Sunday, July 21, 2013


The year is flying so fast I feel a bit freaked out. I just want it to slow down a little...or maybe I need to slow down a little...nah, life's too short baby!!
So I have done pretty well in June, lots of things ticked off my 42 things list. I had pockets of busy, busy and pockets of stillness, which I really needed.
3. Have one night a week where I turn off all electronics and read
Yes! Still not a regular habit though, hopefully by the time the year is out.

4. Walk more and explore my own surroundings
Yes, been walking at lunchtime when the weather is ok and after work. Still need to get into a better routine, winter is so hard. Explored a bit of Maitland and also lots of the Watt Street area with City Evolutions.

7. Learn to cook 5 basic, healthy meals I can whip up easily
I have been experimenting with easy cooking. Made up a version of a Beef Stroganoff that was pretty easy. Been cooking up things like Vegetable pie, Zucchini slice and corn fritters on a Sunday so I can have them for meals during the week with veges or salad. I love food, but don't care much for cooking, so try to keep it simple.
8. Don't let the things that usually bother me, irritate me too much
This has been a hard one the past month or so. I find it difficult to shut my brain off, and tend to dwell on stuff, and truly that only leads to no good. I have been getting so much better at not doing this over the years but occasionally I slip. Usually it is work that gives me the poops, but it has been a whole range of other little things that just added up this month. Call it the black dog or the blues or as Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly called it, The Mean Reds (I love that!!) I had it, still do a little to be honest. I think we all go through this from time to time and I see no shame in calling it that. A lot of people say they love all the stuff I do and my life...and I do too, but it's not perfect...believe me!! It's very difficult to walk in the shoes of a single woman, especially at my age, but as Carrie Bradshaw said that is why we need really special shoes.
So how does one beat off the Mean Reds!?! Here are my tips:
1. Wallow a little, this is ok, have a day (only one) in bed, have a good cry, think about what is making you feel shite, yeah it makes you feel shite-er, but better than ignoring it!
2. Process it all - write it down, talk to a friend, I have the best friends anyone could ask for, they listen to me, and I to them and a problem shared is always a problems halved.
3. Go for a walk, that helps you mull it all over and gets endorphins going that can help fight those mean reds.
4. Wash it out in the shower...I love this, have a long, long shower and think about all the things and ensure they go down the plughole with the dirty water!!!
5. Pick yourself up and do the things that make you joyful. For me it's music or a funny movie...but laughter always ensues.
6. Keep busy AND take time to be calm and quiet - hence the month I have had.
7. One more thing I do and I wish I didn't, but I tend to eat comfort food...this is why I do NOT have the body of a supermodel...but nobody's perfect!
How am I doing now? Ok! But more importantly, how are you???

13. Write more, post on my blog more regularly
Yep, been writing heaps. For work, for my work writing group, for me, for the blog and a few other projects.
Here is a link to my online profile on ABC Open. I host a writing group at my work. I am merely the facilitator, and we all encourage each other, so of course I must join in too! It's memoir based and loads of fun.

