Monday, June 13, 2016


The month started drizzly and cool, after a quick trip to the markets, I then spent the day in Cessnock with A.

We continued to be busy at work, more and more training, projects starting to come together, Star Wars Day, and Library and Information Week which had school visits, Biggest Morning Tea, and my SM for Seniors course.
May is the month of spectacular sunsets, so many an afternoon was spent pulling the car over to grab a fine pic.

We had a lovely discussion about a favourite book, Olive Kitteridge, at Book Club, and enjoyed a day with the family for Mother's Day.

I finally caught up with my bestie, C, and we had tea and chatter, a night out at Cardiff Library learning about Bees, great Thai takeaway and more chatter and laughs, Oh how lifted I feel after just moments in this gal’s presence, but hours...even better!

My clever cousin, D, has been moving her stunning art onto Etsy. But often we see a sneak preview on Facebook. I was eyeing off a series of night time paintings of my beloved Sydney Opera House, but the colours she was using wouldn’t work with my decor at home. I silently willed her to paint a blue and green one and she did. I waited patiently for it to arrive in her store so I could send off an order. We were both equally excited, and the art looked even better in real life. I am still trying to work out where to hang it!

A and J and I headed to the Lambton Park Hotel for an 80s cover night, which was ok. But always nice to get out, give something new a go, and of course spend time with my gals!
The middle Saturday of the month was what I call perfect weather, sun shining but a coolish breeze, I had a nice sleep in, got the washing out, then had a long long walk around the lake before hitting the markets, and bringing home fruit, veges, and lunch. Friends had recommended Lena Dunham’s podcast, and I spent the afternoon writing in my study, listening to these remarkable women with the sun shining through...perfection!

Eurovision was also a highlight over this weekend, with my favourite winning, and Australia coming in second. What I love the most is the online community and their wit during this fun weekend.
I also went to two evenings of Science at The Edwards for a Pint of Science with C, and brilliantly organised by L. What a joy these evenings were, learning about cells and DNA and such on the Monday night, and Space Science and 3D printing on the Wednesday.

I had a splendid evening at City Hall listening to Sydney Symphony Orchestra play Schubert, Mozart, Schultz, and Prokofiev. Always a delight, I cannot begin to say how much I love hearing classical music live. I should do more of it, as it is a totally relaxing and divine experience.

The month ended with a lovely visit to The Tea Project on King Street with A and B. I highly recommend an escape there, the atmosphere is relaxing and otherworldly, the food and tea superb. And of course catching up with my lovely friends was really the highlight.

And as always a few pics from here and there.

APIA Good Times Tour 2016

I was lucky enough to attend the APIA Good Times Tour for about the 3rd year running. I usually go with my lovely friends E and C but due to some last minute issues they were unable to attend so Mum and Dad came along in their place. The three of us had a rockin’ good time, but I missed E and C.
We took our seats at the beautiful Civic Theatre early and got some splendid people watching in before the concert started. A concert of that type attracts some remarkable people! There were the cutest little boy and girl sitting the row in front of us, they ended up being JPY’s grandkids!

JPY began the concert with a bang. Oh my, it may well have been the best start to a concert ever that I have seen. He came out and delivered a supreme cover of Down Among the Dead Men (Flash and the Pan). It’s a pretty loud, powerful song and JPY just slayed us with his version. I love that song and I love JPY so I was thrilled and that alone was worth price of admission. But he just kept on going, delivering a sublime set of greatest hits {Pasadena, Keep on Smiling, Do Wah Diddy, Standing in the Rain, I Hate the Music, Yesterday’s Hero} and the band was tight and he sounded better than I had ever heard him sound. He was simply on fire and killed! And he knew it, but not in a cocky way, just a way a good musician knows his stuff. His banter with the crowd and those he knew within was funny and humble and sweet, he smiled or rather grinned the entire set.  I have no idea how the others came on after him, he was without a shred of doubt the star of the show.

Next up was Kate Ceberano, she was on the bill last year (each year someone hangs over a year to steer the ship so to speak). I do love Kate’s voice but can take or leave her pop stuff. The first half of her session was that {Brave, Pash, Bedroom Eyes, Let Me In} but then she moved to the keyboards and did a stirring rendition of First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. This sort of ballad, along with blues and jazz it what suits her voice best. She followed that up with Songbird, I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Help and had the audience in raptures.

