Musings and photographs from a man in a little house by a river, on a little island at the bottom of the world.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Mother Duck

Like Adam, I Want to Rant Too

It made me feel like ranting. I left the movie house in the mood for a cleansing rant. That movie I’d just seen put me in that mindset. It made me want to vent my spleen. Now ranting doesn’t come naturally to me, despite what some of my former teaching colleagues and the thousands of students I’ve taught over the years may feel. Basically I am a laidback, ‘go with the flow’ type of fella – although here again my beautiful partner may beg to quibble and scoff at that statement. I live a quiet life these days, relatively free of worry and stress as long as I partake of my daily bath and stay away from any football matches involving Hawthorn. No, ranting doesn’t come naturally to me, and sometimes I wish I could deliver one of Hillsian proportions. Not sure what I mean? Well then, YouTube Adam Hills doing his number on bitchy American comedienne Joan Rivers – she of drag queen features - who dared to diss British national treasure Adele over her weight. That is the rant to measure all other rants by – and no, I am not in Adam’s class. But, gee, that movie put me in the mood for having a go, plus some of the facts I read in today’s ‘once broadsheet.’

Now for a list of topics I reckon I could fester up a reasonably cogent diatribe about – a diatribe being a rant’s younger sibling. Let’s see - there’s the evils of a daily shower, SUVs in cities, NAPLAN, ‘Miniscule’ on before the news, misogyny in our national political dialogue and the question of who should really be leading our country. But what has caught my eye is the headlines in today’s (June 25) ‘Age’ – ‘Rich Pickings for the Big Four.’ So you ready? Rant, here I come!

Banks give me the pip. Obscene profits, obscene salaries to those guiding the ‘Big Four’ on how to rip off the average punter, obscene lack of any social conscience, obscene ads on tele glossing over their avarice and obscene treatment of those doing a thankless job at their respective coalfaces – that is, if you can actually see a face when our banks are hell-bent on subjecting us to the obscenity that is internet and telephone banking. To get a face to my banking - and collectively what lovely, personable, welcoming faces they were – I had to drive several suburbs away to Claremont. Here the locals, many in the mature years of life, conducted their business with shaking hands to be greeted by smiles as big as the winter solstice moon and soothing politeness. For many, I would imagine, seeing these gorgeous women – and one courteous male – could be the highpoint of their week! Some of the old dears were showing how they were bastions standing firm against the digital age by proffering over the counter time worn passport books to have their funds tallied in the timeless way. Compare that to interminable waits and the robot voices of transactions over the blower, the only alternative for these folk from an existence in far away in pre-computer land. Then it was announced – the Claremont branch was closing. Bugger these oldies – they’ll either learn to cope with the modern service-starved age or brave the local public transport and battle their way into Glenorchy or the city to have human interface. The communication we all received as customers waxed glowingly of the wonders of ATMs, and the joys of non face-to-face monetary transactioning - and, sure I will cope, but I fear for those ancient darlings who were once treated so royally by the counter staff at My State’s Claremont branch.

And that is just the micro. I can raise the enthusiasm to rail against the macro as well! Here goes. Would you believe the combined profits of the Big Four this year will amount to around $26 billion, far exceeding the record obscene amounts of 2012. They are the most profitable banks in the world, but still they are not satisfied in their efforts to bloat the pockets of their already rich beyond my imagination benefactors. These same banks have managed to shed 4000 jobs in the first six months of this year alone, most of them belonging to front line people whose positions have disappeared to those at the end of telephones or computers offshore. In the last twelve months they have stung us ordinary peons over $11 billion in ‘fees’. Even with all this, the ANZ still sees the necessity to prepare to announce that they are about to sack a further 600 souls and give their jobs to New Zealanders. OBSCENE

I could have a good rant against Auspost too. 2012 was a stellar year for that organization on the back of the vast amount of trade provided for them by on-line shopping entrusting Auspost to deliver all that packaging. How could the eyes of their top executives not light up at the prospect for ripping off and gaining even more profit by increasing the rates for sending larger than letter items through the mail? We now have the ludicrous situation that it is now possible to send a parcel from London to Melbourne more cheaply that it is to send it from one end of Yarra city to the other. As a result of his good work, the CEO of this formerly august organisation gave himself a record bonus last year, and then promptly turned around and cut to the quick that enjoyed by his front line staff every Christmas for decades. It is OBSCENE, OBSCENE, OBSCENE I say.

