Tuesday, December 31, 2019


I started the month still feeling down about my health and work, but I knew if I didn't pick myself up I'd be in the depth of depression during December, my favourite month of the year and that simply cannot happen.

I had a few minor wins at work, nothing to really change things, but to give me a little hope and I sorted out my foot and legs. A few Osteopath appointments righted a very achy foot. And a visit to my GP who worked out some tabs were causing my legs to swell, off them immediately and within a week my legs were pretty much back to normal. 

So just like that I felt a huge weight off health wise and decided I just need more patience and a giant smile to get me through the work stuff. Luckily I had many, many preschool Christmas visits and storytimes to work through, and if little kids are not the essence of Christmas and beauty, I don't know what is.

I say December is my favourite time of the year, I love the Christmas spirit, finding the right present for my loved ones, celebrating, and enjoying time out and about with family and friends. My birthday is Boxing Day, so I wait all year for 'me' to be celebrated. I have always thought birthdays are important and even more so for me now. They are about celebrating getting through each year and hopefully becoming wiser and more knowledgeable about this thing called life! Obviously the timing of my birthday is shite, it is problematic and a pain up my (and everyone's) arse but it IS my birthday and it IS important! Especially as a single gal, it can go either way, so I just try to make things as lovely as I can, because I deserve it! And if I don't make my life lovely, who will!!??

One of the first big events in December is my Dad's birthday, so we had our usual family gathering at the local pub with cake after.

One of the big things missing in my life while I was unwell was choir, having the bad throat infection and losing my voice meant I couldn't sing. This I am sure added to my drop in mental health. So I returned mid-december and it was glorious, including our final Christmas Party singing carols including my favourite, Happy Christmas (war is over).

My bestie, Cathy (yes, yes, we know, we know!!), had her birthday in November and we finally got to celebrate it with brunch at Table 1 Espresso, always amazing, followed by a visit to the new chocolate shop at Warners Bay - you must go and check it out, so lovely! Then we headed to MAC, as it is now called, LM Art Gallery that is! And that exhibition is still amazing. We ended the day with a cool drink on their balcony overlooking the lake. Time well spent with loved ones is priceless.

During my meltdowns at the end of Nov and beginning of Dec I made my yearly Kineisology appointment, feeling better I still took it and as always it really helped consolidate my 'stuff'. My lovely therapist is at Lochinvar so I took the opportunity to do a vineyards run, and collect some wine etc for the festive period. It was very dry and brown as you can imagine, but the roses at Peterson's were still beautiful.

My lovely gals and I had our Christmas night out at the new Signal Box in Newcastle. This is a restaurant in the old Signal Box on the now defunct railway lines. To be honest I would rather have the railway there, but that's best alone now. The restaurant was newly opened and obviously having teething issues. The service wasn't great and the food overpriced for what it was. Edible and nice but nothing to rave over. I think it was trying to be too fancy for what it was. The breakfast and lunch menu looked much better and laid back. It had very large windows to open for breezes etc, which would have been fine had it not been a smoggy, windy night. The company however, was top rate, so we had a lovely night nonetheless.

I commenced my 2 week holidays - yay, not had a break since April, which when you have been as unwell as me and gone through all we've gone through at work felt like 8 years not 8 months - with a trip to the gold class cinema to see Star Wars. My Christmas Present from my sister and her family. I really enjoyed the movie, it was a little clunky in the first half but the second half rocked. I still think the first out of the later trilogy was the best, but this was not so shabby.

The weekend following was full with Markets at Warners Bay, brunch at Hunter Valley Botanical gardens with friends, Brunch with school friends since kindi, a One Song Sing and a family dinner.

The One Song Sing was at Babylon as usual and Paul Kelly's How to Make Gravy and it was spectacular. Beautifully arranged, emotional to sing, and a huge turn out. Yay for music. You can see the video of it here.

The following day I headed down to Sydney with friends to see Elton John and you can read about that here.

Christmas Eve I headed to my sister's property to spend time with the family. We had a great evening with a BBQ and pavlova and a mammoth game of Monopoly.

