Sex, Chip and Briefly Hugh

Remember ‘About a Boy’? I do, both the book (Nick Hornby) and the 2002 movie. It was the film that stuck most, which is no reflection on the prominent author’s wordsmithery. It was so well done with Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult. I recall it, though, mainly because it was the first time many of us realised that Hugh Grant could act; could show some emotion on the cinema screen. Prior to this title he was typecast as the ladies’ man pretty boy. In the offering he plays Will Freeman, initially a layabout fop with no fulcrum to his life, except his father’s royalties to fritter away – and there’s the nub. Will’s dad wrote a Christmas song – an earworm of a ditty that connected enough to become a yuletide classic. Son Will therefore will never have to lift a finger to earn a living – his father’s song being a gift that keeps on giving. Those familiar with the story know that it’s a lad coming into his life that changes all that. But the point of the exercise is that it takes only one song to hit and one is set for life.



Now consider these two tunes that have stood the test of time ‘Angel of the Morning’ and ‘Wild Thing’. Two very disparate offerings, but nonetheless monumental hits. Keep them in mind. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to them. But now the sex bit.

With that – well, I’m sorry to disappoint. If you’re looking for a massive actual dose of it and nudity, you won’t find it here – despite the opening scene. That being said, ‘Sex Education’ is almost totally about the subject, watched by countless others on the Netflix domain. You may be a tad offended by it, but it does take an honest look at youthful coming to grips (sorry) with masturbation, penis-fear and anxiety about the act itself. Asa Butterfield plays Otis who, in the digital age, is trying desperately to lose his virginity. He’s not assisted in this by the fact that his mother – a very comely, confused and wanton Gillian Anderson – is a sex therapist. So the boy knows one or two things, but little more, about the mechanics and can exhibit a common sense approach to the mental aspects. He’s manipulated by wild child Maeve (a bravura performance by Emma Mackey) into becoming, guess what? Yes, his school’s very own on campus sex fix it man, despite his lack of actually ever actively participating in the process to its culmination. Still, she espouses his expertise in all its facets. If this all sounds marginally naff, just give it a go – and like its legion of fans you may also find yourself enchanted by its good writing, positive vibe and warm examination of the human condition. I loved it – and it bought me to Chip, with the assistance of my beautiful writerly daughter Kate.


Over one of our regular city brunches she asked if I had ever heard of Chip Taylor. I replied in the affirmative that I had, but only in the vaguest way. When I in turn inquired what her interest was, she told me she had picked up on one of his songs on the soundtrack to ‘Sex Education’, emphasising how much it appealed to her. Back home I duly YouTubed it and yep, it was a ripper. But we’ll go there later. Let’s concentrate on the singer/songwriter for a while.

Now here’s a list:-

Wild Thing’ – a hit for the Troggs, Jimi Hendrix, the Runaways and the Muppets.

Angel of the Morning’ – a hit for Merrilee Rush, Juice Newton and Chrissy Hynde.

I Can Make it With You’ – a hit for Jackie de Shannon.

Try, Just a Little Bit Harder’ – a hit for Janis Joplin

Enough to live on for several lifetimes, I’d say.

Now, add into the mix that Chip is also the brother of Jon Voight so therefore is the uncle of Angelina Jolie.


The man was born James Wesley Voight in Yonkers, New York in 1940. Originally he wanted to become a professional golfer, but teed off instead with ‘Wild Thing’, so it was goodbye to the golfing greens. He really wanted his own singing career in music and although he had some minor success, becoming a rock god eluded him and he turned to professional gambling. With his weathered voice he has now found his niche and a cult following (as well as a Norwegian Grammy nomination) on his return to the stage, back in the 90s. As for his ‘Sex Education’ contribution, here I feel I must state that I am not usually a fan of a certain word on the airwaves and in music – but it just seems, well, appropriate for once. It certainly caught Katie’s ear and my attention, did ‘Fuck All the Perfect People’. With its exposure on a high rating series, it has purchased for Taylor another signature song, this time one for his second coming.

To be or not to be
To free or not to free
To crawl or not to crawl
Fuck all those perfect people!

