The Big Issue Australia #633 – Let's Go Surfing

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633 26 MAR 2021









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The Ocean Is My Place of Solace Seven-time surfing world champion Layne Beachley on surrendering control, getting in the water every day and the importance of resilience.


Shock Waves


(I Never Told You This, But…) Surfing Might Just Save the World

Photographer Ryan Carter finds out that the best time to surf Canada’s Great Lakes is when the winter weather sets in and the temperature drops below zero.

by Jock Serong

It’s fun, it’s free and it gets you off your phone – even having your arse handed to you on occasion has its benefits, argues novelist and wave-rider Jock Serong. It’s a compelling case for hitting the waves, so get on board. cover illustration by Mel Baxter contents photo by Getty


04 Ed’s Letter & Your Say 05 Meet Your Vendor 06 Streetsheet 08 Hearsay & 20 Questions 11 My Word 24 Ricky

25 Fiona 34 Film Reviews 35 Small Screen Reviews 36 Music Reviews 37 Book Reviews 39 Public Service Announcement

40 Tastes Like Home 43 Puzzles 45 Crossword 46 Click – Mirka Mora


Humble Spy Not even a pandemic can stop Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s back with The Courier, where he plays a real-life businessman recruited for an unlikely mission…

Ed’s Letter


Ripping Shredness by Melissa Fulton Deputy Editor


here’s something about surfing. It’s more of a philosophy than a sport, more of a lifestyle than a hobby. And maybe it’s because I spent my formative years as a coastie in a NSW surfer town, but it seems cooler than the other sports to me – more graceful, less organised. Spiritual and solitary. A life force. “I will always remember my first wave that morning,” writes Tim Winton in his novel Breath. “I leant across the wall of upstanding water and the board came with me as though it was part of my body and mind. The blur of spray, the shard of light… I was intoxicated… I still judge every joyous moment, every victory and revelation against those few seconds of living.” It’s rebellious, too. In the words of Roach, one of Point Break’s bank‑robbing surfers: “It’s the ultimate rush. There’s nothing that comes

close to it, not even sex.” Seven-time world-champion Stephanie Gilmore describes it as “the first thing I can remember being consumed by”. And so – in the lead-up to the World Surfing League championship tour in Newcastle at Easter, and with the release of the slamming new documentary Girls Can’t Surf (spoiler alert: they cannnnn, duh!) out in cinemas across the country – we bring you The Big Issue’s big surfing edition. On these pages Jock Serong makes the case for waxing up your board and getting out there; Layne Beachley speaks of the solace she finds in the ocean; and Ryan Carter snaps the surfers of Canada’s icy Great Lakes. Plus we talk to Byron Bay’s laconic garage-surf-rockers Skegss; get the lowdown on surf-speak from Lisa Walker; and Carmen Angerer shows her family that life’s a beach. Get amongst it. Yeuw!



The Big Issue Story The Big Issue is an independent, not-for-profit magazine sold on the streets around Australia. It was created as a social enterprise 24 years ago to provide both a voice and a work opportunity for people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage. Your purchase of this magazine has directly benefited the person who sold it to you. Big Issue vendors buy each copy for $4.50 and sell it to you for $9, keeping the profits. But The Big Issue is more than a magazine.

I caught up with a friend in Adelaide city after a year of not seeing each other due to COVID restrictions. We had a lovely catch-up over lunch and wandering around Rundle Mall. I felt connected again to my town. Then I decided to purchase The Big Issue from a fellow selling them to passers‑by. Within these pages was Rachel Watt’s article ‘Pack to the Future’ [Ed#631]. What an excellent read. Not only a story of love for her dog Davy, but of how community is still alive and active, if only we ask and join in. Thank you for that gentle reminder of the power of the pack. Community or pack is what people have missed the most during COVID. ADELE WRIGHT RIDGEHAVEN I SA

Thank you Big Issue for bringing us Grace Tame’s story [Ed#631]. Grace is to be admired for her honesty and courage. She has had many challenges in her young life and I hope she gets lots of support to continue making her voice heard. I hope that life just gets better and better for Grace and for survivors of child sexual assault. VIVIAN RAMSEY THORNBURY I VIC

• Our Women’s Subscription Enterprise provides employment and training for women through the sale of magazine subscriptions as well as social procurement work. • The Community Street Soccer Program promotes social inclusion and good health at weekly soccer games at 20 locations around the country. • The Vendor Support Fund will offset the cost price of products for vendors, allowing them to earn a larger margin on their own street sales. • The Big Issue Education workshops provide school, tertiary and corporate groups with insights into homelessness and disadvantage, and provide work opportunities for people experiencing marginalisation. CHECK OUT ALL THE DETAILS AT THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU

Adele wins a copy of Pietro Demaio’s new cookbook Preserving the Italian Way. He shares his recipes for Passata on p40. We’d also love to hear your thoughts, feedback and suggestions: SUBMISSIONS@BIGISSUE.ORG.AU


Meet Your Vendor

Chris Z


interview by Melissa Fulton photo by Rohan Thomson



26 MAR 2021

I am a born and bred Goulburn boy, a Big Merino boy. I moved to Canberra when I was going into Year 9. I’ve got my mother and father, my oldest brother, I’ve got myself and another younger brother and my sister. We’re very close, all of us. I couldn’t really be handled at school – I was wagging and going off the rails and not paying attention and running away and that – so when it came to schoolwork I didn’t really know much about reading and writing in a book. My teacher came up with a program just for us – I think there were about six or seven of us boys in this special class. We used to clean out horse stables and do gardening and I went up to Shepparton in Victoria for two weeks and done a bit of dairy farming. It was really good. It taught us how to work and do the right thing – get out there and do stuff in life. My hobbies are landscaping and yard work. I really love gardening. I’ve got a bit of everything going in my mum’s garden at the moment. I’ve got pumpkin, potatoes, seedlings all going and bulbs too, the real nice bulbs with the yellow flowers, daffodils, roses, ivy. I like to keep it maintained and look after it. I’m really close to my mum. I’ve got my own place but I try to stay with her as much as I can and look after her. I don’t want nothing to happen to her. I like walking my dog around Canberra through the parks here. I’ve got a little terrier; her name’s Molly. She’s a rescue dog – she’s had a harder life than probably all of us. I don’t bring her on pitch because she can be a bit protective. She stays with my mum when I’m selling. She’s bonded with me like mad, so when I come home she’s so excited she starts chucking backflips and doing the wobblies. We walk her around the lake and play ball and frisbee with her. When I’m really down and out, she’s always there for me. I’ve been in a few relationships but they’ve just gone downhill on me. I just got outta one in October last year. I’ve still got feelings for the lady but I’m just trying to get through. It’s been a bit of a struggle but that’s why I go out and sell The Big Issue every day – get out there and do what I do. I’m out here trying my best for my own business. I just keep moving forward. I keep my head up and keep working. I’m the type of person that likes to talk face‑to‑face, have a conversation. I’ve got a fair few people who stop and have a yarn to me, who appreciate what I’m doing. The extra money I make from selling The Big Issue covers a lot for me, food-wise or whatever I need in life. I went and bought myself a whole heap of clothes. I bought a new pair of sneakers, and all the things I need for myself. It means the world to me, doing this. Thanks to all my customers and my community for their support and for buying the mag off me every two weeks – I can’t thank them enough.


