Oct 26, 2015

The Dressmaker

Whenever the silly question arises of who I want to play me in a movie of my life, my answer has always been the same. Kate Winslet.
And then I think, "Oh, what a jaw-droppingly boring movie that would be. I'm so sorry, Kate, you don't deserve such mediocrity."

In the meantime, I'm happy to watch her light up the screen in other roles, such as her brilliant performance as Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage, in The Dressmaker.

Based on the Rosalie Ham novel of the same name, The Dressmaker is set in 1951 in the tiny country town of Dungatar, where prejudices, gossip and secrets are rife. Tilly Dunnage's unexpected appearance after a 25 year absence causes an uncomfortable and somewhat hostile reaction from the townsfolk, not the least of which is from her own mother, "Mad" Molly (Judy Davis). 
With an opening line of, "I'm back, you bastards", you know from the outset that Tilly has not returned to her childhood home meekly.

After working under expert tutelage as a dressmaker throughout Europe, Tilly's homecoming transforms the lives of her frumpy neighbours, who discover that clothes maketh the men notice the women. Whilst appearing to be happy enough, for a price, to help the women improve their wardrobes and in turn, their love lives, Tilly's ultimate reason for reconnecting with her ostracised mother and the eccentric Dungatar residents is to unlock the confused memories of her own past, and answer one question... Is she a murderer?

As her relationship with her mother improves, thanks to bonding over fabric and pins, Tilly finds she has two more allies in her quest for the truth; Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving), who has a secret of his own, and Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth), whose family looked out for Molly after the town had turned its back on her.

And if Tilly can exact some revenge while dismantling the town's web of secrets and lies, all the better...


I truly loved this movie. It made me laugh, and it made me cry. Director, Jocelyn Moorhouse, likens the movie to a "magical realism Spaghetti Western, kind of like Unforgiven with a sewing machine". She has stitched this quirky, funny, sad, unique, and dark story into a big screen success. It had slapstick, clever comedy, heartbreaking drama, excellent dialogue, and brilliant performances by a cast which read like a who's who of Australia's most talented actors; Shane Bourne, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Jacobson, Sarah Snook, Barry Otto, Sacha Horler, Julia Blake, Gyton Grantley... just to name a few.

Weaving is delightful, Hemsworth is warm and lovable (and genetically blessed, hubba hubba), but the key for me is the presence and chemistry of Kate Winslet and Judy Davis. Their scenes together left me breathless, either with laughter or tears, and with a lot of empathetic understanding. Their portrayal of the volatile, but ultimately loving relationship between an ailing mother and a frustrated daughter, both as proudly stubborn as each other, was pure gold and fabulous to watch.

And Kate's Australian accent was the best I have ever heard by a non-Aussie. Totally nailed it.

Sorry, Kate.

The Dressmaker opens Australia wide on October 29, check your local guides.
Thanks to Universal Pictures for the viewing.

Oct 20, 2015

Give it to me straight #2

Following on from my last post where I simplified weather forecasting, today I'm going to decipher this...

They are better than my old machine, but the settings are still not straightforward enough for me.
What even is e-cotton?? Who wants to waste several minutes of their life reading the instruction book to find out? Minutes when you could be eating chocolate, or drinking wine, or both.
I've come up with a much more explicit list of settings.

Intensive Cold.
- Chilly Autumn Evening Cold
- Antarctic Cold
- Chisel The Dog Off A Fire Hydrant Cold

Outdoor Care. I don't even understand that. Is it for my gardening gloves or can I put the cat in it??

Rinse & Spin. I think I went on a carnival ride with that name. I was sick. (I assume, because I always am...)

Baby Care.
- Baby Spit Up A Bit
- Baby Spit Up A Lot
- Mummy Bought Cheap Nappies With No Leak-Proof Edging
- Mummy Drank Too Much Wine And Then Breastfed And Baby Shat Green Poo On Everything Within A Ten Metre Radius

Wool. A picture of a sheep. RSPCA might have something to say about putting a sheep in the machine...

