On the Orient Express

An overcast Monday in Sydney. David carried the proofs back to Pan Macmillan for me this morning and now I’m free to return to my artists, all waiting patiently in the Blue Mountains in the Currawong book. I’m eager to lose myself again in their world as I’ve been out of their story for quite a few weeks.

At my daughter’s school assembly this morning the children sang the National Anthem as the flag was hoisted. Swooping over their angelic, Australian voices a flock of brightly coloured parrots dazzled.

Last night I curled up next to David and watched the wonderful David Suchet travel the Orient Express in a documentary. In the show, David Suchet travels to Venice on the Orient Express which is probably the most glamorous way I could imagine of entering that magical city. If I was a passenger, I’d start to be a bit unnerved by ‘Poirot’ suddenly appearing on the train. In one scene, David Suchet drives the Orient Express and my mind of course couldn’t help imagining the headlines if he had managed to crash the train and kill the passengers…

How fascinating that he stayed near the carriage where the fictional Hercule Poirot was described as being by Agatha Christie in her inventive novel, Murder on the Orient Express. When art and reality mesh and mingle in that twisty way I find it so surreal and oddly satisfying. Although ‘real life’ will always win for being the most surreal and twisty over any fiction.

More Tease than Dita

If you’re on my Facebook, you’ll know I’ve been skiting a bit about going for early morning runs in our local park. I’m really not a running type of person. Yoga yes, but jogging is something I haven’t done since Farrah Fawcett and the Angels jiggled away in the original shows.

 But lately, there’s been a lot happening in my life and I find I don’t sleep well at night for the first time ever. So I hope running will help to soothe my jangled nerves and thoughts.

It’s heavenly in our local park. I thought I might be mugged or murdered before I set out, but it seriously looked as if half of Sydney had the same idea to get up before the dawn and run like a crazy thing. There were people running carrying tyres, people running carrying sticks, people running carrying mobiles. People boxing, doing Tai Chi, people walking dogs. People everywhere! And yet the park is so large that somehow we all seem to fit and it doesn’t feel intrusive.

Here’s a couple of shots of where I’ve been running. Can you imagine we have this much green beauty and marshlands on our doorstep? It goes for miles. I love seeing all the wildlife and birds very early in the morning. And it’s literally a five-minute walk from my front door.

I loved it so much on the first morning, that I had to run home and wake my husband up – yes, I’m that cruel – and insist he go running too. This created great excitement in our house with my daughter wanting to run as well instead of going to school. He came back glowing and more awake than I’ve seen him in months. We are now converts to dawn running.

Did you watch The Slap (if you’re in Australia) last week on the ABC? My book club didn’t love the book by Christos Tsiolkas. I was very disappointed in the novel as it had been so hyped and I couldn’t wait to read it – but I found the characters all so revolting and the sex scenes so unbelievable that I couldn’t enjoy it. It was a champion of an idea, however and I take my hat off to him for that.

For once, Ms Australian TV seems to have got it right. I loved the first episode, which didn’t have any quirky characters and in fact featured people that are just like some people I know. So fab to see Essie Davis (my favourite Australian actress) and yes, I know I’ve said it before – but she’s a Tasmanian girl – so there you are! Love Essie.

Lovely Essie Davis

But also Melissa George was really good playing Rosie. I do know a woman who is exactly like Rosie. I think all the elements of the book which I disliked are all diluted on TV and that makes the whole thing work better in my opinion. I also love the idea (as Essie Davis said in an interview) that each character really gets slapped when Hugo is ‘disciplined’ by a fellow barbecue guest who is not his parent. And so I have to admit, that Ms Australia TV has redeemed herself after her last pitiful offering of Underbelly Razor and I shall be watching again tonight. There is a rather good website set up for The Slap here if you want to read more and see some cast videos.

