Tuesday, January 10, 2023

DECEMBER DIARY

December went by in a blur!

I started the month at the retirement/farewell of a lovely colleague at Pippys. A good time was had by all.

I did my final radio gig for the year, reviewing Richard E Grant's A Pocketful of Happiness. I always love this gig, and look forward to more in 2023.

Dad has his birthday and we celebrated with a family dinner at the local pub, followed by cake and frivolity.

Because I am still without a car I pared back my social occasions, but the few I had were really enjoyable.

A work dinner at The Bavarian at Charlestown.


Lunch with Jen at Cardiff Bowling Club where we had a great meal prepared by The Blind Chef.

Brunch with Cathy at Poppys which is such a beautiful venue. It is an amazing cafe inside the Garden Centre out at Gateshead of all places. A little piece of paradise tucked away.



Our Belmont team got together, at The Gunyah, to celebrate another successful year.


My gorgeous gals came out to collect me and we had a lovely celebration at Sephardim Tappas. The food was amazing!



The weekend before Christmas I headed to Sydney to meet Andrew and we went to see Nick Cave at the Sydney Opera House. We had a great dinner at Rossini prior to the show and breakfast in the city the following day before heading home for that final week before christmas.




And that week went fast, before I knew it I was at my sister's property for our Christmas Eve tradition, BBQ, snacks, drinks, chats, and a few games of Pool. 



The next day was a blur of presents, breakfast, naps, lunch, collecting Andrew in the late afternoon and then supper at my parents. It was all quite lovely.

My birthday was a quiet affair, a laid back day filled with greetings, love, and a visit from Mary. I felt the love. We headed out for a family dinner at The Gunyah Hotel. Always a great meal.


After a days rest, Andrew and I headed back to Sydney. We visited family and watched tele and napped. 

NYE was quiet but lovely as Andrew prepared a roast, I read my book, and we watched some tele and movies with the fireworks (outside and on tele) finishing the year.


Here are my reviews for December.

Stay tuned for my year wrap up and my lists for 2022.


 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Hand Of God: having your soul touched by Nick and Warren

Nick Cave touring with Warren Ellis?

There is no need to think about that, you know it will be brilliant.

And they were coming to Newcastle at our glorious Civic Theatre. However, it was mid-week, and Andrew and I wanted to see it together so Sydney it was.

The Opera House!

The day of the ticket buying came and it was a shit show, I was something like 10,000th in a queue, or so it seemed. But I scored us tickets, shitty nose-bleed tickets, but tickets all the same. So you gotta be grateful and blessed and all the things the kids say!

When it came to sitting in those seats, all the gratefulness went away and I was bitterly disappointed. I felt I had let us down big time, but Andrew didn't care.


He said he was just happy to see Nick Cave with me.

I should have known better, because as soon as the band graced the stage it felt like you were there in the palm of his hand.




And the sound in the newly renovated concert hall was second to none!

The sound was magnificent in fact.

Now I should admit I have only seen Nick once previously and only a few years ago at that. Yes, I know! 

So I knew to expect brilliance. But this concert was something else.

The energy lifted right up to us at the very back of the theatre like we were much closer than we really were.

The band were tight, Nick sounded amazing and Warren added that particular 'Warrenness' to the event. They were also backed by this wonderful group of 3 gospel singers and their stunning voices lifted everything.


Seeing Nick live is very much a spiritual or religious experience, so the gospel singing really added to that.

I am not religious at all, but a good concert in a great venue is my religion, my church, my spirituality. And some acts are transient, you really feel like you are bowing at the knees of something godly. Nick Cave is one of them.

They opened with The Spinning Song from Ghosteen which I love and it was perfect.


The setlist was mostly songs from the last 2 albums, Ghosteen and Carnage. I love them both so was pretty happy with that. There were a handful of older songs scattered throughout. And songs you wouldn't usually hear. We loved that so much. I love being surprised by a setlist, not knowing what is coming up and thinking YES!

Warren and Nick were playful and had fun, their exchanges full of simpatico and love. They were obviously loving every minute of their performance, which resonated throughout the evening. We laughed a lot, which you wouldn't think of at a Nick Cave concert, but he IS funny.


After a particularly rousing cover of T-Rex's Cosmic Dancer the unthinkable happened.

