Monday, November 19, 2018


The month commenced with my second week of holidays, I had a bad head cold and icky throat, so I spent some time in bed and on the couch, but I did manage a few trips out.

I went to a couple of sessions of History Illuminated, a sort of writer's festival for History that work presents each year.

Heather Rose, author of the amazing The Tattooist Of Auschwitz told how she found that remarkable story and loads of behind the scenes information. I saw my friend Robert present a session on finding out information from historical photos that was eloquent and fascinating. And a professor from Newcastle University talking about the mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock and the author, Joan Lindsay, which was just fantastic.

My nephew's team won their soccer grand final, this is the second year in a row, although he plays in an all ages team now. It was a terrific game but in the most awful wind, which is where my cold flared up from!

I spent the last day of my holidays at The Ocean Baths for lunch, glorious day, but too cold for a swim.

My niece had her 11th birthday, so I helped celebrate twice, once with her friends for a Disco Party, and a few days later her actual birthday with family.

My Bestie Cathy, and I had a lovely day out. We lunched at the Mary Ellen, then spent time looking at the new exhibits at Newcastle Gallery, followed by afternoon tea at Coco Mondo, and a shop on Darby. I love those days we have, creatures of habit, but what quality habits!!!

I got my car serviced and had a fabulous lunch at The Kent of all places while I waited.

I went to a couple of sessions of This is Not Art and The Young Writers Festival, mostly about blogging/writing/memoir/critiquing. And had a great lunch at The Commonwealth Hotel.

I have had varied food tastes since radiation, there is a lot of food I still cannot manage to eat, and I have been trying to keep it simple, so pub food has been the better option for me when dining out. At home it has mainly been veges.

September ended with me back at choir finally, and loving it and heading to Carrington Bowlo for the monthly One Song Sing gig, doing Aretha, it was an absolute blast of sass!!!

Things were going swimmingly and I was starting to feel less tired and better and then boom, I got this awful rash on my legs, that was painful and swollen and made movement just a real pain, a low grade Vasculitis was finally worked out and I had a lot of time of work on and off, loads of Drs apts and different creams and anti-biotics. It was caused by my throat infection due to nil to low immunity cause cancer/radiation. At the time of writing, it has improved greatly, but still looks awful and a long way to go. Needless to say it has set my recovery back significantly. I've had other minor issues, right lung a little touched by the radiation so I get very puffed, never ending sinus, and still tired, amongst other niggly things. So I had to pull back on being out and about and rest...again.

I did manage to head to Lizottes and see Tex Perkins with Linda, we'd had tickets for ages and would be sitting down, so no way I was missing that. He was a sheer delight, just him and Matt Walker playing guitars doing swampy blues and telling stories. Perfection indeed, and as always living up to my nickname for him, Texy!

We had a double bookclub in Oct, due to missing out in Sept, as always at Talulah who do a mean smoothie!!!

I had a huge day towards the end of the month, I caught up with a lovely school friend prior to our school reunion. We had lunch at The Brewery of all places. Haven't been there in decades, it was ok, wouldn't recommend it though. But it was lovely to catch up with my friend and then the others that made the reunion. 

I didn't stay long as I had to dash to Town Hall for the Newkulele Festival. My choir was performing. We had an amazing set of Never Tear Up Apart (INXS), Clocks (Coldplay), In This Heart (Sinead O'Connor), Rio (Mike Nesmith), A stunning Aboriginal tune, a gospel version of Kumbahya, and a show stopping Spanish finale. It was an absolute blast and we were well received.

Here is our take on In This Heart.

Directly after was One Song Sing, and we did Somebody to Love. I cannot begin to explain how magical this was. It was a thing of dreams. About 700 people filled the beautiful room, and we sounded amazing. 

Cathy and I started going to meditation classes with a Buddhist group and have found it very very good for our zen and mental health.

The month ended with my nephew's birthday, our little boy is grown up and 16.

I'm settling into my new position, it has been a huge learning curve with most of my work surrounding statistics and number crunching. As a word person, this is fascinating, watching my brain develop these new skills. And it is fun. The new surrounds are full of lovely colleagues, and I am close to home and my myriad of Doctor's appointments.

We are still in the midst of a long and stressful restructure and will not find out where we will fall until at least next year. It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed (especially given the year I have had) by this. For me, it is highly unlikely I will return to Swansea and my new position is temporary, so I am very unsure of my future. I am not the only one. I just try to place it all to the back of my mind and hope for the best.

