Last Christmas (2019)

In an effort to escape the heat, smoke, and continual images of destruction by bushfire plaguing the TV I went to the flicks to see Last Christmas currently being promoted as the “christmas movie of the decade”.

Admittedly I am not, and never have been, a fan of George Michael and his music. Not much chop with the RomCom genre either.

In my mind Emilia Clarke will forever be Daenerys from Game Of Thrones and I will never forget that Jon Snow, over whom I wept tears of both joy and blood for seven long seasons, lost the plot over this blond bimbo with boobs. You dipstick Snow.

So Daenerys, oops Kate, is having a tough time of it: couch surfing, one night stands, too much booze, narcissistic and lazy. She’s been unwell you see. I blame the tattoos on her knuckles.

She meets Tom, played by tall, dark and altogether too perfect Henry Golding who provides her with another view of life and helps her to find herself. Their repartee tries so hard to be slick like that in a John Green novel but fails due to Kate’s schoolgirl giggle.

You just know there is going to be a twist. Fifteen minutes before the end Kate does have an attitude readjustment though she’s stuck with the tats, poor love. For all but those last 900 seconds this was a pretty depressing rom-com. 

A crazy Asian actress, Michelle Yeoh, gets her 15 minutes of fame and her love interest is even loopier.

And it doesn’t matter how many times the song “Last Christmas” plays in the background there is just no emotional connection whatsoever. Where’s Michael Bauble when you need him. ( * There’s a spoiler in the words of the song.)

Actress Emma Thompson and her husband are the architects of the story and she earned her dough playing Kate’s mother with a East European accent laid on as thick as jam and cream at a Devonshire Tea.

I’ve been reliably informed Clarke makes a “hot as” elf. I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s another Millennial / Boomer thing.

For a little Christmas lovin’ my advice is to avoid elves and stick with Die Hard. Or When You Were Sleeping.

Rating: Not one tissue required and sent sub-conscience memo to Jon Snow: matey, your sword work needs to improve.

The Charge of Beersheba Vs Halloween

Watched the 1987 Australian movie The Lighthorsemen last night. October 31st is the anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, a part of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in World War 1.

It’s become a family tradition – a bit like viewing Die Hard just before Christmas.

Funnily enough, I saw the movie through different eyes this time. Not sure whether to put that down to retirement and being more relaxed or just getting older. ( Rhetorical only – no comments required).

I can confirm, following my recent visit to the Summer Land Camel Farm
( where I had conniptions after discovering Errol Flynn had slept at the property when it was owned by Charles Chauvel, nephew of Sir Henry), that camels did get a nod in the movie. It was only a two second scene, but there they were representing the Imperial Camel Corp. No embarrassment whatsoever jumping out of my seat at the time and doing a little jiggle with excitement.

All the young actors were my age when they made the movie and at their prime. Well, all except Peter Phelps who is obviously a late bloomer. Gary Sweet, who played Frank, had hair for goodness sake! John Walton (Tas) was the dreamboat who played Doctor Rothwell in the soapie, The Young Doctors. Dead now. And Sonny Blake, who played Irishman Scotty Bolton and was damn impressive sans shirt, and was left paralysed after a car accident on the way home from filming, is another we recently lost.

Beautiful Sigrid Thornton was our girl before Our Nic with her big brown eyes and pursed lips. Did you happen to watch the series of Seachange twenty years on earlier this year? Might have needed to top up her superannuation.

I have no recollection of Halloween as a child. Not sure when it actually became a thing. Or why.

A girlfriend with week on, week off custody arrangement of her daughter tells me that said child is trick and treating with her father on the night and that she will hold a Halloween party over the weekend. Halloween Parties ??????

Must be me. I don’t comprehend how it‘s law that kiddies under 12 years of age are not allowed to walk to school unsupervised, or that schools can dictate what a kid can or cannot have in his lunch box, though door knocking for sweets is okay.

I hope all those on the other side of my world enjoy their fun. And the flesh of all those pumpkins.

Personally, I’m all for this idea of wrapping up brussel sprouts in chocolate wrappers.

