty.’

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It’s a salutary story, this one of Audrey Munsom. She flew so high but the wrong turns led her astray. But in the ether she remains, as well as on the pages of a book. Consider her tale, be in awe of her beauty and let that take precedence over her troubled mind during her steep descent.

January Gems

The old year crossed into a new decade as I was glued to a destruction of a relationship. Devouring ‘Marriage Story’ in a couple of chunks on the small screen, the Netflix original has garnered four nominations (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress) in the current Academy Awards. It is interesting to note that movies made for the television platform have attracted 24 in all in a game-changing year. There’s no doubt that the performances of Adam Driver, Scarlett Johanssen and Laura Dern are exceptional as the couple at the core of the break-up spiral into the depths, assisted by the legal fraternity made up of Dern and a welcome cameo from Alan Alda. You feel compelled to stay with it to the last rites to see if the pair can claw something back out of the sorry mess. Driver’s character, a self absorbed stage-director, is totally career driven to the exclusion of his partner’s feelings. She, played by Johanssen, had to cope with his immaturity whilst trying to juggle a child and her own professional aspirations. The beauty of it being a generous two and a half hours-ish in duration is that you can spread it over as long a period as suits – and it is well worth the expenditure of time. Now ‘The Irishman’ and ‘The Two Popes’, also up for Oscars, are on my ‘to view’ list.


Big screen wise Leigh and I had the pleasure of accompanying three grandchildren to ‘Dolittle’. I admit I enjoyed watching their faces, as they savoured the offering, more than the actual film itself. It wasn’t as bad as many critics have reported, but I found it hard to be attracted to Robert Downey’s performance and his relationship with the beasts, large and small, of the planet.

The most fun I’ve had at the cinema for quite a while came with ‘The Gentleman’. With a cast including Matthew McConaughey, ‘Sons of Anarchy’s’ Charlie Hunnam, ‘Downton’s’ Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Eddie Marsan and Hugh Grant, as we’ve rarely seen him before, the screen was full of London gangland mayhem and black, black humour. Guy Ritchie’s directing career has been patchy, but with this ensemble of class actors he’s on a winner.


In contrast two movies that are the antithesis of the hectic pace of the above are ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ and ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ (how I hate leaving out the ‘u’!). The pace could be almost glacial with both, but the rewards are worth your forbearance.

The first listed has been greeted rapturously by the critics and has picked up a handful of prestigious gongs on the film festival circuit. With this product most of the joys are delivered towards the end, so patience is a virtue. For most of its length we can be satisfied by appreciating the sheer beauty of what is on screen, with the land and seascapes, as well as the gorgeousness of the two French female leads. In fact, there’s barely a male to be had, only the ferrymen at the commencement and a few more just before the end credits roll. It’s set in the late C18th on a storm blasted island off the coast of Brittany. Marianne (Noémie Merlant) arrives on the isle to pretend to be a lady’s companion, but her hiring is really for the purpose to paint a portrait in secret. A noblewoman ensconced in a great gothic pile is at the bidding of her mother, determined to marry her off, something Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) is none too happy about. The painting, of course, is necessary currency in the days of arranged marriages, pre-photography. The prospective Italian groom has to know what he is getting. Gradually, though, the truth is unmasked and a relationship, which becomes somewhat more than mere companionship, develops. It’s stunning, with added spice, perhaps for some, that the actress playing the initially frosty Héloïse ’s was once herself the partner of the opus’ director, Céline Sciamma.


The slow boil continues with ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’, but here the pleasures are littered evenly throughout. It is essentially a vehicle for Tom Hanks, although his nomination at the big award is for Best Supporting. Matthew Rhys capably takes the lead as a gun reporter asked to write a puff piece on a living national treasure, Fred Rogers. A singular host of children’s television, he was a real life figure who was an institution for decades. Said reporter refuses to believe that Rogers can be so perfect a figure and sets forth to discover the darker side to the man that must be there. He bites off more than he can chew as Rogers regularly turns the table on him – with the result that the puff piece becomes so much more. It was also great to see ‘This is Us’ actress Susan Kelechi Watson in a prominent role, supported by Chis Cooper, who is always a treat.


The movie has had mixed reviews from ‘a tonic of a film’ to ‘not even Tom Hanks can save this mess’. Stay for the end credits, with the minute’s silence mid-length being a highlight. I liked it very, very much. When Hanks and Rhys appeared on Graham Norton recently they reported that the director, Marielle Heller, was constantly asking both to slow down the speed of their delivery on set. I thought TH, in particular, was quite mesmerising as he did this. The lengthy pause is a constant feature of his performance.

So I struck it lucky in January with four gems. What will February hold?

