Excalibur (1981) – Movie Review

As many of you know, I’m doing a Bachelor of Communication at the moment. I’ve recently read one of Mark Kermode’s books and that’s also inspired me. While I’m busy with study, work, gardening and music, from time to time, I want to exercise some of the things I’ve been learning at uni and indulge in two of my greatest pleasures in life – watching movies and writing. I hope you enjoy my musings 🙂

Excalibur (1981) Orion Films. Directed by John Boorman.

I remember seeing this on first cinematic release back in the day, and it’s become something of a guilty pleasure that I like to revisit every year or so. It’s cheesy, at times very theatrical but there’s something about it I really love.

English director John Boorman created (for its day) an incredibly violent yet a very tender retelling of the Arthurian legend. The late Nigel Terry stars as Arthur and brings both tremendous strength and an aching innocence to the role and is surrounded by a “who’s who” of the cream of UK’s up and coming thespians, including Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds, Gabriel Byrne, Cherie Lunghi and Patrick Stewart. But the reason I continue to re-watch this is the brilliant portrayal of Merlin by Nicol Williamson. He eats up the screen, and his scenes with a very young Helen Mirren as Morgana Le Fey are simply riveting. Legend has it that Mirren and Williamson absolutely loathed each other at the commencement of shooting but became “very good friends” by the time it was completed. Irrespective, their performances are outstanding.

The original music by Trevor Jones is for the most part excellent but there’s a few times where I feel it intrudes on the scenes. Much of the action is informed by the sumptuous cinematography of Alex Thompson and it’s no surprise to me that he was nominated for an Academy Award for this film. The Irish countryside stands in for Arthur’s England and all its grey, bucolic green and muddy glory is well on display here. Interestingly, I recently read that Boorman had chosen many of the sites for his Lord of the Rings project, which never got off the ground. The similarities as well as the appeal of Ireland isn’t lost on me, and I wonder if Peter Jackson ever watched this and had similar thoughts.

Yes, the practical effects and fight scenes are dated and at times it looks and feels more like stage play but to my eyes it’s the best cinematic retelling of this classic tale – far more entertaining and engaging than either Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur (2004) or Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). I can’t help but feel that Boorman has a real fondness for the Arthur myth, which shows throughout.

Have you seen Excalibur? Let me know what you think. Also, if you have particular films you’d like me to watch, let me know – I’ve always got time for a good movie!

The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex by Mark Kermode – Book Review

Hello friends,

I’ve been off with study/work commitments for the last month or so but I’ve been reading some interesting bits and pieces and watching a lot of films in between. Here’s a short review of a book I only finished last night and published on Goodreads.

Hope you’re all well on this first day of southern hemisphere winter 😀

 

The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies?The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies? by Mark Kermode
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a fan of Kermode and Mayo’s podcast and currently doing a major in Screen Studies at university. While I’ve read a lot of academic papers about the topics covered here (including the death of celluloid and projectionists, the rise of automated multiplex cinemas and 3D, the roles and functions of film critics and how bad is Michael Bay) it was great to read something less formal and more passionate about the current state of cinema.

Yes, Mark Kermode is incredibly opinionated and renowned for his on air rants but he seems to be well aware of his own shortcomings, which I find refreshing. (This is particularly well noted in the final section, “American Without Tears” about the constant English language remakes of perfectly fine foreign language films). His style is conversational, a little rambling, includes some language he can’t use on air, and quite often laugh-out-loud funny (passing Dr Kermode’s own “6 laugh test” he imposes on screen comedies).

If you are interested in film give this a try – it’s really good entry level fodder to screen studies and one man’s journey in film criticism. I loved it but as Kermode often says, “other opinions are available”!

View all my reviews

Kind Words

Last year, I was approached by a young Hobart-based writer I know, Jenna Cesar. She was planning an article for her blog concerning different approaches to community work and wanted to interview me about what I’ve been doing at Oak Tasmania.

You can read the full article here, where Jenna also talked to Jay Stevens and Eri Konishi. It’s a lovely piece and (hopefully) might encourage others to bring their unique skills to help others in their community.

Also, The Superstars are playing at MONA (Hobart’s iconic Museum of Old and New Art) this Saturday afternoon as part of an event for National Youth Week. The equally amazing Callum “Rock Star Man” is opening for us and (as you can see from the photo below) we Superstars are seriously excited!

If you’re in Hobart, please come and say hi – we’d all love to meet you 😀

The Superstars L-R: Tim, Mel, Megan, me (trying to hide), Sally, Kathryn, Kellie and Ben (Photo courtesy of Chris Rule)

Meanwhile, I’ve got a ton of uni work to do so I can have the weekend off! Take care ❤

A Fool for April – Muesli Recipe

Chestnuts!