My roses provide me with so much pleasure

My book, Poet’s Cottage has sold to Bolinda audio publishing which is wonderful as my sister has been slowly going blind for many years now. She has retinitis pigmentosa. Last year she was given a guide dog – and so it means a lot to have this particular sale, as you can imagine.

And I know this is more tease than a Dita show but this is my cover of Poet’s Cottage. All I can tell you is that it’s beautiful. I’m in love with it and have spent many happy moments gloating over how wonderful and perfect it is. My agent also loves it. The design team at Pan Macmillan are very clever, wonderful and masterly and I am very thrilled. When I am finally given the go-ahead, I shall post the official picture (the front of this piece of paper) of my new baby here.

And finally, I love this this wonderful badge designed by the very clever Neil Gaiman. Long live libraries and librarians everywhere!

Enjoy your week. Stay creative, happy and thanks for visiting me. xx

image of Essie and The Slap via google image

 

Copyedit

Even a confirmed Winter lover as myself has to admit I’m enjoying the Spring weather and light in Sydney at the moment. Here is where I am every day in my writing shed.
 
Yes, we finally have the wall paper up and I love being in there amongst the birds and butterflies. It’s just lovely to work in the garden next to our big old tea-tree and palms and feel as though I’m amongst pink birds and butterflies. Birds and butterflies represent the soul to me and so it’s a great paper for a creative writing shed where we do our soul work. Just this morning, the most beautiful bird with a yellow breast came right to the window to peep at me. It’s magical in my shed! 
 
Over the next month or so we shall be doing more work on the shed to try to create a lovely as space as possible for both our books. My husband is also a writer and so we have to share which we’re good at. Luckily, he is used to my girliness and has long given up fighting I think he was just relieved the paper is duck-egg blue and not pink!  I’m looking forward to installing the fairy lights, adding some pretties and growing some roses out the front but first of all I have to cull all the paperwork we’ve collected over the years between us! And at the moment, I’m head down on my copyedit for Pan Macmillan and so things may be quiet on the blog for a couple of week to ensure I reach my deadline in time. All my editors from Pan Macmillan have been so brilliant and it’s a joy to work with them. Because I was nearly 60 000 words into my Currawong book it was a wrench to return to Poet’s Cottage again but I’m loving revisiting the characters and hopefully adding a bit more to the MS as this is one of the last chances I get before publication.
 
And I’ve been so busy lately doing loads of arty things. We saw the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition on drawing at the AGNSW which I loved. Both David and myself have a big soft for the PRB and it was a treat to see a few of Elizabeth Siddal’s works in this show.
 
I saw Jane Eyre at the cinema with my friend Artschool Annie. How brilliant was Mia Wasikowska as Jane? Divine casting and I loved this movie version so much I’m going to try to see it twice.
 
The Tasmanian-looking landscape really made me long for my home state, Thornfield, is my idea of the perfect house and unlike my pervious post on Underbelly Razor, this is a house that actually looks lived in and of the time.
 
 I also really enjoyed.Michael Fassbender as Rochester. A really sublime movie.  I think Jane Eyre is such an inspiration for her nobleness, stoic determination and strength. 
I hope my daughter loves this book as much as her parents as I think Jane’s a great role-model for young women in today’s climate with the sexualisation of females. Jane doesn’t use her looks to get ahead in life. And Rochester still prefers her to the prettier Blanche Ingram. It’s a tale of hope and as Spring is a season of hope it’s a perfect time to catch this movie.
 
I also saw Lakme at the Sydney Opera house with the amazing Emma Mathews. This opera was a treat with the divine Emma singing the Duet of the Flowers.
 
And David and I saw The Mousetrap at this incredible theatre, The Genesian in the heart of Sydney. We originally saw The Mousetrap in the West End in London which was a dream come true for me. But even though this was an amateur production, it was really enjoyable and well done.
 