Stuff You Don't Want To Stretch Or People Will Think You're Fat
- Stuff You Don't Want To Shrink Because It's Already A Bit Tight
- Things Which Say "Hand Wash" But You Don't Have Time For That Shit
- Things Which Say "Dry Clean Only" But You Ain't Paying For That Shit 
- Things Which Have A Massive Tag With Multiple Instructions You Can't Be Bothered Reading
- Mummy's Things

Bedding. Phew, at least that's obvious. I hope. Dog's bed and Son's quilt are okay together, yes?

Synthetics. So basically, all your 80s clothes.

Daily Wash.
- Son's Smelly Sports Gear With Extra Deodorising Cycle
- Stuff You Couldn't Care Less About, ie. NOT Mummy's Things
- Stuff You Suspect (but can't prove) The Kids Have Been Too Lazy To Put Away And Have Shoved In The Laundry Basket Instead

Stain Away cycle definitely needs a lot of category separation.
- Category 1 Menopausal Women's Wear: Chocolate & Tears
- Category 2 Menopausal Women's Wear: Could Be Sweat, Could Be Light Bladder Leakage
- Category 1 Wine Spills: Pyjamas (WHAT OF IT? IT WAS LATE, I WAS TIRED AND EMOTIONAL...)
- Category 2 Wine Spills: Stuff You Want To Wear Out To A Work Dinner Again
- Category 3 Wine Spills: The Tablecloth, Rug, Curtains and Dog
- Category 1 Poo: Skid Marks
- Category 2 Poo: Suspicious Farts
- Category 3 Poo: Dodgy Vindaloo
- Category 4 Poo: Scout Camp Contagious Gastro

And finally,

Now I understand why there's a Drum Clean cycle.

Oct 8, 2015

Give it to me straight #1

I'm getting old, grumpy, impatient and lazy. Yes, I know this comes as no surprise to regulars.
I want to simplify everything. I don't want to decipher instructions; I want them to be obvious. 
I don't want to concentrate. Basically, I don't want to brain any more. Braining is exhausting.

I watch the weather report at the end of the news, (by 'watch' I mean stare blankly at the TV and sip my wine) and more often than not, I turn to The Husband and say, "Errr... I wasn't absorbing that, what's it going to be like on the weekend?"
I don't want all of this...

What might keep me interested is more straightforward words, with appropriate pictures.

"Get ALL your washing out on Friday morning, but make sure you bring it ALL in by 4pm. Yes, I know there's a lot, but you'll be thanking me for it by 5pm.

If you're staying home Friday night you won't quite need your fire on, but have your ugg boots on standby. If you're going out, take a jacket, because you'll freeze trying to catch a taxi at 2am. Remember last time? You almost took someone's eye out with your nipples... and you are no Jennifer Aniston.

On Saturday, don't even think about washing the car or mowing the lawn, take an umbrella EVERYWHERE, and check that your makeup is waterproof. Heath Ledger was the best Joker, don't try to compete.

Sunday is windy, wash your sheets, they'll be dry in ten minutes flat. Don't go wearing any billowing skirts or dresses unless you want everyone to see your undies. And tie your hair back, nobody wants to see that mess. 

Monday will get warm and damp, like...well, you know. You may not need to go to the gym, as just getting your gym gear on will be enough of a workout. Your hot flushes are going to be BAD, so pack extra deodorant. The humidity struggle will be real. You will need your extra strength frizz-free conditioner and a really good straightener. We are no longer in the 80s.

I would totally pay attention to a weather forecast like that.
The downside?
The Husband would be the one turning to me saying, "Errrr, I missed all that. What's the weekend going to be like?"
Because all he would absorb would be Jen's nipples.

Stay tuned for next week when I simplify washing machine instructions. You're welcome.

Sep 24, 2015

Life is a rollercoaster. Memoirs let you in on somebody else's ride.