Of course, I've stuck to my usual routine of heading to the markets.

Here are my reviews for September/October.

And some additional pics.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


What I've Been Reading
{not much, I have lost my reading mojo}

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge - interesting take on how race and talking about race tires people of colour. Integral reading for everyone.

On doubt by Leigh Sales  - a mini book about questioning things around you.

Art Matters: because your imagination can change the world by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell - this is a gorgeous little book based on the essay by Gaiman of the same name but with delightful illustrations by Riddell.

The greatest love story ever told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman - basically a conversation between this funny couple about life, love and everything in between. They are indeed the gold standard and this is an easy and fun read.

What I've Been Watching

Kidding - this is the new Jim Carrey comedy and it is absolutely brilliant and one of the best things I have seen. About a beloved children's show host and a very good and kind man, but things are falling apart. One of his twin son's died in a car accident a year earlier, and he is flailing big time. But the company around him are invested in him being him, not falling apart. The supporting cast are also superb, there, are moments of laugh out loud comedy, but it is also very dramatic and melancholy. Carrey is outstanding and it is one of the best things I have seen. 

Fleabag S1 - this was absolutely brilliant, a stand out show. Based on the stand up of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it is about her, and her love life, and her family, and friends, and it is real and hilarious, and sexy and wonderful. I cannot recommend this enough

The Americans S1  - finally started this, why did I leave it so long. It is everything you have heard and more. Keri Russell is downright cold, and I love it. Nothing like a little 80s cold war drama!!

Insecure S3 - one of my favourite series, about Issa, a young woman and her  struggles at work and in love. Will this be the season Issa gets it all together? Funny and edgy, I love this so much.

The Durrells S3 - this continues to delight, great cast, stories, and scenery. I defy anyone not to love this beautiful show based on the stories of Gerard Durrell.

Rake final season - this was great although not as great as it could have been. Rake in Canberra made me laugh a lot, and supposedly no more. What a ride it has been.

A Place to Call Home final season - this has been such a great show, set in 50s country Australia, fabulous character and great storytelling, and those costumes, houses and cars!!! Oh my!! This season felt a little forced, but tied up strings nicely. I will miss the sweetness and comfort of watching this show, ok and swooning over Brett Climo!!

Doctor Who - the new series with the lady Doctor Who is superb. I had really gone off the series in recent years, while I loved the actors playing the Doctor, the stories left me cold. This just gets the mix right, great characters (all of them), funny, dramatic, good scary but sometimes silly badies and monsters, solid stories. I can't wait to see this each week!

The Walking Dead- cannot even remember what season we are up to, but my interest is wanning. WIth the main character set to go, I am unsure and think my time watching this show may be up.

A Very English Scandal - a great mini series based on a real life story from the 70s when the British Liberal Party leader - brilliantly played by Hugh Grant - is taken to trial by his ex lover, Ben Whishaw. Quite a remarkable story and so very well put together and acted.

The Good Place S1 - This is soo good, I know everyone knows this. It is lovely and sweet, and funny and had Ted Danson, who I love with all my might!

Younger S1/2 - this is a bit of fluff but I love it, set in the publishing world and more a soap opera  but still great and occasionally cool writers get cameos!

The Tunnel S3 - urgh, I loved the first season of this and the second wasn't too bad, they were stretching it here, and the spoilers, but it was too much.

Modern family S8/9 - I still love this show, it is basic and simple and sometimes we need that. It never fails to make me laugh and I adore Phil Dunphy, his mix of cute and physical comedy will always amuse me to no end!

Detectorists S3 - possibly the best season of this quiet little comedy, will they ever find their treasure. If you haven't watched this lovely melancholy British comedy, you simply must! (plus the Simon and Garfunkal jokes amuse me)

Faces Places - a French doco about art and the great French New Wave film director, Agnes Varda. It is about her collaboration with French Photographer, JR. JR is a bit of a French Banksy putting up large pieces of photography like graffiti on old buildings etc. He teams up with Agnes, 90, he's about 20/30. And they pick her pics, she's also an amazing photographer, and they cross the country installing them. It's a great friendship and collaboration. They don't always get on. And wait for the most glorious scene in The Louvre with them reenacting a scene from A Band Apart. Absolute perfection

Rodin – French biopic about the sculptor, was ok.