Tasmania’s richest man, sitting on a Burnie hill in his huge McMansion, laid off my boy last week, as well as a dozen more dutiful, honest toilers liked him. Then his company announced a $33 million dollar profit. That is personal and that is beyond obscene.

There, that makes me feel better. I’ll admit, not quite Hillsian yet – but give me time. Besides, I am not inclined to drop the f-bomb for effect as he is. Perhaps that makes me less angry – but I still hanker for a world where there was more communal social responsibility and less of the need for profanity.

And what was the movie that put me in an Adamesque rage you may well ask. Well it was a Canadian production called ‘Still Mine’. Like my own father was, eighty plus year old Craig Morrison (James Cromwell) is old school. He knows timber and he knows how to work magic with it. Due to his wife Irene’s increasingly addled ways he decides they need to downsize their housing arrangements before her onsetting dementia becomes more of an issue. He’ll build a smaller abode for them on his own land. He has that right – what could be simpler? Well, petty bureaucracy sees to it in this day and age that nothing can be simple, that owning one’s own land in fact gives you little in the way of rights to do with it what you want. Once he was underway, in comes officious officialdom to stymie his every move. No matter how much he is fleeced for the necessary permissions and certificates, there is always another obstacle placed in his way. Irene (a still gorgeous Genevieve Bujold) becomes more and more disorientated with life, so Craig takes the bit between his teeth, defies the authorities and completes the project. Of course this cannot be allowed; the bulldozers are threatened and he is taken to court. At this stage Hollywood intervenes, and commonsense, as well as baseball, saves the day – but why did it get to this? It is based on a true story, and Michael McGowan displays a light touch bringing the salutary tale to the screen. The tenderness displayed by the two veteran actors is touching as Craig battles the modern world to put a more realistic roof over the head of his ailing wife. He doesn’t rant. Mostly he retains a quiet, logical dignity against the incessant intrusion and red tape. Like ‘Amour’ and ‘Song for Marion’, ‘Still There’ delves into the issues of an ageing population, makes us think of the passage of time and for a few, makes us want to rage at how life has to become so complicated when love is so simple. And, yes, it made me want to rant like Adam Hills.

Phew! Now I feel better – as long as I don’t start to ponder on a nation that puts refugee kids in cages and may even yet possibly elect a Tony Abbott to lead it. Go the Ruddster!

See Adam Hills rant =

Friday, 21 June 2013

Battery Point

A Blue Room Book Review - No Sex in the City – Randa Abdel-Fattah

Sam de Brito writes regularly as a columnist for The Sunday Age, and writes well. Recently, though, it seems to me that some of his ruminations have taken on a more jaded tone that usual. I know from his jottings that he is a single dad of a young daughter, and it would seem that, rightly so, much of his world revolves around her. How he writes it it would seem he is a devoted, responsible parent – but it is patently clear it was a more than bitter Sam who wrote recently about the institution that presumably produced his beloved offspring. He scribed of the necessity of dumping monogamy altogether! He wrote of his observation that everywhere he goes he espies couples out of step with each other. Methinks that he himself may have been put through the relationship wringer and burnt – burnt badly.

De Brito argues that if humankind is to move forward and cope with a world of greater expectations and ever improving digital stimulation, then the need for such an outdated notion as attachment to one, and only one, partner for the duration is made redundant.

Gee, it would seem he has it bad, doesn’t he? He has truly been hurt by love. I think it wouldn’t take much to change his tune. He just has to meet the one.

On one level I do agree with him. If a relationship doesn’t ‘do it’, why stick in there? Why consign oneself to a life of quiet – or not so quiet – desperation and frustration. Why persevere? Of course there is the inbuilt need to multiply and continue the species, and the production of cherished little ones throws a curve ball into a desire to move on. Offspring can survive relatively unscathed the parting of the ways of two parents, provided the presence of the qualities our columnist obviously brings to the life of his little tot are abundant. A split can free up the disgruntled to resume the search for the one, and when he/she is found at the first, second or however many attempts, then life may be happier for all concerned. Out of the door, at this stage, goes pessimism re monogamy. Ah, if it was only so simple!!!