Ride Like A Girl

Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most prestigious horse race. As she came off the course in Flemington, Victoria, she told waiting media: “I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything and we can beat the world.” Go girlfriend!

Ride Like A Girl hit the cinemas last week telling the story of Michelle’s big win in 2015. 

I had expectations that this would be just another feel-good film about a young girl who managed to overcome the odds in a male-dominated industry to win horseracing’s biggest prize. Just another National Velvet.

It was more than that in that it is so totally Australian. It’s not particularly clever, it’s charm is that it is simply Dinky Di to its bootstraps. Sam Neil plays patriarch, Paddy, a horse trainer and the father of ten children, eight of whom become jockeys. Michelle’s mother died in a car accident whilst she was still in nappies, her sister Brigette died in a race fall, and Michelle herself nearly died after a fall in 2001.

Teresa Palmer ( Hacksaw Ridge) plays Michelle and despite being of fragile appearance is determined and headstrong. She had dreamed of winning a Melbourne Cup since childhood.

Michelle’s horse on the day, Prince of Penzance, was 100-1 prior to the race, and of course we all love a story of the underdog getting up. Michelle’s brother, Stevie, played himself in the movie and he was the strapper on the day in real life. A Downs Syndrome kiddie it is the Michelle-Stevie relationship which really works and to this day they own a farm where they train horses together.

There were two things that disappointed me about Ride Like A Girl: firstly, actress Magda Szubanski. There have to be other middle aged character actresses in the country chasing work, and it’s not like customers are queuing up for a five minute performance from Magda. Magda playing Magda has been done like a dinner. 

And honestly, would this movie have worked if it wasn’t so close to the first Tuesday in November and new frocks, eyebrow shaping and lunches weren’t in full swing?

I’ve never been to a Melbourne Cup. I nearly went on a 5 day cruise from Sydney to Melbourne for the event with a young man when I was 17 but my father spat chips ( as well as a lot of other things) so that never eventuated.

Over my working life I’ve only attended one Melbourne Cup Luncheon. Now cop this : work commitments meant I never even watched or listened to the race live for all those years. How UnAustralian is this? And you wonder why I retired early……

My youngest (currently in New Delhi) will be peeved that I’ve already seen the movie as she was at Flemington for the Cup when Payne rode the winner. That’s what happens when you don’t invite your mother along…..

I’ve just ordered the autobiography, Life As I Know It, from the Library.

Next week : Last Blood-Rambo 5. * Hanging head in shame……….

Note: Ride Like A Girl has been getting attention from both sides of the Horse Racing Industry – both negative and positive.



Raising Gypsies

Did I tell you I enjoyed Chicago at the theatre last weekend?

It was beaut to see Tom Burlinson again as Billy Flynn. Burlinson had success as a young man when he played young Jim Craig in the 1982 Australian movie The Man From Snowy River and Tommy Woodcock in Phar Lap in 1983. He then seemed to fade away singing the songs of Frank Sinatra in nightclubs over the years.

Also lovely to spend time in Sydney with the daughters before they both headed off again. You see, I’ve raised gypsies……..

My youngest flew out to India for work purposes for six months yesterday. (My apologies for my behaviour : I may have been just a tad fragile.)

My eldest is off shortly with her military boyo to be stationed in a remote region of Australia for two years. So remote that it will be an easier option to fly to India for a visit. And it’s a Dry Community. Good luck with that, Pocohontas……….

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. – Ray Bradbury from Fahrenheit 451

No, there were no tears and I have been positively positive. Disgustingly positive really. And envious of course. I was already tinkering with a holiday to Arnhem Land in autumn so that’s now a done deal. My only concern is for the Labrador, Bentley, who is unused to crocodiles and dingoes, and is stone deaf. I’m fearful that if he meets a snake he will want to make it a playmate. Same with a dingo: he’s such a good natured pup with an inability to read social queues.

As for the Indian adventurer, just as well she’s vegetarian and did a spell in Beijing last year.

