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Cleo

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.

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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 –

MESSAGE FOR TODAY

maybe

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.

ROOTING FOR EACH OTHER

do you think

Mother Nature

cares

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?

no?

she puts all of them in her

magnificent garden

so they may

be together

and

root

for

each

other

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?

WHAT I LOST AND WHAT I GAINED

and then I realized

that to be more alive

I had to be

less afraid

so

I did it

I lost my

fear

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.

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SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO DESERVE YOUR MAGIC

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 = https://www.cleowade.com/

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 :- https://www.tazitiger.com/information/links/exhibits/sydney-2019.html

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.

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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.

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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.

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

Trailer ‘Let the Sunshine In’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps_Sau7xqQY

Trailer ”’Who You Think I Am’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShwXIOszzIM

North to Calypso Winds

For you may still be here tomorrow

But your dreams may not’

You age. Your dreams shrink. Some disappear, others morph into bucket lists which, in turn, shrink – and often not for achievement, but the realisation they were always going to be, well, unrealistic. That has happened to this ageing fellow – but it’s not a cause for angst or regret. For with a lovely, lovely lady in my life and grand-kids to adore, in a place I relish in all senses of the word, in any case, I am truly living the dream. But it is far from the dream that, last century, I envisaged for myself.

Once upon a time I held a desire to follow Graeme Connors ‘North’ to where Jimmy Buffett style calypso-style breezes blew all year around. Somewhere around Byron maybe, or perhaps the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. Somewhere that was mono-seasonal; warm to hot for a full twelve months. Once I abhorred winter – became quite SAD about it. I really struggled through that middle term of teaching (there were three back then); struggled to remain glass half-full about life itself.

Is it solely a result of advancing years? Possibly, but with global warming – foreshores receding, icecaps melting and bushfires raging – I now reasonably look forward to the onset of winter in the same way as Alan Attwood. Here, on my island, it has gothic undertones, bought alive by Dark MoFo. And nothing surpasses the excellence of a majestic mountain, capped by snow, at a city’s edge.

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Tasmania is a more moderate, easier version of Amelia Lester’s US of A experiences. Four distinct seasons, without the extremes. Sisters Beach, one of my second homes, where I am scribing this, is a joyous location for me to be any season. Walking along its eponymous strand winter, spring, summer or fall – sorry, autumn – is about as good as it gets, whether rugged up in layers or stripped off in a tee, shorts and thongs. On one morning, during this recent stay, on the beach, I engaged with a couple from the big island who had only just made the tree/sea change to Sisters. They were still in semi-disbelief that they had discovered such a place – in awe of its beauty with a community living closer to nature than was their experience. They hailed from Katoomba, seemingly making the previous statement somewhat of an oxymoron. But they were tired of the tourist throngs that abounded in their previous neck of the woods in a place where the natural world had been adjusted for human enjoyment. And they wanted four seasons that were more marked, with more bite. Even though their mountains were cooler than the summer broiling of the city below them in its basin, there the seasonal change was more subtle. At Sisters there is seasonal change to make one feel truly alive. As the heavens opened and the rain teemed down this week, the chill wind from the west certainly gave them that. It’s a truly spectacular and special wonder, is Sisters. Who needs gentle calypso zephyrs?

hobs

The tree outside the window of my man-cave by the river is my barometer of seasonal change. Right now, down there in my southern city, the leaves will have fallen and it would be in its naked phase ready for the cold months. Winter is almost on us – the winter I once detested but now welcome. Stews, soups, roasts. The cosiness of Leigh and myself as the nights lengthen, in front of the tele with our shows from multiple platforms. Going into Hobart, with a bracing wind blowing and kunanyi towering snow-flecked above is a treat. I wouldn’t be anywhere else for quids and quids. And just when there’s a hint of ‘I’m over this weather’, on that tree outside my window little green buds begin to appear.

Look at me

I am old

But I am happy’

Amelia Lesters opinion column = https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/why-season-s-greetings-aren-t-for-everyone-20190415-p51ecw.html

Alan Attwood’s opinion column = https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life-and-relationships/a-seasonal-query-how-great-is-winter-20190527-p51rqo.html

After the Lights Go Out – Lili Wilkinson

Doomsday preppers. They’re out there, making ready, these modern day Noah’s Arkians. And who knows? The way this planet is changing, nothing would surprise me. This weird weather, turning our seasons around. Is an electromagnetic pulse just around the corner, as Lili Wilkinson’s ‘After the Lights Go Out’ suggests? Could these not-so-oddballs have it right? Could they be the ones to survive an apocalypse if it happened today? Tomorrow?