There is none of the de Brito-ish jadedness with the heroine of ‘No Sex in the City’ – she has no doubts about the plus factors in monogamy – her problem is finding the one, anyone, to commence the process. She is looking, looking – but her parameters are far narrower than for most. For Esma, pushing thirty, straddles two worlds. The first is marvellous, multicultural big city Australia where she and her polyglot of female companions live busy lives working in demanding jobs and doing worthy deeds for the downtrodden. These ladies are almost too virtuous. Esma’s boss is such a slime, but apart from that it is her other world that presents the barrier to finding someone to eternally share her life and produce her children. For in this world she must remain ‘virgo intacta’ till her wedding day, and many in her sphere only find a partner via the interference of relatives – i.e. arranged marriages. The Muslim community is more patriarchal than most, a place where family honour reigns supreme – but Esma and her ilk are quietly breaking down the barriers. Our heroine, though, has plenty of assistance in helping her find a suitable beau before her quickly approaching used by date arrives.

So this is ‘chick lit’ with a twist. From memory it is my first read of this genre – or are Nicholas Sparks and Helen Fielding cast in this orb? I had met the author, Randa Abdul-Fattah, at her book launch for this title, and was enchanted. I duly had the tome courteously signed by her for my writerly daughter, a fan of her YA novels – and it boomeranged back to me after her perusal. Initially I found the ‘goodness’ of its female protagonists most off-putting and wished for a modicum of imperfection or a dastardly deed or two – but they were not forthcoming. I struggled on till about half way through when two possible suitors came into the picture to vie for Esma’s heart. The novel picked up substantially at this point and I found it difficult to put down. One gentleman was so plainly ill-advised I began fervently barracking for the other, by which time I was hooked and just had to get to the end to see if my candidate won the prize. The book therefore progressed from semi-turgid to enthralling in a few pages, but am I won over to chick lit? More to the point, should a sixty plus male be even reading it at all? Despite the bipolar nature of her publication, and even if I would prefer a little more ying-yang in its characters, I just may be. I do not want ‘Fifty Shades..’, just perhaps a little more spice – or is that just the male coming out in me? A counter balance to Esma may have added some fire. Given that, I would not be adverse to other recommendations from my discerning daughter. I am keen to examine the Anita Heiss take in the same domain.

In all this I must not forget that males, particularly males of my dotage, are not the target audience and I suspect that twenty to thirty somethings would adore Esma’s travails. Now I’ll just go and have a looksee on my shelves for some suitable ‘grey lit’!

Sam de Brito's column =

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Rainforest Bright

Melbourne Vignettes – Of SOG and Attractions French

‘Pops, why has that black man pulled up his jumper and why is he pointing to his tummy?’

I was at the National Sports Museum which, as well as the gladiatorial sporting events held on its vast arena, is one of the attractions of the mighty ‘G. On a grey, miserable Melbourne afternoon it was just the place to while away a couple of hours, engrossed in the legends and legendary encounters of the two sports that have given me so much pleasure, and some heartbreak, over the last fifty odd years. Other physical pastimes that draw large audiences are featured here too, but it is Australian footy and cricket that rock my boat to the exclusion of all others. I was transfixed by the historical displays, nonetheless of which was a certain blonde spinner giving ‘in person’ a first hand account of ‘that ball’ to an adoring mini-throng. It was great stuff, but I knew through my perusings of my newspaper of choice that there was somewhere within a tribute to the flash of a moment, now thirty years gone, that changed how we as a nation approached a festering issue in our indigenous game. I eventually found the anniversary exhibit – and it was less than I expected – but I was nonetheless moved by the iconic snap, and those unpublicised that bookended it. As I read, an old man shuffled over, holding the hand of a young lad, aged six or seven years I would guess – too young to remember, but not too young to know. The little fellow observed the images, pondered and then posed. This is how his grandfather responded:-
‘You see, my boy, some buffoons in the crowd that day were giving him a hard time, saying nasty words, because he was Aboriginal. Back then not too many black men were playing the game, and he was replying to those silly folk by pointing at his skin, meaning just how proud he was to be that colour – as he should be.’

The boy nodded his head. He understood and he’ll remember.