Escape to the Chateau/DIY - love this show so very much. Fabulous English couple, Dick and Angel have bought a French Chateau and are doing it up. They are brilliant and cool, I am totally addicted. And now the DIY Series, where they visit other people doing similar things. So many chateaus going cheap in France...I wish!!

Rolling Stone: stories from the edge, 50 years of defining culture - doco series about the great magazine, with great interviews and footage and of course music!

Come Inside My Mind - devastating and yet humourous documentary about Robin Williams. Really well done with a lot of unseen footage, and loads of interviews from those that knew him.

Andre the Giant doco - another sad documentary about the big man. Gentle and constantly in pain due to his physicality. This was quite unusual and fascinating.

Legends of the Canyon - a documentary about the music in California in the late 60s and early 70s, it  mostly concentrated on Crosby, Stills and Nash and their variations. There was only a few bits about The Mamas and The Papas, Joni Mitchell and a few others. Whilst it was interesting, it was unbalanced.

Manolo: the boy who made shoes for lizards - fascinating doco about Manolo Blahnik, and the shoes he makes.

Gurrumul - beautiful doco about the man, his life and his music. Incredibly uplifting and moving and integral for everyone to watch in terms of indigenous culture.e

Libeskind: the making of an architect - fascinating doco about the architect behind the World Trade Centre Tower and many other amazing pieces of beautiful architecture. 

Call Me By Your Name - oh my goodness, this is everything and more. It should have won more Oscars, Beautifully shot in Italy, every shot a postcard, and a lovely love story between two beautiful boys. It moved me so, and made me smile. Just stunning.

Lucky - This is Harry Dean Stanton's last film and it is absolutely glorious. About a man in a country town at the end of his life, his thoughts, ideals and his interaction with friends, played by David Lynch, Ed Begley, Tom Skerritt, etc. Not much actually happens, and this is a great thing, it reminds me in parts of Paris, Texas, and Stanton is in his absolute element. And yes, he sings in it!

The Mountain Between Us - this was an unexpected film, how Kate Winslet and Idris Elba survive a small plan crash in winter mountains. Not what you'd expect either actors to be in, or me to watch, but it worked. Very classy and really suspenseful!!!

The Square - this is a complex plot but about an art dealer who is marketing a new piece of art and is getting bad media coverage, it impacts on his entire life. Edgy and cool, I quite liked this.

All the Money in the World - the movie about the kidnapping of the Getty Heir, also famous for sacking Kevin Spacey and replacing him with Christopher Plummer who is fabulous in it.

Murder on the Orient Express - this looked great and had an amazing cast, and is a classic story, but it lacked over substance maybe!?

Goodbye Christopher Robin - this was a little too manipulative for my liking, about the child who Christopher Robin was based on and how he handled it...he didn't.

Killing a Sacred Deer - as crazy as you have heard, Nicole Kidman doing her classic cold and Colin Farrell continuing to be amazing. A complex plot in a complex drama and everything goes terribly badly...

The greatest showman - I had heard mixed reviews about this, but I really enjoyed it. It was good old fashioned entertainment, a great musical with catchy music and Hugh's either for you or not, lol. It was for me!!

Paddington 2 - this was excellent, a great story and romp, great for children and adults alike and the most fabulous villain in Hugh Grant, he must have had sooo much fun making this. Don't dismiss this as a kid's movie, you will enjoy this!

Jumanji 2 - again, another great kid's film, I really enjoyed this, probably more than the original. Jack Black and The Rock were great. I won't spoil the premise, as I had no idea and was pleasantly surprised and couldn't stop laughing! Another must see!

Downsizing – I always like Matt Damon, but lately he has been taking on very odd roles and they just don’t work. This silly film is one of them

A Wrinkle in Time – I only recently read this book, and whilst a classic I didn’t love it. The movie of it made me feel much the same. The effects were great, but ultimately it left me cold.

Home Again – this was a cute little rom com with Reese Witherspoon, about a separated Mum who meets a trio of much younger boys on a night up and they end up living in her guest house. 

Final Portrait – Arnie Hammer sits for a portrait for a famous painter (Geoffrey Rush) and finds the experience much more challenging and lengthy than he thought. Clemence Poesy plays his muse, she also played Picasso's muse in Picasso.

Finding your Feet - a sweet film about a bunch of British oldies finding love and life through dance. Funny and touching, I was sucked in by this!

Thor Ragnarok – this is everything you have heard, funny, engaging, and loads of action.