Nick played my favourite song of his, from my favourite album, The Lyre of Orpheus.

Breathless! 

To my knowledge it is not a song he plays live often, and it has a quirky flute opening, so having Warren there to play it made it all possible.

(Aside: Nick tells the tale of that flute solo in the Red Hand Files, it is a great story. Also Warren did his upmost best to replicate the solo and he did great)

He introduced it saying it was one of his more upbeat songs and everything would be downhill from here so to make the most of it and have a dance.

As soon as Warren started playing that quirky intro I was beside myself. 

It was one of those perfect moments that feeds your soul, and dance I did after squeezing Andrew's arm so strongly I am sure I left marks!

Next up, to counterbalance the joy, was Hand of God. And if we didn't think the concert was spiritual or moving before then ( hint: we did! ), we certainly did now. 

Hand of God is a song only Nick could write and perform. He came out into the audience and waded through the audience like a god walking on water, moving through and touching the audience members with his hand. It was a supreme moment, glorious to watch. It sounds intense and I guess it was but it was also done with irreverence and cheek. And whilst it would have been amazing to be in amongst the audience and 'getting touched' the view we had of it was something else. It was like looking down on some kind of wonderful miracle.






The final song before the encore, Balcony Man, was destined for us up the back too. With Nick amping up all the balcony and top sections, we all felt the love.

After a brief break, they were all back on stage for the fantastic encore. Beginning and ending with songs from Ghosteen, the small list in between was gold. 


The ever wonderful and dark, Henry Lee from The Murder Ballads, with one of the gospel ladies stepping in for PJ. The Weeping Song and Jubilee Street, both faves of mine, and a song he says they have not played live before, a lovely dark ballad from Tender Prey called Watching Alice.





And a few hours after it started, we were making our way out of the beauty that is Sydney Opera House. The privilege of seeing great art in that great building will never tire me.

The music was utterly brilliant, Nick and Warren were god-like, and yet whimsical and amusing, chatty and fun. This will easily end up in my top 5 concerts of all-time.


 Setlist

1. Spinning Song (Ghosteen)

2. Bright Horses (Ghosteen)

3. Night Raid (Ghosteen)

4. Carnage (Carnage)

5. White Elephant (Carnage)

6. Ghosteen (Ghosteen)

7. Lavender Fields (Carnage)

8. Waiting for You (Ghosteen)

9. I Need you (Skeleton Tree)

10. Cosmic Dancer (T Rex cover)

11. Breathless (Lyre of Orpheus)

12. Hand of God (Carnage)

13. Shattered Ground (Carnage)

14. Galleon Ship (Ghosteen)

15. Leviathan (Ghosteen)

16. Balcony Man (Carnage)

Encore:

17. Hollywood (Ghosteen)

18. Henry Lee (Murder Ballads)

19. The Weeping Song (The Good Son)

20. Jubilee Street (Push the Sky Away)

21. Watching Alice (Tender Prey)

22. Ghosteen Speaks (Ghosteen)


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

DECEMBER REVIEWS

What I've Been Reading

Love Stories by Trent Dalton

As soon as I started this book I knew it would be special and possibly on of the best books I have ever read. And I was right, this will be my book of the year without a doubt and will fly easily into my all-time top 10 reads.

I started this early in 2022 and finished it in the late stages of the year. That does not mean it is a difficult book to read, quite the opposite. I could have devoured this in one evening, easy! But it was so magnificent I didn't want it to end, so by reading it in dribs and drabs I made it last the entire year.

The premise of this book is simple, stories of love!

However, it is not trashy or sniffly or twee in any way...phew!

Trent Dalton, National Treasure and one of Australia's finest writers and humanists, inherited a typewriter from the mother of a close friend when she died. She had championed Trent's career as a journalist and a writer. 

He wanted to do something grand with it, so he plonked himself down at Brisbane City Mall, with a card table and 2 chairs with the typewriter and a sign asking passers-by to tell him a love story for 2 months.

From this simple set up he located gold.

But the book is not simply him writing the stories as told to him. Trent has a gift of seeing people, seeing right through to their soul. He is a brilliant observer and describer of people. I have watched him in action and it comes from a genuine curiosity and love. 

