Friday, June 15, 2018


I have loved John Paul Young since I was a child watching Countdown. I've only seen him live a handful of times but he has always been the consummate performer.

I saw him at The Cambridge very early on in the 90s, just before his big comeback with Strictly Ballroom and he was great. 

I saw him at a local club in the early 2000s and also great.

I also saw him do a 30 minute section a few years back at The Civic as part of the APIA tour and he blew me away. He commenced with an incredibly tight version of Down Among the Dead Men and blew the audience away, the rest of the set equally as polished. Seriously, he gets better with age. And not just that, he looks like he's having a ball, which is delightful.

He'd been touring with his all star band a Vanda Young show and I was busting to see it, but despite him living here it never came near Newcastle.

And then this Toronto Hotel show turned up, and I had to go. We had purchased VIP tickets which gave us lovely views of the lake, and could - if there was room, there was not - sit on the balcony to watch. But we really were nowhere near the band! HUGE rip off, we'll know better next time!

So after we downed our drinks we made our way to the grounds in the GA section, and stood directly in front of the stage before the first song had ended!

The first song was Down Among the Dead Men, and was as tight and brilliant as I had heard those couple of years back. 

And the entire set was hit after hit, you forget how many great songs he has. It also had a few Vanda Young songs thrown in for good measure too.

We danced and danced, he smiled and sang, and sounded amazing. The Band was tight. They were having a complete and utter ball, and so were we. It felt like we were on Countdown!!!

He ended with a great version of A Long Way to the top, complete with a bagpiper. Then came back for the brilliant encore of Love is in the Air, I Hate the Music, and Yesterday's Hero. The crowd - of mostly middle aged women, lol - went wild!

It was a pure delight. His music is so uplifting, it should be bottled. We left happy and smiling and full of joy.

The set list - which my lovely friend Athena pinched from the stage for me, was as follows:

  • Down Among the Dead Men
  • Pasadena
  • Love Game
  • Keep on Smilin'
  • The Day That my Heart Caught Fire
  • I Wanna do it With You
  • St Louis - sung by his son, real rock-n-roll voice
  • Soldier of Fortune - I had forgotten he sung this
  • Let's Stick Together - Floyd Vincent on vocals, he was filling in on guitar
  • Where the Action is
  • Standing in the Rain
  • Friday on my Mind
  • It's a Long Way to the Top
  • Love is in the Air
  • I Hate the Music
  • Yesterday's Hero

Monday, June 11, 2018


I first heard of Belle and Sebastian in one of my all time favourite films, High Fidelity. It's playing in the record store when Jack Black makes his fabulous entrance and pulls it off, calling it sad old man music, and puts on Walking on Sunshine. Great scene!

I remembered the name and then they started to appear everywhere, on the radio, in articles in magazines etc. Of course, they probably already were everywhere I just knew them now.

I really loved how upbeat - mostly - their songs were, really good catchy, jangly pop, and yet if you listened closely the lyrics were completely the opposite, melancholy and languishing, reflective and at times sad. Of course, some were uplifting. But their beats got in my head, you couldn't listen to them without tapping your foot.

I went on a mission to collect all their albums, and listened to everything, and just loved them.

And so, they toured and I had to go. But no one really knew them, fine I would go by myself I thought. But I sent some tracks to my bestie to listen to and she was in.

They played the Sydney Opera House and we made a weekend of it!

I wasn't really sure what to expect, I had heard live albums and they sounded good, but realised I hadn't really looked at much online.

We made our way to Opera House after a great meal, and took our seats a little early. I love to do this, and watch the crowd filling the area. It was a mixed crowd, but mostly middle aged indie types as you would expect.

There was no support and boom, they were on. They are a large band and had extra members and they sounded fabulous.

Stuart, the lead singer, who has battled mental illness on and off and writes these great songs, was amazing. I guess I didn't expect much, but he gave a really high exuberant performance, loads of dancing and energy which of course worked with the songs well.

The band were tight, looked like they were enjoying the experience and in all it was a fun night, loads of dancing or seat dancing and singing and smiling!

