Books, Phobias and Teeth

I’ve previously shared my fear of crabs thanks to an Errol Flynn movie with the title “Against All Flags”, and seaweed, courtesy of an early John Wayne effort called  “Reap The Wild Wind” where the Duke gets eaten by a giant squid. I’m not fond of spiders or snakes either, but thanks to a couple of marvellous inventions,  I can deal with these  – garden hoes and vacuum cleaners.

My biggest fear is ………….dentists. There, I said it. Dentophobia.

Ogden Nash once said “Some tortures are physical And some are mental, But the one that is both Is dental”.

OMG, I hate them like you wouldn’t believe. I have to be dying before consenting to visit the dentist. When the kids were little I would escort them for their annual check up and they would be skipping with excitement. Me? I would have fainted on the footpath outside the surgery.

Everything about the process makes me sick to the stomach. I am grateful for having inherited strong bones and good teeth.

Having to face my fear head on early next week. 

So what do I do to quell these fears? Pick up some bargain books of course, ( and add a few amendments to my Will, as a precautionary measure).

The Chaplaincy at the local High School held a fundraiser yesterday where I rehomed two boxes of books, half going up to the Little Library around the corner. Twenty bucks. You beauty!

Because the turnover of books is going so well at the Little Library  thanks to the enthusiasm of the neighbourhood I’m now in negotiations with the councillor to adopt a local retirement village or aged care facility, so that books in good nick can once again be moved on and given a new lease of life.

Yeah, I could have mopped floors and dusted, but who gives a rats. 

They are recommending Valium. As a non pill popper the prescribed antibiotics sent me gaga and I’ve been all over the place like a bride’s nightie all week.

Bill Bryson, my favourite travel writer who authored Tales From A Small Island wrote :

Because we humans are big and clever enough to produce and utilize antibiotics and disinfectants, it is easy to convince ourselves that we have banished bacteria to the fringes of existence. Don’t you believe it. Bacteria may not build cities or have interesting social lives, but they will be here when the Sun explodes. This is their planet, and we are on it only because they allow us to be. 

The local Rotary Club are holding their annual Bookfest today. I could always go and sus that situation out…….

Bill the Bastard and War Horse/s

When I visited the daughter in London ten years ago there were signs everywhere across the city advertising War Horse at one of the city theatres. My immediate thought was what the hell was Broncos Rugby League Captain, Shane Webcke, doing in the UK, and what could he possibly be doing to fill theatres? Embarrassingly parochial, I know.


When the stage production of War Horse later came to Australia I was mesmerised by the puppetry. Great tale too honouring the work of horses in World War 1, though as is often the case with Gemini’s, my interest in the machinations of the production took precedence over the story line. Even the more simplistic goose puppets were spectacular to watch.

Based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel, War Horse was then turned into a movie  directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg. All I have to say is that the price of Kleenex shares skyrocketed that year. So dreadfully sad I sat with my skirt pulled up over my head in the cinema shielding me from the brutality on screen with absolutely no regard for retaining any dignity. 

I’ve just read Bill The Bastard by Roland Perry. Bastard is a term of endearment in Australia and Bill, a massive (waler) horse was much respected as a pack horse in the Palestinian campaign in WW1 amongst the Australian Light Horse for the work he achieved and for bringing four men to safety.

The read is a reminder of the value of horses, of all animals, during war. I found it a fascinating reminder that Australia at that time was still such a young country that familiar names were interconnected: Banjo Paterson, Henry Chauvel, John Simpson.

As a tribute to the 100th Anniversary of the end of WW1 the Warrnambool Racing Club in Victoria last year instigated the running of the Jericho Cup.

Why the Jericho Cup?

Approaching the end of the First World War the Australian Light Horse were planning a major offensive against the Turkish Empire. In order to lull the enemy into believing nothing unusual was afoot, a race meeting was organised on the eve of the assault.

The main race was called The Jericho Cup over 3 miles through the desert sands. The winner was Bill the Bastard.

Following the success of this Race Meeting it has been deemed an annual event. Sunday, December 1st, is the date for this years event. Just something else to add to the Bucket List….

St Patrick’s Day & Music #4

Could we get past St Patrick’s Day without mention of the 1952 movie, The Quiet Man, filmed almost entirely in Ireland?

This classic is so well known that I’m not commenting other than the (loose) concept was developed from the novel, Blackcock’s Feather by Maurice Walsh. Can I tell you just how hard it was to locate a copy of this book?

My daughter surprised me with flights to Ireland when I visited her during her study visa in England. God love her, she’d even booked seats on The Quiet Man bus tour as a treat for her decrepit old mo.