Justice League – ponderous and boring,and we will leave it there. It lacked story and sense of humour.

Battle of the Sexes - with Emma Stone and Steve Carrel, two of my faves.
Based of the true story of Billie Jean King. And her fight for equality on the tennis circuit. What an amazing woman and athlete! It was a really engaging and fun film. How far we've come, how far we still have to go!

Swinging Safari - this lacked something, I am not sure what, a look back at the kitsch 70s Australia with an amazing cast, but it just didn't work. The kids storylines were the better, the adult stuff left me cold

Happy End - french film about a large family with many issues, including issues with their construction company and immigrants. Slow paced, but interesting.

Just to be sure - French farce about a man who finds out he is adopted and commences to find his birth father, and this causes great havoc within the family.

Madame - An American couple (Toni Collette and Harvey Keitel) put on a dinner party in their French Mansion and when someone is unable to attend, their maid is asked to fill in as a guest. But quelle horreur, one of their guests falls in love with her. The maid is played by the divine Rossy de Palma, and she is utterly beguiling.
Blade Runner 2049 - ahhh the long awaited sequel, I really loved this and am very mad I missed this on the big screen. No spoilers, just go and watch this!

What I've Been Listening To

God's favorite Customer by Father John Misty - this has gotten great reviews and you can see why. Good quality popular music with a pop/country/folk sound. He almost sounds like a younger Elton John at times. Yes, some of the songs are religious based, but not in a way that feels forces. The songs simply are very listenable.

Roxy: tonight’s the night live By Neil Young – live album from 2013, Young is in fine form

Campfire by Kasey Chambers and the Fireside Disciples  - not bad country album

Last man Standing by Willie Nelson – Excellent new album

Golden by Kylie Minogue – happy, upbeat and dancey, everything you’d expect from Kylie, except she doesn’t really sound like Kylie to me!!!

Revamp: reimagining the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin – this wasn’t too bad. You cannot really go wrong with anything by these guys. Standouts were I Guess That’s Why They Call it The Blues by Alessia Cara. I do not know Cara but she had a lovely fresh voice that brought this to a new height. Florence and the Machine tackled Tiny Dancer and were fabulous. Lady Gaga did a great version of Your Song. And The Killers sounded hauntingly like Elton on Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters (a personal favourite)

In Your Own Sweet Time by The Fratellis – I really loved this upbeat poppy album. I have listened to these guys before but must dig out more.

Lo la Run by The Rubens – great urban groove

You’re driving me crazy by Van Morrison and Joey Defrancesco – fab jazz album with reworkings of Van's own titles and some standards.

Out of the Blues by Boz Scaggs Pretty good new jazzy album from good ole Boz

Good thing by Leon Bridges – Leon has a lovely smooth blues voice, this album is a great showcase of this.

In the blue light by Paul Simon – reworkings of older obscure songs, not bad.

Linda Ronstadt - always loved Linda, but been listening to her a lot. Singing with her a lot. I think she is a forgotten star
of music and very much underrated.

Here's The Thing - catching up on Alec Baldwin's podcast

Saturday, November 10, 2018

FOR THE LOVE OF QUEEN: Bohemian Rhapsody

So I finally saw Bohemian Rhapsody, a film I - and from chatting to people, the rest of the world - have been waiting for, seemingly forever.

There's so much riding on this film. Freddie is a beloved character, taken way too soon from this world at 45. I am older now than Freddie was when he passed. Imagine if he was around today, I think about that a lot.

And that voice, men's voices get better and better with age, imagine listening to him as he grew older, there would have been a LOT more opera I bet...what a loss.

Also a band, simply loved by all; the sensitive, odd, bohemian souls (of which I and most people I know are, and of which Freddie would love) to regular dudes and rednecks. Their music touched the entire world.

For me, as a young girl who spent way too much time in her bedroom singing along to records, I love those songs more than I can begin to say. They helped define my range vocally (true) and let me belt out a tune - most certainly out of tune back then, but boy I tried! Each and every one of their big songs are a gift to a singer and indeed to choral work.

I dreamed of performing in large choirs singing these songs and had sequences and movements and costumes and solos worked out in my head. I performed them over and over in my bedroom, me singing, and the rest taking place in the stadium of my mind. I was a strange kid, but it was all formative.

And yet, I would never have called myself a fan of Queen, no real reason, I just fangirled over other bands and singers. Although, really despite my absolute abandon to music all my life, I am not really a fangirl in the true sense of the word, I love music too much to limit myself to that.

