Category Archives: Books, Music and Films

#66 Sing in a Karaoke Choir

According to a study published in The Conversation last year, a shared song – “our song” – is the musical glue that binds friends and lovers. And because neuroimaging research shows that music provides a “super stimulus” for the brain, a spot of group singing with good friends would be a no-brainer, surely?

However, despite an ability to read music and play the piano, I cannot, to save my life, sing in tune.

But what if I could perform in a choir, accompanied by the original artist? Mightn’t my tuneless warblings be drowned out in such a scenario? Couldn’t I pretend that I, too had a voice?

#66 Sing in a Karaoke Choir 

Fortunately, I have a small cinema at home –  called Cinema X –  that can double up as a tiny auditorium if needed. It has lovely views over the garden when the dark curtains are drawn back, allowing light in. Ideal for a spot of communal singing.

There’s a large television in the room, and because a clever young person showed me how to ‘cast’ from my iPad to the screen using a special connection, it’s possible to find any artist on YouTube and project it onto the television. The excellent surround sound is an added bonus.

So all I needed now was a willing choir. And a program.

Enter my friends from Discovery Group. We’ve been meeting regularly for years now, and each month we try out a new activity.

All I’d have to do was ask each person who was able to attend to provide me wth a list of their two or three all-time favourite songs and bingo, we’d have a program.

Hmm. Easier said than done.

Many found it extremely difficult to limit their favourites to a mere three songs, so the lists I began to receive via email grew … and grew … and grew.

Fortunately, one of the musical members agreed to take on the role of choir director, so the two of us pondered and culled and collated and listened to YouTube offerings until at last, our program was complete:

It may be possible to guess our ages from the play list. Not a Beyoncé song to be heard…


Well, we had a ball, though you’ll notice that all the participant’s identities have been hidden to protect the innocent.

Some songs we belted out with gusto, like the Shirelles ‘Will You Still Love me, Tomorrow?”

Our musical director took her duties seriously, baton and all

And some, like Don MacLean’s Vincent, we sang very gently, wiping our eyes surreptitiously along the way:

Click on the arrow if you’re game

We’re itching to do it again, when all our Discovery friends are available to come.

There was a lot to learn, of course, like avoiding keys that were way out of our comfort zone (looking at you, Nick Cave), or songs that were a tad too slow, or not well enough loved.

Next time, with this practice session under our belt, we’ll be even better, we’re sure.

And I learned that do-re-mi is a very good place to start and that Julie Andrews is a great teacher.

Anyone who can help me sound vaguely in tune gets my vote.

 

 

#48 Mess About in Boats

It wasn’t until Form One (as Year Seven was called back then) that I was introduced to the magical world of boating.

This was courtesy of Kenneth Grahame’s engaging tale of the adventures of Ratty and Mole, Badger and Toad in The Wind in the Willows.

Who wouldn’t be seduced by Ratty’s pronouncement in the very first chapter?

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Alas, I was growing up in a bitterly cold, inland city without a beach or river to its name, nurtured by loving parents who… well… you couldn’t call them outdoor types. (This may explain why, on my first-ever camping trip at age 22, I had no idea that you didn’t pitch your tent in a cosy hollow under a gum tree. Especially without checking for the possibility of torrential rain during the night.) So my love of boating was entirely imaginary for many years.

What better time to change all that now though, and live the dream. A chance to…

#48 Mess About in Boats

Ratty was spot on – it’s so worth doing.

Boats, of course, come in all shapes and sizes. And degrees of safety.

There was that disastrous early experiment with three friends, when we were sent down a raging Murray River in two canoes, on our own, by the Dodgy Brothers’ Hire-a-Risky-Boat Adventures. 

Thanks to life jackets and expert recreational kayakers who raced across to pluck us from the water as we parted ways with our canoes and careened towards South Australia, I lived to brave the river again one late afternoon as dusk was falling. But this time, it was in the back of a canoe with a World Champion/Murray River Marathon winner doing all the hard work in the front seat. Bliss!

Racing down the Murray and up Wodonga Creek taking curves at breakneck speed with an expert guide is truly exciting, even though he mistakenly thought he could further spook me with a diversion past a bat colony.

bats-ahoy

Amazing. Flying mammals! What’s not to like…?