Stories, poems and pictures by Big Issue vendors and friends

A Better Me




Body and Soul




’m from Greece, from Cyprus. I came here with my family before the war, in 1964. I’ve been selling The Big Issue out the front of The Body Shop on Bourke Street Mall for over 15 years now, but The Body Shop has changed location to The Emporium. It makes me happy to work. I sell The Big Issue for something to do, and to make extra money for food and the doctor. I have many favourite customers. On Saturdays, I have two different regular customers: one brings me spaghetti, and the other brings me rice! Thank you to The Body Shop for being such nice people and for helping me out over the years, stocking the magazine, especially after hours and on weekends – and buying me breakfast. Thank you especially to Victoria; she’s a nice lady who sometimes helps put on breakfast for the Melbourne vendors. CON THE BODY SHOP, BOURKE ST MALL I MELBOURNE

Daryl here again. I am continuing my double major in psychology and counselling this year. I am looking at finishing the psychology component by the end of April so that I can focus on the supervision and work placement units for the counselling component. One of the original reasons for taking this degree was to discover why I am the way I am; the reason why other people are the way they are and the best manner to deal with both. I believe I have found the answers. This course has been one of the best things I have ever done. For example, I found that I am smarter than what I had given myself credit for. For me being a third-year university student is mind-blowing, because when I was in high school I was not smart and wouldn’t have received the grade point average that I am receiving now. My current aim with this course is to achieve a master’s degree in social psychology and from there be a researcher in that field. I still have a way to go and can always improve on the quality of my schoolwork. All round I believe that by doing this course I am becoming a better person, a better version of me. DARYL HIGH ST, NORTHCOTE I MELBOURNE

Good Will, Goodwood For the past seven weeks, I’ve been at the Goodwood pitch on Mondays and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve been getting good customers and making new friends. I’ve come to know a really nice guy who has a wheelchair, and we always have a good chat. I give the Goodwood pitch a 10/10. I’ve also been at another new pitch outside the Haigh’s chocolate shop in the city and it’s been really good too. WAYNE A THE BODY SHOP & HUNGRY JACK’S I ADELAIDE

Places to Stay I wish people better understood the reasons why people are homeless. They need places to stay – just accommodation – not coins or to be moved on. I look at all the empty buildings in Perth and think the government should lease them and give people places to stay. Try and understand, not judge. I was 14 when I was homeless and it still feels horrifying – so lonely and stressful. I’m glad it’s over. SEAN HAY ST MALL I PERTH

On My Side My sister Yvonne is very important to me. There were seven of us kids – I’ve four sisters and two brothers. Yvonne is seven years older than

me. I am the youngest and the only one born in Australia (my family is from Italy). Yvonne took me under her wing. She used to have me sleep over at her place when things weren’t going well between me and Mum. We used to sit up late at night watching TV or making homemade pizzas – doing simple but fun activities together was our thing. Yvonne moved back to Italy about 12 years ago. That made me sad – it was hard to say goodbye. We email each other now, and keep in touch over Facebook – sometimes with the help of our kids. Yvonne was always there to pick me up when I fell down. She was always on my side and I love that I could depend on her. IRENE WSE I SA

For Kerry Our boss phoned today. Long-awaited phone call after COVID, but today she had good news and bad news. Good news: we had shifts coming up. Bad news: you had passed away. My heart broke. My world collapsed. I was numb. “Oh” was all I could say. Our boss asked if I was okay. “No!” Did I want to talk? “No.” And I hung up. Too shocked to cry, I held it all inside. No, Kerry wasn’t famous. But she was my co-worker, we studied our course together and she was my friend. Kerry was a friend to everyone. OMG, how will we cope working in the Women’s Subscription Enterprise without you? No spurring us on to finish, “Come on girls, let’s go. We’re the A-team.” No more treats on our desks when we come back from our breaks.

The Graduate My name is Jenny and I signed up to The Big Issue in December. The lovely Maura, my good friend and flatmate and current vendor, encouraged me. I have enjoyed the training process, meeting people, quick conversations, smiles and hellos. Some people stop and chat for a longer conversation as well. I have loved meeting other vendors like Stacey on pitch in the city, and enjoyed our burger breakup before Christmas. The job has helped me and made me happy. The Christmas period was awesome and I earned heaps. Recently I finished my training and became a graduate vendor. My boss says I have been doing an awesome job and that he loves my positive attitude. JENNY DAVID JONES, MURRAY ST I PERTH

No more cheeky grins in my direction. To me, Kerry was famous. A great mate, someone to vent to, an ear ready to listen and a hug when you needed it. I can’t believe you’re gone. I keep expecting to see your smiling face when I walk into work. RIP Kerry. Miss you always. (Kerry passed away in October 2020) CHERYL WSE I VIC

26 MAR 2021


Kerry was a strong woman, not letting anyone know her struggles. She kept it all hidden, private, inside.





Andrew Weldon Cartoonist

on the very southern tip of Tasmania – only for it to be discovered by two brothers near Townsville, some 2700km away, years later. Stoked! THE GUARDIAN I AU

Let’s face it, I was doing ballet, which as a young boy wasn’t the coolest thing in the world… Still, who’s laughing now, hey?

Spider-Man Tom Holland on being “bullied, picked on, called names” at school – before transforming into a Hollywood superstar. GQ I UK

“Me, Tom [Holland], the Marvel guys, we’re beekeepers. It’s not sexy. It’s hot under those damn suits. You can’t see us. We’re sweating to make the sweet, sweet syrupy nectar to be consumed for our leaders. We’re all beekeepers. Overpaid beekeepers.” Actor Robert Downey Jnr (Iron Man) on the realities of being a superhero.




“These birds are now so rare…they are not able to find other adult male regent honeyeaters to learn their songs from.” Ross Crates, from ANU, on the regent honeyeater, which is at risk of losing its “song culture”. With only 300 of them still living in the wild, few adult birds are around to teach juvenile honeyeaters how to sing their own song – a mating song, which further imperils the existence of the species. ABC I AU

“It is no secret that music affects your mental health, but it may surprise you that it is claimed that most jazz and metal fans are the happiest amongst music lovers.” Psychologist Şirin Atçeken on a survey of Reddit users’ comments that calculated positive and negative posts from music buffs – jazz hands for the jazz fans. The unhappiest were drill and grime listeners. THE DUBROVNIK TIMES I HR

“Even with the barnacles on it, I knew straight away. All my big wave tow boards are straight fluoro green, and there are not that many big wave surfers around Australia. Everyone puts their straps on different. And the logo on it – they are a pretty small-known surfboard shaper here in Tasmania.” Danny Griffiths, a big-wave surfer, on losing his favourite board off a wave

“As an artist, I believe it’s my job to reflect the times, and it’s been such a difficult time. So I wanted to uplift, encourage, celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the world.” Beyoncé on receiving her recordmaking 28th Grammy – presented in honour of Black Parade – making her the most-awarded woman in Grammy history. BBC I UK

“Men’s sleep appears to be tied to economic productivity – male managers sleep better when there’s a higher GDP. But everyone, men and women, sleep better in more gender-equal countries.” Leah Ruppanner, from the University of Melbourne, on another perk of gender equality: a decent night’s sleep. NEW SCIENTIST I UK

“It is poetic justice. President Magufuli defied the world on the struggle against corona... He defied science... And what has happened, happened. He went down with corona.” Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu, saying the president, who had denied there was such a thing as coronavirus, has died of it, and not “heart complications”, as the government claims. AFRICA NEWS I ZA

“The English are the last ethnic group it’s still woke to bag. I go to barbecues and I’m still getting blamed for Gallipoli.” Comic Ben Elton, who lives in Australia, wouldn’t mind talking footy instead. THE AGE I AU

20 Questions by Rachael Wallace

01 In which film did Brad Pitt and

Angelina Jolie star together in 2015? 02 Australia’s oldest Aboriginal rock

art has recently been dated in the Kimberley. How old is it said to be? 03 Who won the 2021 Australian Open

Women’s Singles title? 04 Metrophobia is the fear of: a) The

underground train system, b) Bad weather, c) Poetry or d) Large cities? 05 Which record label did Michael

Gudinski co-found in 1972? 06 In the Western calendar, what is

the earliest date Easter Sunday can fall on? 07 Who hosted last year’s Fire Fight

Australia concert? 08 In Japanese cuisine, what are the

two main ingredients in nigiri? 09 Which three real-life royal


“This kind of name change not only wastes time but causes unnecessary paperwork.” Taiwan’s deputy interior minister Chen Tsung-yen, urging people not to change their names to “Salmon”, after about 150 officially made the change to take advantage of an all-you-can-eat offer from a sushi chain.



“I became a journalist to help lift up the stories and voices of our most vulnerable communities. As a young woman of color, that’s part of the reason I was so excited to lead the Teen Vogue team in their next chapter.” Alexi McCammond, the recently appointed editor of Teen Vogue, steps down before taking up the position – apologising for the “past

“People cling to these firm ideas [about gender] because it makes people feel safe. But if we could just celebrate all the wonderful complexities of people, the world would be such a better place.” Actor Elliot Page (Juno) on his “complicated journey” to accepting his gender identity, and the fight for trans equality.

characters have been played by Helena Bonham Carter? 10 In which Australian state or

territory is the town Come By Chance located? 11 Where is coffee thought to have

originated: a) Brazil, b) Ethiopia, c) Indonesia or d) China? 12 Who sings the song ‘Blinding

Lights’? 13 True or false? It is possible to get

skin cancer even if you don’t burn. 14 In Roman numerals, what was the

number of the 2021 Super Bowl? 15 What do Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey

and Tina Fey have in common? 16 What is the nickname of the ant that

lives solely on New York’s Upper West Side? 17 Who designed London’s St Paul’s

Cathedral? 18 Which country is home to the

world’s first Barbie-themed restaurant, opened in 2013? 19 What is the name of Bluey’s younger

sister in ABC-TV series Bluey? 20 Which city has been granted

“preferred bid status” for the 2032 Olympic Games?




