After the anger, the serenity

I wanted to write a bit about how my day was going, and then I got angry.  It was a slow fuse because most of what I was angry about I’d been reading this morning.

And, yes, it’s about COVID 19, it’s about political leaders, those in power and those in opposition.

Listening to our opposition leader, briefly before I turned him off to watch a rerun of McHale’s Navy, it annoyed me that he had no answers to offer, only criticism.

Unfortunately, he’s not alone in the world.

Political leaders tended to blame everyone else for a pandemic that they universally were not prepared for, was totally unexpected, and looking like it’s going to be a huge disaster, not just here but everywhere.

The point is, we’ve had movies that have shown us exactly what happens, and I cannot imagine that anyone would say, well, that’s just in someone’s imagination.  Not it’s not.  Yes, it’s very, very real, and someone, no everyone, better sit up and take notice.

We live in a sophisticated world, where the bugs, viruses, sicknesses and getting smarter, and more resistant to the drugs we have.  Everyone knows it was inevitable, but who the hell is doing something about it?

The incompetence of the people who are supposedly in charge beggars belief.

Oh, God, I’m back on my soapbox.

Forgive me.

I’ll shut up about it now.

I’m trying to imagine what it’s like in the cold, because it’s the height of summer here.  IT’s not helping my imagination,  so let’s try…

It’s cold today, about 14 degrees Celsius, when it’s usually 27 degrees Celsius.  The sun is letting us down, and I suppose I should be grateful that we are not suffering from an ice age.

To be honest, I was seriously considering lighting the log fire.  Instead, we have reverse cycle air-conditioning, which is probably, in the long run, cheaper.

Have you seen how much it costs to buy wood?

But…

That could have made it difficult to write.

Not to come up with inspiration, but literally write, because my office is colder than a chiller room.  My beer in storage out here is colder than it is in the fridge.  Well, that sounded better in my head than on paper, but you get what I mean.

So, instead of writing, I sat down and binge-watched Sweet Magnolias, a light-hearted series from Netflix, and is of the same vein as Chesapeake Shores, etc, and more the sort of program I’d expect from Hallmark.

It was good.  It hooked me.

Three sets of lives intertwined in a largish town in middle America perhaps.  I heard Charleston mentioned so perhaps it was in South Carolina.

The good thing about it?  Not one mention of COVID 19.

Just good old-fashioned heartache, and trials and tribulations of trying to live your life, bumping up against the obstacles life throws up at you.

The town was called Serenity, so there’s a pun in there somewhere.

Maybe I’ll get some writing done tomorrow.

Is this more TV gold?

I have been watching television for a long, long time, and a lot of it has come from either the US or from Britain.

I have Cable TV by satellite, an interesting contradiction in terms, and it has a channel that shows all of these old series, such as,

The Prisoner, a rather fascinating series that starred Patrick McGoohan about a man who became a number. Of course week after week we puzzled over who he was, and came to the conclusion he was an ex spy put out to pasture. Each week he’d try to escape, each week a big white ball would appear on the scene. And what was his number? 7 I think.

Years later I saw Patrick McGoohan in an episode of Columbo, so he must have been popular in the US.

The Avengers, which was my all time favourite because of Emma Peel. Yes, huge crush I’m afraid. But, then, I think Diana Rigg had a lot more men with crushes. Nobody really cared about the others, one of which was Patrick McNee, but I couldn’t tell you who his character was, or who Emma’s partner in the show was.

The New Avengers was not a patch on the original, but I did watch a few episodes because of Purdy, who, of course was Joanna Lumley, equally as intriguing as Emma Peel.

The Saint, only because I liked reading the book versions of the stories by Leslie Charteris, and that my mother liked Roger Moore so we got to see it. That came from when Moore was in Ivanhoe, a real knight rather than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Roger Moore of course turned up later among other roles, as James Bond. Probably not the best contender for the role.

Upstairs, Downstairs, a forerunner to Downtown Abbey, the first introduction to the lost class system that gradually disappeared from the 1900’s onwards.

Rumpole of the Bailey, which starred an Australian actor, Leo McKern, who was a delightful claret drinking barrister that never had ambitions of being a judge, and hinged his success on the infamous Penge Bungalow Murders trial. I like reading the books too.

