Wednesday, July 31, 2019


What I've Been Reading

Australia Day by Stan Grant -  I listened to Stan read his own book on talking book and it was beautiful. Stan has such a lovely speaking voice, almost hypnotic. This is an important book about identity and what it means to him to be an Australian. He tackles many indigenous issues and also the issue of racism within the country, past and present. It is such an informative book, at times sad, at times beautifully uplifting, and at times quite frustrating, but always beautifully and thoughtfully presented.

Around the world in 80 novels: a global journey inspired by writers from every continent by Henry Russell – this was a fun book with 80 novels spread over all the continents. Most were obvious, but there were a handful of ones I had not heard of. Good for anyone who wants to spread their wings and do a little armchair travelling.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This is the fascinating story of Connell and Marianne who meet in school. Coming from different social situations, their school paths do not cross but Connell’s Mum cleans Marianne’s Mum’s house and they form a close bond and become lovers. Over the years they have an on-off again relationship drifting in and out of each other’s lives, but always coming back to each other. They move through phases of upset and destruction and unhappiness and the search for something meaningful. Will they save each other or hurt each other? I really liked this book, I could really relate to this book. However I don’t think it is an amazing book and I don’t think the hype surrounding it is warranted. Ultimately it is a modern love story which normally is not my thing, but this is executed realistically and well.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta -  This is the first book, I had read years ago, in this sort of trilogy. I say sort of, in that you can read each book on their own without the others and it would be fine. They have cross over characters and a forward reaching timeline. Francesca is a teen in Year 11 in a new school, which is a strange time of life let alone a new school. Her Mum, Mia is in a deep depression and will not leave her bed. Things are dire and Francesca is trying to fit in, do her work at school, and possibly fall in love. It is a great teen novel and Marchetta doing what she does best. Writing about a cross section of life in  the outer communities.

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta – this follows Thomas who is going through his own family dramas. It is five years since Saving Francesca and the kids are now out of school and finding their way in the world. Thomas’ uncle was killed in a terrorist attack and his family is falling apart. Thomas is in a downward spiral himself, he knows he should pull himself out, but he cannot be bothered. He is also living with his aunt who is pregnant to an ex-lover.

The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta -  Next book in the ‘series’ follows Jimmy and Rosie. They meet during a flood, she is running away from her life in a country town, he is a SES worker. Cut to a few years later, Rosie is back ‘home’ with her step mother at her dead father’s house. They don’t get on but both lay a claim for the property. Jimmy returns to a surprise and they all need to overcome their stubbornness and be honest and heartfelt and work out their lives. This is a great family saga from Marchetta, doing the slice of life she does best. Having said that some of the characters could have been fleshed out better and definitely had more stories to tell. In this the house was probably the most important character of the book. A rambling ramshackle place that works as a metaphors for their lives. Also the ending was a little bit too good to be true. I really like Marchetta’s writing and her characters but I still find them more as Teen reads, rather than adult reads. That is not a criticism, it just means they are an easier and light read.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – this is the third novel from Harper. I loved her first novel, The Dry, even though it was a genre I usually don’t read, murder/thriller. The follow-up, left me cold and I abandoned it. I think when someone writes a brilliant debut, publishers get then author to push out another, and this was obvious. The Lost Man is a return to form, although not as great as The Dry.  Cameron Bright’s body is found in the middle of nowhere in the Queensland outback. It doesn’t look like murder or an accident, more likely suicide. His older brother decides to look into how this could have happened, as the police are not longer interested. This is a story of families and secrets and the isolation of the outback. This is definitely Harper’s genre and she writes it well, in a powerful and descriptive way that you feel like you are out there yourself. It is definitely a formula, and I am unsure how long she can keep this up, but this one is certainly worth a read.

Wundersmith: the calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend - I listened to book 2 of this children's (but really for any age) book on talking book. Morrigan is settling into Nevermoor and the Wundrous Society, and is trying to fit in with the other scholars. She knows she is magical and has powers, but to what extent!? And when should she use them? And she finds herself doubting herself and unsure of her footing in this new life.

Townsend draws a fantastical picture of Nevermoor, with ever changing streetscapes, large cats, unusual animals and well, strange magical life. Morrigan is such a real and grounded character, you really root for her to come out on top. This is such a fun read, for all ages!

What I've Been Watching

It Started in Naples – a lovely romantic comedy with Clark Gable and Sophia Loren. Both actors were at the top of their game and looks, and with the Italian backdrop this is such a lush film. Gable is in Italy to tidy up after his deceased brother and finds he has a nephew. The nephew is living with his aunt, Loren, and a custody battle ensues. Despite the heavy storyline, it is a light, fun comedy.