This weekend, I have my agent, Selwa Anthony’s annual bash which is always a very grand and inspiring affair. During the day there are author and publishing  talks and at night a formal dinner and award ceremony.  We are looking forward to attending the Sassies and hopefully, I’ll have time to pop back and do a post about it when I reach my deadline.
 
Enjoy September and I hope that butterflies and pink birds are fluttering in your soul. Keep Inspired and Keep creative.
And because it’s Spring. Here’s a couple of images from the latest issue of Country Style.
 
 
 I always love their Spring Issues.  
    

A small slice of Underbelly Razor

Dear  Ms Australian Television,

It’s true as I’ve often told my daughter that if you don’t have anything good to say, then zip it. But I’m also a firm believer that a spade should be called a spade and I’ve had forty something years of trying to get along with you. We began our relationship brilliantly with Adventure Island and that was the peak I’m afraid as after that you went downhill.

True, every now and again, you manage to push out a wonderful show such as the recent Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet and I have fond memories of the first series of The Secret Life of Us, The Timeless Land, Bryan Brown’s Twisted Tales but for the most part, your shows are crap.

But I’m a trier and I really want to give Australian shows a go. I believe in Australian stories being told which is why I set my current two mystery novels in Australia. But here’s where we part company – as you’re not telling the stories, Ms Australian Television. Underbelly Razor was your latest offering and despite  misgivings you would run true to form, I tried to believe all the notices from the fawning critics about how this was the television event of the century as they did their usual favours for their mates. That’s part of your problem, isn’t it? The Australian television industry is so incestuous it would make Caligula’s family look like the Brady Bunch. Too many favours done to people not deserving. But I’m a fair-minded person and thought I’d give Underbelly Razor half an hour before I turned to DVD copies of Midsomer Murders.

The show began with all the usual QUIRKY touches. We are meant to be in the period covering 1927-1936 but there’s a Mental as Anything song playing. Some people might find that inspired but I find it irritating but I’m not thrown off totally as I’m used to you being QUIRKY. I’m also used to the usual cheap-jack sets. The jazz club scenes resemble American jazz clubs rather than Australian clubs and the dialogue is thin on the ground with the swift editing. It’s really a video clip rather than a narrative experience. This makes it impossible to have any empathy for any character because everyone is a cartoon. And because it’s all so QUIRKY there’s no QUALITY. That’s the trouble with you, Ms Australia TV, you have no subtlety or shades of grey. For some reason you always have to be the shrieking party-goer with your red cheap knickers over your head for no known reason except it’s QUIRKY. 

There’s no patina to this show. It’s all surface gloss.. A couple of body extras stand stiffly topless in a corner but you never have the feeling you’re in a brothel. Have I mentioned the casting? More has been written on this topic on Angela Savage’s blog post with Will the Real Nellic Cameron please take a bath HERE and  Jo Hilder’s post, How to make a TV series about two real middle-aged women without any real-middle-aged women  HERE but as I feared, it’s as deplorable as it usually is. True, both Chelsey Preston Crayford and Danielle Cormack, the lead-actresses  are very pretty and have a great time showing how tough they are with their swearing and sneering but neither convince. I would have loved to have seen those parts go to more experienced actresses who can actually pull off a cockney accent rather than simply look fetching in a cloche hat.

That’s another thing I despise against you Ms Australian TV. Your ageism. We have some brilliant actresses in this country who should be working and seen on screen more often. Pantina is important as well when it comes to people.  There wasn’t a lot of script to comment upon. There was a lot of comic book style graphics for all the really dumb Australians watching at home in case they didn’t get the jokes.You don’t have to patronise us so much, we do get it.

And another pet hate. The story wasn’t revealed to us but told to us through the narration.

Finally, the half-hour was up and we switched it off to pop on Series 7 of Midsomer Murders. A show that uses quirky characters, isn’t afraid to give parts to older women and has subtle shades of grey. It has pantina. soul and doesn’t patronise its audience. It can be silly and ridiculous but somehow you’ll always fall down the rabbit hole of the story which you just don’t do with you, MS Australian TV.