When I was young, I thought memoirs were written by old people. The ones who were approaching the end of their interesting careers or fascinating lives, had nothing left to look forward to, and spent their time looking backwards. 
Now that I'm much older.... let's be kind and say middle aged... I know this isn't the case. There is much to share at every turning point of our life's journey, and this is particularly true of the two memoirs I read this month, thanks to Allen & Unwin.

Is this my beautiful life? By Jessica Rowe

Jess Rowe is many things; journalist, TV presenter, author, charity worker, mother, and wife among them. You see her stunning, smiling face on your screen and in magazines, and probably think life has been so glamorous and easy for her. That she has it all, and it has always been that way.
But what was supposed to be Jessica's beautiful, perfect life - successful career, marriage, babies - was thrown into complete disarray when her perceived "have it all" goals began to crumble; her television career was derailed in a spectacularly public way, she struggled to conceive and had to venture along the emotionally draining IVF path, she ultimately felt like a failure as a mother, and was eventually diagnosed with post-natal depression.
This is one of the most honest memoirs I have ever read. Jess doesn't hold back, describing all of her thoughts and fears during heartbreaking personal events with complete openness and humour, and how, with the help of her loving husband and family, she sought the medical help that has seen her regain her balance in her "messy, wonderful life".
If you've ever been touched by the pain of infertility, the IVF journey, or PND, you will feel a kindred spirit in Jess, and be encouraged by her message.
"Having it all" can mean something different to every individual, nobody's life is perfect, and it is absolutely okay to ask for help.

Jessica Rowe has worked as a broadcaster at all the major commercial television networks over the course of her career, written two books, is patron of the Mental Health Council of Australia, is an ambassador for beyondblue, and patron of its work on post-natal depression. She was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia in 2015. Jess lives with her husband, journalist Peter Overton, and their two daughters, and is currently a presenter on Channel 10's morning show, Studio 10.
A percentage of the purchase price of every book sold will be donated to beyondblue.

What My Daughters Taught Me by Joseph Wakim

"I wear the pants. They choose them."
This probably sums up a lot of loving father/daughter relationships (our household is no different!), but never more so for Joseph Wakim than when he lost his lovely wife, Nadia, to breast cancer, and found himself raising their three young daughters in the new home that was meant to be for all of them.
There was well-meaning, but sometimes intrusive, advice from family, friends, and even strangers, but Joseph decided to let his heart and his daughters teach him how to get through the grief and celebrate life again. Together they navigated their way through everything, from how to do ponytails, be a 'dance mom', and event management for 16 year olds, to letting them, and himself, go on dates.
This is so well written, and another brilliantly honest memoir, sometimes hilariously so. Joseph's warmth and love for his daughters shines out from the pages as he shares their rollercoaster ride.
"We hung on tightly to each other and my arms became their seat belts."

Joseph Wakim has studied psychology and social work, he founded the Streetwork Project and the Australian Arabic Council, has written four comedies and produced a TV documentary. He was appointed Victoria's youngest Multicultural Affairs Minister, granted the Violence Prevention Award, and the Order of Australia Medal. His debut book was a finalist for Australian Christian Book of the Year, and he has had over 600 opinion pieces published across all major Australian newspapers.

Aug 31, 2015

When luck runs out...

Yesterday was one of those perfect end-of-winter days. Bright blue skies, warm sunshine, birds singing.
The dog playfully jumped on us in bed in the morning. Breakfast was lovely. A few chores were taken care of out in the glorious weather with no complaints. A bit of pleasant gift shopping completed. Lunch at a cafe we love was totally scrumptious, while enjoying even more sunshine. A bit of a stroll, a few photos were taken, and on to my favourite flower shop. 
A stunning pot of flowers was bought as a gift, and as a gift to myself, a big bunch of stocks was also grabbed. The lovely salesgirl threw in a couple of large bunches of jonquils for free, and my day was made.
Back in the car, balancing these big bouquets on my lap, between my legs, and headed for our next destination....I felt something....wet.
"I think I've wet myself."
"Just kidding....the plastic wrap around the flowers has split and the water that was in the bottom has run out. Onto my seat. Between my legs. I'm wet."
"How much?"
"Enough to drown in."
"So we're heading home instead?"
"Duh. Unless you want to be seen in public with me, walking around like a toddler with a full nappy, doing that special legs-spread-wet-pant-walk."
And then we discovered those few chores that were accomplished in the morning required some follow up. The Husband had accidentally smeared paint over one of our sensor lights. Right where we want it to "sense" us. 
Then those two small drops of green paint he had spilled onto the paving and "cleaned up", had turned into, now it had dried, two enormous green circles where he had spread it.
The dog jumped on us, covered in dirt, after she had dug a huge hole in the backyard. This followed us discovering she had chewed the Husband's electric toothbrush into 37 pieces.
We forgot to organise anything at all for dinner.
And all the stunning bunches of flowers I arranged throughout the house caused both The Husband and The Daughter to go into complete whinging, whining, itchy-eyed, sniffling hayfever meltdown.