To sleep or not to sleep
To creep or not to creep
And some can’t remember, what others recall
Fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I’m not talking about you!

To stand or not to stand
To plan or not to plan
To store or not to store
Fuck all those perfect people!

To drink or not to drink
To think or not to think
Some choose to dismember, you’re rising your thoughts
And fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I, I’m talking about you!

To sing or not to sing
To swing or not to swing
(Hell) He fills up the silence like a choke on the wall
Fuck all those perfect people!

To pray or not to pray
To sway or not to sway
Jesus died for something – or nothing at all.
Fuck all those perfect people!

Sleepy eyes, waltzing through
No I, I’m talking about you!


Check it out on-line – his performance of it – or, even better, treat yourself to ‘Sex Education’. A gem of a series produces a cross reference to a gem of a performer with a gem of a tune

Listen to the above tune here =

Trailer for ‘Sex Education’ =

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’ =

Eight, Over and Out

I won’t grieve. I won’t miss it. It’s not ‘Mad Men’, ‘Downton’, ‘West Wing’ or ‘Californication’. No longer sharing my world with Don Draper, Violet CrawleyCountess of Grantham, Joshia Bartlet or Hank Moody still pains me.


That being written, ‘Game of Thrones’ is a magnificent and remarkable beast. We have been blessed to have had it for so long and now, with Season 8 about to commence on our small screens, the end is nigh – although spin-offs have been promised. Parts of it were simply breathtaking – and for me not only the bits Ms Sandlier listed. Like her, for much of the time, I didn’t have a clue what was going on, or who belonged to which family. But, unlike with her, re-watching it all again in preparation for the final hurrah is out of the question, although I know she’s far from alone doing so in the build-up to April 15th. There are scenes, though, I’d love to see again, especially those involving Emilia Clarke and the dragons. Love the dragons.


I also will not be busting a gut to see it as close as is possible to the release date. I can wait. I’m a patient man.

What I relish about the thing is that, for most, it is the pinnacle of our Golden Age of Television. It is our ‘Gone with the Wind’; our ‘The Birth of a Nation’. It’s something we can pass on to our kids; our grandchildren as Tegan S is now doing with her fifteen year old. My Katie will do that for Tess; Rich for his Ollie and the one about to be – just as long as they don’t kill the dwarf!


Tegan Sadlier’s opinion piece =

Me and MAFS

My dear mother, at 92, loves Martin Clunes – and what’s not to like? ‘Doc Martin’ is beloved in my household and millions of others globally. He’s aced curmudgeon, has Clunes. In his Cornish sea-fronted village he’s surrounded by lovable dolts and irritating patients. The blood-fearing doctor is in a constant state of exasperation at the world he’s found himself in. It’s pure escapism – he transports us to another place; we can get away from our worries by being entertained by him and his foibles.

Now whereas this fitted perfectly in with the ABC at an accessible, for all, time-slot of joyously uninterrupted viewing, the actor’s latest offering, ‘Manhunt’ has gone to the dark side. It’s gone to ad-drenched, free-to-air commercial television. It was set to follow the reality behemoth ‘My Kitchen Rules’. My mother was looking forward to seeing the English thesp in a different role.


And she tried to watch it, she really did. She was soon defeated. Of course it started later than it’s slated starting point at 9pm, as reality shows seem to have the right to go on as long as they wish. Evidently not keeping to published times is a ploy to somehow prevent one from changing channels – most would give up and go to another platform, but my mother hasn’t that luxury. Nor has she the mechanism to store it for later and fast forward through the interminable ad breaks slicing and dicing the show into five minute sections. My dear mother gave up as tiredness overcame her. No doubt a family member will gift her a DVD of the series, knowing her tastes, at a later date. There are shows we all recommend to her, but many are on far too late for her as reality series these days take centre stage. They are comparitively cheap to make and if the jackpot is hit with the public, they’re a rating and therefore an advertising bonanza. But for my mother she, rightly or wrongly, calls them ‘reality rubbish’, not worth her time. So she’ll bury her nose in a book or slot in a DVD. Pity.