After intermission Daryl Braithwaite came on, now I grew up with Sherbet, Dad was a huge fan, so I knew all of those songs, but I can really take or leave his solo stuff, especially that awful Horses song. I know it was a great Ricki Lee Jones song, but he just spoiled it. Anyway, his set list was as follows; Rise, Something about the blues, some new crap song, Days Go By, One Summer, Horses. So yeah, I was less than impressed, but the thing is he does have a good voice and he wasn’t even cutting it with that. That lovely falsetto was sometimes there and sometimes not.

Jon Stevens rounded out the four and rocked us all home. I saw Noiseworks many times back in the day and they were always a great loud rock band. He hadn’t changed much, in voice and in looks. Still a rock god. Dad did say that he could tell that he had a good voice but why did he yell so much, and I do tend to agree. He did knock Never Tear Us Apart out of the ballpark in the middle of his set, reminding us he toured with INXS for some years. INXS is the one band I have never seen and that is my favourite song of theirs, and it was unexpected so I admit to shedding a tear or two during it. His set was Take Me Back, No Lies, Woman, New Tear Us Apart, Hot Chili Woman, Reach Out.

After a short break Kate Ceberano came back on stage singing Everything’s Alright  from Jesus Christ Superstar. Her voice was born to sing this song, Jon Stevens joined her to reprise his role, and JPY and Braithwaite shared Farnham’s role. To say this was outstanding would be an understatement.  After that they all sang Howzat followed by Love Is In The Air much to the audience’s delight. Both sounded fabulous.

The finale was a joyous and raucous version of Good Times by The Easybeats and we really didn’t want it to end.  Days later I still have Down Among The Dead Men and Everything’s Alright going through the jukebox in my head. They were the highlights for me. And I eagerly await 2017s tour.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sydney Writers Festival 2016

It has been a few years since I attended Sydney Writers Festival…a myriad of reasons…so I was up early and excited about my day soaking up all things books and literature. 

I do love the train ride to Sydney, I always feel full of anticipation and excitement of what my day might bring, what will the weather be like, what I want to do, and what serendipity may await me.

I arrived and changed trains at Central for Circular Quay and then had a nice big breakfast which I knew would fuel me for a while. It was a beautiful day and as I left the cafĂ© not too full, but satisfied I had to remove my cardigan and let the sun wash over me. I walked around the Quay, bypassing The Rocks, for under The Bridge to Walsh Bay. It is a pleasant walk with much to see, Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Campbell’s Cove, looking back on the Sydney skyline.

I had time to collect my tickets, wander around the venues and get my bearings, refresh and line up for the first event of the day.

Being Rosie Waterland with Zoe Norton-Lodge

I was always in two minds about this session, Rosie was part of the Mamma MeMeMe stable, one I am most certainly not fond of. I tend to avoid anything from that stable with a ten foot pole, but yet I had – against my better judgement – read her memoir, mostly as a few people I admire had recommended it to me. I enjoyed it, well if enjoy can be the correct word about a life that has had way too much trauma in it before she was 10 let alone the rest of it. I found it well written with a sassy (a word I normally hate too, but one that just works for Ms Waterland), humorous tone. So you could be reading the most awful passage about something dreadful and yet feel compelled to laugh. This is unique and good writing.

I do love Zoe Norton-Lodge, she is dry and sharp of tongue, but warm of nature. Her conversation with Rosie was like a warm and safe hug, which is exactly what was required given the subject matter. They spoke about some of the stories within the book, and Zoe asked a lot of questions to drive home the point of how incredibly unreal and traumatic Rosie’s childhood and subsequent life had been. Two of the most moving and harrowing parts of the book was where some local kids found a dead body in the bush, a dead body that quite possibly could be their father, so Rosie and her sister headed out to see, and another where Rosie, semi-paralysed watched her mother fail to attempt suicide. Both stories catch you at the back of your throat and make you gasp yet smile or even laugh at the humour she adds to it, mostly to soften the blow I imagine.