Trailer for ‘Marriage Story’ =

Trailer for ‘The Gentlemen’ =

Trailer for ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ =

Trailer for ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’ =

The Body – Bill Bryson

Consider this the next time you are contemplating a deep, deep pash with your dearest one – ‘Passionate kissing alone, according to one study, results in the transfer of up to a billion bacteria from one mouth to another, along with about 0.7 milligrams of protein, 0.45 milligrams of salt, 0.7 micrograms of fat and 0.2 micrograms of miscellaneous organic compounds (ie, bits of food).’


Bill Bryson was only getting started with ‘The Body’ when he thrust at us the above information. There’s much more hair-curling stuff to contend with as one reads on in the tome. In here, for instance, you will be illuminated on how the daily activities of double-decker bus conductors and drivers in London gave rise to the present urgings for each and every one of us to exercise daily. It is fascinating to think that our best guess is that, sometime between 1900 and 1912, a random patient with a random disease for the first time could visit a random doctor and have a fifty-fifty chance of profiting from that encounter. Nowadays, to be healthy, as one would expect, it helps if you are part of the population of the western world. You receive added benefits, of course, if you are wealthy. But even the rich, if they are born in the good ol’ US of A, can expect to have a much lower life expectancy that those of us residing any other developed country. The causes for this include the dire state of their health system, obesity, gun culture, accident rates, drug abuse and the list goes on. A sufferer of cystic fibrosis in Canada will, on average, live ten years longer than some poor soul, with the identical affliction. living south of its border with the US I wonder if Trump, with his ‘Make America Great Again’ has devoted any of his immense intellect to those facts. He’d probably label it under ‘fake news’ in any case.

In the pages of this book you will also meet the heroes, many unsung till Bryson came along, who paved the way for the great medical discoveries of history; get a taste of some of the excruciating surgical practises of the past (early mastectomies being particularly gruesome) and meet the charlatans who were believed by many, to the world’s detriment. One odious character was Barnard Davis who became obsessed with the so-called discipline of craniology. His collusion with George Augustus Robinson’s widow to plunder the graves of our island’s first peoples, to add to his skull collection, the globe’s biggest at the time, makes for hard reading.

Overall ‘The Body’ is quite the revelation. And it is, at times, not exactly comforting what we find out about its workings, especially as I am in possession of an increasingly ageing one. He doesn’t stint on what can take you away in the end either.

Bryson mostly places it all in lingo the layman can readily comprehend, with the turn of phrase he is noted for, topped by dollops of humour. He’s no spring chicken himself, Mr Bryson, but long may he have the ability to pursue his wide range of interests and to transport them into print for our enlightenment. With this publication he takes a lens to every facet of the human being in a thoroughly readable and forthright manner. He is a gem of a wordsmith.


And in the end, at the end, it’s good to know that, ‘In 2011, an interesting milestone in human history was passed. For the first time more people, globally, died of non-communicable diseases like heart failure, stroke and diabetes than from all infectious diseases combines. We live in an age in which we are killed, more often than not, by lifestyle.’ – or is it? What’s that news I hear coming out of China?

More on Bill here =

Islands – Peggy Frew

Recently my lovely lady started to watch ‘Yellowstone’ on Netflix. It had positive reviews and possessed a fine cast headed by Kevin Costner. What would be not to like? Leigh enjoyed the introductory movie-length first episode, but once she proceeded into the regular series, she found it too fractured – the timelines were all over the place, so much so she hadn’t much idea what was going on. I’m not sure she persevered with it.

It was like that for this reader with Peggy Frew’s ‘Islands’ – only I carried on till the end. Her earlier publications – ‘House of Sticks’ and ‘Hope Farm’ were exceptionally good but, as with Leigh and ‘Yellowstone’, despite the book’s positive reviews with the critics I consulted, I struggled.


That Ms Frew is not a fine practitioner was not the problem – her wordsmithery excels. What one reviewer described as her succeeding with ‘…an uncomfortable and disorientating narrative’, I found just such tough going. I struggled to get a handle on what was going on in this tale of a dysfunctional family unit coming to grips with the disappearance of one of its number.

The island of the title is Victoria’s Phillip Island; home of little penguins, glorious seascapes and a tourist destination of repute. It provided a holiday escape for the family in question, as it has for the forty-something author in her own life. She has stated she has been working on the manuscript for this book since her twenties.


Islands’ centres on two sisters, Junie and Anna, with the latter being the missing mystery figure. Did she simply run away or was there something more sinister involved? She was a wild child so all options were open. We approach the story from events occurring in all decades, it seems, since the sixties, but not presented in an exactly straightforward manner. One thing the novel does do, along with some very fine television I have been watching of late (‘A Confession’ being one example), is to convey the utter devastation a missing child can cause. Just awful, especially if no closure is gained.

The author’s FB page =


It seemed, perhaps, just home-spun common sense; maybe even a tad facile and simplistic. Not me at all. Then I spotted something and had a closer examination.