It’s a great read this. Designed for the YA market, I relished it. Maybe I could have done without the gun violence, but when has doomsday arrived without great American heroes blasting away to save the world. And we have a couple of Americans, too, in this outback saga – well almost. They’re Puerto Rican actually. As one would expect, not everyone gets out alive.

lw

The page-turner features a dad whose fate is unknown after an underground explosion. It’s a result of atmospheric disturbances that impact on the remote township of Jubilee where the lights well and truly go out. Rick Palmer has moved his family from the city to future-proof them. He’s trained his three daughters – 17 year old Pru and younger twins Blythe and Grace – in all they’ll need to know to survive a cataclysmic event with or without him. When the latter occurs, though, the girls have a decision to make. Do they take to The Paddock, their impregnable below surface bunker, or share their expertise and resources with the community? Rick would be mortified and angry if it wasn’t the former. Complicating matters, the lasses have discovered the opposite gender and dad wouldn’t be happy with that either.

There’s the renowned outback ingenuity and resilience afoot in this novel. It is fascinating the journey Wilkinson takes us on as the survivors reshape their world – something as simple as a crystal set from my youth is reborn to try to help save the day. Jubilee becomes completely cut off so what is actually happening in the outside world becomes a vital obsession. It’s a question that’s takes so long to be answered when retro-technology is all they have to rely on.

lwa

This is an engrossing work and for the most part wholly believable. If it happens, are you prepared?

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

Wellness

The world is shifting. Mental health is finding equal presence with that of the physical.

The digital age has sped the planet up. Clinging onto a world going at the rate of knots is not easy at times, especially in the workplace. Younger people have no knowledge of a life less connected; a life going at sprinter’s pace rather than the more placid speed of the long distance runner – the lack of rush it was meant to be during our protracted journey to what ultimately awaits. But humankind is waking up. Wellness and clipping the momentum off of our lifestyles to something a tad more soothing are in vogue. Making the mind take notice of the body; making the mind more knowing of its own self. Finding better ways for the protection of both. Now that’s the go. Most of us need to retreat – that’s the big picture.

Ms Lester, in the attached, has now also seen hints of another way. A work commitment took her to a Thai wellness retreat – an option that perhaps she may have never considered otherwise; an option more associated with the fortunate and well-heeled few. But it did demonstrate, for her, what is possible; she found a place where it is okay to take time to smell the roses. These ways are worth considering for those of us who can remember that other pace in another century – and for those who can’t, but feel less connectiveness, not more, should be their mantra.

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I’ve previously documented that it took a cruise to convince me that I too needed to disconnect more. Soon after, my own personal wellness retreat emerged by the Derwent in Hobs. A river, by definition, soothes in its lower reaches. Here I have a partner who was, is and always will be a calming, settling and de-stressing agent in my life. Added to that is the humble house by the riverbank I adore, complete with a man cave to retreat to. Here the living is easy, I can disconnect on a whim or by routine. And I’ve found quietude away from the former hectic buzz of day to day existence. I can quietly search for balance, work out suitable compromises with food, alcohol, sugar and attachment to small screens.

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This person’s retiring life is gently busy and there’s very little that can’t wait till tomorrow. I am aware that for some the formal end of a working life leads on to just more of the same, just with the parameters adjusted – and if it is felt that’s to one’s benefit, then, why not? But deadlines, saying constantly ‘Yes, yes yes,’ to the impositions of others is, for me, the life of yesteryear. If the only real bane I have is the Midlands Highway and the odiousness of a few politicians, well then, I’m not doing too badly. I can now lose myself in my music any time I want, take in the latest at the cinema or on a television platform, engross myself in reading, blogging, letter-writing and stamps to my heart’s content. Then there are the joys of cooking and being out and about with my love. That’s enough. That’s contentment.

It’s not perfect. The outside can still impact and cause concern – but my mind feels healthy and I hope my body holds up for a while yet.