26 MAR 2021

racist and homophobic” tweets she made as a teenager in 2011. Remember kids: you are what you Tweet.


“In some parts of the world, “If you put feathers the average on a T-Rex, you’d get twenty‑something one giant chicken.” woman today is Overheard by Susan in less fertile than Belmont, NSW. her grandmother was at 35.” Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who also found that sperm counts have dropped almost 60 per cent since 1973, due to chemicals in the environment. They’re also shrinking penis size. EAR2GROUND

My Word

by Eleanor Limprecht


hen I was a girl my sister and I had pet snails. We were living in Berlin, West Berlin, because the wall still cleaved the city in two. My father was working for the US State Department – he was a public safety adviser and negotiated the trade of political prisoners between East and West Germany. We had a brick house with six bedrooms across the street from the Botanischer Garten. Before moving to Berlin my parents separated – my father had been having an affair, and he moved out of our house in Arlington, Virginia. We were going to live without him, just the three of us: my mother, sister and I. We were going to be fine. But then my parents reconciled and we were all moving to Berlin, packing our life, leaving our friends and home and beginning again in a different part of the world. My mother got a job at the embassy and both my parents worked long hours, so my older sister carried the house key on a shoelace around her neck to let us in after school. If my parents went out at night, they paid us each a dollar an hour to babysit ourselves – not in actual money but tallied up in a notebook so we could save it for something my mother approved of. Next door to our new house lived a white-haired couple in a house resembling a castle – with actual turrets. The woman, whose name I have forgotten, was very kind and had a beautiful garden with ponds and an aviary with parakeets. She grew gooseberries, plump green globules that – if eaten raw – made your whole face pucker. In the front of her house she grew lilies of the valley. She showed me how the tiny white flowers clustered and were protected by dark green, shiny leaves. She would bend down to instruct me to smell them; they were sweet but not cloying, my new favourite scent. While gardening, this neighbour collected the snails and gave them to us one day in a cracked glass terrarium. “You might want to tell your mother to cook them, in butter,” she said, smiling. My sister and I would not. We would keep them as our pets. There were at least 10 or 15 snails in that terrarium, some large, some small, all with shells in varying shades of brown. Simply to watch one climb the glass wall was entertaining, the ripple of muscle in its single foot as it moved, propelling on its own slime.

We took them out one by one, letting them climb us. They left shiny trails of snail mucous along my arms and legs. Snails are curious creatures: once they have figured out you are not a threat, they poke out of their shells, tentacles first, then a long stretchy body, and explore. We gave them lettuce and let them try different garden plants, watching their reactions, noting their favourite meals. If you are very, very still and quiet you can hear a snail crunching a leaf of iceberg lettuce. There are few more delightful sounds. It is also a pleasure to lie in the grass with a snail slowly climbing your body, imagining yourself a mountain – a slime-tracked island of eight‑year-old girl. As for snail poo – it’s not even disgusting. Just black odourless pellets to flick away. Snails make good friends when you have none, as do books and elderly neighbours. But gradually my sister and I made friends with other children and moved beyond our backyard. I don’t remember what happened to the snails, but fortunately the terrarium had no lid. I imagine them escaping and making a slow trek back to the neighbour’s garden, to her beautifully tended plants and ponds. Our garden was the low-maintenance kind – a few thorny rosebushes, a swathe of lawn and hedges with prickly leaves – designed to repel rather than attract. But I remember those snail bodies rippling against the glass, leaving shiny paths on my skin, showing me my own power, the things we see when we are still. Now, in Australia, snails find their home in my mailbox – they seem to love the combination of damp, dark and junk mail. They make quick work of Domino’s flyers and coupons for maths tutoring, leaving paper pellet poos in their wake. I can’t bring myself to remove them. I just know that I have to collect the important mail within a day or so if I don’t want to find it riddled with holes, masticated by a ravenous snail mouth. And I dread coming home in the dark and hearing that sickening crunch on the garden path. In the morning, a fragmented shell, a shrivelled body already black with ants. They always remind me of that time, the upheaval of my small world, the sense that everything can change in the blink of an eye. Step carefully, they say. Don’t forget the power you hold.

Eleanor Limprecht is a Sydney-based novelist and writing teacher. Her fourth novel, The Coast, will be out in 2022.


As the new kid in town, Eleanor Limprecht ventured out of her shell thanks to some new friends.

26 MAR 2021

A Snail’s Place




I want to make an argument for surfing, for people who don’t do it. So if you’re already a surfer, turn the page. Read Layne: she’s bound to be saying something more useful. Besides, you’ll only get cross with me for encouraging more people to surf. Now. Are we alone? You, who’ve gazed at the gorgeous idiots on the airline advertisements with surfboards tucked under their beautifully toned arms. You, who’ve lamented that if only you’d started when you were, what…10? 20? 30? – you’d be doing it now. I want you to know that it’s not too late and there’s much to be gained. Here, in no particular order, are eight reasons you ought to start.


The Whole of Life

Surfing World, and the editor of Great Ocean Quarterly. His current novel is The Burning Island. @jockserong


sat on the floor this week with a man who’s 70 and has built his life around surfing and art. Damn him, he’s 70 and his joints didn’t pop when he stood up. He was thinking about sculpture and the secrets lodged in rocks, and landforms and towns and Aboriginal custodianship, and he was doing all this thinking through the lens of being a surfer.


Craft for Contexts

A modern shortboard is a refined thing. Typically 6 foot long, 2½ inches thick and 19 inches wide (surfing sticks resolutely to imperial in all its measurements), they’re knifey and offer little margin for error. But there’s absolutely no reason to be on one if you’re just starting out. The first priority should be getting a feel for how waves behave; getting swoony on the physics of rushing water. The choices of craft nowadays are

26 MAR 2021

Jock Serong is a novelist and senior writer with


Jock Serong reckons the best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.

That thing about the vagaries of time ought to be our first priority here. I’m 50, and it’s likely that I’ll never play an actual game of football again. I don’t care, by the way, because I’m scared of pain. Cricket I would miss, but I’m approaching my comb-over and leg spin days, so it’ll keep. The point is, some sports become off-limits once your knees, your eyesight or your reflexes are shot. Not surfing. It’s every bit as enjoyable in childhood as in senescence, because the body is supported, the movement is symmetrical and you can choose the level of physicality that you want. The tiniest of waves will do it. As in tai chi or yoga, there’s regenerative grace in feeling the small movements of your own body. In his novel Breath, Tim Winton wrote about being a child and watching grown men – tough guys – surfing. They were dancing, he observed: men who would never otherwise submit themselves to something so unselfconscious, so beautiful and pointless. Generations can merge in the water. Paddling out with a child or a grandchild is a tonic: we’re all humbled, re-humoured by an encounter with the foam-lines; hair plastered on face, goofy grin and a shandy of seawater and snot swinging from the nose. Thus reduced to human flotsam in rubber, any hierarchical notion of parenting vanishes. I push my kids into waves, holler like a fool and tow them back out. I’m nothing but a water porter.


in surfing that you’re striving towards. At first it’s just standing up. Then it’s turning, or finding a barrel, or riding a bigger wave, a faster or shallower one. Or just working out, in my case, why your hands stick out at ridiculous angles like you’re fending off invisible assailants. Every single person in the water, no matter their gear or their cool-face, is learning to surf. Which is why the water is as much yours as theirs.


Having Your Arse Handed to You




extraordinary. You can cruise on a stand-up paddleboard, squeeze yourself into tiny barrels on a kneeboard or a bodyboard, get all style-hound on a mal or just swim out and bodysurf. There are boards that have been adapted for all abilities, squishy boards for learners, sizes for all bodies. The natural enemy of surfing fun is conformity, so anyone who surfs should aim to feel the ways that different shapes respond to the wave, rather than getting all stink-face and trying to wrench Kelly Slater moves out of a body that isn’t, well, Kelly’s. There’s a line attributed variously to Gerry Lopez, Phil Edwards and Duke Kahanamoku, but whoever said it was dead right – the best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.