A tribal elder – that old man on that grey day - was here passing down all the good that had come from that single photograph, doing so in a way that was simple, but still powerful. As with the elderly sage, Winmar, on that day long gone, also said it simply and effectively – a quietly proud man who was standing his ground. He did not realise the import of his stance, but that photographer did, together with his prescient editor.

I’d come to Melbourne for sport and art, but as well as SOG played the next evening in a losing cause, and as glorious as the art of other times was at Old Bearbrass’ great galleries, sometimes it is the little moments that stay in the memory. The aforementioned overheard question and answer is one such. Why, there is a prominent cartoonist of that city who has made, for himself, a healthy career earwigging the conversations of others.

I didn’t choose the marquee games of the round to attend on my return, after a decade or so, to viewing AFL football live. My stress levels would not have handled the Hawks/Blues clash as evidenced by the fact it turned out to be another ‘Friday night classic.’ Later Richmond showed its new found maturity by easily accounting for 2012 pretenders Adelaide. No, instead I chose lesser attractions. Firstly there was Essendon v the Gold Coast. I have been impressed with the way the Bombers have overcome an extreme adversity that would have seen a less committed group go under. But for me the attraction of that match was SOG – Son of God. Gary Ablett Jr is the offspring of a man whose prodigious gifts were freakish. Mix the best of Baldock, Daicos, as well as Rioli and still the combination would not match his feats, for these giants of the game are mortal. As the great Cat’s moniker suggests, his abilities were out of this world, possibly never to be equaled. Whereas ‘God’ was quicksilver, ‘Junior’ is gold – all zip, weave and run, run, run. On the night his team rarely looked like seriously challenging, but with his skull glistening he was still mercurial

The following evening I was keen to see another player whose silky skills have graced our game for a decade or more. Bob Murphy is nearing the end of his journey. He could have finished up in a team that was a contender, but chose to remain loyal to his beloved Doggies. The boys from the west were no match for a slick – at least in the first half – Collingwood outfit, and Murphy glided in and out of the game enough for me to be well satisfied. I suspect he’ll continue on with his writing, another factor that attracts me to him. For my money he will become his generation’s Martin Flanagan – and I can pay him no greater compliment than that. Over the two nights there were impressive solo cameos from Patrick Ryder and Travis Cloke – so I received my outlay’s worth despite disparity in the scores.

I have made it a rule to take in a movie at the venerable Kino each trip to the city on the brown river. Last time it was Amour, a film that filled me with cumulative sorrow. This time I viewed something entirely different, albeit still French, at the ‘Paris End' of Collins Street’s signature cinema. ‘Happiness Never Comes Alive’ filled my heart with joy and gave me a spring in my step after leaving. Sophie Marceau lit up the screen with the same luminosity as Jennifer Lawrence in the sublime ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. Gad Elmaleh, as her love interest, proved the perfect Gallic foil for her. Sacha (Elmaleh) has a flat bursting with naked young females at his beck and call, but as soon as he espies twice spurned mother of three Charlotte (Marceau), he is smitten senseless. She turns his world upside down. He eschews hedonism to try and fit into her busy, confused life. The scene where a child-phobic Sasha attempts to put her youngest (an infant Philip Seymour Hoffman doppelganger) to bed is worth the admission price alone and had me in fits. It is a film of music, Casablanca (the movie), Paris (the city) and kooky dancing. It is delightful French froth and will be one of my year’s best.

Of course the part of Collins Street containing the Kino is widely known as the Paris end, and I was amazed on my way to see Marceau et al that the dozen or so palaces of retail excess I passed had not one single customer – not one. Behind their counters numerous alabaster assistants stood stock-still to attention. When I returned after my screening, several hours later, it was the same situation. I felt for those girls. Obviously one conducts oneself with the utmost of discipline when gifted with positions of august significance in names such as Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani, Tiffany & Co, Bvlgari, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and so on. They were all rooted to the spot, mute with still not one customer – not one!