Reality rubbish’ has taken over the television landscape. It’s easy to knock it and people like Tim Elliott who watch the genre. His opinion piece revolved around ‘Married At First Sight’ and it leads the pack, popularity wise, at the moment. On paper it seems ludicrous and for that alone it would have never featured as part of my viewing – never. But here’s the rub. Sometimes you’re captive; not in control. Now I can say I’ve never watched ‘Master Chef’, ‘MKR’ or ‘The Block’, the other huge raters, but I have MAFS and several of the other ‘finding true love’ variety, ‘The Bachelorette’ and ‘First Dates’ – all in somebody else’s loungeroom.

And I soon discovered each of them, despite fully realising I was being manipulated by their contrived natures, to be eminently compelling.

In the wee hours a few nights ago the radio had on a British human relations expert speaking to the topic of MAFS’ hold on the Australian viewing public. She had worked on several UK shows of that ilk. When asked if it was really true love the contestants were after, she laughed and went on to explain it was mainly about a way to get richer than they were; to have their fifteen minutes of fame and/or notoriety. Of course, as we all know, a few have succeeded. Most, though, disappear back into obscurity. She, the expert, was illuminating on all the boxes they have to tick before they make it on to the set – mostly to do with body shape, appearance and how to behave, or misbehave. She said it is forbidden to rig the outcome, but there’s nothing to stop contestants being strongly advised.


Now I must admit I was fascinated during the hour I spent recently with ‘Married at First Sight’. The wonderful couple I was with explained to me, in detail, as we went, how the show operated. There did seem to be a couple of pairings who were seemingly besotted with each other. One such featured a fellow who claimed he came to the show as a virgin and had that weight quickly lifted off him soon after their confected vows by the damsel he was matched with. Regular MAFS watchers will know how quickly their togetherness dissipated. But at the time it seemed so sweet and genuine. Knowing myself, I could quite easily have become caught up in it all. That was shattered, though, at the end by a couple whose relationship had turned rancid. Each clearly despised the other. So when, at the end of the show, they were given the choice to stay or go it should have been obvious what was to occur. Both clearly had to depart, but if one wanted to stay, it forced the other to do stay ‘married’ under the show’s rules. Guess what – one required just that bit more infamy. I couldn’t leap that hurdle, so I didn’t persevere with this vehicle in my own abode.

Again ‘The Bachelorette’ was similar. I had great company for a few episodes of the ‘17 series too. And it was quite easy to lose yourself in it, that is, till she (Sophie Monk) chose the exact type of man she’d been telling us had, to date, ruined her life. Again many of you dear readers will know how that went for her. Blind Freddy could see the mistake she was yet again making .


For me the best of the shows was ‘First Dates’. Contrived too, of course, it did seem to have more heart; the contestants, well, more real. If it resumes I could get hooked.

So you never know. I might easily become a Tim Elliott too. In the world we live these shows give an escape, despite their motivations and manipulations. And that’s no small thing. No different to ‘Doc Martin’ in fact.

Tim Elliott’s opinion piece =

Wally the Urban Wallaby

On kunanyi’s flanks, above the fence line where bush meets the fringe of suburbia, live the Moonah mob. They roam together, mostly away from human-people (who can be of danger at times), perfectly at one with their surrounds beneath the brooding ramparts of the mighty mountain. Within their number resides a very unique marsupial, the wily and wondrous Wally. Now Wally has urges not shared by other of his number, for on many days, most days, he decides to depart the communal safety of the Moonah mob – as well as for an occasional night.

Most nights see him largely content to forage and nibble on the bush grasses amidst the contented collective. He’ll check on and sweetly nuzzle his special mate, now and again, sniffing at her to gauge when she may be in season again. If the time is right, they’ll come come together to produce another offspring, a joey to perpetuate the wallaby species.

Some nights, though, the wandering urge takes control and when the moon is in a certain place in the sky, he’ll bound upward, into the forests; into the deep recesses. For up there, under the skyline, he’ll commune with the more furtive denizens of the mountain’s other world. He senses the places they’ll be, for Wally is an inquisitive soul. He’ll espy, through the moon-glow, orange-brown eyes burning in the night, hear the whisperings of a guttural language beyond his knowing. Thylas are afoot. He’ll catch a dash of stripes as the shadowy shape-shifting beasts move about in their nightly predations. Now Wally has entered the orb of these creatures and like him, they are beings that exist in, not one, but two worlds of their own.