It’s such a shame. I love quirky, I really do. I’ve been called it myself several times and I often write quirky characters but you just are way too QUIRKY. You don’t always have to play the tart with your red knickers over your head. You can also be the wallflower. It’s safe to blend, to have quiet spaces, to be a reflection and a true mirror to society.

The stories are out there on the streets waiting for you but somehow you never seem to tell them. Let the ancestors of this great country whisper them to you. Listen to the earth as it whispers it secrets. Stop worrying so much over telling Australian stories and just let the stories come through.

I’d love to turn you off altogether and immerse myself in a world of Mad Men, Midsomer Murders and Downton Abbey but you see the sad fact remains I don’t want to give up on you, totally. I love my country and the people in it. I want  to hear Australian stories in all mediums but I can’t take what you’ve become Ms Australian TV.  And the talent is out there. It’s tangible in the city streets, pulsating and calling.

My daughter is attending classes at NIDA on the advice of her health therapist and every week I saturate myself in the vibe of hope of that building. But what do these talented young people have to go to when they leave the dream factory and enter your lacklustre embrace you old, tart?

The actors are there. the script-writers are waiting and the glorious stories are everywhere you look. So why aren’t you telling them and why can’t you tell them well?

What do you think? Am I too harsh on the Australian Television Industry? What irks you the most about it? Anyone out there apart from critics who saw merit in this show that I missed totally? And, if you’re not Australian, what’s your take on the shows from your country? I’m interested

all images via here.


 

Comfort Television

With all the sad news in the media this week, it’s been good to have some quality ‘comfort television’ to retreat to.

In Australia, we’ve just had the new series of Midsomer Murders featuring Neil Dudgeon as cousin Barnaby. I watched the first show, Death In The Slow Lane, with some trepidation, not knowing if I’d like the character. So far, I have to say he is very good and appealing and in particular I love the scenes with his dog Sykes.

Here’s some more information on the little dog here.

David said, ‘oh the dog’s just the smoother for people like you who can’t bear to see Tom leave.’  Probably true but it worked! I also liked the schoolgirl characters (the scholarship girls) who were fun. The script was very confused and a bit muddling and I didn’t really get to understand why the murderer killed certain people but logic always has to be left behind when viewing Midsomer.

The other show I’m really enjoying is on ABC and is a British show called Marshlands.

This eerie tale with three different time periods (1960s, 80s and the present) woven together to show how a house absorbs the energy of its inhabitants in a lovely big house in Yorkshire, is my cup of tea, totally. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as the story unfolds. Highly recommended for those who love past/present, mysteries and a good supernatural thriller. It also has a link to Midsomer Murders with the casting of Daniel Casey (Sergeant Troy) who plays Scott Maynard. What is your idea of comfort television? Leave me a note, I’d love to know. 

 Enjoy your weekend. I’m going to celebrate the Spring with my Spiritual Women’s group, attend a lingerie party (my first) and hope to do some more work in my garden writing shed.

And here’s a photo of Johnny Depp just because it’s Friday. xx

johnny depp image source

marshlands image source

midsomer murders image source

sykes image source

 

 

I WROTE HER A LETTER

On Sunday I retreated to the garden with a pile of weekend papers magazines (mostly featuring roses) and wrote a letter.

 

A real letter with a pretty envelope and four or five pages of news. I had owed my friend an email (we keep in pretty constant touch) but I wanted to surprise her with something more special than an email. I was inspired by the movie Emma. I saw it on the weekend and it made me long for a more mannerly and leisurely time when appointments were by card rather than iPhone.

It was so pleasant to sit in the winter sunshine and feel the pen on paper and misspell words as I had forgotten the dictionary (no spell-check). My brain seemed to click into a different place as I wrote to her. I used to write all my books in longhand first and I’m tempted to return to that.