The French theme continued with the art I had left my island in the southern seas to examine. There was ‘Monet’s Garden’ at the NGV St Kilda Road. It was as gorgeous as I remembered from way back in another life when I first visited his Givenchy works at Paris’ Musée de l'Orangerie, the home of the great Impressionist’s water lily panels. Forty years on I refreshed my memories under antipodean skies. This exhibition culminated with a moving picture diorama of a day in the life of Monet’s garden. I relaxed in a comfy settee, watched and contemplated a possible but improbable addition to my bucket list - that being a spring day at the same location with my camera. The peaceful reverie for myself and several others similarly blissing out was rudely interrupted by the arrival of a matronly patron. She chose the venue of quietude to regale her friend, and others unfortunate enough to be within a wide radius of her, with the recent ‘amazing’ happenings in her own existence. I reluctantly moved on to see what the souvenir shop had to offer -  had it not have been for her I, like those poor shop assistants on Collins, would have remained rooted to that spot for hours, only happily so.

On this winter masterpiece’s coat tails was the showing up the road, at the NGV Fed Square, of ‘Australian Impressionists in France.’ This displayed glowing works by our expatriate artists who, around the turn of last century, decided to make their homes, temporarily or otherwise, in the city of light, as well as other French locales.  They were headed by John Russell, E.Phillips Fox, Charles Conder, Rupert Bunny and Hilda Rix. Their works do not match Monet in international reputation, but they do not stack up too badly either.

 E Phillips Fox - The Bathers
 My son recommended the Hollywood Costumes at the nearby ACMI building. He was right – it wowed the cinephile in me. Another highlight was ‘discovering’ Zetta Florence on Rue Brunswick. For a person who adores paper products I was somewhere between heaven and hell – the glorious cards, gift wrapping and journals – and the pure cruelty for this parsimonious by necessity punter.

Throughout my weekend away I missed my lovely lady, but I wasn’t entirely on my tod. I also had the great company of Brother James at the Monet and friend Graeme for the footy. The former took me to eatery ‘Bread and Butter’, at Camberwell Junction, where we dined heartily on home made salmon patties with special accompaniments. A fine marinated beef salad at ‘Grasshoppers Feast’ (The Causeway, Bourke Street Mall) was a fine farewell to this latest time in Yarra city.

What else? Well there was the impromptu performance of dancing and high pitched singing I witnessed early Monday morning at a tram stop on Swanston. The emitter of the not so dulcet yelps was a small, bald man with ear-pieces embedded. He was either not the ‘full shilling’, or just simply alive with the joyous prospect of another working week.

And then there were the smiles. Melbourne is always full of smiles to float me into appreciative candour. There was the stunningly vibrant young lady at ‘Aero Design Plus’, Collins Place, where I spent some time vaguely shopping whilst I awaited my movie. I was so smitten by her delightful chatter that I purchased a gift for my precious granddaughter. There was the young miss who rattled a can at me on my way to Etihad, on behalf of the Robert Rose Foundation, whose charming grin and twinkling eyes lit up the night sky. I had no choice but to divest myself of some change. Then there was the greeting girl ushering me in to the Hollywood costumes. Her smile was as glittering as some of the sequined gowns on display downstairs in faux-tinsel town. Finally there was the beautiful coffee coloured tot, dressed head to toe in pink, who enchanted a full No96 tram carriage. Nursed by her stunning, also coffee hued, mother, the little one burbled, chortled and smiled with the thrill of a winter’s day adventure out and about. She’d be the same vintage as Tessa Tyger, my cherished granddaughter – also a known charmer, whose own smiles light up my existence. At one stage this Melburnian tiny cherub opened up her arms as if embracing her enthralled audience and enclosing them with her own zest and vim for the wonder of the world. Her performance undoubtedly made their day. It made mine.

And the Hawks beat the Blues – Melbourne weekends do not come much better!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Bruny Wallaby

LFM and Tessa Tyger Ride Again

From far away Roland Country
Little Ford Man came to stay
With beloved Mother Fluffy Duck
For a week and a day, no more
Our enfant super-hero
Came to call the Blue Room home

Out and about in Hobart Town
Or shooting the river breeze
Our touristing Sheffield pair
Were having a festive ball
Life was bliss, and oh so fair.