If his urges take him further, ever upwards, into the deepest and most sacred crevasses around which the great trees abound, he knows he may sense the most discreet and scarce of human-people, the spirits of times long past; the ghosts of what should still be. Their world; their presence is the most ephemerally fleeting of all, difficult to discern, but always there nonetheless. When Wally has ventured up there he perceives only the most fragile note of their existence on faintest whiff of wind.

But Wally has another stealthy existence as well. While the remainder of his Moonah mob rest in semi-slumber from their nightly replenishments, Wally heads downwards to that fence-line and Wally becomes the urban wallaby – a very rare breed indeed.

He knows well to be wary of human-people, but intuitively understands that most of their ilk do not wish him any harm. Wally has found and developed a symbiotic relation with one such human-person. It is in his company that he spends many days, most days. With Mr Walker around he feels there is nothing to fear in the whole world. For Mr Walker possesses a patch of sunny grass for him to snack on; to flake down and yawn on. Mr Walker, a noted bon vivant, a most sociable person, will often also scatter the leavings of his culinary delights for Wally to sample and if to his liking, consume – carrot scrapings, pear and apple peel, morsels of cabbage, celery and lettuce amongst them. Wally takes it all in his stride.


His presence, in return, provides a talking point for the other human-persons who venture to his northern suburbs residence, for Mr Walker is a fine and considerate host with many friends. He has copious tales to tell and adores receiving them as well. Wally will often notice more than one head peering at him, on any given day, through the windows for he provides the fodder for some of Mr Walker’s best stories.

As dusk approaches Wally will take his leave of Mr Walker’s yard of dappled sun and return to kunanyi’s lower hills, pick up again with his crew, the Moonah mob, and he’ll prepare for nightfall. Then, perhaps, there will be more callings from his urges to take him adventuring. Wally, the urban wallaby, is a most singular furry delight.

I love seeing this beautiful animal on my own visits to Mr Walker’s abode and can only wish that all relations between humankind and the other creatures of our planet could be as benign as that between Rob and Wally.                                       

(for Tessa Tiger and RW)



I’m sometimes asked,’ she said, picking up the biscuit, ‘what it was like marrying an older man. What was it like, they would ask.’ she said with a smile as good as a wink. ‘Well, I always say, he might have been half his age. Here she popped the biscuit into her mouth.’ ‘A New England Affair’, Steven Carroll. Valerie Eliot on meeting Emily Hale.

We snuggled in, this third time. I’d been nervous on the first occasion, but now that I had a hope it could be ongoing, dared to think it could be more, well, I was less so. I reached for her breast. She placed her hand over mine to hold it there. She told me she didn’t need paying. Not this time. I asked with renewed trepidation if this was the last time she would come. She reached down and ever so lightly squeezed. ‘Depends on you.’

In 1914 a young TS Eliot met Vivienne Haig-Wood at Oxford. She was a ‘river-girl’ – young ladies sent to the university city by their parents to disport themselves afore likely candidates for marriage amongst eligible (and gullible?) students. The American poet was smitten by her beauty and her worldliness. After a whirlwind romance they married. The haste, some reckon, is that Tom Eliot wants to dispose of his lingering virginity. The knowing Viv was the quickest way. He being a devout Christian, this required doing so in wedlock. Evidently the wedding night was a disaster, as remained the marriage for the rest of their time together. TS continued to be largely celibate, she quickly commenced a three year affair with noted predator Bertrand Russell. Husband and wife were miserable in each other’s company, but Eliot’s beliefs made him a slave to marriage if not his spouse. They finally parted ways in 1933. He was fed up with her increasing vulgarity, especially in front of his friends, her growing flirtation with British fascism and her diminishing mental state. In 1938 Tom and her own brother had her committed to a mental asylum where she died, aged 58, in 1947. Her husband never visited her there, but now he was a free man.