Related to the beauty of finding a different craft is the notion that in surfing, you remain a learner for the rest of your days. I know this isn’t a unique state of affairs, but it’s a striking realisation after decades of doing it: that the two hours you just spent in the water have you as puzzled as the hours you spent in the water decades ago. There’s always something


Transcendental Moments of Joy

This is surfing’s biggest cliché-magnet. North coast hipsters with their hair and their three-chord acoustic serenades and their dopey patois of dude and stoked! It’s all very pretentious and I can’t and won’t defend it. But it’s coming from somewhere. People have left behind productive lives, have driven thousands of miles, have searched and waited and calculated for a reason. And the reason is that there are moments on offer that are as good as life can feel. Why else would anybody invest hours and hours in the prospect of mere seconds? In over two hours of gag-inducing dialogue, the worst idea Johnny Utah espouses in Point Break is that those moments only come to daredevils. It’s


The ocean doesn’t care what kind of day you’re having. It is blind to our aspirations: it just keeps sending waves. So the getting up, the trying again, is entirely our problem.

It’s uncouth, sure, but there’s no better expression for this idea. Surfing can humble a human being like few other endeavours. Not only can the ocean terrify, it can also render our failures as bruising comedy. And herein lie valuable lessons: we’re all riding high in April, as Ol’ Blue Eyes has it, only to be shot down in May. Every rooster trailing a graceful arc of cut water is a feather-duster in waiting. There’s a wonderful corollary to this: the ocean doesn’t care what kind of day you’re having. It is blind to our aspirations: it just keeps sending waves. So the getting up, the trying again, is entirely our problem. Everything has to come from within, and over time, that builds humility and it teaches courage. It dissolves anger and it urges perspective. (Or it should: sadly, there are grumps and bullies in the line-up, just as there are in traffic.) A famous Hawaiian big-wave surfer was asked how he copes mentally with the prospect of being mown down by thousands of tonnes of water (flipping back into metric for a second: remember, a cubic metre of water weighs a tonne). The answer, he said, was in the question. It’s just water. I think about this often as I’m being dragged along the bottom among the kelp. It’s cool, it’s cool. I’m not being run down by a cement mixer. It’s only water. It might be no help at all, but it’s a scientific reality.

Cultural Immersion


Australians have been surfing, in the modern sense of the word, for more than a century. In 1915, the Hawaiian swimmer Duke Kahanamoku hoisted Manly girl Isabel Letham onto his shoulders on a wave at Freshwater Beach, and a national obsession ensued. Australians, like mainland Americans, have an inflated view of our centrality in surfing culture, but there’s no doubt that our presence in its lore is a significant one. From fiction by Malcolm Knox, Fiona Capp, Winton and Madelaine Dickie, to the journalism of Vaughan Blakey, Nick Carroll, Phil Jarratt, Emily Brugman, Andrew Kidman and more; to the academic writing of Rebecca Olive – there is so much to read and learn. Try Jon Frank’s photography, Mick Sowry’s filmmaking, Richard Tognetti’s music or Otis Carey’s art: each redefines the cultural experience of surfing, because each is highly idiosyncratic. Read about Tim Baker, who has surfed through his recovery from a cancer diagnosis, or Pauline Menczer, the unheralded Australian world champ who surfed through sexism, obscurity and rheumatoid arthritis, and is still smiling. Miki Dora was a charismatic, conceited, wicked shit. Jeff Hakman was a heroin addict and a big-wave hero, and has found wisdom in both terrors. Layne Beachley is an inspiration to women and girls everywhere. The trail stretches all the way back to Jack London. Yes, the culture is




I don’t want to overstate this one, because surfing is a notoriously selfish endeavour. But it can also be a potent force of activism. In my lifetime, surfers have blockaded a nuclear warship on Sydney Harbour and fought raw sewage outfalls, uranium mining, fracking and destructive coastal development. They’ve successfully seen off the petroleum giants who wanted to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight (Fight for the Bight), improved public health in Southeast Asia (SurfAid) and made documentaries exposing dirty dolphin-hunting secrets (The Cove). They’ve run festivals in support of mental health research (Bolt Blowers), donated to the fight against ocean plastics (Patagonia) and been vocal in support of their own supposed existential threat, sharks (White Tag). What this reveals is that surfers are more integrated in the wider community than we think. The rise of surfer activism might be more a product of surfing’s societal diffusion than of surfers learning to care more. Either way, there are sisterhoods and brotherhoods, as well as loners and misanthropes.


The Devices Can’t Get You

Our contemplative moments are under siege. Bike riders, joggers, music punters…all sorts of relaxations have now fallen victim to the gruesome march of The Devices. This is no place to get into the pros and cons of screens, so I’ll just say it outright: they’re a curse. But salt water is anathema to anything electronic, as is a vigorous thrashing under a breaking wave. Surfing may be among the last recreational holdouts against the encroaching roaches of Apple and the gang. Going back for a moment to the notion of transcendence, it’s extraordinary how much sharper your senses become when you’re not hooked into a dopamine cycle driven by a ceaselessly renewing social media feed. You can hear birds. You can see textures in the surface of the water. On offshore mornings I can sit in the sea and smell not only saltwater and kelp, but the bacon hitting the pan in the main street’s cafes. We’re better versions of ourselves when we’re separated from our mutant Tamagotchi overlords. An hour in the surf is an hour you didn’t spend counting your paces or your followers, or confirming your own prejudices. And if I’m ever compelled to own a GPS-tracking watch, I’ll strap the damn thing to a seagull and watch it fly away.

26 MAR 2021


diminished at times by its whiteness, its maleness and straightness, but these are the shortcomings we need to address, not reasons to stay away. There are antidotes to be found among these people.


how you know he’s a cop: he doesn’t get it. In truth, the moments come to all of us, randomly, and often nowhere near the face of the wave. Watching the sky, sleeping in the dunes, seeing a whale, feeling water under your fingers. Standing in a bakery, red‑eyed and breathing the aroma, knowing you’re going to eat everything in sight. (Granted, that might be a consequence of other recreations.) But simple things. You don’t need to jump out of a plane, Johnny.

Letter to My Younger Self

The Ocean Is My Place of Solace World surfing champion Layne Beachley on being sports-mad, winning world titles and the importance of resilience. by Anastasia Safioleas Contributing Editor @anast


y 16-year-old self was tenacious, fiercely driven, very focused, extremely competitive and outgoing. She was extremely passionate about surfing and loved to compete. It was 1988, so she had found competitive surfing and had set her sights on becoming a world‑champion surfer. So school studies had started to slip and I failed halfway through Year 11. I had to pick up the slack and start focusing on school a little bit more because I had set my sights on at least passing the HSC. I was an avid sports fan, loved playing sport. I was playing tennis, cricket, soccer, hockey and volleyball. But surfing was still my number-one passion and focal point. I didn’t really spend too much time daydreaming about other things. Every weekend, I couldn’t wait to get down to the beach. I even took my skateboard to school. I would skateboard through the school hallways between classes. I was the only kid in school that was allowed to do that even though my schoolteachers were suggesting that surfing was a distraction from my studies and that it would amount to nothing. Saying that, I did love school. I was a bit of an academic, but once I decided that professional surfing was where I was going to channel my energies and my focus, I stopped investing the energy that was required of me to fulfil my academic abilities. I had loads of crushes on a variety of different boys and the majority of them were older boys. I didn’t really enjoy hanging out with boys my own age because they seemed to be quite immature and self-centred,