If Scandi Noir is the mood you’re after though, then messing about in a boat at New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound is just the ticket. All dark and brooding and ominous. No wonder James Cook was doubtful it was navigable when he named it.

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You could well be at the end of the earth. Oh, hang on a minute…

Even the silhouette of a travelling companion takes on a sinister hue in this part of the world.

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Exploring in a boat means you can get up close and personal with all manner of wildlife.

Spot seals sunning themselves,

seals

Or water birds doing a picturesque pose694

…in splendid isolation


But you don’t have to travel miles away from home to find a relaxing boating experience.

The Sienna Daisy is a new cruise boat purpose built for the Murray River right here in Albury. No more worries of a river too low to support the mechanism of cumbersome paddle steamers, romantic though they may be.

sienna-daisy

Take a 60 or 90-minute scheduled river cruise or book a private function. Include the Captain’s Lunch of a BBQ and salads if you want and complement this with a glass of wine.  All your worries will disappear into the water as you float along, caressed by the gentle movement and sense of escape.

And If you’ve ever wondered why Noreuil Park has such an unpronounceable name, you can find that out, too.

I could have boated all day…

monument-from-river

and just a stone’s throw from home…


No doubt about it, messing about in boats is the bees knees.

I wonder if it’s too late to consider buying my own boat? Of course, I’d have to get a bigger car, too  – with a tow bar  – and a boat trailer. And learn how to reverse them all down a narrow driveway and a slippery ramp without jack-knifing. Is that do-able for a post-adult woman, I wonder?

Because I can’t help thinking that being the skipper of your own boat would make you feel like a Master of The Universe.

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Wouldn’t you agree, Charlie…?

#47 Revel in a Post-adult Period

It used to be that adding the prefix ‘Post’ to any word meant ‘after’. Think ‘post meridiem’ for after noon and ‘post mortem’ for after death.

But then along came postmodernism and suddenly, that harmless prefix took on a deeper meaning. Sure, postmodernism came after modernism, but it came with its own definition too, that is, epistemological and moral relativism, and pluralism. These are apparently rejections of the old-fashioned tenets of modernism like rationality, absolute truth and progress.

And I ask you, is there anything more embarrassing than being caught with ideas that pre-date postmodernism?

So when I heard last week that the Oxford dictionary now includes the term post-truth to mean not lies, but the irrelevance of factual rebuttals in preference to emotion and personal beliefs, it awoke in me a freedom I didn’t realise I was craving. The freedom to:

#47 Revel in a Post-adult Period 

The Post-adult period is the time after your responsible adult years have passed but it also confers an additional meaning whereby you can take on any behaviour or habits you want.

As to exactly when this commences, it begins the day you realise you’ve lost your relevance to society. That moment of shock on hearing or reading in the news that an ‘elderly [insert-your-own-age] woman was today found …’.

When they use adjectives like ‘elderly’, ‘old’ or ‘senior’ to describe people like you, it’s time to fight back in the best way possible. Become a card-carrying member of the Post-adult period and revel in it.

So here’s my list of pleasures that those of us celebrating this special time may now embrace for the rest of our lives. Do feel free to add others.

After all, we’ve earned it.

*Avoid anything that doesn’t give you consummate pleasure.

I’m thinking activities like having a job. Or sitting through a meeting that has minutes and an agenda. Or ploughing on with a book that you realise, by page 20, is boring you witless. Or watching a silly film to the very end.

screenshot-2016-11-22-12-33-16No offence if you loved these, but I might have a mere 30 years left on earth…


*Have a snack immediately before dinner, even if it spoils your appetite. Especially if it spoils your appetite.

Longing for some paté on toast in the late afternoon? Go for it! Can’t resist a whole bowl of guacamole and corn chips at 7.00pm? Be my guest. You’re in your post-adult years. You get to set the rules.


*Discover wicked new tastes you love – and take them up with gusto.

I recently tried fried pancetta as an alternative to bacon. It’s magnificent. Why didn’t I know about its crispy deliciousness before now?

Have an egg and pancetta roll instead. Or try it with tomato on toasted ciabatta:

pancetta-and-toms-on-toast

…yum


*Replace bad things with alternatives (that might be worse)


Are you over margarine and the whole worried-about-your-cholesterol chorus? Longing for some cholesterol-rich food? Switch to butter and store it in a stylish dish on your bench top so it’s always available and always spreadable.

butter

Butter’s natural, tastes marvellous and chances are scientists will discover in the not-too-distant future that it has life-prolonging properties. Just like they’ve now realised that toddlers who drink full-fat milk end up slimmer than those given low fat milk.