Happy April Fool’s Day! Well, there’s been a notable shift in the weather here, summer is clearly over and autumn is finally properly with us. I think this is my favourite time of the year, with generally lower overnight temperatures, crisp mornings and calm, often sunny days – perfect for gardening!

Soil temperatures are still quite warm – there’s a lot of growing still happening! – and I’ll be picking zucchini and especially tomatoes for bottling for a little while yet.

Salad from yesterday – kale, mustard, endive, rocket, silverbeet, red orach and tomatoes.

In the meantime, I’m madly preparing beds for kale, broccoli and garlic, which I’m planting in the coming weeks (later than usual for me), so it’s still very busy. Boudica Bunny is making a nest and should birth her kits (the first with Bernard Black) in the next week, the chestnut crop is still to come as you can see from the photo above, and the chickens are beginning to moult too so the egg supply is gradually slowing down. Having a mixed flock means that there’s usually someone laying and I rarely have to buy eggs except in the very middle of winter when day length is shortest.

Also, I’m pleased to say the jam melons are starting to get bigger – I haven’t grown these since I was a kid in South Australia and it’s exciting! I’ll keep you all up to date with what I end up doing with them, but I’m thinking Melon & Lemon Jam 🙂

Jam Melon sizing up at last

Recently, I made my version of toasted muesli, something I love this time of year, after the summer and autumn fruit drying is mostly over. Many recipes call for added oil, honey, corn or golden syrup and even peanut butter, but this is completely unadulterated. For me, the dried fruit provides enough sweetness and means the muesli keeps well in an airtight jar. If you need it you can always add a little honey, syrup or even a spoon of jam when serving. Personally, I love this with just a dollop of home made yogurt. Here’s the recipe:

Deb’s Sugar-free Muesli 

4 cups rolled oats (ordinary oats, not the “instant type”)

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup sunflower kernels

1/4 cup wheatgerm (optional)

1/2 cup coconut (I prefer flakes for this)

* 1/2 cup chopped nuts (use what you have on hand, for me it was almonds this time and see the note below)

1 tab fresh lemon zest or 1/2 tab dried lemon zest (optional)

1-1/2 cups of chopped dried fruit (again, use what you prefer or have on hand!)

Method:

Pre-heat an oven to 160 C/325 F. In a large bowl, mix the oats, seeds, wheatgerm (if using) and coconut. Chop the nuts fairly roughly and add to the oat mix.

I love lemon zest and the sherbet-like flavour it brings to my breakfast muesli (I keep a jar of dried zest in my pantry cupboard just for recipes like this) but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Try just a little if you’re uncertain.

If you use dried lemon zest, you can mix the chopped fruit thoroughly with the oats/seeds/nuts now, bypassing the toasting step and put the muesli in an airtight jar but I really think the toasting is so worth it for bringing out the flavours of the the seeds and nuts.

Lay the oats/seeds/nuts/fresh lemon zest evenly on a baking sheet or roasting pan and toast, turning every 10-15 minutes with a broad spatula. It’s fiddly but really worth it as you can determine exactly how toasted you want your muesli to be. I use coconut flakes that brown quite significantly and are my best indicator. Now for the dried fruit – the real star of this recipe – and where you can make it truly your own, with seemingly endless combinations of sweet, luscious, fruity goodness! Chop the larger pieces of dried fruit to a size that you prefer (I like mine fairly small, about sultana size). For this batch, I had a lonely piece of apricot fruit leather that needed using, plus this year’s prunes and dried nectarines. Kitchen scissors worked really well and I find them much easier than a knife for this job.

When the oat mix looks the right shade of toastiness, allow it to cool completely, mix in the chopped dried fruit very thoroughly and put into an airtight jar. It should keep well for ages but mine usually gets eaten in a couple of months.

Finished toasted muesli

*A note on the nuts. If you don’t like/can’t eat particular things or want a nut-free muesli, be bold and take them out of the recipe! Substitute nuts with more seeds and fruit – it’s entirely up to you and I encourage you to try different things. For instance, my muesli usually has linseeds but I didn’t have any in the house when I made this (sad face). Next time, I should have dried apples and some walnuts to add as well as my beloved linseeds and I might add a touch of ground cinnamon for a slightly different combo 😀

Apricot Fruit Leather, Prunes and Dried Nectarines for the muesli

In other news, The Superstars and Callum are playing at MONA next Saturday (8th April), which is huge news and I’ll do a separate post about that soon. Uni study is relentless but rewarding, and I’m loving my current unit CWR211 Writing Crime & Contemporary Romance, though romance literature isn’t my strength or preference. Nevertheless, I managed a very high mark for my first assessment and I was frankly, surprised and thrilled.