Happy Sunday.

Aug 19, 2015

The book that made me realise I don't know much about South Africa

I thought I knew a bit about South Africa.
Apartheid. Nelson Mandela. Cricket. Rugby. Charlize Theron. Vuvuzelas.
I've read some Bryce Courtenay and Wilbur Smith novels.
My daughter's boyfriend is South African and he's told me at least three interesting stories.

But when I started reading Russell Eldridge's debut novel, Harry Mac, I realised I didn't know much at all.

Thankfully, this fascinating story is told through the eyes of a young boy, and I learned about the turmoil in his country in the 60s, at his pace, with his innocence. As he matured and became aware of his and his family's standing in society, learned the consequences of certain actions, and tried to understand the political unrest in his country, I felt I too knew a little more with every page I turned.

Tom and Millie are best friends who live in a quiet lane, hang out together after school, and have secret meetings in an abandoned house, where they share their stories and try to make sense of the adults around them. Tom, who suffers from polio, feels the biggest mystery is the black car which drives slowly up the lane every night.... at least until he overhears something which he believes entwines him in a deadly secret with his dad, Harry Mac.

Harry is the editor of the local newspaper. A strong man prone to secrets and long silences, Harry is seemingly unafraid when it comes to protecting his family and his freedom of speech; a freedom which is being eroded by the regime the citizens find themselves living under in this new Republic.

With secret meetings and unrest on the increase, Mandela in hiding, and his eldest son conscripted into service, Harry continues to push the buttons of those 'higher up', and a series of shocking events and discoveries threaten to tear young Tom's world apart.

Not something I might normally choose to buy for myself, I must thank Allen & Unwin for sending me this book, as I genuinely found this story interesting and wonderfully written. Russell Eldridge has created an image of not only the physical environment Tom lived in, but the temper of the times. I still don't 'know' South Africa, and possibly never truly will, but I have definitely become more acquainted with her. 
A fabulous debut novel.
I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

Jul 24, 2015

Hush, Little Bird

This book made me cry. It really did.
I finished reading Hush, Little Bird by Nicole Trope and promptly burst into tears.
I don't even know what sort of tears they were.... happy, sad, anguished, hormonal.... a mother's tears, a daughter's tears.... too many emotions jumbled together, and I couldn't possibly separate them. I just cried. 

"A celebrity wife.
A damaged young woman.
United by a secret neither will reveal."

We are introduced to Rose and Birdy in alternate chapters, with voices as far removed from each other as the lives they have led. They have both committed crimes and find themselves in the same prison, a low security facility where most of the women are coming to the end of their sentences. Both women feel hurt and betrayed. And they both hold onto their secrets.

And.... I really don't want to tell you much more than that. How did they get here? What are they hiding?  This is a story which needs to slowly unfold as you read it, and not be spoiled by revealing too much, too soon. 

Nicole Trope has crafted a story that seems to be so gently written, and yet is harsh and powerful all at once. It is at times uncomfortable and heartbreaking, and confronts us with a horrible reality; children sometimes get hurt, and adults sometimes fail them.

The message of this thought provoking and compassionate story is that kids just want to be seen and heard. And safe.
In fact, we all do.