They spoke about how people within or connected to the book felt about it, Rosie said her father’s family were not happy and her Mum took a while to read it, and has expressed unhappiness but also that she liked it. Her mother has early effects of alcohol induced alzheimers. The Q and A was interesting, and Rosie also spoke about starting at MM and how she was not sure but a start was a start and she felt she should use whatever came her way – good for her for being honest. She has also suffered severe online bullying, which was very upsetting to hear her relate.

I walked out of the session feeling like I had been run over by a train, it was harrowing to hear the person who wrote these real life stories tell them, to see the emotion. I was pretty much wiping tears away the whole session and I was also sold on her being a solid writer, woman, and worthy of being at a such a festival.

Marlon James with Michael Cathcart

Marlon arrived on stage at the Roslyn Packer Theatre with No Woman, No Cry playing…perfection.

For those that do not know, Marlon is a Jamaican writer, now based as a teacher/lecturer in the states, who won the Booker in 2015 for his mammoth book, A Brief History of Seven Killings based on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. A long time BMW fan, I knew I had to read this book (I have started it, it is exceptional, but dense, with three pages of characters listed at the front of the book, it is akin to Dostoevsky).

He is about my age, gay, and bloody gorgeous. The session was outstanding, and difficult to keep up with.

Michael first asked him about Jamaica, Marlon grew up in upper middle class Jamaica, so much of what he is writing about was not his experience, but he knew of it.

He did a reading from the book, I love hearing authors read their own writing (most deliver so well, but not always) and he was fabulous. Cheeky words in that cheeky accent.

He then spoke about the ugliness of country, socialism, guns, violence, and poverty. And of how the US government allegedly destabilized the country deliberately. The sense of uncertainty and panic it caused, but also the beauty and creativity, and from that Reggae music was born, and then the Jamaican arts scene started to break away from the colony.

Marlon was 6 when all of this was happening, it was not his reality, but his Mum was a detective and his Dad a cop then a lawyer. He joked his Mum put them in jail and his Dad got them out.

He spoke about Bob, and what he stood for, and that he really was a polarising figure as Rastas were thought of as scum and you never heard Bob Marley on Jamaican radio because of that. But it had a subversive edge to it and that was good. He said there are two sides to Bob Marley, the peace loving, dope smoking “Three Little Birds” Bob Marley, and the hard, tough, politically edged Bob Marley.

There was a brief moment of hilarity when Cathcart calls the book A Brief History of Time and Marlon joked how he is quite often confused with Stephen Hawking.

He then got to the heart of the book, he decided to use Bob as a metaphor for the characters to draw to and then the famous concert in Kingston to draw all the characters together. He said the book is fictional as he likes to solve mysteries and fill in the gaps, and the mystery – for him – was why did these young boys try to kill Bob Marley. This is not known.

He says he has no emotional attachment to what he is writing, that he writes like a journalist. Work is work and art is art. He writes with total detachment.

He also mentioned Prince, and that he interweaved him into the book, though he didn’t say how (and I obviously haven’t gotten to that bit yet). He said Prince pretty much changed his life as he didn’t know you could be electrified by music as he was by him.

Violence was touched on upon the end, there is a lot of violence in A Brief History of Seven Killings. Marlon felt that violence is ok if we are still shocked by it. It is when we are numbed to it, that it is wrong and pornographic. He then mentioned the violence in Shakespeare.

After the talk, I had good fortune to line up and get my copy of the book signed. I asked him two questions, the first, who was his favourite on Charlie’s Angels (he had referenced the show a few times in the talk), he laughed, paused for a moment and said Kelly (Jaclyn Smith). I then asked what I thought was a really dumb question, what his favourite Bob Marley song was, again he had to think so I was thrilled it was not an often asked question of him. He said Heathen which is off Exodus, and he asked me my favourite song which is also off Exodus, Exodus. He laughed they were the same album, I grinned and thanked him, and walked away gripping by book knowing we would have to be firm friends based on that piece of musical information!

Nicolas Fargues in conversation with Linda Jaivin

Nicolas is French and has been writing novels since 2000. Prior to that he worked in libraries, journalism, and in 2002 as the face of Chanel’s allure campaign. He is well traveled, and has lived in other countries and written about these experiences. 

It goes without saying Nicolas is a very good looking, very well spoken, and very charming French man.

I didn’t know anything about Nicolas when I chose this session. It simply said this was about the book he wrote about leaving his wife and if you wanted to know what went on in the mind of males, this was the session for you...and he was French...and if Linda was interviewing him it was probably spicey. So I took a punt.

