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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.


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?


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 =

Alan Attwood’s opinion column =

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.


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.


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

The author’s website =


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.


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.


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 =


‘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.


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.


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.


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.


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’ =

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.


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.

on t

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.

on th

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.

on thbe

Trailer ‘On the Basis of Sex’ =

Trailer ‘Sometimes Always Never’ -=

Trailer ‘A Very English Scandal’ =

Trailer ‘The Highwaymen’ =

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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’.


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.


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 =

Red et al

I’m seeing red for Red. And even if I’m not Melburnian, I am offended for them. Offended for all those who loved Red – for now they’ve been accused of something else entirely. Something more sinister. And it’s come at the very time when, out of decency, she should have left it well alone. Instead she reopens the Pandora’s Box. Her timing was appalling. Let’s just hope, perish the thought, it wasn’t deliberate on her part.

You know, I’m old enough to remember the days of yore pre-television. Days when the radio was one’s only instant link to the outside world. Our family’s dial was either adjusted to the local station, 7BU, or the ABCs 7NT out of Launceston. It was the great era of the radio serial – ‘Blue Hills’ and ‘Life with Dexter’. Us kids’ favourite was, of course, ‘Dad and Dave’. Nationally Jack Davey ruled the airwaves, but it was the local voices that were mainly heard. There was, for the farmer, the daily country hour and on Saturday arvos we were tuned in to see how Cooee, my Father’s team, was faring at West Park. Yes, local footy was beamed into our homes to those who couldn’t make it to the game. Ratings went through the roof when an intra- or inter-state game was broadcast. Another must were the test matches, especially Alan McGilvray calling in the Ashes through the night from Mother England.

Then, in my early teenage years, I discovered that we could also pick up radio stations from across Bass Strait. It was how the big city across the briny first impacted on my synapses. I soon became a follower of 3UZ – it played the latest music and the patter from its announcers was far more professional than that of the local identities. They now sounded, to me, like country bumpkins. I still recall some of their names on UZ – Ken Sparkes, Alan Lappin, Don Lunn and John Vertigan. They were slick and they were metro as opposed to hicksville.

But it was Stan the Man who stood out for me. When he came on the world slowed down as I listened intently. This guy had something possessed by none of the others – gravitas.


Stan Rofe (1933-2003) loved his music. He just didn’t present it – he lived it and the listener knew it. He had his finger on the pulse of the Melbourne scene, being as he was also a correspondent for the rock Bible of the time, Go-Set magazine. And there was also a Tassie link, although I didn’t know it at the time. He had his start at Devonport’s 7AD. After he had mastered the craft here he moved to the big smoke – first to 3AK before doing a stint at UZ’s major competitor for the youth audience, 3XY. By the time I was fixated on pop-music he operated out of my preferred station. His deep, considered voice was so unique and he played the very latest, not only from the local talent, but tunes from the US and UK that couldn’t be heard anywhere else. He learnt from the approach of Sydney-sider John Laws. He first had the notion to commission Qantas staff to bring over the latest singles from London and LA. Rofe was the first to give JO’K airtime, recommending to the rocker that he record a cover of the Islay Brothers ‘Shout’. He introduced Ronnie Burns, Russell Morris and Normie Rowe to an audience crying out for local replicas of the overseas stars. But perhaps his greatest contribution to rock infamy was to give fellow Go-Set reporter Ian Meldrum the moniker ‘Molly’. I just loved him, avidly staying awake for his late night time slot and tuning in for his earlier Sunday night show when he concentrated on the rock legends.

Later on, when, as a young teacher, life became more serious, I discovered 3LO (774 ABC Melbourne) and it became my new station of choice. I became, along with hundreds of thousands of others, addicted to its breakfast announcer, Peter Evans. I’d just about swear he was the man Red Symons modelled himself on, radio wise. At the time, back in the day, he was unique, ruling that time slot from 1965 until his untimely death in 1985. He was a grump and very curmudgeonly. And he slowed life down. He was akin to a cup of chamomile tea rather than kickstarter coffee. He took his time about stuff. There was no rush so if there were seconds of complete silence while he gathered his thoughts – well, no problems. After all, silence is golden. It was par for the course that he would stuff something up each and every morning and he took it in his stride. The listener saw it as part of the joy of the man. For Evans the daily news gave him much to grumble about, or if a promo or last night’s tele didn’t take his fancy, we’d know all about it. After his passing there was sadly nothing like him on the wireless until the advent of Red.