And take honey. It’s natural too, but for some reason I’ve always found the flavour a little … disappointing. Then I remembered something that tastes the way I’d wanted honey to taste but doesn’t involve any part of it being transported on the legs of insects.

I’m talking Maple Syrup. Now available in BIG, BEAUTIFUL one litre jars, especially for Post-adults.

maple-syrup

…and it always flow smoothly, even in winter


*Use buttermilk in recipes

I know, buttermilk sounds evil; probably is evil.

Deliciously evil in pancakes making then fluffy and puffy and soft:

buttermilk-pancakes

And you’re right. That’s not honey.

Tenderly evil as a marinade for chicken or pork, such as when making your own version of ‘fried chicken with 11 secret herbs and spices’ at home.

chicken-recipe

 

 

kfc

almost as good as you-know-what…


*Play with fire

Like running wth scissors, playing with dangerous equipment is also on the agenda in Post-adult years.

fire-2

 

So if you’ve always had a hankering for creme brûlée with that lovely crunchy toffee topping, now’s the time. Blast away to your heart’s content. No-one will tell you to be careful.

creme-brulee


*Outsource the stuff you don’t like doing.

Post-adults can outsource anything they don’t like.

Here’s why: if you read that ‘an elderly [insert-your-own-age] woman was today found scrubbing the floors’ you’d rightly feel sorry for her. She shouldn’t have to do that any more, poor old thing. So vacuuming, washing floors, cleaning bathrooms and whipper-snipping are out and no-one will think less of you.

But if you say coyly, ‘I like to keep active,’ you’re able to continue using the electric lawnmower, (such fun), gardening (no digging expected), cooking (no catering for more than two; four tops) and exercising the dog (but never undertaking a ‘fun-run’).

And as for the front yard makeover you’ve been thinking of doing yourself for years and years, forget it. Once you hit Post-adulthood, just ask friends who’s the best-priced paver in town (never spend hours organising quotes yourself – only adults do that) and the recommended one will do a far better job than you could ever have achieved.

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There’s only one caveat to life in the Post-adult lane.

All things in moderation.

Except maybe chocolate…

 

 

 

 

 

 

#45 Meander along Sydney Writers Walk

Did you know that Sydney has a dedicated Writers Walk?

It displays a series of over forty-five plaques containing a snatch of an author’s thoughts about the Australian land and its people together with a brief bio of the writer.

Despite having visited the site of the Walk (it sweeps around Circular Quay from the Opera House to beyond the Museum of Contemporary Art) at least – oh – maybe two or three times a year for the past twenty-five years and despite having, in all likelihood, walked by several of the plaques on each occasion, it’s completely passed me by. And I suspect nearly everyone who’s visited Sydney has walked this walk, but most of us have never seen it.

How embarrassing.

Truth be told, my pedantic writer’s streak is a little uncomfortable with the missing apostrophe in the large bronze tablet announcing Writers Walk because you couldn’t possibly interpret it to mean that ‘writers walk’. They don’t. They’re much too busy scribbling away in their attic, all alone, hunched over a manuscript.

But despite my misgivings about a monument that’s dedicated to writers and yet contains a punctuation error, once the site was drawn to my attention, a visit was essential.

#44 Meander along Sydney Writers Walk

If I were to post an image of every one of these neglected bronze gems, it would overwhelm this blog entry, so allow me to present a small sample of the witty, the poignant, the prescient or the just plain irreverent comments made by so many great writers who have visited our country or were born here.

Just for fun, I’ve added a modern Australian visual match.

1. David Williamsonwilliamson

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-3-50-58-pmanzac-bridge…though he forgot to mention the obsession with food,too

2. C.E.W.Beancew-bean

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-3-50-58-pm

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-55-01-pm

…tho’ it seems that ‘the whole people’s’ representatives aren’t trying too hard to work it out .

3. Ethel Turner

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Hey, who’d wear a bike helmet when there’s no-one around?

