Author talk—David Hunt

David Hunt, who among a great many other things, has written the books Girt—the unauthorised history of Australia and True Girt [unimaginatively subtitled ‘the unauthorised history of Australia Volume 2’], lobbed into Bowral yesterday [Tuesday 15 August 2017] to talk to a FOWL event—FOWL being the acronym for Friends of Wingecarribee Library.

I hadn’t read Girt or True Girt but I had seen them in bookshops and resisted buying them because they didn’t seem quite me. It’s all about me, let’s face it.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see the author.

David Hunt is an unusually tall and handsome man who likes writing his own bios for all the books he has written. David is the author of Girt—the unauthorised history of Australia, which won the 2014 Indie Award for non-fiction and was shortlisted in both the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and Australian Book Industry Awards. True Girt, the sequel, was published in 2016, as was a book for children, The Nose Pixies.

I nicked that bit from David Hunt’s author description on Black Inc’s web site. Thanks Black Inc.

David reckons that Australian histories built around themes are usually not as interesting—read ‘less popular’—to the general reader than those built around the stories of the people involved. Maybe that’s true, with bookshops offering a great number of histories of Australia’s range of explorers, sailors and bushrangers; they do offer a range of thematic books as well, though.

That having been said, I do wonder why people now seem less willing to stand back and look at the generalities and the conclusions from the combined stories of a myriad of people—themes?—and feel compelled to concentrate on just a few human stories. Drawing any sort of general conclusion from just a few case studies always seems fraught to me even if the human stories are often compelling.

Anyway, let’s shove that aside.

David Hunt’s stock in trade, it seems, is to add a humorous touch to the human stories.

For nearly an hour [including question time] David gave us some of the stories of people early in Australia’s history beginning with the Mark Twain quote [with a bit of my own editorial jiggering]:

Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn’t.

Hunt’s stories included the extraordinarily full life of Jorgen Jorgenson which you can read about in True Girt or online in the Australian Dictionary of Biography; Captain Moonlight—Andrew George Scott—and his apparent lover James Nesbitt; and the Irish convict and cannibal Alexander Pearce.

He talked about the, to us, strange selection of items taken with the Burke and Wills expedition; Sturt’s great efforts in carrying a boat in search of an inland sea [there is a replica in Pioneer Park in Tibooburra in the north western corner of NSW]; and the ill-will between Hamilton Hume and William Hovell during and after their journey from Sydney to Port Phillip Bay.

Many of the anecdotes do seem amusing to the modern Australian but I did wonder whether the humour was way too easy, that laughter at the ignorance of the early pioneers was perhaps a bit off; it was to me anyway.

And I did wonder about labelling Ned Kelly a terrorist because he attempted to derail and ambush a police train, killing all within. Was the intention to terrorise? Hunt never made that clear. And it’s a stretch, surely, to imply Kelly had some sort of metalware fetish. I guess Hunt was just playing it for laughs.

I think I’m getting old and boring so I’ll stop my rant about here.

Hunt did draw parallels to some modern history and modern political actors proving, I guess, that history is sure to repeat itself despite the warnings of the past.

Hunt’s next book will be Girt Nation, drawing on history—read people’s stories—around the time of Australian federation. That seems a little way off, though, Hunt explaining that it took over a year to compile the stories in True Girt even with sixteen hour days in the writing process.

Anyway, for a few laughs Girt and True Girt may be worth a look, though I passed up the opportunity to buy either and to talk with David.

FOWL is worth a look, too, for people in the NSW Southern Highlands. The Wingecarribee Library also has an electronic newsletter The Wingecarribee Word—Your Library News

Anyway, thanks to FOWL for this event; these people are right on it. It is good to be exposed to the variety of authors FOWL brings us through the year.

For the record this is the FOWL advance publicity:

[Thanks FOWL for the use of that, even if I didn’t ask!]

[Last reviewed: 16 August 2017.]

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Film review: 45 Years

[Spoiler alert: Yes, I am going to talk about the way the film panned out].