Finally, I’m sorry to say that Felicity lost her battle with cancer earlier this last week. While her death was entirely expected, it was still utterly heartbreaking and my thoughts go out to all her fabulous friends, family and especially her husband Dave. I plan to buy a shrub or small tree in the coming weeks to plant in her honour – a “Felicitree” ❤

Meanwhile, take care good people, be gentle to each other, this beautiful planet and never be afraid to tell the people that matter to you that you love them ❤

Felicity’s List – Paying it Forward

Some years ago, one of my music students, Ruby Grant (who’s also one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known) introduced me to her friends Felicity and Dave at a party. I was really taken with this young couple, who (like Ruby) were smart, interesting and really good fun. Originally from the UK, they’d ended up in Tasmania. Occasionally, I’d see them at gigs and we’d bump into one another from time to time on Facebook. (In a town as small as Hobart that sounds ludicrous – but it happens!)

Then, in 2015 Felicity started a blog “About That Cancer Thing” and announced that at 33, she’d been diagnosed with bowel cancer. She was young, fit and otherwise healthy so I think we all thought that she’d get through this with her usual quiet determination. In her blog, she documented her treatment and what it’s done to her life, the joy of being able to go for a walk with Dave, their disappointment at not being able to have a family, and the financial impact her treatment and ongoing care has had on their lives.

To that end, Dave and Felicity set up a Go Fund Me page to try and see if they could raise money to keep their dream of a family alive and to help with the incredible costs of being so ill.

A couple of weeks ago, Felicity posted that the meds were no longer holding the cancer back and as she so eloquently put it,

“You can’t protect people. You can try. But it’s not really protecting them. I thought I was protecting people. Then I wondered if I thought I was protecting myself. But actually I was just delaying peoples opportunity to process the truth. Learning this didn’t really change my behavior though”.

Then a couple of days ago, Felicity posted “Wrapping Up” and at the end, a list she wrote some months ago when she was better than she is at present.

I urge you all to read it, as it is a wonderful, practical, uplifting and utterly inspirational thing.

To the best of my knowledge, Felicity is still at home with Dave and I hope they are enjoying the gentle drizzle of this warm autumn morning. If you can afford to, please donate to help offset some of their crippling medical costs.

And act on Felicity’s list ❤

Catching Up With Life

It’s been a busy few weeks!

Summer holidays are only a memory now but it’s been great to be back at Oak, with the added bonus of a belated present from one of the Superstars. Kathryn, who is a very artistic young woman and becoming a capable songwriter, presented me with this gorgeous portrait she did when we had a morning tea break on Friday.

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Naturally, everyone knew all about it except me, and I confess I was incredibly thrilled and deeply touched by such an honour. Also, I’m involved in a very exciting new program at Oak – teaching folks how to build a food garden! There’ll be photos and posts in the ensuing weeks but I’ve got some very enthusiastic gardeners on my team and a lovely space to work in 😀

Meanwhile, it’s bedlam here at my place – the house has become a fully fledged work site, with scaffolding surrounding the building in readiness for a new roof and after that, the demolition of an old disused (and potentially dangerous) shed and eradication of many Tasmanian gardeners’ bane – English Ivy. I can’t even park in the driveway at present, let alone think about getting in a load of mushroom compost for the garden beds!

Fortunately, the bulk of the yard has been spared too much disruption, though the rabbits had to be moved away from the ivy infested shed. It’s the start of the annual food glut and I’ve been drying herbs to make my own Tuscan seasoning and I’m starting to be inundated with beans, chilies, basil, shiso, cucumbers, zucchinis and potatoes.

Tuscan Mix

Tuscan Mix

Today I picked more zucchini and discovered some of the “volunteer” Roma tomatoes from the worm farm already had ripe fruit. Because I’m the only one in the house who really likes zucchini, I’ve only got two plants this year, and I think it might be one plant too many! I didn’t pick for two days and discovered a yellow monster this morning! (Don’t be fooled, the tomatoes below are really very ripe but I think the yellow beast made most of them fade in the photo!)

 

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And today is Australia Day. Over the years, this has become a very fraught event for many indigenous people as it really only commemorates the arrival of the British and has been renamed by some people Invasion Day. There is a suggestion that the date be changed and I think it has merit. I think this is an ongoing conversation that we, as a country really need to have. There’s no doubt in my mind that we as a nation are losing much of what my parents and grandparents worked incredibly hard to attain. That is, an egalitarian society that welcomes new voices and a fair go for all.