What a fascinating session, I went from adoring, swooning, loathing, feeling sorry for, unsure if I was being swindled, to being confused, and then just amused by Nicolas. What a chameleon, what a charmer, and quite possibly either A/ a totally honest man who has been underestimated or B/ A total douchebag. I still have no idea.

The audience were even more divided than me, if the Q and A session at the end was anything to go by.

So the novel at hand, was one from 2006 and translated in 2009. I am guessing someone on the SWF panel found it and thought it would be an intriguing addition, and it was!

The story/novel tells the very true story of him and his wife about to separate after dalliances on both parts. It does not paint his wife in a very good light. For what I can gather, there is not much fiction in the novel at all, which brought about much debate about Non-Fiction/Memoir disguised as Fiction, and if indeed it really is was it says it is. It is an age old debate I guess but he has really taken it to that fine line and crossed it over. I started the book and am about halfway through, hoping it would give me some clarity. Not so far, he comes across in a very lovely light, his wife not so much and maybe that is the truth.

Or maybe he is very deceptive.

His writing is not flowery or beautiful, but more to the point and as things are in a jovial conversational way. It is sexy, but not of sex. He did say he loves style and beauty in writing, but he does not write like that. You can see this.

Apparently his wife sued him but didn’t win, she really does not come across well at all, especially in a particularly brutal scene where she physically beats him in the hope of ruining his good looks. There are scars under his day old facial growth apparently. They are friends now, but he admits it took a long while to get to that point, which only happened due to their children.

So as you can see, I have no idea what to make of this man, but I can assure you it was thoroughly entertaining.

His last piece of ‘advice’ during his talk was, “don’t fool yourself with your writing, be who you are.”

Julian Barnes with Caroline Baum

Julian is one of my favourite writers, with Sense of an Ending being one of my all time favourite books. This final session at Angel Place was really the reason I was at the festival. I was excited and had great seats upstairs, and was completely entranced by this elegant, elder statesman of the literary world, just as I had hoped I’d be.

He is very English, calm, softly spoken, but edgy with a keen sense of dry humour. Pretty much as you would expect if you have read anything by him, especially his non-fiction.

I made no notes whatsoever for this talk, which I regret now, because he had so much to say. But I was hypnotised by his voice, his cadence, his laugh, and his supreme intellect.

I know he spoke about his new book, The Noise of Time, about Shostakovich and life under Stalin. Oh that’s right, the evening commenced with a fabulous young pianist playing a piece by Shostakovich prior to Barnes and Baum arriving on stage. This was a lovely pace setting piece that calmed me after a hectic day and took my breath away with it’s beauty. You can see why Barnes wrote about the great man.

I remember a decent conversation about death and how it changes you. Barnes has memorably written at great length about death and facing it within his memoirs. In between those memoirs and the present his wife has passed away. Baum asked if it changed any of his thoughts on death, having been faced with it in recent years. He took a very long and uncomfortable pause, I was worried he’d be upset. And I guess he was, but he said it hadn’t changed much of what he thought. He spoke lovingly of her, they had had such a great relationship.

He also spoke with his great dry wit in fine form about his Philosopher older brother and how his parents always favour the brother and his more high brow achievements than those of himself.

He spoke about language, history, and his football team.

I feel so bad for my lack of details, but I remember feeling so charmed and so delighted to hear this wonderful man speak. It was pure and utter joy. There is nothing like seeing a hero, and realising they are exactly as you hoped.

Afterwards I lined up to get my large pile of books signed, this was different to most book signings, just him signing his name, no additional bits and not much chit chat, I had a large stack so he thanked me for buying so many and smiled directly at me, which was much much more than most in the line got. I smiled back and thanked him for years of joy, and walked away positively buzzing and swooning.

I then took the all stops to Cardiff train from central 9.45pm...sigh. But it gave me chance to reflect on a great day and how lucky I was to be able to take in all these wonderful people and their stories. I also – as always at such events – ran into many people I knew, always a bonus.