The countryside was just beautiful, and photos of the bridge where Shaun Thornton ( John Wayne) first spots Mary-Kate Donaher (Maureen O’Hara) herding sheep adorn the walls of the She-Shack. * massive sigh

Another favourite movie filmed mostly in Ireland and starring Daniel Day-Lewis is In The Name Of The Father. Nothing light and fluffy about this one, it is based on the true story of the Guildford Four, four people falsely convicted of the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, which killed four off-duty British soldiers and a civilian.

The Irish scenery is bleak yet spectacular. Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin is brutally stark and full of the history of Irish nationalism with a courtyard where the perpetrators of the 1916 Easter Uprising were executed. TIP: Do the tour: it’s eerily fascinating.

Hot soup, Cold Cider, and a hint of rebellion.

The Dam Busters and Books

My poor old father lived in a house full of women – except for the Siamese cats. All cats were male.

He should have had sons. He tried so hard to make us capable of catching and gutting fish, skinning rabbits, and excelling at marbles. One birthday he gave me a cricket bat, and on another a couple of cap guns ( which I adored). The nicest comment I ever heard him say about both my sister and I was that we “ never cried like girls”. PC. What’s that?

A tough nut he never talked about the war. Not in the home, nor with mates. Compartmentalising things into a box with the label, PAST, was his survival strategy.

Once I started high school my Dad started feeding me military books to read. He had already directed my reading towards the likes of Robinson Caruso, The Last of the Mohicans, and Kipling, but secondary school led to a change.

The first, which I remember vividly, was Enemy Coast Head, by Guy Gibson.V.C., who led the DamBusters Raid. He handed the book to me as I was running out the front door to catch a bus. Didn’t say a word – just passed it over. What an odd book to put into a school bag, hey……..

When I finished it within the week I simply left the book in his bedroom.

A few days later he handed me No Passing Glory by Andrew Boyle, the biography of Sir Leonard Cheshire. Same thing: he just handed it to me to read in silence.

A couple of weeks later my father asked if I actually read the two books. Of course, I said. One did not disobey one’s father – in those days, at least. He looked sceptical. So you know what the old bugger did? He started hounding his twelve year old daughter with questions – which of course I was more than capable of answering. Unfortunately, I was never able to answer the maths questions…

I was reminded of this when I read there were moves to remake the movie, The Dam Busters. New information has become available with the secrecy codes lifted apparently. See here.

Poor old fella would be so disgusted that I can cry with the best of them these days.

Bridge Of Clay : Book Review

Book Review : Bridge Of Clay

Author: Markus Zusak

Published: 2018

Zusak’s previous publication was the much lauded The Book Thief. Couldn’t finish it. At this stage of the game there are just “too many books and too little time”.

Picking up the 580 plus pages of paperback Bridge Of Clay was always going to be dicey. I needed to give this Australian author another go, and in spite of its bulk found it an easy read. I’de rate this a four-cups-of-tea-and two-mint-slice-biscuits book. Finished it in a single sitting.

This is the story of five brothers, the Dunbar boys, with Matthew the eldest, summing up the storyline with :

Me, Rory, Henry, Clayton, Thomas.
We would never be the same.
Many considered us tearaways.
Mostly they were right.
Our mother was dead.
Our father had fled.
We swore like bastards, fought like contenders, and punished each other at pool, at table tennis, at Monopoly, darts, football, cards, at everything we could get our hands on.
We had a piano no-one played”.

The Dunbar brothers are all very different characters and yet are close, and they are all hurting. Matt at 18 taking on the bulk of family responsibilities. There is lots of brotherly love mixed with the shenanigans of “boys” .(said by the mother of daughters who threatened to send any male baby back along with any redheads). The nostalgic feel warms the ol’ heart. ( reminiscent of the beginning of the 1944 movie, The Fighting Sullivans.)

These boys have been shaped by stories from their parents. It is through stories that we learn what moulded their parents. Young Tom even names his pets after characters in The Odyssey and The Illiad because of stories shared by his parents. Even their pet mule, Archilles, is a source of stories.

Clay has lost more than his brothers, and despite the crushing heartache and loneliness, he metaphorically and literally builds the bridge that finally brings the family to a place of healing.

The book does jump around a bit from present, to past and present again. The movies the boys watch are valuable reference points. This may or may not have assisted the Millenials any.

Millenials might not also get the references made by the crucial female apprentice jockey character. More nostalgia on my part : I have strong memories of attending a race meeting to see that very same horse race on Anzac Day 1986. Looking and feeling swish in red high heels and a green and red dress, the image was shattered when I fainted, legs in the air, down by the winning post. Last time I ever wore high heels.(No, not the bubbles – I was to discover later that I was with child!)