This was such a delightful and inspiring documentary. I knew next to nothing about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, except that she was a ground breaking feminist lawyer. But she is so much more than that, she is an example to be held high in how we all should lead our lives. She commenced at a time when female lawyers were barely around, and spent time on gender equality, not just for females, but for males as well. Her style is very polite and softly spoken but fiercely intelligent and solid. It features interviews with her children, her granddaughter and her beloved husband. And what a remarkable man he was. A real male feminist, immensely supportive and proud of his wife. Without that support, she may not have advanced as she did. I cannot recommend this documentary enough, it was just sheer joy!

Cate Blanchett: Manifesto – wow, I missed this when it was shown at the NSW Art Gallery and this is the full length ‘film’ of the ‘exhibition’. Oh my, 12 pieces with Cate taking on different and sometimes multiple characters within. Each piece is an artistic manifesto from artists and history. This is a showcase for Cate’s extraordinary ability to morph into anyone! If you haven’t seen it, you really must.  I was blown away.

Stan and Ollie – oh my this was a beautiful film. About Laurel and Hardy in their later years, touring Europe and getting older. There is a lot of reproduction of their fabulous skits, plus home life, touring and a lot of melancholy aside from the jot and fun. Ollie (John C. Reilly) is in poor health and Stan (Steve Coogan) is floundering. Without his friend and collaborator, Ollie, he feels he is nothing. Both Coogan and Reilly are simply superb in their roles, especially Coogan. Why this beautiful film has been released under the radar I will never know. It deserves more accolades. I have heard it described as a love story between two good friends, and that it is. You will not be disappointed watching this great film.

Captain Marvel – this was loads of fun, and definitely one of the better Marvel films. They are all good, but some shine brighter than the others. Larson is tremendous as our hero and the pairing with Jackson (Nick Fury) was a great coupling. Supporting cast also great, I want to say more but spoilers! Ditto for the 4 legged hero! And look, let’s face it, we need more female kick arse characters leading movies!

Chernobyl  - I am not sure what to say about this except it had me hanging on the edge of my seat. It was a mix of horror and thriller and what made it worse was that it actually happened. I have heard some of the facts are not correct, this is not unusual, but I do not know enough about this sad time in history. Either way, the incident was shocking and traumatic. The acting was brilliant, and the suspense sickening. I guess it is dire and sounds awful, and it is, but it is really worth watching.

Orange is the New Black - final season - this show just gets better and better, the writing and acting are outstanding. So many layers to unravel and this final season did all that and more. It grabs my heart and my soul and teaches everyone empathy in abundance...or at least I hope it does. We find out more about our in-mates and their keepers and get to see into the horrible situation with the 'new' ICE department.

This season has a lot of trauma, and sadness, but also some light. Some of your favourite characters will evolve, and some simply will not. We follow Piper and Cindy post-jail, and how their absence effects those left inside. If this grand show teaches us anything, it is empathy. To look at others and not judge, but be aware some of us have far more privilege than the rest of us, and there for the grace of - whoever or whatever you believe in- we all walk!

Big Little Lies – the first series left me a bit cold, none of these characters are even remotely likeable and the subject matter, domestic violence and rape, is rough. But the acting was magnificent, from all leads, but especially Kidman and Witherspoon. I wasn’t sure about a second series, but I thought this was better than the first. A more interesting storyline, and the addition of Meryl Streep as the mother-in-law from hell was delicious. Again no one is likeable, but you start to see the layers unfold, and the reasoning behind the unlikeable come forth. Again the acting is magnificent. Kidman and Streep facing off against each other was something else. This was worth watching

Durrells S4 – this was sadly the final season of The Durrells. How I love this beautiful series based on childhood favourite books! The final season sees the Durrell ‘children’ scattered across in the globe and in the face of change, their personal change and the impending doom of WWII. And yet, it still has that lovely magical feel about it. This is one of those perfect shows for everyone, sweet without being saccharine, dramatic without upsetting, visually stunning, great acting, perfectly cast characters, funny, animals, and of course the main character of Corfu.

The Letdown – a comedy about having a baby and what happens next is not what I would have on my radar, but it is quite well done and the characters likeable in their flaws. It’s not the best thing I have seen, but I enjoy it all the same.

New Girl – working my way through this series, and it is getting a little ho hum, seems like the same show over and over, sometimes that is a comfort, and sometimes that is annoying.

Treasures of the British Library – I love this show so very much. It is a simple premise, a prominent UK celebrity of high regard, usually an actor or musician or artist of some type visits The British Library and seeks out 6 pieces from their treasures. We get to see said treasure, hear the story behind it from the amazing Librarians and Archivists, and why the artist chose it. Then they donate something of importance to their career to the library. Some of the artists have been Julia Donaldson (Author of The Gruffalo), Jamie Cullum (musician), Meera Syal (comedian and film maker), Hanif Kureishi (author), Andrew Scott (Moriarty on Sherlock), Jim Carter (Mr Carson on Downton Abbey). Not only do you find out about their obsessions, eg Jim Carter and Circuses (he used to be a circus performer when he was younger) and Andrew Scott and Hamlet, but you get to see amazing transcripts, music, hand written notes, items, books and so forth that are rare. This just shows how amazing libraries can be, and why they are so important.