4. C.J.Dennis

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-4-04-14-pmscreen-shot-2016-09-24-at-3-50-58-pm

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…still knocks you endways

5. Charles Darwin

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…reflections of the old and the new grandeur

6. Rudyard Kipling

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screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-3-50-58-pm

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-5-17-51-pm

We’ll do wonderful things…some day 

7. Barry Humphries

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-5-23-45-pmscreen-shot-2016-09-24-at-3-50-58-pm

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-5-25-33-pm

…feels like home to me

So now you’re possibly asking, ‘How have I missed noticing the Writers Walk?’

Well, here’s a clue:

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-2-11-20-pm

If writers had ball skills instead of verbal skills, would more people notice what’s underfoot?

The plaques are all in-laid  – in the footpath. And shooing away hordes of oblivious tourists to get the perfect photograph of each plaque wasn’t easy!

So now you know where it is, I hope this has given you a tantalising taste of what’s on show at the Sydney Writers Walk.

#24 ‘Stand Up and Cheer’ at a Book Launch

Writers penning opinion pieces for highly reputable sites – like The Times or The Conversation –  will often have a disclaimer after their by-line. Something along the lines of: ‘Thomas Fotherington-Smythe does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.’

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I must declare an interest in my next fun and frivolous activity:

#24 ‘Stand Up and Cheer’ at a Book Launch

The truth is, I have familial ties to the author of the book in question. I even did a spot of editing during the early drafts. So,

I did work for –

I did consult with –

And I do have affiliations with –

the author, so am duty-bound to declare my interest, even though the cheque must still be in the mail…

Naturally, it was exciting to help organise its special regional launch recently at the Albury LibraryMuseum, and as you can see, I even made matching bookmarks to accompany the gorgeous art-deco design of the book.

FullSizeRender

Did I mention that the book’s title is Stand Up and Cheer?

And I’m proud to declare, with a possible hint of bias, that it’s a thrilling children’s novel based on a true gem of Australian history that we should all celebrate, namely the rescue, by the people of Albury, of the Dutch DC-2 plane, the Uiver lost in a fierce thunderstorm over the Riverina during the Great Centenary Air Race from London to Melbourne on the night of 23rd October 1934.

IMG_0808

A Douglas DC-2, at the Albury Aerodrome during the Open Day in October 2014.  Although not the original Uiver, it’s one of only a handful of surviving DC-2 planes in the world.

Written for 8 to 12-year-olds, and enjoyed by everyone who loves an exciting and true aviation story*, Stand Up and Cheer is set in Albury at the height of the Great Depression and tells the story of the Uiver’s rescue through the eyes of the 10-year-old hero, Jack, the son of the local ABC radio announcer who plays a pivotal role in organising the townsfolk help the plane find a safe place to land.

Of course, helping organise a book launch isn’t the only fun and frivolous entertainment to be had around books.

A friend of mine was visiting her family recently in the Northumberland region of the UK when she noticed that Tim Winton, Australia’s highly decorated author, was reading from his latest book, Eyrie, at a small pub nearby. Not knowing how these events work, and concerned that she may be asked questions if she attended, she dutifully read the novel beforehand.

Now apparently, Tim Winton isn’t quite as well known in the north of England as he is here, so only a small group of people turned up to listen to him read in a cosy, intimate setting. And my friend was the only one to have read his latest book and have thoughtful, relevant questions in mind.

So that’s how she came to spend a marvellous evening chatting one-on-one with the charming Tim Winton on a cold night in the north of England.

See how fun and frivolous activities can often lead to so much more?

* The Australian adventurer, Dick Smith wrote: ‘I stated reading Stand Up and Cheer and couldn’t put it down – it’s such an exciting aviation and adventure tale. I think everyone will want to read it.’ 

#15 Compile a list of “Wake me from a Coma” items

Imagine you were in an accident and, perish the thought, ended up in a coma. Would your closest family and friends know what could rouse you from your unplanned slumber? Would they have a clear idea of what’s so important to you that it could trump unconsciousness?

With this in mind, I’ve decided on my next fun (though hardly frivolous) activity:

#15 Compile a list of “Wake Me From a Coma” items

It’s a big ask, I know. Would it be a voice? A perfume? Music? Or something else?

It turns out to be all these things.

There were times during my search when my heart  began to race, and times when it slowed to a glacial pace. There were the unexpected moments where I felt something inside me was melting. That’s when I knew I’d found what I was looking for.