We’ve agreed to meetup in Darwin next August, to coincide with the Northern Territory’s Federation Day ( read : Cracker Night) and Darwin Cup. The gambler’s gene did not come from my side of the family though the need for a new outfit for the occasion certainly did. I’m currently researching a side trip to the Tiwi Islands.

Since retirement I have been regularly asked when I will be selling up to be closer to the girls. Makes me laugh each and every time. 

Safe travels, Cat Balou. Looking forward to belly dancing classes upon your return.

Maracas, Bushfires and The Breaker – Part 2

This time last year I spent several days in Tenterfield, New South Wales, for the inaugural Peter Allen Festival. Less than twenty kilometres across the border from Queensland and with a population of less than 5,000 you wouldn’t think there would be much more to learn about a rural township.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

This trip was a whole different kettle of fish and included a tour of the town with a local historian. So much information to take in when a girl has a head full of music, local Sav Blanc, and sore muscles earned on the dance floor.

I was already aware that Solicitor, Major James Francis Thomas, who defended Harry Harbord Morant at his court-martial for war crimes during the Boer War, was a Tenterfield lad. Thomas was portrayed by Jack Thompson in the 1980 film Breaker Morant.

Thomas died in the 1940’s a rather broken man though well regarded. Only within the last ten years a sugar bag full of Thomas’ military memorabilia was found at the local Tenterfield Tip having been stored at an old rural property just out of town.

What was in the sugar bag?

A penny on a leather string inscribed H H Morant which was worn by The Breaker around his neck when he was executed by a British firing squad in 1902 and bears the mark of a bullet hole.

An Australian red ensign bearing the names of Morant and his co-accused, Peter Handcock. Their birth and execution dates are inked into the Southern Cross stars on the design. It reads: “Utter scapegoats of the Empire”. There is a grainy 1902 photograph of Thomas standing by the flag-draped grave in Pretoria of the dead Anglo-Australian horseman, bush poet and military officer, and this is believed to be that same flag.

A first edition, signed copy of George Whitton’s book, Scapegoats of the Empire, the Lieutenant’s account of court proceedings. ( He was sentenced to Life Imprisonment).

All artefacts are available for viewing at the School of Arts in Tenterfield.

LIFE LESSON: Always expect the unexpected.

Note : Tenterfield is just one of many rural towns suffering severe drought with dam levels down to 30 per cent. Much of the district was engulfed in flames during our visit, with no power and two major highways cut.

Thank you to the wonderful people of Tenterfield for their hospitality over the Peter Allen Festival weekend. Thank you all so much for your grace under fire – literally. Thank you for sharing your stories, your hearts, and your history.

A huge thank you to the organising team. You are all “the sons and daughters” and we’ll be back again next year. May the coming months be kinder to you all.

Maryborough and a Touch of Whimsey : Part 1

Maryborough is 300kms north of Brisbane, inland on the Mary River, and positioned between those tourist mecca’s, Hervey Bay and the Sunshine Coast. Founded in 1847, proclaimed a municipality in 1861, it became a city in 1905. During the second half of the 19th-century, the city was an entry point for immigrants arriving in Queensland from all parts of the world.

Maryborough’s income comes from numerous farming and station prospects in and around the city and it’s healthy fishing industry. Tourism also plays a significant part in the economy and sells itself as the Heritage City of Queensland  holding heritage markets each Thursday. Many 19th and 20th century buildings have been preserved and the suburbs are littered with the quintessential old Queenslander homes, ( which a Danish friend described as a “wooden s***box on stilts”) and which are worth a small fortune.

However, Maryborough’s real claim to fame is as the birth place of whom? Here’s a clue……

And another, in case that one was a little obtuse….

Yep, P L Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books lived in Maryborough before moving elsewhere at age eight. Her father managed a bank, in the building where, in a room on the second storey, she was born. This is in the centre of town and still in use, no longer as a bank but as a retail shop. A life-size bronze statue of Mary Poppins, as P.L. Travers described her, complete with umbrella was erected outside the old bank premises at 331 Kent Street, on the corner of Richmond Street, in 2005. 