But up on the Plateaux
Evil was a-stirring
Plans were being most foully hatched
Atrocious alliances were formed

And down they came a-thundering
The whole plurry, disgusting herd
Intent on creating mayhem and murder
Along Derwent Waters’ bullrushed banks

They joined their allies most loathsome
Slippery, slimy and most seething,
Being the utmost abhorrent of reptile
The odious, insidious estuary copperhead
Strewth! What a poisonous crew

From Blue Room slumber
Little Ford Man was jolted
Nanny Leigh-Leigh, Mother Duck
Was beside herself, apoplectic
‘LFM! LFM! Awake my little one
Those gnus
Those gnarlish, gnarlish gnus
Are out there, a sight most horrid
Just beyond your Blue Room window
They’re one hundred and one strong

And the snakes, the snakes
Those ugly, so ugly serpents
Are a-fanging and a-squishing
The cygnets, the ducklings
And baby pelicans too
And no! No! No! No!
Not my beloved turbo-chooks!

LFM! LFM! Rise up! Rise up!
You, and only you, know what to do’
And brave, brave Brynner arose
Espied the disturbing scene
Saw river grasses were a-shaking
The dust, the feathers, an awful racket
That rendered the air asunder

To father Keith of Kentish Lands
LFM’s first call was placed
‘Saddle him up. Saddle him up
And send him south to me’

Without panic, Daddy Keith
Knew what he must do
Summoned in the fursty flying ferret
And sent him on his way

At first Cyrano headed swiftly east, for
An important rendezvous was afoot
Unflappable LFM had been
Working the phone – and guess to whom?

Yes! Yes! Yes! For you see
He knew who else to call instantly
To that valiant, valiant braveheart
Staunchest of friends and valkyrie
Defender of the downtrodden
You now know who, don’t you?

‘Rob Roy Daddy Bear’ she cried
‘Go fetch my wooden sword, paper shield
And I will don the colander armour anew
And whistle up Old Whitebelly
I’ll need her before this is through’

In flew the majestic sea eagle
To lift up its precious fare
And together, off they set, to
Smote and to smite and smote once more
To defeat that unholy alliance most lousy

Above the windmill’s sails came
United the two behemoth carriers
And then our bravest of poppets
Did lower her gorgeous head
To whisper in her avian’s ear

The hoary, game old eagle
Let out an almighty screech
And around Lake Dulverton
She made an urgent sweep

And up from the forested floor
Arose a raptor host
A dozen warrior wedgies flew a-flapping
To join the righteous cause

Battle hardened and scarred
From many a noble battle
They were ready to serve
And pay back favours owed

Tessa Tyger raised her wooden sword
And pointed away to the south
And whilst she headed to Dromedary
She waved away the fearless Cyrano
To fetch his cargo, poste haste

With Tyger and the wedgies
Attacking from the rear
And cool, super calm Bryn
Coming from front on
Those gnarlish, gnarlish gnus
Simply had no where to go

Caught in a pincer movement
With ferocious birds clawing and a-nipping
They took to the water with alacrity,
Swam to the further shore, and
Once there, those revolting curs
They speedily hoofed it west
Whilst those sappy spineless asps
Well, they simply melted away

Cheering Nanny Mother Duck
With the fluffy one beside her
Yelled out to our victorious duo
‘Thank you. Thank you my special ones’
And waved farewell to a courageous mite
As she reined Old Whitebelly north

There was much sadness
At the loss of water fowl
But poo-cackers, swan and pelican
Would replenish, for that
They knew

Back to Blue Room
And to Tamar Lands
The two heroes went
Their separate way
And all know
Within their hearts
All that is good and just
Is there for now
And forever

And they are loved
So loved

Friday, 7 June 2013

Fern Frond

A Blue Room Book Review - A World of Other People – Steven Carroll

Sometimes I just hate books and book writers – I really do. Those who know me may be aghast at this confession of abhorrence given my track record as a reader, but matters will become clearer as you read on!

 Hell, I read the reviews in the weekend broadsheets and time and time again I encounter something right up my alley – then I remember that huge pile that sits awaiting beside my bed – not to mention the shelves full languishing back up north in Burnie. So I hate books when it means I have to think more than twice about adding another one to that pile.

I hate books when I meander innocently into one of my favourite bookshops – say Fullers, the State Cinema or, when in Melbourne, the St Kilda/Carlton Readings. Usually within five minutes I espy half a dozen or so tomes that would certainly be worth the dough to buy and read – that is, until I remember, yes, that pile beside the bed. The other day, just inside the door of the first establishment listed, I spotted a copy of ‘Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation’ by Judith Mackrell and it immediately piqued my interest. Of course that gilded age is all the rage at the minute because of a certain film doing the rounds, and though I was sorely tempted I – you guessed it – remembered that pile. As it is, I am currently reading of one of those dangerous women, Scott Fitzgerald’s missus in ‘Zelda’, a fictionalized account by Therese Anne Fowler. Another of the Jazz Age six is the subject of a novel that sits near the top of said pile – ‘The Last Nude’ (Ellis Avery) on the life and times of the remarkable artist Tamara de Lempicka. So the volume was placed back in its spot and I wandered deeper into the emporium of books to see what else would tempt me – plenty, as it turns out, but I refrained.