Christmas Day was joyous, a little sleep in, present time, breakfast croissants, huge baked dinner with all the meats for lunch and yummy trifle. Home for a nap, and out to Mum and Dad's for supper.

My birthday had a low key day, but filled with phone calls and messages of love. I had dinner at the Mary Ellen with the family. My nephew, 17, drove me back to my parents for cake in my car. He is a great driver, but it was surreal. The home for a nightcap.

The days leading up to New Years Eve were mostly spent lounging at home, sleeping in, reading, listening to music, watching tele, pottering online, writing, napping and eating. I had some outtings though. Lunch at 6 Degrees at the Brewery, a bit of a shop, afternoon cocktails with good friends.

It's been a crazy year, not exactly a good one, but such is life, stay tuned over the next week for my year round up and year reviews.
Here are my December Reviews.

and my usual pics:


What I've Been Reading

Bruny by Heather Rose – This is another fabulous novel by Heather Rose. Totally different to Museum of Modern Love and yet very similar. Similar in writing style and a detailed background of factual information within.
Astrid is a negotiator for the UN and has returned home to Tasmania to help her brother who is running for government, against their sister the opposition. Things are getting political in Tasmania with a bridge being built to Bruny Island and why. When the bridge is half blown up Astrid realised there is more going than meets the eye. And what she finds out will rock you to the core. This is a modern novel about politics, the environment, climate change and so much more. What we are doing wrong in the world and how very much more wrong it can go. Beautifully written and researched, this is a page turner too!

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: life lessons from space by Col. Chris Hadfield – I read this book before a few years back and loved it, so decided to listen to the talking book, with him reading it. I am fascinated about all things space and Col. Hadfield has a lovely simplistic way of explaining things. The memoir includes how be got to be chosen as an astronaut, training to be one, and his 3 times in space. It includes great tips for living life from things he learnt in space. He has a lovely calm voice and it is nice to hear him read his thoughts himself. This was a great second read.

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith - another little gem from Patti. Taking form over a year, it is part memoir, part inner thoughts, part dreams and utterly beautiful. The free-form whimsy and intellectual thoughts give you a front row seat into the inner sanctum of Patti's unique mind and to me that is everything.

What I've Been Watching

The Crown S1/2 – I finally caught up with this! Wow, I was so impressed, everyone says it is great, everyone knows it is great. There isn’t really much more to say. I wouldn’t call myself a royalist at all, I don’t quite understand how birth order and all that jazz can really inform anything and yet I am sucked in. My grandmother was a royalist and as a kid I guess I participated in it with her, but as I grew older I was very much unimpressed. Funnily, as I get older now, I am returning almost full circle, I am participating even though I don’t really support it as such. My Nan would be proud, lol!

Claire Foy is everything as the Queen, you want to smack her sometimes, and other times give her a hug, what a thankless role really. Matt Smith is delicious as Philip, as is Vanessa Kirby as Margaret – her gowns are to die for. I also thought John Lithgow was brilliant as Churchill. What fun!!

Watchmen – easily of the best shows I have seen this year! 9 episodes that build and build. Between this and The Leftovers, Damon Lindelof has almost redeemed himself for the ending of Lost…almost! It is difficult to describe without spoilers but it is within the Watchmen universe except in present day. Angela Abar, the absolutely brilliant Regina King, is a modern day Mum to three, working at opening her patisserie…but is she!? She is actually a masked detective, and by night a vigilante, to say she kicks arse is an understatement. White Supremacists are on the rise and need to be brought into order. There is still the occasional squid rain, a reminder of the huge attack and annihilation of New York under a Giant Alien Squid decades ago. To say things are tense are an understatement.

This all sounds rather ridiculous, but it is exquisitely performed and produced. The cast, including Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jnr, Jeremy Irons, and Tim Blake Nelson are absolutely brilliant. It is one of those shows that builds and builds to such a fine crescendo I found myself sitting literally on the edge of my seat with my jaw dropped. Some threads take the entire series (only 9 shows) to unravel but the pay off is just remarkable. The concepts are high, but delicious. I want more, unsure there will be despite an open ending. I guess we wait and see.