I haven’t been in the habit of talking about film. That’s partly because I see far fewer than I’d like, and the time between outings is way too long to get any real sense of films in general, let alone one film in particular. [And perhaps that’s a clue that you should stop reading about now—I don’t really know what I am talking about!]

Anyway, I was looking forward to this film [ah, movie you might call it].

It has Charlotte Rampling who has one of those faces—you know the ones, those that show character because the actor isn’t fifteen and has lived many lives. And it has Tom Courtenay, too, who I am not particularly familiar with, but has a used face too. [I’m still working on my face but I’ve got a long way to go on that particular project—maybe I need more whisky and late nights].

Anyway, when the film finished I felt let down—I was disappointed.

So maybe it’s me, maybe I have expectation that are way too high [you may recall that this problem has occurred before].

Anyway, what was good? I guess Rampling was good but not Oscar nomination good. And a film needs more than a face staring moodily past the camera to carry it forward.

It was all too slow and there wasn’t enough meat for a screenplay—being based on a short story, I guess that’s the truth of it. [The short story is by David Constantine; it’s called In Another Country.]. And it did have a flat stage-play-brought-to-the-screen feel about it [not that this is always bad].

The story? Kate, Charlotte Rampling, and Geoff, Tom Courtenay, have been married for forty-five years. Before they met, he had a relationship that ended with the tragic mountain death of his partner Katya; her body was never found and was swallowed up in a glacier. As the film begins, Geoff receives the news that the preserved body of Katya has been found in ice melting due to warming of the glacier. In the rest of the film the effect of this revelation is played out.

This couple seemed to have nothing even without the revelation of the film. There was no joy in the relationship, no fun, or laughter, or genuine communication. It was as if these two didn’t really know each other [or they’d started on set the morning shooting began, and hadn’t quite worked their way into any sort of rapport]. Maybe, of course, that was the whole point, that the revelation of the film had so hung over the relationship for the entire 45 plus years that there had never been a real meeting of minds? But then the Kate, Charlotte Rampling, of the end of the film would have known that all along, would have known that the couple was not working.

I found it difficult to become emotionally engaged with these characters let alone the film. I know that we don’t have to like all or any characters in the films we see but it would be nice to actually care what happens to the characters. In this one? Not a bit.

So this film is the story of the short future—there is no time for this relationship to recover, though Geoff, the Tom Courtenay character, like men in general, perhaps, seems capable of shutting the door on this and moving on [as he has done, perhaps, for nearly fifty years] as though the shadow of Katya does not exist. Kate, Charlotte Rampling, appears not to be able [and fair enough, too, I could add].

Their relationship seemed to have so little that it should have been over before it started. What a waste of two lives and of the ninety minutes of my life that I’ll never get back watching this film.

I notice from reviews out there in the public arena that I’m way out of step in my opinion of this film. So go and see this to see what you think, or better still, wait a little till you can watch it at less expense on cable. I reckon it’s one of this films that won’t shine too long, and will disappear off the charts to where it belongs.

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Queen Victoria Winter Night Market

Winter night market at the Melbourne Queen Victoria Market?

Melbourne?

Winter?

You must be joking.

But no—it’s real.

The Queen Victoria Winter Night Market has been running for four years so the organisers must be doing something right. Or do they draw in new suckers every winter night market?

Well, being suckers from way back, we thought we’d give it a go. [And we’d been egged-on by our Melbourne family—who, it should be said, had nicked off to the warmth of tropical north Queensland at Townsville. Laughing, probably.]

We lobbed in just after 5.00pm last night, Wednesday 5 August 2015. The market was just kicking off, only a few people around.

But the mulled wine was all ready to be served. So mulled wine it was and we leaned on a high table beside one of those portable outdoor gas heaters [patio heater?] and sipped and watched the crowds build up around us.

A stall:
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Soap was it? Or candles?

Then it was the circuit, checking out the food and the merchandise stalls and the food and the drink and the food. Did I say we checked out the food stalls? Oh, yes, I did. We checked out the food.