My beautiful daughter gives me books. Birthdays, Fathers Day, Christmas she gives me books. She loves books, as do I. I love her for it. Sometimes, just occasionally, with them I don’t see it, but by now I should know better. She sees something of me in each and every one but just once in a blue moon she gifts me a tome that I would normally just pass on by without a second glance. Ninety-nine per-cent from her are recognisably spot on, but with ‘Heart Talk’, well, it took me a while to get it.


As for its author, Cleo Wade, I’d never heard of her. It seems, though, that in the US she’s huge. She’s an influencer, an Oprah for the next generation. As the blurb goes, ‘With ‘Heart Talk’ she’s poured her spirituality and poetically infused wisdom into an accessible book you don’t want to be without.’ She’s mates with Katy Perry, Reese Witherspoon and numerous other notables; features too in all the best magazines. She promotes herself and her message around the country and is also an artist. She had her start on Instagram.

A few nights ago, waiting for my lovely lady to get ready to go out for the evening, I started to flip through her book again. For a time nothing I landed on changed my impression that it was rather naive psycho-babble. That sort of advice that may be helpful to some. Good luck to Ms Wade for hitting on something that obviously resonated for many; a sort of, I thought, manual on female self-empowerment. But could it change the world for someone struggling with issues of their place in society and self worth? As an old fellow, who is quite contently ambivalent about himself – neither self-loving nor self-loathing – at first nothing connected. And then I read –



don’t tomorrow your life away

It stopped me in my tracks. I read other bits and pieces in the book more carefully then, but I kept coming back to those words. I thought about them all the way to our destination that twilight. Maybe don’t tomorrow your life away. I’m still thinking about it.


do you think

Mother Nature


that any of her

beautiful flowers

grow in an array

of shades and sizes?

or that one grows

in this direction

and one grows

in that direction?


she puts all of them in her

magnificent garden

so they may

be together






Of course in this country we’d substitute root for another word, but isn’t this a lovely way of putting it so it sticks?


and then I realized

that to be more alive

I had to be

less afraid


I did it

I lost my


and gained

my whole life

I realised (s not z) that, yep, I did that way back in my first year of teaching when I was drowning – drew that line and stepped over it and I was away to a vocation that gave me forty years of pleasure and reward. I also did it again one Saturday morning when I set out to meet a woman who was to become my life’s companion and love. By losing my fear I gained so much. Good advice Cleo.



Hmmmmm. I thought about that one for a while too. For me that’d be better rephased – Surround yourself with people who are magic. That’d be it for me. That’s what I’ve done – and I’m so blessed because of it.

There’s probably more in the words of Cleo Wade than I’ve sussed out so far – more diamonds in the dust to be had. But that’ll do for the time being. So, after all, it was more than a worthwhile gift. I found stuff that applied, stuff to cogitate on where perhaps I expected paucity. As always, thank you Katie.

Cleo Wade’s website =

A Thing of True Beauty

You could tell by the slight tremor in his voice, a hint of extra gleam in his eyes that he was excited to be showing me; see how much pride he took in his thing of true beauty. As a whole it was gorgeous; individual items exquisite. It was obviously put together with the utmost of care and respect for each post-carded image. I was gobsmacked and felt very privileged that he took each display panel out of its protective wrapping to show me. I was so entranced by his thing of true beauty that I couldn’t complete the viewing during my first visit. I had to come back another day to see the last couple of captivating sections.

He, like me, is a collector – turning his passions into a business. But with what he showed me my efforts paled into insignificance. Whereas I’m all over the shop, he, in this instance, is specific, narrow and specialised. Therefore his knowledge of the subject is, on the other hand, broad.

I’ve been visiting David’s premises now for several years and it is, as I’ve told him many times, a cornucopia of delights. Philately is my interest but my approach is scatter gun. Nowadays I receive my joy by buying for grandchildren in the hope of encouraging their interest. So far, to my delight, it seems to be working. Over this period of time I have gradually realised that David and I share some interests. He too thrives on beauty in art, relishes an historical tale, particularly involving our island, one often semi-lost with the passage of time. He’s widely read and enthuses about his recent tomes. He’s always up for a chat about my latest interest and confides his to me.

Not sure, though, if the subject matter of David’s thing of true beauty fits the category of being lost in the mists of time. For Raphael Kirchner has left the globe with a lasting legacy. He is well known to collectors with his best, or rarest, fetching a goodly price – and justly so. His product was sublime, appealing to the senses and to one’s notion of muted sensuality. In the Golden Age of Postcards he designed over a thousand of them. His Art Nouveau works, featuring charmingly clad women, were slightly risqué certainly, but tasteful to our eyes. They radiate emphasis on beauty rather than sexuality. Some reflected the Japanese influence on the period in Europe leading up to World War 1. There were representations of women at leisure or engaged in the joys of Parisian life, Kirchner moving to the city after a period in his native-born Vienna. Many of his cards featured, or were based on, the looks of his muse, wife Nina.