Amelia Lester’s piece = https://theworldnews.net/au-news/foreign-correspondence-the-benefits-of-going-on-holidays-to-better-ourselves

Carrollathon

‘A New England Affair’, ‘Spirit of Progress’, ‘The Year of the Beast’ – Steven Carroll

Never in my wildest dreams would I claim to be capable of wordsmithery to the finely honed marvel of literary excellence that Steven Carroll presents to the Australian reading public, doing so for several decades now. His ‘Glenroy’ series; his novels revolving around TS Eliot have been a mainstay in my own book perusing life for quite a while, with one of the above titles inspiring a little scribing of my own. ‘A New England Affair’ tells part of the history of the aforementioned poet’s both restrained yet tumultuous private life – that of his longstanding and unconsummated relationship with fellow American Emily Hale. In it we encounter both his wives as well – the first being Vivienne Haigh Wood. Marrying her in haste was largely the best way he could see to dispose of his virginity. His second spouse, Valerie, wedded him in his later life. She finally gave him some private bliss and sexual satisfaction. She was only touched on in the novel, but I was fascinated that Valerie was around forty years his junior. What was her motivation in marrying such an ageing beau – was she a gold digger for fame by association and/or financial security, or was there genuine love in the mix? I turned to the ether to find out more and discovered it seems to have been the latter. I was able to flesh her out a tad more and produced a blog piece, entitled ‘Gap’, as a result. This revolved around her life with perhaps the greatest poet of last century, mixed in with a tale of a retired teacher and a salesperson from Kaboodle. If you’re so inclined, please do read it – but it does contain prose that is a little spicy.

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In ‘A New England Affair’ we encounter Miss Hale, at age 74, when she has retreated into her inner person, the outcome of her final rejection years before by Tom Eliot. She is making a journey of significance by ketch out to the Dry Salvages, a notorious rock formation off her country’s North East coast. It is of importance to her because of a halcyon period she spent with her man of letters back in the day in the area. She takes this journey with an ageing seafarer at the helm; a journey to dispose of memories; a journey fraught with danger as there’s a storm a-brewing. Over the course of making the crossing she casts her mind back to those days when she had hopes, as well as to those when she had none; to when her dream was shattered. There were two moments when she could have possibly had what she wanted, so she reappraises those and what might have been. The problem was that their sameness got in the way. Both were socially withdrawn – unable to adequately communicate their real feelings. Eliot was hampered by his faith and of course, later on, by a wife he had little affection for, but much guilt because of. He did go on to find Valerie; Hale went on to shrivel.

More cerebral reviewers than I have pointed to allusions in the book to verses in his poetry, as well as to the works of Henry James and Jane Austen. I can’t claim to be nearly that savvy. It was the waste of almost, but not quite, two lives that got to me. One was renewed by a less corseted younger woman, with that taking me to another place.

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Another of Carroll’s tomes had been sitting on my shelves for some time – it was, in fact, one of the six works of fiction from his examination of the Yarra City suburb of ‘Glenroy’. With supposedly the final offering of those being released in early ‘19, I decided I’d better tackle this one too.

In 1946 Sidney Nolan painted one of the author’s forebears, Katherine Carroll. The artist had read a newspaper report of a woman living on the fringes of the city in a manner long past. His take on her became the painting ‘Woman and Tent’. Carroll weaves her story into both ‘Spirit of Progress’ and that sixth publication, ‘The Year of the Beast’. The earlier novel also features ‘The Art of the Engine Driver’s’ (first in the series) engine driver Vic, his wife Rita, a Nolanesque dauber in Sam and a journalist, George. He is the reporter who has discovered a strange older woman living in a tent, with few of the modern amenities by then taken for granted. Sam is in love with an art gallery owner who, unfortunately for him, is just out of reach, prompting him to consider being part of the diaspora of arty types back to the Mother Country. Meanwhile, a solitary farmer, by whose land Katherine is camped, develops some feelings for her, becoming, to an extent, her keeper. And on the fringes lurks a developer, a portent of the Melbourne to come.

