The Weird, Grim World of 2016 – A Personal Perspective


As we come towards the end of 2016, many are bemoaning the seemingly endless outpouring of grief on social media for celebrity deaths. There’s no doubt that it’s been a nerve-racking year if you’re famous and part of the post-WWII “Baby Boomer” generation but a lot of people are getting sick of the intense posts from fans, citing that many important people have passed away this year who weren’t celebrities, and stating the obvious – we all die.

But have there been more celebrity deaths this year than in the past?

There’s evidence to suggest that deaths among the famous have increased, as reported in The Week recently. The dearth of internet news, celebrity sites and You Tube channels has meant that more coverage is given to the comings and goings of celebrities. And of course, social media itself has enabled ordinary people to post tributes to memorialise their favourite celebrities.

For my part, this year has been brutal. As a career musician and writer, I’ve spent a good deal of my life listening to, enjoying and analysing the work of David Bowie. There were times in my teenage years when life felt very strange and his work helped me make sense of it.

After Bowie’s death in January, the rot really set in and I lost many significant people in my life. Most notably Jeff Weston, Leon Turner, Kevin Gleeson and my dear, beautiful friend Jacqui. There were others I didn’t write about, several acquaintances from the past as well as newer friends. Anecdotally, I have to say that social media has heightened this. Reconnecting with people from my past and forming new networks has tended to make my circle of friends much broader and spreading news a very immediate thing.

Now at the end of the year, I was incredibly saddened by the death of Carrie Fisher and tragically only a day later, her mother Debbie Reynolds, who were both important figures in my life for different reasons.

Like so many of my generation, I first saw Carrie Fisher on the big screen in the original Star Wars (1977) . She was only a few years older than me, and her portrayal of the feisty Princess Leia was an inspiration. Leia showed us that girls could be heroes too, an important cultural lesson to any young woman of that era. I followed her film career with interest, and particularly loved her as the gun-toting Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers (1980) as well as her reprisals of Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga.

As the years rolled on though, it was her writing that really spoke to me. It takes a lot of nerve and downright bravery to be that outspoken and honest, and her advocacy for mental health issues really struck home with me. And I loved how she aged too, honestly and (for the entertainment industry) rebelliously.

Debbie Reynolds is a very different story. Back in the 50’s my brother (who was 14 when I was born) had a typical teenage crush on Reynolds from her lead role in Tammy and the Bachelor (1957). When I was born he was given the duty of naming me, and what better than after his favourite movie star! I was never a fan in the way my brother was, but since his death I always watch re-runs of Singing in the Rain (1952) and think of him.

So at a very personal level, 2016 has been quite the “annus horribilis”, bookended by the passing of two people I never met but who spoke to me through their work and one who I was named for by my beloved big brother.

On the other hand, there has been a lot of joy for me this year too. My work with Callum and The Superstars was particularly uplifting and there’s great things planned for the coming year. All the personal sadness has underlined how I am surrounded with people who care about me – both professionally and personally.

As I said in another post earlier this year, live your life well, with honesty and integrity and love unreservedly. Don’t put off seeing people or telling them you care, be brave and run with it.

Life is short.

Be well beautiful friends, and thank you for your support throughout this awful year ❤

Carrie Fisher as The Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers

Carrie Fisher as The Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers

The Tourist by Robert Dickinson – a Book Review


This is an extended version of a review I posted on Goodreads this morning.

I purchased my copy (trade paperback) from Cracked and Spineless New & Used Books in Hobart a couple of months ago but only just got around to reading it. But that’s what the summer break is for isn’t it? Catching up on reading! 😀

Have you read this book? If so, I’m interested to hear what you thought too. 


The TouristThe Tourist by Robert Dickinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tourist isn’t an easy book to review but it isn’t an easy book in any way, shape or form. It requires the reader to commit, pay attention and hold multiple story threads while offering a dark outlook on the future (and near future) of the human race.

And I loved it!

While this novel has sharply divided people, I really wonder what the naysayers expected with something that is clearly promoted as speculative fiction involving time travel. I can especially understand the comparisons to books like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas but I think The Tourist is actually easier in some respects and in many ways, far darker. As a fan of speculative and science fiction, I wasn’t put off by the time travel aspects but this is a really good thriller as well. I found myself swept along and quite invested in Spens’ story in particular very quickly.

Be warned however, this isn’t a cheerful reading experience and can be quite bleak, but Dickinson’s writing is really very good and that’s what carried me through. It isn’t the best book of 2016 but it is better than many. The ending is a little messy and feels rushed but I wonder if that was intentional, as the lines converge.

Linear storytelling is great, but sometimes I yearn for something that demands more of me than just my time and the suspension of my scepticism and disbelief. The Tourist offers that in large doses and I found it a very immersive and well crafted ride.

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Tis the Season

It’s Boxing Day here in Australia, which for me means the true start of summer holiday reading, grazing on leftovers, warm weather (usually) and the start of the Sydney/Hobart yacht race, which I usually don’t watch – living in Hobart I’m usually more interested in the finish!

But surpassing all these things, it’s the first day of the Melbourne Boxing Day test match. This year Australia are playing Pakistan and I’m enthralled already. Two of my friends are at the game and I think one year I’ll have to fork out the money and go myself, though I’m loath to give up my comfortable couch and grazing rights for a hard plastic seat and overpriced snacks!

The yard has been very productive too, there’s been loads of potatoes (and more to come) plus raspberries, strawberries, beans, the start of the cucumbers, the first of the basil and the mandatory salad greens that always grow in my garden. Interestingly, I’ve had some “volunteers” that have done very well the last few weeks.