Anh Do's Brush With Fame – what else is there to say about this amazing little show. Anh is immensely talented as a portrait artist, and he is gifted with bringing personal stories out of people gently. SO you get lovely interviews with interesting Australians and see the remarkable portrait at the end of the show. Anh is a National Treasure and most of the people he has on the show are too.

Le Tour - if it's July, it is France and bicycles! Look, for me it is all about the stunning countryside they cover and chateau porn, but the sport itself is fascinating.

What I've Been Listening To

Madame X – Madonna – I will always love Madonna, and always seek her music out. But I just didn’t really care for this album, it’s not bad, just not that great. When I hear autotune I do tune out I admit. Her voice has never been, you know, Aretha or Billie, and it didn’t need to. She had a good voice for the kind of music she sang, and the songs on this album should have been ok for her to sing, so I have no idea why autotune or the special effects. At first I was a bit irritated by her Madame X character, but I though to myself, I am sure some people felt like that about Ziggy or Adam Ant, lol, and why can’t she take on whatever persona she likes.  I will also admit as much as I do love Madonna (I worship her Ray of Light album) I am not a super fan, so maybe this is one for the super fans!

Hope – Meg Mac – this is a shortish album with only 7 tracks, but it is very soothing and haunting. Her voice is sublime and I recommend a listen.

My Songs - Sting - this is a reworking of some of his tremendous back catalogue. Some are subtle reworkings and others are a complete turn around, all are brilliant. This is a great album.

Celia by Angelique Kidjo – the ever prolific Angelique Kidjo never disappoints. Following her magnificent reinterpretation of Remain in Light (Talking Heads) comes Celia, which similarly reworks the songs of Celia Cruz, Salsa Queen. This is what Angelique does best, loads of thumping African rhythms and pulsating beats. It is a powerful album and very uplifting.

Sydney Writers Festival podcasts – Helen Garner, Tayari Jones, George Saunders, Susan Orlean, Richard Fidler,  and some cool panels.

Plus the usual suspects, Here's The Thing, WTF with Marc Maron, Unspooled, Live and Vivid with Alan Alda, and Chats 10, Looks 3.

Monday, July 15, 2019


Things have been busy and time has gotten away from me, so here's three months in one!!!

Work has been busy and crazy and we are still in the eye of the storm with the restructure. I did have two weeks off around Easter which was most needed.

My health is almost back on track, just a little tired still and whilst my legs are mostly healed, there are still scars and marks that I hope will fade with time, if not, I'm off to the tattooist! So now I need to work on my fitness...sigh...

April commenced with the Newcastle Writers Festival, my favourite yearly event.

I went to my first French Friday for the year, now held at Kotara Event Cinema, and it was great. En Liberte was a black comedy about a widow who finds out her hero detective husband was not the hero everyone thought he was. In fact, he put an innocent man away to cover for his own wrongdoings. She decides, for the sake of their son, to put things right. 

Mid month I had two weeks break and headed to Sydney for a little stay away and to see Iggy Pop. I spent time wandering The Rocks and Circular Quay, indulged in some lovely meals, caught up with friends, and saw Iggy at The Opera House with good friends. It was a great break and a relaxing start to my holidays.

Cathy and I caught up for an Easter brunch at Awaba House.

Amanda was home for Easter, and we had loads of family celebrations including Easter, Mum and Dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary, and Karen's birthday.

I also had a lovely day at Newcastle Beach and another with Jen at Morpeth.

In between I rested, read, and just chilled.

Work did some live broadcasts of the Sydney Writers Festival which was great.

I saw Ben Quilty and Julian Burnside, talking about his work (and book) with Syrian refugee children. I am such a fan of Ben's, his work, and his humanity. If every man was half the man Ben is, we wouldn't be in such a mess!

David Marr spoke about his splendid career with his book of written highlights, My Country. I could listen to Marr talk forever, that brain, that passion!!

Simon Schama spoke about his latest book on The Jews and history, again, intelligence and passion!

Meg Wolitzer was a delight, that middle aged Jewish comedian. She wrote The Wife that was turned into the movie with Glenn Close, her new book The Female Persuasion is a feminist work of fiction that sounds fabulous. She also name dropped Nora Ephron as a friend.