Well, it was all there, the whole spectrum of ethnic tucker, smelling wonderful, billowing clouds of smoke and steam from the cooking adding to the atmosphere. And the great Aussie meat pie even rated a stall; how ethnic’s that?

Most people seemed to walk in, eschewing the joys of driving and traffic and parking, great crowds coming through the city side gates, mainly young people [the University of Melbourne is close by] but a lot of parents with kids and even few of the baby boomer set like us [not the young end of the boomers in our case but that seemed to be out of our control].

I’d decided that my evening repast would be many courses, knowing that once I’d decided on and paid for a course, I’d soon find a better and more desirable one. And so it was, from stuffed roti to samosas to, yes, an Aussie meat pie and sauce.

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I could have eaten from any of the stalls [oh, except the one selling those poor little baby octopuses]. Spanish, Thai, Mexican, German, French, Australian, Vietnamese, they were all there. These food stalls were efficient, time from desire to food in hand way satisfactory. And there are enough tables and chairs and high tables to go around if people used them and moved on [which they seemed to do].

And, yes, it gradually grew colder as the night moved on, but the cooking and crowds and strategically placed fire pits kept it all under control somehow [for long enough, anyway].

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The band Holy Moses Heartache entertained us; they were very good indeed [I’m also an expert music critic now, adding that to my sculpture credentials]:

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The band has a Facebook page at Holy Moses Heartache.

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The web site Soundcloud says, at, wait for it, Holy Moses Heartache:

Holy Moses Heartache are a bunch of drinking buddies that decided to write songs. They decribe their music as awesome—others would most likely say it’s folksy. They like Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain and long walks on the beach. The members of Holy Moses Heartache are relatively unhealthy but generally good company. We hope you enjoy their music but if not, that’s okay too.

Soundcloud has some tracks, too, if I understand correctly what the site is about.

Sam Irving Photography has some good photographs of the band from last night; check them out at Holy Moses Heartache.

This isn’t one of them [Sam Irving’s, that is], this is one of mine with the mighty iPhone 5:

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At a recess in the music we wandered off, the cold having finally seeped in. But we started as we had begun, with a mulled wine, to warm the cockles [whatever they are] and to get us on the way.

Winter night market at the Melbourne Queen Victoria Market?

Winter?

Yes, and what a great idea.

The markets wrap up for the year on Wednesday 26 August 2015.

Get down there if you’re in the vicinity; you’ll have a great time.

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Caulfield Park memorials

Yesterday, Wednesday 5 August 2015, we had the great pleasure, between bursts of heavy rain, to wander around in Caulfield Park in Caulfield North, a south-eastern Melbourne suburb.

Park figures
At the entrance were these, called rather prosaically, according to the plaque nearby, Park figures.

The plaque says, in full:

Park figures
In 1975 the Council of the City of Caulfield commissioned sculptor Phillip J. Cannizzo to create a landmark of some significance in Caulfield Park.
The 7 statues that make up this group include the ‘Paper boy’, ‘Mother & child & ‘Climbing boys’.
The group was completed in 1980.

This is Mother and child:

Mother and child.

Mother and child.

Mother and child.

Mother and child.

Paper boy:

Paper boy.

Paper boy.

Paper boy.

Paper boy.

And Climbing boys:

Climbing boys.

Climbing boys.

And, of course, climbing boys would expect someone to be watching their prowess [a girl, of course]:

Watching Climbing boys.

Watching Climbing boys.

War memorial
The Caulfield war memorial is here too:

War memorial.

War memorial.

War memorial.

War memorial.

War memorial.

War memorial.

War memorial detail.

War memorial detail.

The plaque on the war memorial is:

Plaque on war memorial.

Plaque on war memorial.

The text on this is:

This memorial was erected in honor of those citizens of Caulfield who volunteered their services in the Great War 1914 – 1918 — May it forever remind us that we enjoy a liberty maintained and enriched by the sacrifice of many noble lives.