These Roma tomatoes came from seeds in the worm farm and ended up as fertiliser/soil conditioner when I was planting out the dwarf apples back in late winter. I’ve repotted a few that are flowering but it’s astonishing how well this batch has fared – and with no help at all from me!

The raspberries have been quite wonderful and there’s been a lot of luscious desserts this summer as well as just enjoying them fresh, straight off the bush ❤ We’re not a big jam-loving household but I think it’s worth experimenting and make a little sometimes just to add some variety. So, for something a little different (for me) I decided to make a few jars from the excess. Raspberries are a good source of pectin so jam making is pretty straightforward although there’s loads of warming the sugar before cooking tips and tricks. I’m too lazy for that! Here’s my basic recipe.

Lazy Woman’s Raspberry Jam (Makes about 3 x 300 ml jars)

500 g (1.1 lb) clean, whole raspberries

500 g (1.1 lb) white sugar

1 tab lemon juice

a small knob of butter

Pick over the berries and make sure they’re clean. I find this works best with a mix of very ripe and slightly under ripe fruit.  Put in a large, heavy based saucepan. Gently pour over the sugar and shake the pan to make sure the sugar covers and coats all the fruit. Cover and leave overnight.

The next day, wash glass jars and screw top lids (the “pop-top” kind) in warm, soapy water, rinse in hot clean water. Because we don’t eat a lot of jam, I tend to use small jars for this, nothing over 300 ml. Sterilise the jars in a cool oven and put the clean lids in a small saucepan of simmering water. This jam is fast to make, so I find it best to get the jars and lids done before I cook the jam.

Put the sugar and berries on a low heat and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Shake the pan gently until the gorgeous raspberry juice starts to show through and increase the heat. Then stir occasionally to ensure the jam doesn’t stick. Bring it up to a simmer and continue to stir. Let it boil for a minute or two and toss in a small knob of butter. (This is a very old trick to eliminate the scum that sometimes forms on boiling jam – and it works with any and every jam!) Test for a set by putting a little on a saucer and letting it cool.

Once setting point is reached take the jam off the boil and put it on a heat-proof surface somewhere convenient and safe to pot up. Bring the sterilised lids in their saucepan to the same spot, a pair of tongs, oven-proof gloves or a tough tea towel handy to grab hot things and a heat proof board to put the filled jars!

With an oven mit or tea towel, get a hot, sterilised jar out of the oven. Carefully fill with the hot jam, which should pour quite easily. I use a small clean china cup for this, but be careful – jam scalds are not fun! Grab a lid with the tongs, shaking excess water off and very carefully screw it on the jar. Put on a heat-proof board or similar to cool slowly. Continue until all the jam is done.

As the jars cool on the board, press the center of the lid to ensure a seal. If the center won’t stay down (which happens occasionally) put this jar aside and use it first. Clean the outside of the jars with a clean damp cloth and label them clearly with name and date. This will store unopened in a cupboard for a couple of years but in my experience it usually gets eaten within a few months. Raspberry Jam will darken as it ages too, taking on a deep ruby hue.


In the meantime, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone the compliments of the season. It’s been quite the “annus horribilus” for me and many others but as with all things in life, it’s really what you make it and there’s been some truly wondrous things among  the moments of sadness. Thank you to so many for offering comments and kindness throughout this year, it’s very much appreciated.

Personally, I’m not a religious person but I respect the power of positive thought flowing through to positive deeds. So whatever you believe, be kind to each other. That way we can’t go wrong 😀 ❤


kunanyi/Mt Wellington, Hobart 25th December 2016

Basking in the Light – An Update on Callum

Hello friends,

This is a news report from last Monday from WIN News, one of the local commercial stations.

I confess there were tears when I watched it – I’m so incredibly proud of all these great young people – but especially Callum. I know how very hard he worked to make this dream a reality, and he looks fabulous all dressed up in his suit!!!

Also, I was thrilled that one of the Oak Tasmania project leaders Teena was interviewed in this piece. Without her drive and guidance I probably wouldn’t have worked with Callum. It often gets neglected how much staff support goes on to get these kinds of projects off the ground and see them through to such high level achievement.

Yesterday I caught up with most of them and there were high fives and hugs all round, reminding me again why I do what I do ❤

Wild Island – Jennifer Livett

Wild Island

Hello friends,

This is a review I wrote for Goodreads about Wild Island. If you’re interested in British/Australian colonial history, Tasmania or just like good historical fiction, I highly recommend it. I bought my copy from Cracked and Spineless New and Used Books – Richard was a former student of Jennifer Livett’s – and if you’re not in Hobart I know they will post 😀

Wild Island by Jennifer Livett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m so pleased I read this book! As a fan of good historical fiction, this had the added bonus of being mostly set where I live (kunanyi/Mt Wellington is outside my door) and some of my friends (including my local bookseller) had been taught by Livett when she was lecturing at UTAS.

The use of Booth and Harriet to act as dual narrators is a really good tool for providing depth to the story and defining boundaries of the 19th century world, but it became a little one-sided for most of the middle section. I found Booth’s narrative a good balance and really would have liked more of it, though I can understand why Harriet’s voice took precedence. The treatment of native inhabitants is touched upon but not really examined, which is also understandable given the background and narrative voices used. While I would have liked more on that topic, it would have made a very different book if Livett had taken that route.

There are certainly echoes of Emily Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (a book I love) and I did appreciate the historically accurate depictions of Hobart, Franklin’s tenure. In general, Livett’s treatment of the Franklin’s is very sympathetic. In particular, I liked her depiction of Jane amid the prevailing attitudes to women at that time. Jane must have been a terrifying modernist presence to many of the male inhabitants of Hobarton!

Overall, this is a well-researched, finely written novel and for anyone interested in Australian (and particularly Tasmanian) colonial history, highly recommended.

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