eliot viveliot

It was part of our bargain, if you like, that I would not enter her. To her that would indicate she was having an affair, committing adultery. I wondered if what we were doing didn’t amount to that in any case, but I didn’t have any qualms about it. I was more than happy to agree. She was, after all, a married woman so I acquiesced. Anything, I thought, to have the joy of human tender-touch again. And besides, she kept reminding me, she was now a grandmother. She had to be responsible. She freely admitted the money would help. Hubby was not in work and her employment was not stable. But, she added, there also had to be more to life than preparing meals for a dispirited man and measuring up kitchens. Thus she was providing me with what I had yearned for.

The movie ‘Tom and Viv’, with Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson in the leads, playing the staid American Britisher and his flighty, boisterous wife, charts the story of Tom’s first marriage. Until much, much later in life, perhaps the greatest verse composer of the century experienced little, if any, personal happiness or sexual activity. That didn’t mean there were no women in his orb. There were. Two examples were Mary Trevelyan and Emily Hale. On Vivienne’s death the former offered to wed him at least three times, but the thought of a marriage so soon seemed toxic to to the recipient of her proposals. And without marriage, of course their dalliances couldn’t proceed very far. Besides, he was perhaps truly in love with another party.

What do you mean it depends on me?’ My hand had been moved to between her legs and I caressed. Hers was still gently pummelling. No erection, but it felt good. Probably better that way.

Well,’ she replied. ‘Can it go one like this? This is fine for me, but will you be satisfied? He’s a good man, is John. He can’t help it that life with him is as boring as bat shit now there’s only the two of us. And running a tape measure around cruddy kitchens. That’s got whiskers on it. I need something else Thomas. This gives me more. Something to look forward to even. But don’t you get all sentimental and lovey-dovey on me, or want to go all the way. If you do, well, that’s it. I’ll find another outlet for my frustration.’ She stopped talking then. Her mind was now on something else. But I got the gist.

Emily Hale figures, for Tom, pre- and post- Vivienne. They met before his move to Britain. They both figured they were in love with the other, but they were repressed, reticent souls. Communicating feelings was not in their make-up, despite both being Americans. It was another era. He made a final visit to her before his departure. If she showed her true colours, he would defer. He knew it was impossible for him to make the first move – and she didn’t, so off he went to the UK and his miserable future in his personal life. But, also, there was fame and relative fortune awaiting. Off and on, though, they kept in touch.

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I know the feeling about wanting more from life. Cancer saw my Louise go in ‘08. She was my rock, my everything. If there was a perfect marriage, ours was it. I never strayed – never had any need to. Mercifully her demise was quick. I was bereft, though. We were looking forward to retiring together. I took it soon after. All of a sudden I couldn’t cope in the classroom any more. My time was done. Bald, overweight, unfit – what else could life hold for me without her? I tried to escape my fug with a cruise – all those reported single women on the prowl might be the go. I know Louise would not have wanted me to sit at home and stew in my own juices. Once on board I just couldn’t bring myself to make the required and expected approaches – and in any case, they all seemed to be on the lookout for something I was not. To me they just seemed to have the cougar mentality. Perhaps I didn’t give myself a chance. Then, recalling an Asian wife had bought a friend great happiness in his later years, I thought about going down that track. I figured though I’d just look an old fool who was being used as a ticket to a life in an affluent country, so I dismissed it. Too timid. I wished I could have been braver. I needed to be brave. I sold up and moved to Hobart.

Steven Carroll has thrown light on the relationship between Hale and Eliot in his two novels, ‘The Lost Life’ and ‘A New England Affair’. He also features the poet in ‘A World of Other People’. Along with his ‘Glenroy’ series, set over time in suburban Melbourne, they are terrific reads produced by a consummate wordsmith – one of our country’s best. ‘A New England Affair’ takes us, in part, to the thirties when Eliot reconnects with his American muse to continue their friendship, perhaps hoping for a little more. But again, his faith, guilt over Vivienne and distance prove unassailable, but they do make promises that could only reach fruition on the death of his spouse. When it comes, Emily thinks, Tom is finally hers. His view now became that it was all too late. His take prevails. She is shattered. Her life’s been for nothing. She retreats.