Fleabag S2 - realised I haven't written this up, like The Crown, what is there to say? I still think I prefer S1 (by a whisker) but this was great. Phoebe-Waller Bridge is such a charismatic face on screen, those asides by anyone else wouldn't work. The supporting characters are more fleshed out this time, her sister and step-mother are still stand outs. The hair cut scene and the flashbacks had me in stitches. Add in the Hot Priest and that very clever storyline, and it is simply a winner. So much remarkable television this year.

After Life - oh my goodness. I am a huge fan of Ricky Gervais, always have been. This is probably his best series yet. It is very melancholy and I sobbed most of the way through it, but that's me! It is about a man, Gervais, who's wife has died from breast cancer and he just doesn't want to live without her. The only thing keeping himself from checking out is his dog. Yup, it sounds awful, but it is beautiful and it is about WHY life matters, and despite being dark, it is very funny and incredibly uplifting. There is so much heart behind this, you will feel better for watching it.

Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special - it has been ten years since we last visited our friends and not a lot - thankfully - has changed. Gavin and Stacey are still married with three kids living next door to Gwen (who hasn't aged a day!) in the house Doris (bless, and truly missed) left them, Nessa is suing, it should have been hers! Bryn and Nessa have not changed a bit, bar additional hair (!?!) on Bryn. Neither have The Shipmans or Smithy. It is Christmas and everyone is headed for Wales. A short hilarious piece with Dawn and her ever solid hubby left me in tears laughing. Smithy has a girlfriend and he is going to propose, and unlike Lucy we get to meet her and she is a piece of work, this was the weakest link in the show, I didn't buy it. Loved the Christmas duet, despite the controversy. I love these characters so very much, in a world full of pain and despair, their decency and kindness are always welcome. And the ending, my screams as the credits rolled are still reverberating around my suburb!

Years and Years – it is really hard to write about this mini-series without spoilers. It is set in Britain and follows an extended family over many decades, with each episode moving further into the future. It is political and scary and very much a post post modern nightmare. Whilst it is about how this family survives with all these super horrid changes, Emma Thompson stars as a Pauline Hansonesque politician who ends up running the country. She is brilliantly bad. The show deals with politics, immigration, climate change, technology and none of it looks terribly good. And yet, seems possible. Everyone should watch this show!

Hold the Sunset S1/2 - this is a quaint little comedy of errors show starring John Cleese and Alison Steadman (Gavin and Stacey) as a couple in late age who just want to travel but family dramas keep popping up to halt this. This grew on me after initially not being sure. I found the main protagonist of her son an issue, he was really annoying...and meant to be so, but once I was a little over that, I enjoyed the show.

My Summer in Provence - lovely French film about 3 kids who spend the summer, reluctantly, in Provence with the grandfather they had never met. It's the time told tale of stuffy grandfather who is charmed by the grandchildren he initially found irritating, except the grandfather is played by Jean Reno and it is set against the stunning Provence backdrop. What a delight.

Late Night - this was a fun, Emma Thompson plays a long time late night host who is on the way out. Mindy Kaling is employed as the first female writer and she shakes things up. Both were great in their roles and the script written by Kaling felt real, similar to events actually happening in Late Night.

The Fall - this is the recent documentary about the infamous 'clash' between Mary Decker and Zola Budd at the 1984 Olympics. And it is great! The 1984 Olympics were my first real attachment to The Olympics generally. I was 13 and from the (now considered gauche) opening with all those grand pianos playing Rhapsody in Blue I was hooked. Since then I have been a bit of an Olympic sponge. And that year the clash happened, everyone was against Zola at the time, but it appears to really have just been an accident. It was fascinating to relive all the action, see their careers leading up to and beyond that point and whether they crossed paths again later. Loved this!

Great Australian Bake Off – while I love documentaries, ‘reality’ TV is not really my thing, but I do make some exceptions. I recently discovered the Great British Bake Off, mostly as my great love Noel Fielding was on it, and really enjoyed salivating over the cooking. Mostly it is straight forward and not too bullshitty, plus baked goods, seriously baked goods. So I checked out the recent
Australian one, absolutely the same format at the British one, but equally as enjoyable.

What I've Been Listening To

Dolly's America - This is a new podcast about all things Dolly and it is magnificent!