26 MAR 2021

Winning my first world title made me pretty bloody happy. I was 26 and I was pretty proud. But my life has been filled with happy moments. Perhaps my happiest moment was the first time I immersed myself in the water. The ocean is my place of solace, where I go to process emotions, clarify my thoughts. It’s a very healing, grounding, centring environment for me. My biggest challenge is managing my health and wellbeing and prioritising it without taking it for granted. But I’ve become more respectful and honouring of it as I’ve gotten older. I’m more self-aware and I recognise the consequences of my actions. I take full accountability and responsibility for my choices. I have adopted a healthier mindset and recognise the fallibility of my lifestyle and the way in which I choose to live my life. I’m a lot more aware of the impacts of my choices. I’m in the water every day. I am very fortunate but that’s the lifestyle I’ve chosen and that’s the commitment I made to myself. There’s a couple of days here and there when I haven’t gone into the water. If I can’t surf, I at least walk down to the beach and dive into the water. Or if I’m nowhere near water, I’ll immerse myself in nature and walk barefoot on the grass or sit in the sun and somehow engage with nature: it’s my mindfulness practice. Going into the ocean is the perfect environment for control freaks because it’s a force way more powerful than you and you have to surrender control. Fear of the ocean is a fear of a lack of control. If I could go back in time it would be to the day my stepmother died. I was 22. Before that I never really let her know how much I loved her because we had, at times, a tenuous relationship – I saw her as someone that was taking my dad away from me. And he was the only relative I had that I knew I could rely on – I felt like I was losing that. So maybe [instead] I could go back to the day when Dad told me that he was getting married to Christina, my stepmother. I really wasn’t happy for them. I’d go back to that day and change my response. Love is what makes the world go around and there’s so many people in my life I love that I don’t let them know how much I love them. When they’re gone, it’s too late. I would say to my 16-year-old self to surround yourself with men that respect you, never compromise your values, sex isn’t as scary as it seems, and you are going to be the champion of the world – it’s just going to take a little bit longer than you expect.



and I think they wanted me to be all about them. I actually avoided having boyfriends and dating boys because I just wanted to go surfing. I didn’t want to be tied down by expectations of fulfilling relationship duties, so I wasn’t really too distracted by them. Saying that, I loved hanging with the boys. I prided myself on being one of the boys and that made it effortless to fit in with the group of guys that I hung out with. There was about 14 of us that spent every weekend together on the beach and in the afternoons after school. I was the only girl in that group, and I prided myself on having that style of relationship with the boys. I definitely thrived in male-dominated environments. I actually felt more comfortable and confident, probably because I spent my whole life in them and was able to adapt to them very easily and quickly. I actually saw myself as one of the boys, not a girl in a boy’s environment. And I was just really comfortable. I grew up with a dad and an older brother – my mum died when I was six. I’m accustomed to that environment. I’m very fortunate that I grew up in a period where there were no mobile phones. The indicators that it was time to go home were the streetlights – as soon as they came on, I had to be home. We had the freedom to explore and play and fail and make mistakes. And we understood and respected authority. I recognised the value of being surrounded by really good people, and not wasting my time influencing or trying to influence dickheads. I was very discerning with the people I spent my time with, and I loved the guys – we were very honest, supportive and encouraging of each other. But we also gave each other a lot. The biggest surprise of my life is my resilience. I was premature by six weeks, so I went into a humidicrib. It was a life-or-death situation and I survived and thrived and went on to become the champion of the world. I’ve overcome two bouts of chronic fatigue, several bouts of depression and career-ending injuries, and still was able to come back and win world titles. Yeah, my resilience has been my greatest surprise but also my greatest gift. As a teenager I was my harshest critic and that has stuck with me. I know it doesn’t serve me, but as a teenager it served me because it gave me the power to choose and the courage and the conviction to say no. I was very fortunate because of my passion for surfing. I didn’t succumb to peer-group pressure such as smoking and drinking and drugs because they were a distraction from my surfing. The biggest life lesson my parents passed on to me was a work ethic. What you put in is what you’re going to get out of it. And my dad gave me the freedom to fail; it was safe to make mistakes.

On the Board Talk Surf-addict Lisa Walker learns that the next best thing to surfing is talking about it – and she can talk the talk. Lisa Walker is the author of The Girl with the Gold Bikini (Wakefield Press), a YA novel starring a wise-cracking girl detective who surfs. @lisawalkertweet




y neighbour tells me I have a surfing problem. “You’re addicted,” he says. He’s not wrong, but I figure there are worse things. My hometown is a surfer town. Every day after school the break in front of the pub is packed with kids flexing their muscles and their attitude. The wetsuit is the look on the street and the clothes shops stock mainly surf wear. Sand blows into houses and coats the pavement. When I moved here 20 years ago, what else could I do but buy a surfboard? I started with a beginners’ board – soft and fat. Each time I took it out I challenged myself to stay in the water for a little longer. I floundered around in the whitewash, falling off and getting pummelled by the waves, emerging with nostrils full of salt water and hair caked in sand. But then I started catching little waves. I glided over the reef, paddling back out to do it again and again. Afterwards, endorphins pulsed through my body. Waves rolled through my mind. They invaded my sleep. I watched the ocean, seizing every opportunity to get out there again. Like a sailor in port, I felt rocked by the sea even on dry land. I was hooked. Surfing is, in a very literal sense, an addiction. We crave the pleasure unpredictably meted out on nature’s whim. When I wake up each day, I can never be sure if I’ll get my fix. In a town full of addicts, the mood rises and falls with the waves. When those northerly devil winds hit in summer, withdrawal sets in. The whole town feels it. Even non-surfers complain that everyone’s crabby. After weeks on end of onshore winds, you take support where you find it. And for a surf addict, the next best thing to surfing is talking about it. There’s a young surfer who lives on my street. He is suntanned and muscular with the white-blond hair and peeling nose of a surf fiend. I am a middle-aged woman. Not suntanned, not muscular. I expect he has seen me trundling back and forth to the surf on my bicycle, my board strapped to its side. I am not glamorous in this mode. I wear a surf hat that

clips under my chin, brown zinc smeared all over my face. Top-to-toe lycra shields my fair skin from the sun. In winter, a floppy pink hoodie towel down to my knees completes the picture. You would think I’d be invisible to him, and yet we have become surf-talk buddies. We recognise the craving in each other. Whenever we cross paths, whether I have my board with me or not, he wants to talk about surfing. The other day, as I rode back from the beach past the skate ramp, he slid towards me. Stopping just centimetres away, he flicked his skateboard up with his toe. “How’s the surf?” “Blown out.” His shoulders slumped. “Thought so.” “Maybe tomorrow morning. Bit of southerly swell pushing in. There’s a low off Fiji.” After 20 years surfing, I’m still no pro in the waves, but I could surf‑talk for Australia. “Reckon the pub’ll be working?” “Worth a shot if you get in before the northerly. The banks are pretty good.” This type of shooting the breeze can go on forever. There are the tides, the swell, the banks, the crowds, the boards, the long-term forecast. And that’s just for starters. The secret world of surf-addiction is not confined to the street, it spreads across my social circles. My women’s ukulele group is also a surf-addict support network. Our Messenger chat is as likely to be surf reports as chord charts. We are the girls who sat on the beach in the 80s, keeping our boyfriends’ towels warm, just like in Puberty Blues. Now though, we are surfers. Out there in the water, a bunch of daggy middle-aged women are giving it all they’ve got in any conditions. Reckon I’ve surfed worse, is the group motto when checking the surf. There’s an unspoken agreement that the first half-hour of every ukulele session is set aside for surf-talk. “It’s piss weak.” “Reckon it’ll be good up the bay?” “Heard it’s pumping up at Snapper.” Surf-talk can break out at any moment, especially when the surf is bad. When I stop to fill my car with petrol, the guy next to me notices the board on my car. “Nothing but choppy ankle-snappers out there,” he scoffs. I’ve heard Inuit people have 42 words to describe snow. I reckon Australians would have at least as many words for surf. But when the northerlies move on at last and those sacred offshore winds lift the waves into glassy peaks, we only need one. “How is it?” I call as I ride past my young surfer friend on a sunshiny blue-seas day. He beams with the serenity of someone who’s just had their fix. “Cranking.”