As with Evans, Red’s audience was rusted on. I relished catching him on my trips to Melbourne or to the north of the island. And then an accident set him back. He’d only just recovered when the ABC, in their infinite wisdom, decided not to renew his contract. After all, there’s no future continuing to appeal to us oldies as this announcer did. A younger demographic was Auntie’s target and evidently the younger generation loves bland commercial types. So, not one but two young things were called in to take Red’s place on breakfast. Firstly there had to be a female and secondly someone of ethnic background. All bases covered, right? Wrong. The ratings plummeted as the Red-lovers voted by switching off. Sami Shah and Jacinta Parsons floundered in the spot.

For his fans, most of them over 60, Red was irreplaceable. Months on from his dismissal the letters to the editor regarding their outrage keep on coming – these people being not so handy with social media. But just when the furore was starting to die down and the pair was starting to make some headway with their morning show, in weighs Wendy Tuohy.

Did she time it for maximum impact, coming hot on the heels of Red’s son Samuel’s death? She upped the ante by claiming that part of the problem for the new presenters was Melbourne’s underlying racism, Sami being a coloured fellow possessing an accent. You can read the attached article for yourself and make your own judgement.


Perhaps Shah and Parsons have not been afforded the ‘Aussie fair go’, but upping the stakes by claiming this is racially based! Well, balls to that!

It was resentment – it’s just that simple. Once again the ABC had forsaken what works to compete with commercial sector, just as it tries to in the tele arena, forgetting all about their charter. And it does so where it hurts its major audience by taking away what they adore. Trying to appeal to the multi-platformed younger brigade remains an obsession that continues to hurt the brand. Future proof by all means, but don’t forget where your bread and butter is found. And now we have lost another true original. As one listener recently rote in to the Age, ‘Gender and skin colour have no bearing on quality and talent.’ Shame on you Wendy Tuohy. Shame on you ABC.


Wendy Tuohy’s column =

Michael Lallo on the subject =

Teacher: One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching by Gabbie Stroud

It’s simple. For thirty-five plus years I loved teaching. I loved teaching kids.

And then ’…, under the guise of equity and excellence standardised NAPLAN testing and the My School website infiltrated classrooms around Australia. Infiltrated the profession I loved. Infiltrated the classroom my baby would one day attend.’ So wrote Gabby Stroud. In my case, though, it’s my beloved granddaughters. I live in hope it will soon be consigned to the dustbin, along with the many other previously misguided notions inflicted on our nation’s kids by the ‘experts’ and the dullards in the higher, rarefied echelons of Education Departments all over Australia. I live in hope of that happening before its damage gets to be inflicted on those precious, unique and tender minds so close to my heart.


Now I could spend the rest of this review railing against other travesties such as National Curriculums, IWBs, A-E assessments, rubrics that came on-stream in the later years of my career, alongside my by now obvious abhorrence of NAPLAN. Instead, I’ll urge every interested parent and practitioner I can influence to simply read Ms Stroud’s ‘Teacher’. With a slow death NAPLAN killed off her career as far as a classroom teaching was concerned. Fortunately she has found success in other fields and has delivered this tome as a wake-up call. I suspect it will strike a chord with many front line educators in schools across our wide brown land. It’s well reported the frustration that exists with a system it has encouraged that focuses on student failure as opposed to strengths, on conformity rather than difference and which, in its wake, is destructive to the art of teaching.
After I finished the final page I reported to my beloved that I could write a book on Gabbie Stroud’s tale of her short-lived stint as a drillmaster when all she wanted to be was a teacher. My lovely lady’s response was ‘Why don’t you?’ Well, it would make me too angry to start with. And, besides, those who need to read her plea for common sense, those who put and keep NAPLAN in place, have not listened to date. We know those who impose their politically motivated, self-serving notions on the wonderful kids of our country will be deaf to any plea. That would take something they lack, something most out front of a classroom have in spades – empathy. As much as I look back with fondness I am far happier and less stressed as a retired person.