It was no great shakes the house I purchased in one of Hobart’s northern suburbs in 2012. Doing it up would be a distraction, I hoped. It was. My funds were not substantial to do it in one hit, but I would take it steady over time. I enjoyed dealing with tradespeople in trying to get the house shipshape enough for my satisfaction and to increase its resale value. I wanted something to pass on now the Burnie residence was gone. I became involved with University of the Third Age, teaching to my own age group. I started to meet people, had a few friends to invite around for a meal and dine out with. With the State Cinema a regular, as well as the art galleries and book shops, life was looking up.

And in ‘A New England Affair’ the reader and Emily briefly encounter Valerie. As a school child the woman who became the poet’s second wife knew what she wanted to be – TS Eliot’s secretary. Her headmaster recalled her telling him this – and that’s exactly what happened. Born in 1926, she was therefore almost forty years the great one’s junior, but she was besotted with his poetry as a schoolgirl. Later she became besotted with the man.

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The kitchen was my last challenge; the stove on its last legs, the bench tops and cupboards faded and scratched to buggery. By this stage I knew how to go about stuff of this ilk. Inquiries had informed me prefabricated was the way to go; that Kaboodle was as good as any and Bunnings would help me out. When I called them they let me know that they could send someone around and measure up to prepare a quote. Good-oh, I reckoned. I tidied-it up, waiting for the appointment booked for a few days later. I was expecting a typical tradie. What I got was Lou.

Apart from capturing Eliot’s heart, Valerie’s other great claim to fame was that she gifted the world ‘Cats’. After her husband’s death she became the keeper of the flame, his literary executor. That decision, of course, would prove most lucrative for the estate, allowing Andrew Lloyd Webber to turn the author’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ into a world wide mega-phenomenon. But why on earth would a vibrant, yet to turn thirty year old, take on someone who was 68? It all started with Sir John Gielgud.

I was taken aback when she came to the door, expecting a male in bib‘n’brace overalls, tape measure in hand. Instead I had Lou, a tall slim brunette dressed in skirt and jacket carrying a briefcase. Initially I took her to be in her late twenties, but decided, after she left, that she was more like well into her thirties, given the mature, confident manner and the laugh lines around her eyes. She introduced herself and I remarked on the coincidence that she carried the same name as my late spouse. She chuckled and said that wasn’t the case. She’d been named Lou-belle and loathed it. ‘What were my parents thinking,’ I recall her saying. She’d been known as Lou ever since she was a kid.

The Yorkshire born Valerie first came across TS Eliot when she was fourteen, hearing a recording of his work, ‘Journey of the Magi’, read by one of the nation’s foremost thesps, the great Gielgud. She was entranced, her life’s mission now clear. After her graduation she took a secretarial course and landed a job with another literary figure, novelist Charles Morgan. Knowing her ambition, Morgan helped her apply for a position at Faber and Faber where Eliot was head of poetry. It was the great man himself who conducted her interview.

She inspected my kitchen, took some measurements and then, with a laugh, demanded caffeine. We talked possibilities, reached a conclusion and then put away the brochures. It was her, ‘Tell me something about yourself.’ I guess, that had us started on a certain path. ‘Tell me something about the man who is soon to be cooking up a storm in his brand new revamped kitchen.’

I joked back, ‘Well, you never know. One day I may cook up a storm just for you.’ She seemed a bit taken aback at that, but soon hit back, ‘Well, if you accept this quote I’ll go away and prepare for you, I might just take you up on that.’

On parting she told me she’d ring when said quote was available and I could call into Bunnings and collect it – or she could deliver it here. Was she flirting with me? She at least knew how to get a sale, I thought. Of course I chose the latter alternative.

At the interview Valerie was nervous, but what caught her attention was how edgy her interviewer also seemed. Could he sense something between them even then? But if there was, nothing came of it in the seven years that she was Miss Fletcher to his Mr Eliot, although her fascination with him never diminished. He obviously, in his own buttoned up way, harboured feelings for her too, but the age difference and his lack of bottle precluded any informality. We’ll never know exactly how the man gathered up the courage to propose to her in 1956, but he did. She accepted readily.