Song Exploder - another podcast I have just started. It takes a song and talks to the artist about it, about 20-30 minutes, great little snippets to partake of.

Beatles Abbey Road - re-release of the classic album with extras, such a joy and a gift. I always toggle between this and The White Album as my faves, but this is winning at the moment. It is classic after classic, sheer genius, but the Abbey Road trilogy is such a joy, it brings me to my knees. And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make...indeed!

Elton John - been listening to loads of Elton leading up to his concert, I love the very early stuff and the later stuff.

Cuz I love you - Lizzo - I love this album so much, not just for all the positive body image and loving yourself stuff but for her voice. Her voice is classically trained, operatic and magnificent. And it moves from that to rap and back so seemlessly. Playing over and over again.

1999 - Prince - Another re-release and on purple vinyl no less. It is a thing of beauty and has had me dancing around Club Cathy.

2019: the year that was

This is my end of year post where I reflect on my year...


...so it's gonna start rough, but hang in there, I've dug up some good stuff too.

2019, without doubt, was the worst year of my life. Which is saying something given I had cancer in 2018. But the thing is I survived cancer. It is gone. I had a wonderful medical team I could place my faith and trust in to get me through. I didn't have the luxury of that this year.

So health, work, and love life were quite disastrous this year, especially work.

My health continued to amble along, 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Nothing too major, bar a small period of few days where I thought I had cancer again. Thankfully I did not. Recovering from last year took me to Easter, then a few months of feeling almost normal before a throat infection spread to my legs (again) and my chest and lungs, ending with a bung foot. I've only just come good in the past month. So I am getting there and feeling the best I have physically in the past 2 years. Still some ways to go but I feel close!

Mental Health is a whole other story, I have been fighting the black dog most of this year and despite it all, I haven't succumbed to full on depression, which is rather amazing. I've certainly had my moments but I have somehow continued to bounce back. 

See this year brought about the complete and utter annihilation of my almost 20 year career as a Librarian after 30 years of working in libraries. I have tried not to think too much about this or write about it. Mostly as I try to keep my work related stuff upbeat and there is nothing upbeat about this, and also because the thought of it brings me to my knees.

So, the facts are thus. We underwent a restructure. There was a lot of changes. A lot of staff left - because there was no job for them or because they choose to, unwilling to work within these changes. I was lucky enough to remain employed. But along with my colleagues at the same level, I am no longer recognised or paid as a Librarian. I get to maintain my salary as per union agreement for 2 years and then it drops (along with my colleagues) 2 levels. 

There is more, but that'll do. As they say, it is just business.

Being a Librarian is my everything. It is my life's work.

If you know me even remotely, you will know how devastating that is for me.

But I'll tell you this.

How I managed to get through days, sometimes hours this year I have no idea. I just hobbled through - sometimes literally - one step ahead of the black dog. I am so proud of myself for this. I have no idea how I am still standing.

The pain is always there, it'll never go away. I just try to compartmentalise it. The fact remains my career is completely ruined and it was out of my control. We have done nothing wrong.

I am hopeful in time I can resurrect myself professionally, but until then I just need to be patient (something I am not great at...lessons, lessons, lessons) and be grateful I have a job and to make the most of my life. Cause my life - despite this set back - is great.

I actually love the position I was offered, which is looking after the beautiful community of Windale. I was initially quite humiliated at this offer, I did this same role 20 years ago before I was a librarian, but the alternative of unemployment was not an option for me. So it is back to basics and it is quite frankly humbling. I am making lemonade out of lemons, and I am taking opportunities and having fun.

And I am actually feeling the best I have been in a long while. That is, if I do not think too much about the big picture, because it hurts so very much, especially on the back of being so sick. This year was meant to be simple, and stress and anxiety free.

This is why I have been a lot more sensitive and worn my heart on my sleeve more and more as the year progressed. I have always been that way, but when you have been cracked open as I have been this past couple of years, it could have gone either way. That is to say bitterly, and don't think I haven't had those moments, or just try to be kind - to myself and to those around me - and try to create beauty and decency and hope.

I choose the later.