Now the main reason for those piles, up north and down by the river, was because, in my final year of teaching, I stockpiled. I was fearful that my years of retirement would be chastened by impecuniousness, thus I’d need a goodly number of tomes to be ‘going on with’. It has since turned out that life post sixty isn’t as straightened as initially feared, but that doesn’t diminish the pile.

After reading Steven Carroll’s ‘A World of Other People’ there is another title that I now wished I had chased up and purchased - Lara Feigel’s ‘The Love-charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in the Second World War’. You see this tome is a factual account of the lives of prominent literary figures during the London Blitz. Amongst those luminaries was TS Eliot – he of ‘The Wasteland’ and ‘Cats’ fame. I remember studying the former during my matriculation years, understanding very little of it, but still feeling it was ‘awesome’ - the work of a far superior mind to that of a callow provincial youth. And it is the one and same great man who features in ‘The World of Other People’. He is at first no literary behemoth, merely a roof-top warden, spotting fires around war torn Covent Garden. Carroll’s publication is loosely based around a poem from his celebrated ‘Four Quartets’ – his ‘flaming phoenix’ now taking the form of a crash landed Wellington bomber. Eliot’s fellow spotter is an ‘engaged’ young woman, Iris. In a state of co-incidence she later encounters the pilot of that plane, a clearly disturbed Australian airman, in a London park. Despite his damaged persona, she commits to a very truncated affair – truncated (spoiler alert) due to his sad and early demise. His is not the sort of death usually associated with Bomber Command.

It is a pretty simple tale really, and there’s the rub. Pared back to its bare bones, there is not much more than a short story in it – a novella at most. And now comes the reason I hate writers – or, at least, writers of Carroll’s calibre.

Despite the joy I receive from producing my own scribblings, I could not possibly, even with enough years given back to me, match the expertise of wordsmithery that Carroll produces in this resonating publication. Out from a very simple storyline he has crafted a work of rare class; one where beauty lies within his expertise with language rather than the narrative alone. He is able to layer and layer to weave a luminous, gossamer web of delight – heartbreakingly poignant in its depiction of the waste that is war.

The short time the two lovers have together is intensely handled. He also fills Iris’ decision to reluctantly part with the Aussie pilot to the brim with a sense of the waste of it all. There’s that word again – ‘waste’. They have but one window of time for reconciliation, but that is so gut-wrenchingly taken from them by something so simple, but so cruel, that any reader with a modicum of soul knows she/he is under the spell of a master.
Despite the comparison, I fully intend to plod on with my ruminations and attempts at fiction with the wonderful encouragement of a cherished daughter and partner. Besides, it keeps me out of mischief. If I wrote less that pile of books would diminish with some alacrity, allowing me to further indulge in binges of book buying. But writing for me brings equal joy to the reading – so my conundrum will remain.

 I really do hate books. I really do hate writers.

                                                                         Steven Carroll

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


An IWB and Balanda kids

‘Every Aboriginal person that is born is musical. It is our lifestyle. You grow up learning music, and dance. It teaches you to be courageous.’ Dr Yunupingu

I walked into the room
Didn’t say a word
Fired up the IWB*
Cued up the YouTube
Dispersed the hardcopies
Up loud went the volume
Clicked start
Didn’t say a word

My class on that day
Too young to remember
But not too young to know
Then fell silent
To the pulsating beat
The clap sticks
And the didgeridoo
Had roared into life

Like myself
He was a teacher
Of the young
And that day
He reached out
To Balanda** kids
Taught them
To understand
With a song and a plea
Reached out to them
From alien, far away
To my Yolla
Whitebread cherubs

They sang along
That day, to
Those plaintive, vibrant
Words on white paper
He connected
He really did
Then they cried out
In unison
Play it again, Mr L
Play it again