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It’s an enthralling read, as is the last of the one’s focusing on this part of the city, but one that takes us from the 1940s back to the conscription debates of the Great War. The normally sedate metropolis is in turmoil, with the seething masses of protesters, for and against, filling the streets. Here we again encounter a younger Katherine as a stern and religious sister to Maryanne, a single mother-to-be with the older woman doing her best to assist in the final stages of her pregnancy. Maryanne has already lost her teaching job because of her dalliance with the child’s father and when word gets out that he is a small town draper of German extraction, she loses her community standing as well. You can imagine how all that goes down back then. In the mix is a footballer who falls from grace, as well, in a city awash with anti-Hun sentiment (shades of today’s antipathy, in some quarters, to those who follow the Islamic faith). He’s suspected of spying for the enemy, whereas it is another secret he is harbouring. Milhaus is assisted by an unexpected ally in Maryanne in his unburdening of it. Then we have Father Geoghan, on a god’s mission to save Maryanne from herself.

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At some stage I must do an audit of what I’ve read of Carroll’s writings and try to fill in the gaps so I can boast I have consumed all of his oeuvre. But never fear – each book can be read as a stand-alone, such is the writer’s skill. But with the six books on the one ‘burb and the three that has Eliot involved, Carroll has created his own ‘beast’. I also loved his earlier works from late last century – ‘Remember Me, Jimmy James’ and ‘The Love Story of Lucy McBride’. If you too decide to slip into some Steven Carroll, I feel confident he will enchant and engross.

‘Gap’ = stevelovell.id.au/2019/03/23/gap/

March Marvels

The weather’s cooler so it’s back into jeans, socks and an extra layer on top. The cinemas have turned off their air conditioning (always a bane), but it’s too early for firing up winter heating. At the State the seats are comfy, as they are at home in front of a tele, so it was time to settle into watching what we hoped would be March marvels. Were they?

Could there ever be a more perfect husband than Armie Hammer as Monty Ginsburg? He features an All-American square jaw, is broad shouldered and as tall as a redwood. He plays equal in every way to his famous wife, supportive of her career aspirations that were ahead of their time – after all, these are as the 50s morph into the 60s – and never a cuss or a harsh word crosses his lips. His better half (really), Ruth, opened up American law to embrace equal opportunity from her exulted place as a high court judge. She was diminutive as he was opposite, but what a team they made.

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On the Basis of Sex’ examines our heroine’s progress from an almost token law student, gender-wise, to the highest legal office in the land, ushering in an era of progressive decision making (which Trump has swept away with his ultra-conservative appointments). But in Ginsburg’s day remarkably forward-thinking souls, like her, paved the way for all that Trump and his cronies abhor. Liberal America will always thank her for that.

There’s nothing wrong with this bio-pic. It just doesn’t set the world on fire is all. But when Ruth succeeds by pushing through, in an unusual way, a law enshrining equal rights, it is worthily emotive. Consider a visit if it comes to one of your platforms at a future date.

Now Bill Nighy is one of my very favourites in the acting world and he shines, with all his tics and idiosyncrasies, in ‘Sometimes Always Never’. He is superb as a tightly bound man, addicted to Scrabble, living a highly ordered life. This starts to break down when he receives a call to come view a John Doe who may or may not be his long missing son. Said son stormed out during an argument with his dad over said game and hasn’t been seen by the family since. Nighy’s character Alan, a Merseyside tailor, cannot get over it and his other son Peter suffers as a consequence. At the viewing he encounters a couple with the same intention. Alan immediately fleeces the husband with his hustling ability and has a relationship of sorts with his missus, ‘Call the Midwife’s’ Jenny Agutter. Great to see her out of her habit and being just a tad naughty.

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But it’s the great thesp who delivers in this outing, in his natural element, as Alan. It’s a small film so therefore he may not get the kudos his performance warrants and it is a far from perfect film – but it is great viewing to see a mature actor at the top of his game.

And, as we turn to the small screen in March, someone else of mature years, at the top of his game, is Hugh Grant. Like Nighy, he’s another consummate Britisher, but he plays against type here in this biopic of controversial politician Jeremy Thorpe. Once, as leader of the Liberal Party, Thorpe had the political world at his feet. Then his sexual proclivities caught up with him in an era when homosexuality was against the law and it all came tumbling down. For a time he kept his true self well hidden behind marriage, but when he discovers and is titillated by Ben Whishaw’s Norman Scott, in a rich man’s stables and they take a tumble in the hay, he lets down his guard. To him Norman is just a plaything to be disposed of at will. To the younger, by far, man the relationship was much, much more – and thus, when jilted, his revenge was unforgiving. He wasn’t going to take it lying down. Whishaw matches Grant for brilliance in ‘A Very English Scandal’. Hopefully this title will be up there with HG’s other signature roles, although it’s at variance to what we normally associate with him. We watched this from a DVD and if unavailable on one your platforms, it is excellent value for the purchase price.