Funnily enough, earlier this year a thing went round Twitter with Librarians sharing their 'origin stories'. I have been working on mine and I am sure I will finish it at some point, but it has been difficult to write as you can imagine and finish given there is no happy ending at this point. But I remain ever hopeful it will come.

Because without hope, what is the point of this thing called life!?

Moving onto my love life, I had moments of happiness in the middle of the year and despite that ending badly, I will look upon the good parts of it fondly...sort of :/ I think so much shite was going on around me I grabbed onto it blindly, and got sucked in. Better than being completely closed off to romantic opportunities I guess! I have tried to kick start the whole dating thing a few times since but really I have not been in the headspace, healthy enough, nor had the time. Something for 2020 maybe!

And, two beautiful friends died, one way too young and one at 102. It is very sad they have gone, but knowing them made us all better people.

Geez, that was just my personal life, don't get me started on politics, climate change, refugees, sexism, racism, and misogyny!

And I am very well aware that many people around me had a rotten year too.

I looked back to what my hopes for 2019 were and it's really difficult not to feel angry, but I refuse to let chance and other people make me feel worse. I wanted better health (ok, I am getting there, tick!), consolidating finances (they improved slightly but given I am looking down the barrel of a significant financial loss NO), a simple year with no dramas (ummm, NO), rest and relax and be still (I tried my best, tick), music (tick, tick), a little holiday somewhere (NOPE, that is next year, been difficult to get time off work and I haven't really been well enough to enjoy a holiday anyway).

I also wrote that if things don't turn out the way I hoped that is ok, at least I am here to experience all that life throws at me, good, bad or otherwise. Well, that I did.

My new mantra for this year was: I am here, I am alive, and I have a job.

And I shall take that into the 20s with me!

And the good...there is always good, no matter how bad things get.

Sometimes you have to look hard and sometimes it is right there in front of you!

The love and support of my family and friends remained king!

Whilst I had to take a break from choir in the middle part of the year I still had my music. Be it choir and One Song Sings when I could attend, live music concerts, and my vinyl project. They all kept me going, music will always be my true love and feed my soul. Playing my vinyl, sorting it out and storing it and taking the responsibility of my father's collection helped soothe my soul in ways immeasurable. Singing with my lovely Sum of the Parts family adds peace and nurture into my life in ways I will never be able to repay.

I did get little trips away to Sydney, and to Coffs Harbour.

I saw lots of art and theatre and movies and television and live music.

I read a lot and attended a lot of writer's talks, at festivals and one off events.

I did my usual soccer and markets and photography things.

I had my 1 year clear from cancer and that is a superb thing.

I got to see Iggy Pop at the Opera House with fabulous friends!

I spent quality time with family and friends over good food and drinks.

I get to work with some truly wonderful, resilient, kind, and supportive people.

I get to play scrabble every Thursday with a lovely, intelligent, but lonely old lady who pops into Windale Library for her books and some company.

I still sit and watch the world go by, daydream, and think.

And I think I am incredibly lucky to be here, alive to take all of this world in, the good and the bad!

I remain ever hopeful that 2020 will be an improvement on this year, it wouldn't take much. 

So I am happy to put this year well and truly behind me.

Stay tuned for my favourites list, all the great cultural things I enjoyed over the year.

To all of those who supported and listened to me or were simply just there being a beautiful presence, I thank you and I love you.

Monday, December 30, 2019


I was lucky enough to get tickets to Elton John's farewell concert, due to fabulous friends. I have seen Elton twice before, in the late 80s and early 90s. Since then I have become a real fan. I have been collecting him on vinyl and have pretty much most of it. I love love love the early albums and the non-hit tracks. They are bluesy, country, honky tonk and gospel US style tracks. They suit him. And I love his newer stuff, The Lion King, some amazing ballads and a great album with the late great Leon Russell, whose honky tonk style he shamelessly stole from in the early days. I can leave the 80s, Crocodile Rock, Candle in the Wind, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road well and truly behind.

So our concert was the Monday before Christmas, not the best day for a concert, but we managed. Vince and I hit the road and had a great trip down thankfully. We met Kathy at our fave French restaurant, La Guillotine and had a delicious meal before wandering over to the new ICC for the concert. A short walk on a balmy night.