Are You Being Served, with John Inman, and others that made this show a riot of a comedy. We saw John Inman much later in a stage play in Melbourne, and when two people turned up late and interrupted the performance, Inman recited all the lines of all the roles up to that point so they wouldn’t be left in the dark about what was going on,

It was one of those rare performance’s when you just had to be there to believe it.

More on other series later.

Past conversations with my cat – 94

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This is Chester.

We are in the middle of a philosophical debate.

No, it’s not about whether the world is flat, though sometimes I think he has that notion, as well as all humans are basically stupid.

I’ve been thinking about the pandemic and how it might meld into a plotline for a story.

Chester is not happy that I should use China as the country with global ambitions, after using the term ‘global domination’ and got a very silky retort.

He doesn’t seem to think that by causing a pandemic, making each of the G20 nations basically launch themselves into insolvency in order to maintain some semblance of economic stability, that China, who miraculously recovers, becomes the nation who saves the world?

It sounded quite good in my head.

Particularly when you see nations like the USA, the only other country that could tackle China as a ‘savior’ state, is going slowly down the gurgler.   Or so it seems, and it’s only a matter of time before something gives.

Chester and I now have mandatory viewing every morning, the Donald Trump show, where we lay bets as to whom he’s going to fire or lambast.

Chester thought the Doctor was gone for all money on Monday.

My money was on the reporter, who wouldn’t stop asking questions.

But today, it might be about Joe Biden and the Democrats, and the ramping up of the Republican’s political campaign.  Who said the COVID briefings had to be about that mundane virus?

Still, it’s back to the drawing board.  The overall plot is good, creating a virus that brings almost every nation to its knees, and one that rises out of the ashes to ‘save the world’.  It’s like you don’t need bullets and arms to fight a war, just a hell of a sneaky virus; you know, infecting people when you don’t know you’ve got it and infecting others.

Hang on, Chester’s calling.  It’s time for the Donald Trump show.

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 80

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

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This is Chester. We’re back watching the Maple Leafs.

This isn’t going to be pretty. While they have won a few in the last week or so they have also lost, and by large numbers.

I know this is a mistake watching it with Chester, the eternal pessimist, because his initial statement, ‘You know Anderson’s going to let you down again’ even before the match started, is a sign of things to come.

Yep. There it is 21 seconds into the game the other side scores.

Damn.

He turns his head and gives me the look, “I told you so.”

Double damn.

Nothing worse than a smart-ass cat is there, and especially when he’s right.

The game progresses, and then the internet dies on me, leaving a frozen screen. Bigger fish to fry now, with the internet provider, where we are, the NBN, which is little more than a joke. Try streaming anything…

It’s the same result.

Pixellation, blank screens, endless loading signs and then a seized screen.

Good.

For once I don’t mind because I don’t have to listen to the negativity.

Yes, they score again. And again. And yes, once again we’re looking down the barrel of another huge loss.

“Just what is wrong with your goalie,” Chester asks.

“Too many games and not enough faith in the backup, I guess.”

It’s hard to explain wat’s going wrong. I don’t know the ins and outs of the Toronto team because we’re not there. It’s the lot of a supporter whose 12,000 miles away.

Perhaps our year will be next year.

Chester doesn’t think so. Halfway through the third period, he walks off, the internet giving up the ghost. We all know how this end, don’t we, he says.

Yes. We do. The food you hate the most is in your tray.

Revenge doesn’t sound as good as it did in my head a few minutes ago.

Triple Damn.

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 67

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

This is Chester. He’s come down from his bed in our bedroom to see what the commotion is about.

He stops at the top of the stairs down into the lounge room and sees the TV.

I might have guessed, the Maple Leafs are playing, he says.

Yep, I say, gleefully, and they’re winning.

Its not over until you know what…

Way to be a spoilsport. Stop complaining and take a seat. It’s a new day, a new coach, and a new invigoration in the team.

He sits and does that wrap around thing with his tail that indicates irritability.

Don’t get your hopes up, he says. And shouldn’t you be out in the office working on your NaNoWriMo project.

Under control I say. It’s practically writing itself.

Is that a shake of his head?

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 62

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

20160921_071506

This is Chester.  You wouldn’t think he would have an interest in horse racing.

But…

He does.  Today, in Australia, is the day the Melbourne Cup is run.  It seems to be the biggest thing on the racing calendar, not only in Melbourne but the rest of the country.