Upon this stone is now inscribed our gratitude to those citizens of Caulfield who defended the cause of freedom in the Second World War 1939 – 1945

Monument Australia talks about this at Caulfield war memorial.

Memorial stone
The joys of road widening led to the removal of an original Avenue of Honour on North and Nepean Roads in the 1960s. The plaque with the names of Caulfield dead from the First World War was relocated to Caulfield Park:

Roll of honour.

Roll of honour.

Monument Australia talks more about this at Caulfield Memorial Stone.

Memorial to the 1917 Battle of Beer Sheba
This memorial plaque was dedicated on Anzac Day 1995:

Beer-Sheba Memorial Plaque.

Beer-Sheba Memorial Plaque.

Monument Australia has more details at Beer-Sheba Memorial Plaque. There is no explanation of the fact that the text is in both English and Hebrew.

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Nearamnew

Since last June when I posted a story on Aboriginal places on the Maribyrnong River, I have checked out another Melbourne site, this time at Federation Square, that ugly but iconic central Melbourne meeting place.

Among other things, I said in June at Maribyrnong Aboriginal sites:

Aboriginal people have been in the Melbourne area for more than 30,000 years. That makes an awful lot of sunrises and sunsets that the Kulin people lived through.

But there’s precious little evidence left that they were ever in the area—over the period of very few sunrises and sunsets in comparison, we have pretty effectively obliterated what there was.

However Meyer Eidelson, in his 2014 book [revised from its 1997 original] Melbourne dreaming, has brought us a wonderful guide to that little left in the Melbourne area. [Meyer Eidelson, Melbourne dreaming, Second edition, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 2014.]

Anyway, last Tuesday 4 August 2015, was the day to see what Meyer Eidelson was directing us to at Federation Square as part of what he calls the Birrarung (Yarra) art and heritage walk.

The site in Federation Square couldn’t, of course, be original in any way [hey, most of them are long, long gone], just a remembrance and a commemoration that Aboriginal people lived in the area for, as I said, an awful lot of sunrises and sunsets before we lobbed in.

The large internal square, the place people seem to congregate [to enjoy arctic blasts of wind the day we were there], is paved with a myriad of Kimberley sandstone cobbles. This must be really difficult to navigate for people in wheelchairs, or with walking sticks, or with high heels for that matter. Not falling into any of those categories [yet, or still], I wandered around and randomly photographed a few examples of stone art work which is embedded into the cobbles [and to which Eidelson directs us].

If you look carefully in this next photograph, you’ll see a pattern cut into the cobbles. [You don’t have to look carefully to see the ugly building behind.]

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There are nine of these works [collectively known as Nearamnew], though I didn’t see them all. Collectively, they are arranged in a pattern which isn’t obvious when you’re walking around.

None of the nine makes a lot of obvious sense [being letters cut into stone] but I figured in the Internet-age that a web site somewhere would give me the details. Eidelson tells us that the information people at Federation Square have a brochure but I didn’t find that out until I got home.

You can begin to see the letters up a bit closer:

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And with some clarity even closer still:

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The letters overlay one another, as you can see, which is pretty arty but exceedingly difficult to read.

The thought did occur, of course, that none of this was ever meant to be read, just to present a clever and pretty pattern on the cobbles of the square.

So, what in particular was Eidelson directing us to?

He tells us [p. 5]:

Look for the nine ‘visions’ inscribed as poetic texts in the cobbles. Number 1 ‘Maker’s Vision’ describes Bunjin’s creation of the Kulin people and the Yarra River.

Which is Number 1 isn’t clear in Eidelson but I figured all would be revealed after some Googling around at home.

How wrong could I be?

There is stuff about these arty patterns at http://www.nearamnew.com. Unfortunately, this is one of those irritating web sites that expects you to have the very latest Flashplayer installed, then has an introduction of way longer than can be remotely interesting to anybody before spitting out what it should have done without the palaver in the first place. [Do I sound peeved? No doubt, but at my age every minute is precious.] [Please, nearamnew.com, give us an easy to use text version; we’re not interested in whizz-bangery, just information.] [OK, I’ll stop now.]