There are differences between the author and myself. An ocean cruise made me see the light. Apart from in my first year I never struggled as a teacher, but I largely operated in more benign times. I was, I realized on that Pacific sojourn, mentally on my way out and as the full negative impact of NAPLAN hadn’t really affected me, it was only a minor consideration in my decision. I really struggled after that cruise. I only lasted one more term. I didn’t want to be in the classroom anymore. It was time. I was done.

NAPLAN didn’t kill me off. There are other contrasts as well. I had no tickets on myself that I was inspirational in front of a cohort of students, but I was competent, in control and had a good knowledge base. I ran, generally speaking, a tight and comfortable ship. I lasted far longer than she did, although that’s in no way her fault – just luck and timing. Hers was an excruciating burn-out to resignation, the impositions from on high grinding her down. I did not have the significantly profound relationships with my students she claims she had, but the student/teacher relationship was at the core of my practice. Nothing, I would think, could be more central than that – but then, my confrontation with NAPLAN was not up close and personal. Like the best in her field Gabrielle Stroud possessed a soft soul encased by a brittle shell. And, as she states, to be a teacher who truly engages you need to possess a little crazy too. The best I worked with had that – or at least they put on a convincing act. They had the ability to keep the troops guessing, to produce the unexpected. The art of it should never be undersold as novices quickly discover. You either have it or you don’t. ‘Teacher’ is infused with the type of humanity so lacking in those pulling the strings in Canberra and to a lesser degree on this island. It makes me sad that it seems their view is that a teacher’s main role is to test and produce data on what they already are fully aware of. With NAPLAN in operation young esteem and self worth is crushed for many, with parent and teacher left to pick up the pieces. The role of a teacher as a nurturer is fundamentally impeded.

On a recent trip back to Burnie I had the need to visit a real estate office. At reception I vaguely recognised the beautiful face looking back at me as I requested time with the agent. She took me to his office and said to her boss, ‘I expect you to really look after this gentleman. He taught me. He was one of the good ones.’ Bugger profound relationships. ‘Good’ will do me just fine. If my career is defined by that, I’m chuffed.


Ms Stroud writes with heart about some of the students, colleagues, places and schools she worked with and in. Please read this book.

Ms Stroud’s website =

In the Garden of the Fugitives – Ceridwen Dovey

It took me a while to warm up to Ms Dovey’s creation, although I never doubted her aptitude to wend together, with able wordsmithery, the two dominant strands of her tale. It just took a time for me to become engrossed in it – right up to the final chapters in fact. For much of the reading of it I found the history involved in the archaeological dig around Vesuvius, an aspect of one of the threads, far more interesting than the interlocking saga of the two main protagonists.

Vita is a middle-aged academic living in, of all places, Mudgee. After a life rotating around Oz, RSA and the US, why choose this place to settle down? In the end it becomes clear. Her birthplace was South Africa, a country she returns to as a younger woman to pursue her art in a somewhat desultory way. I should imagine this nation these days isn’t an easy one to love. It would have perhaps not so been the case during the apartheid days, depending on what side of the equation one was on. She gives her returns to her home country her best shot and challenges its outside perceptions.

Her old mentor Royce is not a well man and it soon becomes evident that, what he had with Vita, was of a closer nature then purely to guide her in the ways of academia. After a long estrangement he reconnects with her in the old fashioned way – by letter. Initially the book is in the form of a reproduction of their missives to each other, but soon its alternating chapters morph into the story of, for a time, their shared lives. But Royce has something on his conscience – his unrequited infatuation with a fellow university class mate, Kitty. He later follows her to a scientific excavation in Pompeii – her special interest being the Roman gardens of the time. Despite Royce’s best efforts, Kitty falls in love with a most alluring fellow who is not the solid, devoted beau Royce feels he could be to her. So, in his correspondence with Vita, there’s a secret he just has to laden her with.

It all made for a very interesting piece of work but, despite the surety of Dovey’s construction, it was a slow burn for me, measured by the weeks it took me to get through it. It was not a novel I rushed back to each day.

The author’s website =