Chester, as usual, doesn’t seem to think it’s all that great.

He wants to know why the cat races are not televised.

What cat races?

It seems he had been watching Fox Sports, and there’s dog races, greyhounds he says.

I’ve heard of them, even went once or twice when we lived in Melbourne, where there was a dog race track.

Well, he says, if they can race dogs, they can race cats.

I appear a little sceptical.  What are they going to chase?

Mice.

Isn’t that a little cruel, I mean, you’ll get the animal rights people up in arms.

Over mice, he snorts.  No one likes mice.  But if it’s a problem, why not rats?  Everyone hates rats.

So, I say, you’re up for it then.  We could make a killing.

A shake of the head, and nose in the air.  “Of course not, I’m a pedigree cat.  That’s for the alley cats.  I’ll be watching from the Royal box thankyou.”

We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we were attending such a game.

Of course, this was last year.  This year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, only without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or go to a game.  For a while, it was just be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, as some of the states began to get on top of the virus, football teams moved from Victoria, and played in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and the Northern Territory.

And as the Victorian situation got worse, the decision was made to move the grand final, which had never left the MCG in Victoria, to Brisbane. It was like America never losing the Americas Cup, until they did.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and has returned in a limited sense as coronavirus restrictions eased (but not completely), a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern-day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes, and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run, and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quickly as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of that hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and who turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

Is this more TV gold?

I have been watching television for a long, long time, and a lot of it has come from either the US or from Britain.

I have Cable TV by satellite, an interesting contradiction in terms, and it has a channel that shows all of these old series, such as,

The Prisoner, a rather fascinating series that starred Patrick McGoohan about a man who became a number. Of course week after week we puzzled over who he was, and came to the conclusion he was an ex spy put out to pasture. Each week he’d try to escape, each week a big white ball would appear on the scene. And what was his number? 7 I think.

Years later I saw Patrick McGoohan in an episode of Columbo, so he must have been popular in the US.

The Avengers, which was my all time favourite because of Emma Peel. Yes, huge crush I’m afraid. But, then, I think Diana Rigg had a lot more men with crushes. Nobody really cared about the others, one of which was Patrick McNee, but I couldn’t tell you who his character was, or who Emma’s partner in the show was.

The New Avengers was not a patch on the original, but I did watch a few episodes because of Purdy, who, of course was Joanna Lumley, equally as intriguing as Emma Peel.

The Saint, only because I liked reading the book versions of the stories by Leslie Charteris, and that my mother liked Roger Moore so we got to see it. That came from when Moore was in Ivanhoe, a real knight rather than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Roger Moore of course turned up later among other roles, as James Bond. Probably not the best contender for the role.

Upstairs, Downstairs, a forerunner to Downtown Abbey, the first introduction to the lost class system that gradually disappeared from the 1900’s onwards.

Rumpole of the Bailey, which starred an Australian actor, Leo McKern, who was a delightful claret drinking barrister that never had ambitions of being a judge, and hinged his success on the infamous Penge Bungalow Murders trial. I like reading the books too.

Are You Being Served, with John Inman, and others that made this show a riot of a comedy. We saw John Inman much later in a stage play in Melbourne, and when two people turned up late and interrupted the performance, Inman recited all the lines of all the roles up to that point so they wouldn’t be left in the dark about what was going on,

It was one of those rare performance’s when you just had to be there to believe it.

More on other series later.

Is this TV gold?

I have been watching television for a long, long time, and a lot of it has come from either the US or from Britain.

I have Cable TV by satellite, an interesting contradiction in terms, and it has a channel that shows all of these old series, such as,

Bonanza, yes back on the old Ponderosa, with the Cartwright’s. I was astonished to see Lorne Greene pop up in another series, much later, in outer space, called Battlestar Galactica, a poor man’s Star Wars. It was 14 years of westerns.

This if course was accompanied by Rawhide, with a very young Clint Eastwood. As we all know, he went onto bigger and better things.

The Munster’s, yes, a rather creepy bunch of kooky people, the only sane one was the daughter. Herman, though, he was a barrel of laughs. I’m not sure what Yvonne DeCarlo thought of it, coming down from a movie career to television.

The Addams family, another bunch of kooky people who were quite funny, and of course my favourites were Lurch and Thing. Not too sure about Uncle Fester and Cousin Itt though. And moonbaking? Really?