There is some more useful stuff at Nearamnew brochure and at Material Thinking.

But none of these has the full text of the words. Maybe we are meant to find a copy of the [out of print] 126 page book Mythform published by The Miegunyah Press [an imprint of Melbourne University Publishing] which talks about the making of Newarnew.

I did have a go at deciphering some of the words on the nearamnew.com web site and got this:

Oearthamker Clay moulder of man and your brother fathers on diver supreme over rivers creeks lagoons sea who thresh idle water thick as blood why cut this way that way men women children like worms writhing why let wind whirl their pieces like flakes of snow dropping in such places as you please where you stand is the rendezvous for the tribes known as … twice a year or as often as circumstances and emergencies require to settle their grievances they meet then scatter again their unity undispersed heaven on earth good men good women are made stars and these stars are still in the heavens.

[The ellipsis is where I couldn’t be sure what was being said—you have a go!]

This is all way [way, way] too arty for me [and, I suspect, most Australians]. The official web site is almost unusable, the text size minuscule and basically incomprehensible to all of those without wanky qualifications in art criticism.

So go to Federation Square, enjoy the pretty patterns underfoot.

But don’t expect any enlightenment or sudden dawning of wisdom or understanding—it’s just not going to happen.

Oh, and I reckon Meyer Eidelson has over-egged the pudding by even directing us to this site.

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Sculpture stolen

It has come to my attention that some art-lover out there has nicked the Dolphin’s return statue from Pipemakers Park beside the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne. [My tentacles spread wide as you can see.]

And I blame myself having been so effusive about this sculpture when I wrote about it in The search for Jack’s Magazine in December last year.

To remind you, this is what I said:

This sculpture which though technically competent [doesn’t that sound really superior?] is all a bit kitsch:

Dolphin's return.

Dolphin’s return.

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The plaque with this says:

Dolphin’s return.
“The affinity of the dolphin and humanity is unique. If nature ceases to be abused and the saltwater again runs sweetly, the dolphins may share our heritage once more. We have only one world, to be nurtured, protected and loved.” Tom Boland.
Given to the people of Footscray by
Dolphin sculpture—Forges Pty Ltd
Fountain and installation—Footscray City Council
Instigation—The Australia Council

I’ve no idea who Tom Boland is [and he probably has no idea who Dossier 48 is—even I wonder at times] but he obviously wrote some deep stuff about dolphins.

[I Googled around a bit to try to find Tom. No luck, I’m afraid, so you’re on your own about who he is. Google Dossier 48 and it comes up straight away. How good’s that?]

Does make it all sound appealing, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to steal such a find?

The local paper, the western version of The Leader, talks about the theft at Dolphins’ Return statue stolen from Pipemakers Park. They promise more and I’ll bring that to you in due course.

Now I think about it, scrap bronze must be worth a bit these days. Bronze is mainly copper, and scrap copper sits at maybe four dollars a kilo; scrap brass has a similar price. If Dolphins Return has a mass of 1,000 kilograms, which it could, it may well be worth $4,000 [or more, or less—wave your own arms about to get a price].

Maybe bronze sculptures need armed guards.

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Belanglo map

I’ve been meaning for some time to present a map of the route into the memorial in Belanglo State Forest.

Here it is, roughly drawn, I’m afraid, but it should be useful in finding the memorial.

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[I notice now that I have mis-spelled Belanglo on the road from the Hume Highway; tough, I guess.]

North is pretty much straight up the map. I have cross-hatched the roads leading to the memorial.

The clue is to follow the road into the forest, past the rest area on the Hume Highway, and turn right onto Dalys Road. Follow Dalys Road to the T-junction with the Firebreak Road then turn left.

The road surface isn’t designed for ordinary vehicles, so take it easy.

My other posts, with photographs, are Belanglo State Forest and Belanglo revisited.

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