Music was played liberally in our house, mostly by my Dad, who was quite the music guru back in the day, though I do not recall him playing Queen. But music shows were also allowed, and that is where I would have discovered them. Now I would have been 4 when Bohemian Rhapsody was released and I am sure I had no idea of it, but given Countdown was played weekly and it was number 1 forever and that clip is so very distinctive and I feel I have known it all my life (I know, that's a lot of ands!), I guess I must have discovered it then!?!

Who knows, memory is such a strange and distorted thing.

For me, their touchstone song was Somebody To Love, truly the soundtrack of my own life, the one song I really really relate to, it kills me!

The despair and the joy, both within and sometimes together.

I have sung the guts out of that song my entire life. Good, bad, or otherwise!!

About 18 months ago, I joined a choir, finally after years of searching, and behold last month we sung Somebody to Love at Town Hall in Newcastle, and it was glorious and I cried pretty much all the way through it. Because it was joyous and because, whilst it wasn't exactly what I played out in my head as a kid, it came really freaking close!!

So dreams can come true!!!!

And so back to the movie, you can see for me, someone who is not even a fan, I expected a lot.

Sheeze, anyone who really knows me, knows I do not please easily, lol!

So this film could have been a disaster, but I am pleased to say it was not.

{From now on Spoilers, so be aware if you have not seen the film}

I went by myself and was ready to be entertained and that I was. I had read and seen a fair bit prior and had been pretty much blown away.

I was also aware there was a lot of 'story' left out.

And here's the thing, with a story as grand as Freddie Mercury AND Queen, you cannot deliver it all in a film running time, stuff has to get cut. And is it a film about Freddie or a film about Queen. But of course any film about Queen, is about Freddie. Oh boy, such a dilemma.

So I think in terms of what they gave us, they got it right. It was about Queen, their formation, how they put some of their music together, their dynamics with Freddie. Which, of course, has to figure some of Freddie because...well, Freddie.

However, there were MANY inconsistencies, bleedingly obvious ones to the most casual observer and then many many more. I found this really annoying, sloppy, and doing a disservice to anyone coming to see this.

Everyone knows Radio Ga Ga was released a few months before Live Aid and they had been playing sold out gigs leading up to the Live Aid. Bob Geldof only had a few lesser bands on board when he read out his famous list of those participating, hoping to shame those that had not yet said yes to actually do so.  And the biggie, quite manipulative, and I hate hate hate being manipulated, the whole Freddie had Aids before Live Aid, when that wasn't the case.

And there was much more than that.

These things were obvious to me watching and they certainly annoyed me but they didn't ruin the experience, thankfully!

A list of Queen songs within the film was pretty limited also, which is a shame.

And I just cannot help feeling cheated out of seeing David Bowie and Queen working on Under Pressure...but hey, that's just me.

The acting was really great, the three guys playing Brian, Roger, and John were uncanny, especially in the mid 80s scene, i had to blink to be sure it wasn't the actual guys!

The supporting cast of lesser players, were also great.

Rami Malek was really excellent as Freddie, he got his stance and walk down pat, performance style, on and off stage. Not a mimic but almost inhabiting him.

The Live Aid piece at the end was quite remarkable. I read that they asked the general public to record themselves singing various parts of the songs and to send them in and they used them all - thousands of separate voices - as an overdub, much like how they recorded Bohemian Rhapsody, the song. There were parts of this were you looked at Rami and only saw Freddie - that is not the case with the entire movie. He does so very well, but you know only Freddie can be Freddie.

I loved all the scenes were they were working on tunes and riffs etc, I hope they are close to the truth, cause I so want them to be. It reminded me of the Brian Wilson movie and the Pet Sounds experimentations.

I had completely forgotten how integral Kenny Everett was in their initial success. I was a huge fan of Everett as a kid, imagine listening to Kenny and Freddie chatter on the radio, blow your mind stuff indeed!!??

And I will admit this silly little thing, I just got the "They call me Mr Fahrenheit" link in Don't Stop Me Now...d'uh!!!

So overall, I loved this film, but was a little let down by the inconsistencies and things omitted. I'd still recommend it to anyone to go and see, and I know I will have that soundtrack in my head for some time...probably the rest of my life!!!

And for your absolute pleasure, here is the entire Queen at Live Aid performance. Voted (and concurred absofuckinglutely by me) as THE best ever live performance of ALL TIME.