And then Stuart announced a special guest, Australian royalty, I couldn't begin to imagine who it was when the great Robert Forster ambled on stage. The crowd - myself included - went wild! He sang two songs with the band and it was terrific. An old 60s tune I had heard him talk about on the radio, and a recent solo number.

The next day I googled to see their relationship, they go way back and golf together, how wonderful!

Later Stuart danced his way into the audience, much to everyone's delight, and came closeish to us. Not the greatest of pics, but it was great!

They sang old stuff and new stuff, and it was just a happy occasion. We jiggled and danced and sang our way back to the hotel once it was over. So very glad we took the punt and saw them.

Here is the Setlist:

  • The Boy With the Arab Strap
  • I'm A Cuckoo
  • We Were Beautiful
  • She's Losing It
  • If She Wants Me
  • I Want the World to Stop
  • Sweet Dew lee
  • The Fox in the Snow
  • Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John
  • Jonathan David
  • Learn to Burn - Robert Forster
  • Rip It Up - Robert Forster
  • The State I Am In
  • Expectations
  • The Party Line
  • I Didn't See it Coming
  • Judy and the Dream of Horses
  • Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying

Friday, June 8, 2018


As I near the end of my treatment a few people have asked, what actually happens when I go to the hospital each day.

So here is a step by step of what I do each day, and for the most part it is exactly the same every day.

Most of my appointments have been late afternoon, to let me go to work early on.  But now I am off work, I get the day to myself! I mostly sleep and watch tele and read. Sometimes if I have energy I do a little bit of 'spring' cleaning, but I am not getting far. It's pretty boring really. Although I am thrilled my reading mojo has returned.

I usually head off to Mum and Dad's prior my appointment and have afternoon tea and chat for a bit. They live very close to The Mater and it gives me something to do, someone to talk to.

Then I drive to the little carpark opposite the entrance. Sometimes I am earlier than expected and I might listen to my podcast and/or read in the car. I do try to get in there early, say 10-20mins, because often they are ahead of schedule and I get in and out early, which is great!

I walk across the road and enter through the Platt Street entrance, walk along a short corridor and enter a large glass door to the right, this is Radiation Oncology.

I wait at reception, there is usually a small line up (it gets busy in the afternoon), and I have a special card I show the receptionist. There are a few receptionists but my favourite is Gracy, a lovely, happy, and stylish lady. She checks me in with my card and then I sit and wait. I usually read. You usually do not wait long, even if they are running late, it is only 10 minutes or so.

The waiting room is see all walks of life, most of which make me feel acutely aware of - no matter how crappy I feel - how lucky I am. Cancer does not discriminate! Although predominately the people are older. It is easy to get depressed witnessing other people's pain, I try to remain upbeat with a smile, and just read my book.

A radiation technician comes and calls my name and they take me to the bunker waiting room, and I sit and wait and read. This is just outside the bunker and there is usually someone inside and often another waiting in a chair directly outside the bunker itself. So when the patient inside is done, I move from the waiting room to the chair or straight in. This keeps things moving, and it is all very much precision done.

As the previous patient leaves, you always exchange a nod or hello, and if they are someone you know well, having run into them a lot, sometimes a hug. It is a very inclusive and special community.

So the bunker door rolls open, and in you go.

It is a large room for a large beast of equipment. There are 6 bunkers, with only 5 working each day, but I have only been to three of them, Zeus, Titan, and Hunter. Perfect names for the power they wield.

Each session has 2 or 3 staff working it. They are usually setting up the 'bed' when you walk in. They are always cheery and upbeat. There is a little change area, you can pull a screen around you, but really what is the point.

I put down my bag and book and take off my top layer completely. On the bench there is a pile of beautifully laundered white hospital issue pillow cases.
You take one to cover your front and make your way to the bed.

Sometimes they are ready, sometime still fixing it. This means cleaning it with industrial cleaner so it is sterile for you to get on. There are two pillow cases where you back goes, I get up bum first and then throw my legs into place and lay back. It is not a comfortable thing. Sometimes they get you to wriggle up or down a little, then you put your arms back into the arm braces.

Once you are there, you do not move, unless they need you to.