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Also well warranting a looksee, small-screen wise, are another two guys who have well and truly paid their dues. It’s a Netflix product and recounts the story of Bonnie and Clyde from the perspective of the hunters, not the hunted. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson are like old whisky – they get better with age – just like your scribe.

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Trailer ‘On the Basis of Sex’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28dHbIR_NB4

Trailer ‘Sometimes Always Never’ -= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22R-JQRov_U

Trailer ‘A Very English Scandal’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggDTJc470Co

Trailer ‘The Highwaymen’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH6vC-BBKOc

Frank, Iris and Paul

Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let’s pretend that we’re together, all alone
I’ll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low
And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go

The singer from Down Under had wowed the audience that evening at the Liverpool Empire, treating them to his string of UK hits. His finale was meant to be the Number 1 song that made his reputation, but when the applause died down he had a brief word with his backing band and announced there was another tune he wanted to croon. It was a Jim Reeves classic. As he reached the last line of the chorus, the singer stepped to the edge of the stage and pointed down into the front stalls to a young man, holding the hand of a lass who was slunk down into her seat as far as she could possibly go, as if she wished to disappear.

Well she was just seventeen
You know what I mean
And the way she looked
Was way beyond compare
So how could I dance with another,
Oh, when I saw her standing there

For a while George Harrison was unlucky in love. Most of us know the tale of how his wife, Patti Boyd, was stolen from him by another rock god, Eric Clapton. But a decade earlier George also lost out in love to a muso even closer to home.

Iris Caldwell was born in 1945 into a working class Liverpudlian family. The only advantage she had over thousands like her was attractiveness, vivacity and an elder brother who possessed some musical talent. Alan, her sibling, had taken the stage name Rory Storm and put together a back-up group, the Hurricanes. They had some success in the early sixties. Their drummer was a young fella by the name of Richard Starkey, although most called him Ringo. One evening another lad came calling to the Caldwell home, hoping to entice Rory to allow him to join the band due to his guitar skills. He failed in that aim, but gained the affection of his sister instead. In fact, George Harrison gave Iris her first romantic kiss. The relationship never advanced much more than that, but they were together for several years. George was to retain a soft spot for her for years to come.

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Their lives came together again when she was seventeen – he a member of a band trying to make headway in the burgeoning Liverpool scene. By this time Iris was an established dancer and was booked to demonstrate a new sensation, the Twist, at a New Brighton dance hall. Providing the music for her, on this occasion, was a live band, the up and coming Beatles. George wasn’t quick enough off the mark this time around. In fact, it was his fellow band mate, Paul McCartney, who asked her out on a date – to see them perform at an upcoming engagement for a television show. Paul was already smitten even before that occurred and had quickly written a song stating so, commencing with her age.

In the end their relationship lasted a couple of years, George seething with jealousy. It was during this period that Paul produced tickets to the Empire to see the hottest singer in the land – but there was something Paul had no idea about when it came to his Iris.

Paul-McCartney

Overnight radio often delivers up gems to further investigate during the waking hours. A Rod Quinn interview with 81 year old Frank Ifield was one such. He told the tale which set in motion the notion for this piece. And many of you of a certain age, no doubt, had already worked out that he was the Aussie vocalist up there up on stage that night at the Empire pointing the finger The thing was that he too was in a relationship with the comely Iris.