14. Whip my little back yard back into shape
Oh yes, During the earlier months of June I spent a fair bit of time digging in the dirt, which I find is also good for the soul. Trees and bushes trimmed, pots repotted, things rearranged and all looking ship shape.
15. Spend more time outdoors and less time indoors
Between gardening, walking and being out and about I have gotten it to 50/50 I reckon!
17. Mini breaks to my favourite places - Melbourne (not been since 2011!!), The Blue Mountains, Mid North Coast, and try new ones
Finally heading back to Melbourne in August, been close to 18 months since I have been which is way too long. I have a little apartment in the heart of the city, plan on seeing the Monet Exhibit, Australian Impressionists in Paris Exhibit, and the Hollywood Costumes at the ACMI and quite possibly King Kong: the musical! Plus lots of walking and photography, some laneway shopping, a bit of my beloved St Kilda and Prahan. Melbourne is my favourite place to vacation in Australia, someone said to me the other day I always thought you'd move there. Funny, She was right it is something I have considered many, many times, but then, where would I vacation? Plus Newcastle has so much awesomeness to offer at the moment, I don't want to miss a single thing!
19. Eat and drink out more/20. Get through my list of local restaurants and cafes
I ate at the lovely cafe at Maitland Art Gallery, had heard great things and totally concur, it's perfect for lunch. Went to Agosti twice to eat, for breakfast and dinner, both superb. The rest were favs I got to regularly. We had a Swansea Library Team dinner at Caves Beach Hotel, always great there. Indian at Raj's Corner, Gozleme from the markets, Pork Belly at The Royal Inn, Thai at Charlestown, and Coffee at Talulahs and Bella Beans.
26. Go to the farmers markets regularly
This is part of my routine now, always a pleasure.
28. Entertain more
I used to entertain at my old Club Cathy as it was set up better to have people over. New Club Cathy not so much and I need a new dining setting, or at least chairs, so I have not really entertained for a long while. However I had friends over for supper and lunch recently and it was lovely on both occasions, I love where I live so I should have people round more often!
31. Have fun and laugh more at work
Work has continued to be zen and joyful, which after so many years of challenges is so amazing. We do laugh and enjoy what we do, the more we do it the more good comes our way and the more we enjoy it, it's like a crazy loop of fun...not complaining!
33. Go to lots of fun social events
Yes! Lots of social events this month. And other bits and pieces.
C & I went to see Doctor Who on the big screen at Glendale at the very beginning of the month. 2 episodes and it was wonderful, I bought myself a Tom Baker scarf for the occasion, it's a beauty!
I had a 6 day break from work early in June, where I relaxed a bit, did nothing, read, caught up on DVDs, walked and went to the movies (more on that later).
I had S over for lunch and C for supper. I met J for coffee and caught up with the Bibliotweeps for Bookclub.
I went to the opening of City Evolutions, which was a whole street, Newcastle's oldest Watt Street, dedicated to illuminations and light shows. A must see for sure.
Then there was the travelling Sydney Film Festival and lunch at Maitland Art Gallery.
Work farewell at Caves Beach Hotel, Mum's birthday celebrations starting at The Royal Inn and a sisters day of shopping and lunch.
On the sporting front, lots of F1 and Le Tour watching and went to Lambton oval to see my nephew play soccer.

Movies I've seen
S & I saw The Other Son, a French film about two young men, one Israeli, and one Palestinian, who find they are swapped at birth. It was a very subtle and beautifully directed film, with excellent acting showing this very human drama against a political and religious backdrop.

D & I saw Qui m'aime me suive as part of Newcastle Film Society's collaboration with Francaise Alliance for French Fridays. It was about a young doctor who decides to throw it all away to get his old band back together. It was very funny and about pursuing your dreams. The band does all right, his wife and father are disgusted, there are lots of funny twists and turns and some tensions, but ultimately a very disappointing ending. Great music and he was rather cute.
I saw The Look of Love, Mood Indigo and Muscle Shoals at the Travelling Sydney Film Festival. The Look of Love was another Steve Coogan/Michael Winterbottom collaboration. I adore Winterbottom's varied output, but his tragi/comedies with Coogan are fabulous and this biopic about Paul Raymond, London entrepreneur was no exception. The Look of Love was a titillating, funny and ultimately sad look at Raymond's life. Outstanding acting, and fabulous 60s set design. 
L & I saw Mood Indigo, directed by Michel Gondry. I adored his first film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but each film since then has been disappointing. His films are eccentric for sure, and always have moments of surreal within, but this was full blown Satre surreal and quite possibly would have been better understood under the influence of something! Visually it was spectacular, and Audrey Tautou is always great, but that didn't save it from being incomprehensible. The final film, Muscle Shoals was a documentary and a revelation, L & I loved it. If you love music, this is a must see, read my review here:

And I was thrilled to see North by Northwest, my favourite Hitchcock film on the big screen, follow the link for the review:
Books Read
I read a lot during June, here is a selection of the best.
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry, a novella of 92 pages about a librarian and her inner most thoughts, told as a one way conversation to a customer locked in over night. It is sad, funny, snooty and joyous, it's about books, the Dewey Decimal Classification system, her passion for Martin - a researcher who doesn't know she exists and of course her love of literature. Translated from the French it is a must read for all lovers of libraries and literature.
The Last Thread by Michael Sala. Michael is a local I discovered at the writer's festival and this is a novel as memoir about his life, growing up, his family and the things that happened as he saw it. His upbringing was difficult with challenging father figures, a depressed mother, lots of moving including countries. Powerful, honest, and heartfelt, I didn't want it to end, I wanted to be sure he was ok, I think he is. It is a book that stays with you long after you turn the last page, a must read.
Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany has won lots of awards. Set in the 50s, a young family live in the outback, there is no father, just Mum and the two kids, the rest of the town wonder about them and keep these strange people at an arm's length. A male neighbor keeps an eye on them and develops a close relationship. This was difficult to read, but beautiful. It was very sensual, descriptive, included poetry and lots of bird watching. It's hard to categorize, but you can see why it has been talked about.

The Secret Museum by Molly Oldfield. A Non Fiction book about secret treasures in museums, art galleries and libraries of the world. Loved it so much I reviewed it here:

Girl Defective by Simone Howell. A teen book set in St Kilda about a family who live above and run a record store. My type of book! It is about looking for the truth, finding your flock and caring for those that are a little different in this crazy old world. I loved it.
The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Another teen, this a classic coming of age story, made recently into a film. Wonderful and real, funny and heartbreaking, this is a must read. Especially for those that struggled to fit in and the joy of finding someone similar to you.
The Vogue Factor by Kristie Clemons. An autobiography by the former Vogue editor. This was a bit too me me me for me and very vacuous, not exactly The Devil Wears Prada, though you could tell she thought it was...tsk tsk.

At Home by Bill Bryson. I listened to Bill read this amazing Non Fiction history behind the home as we know it and how it changed over the years. Outstanding range of information, that included the obvious and the less so. Mostly brilliant, but at times too detailed. I think it would be a tough book to read, but fascinating to listen to.
Getting the Pretty Back by Molly Ringwald. This is a beauty guide to being a strong female type of book laced with small servings of Molly's life, especially from her reign as Teen Queen in the 80s. It was cute, but I wanted more of the autobiographical elements, which really the book was not about. I guess one day she will write that one, and divulge what it was like to kiss Andrew McCarthy...sigh.
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is/was one of my favourite writers, someone whom I did not always agree with but someone who's honesty and morality I adored no matter what. This is a short book, around 100 pages, and put together after his untimely death by Grayden Carter. It is mostly from Vanity Fair columns and contains eloquent musings on cancer, illness, dying, and death. He also includes a lot of research he did, including how to deal with people, how they approached him. He also wrote about writing, something he had not done much of before. How to write and find your voice, outstanding especially when intertwined with how much he hopes he doesn't loose his 'voice' as he becomes more ill. The final chapter is written by his wife, with a little insight into the great man.
All that I Am by Anna Funder was the Bibliotweeps June read. I adored Funder's first book, the Non-Fiction Stasiland, so had been keen to read her follow up, this time a novel. About the period before WWII and a group of people who saw very early on that Hitler was no good and how they tried to bring him down. It is told from two perspectives of two of the people. One a man in the 40s just after WWII ended and the other a woman living in Australia in the present looking back at the period. It is thrilling and upsetting and outstanding. The brevity of these people based on events Funder researched and put together with fictional gap filling. It made you think, what would you do in such a position, would you be brave enough to go against hundred of thousands who initially thought Hitler was the second coming?

DVDs watched
I also managed quite a few DVDs, here are some.

Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky is a modern classic. Starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich as a couple travelling in the Sahara with companion, Campbell Scott. Their marriage is deteriorating, Scott's character interferes. It is a meandering (in a good way), slow paced film, with a few unexpected twists and an odd ending. The acting is excellent and cinematography stunning. In fact, it could be said The Sahara is the star of the film. It's the perfect film for an afternoon where you need to disappear into another world.
Grand Designs Series 10, the one I believe that is playing on tele at the moment. I really do have a thing for Kevin McCloud, but the renovations are remarkable. I love the crazy formations of pieces like the very tall water tower into a home, or the quirky builds like the underground art house. But mostly it is the people they pick, more often megalomaniacs with way too much money on their hands.
I love documentaries, good quality ones and Ken Burns is one of the best documentary filmmakers there is. His latest series is The Dust Bowl, about the dust storms in America in the 30s. He interviews survivors, has some fabulous still photography and film footage, but mostly it was the amazing tales of heroism against this phenomenal tragedy.
The perks of being a Wallflower gave the book a resurgence of interest. About a young boy who does not really fit in with everyone else at his school. He carries with him a history of turmoil that unfolds slowly throughout. He finally finds some friends that get him, outcasts themselves and for the first time he finds he fits in, but at what cost. The young actors playing these characters are outstanding, this is a deep and dark film with splashes of joy and laughter throughout. A perfect teen movie indeed. 

Liberal Arts, starring Josh Radnor as an ex student coming back to his college to celebrate the retirement of his favourite professor, Richard Jenkins. He meets Elizabeth Olsen becomes smitten despite he being much younger. This was a sweet movie and the characters were lovely with depth, but ultimately didn't go that far.
Looper - a complicated to explain sci-fi/time travel film that was outstanding. In the simplest explanation, organised crime groups in the future use time travel to send people they want murdered back in time. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the loopers that does the murdering. But when his future self, Bruce Willis, is sent to him, confusion reigns. Emily Blunt is great as a woman who may or may not be the answer to completely cut the loop. Willis and Gordon-Levitt are also great.
Dark horse was Todd Solondz's latest, about a couple in their thirties who fall in love. Abe meets Miranda at a wedding, he still lives at home with his suffocating parents, Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken, works for the family business and collects toys. Selma is depressed and self medicates. He finally wears her down and she agrees to meet him on a date, things go a little haywire after this. Part melancholy, part dark, dark humour, this is an odd film, which is usual for Solondz but this felt sloppy in parts and didn't have the awe left by Happiness or Welcome to the Dollhouse, his earlier classics.

Now for three I didn't care much for, I try not to be negative, but also this is to stop you wasting your time on crap too!
Hope Springs with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as an aging couple who are tired of each other, or more so him or her. They head away for a week of couples counselling. They are great actors, Streep I adore, but something just didn't connect with me. I found it tiresome and boring, and I think they cruised through the movie.
Quartet, I was excited about this film directed by Dustin Hoffman about retired Opera singer and classical musicians. It was sweet and simple and the cast extraordinary, but I felt it was a mediocre film. I wanted more passion and Opera and I just refuse to believe people of that calibre would be so annoying later on. Or maybe they were annoying because they were old and couldn't reach the dizzying heights that they had when they were younger, this was touched on as a theme,  but I found myself not caring. It lacked something. I think it's a nice film your grandmother might find sweet. 

Pitch Perfect, the less said about this disgusting dog of a movie the better, I don't know what's worse, the fact I watched it at all, or the fact I watched it to the end, in hope of something good. I think kids would like this, but really anyone above 10 would find it juvenile and tiresome.

And so onto the most magnificent thing I have seen this month, Game of Thrones. I have had both Series 1 and 2 for some time, but just been waiting for time to sit down and watch and so I devoured Series 1 in less than a week. I cannot say how brilliant it is. You have heard it from everyone who has seen it, go and do yourself a favour and watch simply the best television I have seen in a long, long time. 
Taken from George R. R. Martin's very popular series of books and indeed shaped by Martin himself, Game of Thrones is a classic medieval tale of Seven Kingdoms ruled by the Iron Throne and those that fight for it. The stories, kingdoms and characters are intertwined and epic, infused with fantasy. Most characters are neither good nor evil, but have a little of both within them, which makes for substantive storytelling. Women are strong and powerful too, which I find awesome. 
Stand out characters are Peter Dinklage (who I have loved since The Station Agent) as Tyrion Lannister (smart and funny, but not taken seriously by anyone due to his short stature), Maisie Williams as Arya Stark (on the run disguised as a boy, she will strong and indeed a player of the future) , Jack Gleeson as Joffrey (I am yet to meet anyone who does not want to slice him in half, evil mutant he is), Emilia Clarke as Khaleesi (Mother of the Dragons) and Kit Harrington as Jon Snow (bloody gorgeous, that's all), amongst many, many other great characters.