As soon as this happens I swear I always have an itch on my face, occasionally I break free and do that and you get chatted at, fair enough. Mostly I try to be zen, and think about something else. Often they have music playing, so I concentrate on that.

They start to read the numbers out and calibrate the machine to fit. This is always interesting, some are quick, some quite slow. All this means bed going up and down, left and right. Then the machine itself it brought round, and more numbers. They use the tattoos on my body to line things up, they use little rulers to measure areas. The two pillow cases underneath my back are used to move me to the left or right with ease as needed. It is quite an undertaking. 

Arms in the way are always an issue, my left elbow comes perilously close to being knocked by the beast. But it never does. My right arm needs to be tied back to ensure it does not flop in the way of the lasers etc.

This can take from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on who is working.

Then they leave you, you hear the bunker door seal and the machines warm up. They move to another room just outside the bunker and can view you by cameras in the ceiling above where you lay. They start with a scan of your body, this is to ensure other parts are ok - ribs, lungs, etc etc. Sometimes they will come back in and do any rearranging of you if needed, but mostly the radiation starts after that.

I honestly do not know what happens in each part after that, I often think to ask them, when I am laying there but I don't want to hold up the process. 

The round section of the beast - top of pic - swings round to my left side and presumably shoots the rays to my right side. You never see or feel anything, but you hear it. There are many different sounds. Whirls and bells and funny sounds. It stops and starts. You hear noises from the right side of the machine. Then after a few minutes the machine moves and the round section is to your right, and it goes again. Then the machine returns the round section to above you. It is all over. This is about 5 - 10 minutes. It feels much longer.

The bunker door opens, the staff return, they untie my arm, bring the bed out from the beast and lower it and I hop off. Head to the change area and get dressed. 

I walk back out to the reception, get checked out, sign my paperwork, and they validate my parking, and off I go. Back out through the corridor, out the building, and to the car park.

Sometimes I am there 20 minutes tops, other times closer to an hour.

Sometimes I have Dr's appt, they just keep you up-to-date, ask how you are, talk about side effects, and look at your skin and offer you treatment if needed.

Now I getting towards the end of my treatment, dressing my wounds is part of the experience, so rather than checking out after radiation, I head to the nurse's station and sit in one of the booths and wait. Usually not long, maybe a minute or so (they really are amazing with time!!!), a curtain goes around the area after a trolley has been wheeled in, I get undressed and the nurse - usually the hilarious and gorgeous Nurse Paul - cleans me up (mostly getting rid of dead skin at this point), then applies the special burn cream, a special gauze, then a cover. I get dressed and head to reception to check out. 

I can also do this at home, but it's good to have someone look at things, to ensure they are ok. Cause the area doesn't look that ok to me.

As you can see, a lot happens in a short period of time. It is quite intense, but really not that bad at all. The driving there and back EVERY week day is the most taxing part of it all. I have had some bad days, but for the most part it has been pleasant and fine.

Also I may look and sound good, but underneath things are falling apart slightly, fatigue, nausea, skin issues, brain not functioning that well, BP and blood sugars spiking, the odd headache, mouth ulcers, mental health moments etc. But in all, it could be very much worse, and remember, I don't have cancer any more, I am so very very lucky!!!

External pic...scroll for internal pic if you dare, just my underarm from a few days ago, it's gotten worse, but it ain't pretty...

My underarm is now black, rather than grey, and peeling, the vertical mark is my scar where they removed the lymph, it is really red and angry now. The horizontal mark is a burn, again, it is pretty black now and red raw around and some skin disintegration. Boob not too bad, just pink and tender.

These things shall pass...

Friday, June 1, 2018


What I've Been Watching

The Mindy Project S1-3 - had a bit of a binge on this, and whilst it is a fun show, but the end of S3 I was a bit done. Good fun show with the adorable Mindy Kaling as a Dr and the stories around her work, but ultimately not compelling enough to binge. This is a couple of episodes every now and then pick me up.