I gave it Five Stars on Goodreads.
Trigger warning: sexual abuse

Jul 2, 2015

TRAINWRECK (Subtitle: I Am Besotted With Amy Schumer)

I've decided that when I have my next big birthday (or my funeral, whichever comes first), I want Amy Schumer to write the speeches and play the role of me in an interpretive dance during a musical interlude, Judd Apatow to direct it, Bill Hader to serve drinks, and LeBron James to sit amongst the attendees, clapping and yelling "sexual intercourse!"
I hope I survive so I can be there to see it....but honestly, it would also be a spectacular send off.

My fantasy is the result of viewing a preview of the movie Trainwreck, written by and starring the incredibly talented Amy Schumer, and directed by the brilliant Judd Apatow.

Since Amy Townsend's (Schumer) parents divorced and her father (Colin Quinn) drilled into her that monogamy is not realistic (in such a hilarious opening scene that I desperately need to see it again; we were all laughing so much I fear I missed some of it - this applies to the entire movie), she has embarked on a path leading to adventurous one night stands, no romance, and no commitment. She drinks too much too often, is bemused by the contentment of her happily married sister (Brie Larson), and breaks the heart of the only man who manages to get more than one date, her regular Friend With Benefits, Steven (the totally ripped John Cena).

As carefree as this seems, Amy appears to be in an unfulfilled rut. She bounces from one sexual encounter to another, and from one hangover to another. Her progress at work, writing for trashy men's magazine S'nuff alongside her kooky friend, Nikki (Vanessa Bayer), is stymied, and reliant upon the whim of her ball-breaking, brutally honest boss, Dianna (a hilarious turn by an almost unrecognisably bronzed Tilda Swinton), who only likes Amy because she's "clever, but not too brainy, you're prettyish and you're not gorgeous. You're approachable."

Amy's life is turned on its head when Dianna assigns her a profile piece on a sports medicine doctor, Aaron Conners (a very charming and funny Bill Hader), in the lead-up to his groundbreaking surgical procedure on basketball star, Amar'e Stoudemire (as himself). This also introduces basketball legend, LeBron James, as a patient and friend of Conners. I was pleasantly surprised, especially as a mad basketball fan, at how well James played himself - or at least what I assume is a fictionalised version of himself; confident, slightly self-important and extremely Scroogey. I have no idea what he is really like, but this version was very funny.

When Amy and Aaron get beyond the first date, where she breaks her own No Sleepover rules and displays relatable quirks regarding pillow placement (I'm also a 'don't touch me, I can't sleep if you touch me' type), Amy eventually realises this might be an experience she would be willing to repeat. As she juggles career options, money struggles, arguments with her sister, and the emotional toll of an ailing father who has not been a perfect husband or parent, Amy battles her own demons in an attempt to learn what it is to have a proper, grown-up relationship and share her life with one significant person.


This is no schmaltzy Disney romance, folks. Be aware, this movie is not for the faint-hearted pearl clutchers. If you know anything about Amy Schumer (and her series, Inside Amy Schumer) you wouldn't expect it to be. She is a gifted writer with incredible comedic talent who pushes and breaks boundaries. In fact, I'm guessing she doesn't even acknowledge those stoopid boundaries, but keeps going, and cocks her eyebrow and laughs with delight when someone points out, "Hey, there was a boundary back there that you seem to have crossed."
And I LOVE that about her. She is charming and wicked and funny and smart and vulnerable and honest and original and sharp and adorable and provocative and clever and sweet and naughty and all of the things, ALL AT ONCE.
Exactly how I want to be when I grow up.

There is so much to love about Trainwreck. The mix of gut-busting laughs and more thought-provoking moments, the bluntness and complexities in the varied relationships, sporting backdrops, family issues, and the famous faces (the intervention scene involving several cameos is gold) all combined perfectly for my viewing pleasure.
Schumer and Appatow have melded their exceptional talents into a consistently hilarious, entertaining and honest comedy.
I am besotted.
Also, Amy favourited my tweet.