The Currawong book is progressing well although it’s still early days. Will this one work? Will the story be spun in time for deadline? I’m now writing in my writing shed which is a divine place to be and which we’re currently trying to make as beautiful as we can.

 I want to prune my over-grown roses and order more from the new Treloar catalogue which I love browsing through. And I want to write more letters from my garden and send less emails.

Cloudstreet

I must be one of the few people in Australia that haven’t read Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet but I have it on my list to do so. But I’ve been loving the Foxtel series which is airing at the moment.

I originally watched it for Essie Davis because I was at Matriculation College in Hobart with her.

Essie Davis

 Essie was always super-talented and in the cool crowd. I was not ever part of the cool crowd and I’ve loved following her career for years. I must do a blog post on her one day as I think she’s stunning and wonderful and I love seeing Tasmanian girls make it world-wide.

Essie at Cloudstreet launch party with cast members

Even though Cloudstreet is filled with the sort of quirky characters I HATE in Australian shows (I have no idea of why Australians on screen have to be so quirky. Even if I have been described as quirky a few times I have nothing on Australian characters).

Quirkiness aside, there’s still so much of the characters that I can relate to or see in my grandparents or my parents. And the magical touches like the talking pig and the bird that excretes shillings are so lovely. But it’s the HOUSE I have fallen totally in love with and I know I’m not alone here.

This magnificent weatherboard dwelling is enough to convince even the most passionate of brick-lovers like myself that weatherboard is elegant and timeless. This ghostly house that whispers terrible secrets and harbours two families, the Pickles and the Lambs, is hauntingly beautiful in a shabby stunning way.

It’s truly fabulous Australian viewing – here’s a link to the main site if you would like more information. Now I shall finally have to read the book.

images source here

Valentine’s Day 1900

On the 14th February in the year 1900, a group of schoolgirls set out for their annual Valentine’s Day Picnic. Some were never to return…

What was the secret of Hanging Rock?

Every Valentine’s Day I’m reminded of my favourite Australian movie, Picnic At Hanging Rock, which is based on the book of the same name by Joan Lindsay.

 

When I first saw this haunting, eerie movie in the 70s, I was terrified. After many repeat viewings, it still creeps me out. I’ll do a longer post about this one day as it’s such a fascinating film and I also love Elvira Madigan which Picnic was heavily influenced by. 

Picnic At Hanging Rock is my bookclub (Magic Hat Bookclub) pick this month. Joan Lindsay is a fascinating character and so I’m looking forward to this discussion.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08e9QqQP7sY]

But the Peter Weir movie will be forever associated in my mind with the 14th February. On this day every year, I see white dresses, corsets, elaborate cards, birds soaring in a brilliant blue sky, parasols, the menacing rock and the enigmatic Miranda.

A little bit of Rock trivia: Joan Lindsay married her husband on St Valentine’s Day. The day always had a special significance for her which is why she set her novel on the 14th February.

Enjoy the day and night dedicated to love. 

 

Tourists and Ghosts

I’m going away for a couple of weeks on a research trip for my writing. Think wild seas, cottage-gardens and overgrown cemeteries. I’m looking forward to escaping from the humidity in Sydney. I’ve been slowly working away at my edit for Poets Cottage. Slowly because my daughter is home on holidays and so finding the time to write is almost impossible.
 
David took Daisy to see Tangled this week and I saw Johnny Depp in The Tourist. This movie has a plot almost as plausible as an episode of Midsomer Murders but the imagery is spectacular. Retro, blue and moody. Venice is always magic. Johnny Depp spoke in a recent interview about walking the Venetian streets at night and the ghosts coming alive for him.
 
Venice is a city filled with tourists, dreams and ghosts. I treasure the memories of the holiday David and I had there. A city with no cars breathes a silence heavy with poetry and memory; it haunts you forevermore. I can still hear her waters and remember the colours of the grand buildings lining the canal. When you wish to walk with ghosts, Venice is the city for your journey.