There’s probably a name for the moment when an experience literally stops you in your tracks.  Whatever it is, I suspect that, paradoxically, it may be the very thing that could  wake you from a coma.

So in no particular order:

1. Schubert Impromptu in G Flat Op 90 No 3

Schubert

I first heard this when it featured in the Australian film “The Getting of Wisdom” in the seventies, and was so entranced that I learnt to play it.  For a short, glorious period in my youth I could perform it in its entirety. It still gives me goose bumps.

*****

2. A gentle scalp massage.

You’ve seen kittens purr. Now watch someone wake from a coma.

*****

3. “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix” from Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Sans

Sung by Marilyn Horne

If there’s no blip on my heart monitor at the 1’44” point, then I’m in serious trouble.

*****

 4. Harry Nilsson’s “Can’t live without you.”

It turns out that I could, but it makes me feel young and in love again, so it’s in. For that matter, Starry, Starry Night – the Don McLean version – is another heart starter.

*****

5. A whiff of Diorissimo® Perfume

Diorissimo

It was my mother’s choice throughout her life. Say no more.

*****

6. Mozart’s Laudate Dominum  sung by Dame Kiri te Kanawa.

How did Mozart get it so right? I melt.

*****

7. Jesse by Janis Ian

And why has this been lost in the mists of time? At least Tina Fey, in her film “Mean Girls”,  paid sly homage to the fabulously talented Janis.

*****

8. Schubert’s  An die Musik

A glorious Schubert song that celebrates the beauty of music. I wish I spoke German.

*****

9. A live reading by James Mason. Or Gregory Peck.

Who wouldn’t wake for the mellifluous voices of these two? Alas it will never happen again, so I may have to settle for George Clooney by my bedside…

*****

10.  A 1940s rendition of “You are my Sunshine.”

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My father taught us this on the drive to school many years ago and we’d belt it out when we were all in a happy mood. It makes me smile every time I hear it.

 

 

 

Albury East pan 2

So there’s my very personal list. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start – and the search has been such fun.

 

#6 Become an Extra in a Film or Telemovie

Have you ever hankered to have a moment, however brief, on the big screen?

If, like me, you’ve no discernable acting talent, this has probably seemed like a pipe dream, but now, I may have found the solution:

#6 Become an Extra in a Film or Telemovie

Extras don’t normally speak, so voice projection skills aren’t necessary. In fact, extras play such an unimportant, unskilled role in the background that they’re barely noticeable until – and this is the vital point – there are no extras present and it becomes glaringly obvious that something important is missing. That ‘something important’ is definitely a skill I thought I could bring to any film.

So when a recent advertisement in our local paper called for extras for the filming of a telemovie called ‘Cliffy’, I immediately put up my hand.

The film is about Cliff Young, a 61-year-old, unheralded potato farmer from Western Victoria who became famous when he won an ultra marathon race (or shuffle as it turned out) from Sydney to Melbourne in 1983.

His tortoise-and-hare approach to the race, where he beat out all the other showier, younger but ultimately slower contenders, was a real feel-good moment for the nation. Here was a chance to snatch a small role in a classic telemovie and live the dream.

After completing the registration forms, I awaited The Call from the Extras Casting Director. When it came I was slotted to play an audience member seated in a television studio as ‘Cliff’ was being interviewed after his race win.

So I plucked my best 1980s-style jacket from the back of my wardrobe  – no need for me to visit the wardrobe department on set – and arrived ready for action.

And waited.

And waited.

Because that’s what extras do. They wait.

Finally my moment arrived, but rather than play a part of the audience, I became what’s known as a “featured extra”. I was to stand in the background pretending to be a studio manager ‘chatting’ to another extra, as the actor playing Cliff was about to go on set for his interview. A real acting role!

My new colleague clearly had great acting aspirations too.

During the repeated shootings of that 10-second scene, he gesticulated in such an exaggerated and unusual manner that I just stood there open-mouthed, perplexed at what he was doing and wondering if I should be doing the same. So I did.

I now have an uneasy feeling that we’ll both end up on the cutting room floor…

***

STOP PRESS

I didn’t end up on the cutting room floor!

If you look very carefully behind Cliffy’s shoulder in this shot from the film, you’ll see the vital role that extras play.

Cliffy 2

The final word in vanity searches…?