And now, this day
We weep
Along with Peter and Paulx2
Archie, Troy, Kev and Dan
For he too
Has now passed on
To that Dreamtime in the sky
Beyond the Rainbow Serpent
But the song
His music
Will keep
The R spirit close

His name
To his people
Means ‘rock –
A rock that
Will stand against

And with that courage
He did
With that voice
He sang
That teacher

This land was never given up
This land was never bought and sold
The planting of the Union Jack
Never changed our law at all

Now two rivers run their course
Separated for so long
I'm dreaming of a brighter day
When the waters will be one

* Interactive White Board
** Non-indigenous Australians

'Treaty' =

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Peace 10 - Bruny Island

Not a One Horse Race

Back in February I was entranced by one of the first films I viewed for the year – ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. I then made the rash statement that it was ‘lay down misère’ – that SLP would be at the top of the list on the Blue Room’s Best Films of 2013. I naively felt that there certainly couldn’t be a better film this year than that perfect gem, could there? In Melbourne, shortly after, I watched the remarkable ‘Amour’. It was a masterpiece, but its draining sadness still had SLP in first place. Later came ‘A Song for Marion’, the upside of ‘Amour’, but the oldies in that, as glorious and as heartfelt as they were, were still no match for Jennifer Lawrence’s star turn. The lead actor in ‘Rust and Bone’, Matthias Schoenaerts, took my breath away, with Mads Mikkelsen being almost as impressive in the Danish drama ‘The Hunt’. And then there was Daniel Day Lewis in ‘Lincoln!’

Despite all those incredible movies and acting performances (throwing in ‘Life of Pi’, which absorbed me just before SLP), the David O Russell directed opus still remained top of my list. It had moved just about every emotion in this hoary sixty plus year old body of mine. But, hell, along comes my latest viewing ‘A Place for Me’, and that has given me some serious thinking to do – and we’re not even half way through the year! Does that movie do the trick? Does it overtake SLP? Maybe, maybe not – but gee, it was good!

I suppose its sucker punch was its subject matter – dysfunction within a writerly family. The father, William Borgens (Greg Kinnear in surely one of his better roles) is an established scribbler, currently suffering writer’s block due to the break-up of his marriage to Erica (a Jennifer Connelly hardly being stretched). The shining lights of the movie, though, were the younger Borgens. Lily Collins (daughter of famed drummer Phil) is not quite Jennifer Lawrence – yet. She truly shone, however, along the same lines as the feisty Samantha. She has just followed in her screen dad’s footsteps and published her first novel. Initially trailing in her wake is Rusty, the nerdy sensitive son, oh so engagingly played by Nat Wolf. Logan Lerman, as Samantha’s love interest Lou, is an on screen charmer of the first order as well. It really is a sublime feat of casting to get a youthful brigade together that would all seemingly have the chops to go the distance in the industry. Only Liana Liberato, as Rusty’s troubled girlfriend, seemed somewhat underdone. As well as all this there was the icing of a Stephern King cameo (of sorts) towards the end.

The sound track can often make or break a film. With this film’s I must admit it did become a distraction for me, but in a good way. The disparate voices presented were all so appealing I found myself reaching into the recesses of my mind to try and identify the artists. Being unsuccessful I then waited for the credits to roll through to the list of tracks. I found that all, bar a few, were unknown to me. But I’ll be hunting out the soundtrack CD, now knowing I will need to search under the movie’s US appellation – ‘Stuck in Love’. Why change a perfectly apt name for Aussie release?????
This is the first directorial assignment for Josh Boone, and methinks we’ll be hearing (and watching) much more from him. He is next slated to produce a visual version of John Green’s stunning fourth YA novel ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. He wasn’t quite brave enough to steer this vehicle away from what I must admit was a somewhat cheesy Hollywood ending, but I nonetheless left the cinema with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. If only all life’s problems could come together so neatly in the end!
My years of retirement allow me unfettered time for movie going and so far in 2013 I have been blessed with some cinematic gold. Will APFM pip SLP for Blue Room supremacy – that still requires much rumination. For that, dear reader, you’ll be required to wait in undoubted anticipation for year’s end. By then, who knows what else may have emerged – but I have been chastened. I will not rush into rash predictions so prematurely again!

Stuck in Love/A Place For Me Website =