As a white Australian (and therefore a descendant of immigrants), I don’t particularly like what the day has come to represent, with a lot of incredibly racist slurs aimed at marginalising recent immigrants and people of colour ranging around social media. And our politicians are certainly forgetting about the “fair go for all” aspect that I was brought up to cherish and respect, with increasingly draconian measures to further marginalise this country’s poorest people.

This saddens me so much. Having traveled a little, I know how wonderful this country can be and how grateful I am to live here. So, today I made it my business to think of the original inhabitants while working the soil, the dirt I am steward of. To contemplate the incredibly rich heritage our indigenous brothers and sisters have given us in sight of glorious kunanyi that calmly overlooks all of Hobart – and thank my lucky stars that my forebears (boat people) came to such a beautiful country.

Tread gently friends and have a wonderful day ❤

Some Like it Hot – Horseradish Sauce

Happy new year friends everywhere!

I’ve had a really lovely time, pottering in the garden, making things, seed saving and gearing up for a big harvest of potatoes, beans, chilies and tomatoes. Study has been high on my agenda too, and I submitted my first assignment for 2017 yesterday.

The broad bean crop from late spring was fabulous, and while I filched a few for some fresh bean side dishes, I decided to dry the majority for use in soups and stews over winter. It seems the rest of my household DO like these creamy, delicious and very healthy beans as long as they’re not boiled into oblivion – which still seems how most people serve them :-/

A couple of days ago I dug up the monster Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia), which was threatening to take over a significant section of the rhubarb bed! This member of the Brassica family is a wonderful herb and fresh Horseradish Sauce is so much nicer than the store-bought stuff. Having said that, it can be incredibly invasive and will grow from the tiniest piece of root.

The roots smell very mildly of mustard but don’t be fooled. As soon as they’re peeled and grated, ally isothiocyanate (mustard oil) is released, which can irritate mucous membranes in the nose and eyes. This makes me cry worse than peeling onions, so I suggest doing this in a well ventilated area and in small batches. Adding a little vinegar, lemon juice or ascorbic acid will immediately stop the production of mustard oil. I also like to add a little salt and sugar to enhance the flavour.

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I like to do the initial peeling in a sink full of cold water and put the white roots in a bowl. This ensures that the smell doesn’t get overpowering and that the roots are clean of every bit of dirt. By the way, I recommend only using the newer roots for this, the one in the picture above is ideal but any bigger can be woody. Old horseradish makes very bitter sauce when grated but they’re great for propagating more plants 😀

Horseradish Sauce (Makes 3 1/2-4 cups)

2 cups peeled fresh horseradish, grated (this can be done by hand or in a food processor)

1 1/2 teas salt

1 teas white sugar

1 1/2 cups vinegar (approximately)

a little cold water (optional)

Mix the salt and sugar carefully through the grated horseradish, being careful not to breathe too much of the pungent fumes (I put the extractor fan on when I make this!). Add the vinegar gradually and mix it very well. The vinegar counters the chemical reaction and production of mustard oil.

Naturally, I like it hot but some like it a little less intense so add a little cold water to cut back the heat.

Pot up into clean, small glass jars with screw top lids and refrigerate. This can be used immediately and will keep in the fridge for up to a year

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Also, I dug the Red Norland potatoes this morning. The tops had died back so they were ready to lift but the crop wasn’t huge. Mind you, they were planted a little later than I would’ve liked and there were only 12 seed potatoes. I haven’t weighed them but I imagine there’d be about 2 1/2-3 kg in the bucket.

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The Pentland Dell, Patrones and Carlingford plants are still green and strong, so I don’t think I’ll be harvesting them for at least another month.

A huge bonus for me was the soil improvement. I like to use potatoes to start new garden beds and this one was spectacular. Prior to the potatoes, I had the rabbit’s nursery hutch over this ground so it had some added preconditioning 😉

The soil was crumbly, dark and fluffy – very easy to get the potatoes out – and it was absolutely full of earthworms. A far cry from the hard, compacted dirt that used to be here!

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I’m planning to turn in the mulch, throw on some worm castings, sheep poo and mushroom compost and put more raspberries in this bed during winter.

Meanwhile, I have to think about what to have for dinner. Maybe a couple of Red Norland potatoes with garlic and horseradish butter and a piece of fish on a bed of silverbeet………

Take care friends and hope you’re all well and happy ❤

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