David Marr was back, this time interviewing Andrew Sean Greer about his Pulitzer winning book, Less. This was a grand interview and a meeting of the minds indeed. I laughed so much. I also found out Edmund White was his thesis advisor and they became good friends, oh my!!! Greer likes to find painful things and turn them into comedy, he says this is why good comedy is difficult and rare. They also spoke about names in the book, and he said he heard that Jonathan Lethem has a book of names he uses.

May's One Song Sing was at Momo Foods, and we did Lady Gaga's Shallow from A Star is Born.

I visited Maitland Art Gallery, hoped in vain for Kate Miller-Heidke at Eurovision, and was gutted by our federal election.

My love life took a positive turn out of nowhere and then turned negative out of nowhere. It was a lovely little bubble for a short period of time, but was very disheartening to exit, and set my mental health back considerably. After all I have been through this past year or so, I may have jumped back into dating too soon, and was too blind. Mind you, hindsight is a beautiful thing, and look, I'm not perfect!! It took me a little while to recover but I am a-ok. Just need to work out why I keep attracting men that take advantage...sigh. But I gotta be me and I think kind and open people will always attract that sort of person, grrr, just gotta filter better. However, I remain ever hopeful because what is the point of life otherwise!? And all experiences are good for growing, and for my writing!!

There was the French Film Festival where I saw Sink or Swim on opening night (along with the usual French Marketplace, yummo). Sink or Swim was brilliant, a comedy about a group of middle aged men who take up synchronised swimming. Dilili in Paris was a children's animated that covered the history of Paris which was really sweet. The World is Yours was a great black comedy with Isabelle Adjani and Vincent Cassel. Set against the backdrop of crime and drugs and swindling deals, a young man tries to make it good but is constantly distracted. 

Had a great meal at the Thai place at the rooftop at Kotara near the cinemas, best Thai I have ever had in fact!

I'm finally back at Film Society but only caught one film so far, lol, Everybody Knows. A Spanish drama starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, about family secrets, drama and a kidnapping.

I finally saw The Avengers, Endgame mid month with Cathy. What a roller-coaster ride that was, fun and sad and utterly enjoyable!

And after years of wanting to headed into the basement at The Grand Hotel for their Tuesday night Jazz night. I loved the set up so much, I will definitely be back.

And May ended with the James Drinkwater exhibition opening at Newcastle Art Gallery. What a fabulous exhibition it was and an exciting opening.

During April/May I watched the final season of Game of Thrones. What a wild ride that was, easily the best television/visuals I have ever seen. Each episode upped itself and had me on the edge of my seat, I was more than impressed.. Unfortunately the final episode was a bit of a downturn but still in all, it was a superb ending to one of the best shows I have ever watched. There still feels like something is missing in my life, lol.

June commenced with Bookclub and a wonderful lunch at the Criterion Pub at Carrington with my gals, we had a fabulous lunch, chatter and catch up.

After a better look at the James Drinkwater exhibition (so many people on opening night) I attended a brilliant Edith Piaf show as part of the Speigeltent season. We all really enjoyed the show and raved over the singer who spoke about Edith's life and pottered the show with songs. Her voice was magnificent and you felt as if you had met Edith herself. Dinner at Benjamas Thai was a good way to end a great night.

Caught up with Mary for a great tapas dinner at Warners Bay Tavern.

Spent time with family and the animals which is always perfect.

Linda and I saw Nancy and Beth at Lizottes, had a great meal and the show was so very good, funny and bawdy, tender and stunning. These girls are so very good, I left feeling lifted and great.

There was an impromptu One Song Sing for Make Music Day. We sang Sia's Chandelier on a chilly late afternoon in Wheeler place and we made the papers, radio and tele!!! Then we headed to Wombat to to celebrate Alice's birthday. Was a great afternoon/evening.

I caught the film, Rocketman, which I enjoyed despite the structure of the film and the mistakes within. The music was everything of course, and the acting and the costumes.

We went to our local for Mum's birthday.

I gave one of my Social Media for Seniors talks at Morisset Library and attended a conference on the GLAM sector for work.

Also had a day off mid week and sat and whale watched at Bar Beach and caught up with Jayne for lunch at the Mary Ellen.

The month ended with a big concert featuring all the classes/groups from Sum of the Parts, who run my choir. Our choir lacked in numbers that day, but we made up for it in heart and soul and sounded great! What a lovely afternoon with this gorgeous community I am so lucky to be part of.

I also did the usual markets and soccer.

And here are my reviews for April and May and June.

So you know, while work and my love life feel like a right-off at the moment, the rest of my life (albeit a small part of it) is great. I am so very lucky to have a close, supportive, and beautiful family. And I have such a great, close knit, stunning group of friends, that is expanding with my musical community, I feel so very blessed (and I hate the overuse of that word) to have such love and support in my life. Without you all, I would not be in a great way. You lift me and love me and I am humbled and offer you my everything in return.

Here are the usual pics...