House of Cards S5 - where do I start, I was becoming a little done with this show the season prior and this season, until the end few episodes, much the same. And of course we have the whole Kevin Spacey debacle. Where does one place all of this...on the too hard basket to be honest. Seriously no, I have thought long and hard about this and others I loved that have fallen from grace. It really is difficult to separate the person from the art when it is so full on. I remember I had bought almost every season of The Cosby Show and was really enjoying reliving a childhood favourite that actually held up well, and was up to S3 when the shit hit the fan there, they remain in my cupboard unwatched. 

But Kevin I really adored, not just as an actor but as an actor who seemed to hark back to the golden age of Hollywood. Anyone who has seen him interviewed would agree on his incredible intellect, his charisma and charm, and those remarkable impersonations. There was something special about him and yet he could play bad so very well, Swimming with Sharks anyone!?, that it kinda didn't surprise me. He is basically no one anymore, part of me is totally fine with that, and part of me is sad. And that is about as far as I have gotten. It's a rough one, for everyone involved.

Fortitude S2 - oh vey, the first series started well, intrigue and murder in a nordic, icy small town, but it unraveled into a really grotesque thing. I should have realised S2 would be similar, and indeed it started with great promise, but by the last few episodes, there were scenes so graphic and horrific I thought I would vomit. Simply too much!

Victoria S2 - I have really grown to enjoy this series. Jenna Coleman is just delightful and feisty as Queen Victoria, but it is Tom Hughes who plays Prince Albert, that I just adore. His performance is nuanced, and clever, and sexy, and melancholy. He nails what it must be like to adore the most famous woman in the world and also be a little in her shadows.

Halt and Catch Fire S1/2 - this has been around for a while and was recommended to me and I, in turn, will recommend it to you. Set in 1983 when computers and technology commenced it's real boom, the show follows a group of youngish tech heads, set on giving IBM a run for their money. A drama with great attention to detail of the era (has a sort of Mad Men feel) this is truly fascinating and compelling to watch. 

Here and Now S1 - I loved this at the beginning, but it fell away in the middle. The story of a mixed family, headed by hippy parents, Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter. It bordered on paranormal, but in a realistic way, with one of their children hallucinating strange things...but were they real. Too much time was spent on this particular storyline and it became a bit nutty, but it picked up towards the end. So I will hang on and see what S2 brings....nothing, it has been cancelled.

Genius S2 - Picasso - if anyone was born to play the great Picasso, it was Antonio Banderas. Oh my! Look Picasso was a bit of a challenging character but those paintings are simply my favourites. I adore Picasso. The show, much like Einstein before it, moves around from young to teen to older Picasso and for the most part that works, just sometimes the jumps are too quick. Also you do not always get to see the copies, that is apparantly a whole copyright thing. So the paintings used are fakes, that were to be destroyed once filming finished. Mostly you see him painting front on, hence no painting to actually see and people around the painting praising it but no painting...ahhhhhh. But in all, this is a great series.

Handmaid's Tale S2 - this continues to take my breath away. The acting is outstanding, especially from Elisabeth Moss, that woman doesn't need to open her mouth to convey her emotions. It is certainly intense and not one to binge watch, but it is good!

Alan Davies, As Yet Untitled - I love this simple comedy show late on a Sunday night on ABC Comedy. Alan has four comic guest around a round table and they talk about stuff and hope to come up with a title for the show. It's very funny and the guests - those you know and those you don't - are always a great mix. Worth having a look at.

Next of Kin - is a new british show I am enjoying. A middle eastern family living in London appears to have terrorists within, or do they. The female lead is married to Jack Davenport and he seems to be an innocent, or is he. Hard to explain without giving stuff away, but a thriller/mystery that has me on the edge of my seat. My theory is the Davenport character is up to no good...though I could be wrong!

The Beguiled - a lovely Sofia Coppola films about a group of ladies in the South who take in a Union solider (Colin Farrell) who is injured. Set in a ladies home, run by Nicole Kidman, only a handful of ladies remain due to the war. Lush and beautifully shot. But there's a twist, things go horridly wrong, when some of the ladies vie for the solider's attention. I did enjoy this to a certain degree, but found it a little melodramatic in parts.

Hampstead - this was a sweet little film with Diane Keaton, a ditzy widower, and Brendan Gleeson, a curmudgeonly character living in a shack on the Hampstead Heath. They strike up a relationship which exposes him from the radar he'd been living under, and his 'property' comes under attack. Based on a true story, I didn't mind this.