A Beach of a Day The sea was angry that day, as Carmen Angerer and her family head out for a surf lesson. Carmen Angerer is a writer and artist based in Geelong. She shares her stories, art and poetry at


he rain lashes the car windows and the road ahead is wrapped in mist. I’m driving down the road from Saddleback Mountain, NSW, to the coast with my in-laws. It’s morning but it feels more like late afternoon. Dark. Rainy. Miserable. I check the clock: it’s only 25 minutes until the surf lesson starts, a gift to my brother-in-law and his son. They’re in front of us, in a separate car. Despite our fake cheer, the kid’s face as he did up his seat belt said it all, “This. Sucks.” I booked the lesson at Gerroa’s Seven Mile Beach, where 16 years earlier my partner Max and I learned to surf. I’ve always been a fan of symmetry and there was something beautiful about returning to the same beach for another surf lesson, this time with three generations. The familiar crescent of the coast is obscured by

but the 30-foot tides, freezing water and icy winds were not what I imagined. Instead of a tropical surf holiday, I spent three months wearing not one, but two, wetsuits. I quickly realised that stuffing chubby British children into wetsuits and pushing them onto waves wouldn’t be enough to shake the chill from my bones. Take it from me, bad weather can put a real dampner on a first surf lesson. As we pull into the car park, I make one last effort to rally the troops. “I know that going for a swim is the last thing you all want to do right now. But we’ll be wet anyway, and at least we can cheer them on from the water!” The faces around me do not look enthused, but slowly they nod. We pull on our bathers; Max and I grab our surfboards. Over by the instructor’s van, our nephew and his dad grimly put on their wetsuits and load themselves up with foam boards. The rain has made the car park a mess of muddy puddles. Seven Mile Beach is a stunning place to learn to surf – on a warm summer day you only have to walk along the sandy track through the scrub and you’re standing on a crest of dunes. Beyond the dunes the ocean opens out in an expanse of blue, where playful waves break gently on the sandbar. Not today. The sand is wet and soggy and horizontal drops pelt us as we plod towards the uninviting surf. The wind has whipped the waves into an angry green‑grey froth and the horizon is a smudge

of rain. “Come on” someone yells; we are all in too deep to turn back. I watch as my mother-in-law races us towards the ocean, throwing her towel aside. She raises her hands as she hits the water, and for a beat I wonder if she’s going to shriek at the cold. Instead she turns in delight: “It’s warm!” And it is. As hard as the wind buffeted us on the shore, and as ominous as the steel-grey sky looks, it vanishes as we splash into the warm salt water. My father-in-law, Max and I dive under the whitewash, and even the rain loses its bite. The waves, which had looked so intimidating from the sand, lift us gently as we launch ourselves into them. And the surf lesson? I watch my nephew as he catches his first-ever wave. He rides it all the way to shore, his legs bent and arms outstretched in a perfect beginner stance. We hoot and holler for him, throwing foam over our heads. He hops off the board and turns back to us, his arms raised. On his face is a smile of pure joy.


fog. I peer through the windscreen but I can’t make out anything; the usually spectacular view is blank. Yesterday the sky was blue, not a cloud to be seen. “It’s always wetter up here on the mountain. By the time we get to the beach this will have blown over,” I say. No-one sounds very convinced. My in-laws are robust 70-year-olds – they have better social lives than Max and I and are probably more active. They’re not frequent beachgoers. On our yearly family holiday they prefer bushwalks, relaxing with a book or thrashing us in a game of five hundred. I can tell they’re unimpressed about swimming in this deluge. When I was 18 I got a job teaching surfing in the Channel Islands – I was ecstatic. I applied because I had always wanted to travel to America. It turns out geography isn’t my strong suit and the Channel Islands, Jersey, where I had been employed, was actually a tiny island located in the English Channel. The waves were surprisingly good

26 MAR 2021

The wind has whipped the waves into an angry green-grey froth and the horizon is a smudge of rain.

series by Ryan Carter

When the temperature dips below zero and winter storms whip up waves, it’s time to surf Canada’s Great Lakes. by Luke Kennedy

Luke Kennedy is a Bondi-based writer who has been the editor of iconic Australian surf magazine Tracks for the past 13 years.



The Big Picture

Shock Waves




26 MAR 2021


anadian photographer Ryan Carter follows a simple rule when deciding whether or not the surf is good enough to shoot: “I just use a weather app on my phone… If it’s orange or red and blowing from the northwest, I know the wind’s strong enough to create waves and there’s going to be surfers out.” The curious surf break Carter regularly photographs is Georgia Bay on Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada – part of the Great Lakes region, which straddles the US border. Nearby Blue Mountain is popular with an affluent ski crowd, but Carter is far more interested in the wave‑crazed die-hards who hit the lakes in the middle of winter, when strong, sustained winds bring the biggest waves. “I find it an interesting Canadian story,” he explains over Zoom. “And it just happens to be in my backyard.” Carter lives just 10 minutes away from Georgia Bay, where on a busy day there will be around 25 surfers carving up the freshwater peaks. Six-millimetre wetsuits, and ever thicker hoods and gloves, are essential to withstand the sub-zero water temperatures (it’s -20˚C outside) while dodging huge chunks of ice is another occupational hazard. When it comes to photographing the surfers on the lakes it’s Carter’s own hands he has to worry about. “That’s the tricky part, cos you gotta wear thin gloves so you can control the autofocus. But then your hand freezes, right?” From a creative perspective, Carter likes to zone in on the peripheral moments that highlight the unique aspects of lake surfing. “I mean, they love seeing pictures of themselves surfing… I’m maybe less interested in the action stuff and more interested in that kind of behind‑the-scenes element,” he says. While the Great Lakes surf scene may be a long way from the stereotypical idyll of sun-kissed sybarites trimming effortlessly across warm water waves, the lake crew do share much in common with their coastal‑dwelling cousins. The Great Lakes region has both its own surf shops and closely guarded secret spots. Two of the surfers Carter regularly photographs, Curtis Eichenberger and Brian McElroy, recently invited him on a mission to one of their more secluded breaks. “We drove through a snowstorm to get there,” Carter recalls. “We had to walk through the forest to get in and it was just like really heavy snow…and there were really nice waves. Much cleaner than we normally get here.” The adventure has Ryan wondering about the other waves in the region. “I’ve only really explored a tiny little area of Georgia Bay, but I know there’s people surfing on Lake Superior, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. So I’d like to check out those other places.” And while he hints at running an exhibition, for now Ryan is content to follow his icy muse. “As long as I can keep making images that I am happy with or that are unique or different, I’ll keep trying to expand it I think.”








26 MAR 2021





You’re not supposed to have favourites with either children or pets, but Tom was most definitely the favourite.

by Ricky French @frenchricky

Cat’s Life


t’s been quite a ride watching our last remaining cat, Guy, grow old. When I say last I mean we went from two to one some years ago when the greatest cat who ever lived, a big black beast called Tom, keeled over and died for no apparent reason, and without bothering to seek our input on the matter. Tom’s sudden death prompted me to write one of those stories every wannabe writer dreams to write: a heartfelt outpouring of emotion and release, a cathartic stream of paragraphs, emotionally powerful for both reader and writer. It was published right here in this magazine and remains possibly the best thing I’ve ever written, but if I can be completely honest with you, I kind of hope I’m not going to be called on to repeat that feat any time soon, even for the sake of Twitter mentions. Guy is not Tom, but he has his own story. We named Guy after Guy Picciotto from American art-punks Fugazi, not based on any identifiable ideological or musical similarities to the band, but because we couldn’t think of anything else. As a kitten he had big ears that stuck out, so in hindsight maybe we should have named him Ian after Ian MacKaye, the other singer from Fugazi, but these are minor quibbles. Guy lived in Tom’s shadow for many years. You’re not supposed to have favourites with either children or pets, but Tom was most definitely the favourite. Guy can’t read this, so he won’t get offended. After Tom died we started to notice Guy more. He was a classic cat in most regards. He sat on laps, he liked his home. He climbed trees and jumped across to the neighbour’s garage and took off causing all sorts of cattish mayhem around the neighbourhood, probably. But he was incredibly timid and easily startled. If someone visited he would disappear under the house for hours; I don’t think anyone other than us

believed he even existed. If we had a party we wouldn’t see him for days, but after the action had died down he’d reappear, nudging up to his food bowl and enquiring about dinner. Today, Guy is not doing so well. He’s 14 years old, which is old but not astoundingly old for a cat. He developed hyperthyroidism a few years ago and needs daily medication. The disease caused him to steadily lose weight and condition, and he looks like (again, he can’t read) a mangy bag of bones, bless him. Also, he has heart disease. That’s not good. For the time being he’s being propped up with medication and chicken treats, but there will be no miracle recovery. The only thing that keeps us from making that awful decision is the fact that he’s actually quite happy and is not in pain. But the thing that really gets me about his decline is not his physical transformation but his mental one. With old age and ill-health this once scaredy cat has become completely nihilistic. Nothing fazes him anymore. He’ll sit in the middle of a party and find the best lap. Dogs will run towards him and he’ll stand there immovable, as if to say, “Do your worst.” He’s given up niceties. He doesn’t dig a neat hole in the dirt to do his business anymore but will stride out onto the lawn and do it with impunity. He never goes anywhere: what’s the point? I envy his obliviousness sometimes, although I suspect it’s a symptom of old age that transcends species. Guy would be the old-man cat screaming at the cloud, if there were anything worth screaming about. But there’s not. Just the slow winding down of a life in the suburbs – of sunshine, Felix Sensations Jellies, lots of laps and the distant memory of an old friend called Tom.