It was only one day and four events, but it fed my soul, my creativity, and made me smile.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


What I’ve Been Watching
The Walk – this is the fictionalised version of Philippe Petit’s highwire walk between The Twin Towers in the early 70s. I have always been a fan of Petit, or rather mesmerised by his death defying feats. I really loved the doco, Man on Wire, from 2008, and whilst this showed us nothing more, it was fun to watch, especially as it got to the point of the walk. The delightful Joseph Gordon-Levitt played Petit and caught his youthful brazen and French cheekiness perfectly. Highly recommend
Walk in the Woods – why do people have to ruin great books? Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is one of the funniest travel stories and indeed my favourite by the great man. About the ill-conceived walk Bryson took in his youth along the Appalachian Trail with an old friend, Stephen Katz. The movie swaps the story when they are older men, and has Robert Redford and Nick Nolte play Bryson and Katz. Whilst the movie is ok and quite amusing at times, it is nowhere near as tremendous as the book and Redford has nothing on Bryson. He was never going to pull off Bryson’s wry wit nor his innocent charm. Such a shame, as this could have been a great movie, had they not mucked around with it.
Last Days of Chez Nous – I decided to revisit this classic Australian film from 1992 and it was great. Directed by Gilliam Armstrong and starring Lisa Harrow and Kerry Fox as sisters, also Bill Hunter, Bruno Ganz, and a very young Miranda Otto. It’s about love, friendship, relationships and the drama they bring. All performances are strong but Kerry Fox shone, what a star she was!
Antman – this was fun, with Michael Douglas adding a bit of kudos.
Grandma – This was good, a dramedy starring the fabulous Lily Tomlin. Her latest partner has left her, she is broke, and her pregnant granddaughter turns up on her doorstep in need of money for an abortion. This leads to a road trip of sorts for Grandma to visit people from her past in hope of gathering the money. It is funny and edgy especially in terms of subject matter. It’s a great movie.
Phoenix – heartbreaking story about a young women who was completely disfigured and burnt during the war and is the only remaining person alive in her family. After plastic surgery and reconstruction she returns to Berlin to see if she can track down her husband. She does, but he does not believe it is her.However, he knows no one from her family survived and if she poses as his wife, he can get the inheritance. So she poses as herself! Utterly compelling and heartbreaking to see where this heads.
Broken Circle Breakdown – this is my movie of the month, and an Academy Award nominated Belgium film from 2012. It follows the relationship of Didier and Elise and what a great love at first sight, intense relationship it is. She is a tattoo artist, he a singer in a Bluegrass group which she eventually joins. The story is told in a non-linear fashion and it really works, and adds edge to an already edgy story. This is not your usual romance, it is dark, and wild, and crazy, and beautiful and real and takes a huge hit when tragedy strikes the pairing, how will they get through this , will they make it. I have not been so intensely invested in a movie or characters like this in a really long time. It made me feel every possible emotion from elation to devastation, and then some. The music adds to the beauty of the film. This is an instant classic and an absolute must see.
Iris – Iris Apfel is a 90 something New Yorker with more style than most of NYC. She is out there, edgy, bright, and very much an individual. Iris is most well known by her signature Large round black glasses and her spectacular colourful jewellery collection. The documentary follows Iris during a very busy part of her life, but also key aspects of her life and her romance with her husband who turns 100 during the filming. Her collection of fashion is extensive and she is at a part of her life that she is donating key items to galleries for exhibitions and to keep. She works with a lot of great institutions in and around New York. Everyone adores Iris, she explodes with colour and energy and uniqueness. She actually started off as an interior designer and had a very successful business. She had a keen eye for reproduction of fabric from the past and the business ended up doing a lot of work for the White House over the years. But it is her generosity and spirit you admire when you watch this great documentary. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Being Evel - Evel Knievel – I was a pretty big Evel Knievel fan as a kid, something I had forgotten about until I started to watch this superb documentary. So much of the footage in it was so familiar to me it is really amusing, I really was quite an odd little kid. The doco traces Evel’s story, how he became Evel, the forces that moved him, and interviews key players along the way. It shows footage of most of his craziest jumps, regardless of whether he made them or not. But then, that was the thing about Evel, what if he crashed...and he often did! Such an icon of the 70s and such a nutter – he had to be to do half of what he did. This was like time travelling to another time and it was glorious!