Lou was in no hurry that second visit. The first time, in response to her teasing question, I told her a bit of how I came to be in West Moonah, perhaps letting out more information than I should have. It’d been a long time since I had had a sympathetic ear. Although I said life had blossomed somewhat since the move to the south and my dark thoughts after Louise’s death had largely been banished, I had confessed to her I was still achingly lonely. Keeping myself busy helped. I recall, at that point, she reached out and patted me on the arm, then kept it there as I told of what I spent my time doing. ‘Good on you,’ she said after that. I told her quietly how I missed company on a daily basis, but more I missed skin on skin, someone to hold close and love. At that she withdrew her arm, leant over and kissed me on the cheek and prepared to depart. As she did so, she threw at me ‘Be careful what you wish for. You just never know in this world.’

I remembered that.

Valerie set about being the woman the poet had never had in his lifetime up till that point. Obviously she didn’t give one hoot about the gap in their ages.

I was gobsmacked when she told me, during that second most enjoyable and revealing appointment, that she was a grandmother. And as she rose from my bed this third time and dressed, she smirked, ‘I may be a granny these days, but I can still rise to the occasion. God that was good. I haven’t had that in such a long while. That’ll keep me interested till next time. There will be a next time, wont there?’

I assured her I was more than happy with the arrangement.

With marriage to Valerie, TS Eliot was a changed man – calmer, looser. It was noted he held hands with his wife in public, asked for a double bed when booking accommodation and in her later interviews, Valerie hinted at a satisfactory sex life. Till that point sexual activity for the exulted poet had been, please excuse the pun here, a barren wasteland. But in his last years there was bliss.

At the second appointment, after I accepted the quote, Lou was comfortable in opening up to me as well. She explained how she came to be such a young grandmother, saying she was just fifteen when she had her daughter by John. He was 17, but did the right thing and stood by her – and he was and is a great father, she hastened to add. There was to be only one child and after her birth they lived with his parents for a while, with both sets being supportive, before renting, trying to save for their own place. Finally they ended up buying in Claremont. John had an accident a few years back and was now on a disability pension, so financially things were tight – thus my later offer to help out. In these last few years he had become morose, uninterested in sex and uninterested in her. But, since Clare had given them a granddaughter, he had livened up a bit and she was hopeful he had turned the corner. But life at the moment seemed a bit of a never-ending struggle. She tried to be positive, but basically she’d had enough of the grind of her day to day existence. She wanted an outlet. She needed a bit of a spark. I then used the same words back to her – you know, the ‘careful what you wish for’ ones. Little did I know then.

The poet of the century passed away in 1965, just shortly before the couple’s eighth wedding anniversary. He’d been ill for some time. Smoking did its usual foul play on him and at the end he was suffering badly from emphysema. In those last years they escaped the British winter for the West Indies and that helped, but his disease progressed till he needed constant oxygen and then came the inevitable.

I didn’t see Lou for a few weeks after she left that day. The tradesmen, in the meantime, gutted my kitchen to her plan, replacing it with a kit one with a new stove. Then I received a call from her asking if I was satisfied with the job. And that’s when it happened. That’s when I was brave. ‘Why don’t you come around and see for yourself?’

Her reply, ‘I was hoping you’d say that. And I may hold you to that other tempting offer as well.’

Valerie died in 2012. In accordance to her husband’s wishes she was very frugal in allowing others to impinge on his personal history, although she assisted in the editing of several volumes of his letters. Over the last couple of decades of her life, of course, she did have a lucrative income flow to manage for the estate from the revenue provided by ‘Cats’. The stage musical’s popularity remains today. With its proceeds she funded additions to landmark buildings close to Eliot’s heart and set up a poetry award in his name.

She was impressed by the kitchen as I still am, finding it functional and pleasing to the eye. Once she had surveyed the scene she called for coffee to be produced and when we sat down on the sofa to drink it, there came the watershed moment.