Ricky is a writer and musician who’s heading for cat-astrophe.

by Fiona Scott-Norman @fscottnorman

Learning to Life Again How to Use a Handbag My skills have atrophied. I now find myself at the door holding a diary, pen, notebook, book I’m reading, apple, bottle of water, keys, wallet and phone, teetering like a late-stage game of Jenga, and wondering how the hell I used to leave the house. Oh that’s right. I had a bag. How to DJ I appreciate I may lose the room here, as being a DJ is, to be fair, niche. But a year is a long time between drinks when you’re dropping hot beats. Round at a mate’s place, to-and-froing on songs. She played one, and then I, fruitlessly, tried to remember the name of the late 1970s new wave band who played the version of the song I wanted to counter with. Could I recall it? Sure. Four hours later. On the drive home. It was The Flying Lizards’ ‘Summertime Blues’. Yes, it’s an oblique band and track, and not, say, A-ha’s ‘Take on Me’, but THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE MY STOCK IN TRADE. How to Use Our Bodies I talked to some theatre producer peeps. They’d run a play-reading competition to find a new work. This required actors to read from the script but also mill around a bit. You know. Act. They auditioned about 90 actors, and most had become so accustomed to Zoom that they’d sort of forgotten they existed from the neck down, and stood completely still and stared into the middle distance. These are actors (see “stock in trade” above). Lord help the rest of us. How to Social Intercourse I used to be good company. Pinky promise. However, now that socialising is back, it turns out my quick wit has rusted out like the boot on our aged Falcon. *No. Yes. Don’t ask me. I’ve forgotten how to make decisions.

Fiona is a writer, comedian and, hang on, something else, um…what does she do again?

26 MAR 2021



he trouble with COVID-19, apart from all the other things wrong with COVID-19, is that it’s given me way too much spare time to a) contemplate mortality and the fag-end of my career, and b) pick away, like at a scab, the idea that due to spending a chunk of my late fifties in what is essentially solitary confinement, I have permanent loss of cognitive function. You could argue that if I’m throwing around phrases like “cognitive function” I’m not yet circling the drain, but it’s hard to stay sharp when all you’ve got to whet your wit against is Bunnings and a one-way gavage of content from Netflix. Around the globe, people impacted by COVID essentially emerge blinking like battery chickens seeing daylight and grass for the first time, with their grasp of how to operate in the real world hovering around 17 per cent. I mean, I’m still washing, and I can ask my partner if he’s emptied the dishwasher, but beyond that all bets are off. My friends are all in the same boat. Quotes range from “I’m exhausted” and “I’m swimming in molasses” to “I can no longer dress myself” and “I’m actually starting to crave another lockdown. Is that wrong?”* In no particular order, because I have lost the capacity to order, these are (some of) the skills I have mislaid. Perhaps they’re with my ambition. And muscle tone. And ability to wear dressy shoes. Anyhoo. How to Park Is there a worse place in the world than a multi‑level car park? Yes. A multi-level car park after everyone’s forgotten how to drive with more than six cars on the road, let alone park in a claustrophobic, high-pressure environment between two SUVs, on a slope, with a bank of cars idling behind you, while you (me) take eight passes to manoeuvre your (my) partner’s big old Falcon into the space without having a bingle. Bridget Jones-style rating? Two units of valium and a paper bag to breathe into.

It’s hard to stay sharp when all you’ve got to whet your wit against is Bunnings and a one-way gavage of content from Netflix.



Humble Spy by James Douglas




The Courier


James Douglas is a film scholar and critic based in Melbourne.


ince stepping into the international spotlight with the modern spin-off series Sherlock in 2010, English actor Benedict Cumberbatch has hardly paused for breath. More high-profile TV dramas followed, like the acclaimed Patrick Melrose miniseries in 2018, while leading film parts – such as the code-cracking mathematician Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014), for which Cumberbatch received an Oscar nomination – cemented him as our reigning essayer of prickly genius. Then, as if for kicks, he took on Hollywood blockbusters, like JJ Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and the ever-expanding Marvel super-verse. His latest, The Courier, directed by Englishman Dominic Cooke (On Chesil Beach, 2017), sees Cumberbatch return to Earth. He plays Greville Wynne, a real-life British businessman who in the 1960s was recruited for an unlikely mission: to act as an intermediary, channelling top-secret information to MI6 from the Soviet agent Oleg Penkovsky, perhaps the most valuable intelligence source for the West in the lead-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wynne represents something of a change of gear for Cumberbatch, whose oeuvre has been an extended study in intellectual arrogance. Here he gives a portrait of petit-bourgeois ordinariness, complete with bristling little moustache and stubbornly set jaw. Wynne is a small man, content in his role as a glad-handing salesman, who suddenly finds himself a key player on the global stage, facing the threat of nuclear crisis. “He did start as a naive, blustering, slightly comical, disbelieving amateur,” Cumberbatch says. “That’s exactly what he was picked for. The whole diplomatic back channel of spy craft and couriering had been completely blown open by several investigations and

arrests and imprisonments. Penkovsky knew that and had to find a new avenue to leak this information to the West. Greville’s naivety was actually the perfect fit.” In the film’s retelling of events, it’s that very ordinary amateurishness that spurs Wynne on to heroism, because he sees Penkovsky (played by Georgian actor Merab Ninidze) as a man and not a chess piece. “There is a kind of platonic love affair between the two,” Cumberbatch says, “and that’s very interesting; it moves it beyond the usual genre of spy films.” In contrast to other Cold War dramas – particularly those of the John le Carré school, which see grubby compromise and moral flexibility as the essence of espionage – Wynne’s integrity is the fulcrum of the drama, leading him to risk his skin for Penkovsky when the old boys of MI6 would rather cut their mole loose. “It’s loyalty to a man who has convinced him of the cause, but also to the actual man himself,” Cumberbatch says. “It’s about not being so different from the Other. There are unifying aspects to being human that can transcend politics. We’re all in this together.” The screenplay, by Tom O’Connor, doesn’t shy from teasing out resonances with our own contemporary geopolitical tensions. Penkovksy, desperate to explain the dangers of the Soviet regime to his British handlers, says its leader Nikita Khrushchev is “impulsive, chaotic: a man like him shouldn’t have nuclear command!” – descriptions that have drawn parallells from critics thinking of America’s recent commander‑in-chief. Audiences might find some comfort here in the film’s thesis that personal connections can defy political sabre-rattling. As Penkovsky tells Wynne, “Maybe we are only two people, but this is how things change.” The film opens in Australia more than a year after it premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, under the title Ironbark. It was one of many delays for Cumberbatch in a year marked by the disruptions of the COVID pandemic. Cumberbatch was in New Zealand, in the midst of filming director Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, when that country went into lockdown in March, and progress on a sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange saw several hiccups before production began in November.


The pandemic hasn’t stopped the unstoppable Benedict Cumberbatch, but it has made him reassess the role and value of film.



Even these disruptions can’t slow Cumberbatch’s roll – yet another factual drama, The Mauritanian, has just debuted on Amazon Prime. The movie relates the real-life tale of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who was imprisoned for 14 years without charge in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Speaking from Hampshire, outside London, near where filming continues on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Cumberbatch has only admiration for the resilience his colleagues in the industry have shown throughout this upheaval. “The miracle of getting any film made in the kind of restrictions we have here in this country is beyond me. Books will have to be written. It’s quite a remarkable thing that’s going on,” he says. Cumberbatch himself has been reflecting on the purpose of his craft, now that the pandemic has thrown into relief not just the rewards, but also the risks of making film and TV in an industry that crisscrosses national borders. “I think it makes you really re-evaluate what your contract is with your work community, but also with the world at large. Is it essential, what we’re doing? That’s another big question. I would say providing content for amusement, distraction, entertainment, education and enlightenment, all those things that art usually does – you can double-down on the need for that right now.” THE COURIER IS IN CINEMAS 1 APRIL.