He retells their story, and adds in glimpses, smiles, body language, exchanges, and more. Their stories, already brilliant, come alive. You can picture each exchange, feel the mood, and it shoots straight to the heart. The stories take on all forms of love, always real but never sappy. They are sad, funny, weird...like life. The characters are indeed that, and some reappear. He describes his feelings and thoughts after some stories, and adds some of his own stories.

It was the kind of book that makes you want to read it again as soon as you finish it. It is the kind of book you can dip in and out of easily as each chapter is a fresh set of stories. It is the kind of book that makes you want to write and tell Trent your love story. He encourages this, and I did!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It makes you realise for all the bad in the world, there is far more good. If you haven't read it, you simply must.

Nina Simone's Gum by Warren Ellis

This is one of the most remarkable and unique books I have ever read. 20 years ago Nick Cave curated a concert in London and Nine Simone was one of the acts. She was in her 90s and it was her last live performance. When she arrived on stage she took a piece of chewing gum out of her mouth and stuck it under the piano. At the end of the concert Warren Ellis clambered over the seats in front of him to the stage to swipe that piece of gum. He placed it in the towel she used that was still laying on the piano and popped it into a Tower Records bag he had on him. He has had it ever since.

This book is the tale of the gum.

Really!

It is the most brilliant read, Warren is a great writer and storyteller as we all know. There are some stories of how Warren came to be Warren, his relationship with Nick, tales of music and musicianship, and of Nina herself. But mostly it is about the gum, and the life and legacy of it, and what actually happened to this crazy but important piece of history.

You don't have to love and appreciate Nina Simone or even Warren Ellis to enjoy this book. For those that love (and in my case worship) them both, you will just radiate joy reading this. It will make you smile and also bring a tear to your eye!

I will be surprised if this does not make my Top 5 books of the year.

Ciao Bella!: Six Take Italy by Kate Langbroek

This is a great read about the 2 years Kate Longbroek (comedian, radio personality, The Panel) took her family to live in Italy.

After a wonderful holiday with her husband, 4 children and mother-in-law, Kate decided she would love to live in Italy.

They spent time working out where to live and decided on Bolgona, and the books tells the story of their time there. The ups and down, the town they lived in, the people they met, the food they ate.

This book will make you want to live in a foreign city, and make you hungry. It made me so homesick for Italy, I say that about countries or cities I have visited and loved. This is really well written too, covers a little bit of Kate's work life on the radio, an interview with Madonna, and covid. It is quite the read, I loved it. 

Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here: a memoir of loss and discovery by Heather Rose

I am a huge fan on Heather's last two books, and feel a small connection to her after spending time chatting with her about The Museum of Modern Love at The Sydney Writers' Festival. This is a memoir of her spiritual life and is very unexpected but quite amazing. It is difficult to write about this book without giving too much away. I think the book is more appreciated going in and not knowing much.

After a life changing event early in her life, Heather goes on a long journey of spiritual healing, and this is quite the revelation, and at times uncomfortable and even hard core. Don't let this description turn you off, because this book is really something. She also delves into her writing journey, her family life and whilst this is not a proper autobiography, you do get to the core of this amazing woman.

It is a page turner, you simply want to know what happens next, all the while shaking your head at some of the things she participates in. I loved this so much, it made me think about a whole range of things spiritually and I wish I knew all of this when I had my conversation with her, as I have so many questions!

Alchemy: Art by Wendy Sharpe and Words by Kate Forsyth

This book is simply stunning, I have been a fan of both Wendy and Kate for a longtime. After meeting they felt they needed to collaborate together and a perfect partnership was born. Kate wrote the prose, mostly beautiful poetry and Wendy featured her art. Some of the paintings and poems have been previously published but most of it is new content, one artist inspiring the other. This forms a beautiful coffee table style book that is pure joy to take in.

Pretend You're in Paris by Alice Oehr

This was a cute little book about how to feel like you are in Paris wherever you are!

What I've Been Watching

White Lotus S2

White Lotus S1 was perfection, and this comes very close. A reset, with an almost brand new cast at a new resort. Again, there is tension forming, through the actions of mostly painful, self-involved people and the music adding additional intensity. But the real tightly wound up feel of S1 is missing. It follows the same line with a dead body being revealed very early on, so you are trying to work out who died from the get go. But there is more to this story than death. There is a lot of imposters within this story, and who will find out what or who about these people. Or do they even care and want to know who those around them really are?