I Am Heath Ledger - this was a good solid documentary, with loads of great early footage where you can see his charisma and his darkness. Ultimately, nothing too new and just sad.

A Room With A View  - oh my goodness, how wonderful is it to relive old faves, I have to say not many movies grab me these days. And watching these older films really consolidate that. I love a romance done well, these are few and far between, this one is just lovely, but it is far more than that. It is romantic on a whole other level, the romance of life and living well and all that, my kind of romance. That first 30 minutes or so in Florence has got to be the most romantic ever set to film. Beautiful young Helena Bonham Carter and Julian Sands, the rest of the cast (Denholm Elliot, Rupert Graves, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench), wandering all through the beauty and perfection that is Florence and the Tuscan hills, in those flowing garments, and all that opera as background music. The return to England is equally as stunning, throwing a young, pompous Daniel Day-Lewis into the mix. If you haven't seen this, you are in for a treat, go now!!

Do the right thing - 1989!! I love this film so very much, I remember seeing it in a cinema and my mind was freaking blown, that opening shot, the hot summer in Brooklyn, the hip hop, the dancing, the coolness of the character against the stifling summer heat. A melting pot of angst and anger, race, hate and love. I knew this was a change coming. Almost overlooked at the Oscars that year with only a nom for Danny Aiello's Sal and Spike's original screenplay. No wins. It remains a masterpiece that I watch often. Great performances all round, Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, and a young trio of John Turturro, Rosie Perez, and Samuel Jackson, and Spike himself as the troubled Mookie. This film is a masterpiece and that is before it gets to its explosive last quarter. And don't forget Public Enemy's Fight the Power!!

What I've Been Reading

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt - this is my first Donna Tartt. I have heard wonderful things about all 3 of her books. I need to read her first 2 soon! I've been in a reading slump and this 700+ page tome got my reading mojo working again! What an epic saga, a young boy has been suspended from school and on his way to a meeting with teachers his Mum takes him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Whilst there a bomb goes off in an act of terrorism and the boy spends days trying to locate his mother. Prior to the explosion he sees a girl his age and is quite taken by her. After the explosion the old man she was with, passes on his dying wishes to the young boy, who also takes with him a priceless painting, The Goldfinch.

And so begins his journey, to old school money on the east side of New York, to Vegas, back to New York. The characters he meets, the girls he loves, a dog, a crazy friend, antiques, money, drugs, and the piece of art. This is the most wonderfully thought out story, I could picture every part of it in my head, it is a visual book. There were a few times I thought it could have been edited, but in all that is a very minor discrepancy. I just fell in love with this book, it is a must read, and a rare 5 out of 5 for me!

Danger Music - Eddie Ayres
The background to this book is interesting. I had purchased a ticket to see him talk at the Newcastle Writer's Festival, the name familiar to me as a Classic FM announcer. The book, had come through my hands at work and sounded intriguing, but I was yet to read it. I was in the festival bookshop and picked it up and noticed beside it was a book I already owned and had read, Cadence by Emma Ayres, oh I thought, must be his sister, and then looked at both books and realised they must be twins. How astonishing, and thought no more about it. Later I was lunching and it came back to me, and I googled Eddie and yep Eddie used to me Emma! The talk about the music that defined his (and fellow Classic FM announcer, Christopher Lawrence) life was fascinating.

So I finally got around to reading the book, and it was a wonderful must read that I cannot recommend highly enough. Eddie is actually Emma for most of the book, and she was feeling lost in her life, and decided to go to Afghanistan to teach classical music, specifically the cello (sigh, probably my most favourite instrument and one I'd love to learn) to children at a special school there. 