Hogan’s Heroes, and the Stalag 13 crew was another of those strange but intriguing shows that showed a lighter side to what must have been a really grim situation. I’m sure a POW camp wasn’t this much fun.

Gilligan’s Island, a rather interesting bunch of castaways whom I’m sure could have got back home without much trouble, but who close to stay on their island. Jim Baccus, the voice behind Mr Magoo made this interesting, along with the skipper.

Bewitched, with Elizabeth Montgomery, and another old movie star Agnes Moorhead, but it was the changing of Darren that had me doing a double take, and it sort of went off cue when they introduced a baby, Tabitha. Bad Samantha was a treat.

My Favorite Martian with Ray Walston, another actor that descended from the movies made this a little more interesting than it really was. Still there were enough laughs in it to keep the interest going.

Mr Ed, the talking horse. Yes, special effects were working overtime with this one, but really, a talking horse?

The Beverly Hillbillies, I could never get into this. I doubt anyone finding oil on their property these days would get rich and moved to Beverly Hills. Perhaps a quiet ranch in Montana?

Get Smart, who could forget the cone of silence, or the phone in a shoe. How the producers would have loved mobile phones back then.

And my all time favourite, Mission Impossible. Those early episodes were the best, especially with Martin Landau, who later turned up in Space 1999.

There’s more, but we’ll get to them later.

There’s more time for TV

Being confined to home because of COVID not only gives me, and a lot of others more time to write, it also enables us to explore a few more leisure options to fill in the time.

After all, we can hardly just keep writing endlessly.

Well, perhaps some of us could.

At first I decided I would do some virtual travelling, you know, go to places I would never go in person, like South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, South America, you know the sort of places I mean, the ones where you can’t get travel insurance cover, or not without mortgaging your home.

That lasted about a day. Seeing the pyramids online was not the same as being there, getting the sand blown in your face, or the tour bus being hijacked, and you spend the next three months in a dark, hot, hell hole while the kidnappers negotiate with governments that refuse to negotiate with terrorists.

So far, I’m not filling in my time very well.

There’s weeds to be pulled, lawns to be cut, shrubs and trees to be pruned, painting to be done, you know, all of those chores that you put off until tomorrow, knowing tomorrow will never come.

Don’t ask me to explain that.

So, we’re left with television.

Firstly there was a series called Yellowstone, a western in a modern setting, three series worth. Yes, we watched all of them, no, didn’t like the swearing, or Beth Dutton, Rip was channelling the Duke, and Keven Kostner, well his stint in Dances with Wolves stood him in good stead.

Geez though, how much trouble can one ranch attract? Indians, speculators, developers, and an international airport? To be honest, at times it spiralled out of control, but for sheer entertainment value, it was slightly better than I thought it might be. As for Jamie, how could one person be so complicated?

Then there was another series, Away. OK, this was about as far fetched as a premise could get, and the characters, as diverse, and sometimes as obtuse as any I’ve seen thrown together for over eight months. Thank god we didn’t have to suffer eight months of it.

IT was good, I guess, with people being the way they are, and I’d espected in the confines of that small space for so long, they might have killed each other off one at a time, like in Lord of the Flies, but no such luck.

My favourite? The Russian. He might have been blind but he was interesting. Just would have liked a few subtitles for us non Ghana, Chinese, Russian, Indian people.

As for White House Farm, I’m still trying to work out who killed them all, because if definitely wasn’t the daughter. It had to be the indifferent son, or at his behest. Full marks to the dogged detective, who, the last time I saw him, he was a rather improbable Hercules. Funny how your impression of a performance goes back to one you’ve seen him before.

Which is another of our viewing interests, watching a show and trying to work out where we’ve seen the actors before. Some are familiar, and seem to be in everything, others rarely seen, or remembered. I hope this is not a sign of their acting talent, or more to the point, lack of it.

At the moment we are in the middle of Young Wallender. For those who may have seen Branagh in the Wallender series would remember this as being the most stultifying of series, filmed bleakly in a bleak country with bleak characters, and bleak crimes.

Fortunately the Young Wallender series is not as bleak, but it has dark undertones. Some might call this gritty. There;s four more to go so it can only get better.

Like jumping off a ten storey building, it’s so far so good…