Bridge Of Clay is a series of stories within stories that complete a jigsaw puzzle and is totally engaging. The mother’s death is sad, though a bit like watching the movie Titanic; we know how it’s going to end, we know it’s going to be catastrophic, though as it lingers on and on and on we just wish it would get on with it and sink. Penelope took a very long time to die.

The storytelling is languid and comforting, like a breeze on a hot summer day.

Bridge of Clay totally resonates. It has a very familiar feel and I’m not convinced that I’m not the Dunbar boys’ long lost sister and we didn’t share a history at Lime Kiln Road, Lugarno.

A terrific read in the Coming of Age genre and has been nominated for several awards.


Hanging Dean Martin

On the 25th of December, 1995, entertainer Dean Martin died at his Beverly Hills home. He was 78 years of age.

Why is Dean Martin’s death a significant memory for me? Because along with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, Dean Martin’s “Christmas Album” was the soundtrack in the family home over the Festive season, ( with a smattering of Burl Ives, but let’s keep that just between us, ok).

I’ve shared previously that my youngest daughter collects Bing Crosby Dolls. My eldest collects Dean Martin ones. (Yeah, the apples don’t fall far from the tree….). She retains some memories of Xmas crooning and brings out Deano each December, although probably more as a hommage to her grandparents rather than the entertainer. Her Pop would sashay around the house, drink in hand, crooning along with Martin, though he preferred Resches Pilsner or a red. Her paternal grandmother didn’t sing, though she did her bit to ensure whiskey share prices never plummeted.

One of my next projects is to frame some of the old vinyls I have gathered over the last 45 years in their decorative sleeves. Not many – just half a dozen or so. They have all been transferred to CD as well as those stick things, yet I’ve been unable to part with them. Good music has always filled a hole and I can’t let go of them yet.

Why cant my kids just collect Beanie Babies ?

When I was in the process of splitting assets many, many years ago was it property or shares that caused arguements? Nope – it was the record collection. ( And my paintings but I’m not bitter and have let that go. Kind of * thinking how good it would feel to throw a brick or two around right now. Besides, I snuck James Taylor into my pile by switching with Jonathon Livingston Seagull. So there).

Framing records is a thing apparently. My youngest has been on trend for years. I’m not sure I’m ready to have Dean Martin looking down at me from the lounge room wall just yet…..

Cait’s Bing. Who else?

Hunter Killer and too much Water

The temperature indoors at 6am was 30 degrees. That’s 86 in the old language. Welcome to yet another heatwave.

This time I’m waving the white flag. Air conditioners went on at 10 am and I popped a DVD on before noon. Not normal behaviour as the TV never goes on before 3pm . It’s the old Protestant work ethic.

A gallon of water has been consumed – see, a child of the pre decimal era – and tried squeezing a little lemon and/or lime to make the H2O more palatable. Ain’t that a furphy!

Full of goodwill I then sampled Twinings Infuse, Blueberry, Apple and Blackcurrent flavoured. If I wasn’t feeling nauseous with the heat I certainly am now. Popping Vitamin C tablets as well as a little something in case there is an internal infection flourishing I’ve even consumed double the day’s fruit allocation. It’s still hot and uncomfortable and only going to get worse according to the BOM.

Watching Hunter Killer was a poor choice of movie today. Upfront I will confess to a soft spot for Gerard Butler. Adored him in chick flick, PS I Love You and Phantom. But too much of a good time and young Gerry is losing his boyish charm.

In this movie Butler captains a submarine that goes into Russian waters on a search detail only to become involved with a couple of black op Navy Seals who are in Russia to save the Russian president from a coup which would ensure the next World War. As usual, Butler does his own thing, ignoring orders, and solves the problems of the world.

Look, it has all the usual ooh argghhh moments that we’ve come to expect in his latest movies, and I will admit to screaming at the television in frustration and calling the American Admiral, played by Gary Oldman, a dickhead. There was also a point where I had to brave the heat to get the laundry in as there were concerns for the safety of the crew of the submarine and it was too gruelling for my nerves to watch. At one stage I was also asked to put the knife down that I was using to slice an apple because there were concerns with anger management issues. Blame Gary Oldman.

I’m putting it down to the water and heat. Of course I’ll watch Hunter Killer again tonight when Butler is a bit more rational. From the book Firing Point by Don Keith & George Wallace, it’s not one I need to pursue further.

Oh, and what’s this thing in American movies where all the Government operatives watching the crisis unfold via all their wizz bang technology only to end on a positive note, acknowledge a successful conclusion with a round of applause? The world doesn’t implode, and everybody claps. Every damn movie. Clapping is what you do at the Opera, folks…..

Note : No-one was injured in the preparation of this blog.