In Paul she had a young bloke who still hadn’t really made a name for himself – whereas she had in the world of dance. So when she met Ifield, both performing in pantomime, that great British tradition, in, of all places, Stockton on Tees (in ‘Dick Whittington’), she felt she was onto someone who was more her equal. He had a string of hits to his name – ‘I Remember You’, ‘She Taught Me To How to Yodel’, ‘The Wayward Wind’ and ‘Confessin’. He was soon to be the biggest name in the land, but it is ironic, in light of this story, it would not be long before his style of music would be submerged forever by the brash pop coming out of Liverpool with one PMcC to the fore. But that was in the future. Then Paul’s idea of a night out was a pint in the pub followed by fish‘n’chips. The Australian beau, on the other hand, had sophistication down pat. With him she could dress up in her best glad rags for he took her to all the flash places to down expensive tucker, accompanied by Mateus Rosé – the height of sophistication. She had a strong idea that Paul was playing around. That didn’t overly concern her as long as she could do the same. Paul, it seems, had different ideas, as did Frank.

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When the truth came out that evening at the Liverpool music hall, Frank was obviously not impressed, so their liaison was terminated. One night Paul and Ringo, driving back from a show, ran over a dog. When Iris found out that the duo thought it was all a bit of a joke, she let rip and that was the almost end of Paul. At various stages George thought he might be in with a chance of getting together again with her, but Paul always wormed his way back into her good books and such was the case on this occasion. George was due to call on her, but she couldn’t resist the temptation to see her other love interest perform. Knowing Paul was tight with his money, they would be in the cheap seats in any case. Wrong. Paul lashed out and that was that. But she and the Beatle, whose popularity was growing, didn’t last long after that. Some time, later on from severing ties, Iris’ mum received a call from Paul saying that he had written a song for her daughter. Could she ensure that Iris watched its first performance on the tele? She duly passed on the message and Iris did as asked.

Why she had to go, I don’t know
She wouldn’t say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday

Paul could keep a grudge too. One day Frank noticed Paul, in a group of people, coming toward him at some music venue or other. When the Beatle spotted the hitster he yelled something to the fact he had intentions of terminating the Australian’s life. His mates restrained him, but what if? Rock’n’roll history could had been changed forever.

At one time, just as the Beatles were on the cusp of fame, they were booked to support Ifield. They were booed off stage – for being too loud! All that was about to change.

Frank had hits in the US too. On a trip there to support sales his label asked him to record an album. He didn’t have enough new material to support that. Capitol requested twelve songs, he only had eight. The project was shelved – or so he thought. After his return to the UK his manager informed him that he had had a new ‘copulation’ – he meant compilation – record released in the US, his eight tracks plus four from a new band about to make their mark – you guessed it. Beatles again. Frank thought his manager’s slip extremely funny considering his relationship with Iris. That release, if you can find a copy, is now worth a princely sum.

At the highest point of his career the Aussie songster was asked by the Palace to appear in a Royal Command Performance with the Queen Mum in attendance. As it was being televised, Frank was ordered not to yodel as it was thought too old-fashioned and his career would be ruined, despite having hits with his prowess at the art. Frank was in a quandary when her Royal Highness sent him a note saying yodelling was exactly what she expected from him during his time on stage. What was a poor man to do? He yodelled!

In 1969 Iris met another muso, also a lead singer in a band. He went by the name of Shane Fenton. They married and later on Shane changed his stage moniker – to Alvin Stardust.

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And here’s a little touch of nostalgia just to finish it all off. During their time together, after a long day playing guitar and singing his lungs out trying to get his band established, Paul would often visit Iris’ home afterwards. He got on very well with her mother (later to meet a very sad end) and she helped him relax. What could be more soothing than rolling up your trouser legs and getting your girlfriend’s mother to gently brush your leg hairs? True. Would I lie to you?

Leather Soul: A Half-Back Flanker’s Rhythm and Blues by Bob Murphy

In this year’s Herald Sun popularity poll for most popular AFL player, Adelaide’s indigenous, buzzing goal-sneak, Eddie Betts, was the clear and expected winner. He is a ‘character’ in what some (not me) claim is becoming a characterless robotic game. It’s hard not being drawn to Eddie’s big smile, the passion with which he plays and his delight in scoring a major. But, for several years on the trot, the Sun’s accolade went to a Western Bulldog’s player. Just as the Doggies were most people’s second favourite team, so Bob Murphy was the player all and sundry admired – me included. He was always second on my list behind Luke Hodge, just above Cyril.