Penny Dreadful S2 – Penny Dreadful is marvellous, and Eva Green is everything in this dark Victorian Fantasy/Horror show. Set around book characters from that period, Frankenstein, his creations, Dorian Gray, Van Helsing, Vampires and Witches, Penny Dreadful is dark and clever and scary and amusing. The overlap of characters are leading to many great reveals in this season. Including some deliciously spooky scenes, and some scrumptious Victorian opulence. The sets are divine, the acting amazing, and the stories leave you on the edge of your seat. 
Game of Thrones S6 live – what a joy to be able to watch this show live each week while I am trialling Foxtel. Although the wait between each episode feels long, after inhaling each season in one go previously. So much is happening this season but it would be rude of me to share. This show just gets better and better. So much to be revealed, so many amazing interwoven stories and characters. This is the epic masterpiece of all time.
Orphan Black S4 live – Orphan Black dips back in time occasionally this season to tie in to what Beth was up to before she committed suicide. And Sarah is still trying to hide from those after her, yet investigating what is going on with the clones. I am still enjoying this great show but it is starting to lose a little of it’s lustre and lacking the lightness that kept it from being too dramatic in S1.
The Affair S1 – I really like the premise of this drama, where each episode is split in two and told from the pov of each person in the affair. Dominic West is a father of four, an author, and on holidays with the family staying with his wealthy in-laws. After an interesting lunch at a local cafe he become obsessed with a local waitress (Ruth Wilson). At first you understand why he has an affair – his life is so full of mediocrity and domesticity, but not with the girl he does. Over time her character becomes far more complex than you would imagine and the he said/she said premise really kicks in. Also there is a subplot of the pair in the future, both being interviewed by the police over something that has happened. It is complex, intriguing, but ultimately annoying, as the characters seem hell bent on destroying anything good they have. Having said that bring on S2 so I can find out what is going on!
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – This is a load of fun. Kimmy (Ellie Kemper, The Office) escapes after years of being hidden underground with other women but a religious nutter (Jon Hamm). She decides to build a new life for herself in New York. Yes, this is a comedy, seeing New York and modern life through the sweet, but very odd eyes of Kimmy is something to behold. A great supporting cast of Titus Burgess (what a voice), Carol Kane, Jane Krakowski and many other cameos throughout the season. The series is created by Tina Fey, and whilst this is no 30 Rock, and it takes a few episodes to find its groove, this is a great little comedy and worth checking out.
Safe House – This is a melancholy drama about an ex cop (Christopher Eccleston) and his wife who live in this house that is hidden in the country. They take in a family who need to be hidden after a failed kidnapping. Local cops are trying to track down the kidnapper and the case brings Eccleston back into the fore adn you see what happened to him when he was a cop. This reminded me a lot of Broadchurch, and whilst nowhere near as good as that, Safe House was compelling and worth watching. Plus anything with Eccleston is is always worth looking at.
The Night Manager I taped this mini series off Fox and it took a while to get into but by the end of the second episode I was hooked. Set in exotic locations it follows two men, Dickie Roper, a wealthy, slimey arms dealer played to perfection by Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Pine (Tom HIddleston), an ex soldier, night manager of an Egyptian Hotel. Their lives intertwine when Angela Burr (the great Olivia Colman) hires Pine to go under cover and expose Roper. And so begins a twisty plot of intrigue and subterfuge. If I say anymore, I will give away key points of the plot. This is based on a John Le Carre novel and is of the highest of production values. It will suck you in and you will sit on the edge of your seat until the last few moments of the series.
Kitchen Cabinet S5 – caught up on the latest series of this cute show. I adore Annabel Crabb, her style, her intelligence, her kindness. And this is shown in abundance in this show, especially when she is dealing with some of the ‘lesser’ politicians, she is so lovely with them. 
Meet the Mavericks – Great Australian series that pairs similar creatives for a chat about their art, eg Magda Szubanski and Grayson Perry, Ben Quilty and Warwick Thornton, Leah Purcell and Miranda Tapsell, Phillip Adams and Tim Minchin, and Jon Ronson and John Safran.
AIDA: live on Sydney Harbour how I wish I had seen this phenomenal performance of Verdi when it was indeed staged live on Sydney Harbour. With the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and skyscrapers paling in comparison in the background to the magnificent Egyptian mask on the large stage, it looked remarkable on tele, moreso in the flesh I would think. Of course along with large props, sublime costumes in bright colours with loads of gold and guild, sets that were out of this world, and actual camels gracing the stage at one point. And then there was the opera itself, perfect cast and perfect songs. Heavenly!