The sets are spectacular, especially the set of the Night's Watch, with it's massive wall and extraordinary lift that goes up the side of it! I could go on forever, but I shan't, just go and watch if you haven't!
I watched Chris Isaak Live, Memphis recordings on DVD, his voice is sexy and sublime, been a fan since Blue Hotel and seen him live, he is delectable and makes great music.
I have been listening to a lot of french music, compilations I have found from work and quite enjoying them.
I also bought the new She and Him (Volume 3), as always a soulful album of melancholy and sweetness harking back to the late 50s, early 60s. Hypnotic and divine.
PS Not as many photos this month as I was without my phone for a few weeks, while it was getting a new was only 5 months old, the less said the better!

Sunday, July 7, 2013


My first glimpse of Deborah Conway was on Countdown in the Man Overboard film clip and I was sold. Her voice was unlike anything I had heard before; strong, loud, angry and took no prisoners, but also beautiful and haunting. Do Re Mi was the name of her band, and they were rock/pop with an angsty grunge overtone, before angsty and grunge were used as musical terms! Then the band split and that was that. 
During this time Deborah also performed/dubbed the lead vocals for The Takeaways, a fictional band on the television show, Sweet and Sour. Tracey Mann's character sang with Deborah's voice!!! Great show and music though. It was also during this time, that Deborah was with Paul Hester of Split Enz, (then Crowded House), and what a pair they made. 
Basically, I wanted to be her when I grew up, I must have been 13 or 14.
In the early 90s she released her stunning solo debut album, String of Pearls, one of my all time favourite albums. Its songs of falling in and out of love were the backdrop to a romance of my own at the time, enhancing my love of the album. Her follow up Bitch Epic, with an amazing shot on the front with a nude Deborah covered in chocolate, was also excellent. 
She continued to release solo albums during the 90s all of which were great but did not live up to the giddy heights of the first two. She drifted out of the radar of charts and commerical radio in the 2000s, but had continued to release thoughtful albums independently with her husband, Willy Zygier. Willy is an astonishing guitar player and whilst having no real commercial success, I feel they are delivering some of their best work.
I saw her live twice in the early 90s and was blown away at her amazing stage presence and that voice, she sounded far better live than she ever did on recordings...which were brilliant! And whilst a band certainly added to the impact of her songs and voice, really all she needed was a guitar and she had you in the palm of her hand. 
The second time I saw her my friends' band, The Hipslingers, supported her. This was very exciting, even though the venue was The Castle. I'm sure Novocastrians of refined and real taste would never have had the horror of entering through the front doors of The Castle! Hardly a rock venue and not a venue I would consider attending normally, it was not the right choice for these individuals. I was mortified, but not at all surprised, at how rude the 'audience' were, talking loudly through both performances. That aside, it was an awesome night of superb entertainment.
And so the years turn and whilst never forgotten, she hasn't been at the forefront of my musical turntable. Occasionally I would hear a tune, of see her mentioned, and even see her tour, but somehow the stars never aligned.  
Then finally, A & I got tickets to see her at Lizotte's last week, and it was sublime. Just Deborah and Willy and amped up guitars. Their latest album, Stories of Ghosts, is a tribute to their Jewish heritage! So deep subject matter, but beautiful songs. 
Lizotte's is like heaven for me. I can take or leave clubs and pubs unless a good band is playing. The first time I went there I knew I had come home. It's quirky musical and scrabble tribute stylings, laid back and uncrowded positioning of tables, black and burgundy furnishings. A harp in the old Go Go dancer cage and vinyl records stapled to the walls...even in the bathrooms. If I owned a club, this is pretty much what it would look like.