Now, Thomas of Burnie, is there any other service I can provide for you? Perhaps there is one of a more personal nature. You’re lonely. You tell me that. You’re still tense and frustrated. I can see that. I’m bored shitless. I’ve told you that. We both need something extra in our lives. Perhaps we can come to some arrangement of mutual benefit. You tell me what you would like. I’ll tell you my terms. How about that? Interested?’ I was. She then brushed aside my reservations about age. ‘Phooey to that,’ I seemed to remember was her reaction. ‘I enjoy your company. I love a chat with you so why not something a little more?’

So there it was – how our bargain came to be.

At first money wasn’t part of the equation, just the boundaries she was prepared to allow me to go. I didn’t have a problem with those. In fact, I couldn’t believe my luck. Still can’t. I insisted on paying her and she, in the end, had no issue with that either. It was a service, after all. We arranged a weekly meeting, the first being rather tentative, just some kissing and fully clothed fondling. Come the second we were both less nervous and she suggested we dispensed with our garments. ‘How about some of that skin on skin you mentioned. You’ve still got some life in you, I bet,’ she said with a twinkle in her eye. Seeing her fully exposed – my, that was a moment. I doubt if I had the same effect but she was too polite to comment on my total lack of tone. As for the third time, well, you have already been privy to that. She’s informed me the next time she’ll bring along some massage oil. Wow!

Lou has been the missing bit to my life and I don’t mind the ‘not going all the way’ part of our bargain one little bit. In fact it’s probably far less stressful for me this way and keeps her happy. How long will it last, our arrangement? I have no way of knowing – but I’m yet to cook her a meal from my new kitchen. We still have that to factor in at least.

I purchased ‘A New England Affair’ on a visit to Fullers. It was the ‘affair’ part of the title that attracted my attention, but that aspect was so sad – so sad for both TS Eliot and Emily Hale. But what intrigued me was Valerie and Tom. Forty years, almost, age difference. With Lou and I, although both grandparents – can’t get over that – the age gap isn’t quite that substantial – but still wide enough. It was no negative for them and touch wood, so far, not for us. And if I get as much time with her as old Tom did with his younger woman, in totally different circumstances I know, that will be a bonus. Perhaps, sometimes, you don’t really have to be too careful what you wish for after all.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green

During my lifetime we have had some wonderfully benign aliens come visit us from galaxies far, far away and from closer to home. As a child I tittered at the gentle antics of ‘My Favourite Martian’ and later, the more frenetic ones of Mork. Then there was the delight of ET and we eventually got him home. And now there’s Carl. He’s(?) unlike anything that’s come before and is he truly non-threatening? Are there no harmful intentions?


The forces for enlightenment, led by 22 year old discoverer of the first Carl (they quickly proliferated), April, think not. On the other hand, the Trumpsterites figure their intentions are evil and want to nuke them out of existence. The Carl’s simply remain static – except for a flighty hand or two. They’re great lumps of metallic substance of strange properties – and possessing the odd ability to seemingly control human dreams. What is going on taxes the best minds in the land, but April sets herself the task of solving the conundrum.

Not usually drawn to sci-fi, I came to ‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’ through the strong recommendation of my beautiful writerly daughter and the power of the author’s surname – Green. You know who he’s the brother of, don’t you? None other than the amazing John. It’s a great gene pool for, apart from the nerd-speak that was completely beyond me, this was an enjoyable read. The emphasis was as much on the relationships between those supporting April as it was on the action. Constantly being desperate to ward off those jingoistic hawks, bent on alien destruction, made our gallant hero’s life a misery. A female President was also attempting to get her head around the situation and to know who to believe – if only we had one of her ilk today. She was a great addition character-wise. This story has much to say about the pitfalls of celebrity, particularly once the media, on-line and off, work themselves up unto a frenzy. Then, of course, there are the trolls.


April is a thoroughly modern main protagonist who leans towards same gender relationships, but gets a tad sexually diverted along the way as she focuses on her calling of sorting out the hovering Carls.

Green’s tome is almost an absolutely remarkable thing in itself. You will not regret delving into it, sharing some of your time with the spunky April, going to a place never trodden before.

The Author’s website = =