Jennifer Coolidge returns as the unlucky Tania, and gets some more scene stealing scenes. But to say any more would be spoilers. Actually to say any more about anything would be spoilers. Everyone involved in this season are brilliant, Sabrina Impacciatore as Valentina the resort's manager is outstanding, and Michael Imperioli's hair deserves its own Emmy! Aubrey Plaza and F Murray Abraham bring their star quality to the ensemble.  I hope Mike White can keep it up for S3.

Colin from Accounts

This is a tight and wonderful Australian comedy. Colin is a dog that is the catalyst of bringing the main two characters together. Ashley (Harriet Dyer) is a student doctor and a little bit ditzy, Gordon (Patrick Brammall) is a Micro-brewery owner and a little ditzy himself. They meet when he accidentally runs over Colin the dog whilst checking out Ashley crossing the road. They take the dog to Yvette the vet (yes!) and decide to share the ownership and care of the dog until the owners are found. 

This is a proper screwball comedy, Gordon and Ashley (married in real life) are wonderful together, the supporting cast is hilarious, and the dog cute. Darren Gilshenan, as a vile step-father is a stand-out. The comedy is fast paced and also quite black and a little bit wrong at times. I really hope there is another series.

Upright S2

I was unsure about a second season of this show. The first was so perfect, I wasn't sure where it could go. And whilst it is not as good as S1, it is pretty close. ( I feel like I am repeating myself lol). Time has moved on and Lucky and Meg have not seen each other during this time. Lucky's star has risen, he's a big star with a big attitude. Meg has been up to no good but determined to find her mother, and re-enters Lucky's life for his help. 

The pairing of Tim Minchin and Milly Alcock is still perfection, and you soon find yourself very much hanging off their every move. A really great supporting cast add to the drama and comedy, and the stunning location of Far North Queensland gives lovely visuals. This is great Australian TV.

House of Dragon

I loved Game of Thrones, but found this ok. It started and ended strong, but the middle was slow and boring. The action when it happened was very much needed but with more dragons than its predecessor (although not as many as I had hoped - you really cannot have enough dragons!) it was worth watching. Just a little disappointing.

Significant Others

This was a great Australia Drama miniseries. When their sister (Jacqueline McKenzie) goes missing at sea, her siblings (Rachel Blake, Alison Bell and Kenneith Moraleda) return to their family home to be with her children and find out what has happened. Secrets are uncovered, new and old, and the family need to work together, despite many differences to find out where their sister is and if she is even alive. Stunning performances from the cast, and great storytelling.

Weird: the Al Yankovic Story

This was Weird, and beautifully so! Daniel Radcliffe was perfection as Weird Al. It is a fictionalised version of Al's life, that is to say, complete fabrication which gives them license to be totally weird. There are cameos aplenty, so look out for them. The music is fab, the comedy is great, it is everything you want in a Weird Al movie and more. Big shout outs to Rainn Wilson, as Doctor Demento and Jack Black as Wolfman Jack.

Secrets of Dumbledore

Look this wasn't bad, but boy it has crawled up it's you know what! I found it meandering and far-fetched and couldn't really follow what it was trying to do. I love Jude Law as Dumbledore but also Eddie Redmayne as Newt, and would prefer more of him and his Fantastic Beasts. Maybe it was me, maybe I need to rewatch.

Tina

This was a great documentary, having recently read an updated autobiography, there was not a lot of new information, but it was great all the same. Watching Tina at her first peak with Ike was remarkable enough. Stunning, those dance moves and that voice, but when she shook off those shackles boy did she up things. Whilst her 80s music doesn't do that much for me, I really appreciate her tenacity and craft. This is s great doco, celebrating a great woman.

Iceland with Alexander Armstrong

This was a great 3 part travel doco on Iceland, from Volcanos to Icebergs and everything in between. Give me more thought to traveling there one day!

Pilgrimage: Road to the Scottish Isles

I love these Pilgrimage shows, a group of B/C grade celebs of varying faiths set off on a pilgrimage. Usually in a lovely place/country with plenty of amazing scenery and stopping at monasteries, churches, synagogues etc along the way, either testing their faith or trying to find it. Absolutely fascinating to me!