More besotted than ever.

Jun 23, 2015

The Renovation

We bought our circa 1905 Renovator's Delight in 2003, and quickly found the renovating part...the delight was a little slower to appear. Bit by bit, as time and finances allowed, we've done the old girl up... Kitchen, bathroom, every bedroom, living room, gardens front and back, new front fence, added a carport and pergola, built on a new family room, re roofed the whole house, and painted everything....some things twice already.

The one area still lacking was our laundry and back porch. We knew what we wanted to do out here right from the start...including adding a second bathroom... but knew it would be a big job requiring big dollars. Finally, almost twelve years after my brain started whirling with ideas, it is happening.

The laundry and porch were basically a tin shed attached to the back of the house... corrugated iron walls, concrete floor, all wiring and plumbing exposed. It was as hot as hell's dance floor in summer, and as cold as a witch's tit in winter. Doing laundry for the last twelve years has not been much fun. And let's face it, doing laundry is bad enough, if the environment is challenging too....then it can be as soul destroying as binge-watching Toddlers & Tiaras.

When we moved in, this area didn't even have proper windows. The laundry, on the left, had louvres, and the porch just had fly screens. And because these face west...the direction most of our weather comes from.... the rain used to pelt in, along with cold winds in winter, and dirt and hot winds in summer. Awesome. Needless to say, we had these green aluminium windows whacked in reasonably quickly and they served us for 11 years. Frustratingly, the rain still got in occasionally....... we have surmised the original builder of this laundry/shed knew nothing about roof flashing or guttering. Or building.

Anyway, down came this iron contraption..... WOOHOO! ....revealing the ugly back wall of our house, which was a little worse for wear. 

I remember this stage being quite exciting because I had wanted that corrugated monstrosity gone for so long, but also a little sad at the thought that the original owners' simple, early 20th century construction efforts were disappearing.
No, I'm lying. I was ecstatic.

And then....madness. Machinery and men, digging trenches and laying the foundations of a new, much bigger area to house a new bathroom, laundry and study nook. It all went at such a cracking pace, we could only stand back and watch in awe as within a week we had this wet slab in place of a wet shed.

From there, it has continued along like greased lightning. (What even is greased lightning? Never mind...). I swear, we had the BEST team of carpenters ever. They were hard working, efficient, smart, full of ideas, productive, helpful, hilarious, great company, and had 80s music blasting all day. What's not to love? They did all the framework, roofing, windows, and boarded the bathroom and laundry, and will be coming back to do all the finishing touches, like doors, skirting boards and architraves. 

We are about five weeks into the renovations and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. 
Of course, the light is from a portable fluoro because there is no power in the extension yet, but that's ok. Plastering jobs are about three quarters done (would be finished if it wasn't for the first plasterer, who may or may not have been stoned while working...he got the boot, set us back several days), tiling is half done, outer brickwork is half done, I have all my fixtures and fittings ready to go in, and things are coming together rather well.

I've even had an ironing station installed in the wall.
For The Husband, of course.

We've only had one slight mistake occur so far, which we realised this weekend, but luckily it's not too late to remedy it. We would have had a lovely new clothes dryer mounted on the wall, but no power supply to plug it in to....oops. Not one of the three power points in the laundry would've been in reach. Details, details. 

The only slight downside of this renovation has been our bathroom situation. As we are adding a new one, we have modified our existing bathroom into an ensuite to our main bedroom. And as that part of the work has almost been completed, it means everybody has to trek through our bedroom to use the bathroom. 
Like, The Son. When he comes home at 1am. And we're asleep. And suddenly I wake to this large figure looming over me as he tries to tiptoe past me. Slightly disconcerting.

All in all, it has been a reasonable experience so far, and all the early starts on these cold, wintry mornings, all the noise from power tools, all the cleaning of layer upon layer of red brick dust and grey plaster dust which travelled through the house, all the inconvenience of doing my washing out in the garden.... it will all be worth it in the end. 


Fingers crossed.

stay tuned


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