SHe tells about setting up house, the problems of being a woman and a foreigner in such a country, but mostly it is about the children and the music, the school, the struggles and classic music. Absolutely fascinating. There are moments of intensity, how can there not be, but it is written so beautifully and with so much hope you never feel dragged down by the sadness that does occur. It is a true insight into living in a war torn country, and it is honest and real, with tremendous heart. I loved the musicality of the book, I could hear all those songs in my head. And of course there is a small underlying melancholy thread layered through the book where Emma realises she must become Eddie. This is easily one of the best books I have read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The Music Shop - Rachel Joyce - I enjoyed this simple little book about a record store owner. He refused CDs when they came in and kept his record store going, with a group of regulars, all unusual and interesting. He could recommend the right record for people without knowing much about him. There is something about his past and when a mysterious woman faints outside the shop a connection forms. We follow these people throughout the years, and see where their lives progress. Loads of music references, a little bit of romance, and some mystery, this was a sweet book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman -  this is another sweet little book, one we read for our Bookclub. When we meet Eleanor it is very obvious there is something wrong. At first I thought possible aspergers, and that irritated me, there has been a run on those kinds of books and I hate pulpy stuff. But it was not that, she has gone through some kind of trauma and the author slowly reveals the trauma as we see Eleanor transform from a shell to a better version of herself. It wasn't a huge reveal, because to an astute reader you are always a few steps ahead of the author, or at least I was. And I found the whole make over a little irritating. But I did enjoy the book nonetheless. I guess if I were to be honest, early Eleanor reminded me of me in what I call my lost years. How lucky was her character to have the character of Raymond become her friend and help her out of her funk. This has won lots of praise and is going to be made into a movie. It is what you would call a feel good book.

A Woman looking at Men looking at Women - Siri Hustvedt  - Loads of essays about art, philosopy, psychology and life. Louise Bourgeois, Robert Mapplethorpe, Wim Wenders, Pina, and Susan Sontag referenced amongst many more. This was intense but an excellent read.

Wednesdays With Bob by Bob Hawke and Derek Reilly - Over a period of Wednesdays the author arrives at Bob Hawke’s home with a  cigar and they sit on his balcony and chat about everything from politics to death and love.
It is utterly fascinating, at times bawdy, and always intelligent with a little humour…as you would imagine. He also interviews other key people, Blanche, Gareth Evans, John Howard, Kim Beazley, John Singleton and more.

David Sedaris - I've been continuing to work my way through Sedaris in order. Finishing Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, When You Are Engulfed By Flames, and Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls. I loved re-reading these beloved and hilarious books. Not many books make me laugh out loud, but Sedaris always does, even more when I know the story. He moves around through his childhood (oh, that family!!!), his 'lost' years, the odd jobs, meeting Hugh, and becoming a writer. You feel you know this man so intimately, and yet he can surprise you in a second. He is sweet and kind, and also snippy and shocking. I have nearly finished his diaries and his latest book, only published this week, I have had for a while (due to a very good friend in publishing) and I am busting to read it, but I wanted to finish re-reading in order before I did that. I am mean to myself in that way! If you haven't read any Sedaris, you simply must. Also look out for spoken word or live readings online, even better!!! Listening to him read his stuff, I have seen him live numerous times, is absolutely the best. Also he is very generous with fans, taking time to speak to each and every one at book signings, he just loves it, and we love him for it!

What I've Been Listening To

Versatile - Van Morrison - Van is continually popping out these great little gems, this is an album of jazz and standard covers and is a sheer delight.

The Thrill of it All - Sam Smith - I know he is what I would normally classify as Kid's Music (which is my snobby title for stuff the kids are listening to, eg what's trendy and commercial - urgh, usually not my thing) but I like this a lot! So there!!

Belle and Sebastian - listening to it all, in readiness for the the concert! Not like I need to!

Muriel's Wedding: the musical soundtrack- Kate Miller-Heidke and Abba, what more can i say, it is brilliant and I must go and see the actual show.

Jeff Lynne's ELO, Wembley or Bust - this is the cd and dvd package of this concert and it is brilliant. I am such an ELO fan, I just played it over and over.

Conversations with Richard Fidler podcasts  - still listening to a chunk of these in the car and just loving it. Every single one a stand out!

Chat 10, Looks 3 Podcast - finally caught up with this delightful podcast by Annabelle Crabbe and Leigh Sales about books. Yes, as you can imagine, I am in heaven and listening to it whenever I can. Love their friendship, their humour, the talk of yummy sweet things, and musical theatre along with the books and other pop culture references.