He was rated highly for his loyalty to his guernsey for a team that had a long history of occasionally challenging for, but never making, the big dance – that is, until the fairy tale that was 2016. Mostly, though, they were cellar dwellers. Their previous premiership was way back in the fifties. They were the team from the oft struggle towns that formed the western suburbs. And arguably the heart and soul of the ‘Sons of the West’ was Captain Bob. But he has another string to his bow that earns equal kudos from me. He can write.
Mentored by Martin Flanagan and other doyens at the Age, he developed his own voice and style. Fingers crossed, he looks set to take on Flanagan’s mantle. So, unlike most from the world of footy,

bobRobert Daniel Murphy would need no ghost writer for the saga of his career. He has hung up his boots, involved himself in the media, is more often than not sporting a flannie and now has ‘Leather Soul – a Half-back Flanker’s Rhythm and Blues’ on his CV. He has written with great aplomb to produce a page-turner. There’s candour, tales to tickle the funny bone and poignancy. What we sense from it all is Bob’s love of team, history, family, humanity and Aussie Rules. I urge all footy-lovers to purchase a copy, kick back and enjoy, as I did.Reading ‘Leather Soul’ I found that I had a couple of very tenuous connections to the great Bulldog, nonetheless of which is the fact that a few weeks ago my Hawks-loving daughter actually got to meet him at a book signing. But there were also other cases of the two degrees of separation thing. Back in the eighties I was teaching in the north-western Tasmanian town of Wynyard. I was reasonably able in the classroom and had a handle on most aspects of the art of teaching. But, over the years, there was one skill I never mastered – the ability to tell identical twins apart. My colleagues always managed to do it, carefully explaining their subtle differences, but it was beyond me. So when the Atkins twins came along during those years I was all at sea – and they knew it. They milked my hopelessness for all they were worth too. Their talent lay more outside of the classroom though – revolving around the leather ball. Both, the experts predicted, would make the big league and soon after leaving school both Paul and Simon headed to VFL central – Melbourne. In the end only one climbed the mountain to the top.

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Simon Atkins appears on page 47 of the book, but by the time he met the scrawny young lad turning out for Werribee, his own playing days at the pinnacle were over. The team was coached by Alistair Clarkson and Simon’s job was to make sure the young buck made it to training on time. My ex-pupil later became a runner for Footscray after contributing 127 games to their cause. He has a spot in the folklore of another team as well. He kicked the last goal for the Fitzroy Football Club. These days he manages a firm supplying cranes to construction sites.

The other link comes much later on in the memoir when the author relates a tale, in turn told to him by another ex-Taswegian in Butch Gale. It starred legendary bush coach, Frog Newman, who once used a dead (or alive depending on who’s telling) possum in an address to lacklustre players to spur them on to use more guts. Need I say more? Anyway, for a long time I taught in a school in a little village in the hills behind Wynyard and had the pleasure of instructing Frog’s two offspring in my classes – and lovely kids they were too.

Simon Atkins’ nickname, in his football days, was Axe and a highlight of this publication is Murphy’s list of the best monikers given out to often unwilling recipients during his time in the game. You’ll have to make a transaction of money to find out why certain identities were labeled ‘Lacka’, ‘Harvey Norman’ ‘The Mailman’, ‘The Lantern’ and best of all, ‘Clock’.

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Bob’s adoration of his last coach Luke Beveridge resonates throughout the volume. LB is a bit of an eccentric in his own right, but certainly no Frog Newman. And the wordsmith also dishes out quite a deal of love to his teammates, particularly Matty Boyd and Ben (the Beard) Hudson. He fails to mention another noted eccentric, Brian Lake – perhaps because of his defection to my team – and is scathing with his assessment of Jason Akermanis. The latter seemed to have managed, during his time with the team, to get everyone completely offside.

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Like Murphy himself as a footballing wizard, this is a lithe and immensely likeable read. The hero was known for his ‘…astounding performances on and off the field’ according to Beveridge. To my mind, in his action, Bob was a ‘glider’. He always seems to have eons of time on his side, despite the commotion going on around him, to glide away from packs, scanning upfield for options, hitting leading forwards with pinpoint accuracy.
And I glided through this product in print in a couple of sittings and I relished doing so. The writer now has his own show on Fox but it is my hope that the future will lead him to concentrate on his writing for, as Martin Flanagan tells us, ‘…there is only one Bob Murphy’.

Book details here =https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/books/leather-soul