There was no support act this night, A & I had a drink and a meal and were waiting on dessert when Deborah and Willy took to the stage.
Deborah looked gorgeous in a deep red frock, hair short, and an old acoustic guitar. Willy resplendent in a suit and tie, and a range of guitars and a mandolin.
Deborah was loud yet shy, whereas Willy was quiet and restrained yet confident. A complementary couple, comfortable performing together, 22 years Deborah said at one point...making us all feel a little old. Her voice was as stunning as ever, possibly better than I ever heard it, her range gobsmacking, hitting a few operatic notes at times. Willy's guitar playing had me transfixed, he was gentle but a maestro. 

They played the new album in order, in its entirety, bar the last song. Deep, philosophical songs, but beautiful and pounding rhythms and melodies, I was impressed. Deborah told little stories along the way, it was a lovely experience, sipping my wine, partaking my dessert, being swept away by their music and their heart and souls.
The 'second' part of the show - there was no intermission - featured older songs, a selection that covered over 20 years. They played String of Pearls, the title track from the most popular album, and she was a little reluctant to play it, almost unsure, and Willy had to coax her along. She said she stuffed it up a few shows ago, but maybe the heady heights of the past are hard to live up to. She shouldn't worry, it was beautifully played and well received. She followed it up with Today I am a Daisy, a fun song that I had totally forgotten existed...these are moments I love in a concert. You know an artist so well, but forget the little gems and they surprise you when they appear.

They did an encore that featured a Jewish ditty, and a 20s/30s blues song, the name escapes me, but was a perfect showcase for Deborah's deep, amazing voice.
And then it was over, we all wanted more. I really wished she had sung my favourite song, Buried treasure, a song that has been resonating more and more with me in recent times, but as the Stones sang, You can't always get what you want!
And then came the moment, and this is the reason I most adore Lizotte's, where the musicians come out to the front foyer to sell their CDs. I didn't have the new album, had been holding off purchasing it for this very reason, nor the one before. At 2 for $50, you know you money is going straight to the people who deserve it, I love that!!!
So, I lined up, nervous, as much as I adore Deborah, she is a little bit intimidating, those big dark eyes and strong features, I imagine she doesn't suffer fools gladly and neither do I! What do you say, I hate those gushy, vacuous exchanges. The chick before me, got Deborah to sign her gold jacket (yes, gold jacket!), I do not think Deborah was impressed. 

I selected my discs, and gingerly approached and of course was a total dope, A reckons I was cool and she was impressed, but she's my friend, she has to say that!
I vaguely remember handing over my money and saying great concert or something like that, looked into Deborah's eyes, freaked out and turned my attention to Willy! I told him I thought he was an excellent guitar player, then realised that sounded a bit odd, so I said I knew that from your records, but seeing you made me realise how very good you were. He took it in his stride, as did Deborah. And then in a style, known only to me, I continued (rather than stepping away) and asked him about the transition from guitar to mandolin...something I genuinely was interested in, as have been wanting to do it myself for some time. he gave me some advice and we chatted a bit, Deborah also added he was a great sax player. Again, I couldn't help myself and before I knew it I had uttered the words, I play the flute...WTF!?!?! I then added, oh god, that's so daggy and Deborah replied she thought I'd be a groovy flute player, unsure whether she was genuine or taking the piss, I took the CDs they had so generously signed and disappeared out the front door, mortified but still on that gig high.

Funny story nonetheless, and really, so awkwardly me, I am hardly surprised by the exchange at all.
I'll include some videos now, for your listening pleasure:

Man Overboard with Do Re Mi...featuring lyrics such as pubic hair, anal humour and penis envy!
I sooo wanted that jacket of hers!

Release Me, first track from String of Pearls, great vocals and lyrics.

It's Only The Beginning, the big hit off String of Pearls, fun film clip!

Today I Am A Daisy, from Bitch Epic. Video not great, but sounds good!

A favourite duet from Rockwiz, with Tex Perkins, on Love Hurts (one of my favourite songs)

God, from the new album, with God played by Deborah...of course.

The Writing's on the Wall, also the new album, beautiful.