What I've Been Listening To

Fleetwood Mac 

I really love Fleetwood Mac, and felt the death of Christine McVie deeply. She was the quiet Mac, her voice stunning, her songs strong and brilliant, the heart of the band. She was Perfect, and if you don't get that, you are not a lover of Fleetwood Mac or Christine! I listened to a lot of her stuff, but mostly Mirage (underrated album) as it has my favourite song of hers on, Love in Store.

1981

The 80s Sunday Brunch compilations have moved from 1980 to 1981. This means less disco and more electronic music, and still loads of fun!

Nick Cave

In the lead up to the Nick Cave/Warren Ellis concert I listened to some Nick. Mostly Henry's Dream, as that was my newest Nick vinyl purchase.

The Clouds - Penny Century

Can't sop listening to the 30 year reissue of this. I love it now as much as I did back in the day. Produced on a stunning blue vinyl, they hold up (and then some) beautifully. 

First Aid Kit - Palomino

These girls are so wonderful and they just get better as they get older. This has more rock and pop than their previous albums of mostly folk/country. Their songwriting is showing the beauty of ageing and the hurt of life and it is glorious.

Bjork - Fossora

Wow, just wow. Bjork gets better and better. I am now normally a fan of electronic music, but Bjork gives it so much heart and soul, how can I not love it. Her albums are fully formed concepts, usually in touch with nature. This time mushrooms are key, and also the death of her mother.  Both form inspirations for the music. It is soothing and harmonic, and those beats get into your head in the very best way. It is a double album, with deep plum vinyl, and stunning pics of Bjork.

Friday, December 23, 2022

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER/NOVEMBER DIARY

 It was a busy couple of months, hence my diary being so late.

September commenced with an interstate girls weekend away. Athena, Jayne, Linda and I headed to Brisbane to see the play of our dear friend, Anita. It had been adapted from her book, Tiddas, which I project managed her tour in Lake Macquarie some years back.

We made a long weekend of it, staying in a lovely b'n'b, a converted church. We brunched and lunched and dined, and indulged.





We went on an evening Art River Cruise.





Checked out Eat Street


Visited the Art Gallery




Went on a day River Cat Cruise


Caught a fun play.




And of course Anita's amazing adaptation, that made us laugh and cry.






It was a packed but fun weekend

The following weekend, Andrew and I headed to Sydney to stay in the city and see the Hoodoo Gurus and Dandy Warhols with friends, Alex and Alastair.


You can read about it here.

Whilst there we saw Moonage Daydream, the wonderful David Bowie Documentary. It was perfect full of footage and music and images and I just know Bowie would approve.

I had my yearly Breast Cancer check up and was all clear - that's 4 years now!

Headed to the Civic to see Hannah Gadsby, finally after many delays due to covid. She was great and funny and it was just the tonic we all needed.

And at the end of the month I headed to Andrew's and we flew to Melbourne for stage 1 of our trip, Melbourne.

We did a lot! Roamed the streets, ate great meals, shopped, checked out the new ACMI, visited the Hellenic Museum, saw Hamilton, checked out the Music Vault, the Picasso exhibit at the NGV, visited St Kilda, caught up with lovely friends, and my sister.


























We returned on October 1 only to drive to Port Macquarie for stage 2 of our holiday. This was very laid back, lots of coastal walks, we visited a koala sanctuary, and Ricciardos Strawberry farm.
















The two trips formed my first holiday with Andrew and we had a blast. 

Sadly, I had a bingle on the roundabout leaving Port Macquarie, which left us stranded. Luckily my beautiful sister and brother-in-law headed up to rescue us, there are no words to describe our appreciation. At writing I am still without a car and been busing it for a few months. I am managing fine, but missing the freedom a car gives. What a privilege, I am humbled by this.

We checked out the Van Gogh exhibit, which was great but a little overrated.




Lachlan turned 20

I finally got to use my 50th birthday present from my gals, and we all headed in to Picasso and Pinot and painted the Newcastle Ocean Baths.



We headed to Brown Sugar for our 2nd anniversary.




Celebrated Mal's 50th at Honeysuckle




Towards the end of October, another weekend in Sydney, seeing the wonderful Richard E Grant. I have loved him forever and he was jubilant and an utter delight on stage, telling tales of his life, films, tv, and people he knows. Much laughter and fun!





I caught up with Di at Emilios.



And here are my reviews, September/October and November.

And some additional pics.