Born in 1876, Raphael Kirchner was reportedly influenced by Beardsley as he trained for his future work. He moved to the City of Light around 1900, illustrating for magazine La Vie Parisienne, leading to a lucrative side-earner in postcards.

In 1914 he decided that the Continent was not the place to be for a German speaker and he moved to the USA, quickly establishing himself as a source for the little rectangles soldiers took to war, reminding them of just what they were fighting for, particularly once America entered the bloodshed in 1917. For the purpose Kirchner amped up the eroticism a tad, but sadly he passed away before the guns fell silent, the death having a devastating lasting effect on Nina.


But he’s left us a legacy – and so has she as his inspiration. The term ‘a Kirchner girl’ has been, ever since his demise, a reference for feminine beauty and subtle allurement. As well, his influence on the development of the art of the pin-up was and still is immense. And it’s those wonderful postcards that David at some stage decided garner. Now that his collection is extensive enough he has put together a compilation of panels representing all the stages of Kirchner’s career. These are for exhibition around the country. Viewing them piece by piece in his shop was perhaps not the best way of getting the overall effect, but they still had impact. Putting it together; taking time and patience, would have no doubt been a labour of love. The little he couldn’t do himself he outsourced.


I visit David and wife Kim every couple of weeks at ‘The Coin and Stamp Place’ (Trafalgar on Collins, 110 Collins), often toting in a list of postage items. Rarely does he not have at hand what he needs to service my wishes. I thoroughly enjoy my engagement with what he sells; my engagement with the man himself. I was blessed to see his thing of true beauty. See you soon David.

And you can view his thing of beauty here :-

Juliet at Fifty-five

Breasts. Beautiful, proud, fulsome and unfettered. These weren’t the bosoms of some perky young starlet willing to expose her pert assets for the furtherment of her carer. These were breasts that were well lived and you’d expect, well loved. These were breasts more than half way through their life journey, exposed in the opening sequence to ‘Let the Sunshine In’. They were startling and gorgeous. I will admit, they were bewitching and magnetic to this viewer. But sadly, they were by far the best thing about this very French 2017 offering from director Claire Denis. Their possessor is Isabelle, supposedly an artist who spends much of her time scouring Paris for love.


She’s played by a true icon of the silver screens of her country and world wide. She, today, at 55, remains as dazzling as she ever was in such films as ‘Chocolat’, ‘The English Patient’ and most memorably, 1988’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’. Seeing her in that, one is infatuated for life. She can play any role, taking it in her stride. Obviously, as well, she likes to stretch herself. She’s certainly no shrinking violet. She’s strong and womanly.

Although ‘Let the Sunshine In’ received praise in some quarters with the star receiving a César Award (French Oscars) nomination for her performance, I really struggled to remain with it. Her initial lover is bullish and repugnant. Another, far more youthful, is full of himself. Yet another is her ex whom she picks a silly argument with over his performance in the sack. It’s obvious she’s looking for love in all the wrong places. Eventually her poor judgement and lack of success starts playing with her mind. The movie becomes ridiculous when the venerable Depardieu enters to sprout some psycho-babble at her in a monologue that well and truly outstays its welcome. Of course Juliet Binoche is always wonderful, but my tip for you is to seek out, instead of the above (which is on Netflix), ‘Who You Think I Am’ which is, like those aforementioned breasts, just magnificent.


Who You Think I Am’ has similarities to the above in that Binoche’s role here is Claire, an academic from the City of Light, reeling from a divorce and also seeking a new partner in life and love. Ex hubby (played by another French notable in Charles Berling) has had a dose of the Peter Pans and leaves his perfectly stunning wife for a younger model. Claire figures what’s good for the goose and at movie’s start she’s shacked up with the much younger Ludo. To him she’s simply a cougar. Claire’s beginning to feel it’s something more permanent. When he susses this she finds she’s again ditched, so in response she turns her attention to Ludo’s sensitive, still much younger, room mate in Alex (François Civil). Now what could be more harmless than a little on-line ‘cat-fishing’? (If you’re unaware of this procedure, look it up. I did.) Her attempt to become who she is not provides, at first, an outlet for her lovelessness, but then becomes something with quite catastrophic implications. Or does it? This will keep you guessing till the end, with several ‘I didn’t see that coming’ twists thrown in. It’s very, very clever and has much to say about the pitfalls for any of us who try to fight the invisibility that comes with the ageing process. See it on any platform you can.


What I know about JB is that she’s ageing gloriously. There’s certainly no invisibility with her.

Trailer ‘Let the Sunshine In’ =

Trailer ”’Who You Think I Am’ =