It is now one of Maryborough’s most famous and photographed icons.

From dusk till 9pm every night there is an illuminated mural that is simply enchanting. ( I was between tea and a show so without camera – Damn!) Here’s another mural – the joint is jumping with them!

But there’s more – we Aussies are adept at flogging a dead horse, you see.

Every winter school holidays for the past ten years Maryborough has held a Mary Poppins Festival. The Festival offers something for all the family. The ‘Art of Storytelling’ program includes film, art, music, performance and literature during the 10-day event. Events are held in various locations across the CBD as well as heritage-listed Queens Park.

Maryborough, thank you for your hospitality. It was a lovely visit.

I do so love our country towns and learn something new at each and every one.LIFE LESSON : Get away from the cricket on the telly and help our farmers and country cousins by spending a few bob in their towns. You’ll be blown away by some of the stories these townships can share.

Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan

I’m currently wading through David Cameron’s The Battle Of Long Tan to better gauge the historical accuracy of the movie released this week, Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan.

Set in Vietnam in 1966 the 1st Australian Task Force headed by Brigadier David Jackson (Richard Roxburgh) is set up in Nui Dat where patrols are sent out into the local countryside. One night the camp is attacked by mortars and while the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery are able to target them, the 1st Field Regiment need to follow up the next day to find the source. Alpha Company don’t find anything, so Harry Smith’s (Travis Fimmel) Delta Company is sent out to chase them down while a rock show – with Little Pattie and Col Joye and the Joy Boys- is happening back at camp and with monsoonal rain forecast.

All goes well until at the rubber plantation at Long Tan the 11th Platoon of D Company comes under heavy fire and it is soon discovered that this is not just a raiding party but a full battalion of the North Vietnamese Army. 108 young and inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers fight for their lives against 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers.

My initial qualms were about how this would stack up against the big money American movies. And you know what? There was plenty of blood and guts though the point that war is ugly was made without the focus on missing body parts. Bravo.

The Battle is also told through the eyes of Harry Smith and the other leaders on the ground which means that the audience is in on the tactics. Thank you, producers, for taking into consideration that we don’t all have military backgrounds.

This is a very Australian (and Kiwi) movie and the young larrikins come across as brash until they find themselves under fire. The language is littered with colloquialisms  though I admit to being thrown by “ we’re not here to **** a spider”.

Strong performances by all concerned. Reviews are raving about Travis Fimmel’s performance. I found his eyes so mesmerising that I tended to lose focus for a moment or two – a bit Paul Newman-ish.

Whilst this movie didn’t enlighten me any as to the whys and wherefores of this war, it did perpetuate the ANZAC ideals of mateship, larrikinism, and sheer courage.

What I did learn was that the Artillery at Nui Dat fired almost non-stop for 5 hours in support of the battle and that artillery fire was eventually being brought in “Danger Close” to within 50 metres of the Australian position.

And also that the helicopter pilots were as mad as cut snakes.  I’m now chasing a copy of (pilot) Dr Bob Grandin’s book. See here: 

https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/a-helicopter-pilot-remembers-the-terrifying-battle-of-long-tan-as-new-film-premieres-20190613-p51xkx.html

I like a movie which leaves me curious. Vietnam was not discussed in schools back in the day. No political agendas. How things have changed….

I hope that these (now old) men receive the respect that they perhaps did not have previously.

Tip: Don’t rush out of the theatre. Read the screen right till the end. This is when you’ll be privy to a few sobs. Sitting in the dark in the quiet, I felt as if I’de been winded. 

***********

Vietnam Veterans Day is commemorated on the 18th of August, the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan for the men of D Company, 6RAR.

On the third anniversary of Long Tan, 18 August 1969, a cross was raised on the site of the battle by the men of 6RAR, honouring the 18 Australians who lost their lives.

In 2017 the Vietnamese Government made the decision to hand the cross back to Australia, as a gesture of “goodwill” (following a political incident which barred Veterans from visiting the cross in Vietnam for the 50th anniversary of the event. Just one of those little “incidents” that we must gloss over). It is now on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.