Sinatra 100: an all-star Grammy concert was a great production, 90 minutes of super stars singing Sinatra’s best! John Legend, Harry Connick Jnr, Adam Levine,  Carrie Underwood, Tony Bennett, Seth McFarland, and Lady Gaga amongst others polished their swagger and sang for Frank. Bennett and Connick nailed their tunes, McFarland shone as he showed his other talent as a singer but Lady Gaga stole the show with her show stopping finale of New York, New York!
What I’ve Been Reading
My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout – this was a little novella and Strout’s latest offering. About a young woman in a prolonged stay in hospital after a routine procedure goes awry. Her estranged mother come to sit with her, and the woman through her mother and left alone with her own thoughts, thinks back over her life so far. At times interesting and odd and bleak, this is a fascinating look into the soul of a person, but compared to previous works, this lacks the depth and thought. A light version of what it could have been.
The Anti-Cool Girl – Rosie Waterland  - I really wanted to hate this book. I am not a fan of anything even remotely related to the Mama MeMeMe stable, and Waterland was very much attached to that group. But I had heard good things and gave it a go, it is her memoir and the poor girl has lived quite the awful life, due to many family dysfunctions. And yet she write with humour and grace, so as she tells you something gut wrenchingly awful, you cannot help but smile! There is a fine art to that kind of writing, and she nailed it!!!!
The perfect meal – John Baxter – This is another lovely little book from Francophile, Baxter, this time lovely stories of him chasing down the elusive perfect meal in Paris...well, actually not at all elusive. not read on a empty stomach!!!
Too Far From Home by Chris Jones (Talking Book) – this is about the 3 men left on the International Space Station after Columbia crash landed in 2003. It is about their lead up to the mission, their time in space, the tragedy of Columbia, and the aftermath of their indefinite stay until rescue is decided upon. And then their edge of the seat decent back to earth. I love hearing about space travel, and this is a great true story.
The Lacuna written by and spoken by Barbara Kingsolver
I cannot begin to say how much I loved and enjoyed this sweeping novel. It tells the life story of Harrison Shepherd from young boy to young man. It begins with his childhood, moving between living with his father in the US and his mother in Mexico. It is in Mexico that his talents of cooking and making fine batter are transformed into making the best type of plaster for one Diego Riveria. From there he meets and befriends Diego’s young wife, Frida Kahlo. In time he moves in with the couple as hired help and through them meets and begins to work for Leon Trotsky. Harrison is a writer and takes notes about his life in his diary every day. Later in life the returns to the US, as an usher of Kahlo’s works, accompanying them to the gallery they are to be exhibited at. He moves to North Carolina and commences life there as a novelist. His books are immediately popular. But in time his past catches up with him, as the House of UnAmerican Activities investigate him as a communist. The story is ‘taken’ and retold by his faithful secretary, Violet Brown, from the diaries and papers she found written by Shepherd. And what a remarkable story and life it was, but not without holes or gaps or Lacunae. Kingsolver has created the most marvellous fictional character in Shepherd, an innocent but wise young Mexican lad and placed him in the centre of Mexican and Russian history. The Lacuna is historical, romantic, funny, intriguing, and was an absolute pleasure to listen to in the car for the past few weeks. I sobbed as it ended, as I just couldn’t bear to part with it. Highly recommend.

What I’ve Been Listening To
Music Complete – New Order – this was really good, I enjoyed it on first listen and it felt familiar and comforting to listen to. Dancey and up, like good New Order should be. Highly recommend.
Women of the Hour – this is Lena Dunham’s podcast and it is exceptional. It covers topics such as women, friendship, love, sexuality, bodies and so forth. It is open and honest and educational and glorious.
Picking up the pieces – Jewel – love the new album by this country gal. A return to form after a few odd pop albums which never really suited her stunning voice. Here she goes back to her ballads, melancholy and a little but of country and it’s great.

This is acting – Sia – I can take or leave Sia, I get she is a great songwriter and has written loads of hits but her as a person, singer, I dunno, she has never really grabbed me. But I really liked this album, it’s mixed for sure, but well worth a listen.