Leading into the centre was a yellow brick road, which was a lovely touch. We had seats in the middle section of the centre towards the back. The centre is nothing special but the seating is great in that every seat gives a great view and the sound and lighting was spectacular. The stage itself was tailor made for Elton with an interesting yellow brick road backdrop and gold edging with loads of Elton references carved within.

There was a grand piano, natch, left of stage, and beyond that a steep section with cutout bits for the band. Ray Cooper took over the top section with his infectious percussioning. Drums and keyboards the bottom section. Bass and Guitar on stage with Elton. It was fun sitting there (once my vertigo settled, oh vey, we were up high!) watching the crowd come in, such a range of ages. Elton's music really is timeless.

And so it began, with those heady, thumping piano chords of Benny and The Jets. The crowd went wild.

I loved the concert, it was wildly entertaining but it lacked a lot. Not enough to be disappointing, but nowhere near enough to place it in the realms of the joy I experienced seeing Paul McCartney or Fleetwood Mac.

The setlist as you will see below was hit after hit and a few less popular songs, nothing obscure. I was expecting the set pretty much as it was and that was ok. But the thing is, he has been playing - pretty much - the same set for months. I knew something wasn't sticking but found it hard to articulate what. Vince said it was too bombastic and Vegasy, and lacked light and shade. Yes, I thought it perfunctionary in parts, like he was sticking to a script and just dialing it in. So many of those songs bring me to tears but that just didn't happen, I didn't feel a connect to him on the stage.

Each song, especially at the beginning was loud and yeah, bombastic, and initially felt rushed. Musically they were great, he sounded great, the piano playing exquisite, the band tight. But they lacked heart and soul, and those songs are heart and soul. You'd expect Benny and the Jets to be played like that but not Candle in the Wind (definitely the worst played song of the night) and I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues to be played in a similar manner, but they were. Things got better as the night progressed, by the time they got to Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me he'd settled somewhat and played it perfectly, thankfully as that is my favourite song. And yet, still no tears.

Highlights were Border Song, Tiny Dancer, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Levon, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, and Your Song. And of all things, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, I finally teared up during that. That song was my real introduction to Elton, in music class at school, we sang that a lot! It took me back, that is what good music is meant to do.

He didn't have a lot to say, and when he did, whilst it sounded heartfelt, it felt scripted, like he'd said the same thing at the same time each night. He also didn't move well on stage, it looked like he had back issues, so maybe he was in pain.

There were loads of videos to back up the songs, some really enhanced the songs, others overshadowed and were irritating. The piano moved across the stage electronically at times, which was rather amusing. He had 2 costume changes, the last being a spectacular dressing gown.

The band, mostly late 60s and older, and played with Elton for decades, were amazing, they sounded great and tight. Ray Cooper, 72, was wild and entertaining, wow he can really play. The drummer, Nigel, was as cheeky as ever and a superb drummer for 70 years young, playing with Elton for 50 years. The keyboards and guitars great, Davey Johnson formidable in his playing.

I know it sounds like I was not impressed, far from it. It just didn't have the warmth I would have liked to see, I wasn't moved. I should have been. But it was still fabulous and I am so glad and consider myself very lucky to have seen it. It was the last one before a few weeks break, maybe he was tired.

He left the stage in the most bizarre way, but I shall keep that to myself, no spoilers. What I really loved was the crowd participation, and as we were all leaving they played Don't Go Breaking My Heart, and everyone was slowly walking out and singing and dancing, what fun!

1. Benny and The Jets
2. All the Girls Love Alice
3. I Guess that's why they call it the blues

4. Border Song
5. Tiny Dancer
6. Philadelphia Freedom
7. Indian Sunset
8. Rocket Man
9. Take Me to the Pilot
10. Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word
11. Someone Saved My Life Tonight
12. Levon
13. Candle in the Wind
14. Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
15. Burn Down the Mission
16. Daniel
17. Sad Songs
18. Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
19. The Bitch is Back
20. I'm Still Standing
21. Crocodile Rock
22. Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting
23. Your Song
24. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road