Adam Thompson

Books 28


Speaking Up Adam Thompson’s short stories bring different perspectives to the Indigenous experience, revitalising Tasmania and its islands. by Sarah Mohammed @sezmohammed

Sarah Mohammed is a freelance writer based in Brisbane/Meanjin.


s a writer you have to be brave,” says Pakana author Adam Thompson about his debut book, Born Into This. The collection of 16 short stories is set in the heart of Aboriginal Tasmania and explores complex themes of racism, identity and heritage destruction. Despite knowing it would be challenging, Thompson wasn’t afraid of exploring provocative themes and steadfastly believes that readers are ready for these tough conversations. “While the Aboriginal community has always known about these issues, it feels like something has changed in the way other people are willing to talk about them now,” he says. Of course, being willing to talk doesn’t necessarily mean taking action, and knowing about something doesn’t always mean understanding how it feels. For Thompson, art is crucial to reaching across this divide; that art, particularly storytelling, has a way of making people think differently and can cut through the desensitisation that can occur when we read about things in the paper or see them on the news. Believing in the power of fiction to get through to people, Thompson has created a hard-hitting and entertaining collection. Thompson, now in his early forties, laughingly admits that he hasn’t always been as strategic in his

makes it clear that his main goal is to entertain. “I create the type of stories that I want to read,” Thompson says, describing his fondness for stories that make you feel a connection to a character, idea or place, and that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Born Into This has many memorable characters, but what makes them unforgettable isn’t that they’re perfect – quite the opposite. “I don’t create heroes,” says Thompson, who hopes that his flawed but human characters resonate with readers. This combination of honesty, realism and exceptional storytelling will leave you with a deeper understanding of the plight of the young schoolgirl desperately trying to protect the authenticity of her community, the brothers who disagree on whether they’re Aboriginal or not, and the protester who burns the Australian flag. In fact, the strength of this collection lies in Thompson’s focus on the breadth of opinions, ideas and perspectives held within First Nations communities. Thompson playfully points out that all his characters are fictional, and certainly none of them are him. In fact, he doesn’t even share all the viewpoints put forward by the characters, but felt it was important to showcase that even within tight‑knit families, schools and communities, there are disagreements

around identity and politics. This book does not represent one single perspective, but rather a collection of flawed perspectives held by characters trying their best to survive and thrive in the world they’re born into. An unexpected star of Born Into This is Tasmania itself. Thompson’s descriptions of the varied landscape are striking and encourage readers to reflect on their connection to country. The islands in Bass Strait feature heavily in the stories, and have a particular significance to Thompson himself, who visits there often to practise longstanding Pakana traditions such as mutton birding. “These places are so unique and you’re thinking about them when you’re not there,” he says. While Thompson focuses on telling the stories that he felt were missing from Tasmanian and Australian literature, he’s confident that this is not a niche area. “People can relate to the characters, relate to the stories. Not just people around me, but Aboriginal people from mainland Australia and non-Indigenous people as well. It has that universal appeal.” BORN INTO THIS IS OUT NOW.


approach to winning hearts and minds. Once a young man who spent too much of his time arguing with yobbos at parties about racism and identity, he now focuses on inspiring change across a wider audience through his writing. “Instead of directing my energy towards people and things that aren’t going to change, I can reach people who want to listen, people who are ready for the conversation,” he says. Always a passionate advocate for change, Thompson has spent almost 20 years working at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) – a community organisation that represents the political and community-development aspirations of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. In the almost 50 years since its establishment, the TAC has achieved a great deal, including legislative recognition of Aboriginal cultural fishing rights, financial compensation to members of the Stolen Generations, and improved accountability to Aboriginal heritage protection. The campaigns, services and advocacy of the TAC have shaped Thompson as a writer and as a person, and this is reflected in his stories. While this collection of short stories will surely educate its non-Indigenous readers, Thompson

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As a writer you have to be brave.

Since 2014 Black-ish has delivered complex, hilarious and engaging television about race, class and family life in America. Now in its seventh season, star Tracee Ellis Ross reckons it’s better than ever. by Merryana Salem @akajustmerry

Merryana Salem is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese-Australian writer, critic, teacher, researcher and podcaster from Newcastle.




etween her lengthy acting and producing career, her advocacy for women, and running her own Black hair-care company, Tracee Ellis Ross is no stranger to juggling all the world at once. Perhaps it’s her secret to playing the passionate, scatterbrained mum Rainbow Johnson on the American family sitcom Black-ish. Created by writer-director Kenya Barris, the Peabody Award-winning Black-ish chronicles the chaotic lives of an upper-middle-class African-American family as they attempt to balance their Blackness with the predominantly white social world they now move in. Ross stars as Dr Rainbow “Bow” Johnson – a biracial anaesthesiologist, wife and mother – who refuses to admit she was raised in a cult. Ross herself has a vibrant mother: the indomitable songstress Diana Ross. But the Supremes singer bares laughably little resemblance to Rainbow. “I don’t think Bow is at all like my mother,” clarifies Ross, laughing at the very idea. “Bow grew up on a commune! I’ve been asked: ‘Without being a mother, where did you find the inspiration to be a mother?’ What



Small Screens

More Strings to Her Bow

I took from my mom is what I have, as Tracee, which is I’m very mothering, I’m a very nurturing person… It’s been easy to lend that part of myself to Rainbow Johnson.” Even a world away, connected only by a Zoom conference call, it’s clear that Ross’ nurturing nature is not limited to her role as Bow. She’s all warmth, radiance and grace as she thanks me for asking how she is. Twice. “We’ll let that be a bonus question,” she laughs. It’s no wonder she continues to make me and so many other mixed Black women feel seen. Brought to life with Ross’ incandescent confidence, Bow’s journey throughout the series encompasses the complex comedy and calamity of Black motherhood, as she looks out for her four kids and man-child husband Andre (Anthony Anderson, Law & Order’s Detective Kevin Bernard). “I love that [Bow]’s flawed, smart…and a bit ridiculous,” she laughs. But, crucially, “she’s not just the wife. She’s not just the mom.” Bow has dealt with everything, from struggles with her biracial identity, to microaggressions in the workplace, pre-eclampsia pregnancy, anti-vaxxers and sibling strife. “Throughout all of the seasons, Bow has been able to bring out the fullness of her humanity and not just be somebody who is ‘in relationship to’... Her storyline and her point of view is clear.” Ross’ favourite plotline depicts Bow’s struggles with postpartum depression, and she respects the importance of its representation for both Black and non-Black women. “It was really important for women to be able to see that experience exposed without shame, and how prevalent postpartum depression and mental health is in the Black community,” she says. “It was also really important because of the generations in the house.” Featuring a core ensemble cast that includes toddlers, seniors and everyone in between, Black-ish frequently approaches issues from a multi-generational perspective. While the family’s paternal grandmother Ruby (Jenifer Lewis, The Princess and the Frog) is very religious, the Johnson children are more agnostic, even sceptical, compared to the habitual faith of their parents and grandparents. Their contrasting outlooks illuminate the ways in which time has altered perceptions of race, work and health in the cultural West. It’s also spurred the spin‑off series Grown-ish, Mixed-ish and the in‑development Old-ish. Even in its seventh season, Black-ish shows no signs of slowing down. Similarly, after the better part of a decade playing Bow, Ross’ enthusiasm for her character is yet to fade. “There are three things that keep me coming back to her,” Ross explains. The first is the “powerful and important” yet hilarious stories

that the series platforms. The second is Black-ish’s wonderful, collaborative work environment: “There’s a lot of giggles and support and safety,” says Ross. And the third reason is “just the first two combined”. Bow Johnson is a grand performance, and despite only lasting for 20-ish minutes each week, it has brought Ross a world of opportunity. She’s won a Golden Globe and six NAACP Image Awards, as well as creating the hair-care brand Pattern beauty. Last year, her production company Joy Mill Entertainment signed an overall deal with the US studio ABC Signature, part of Walt Disney





Television, now home to the ever-growing -ish family tree. Gratitude for what Black-ish has gifted Ross radiates from her every word. The new kind of fame “is like icing on the cake,” she says. “I’m grateful that, by the time this level of attention has come my way, I really knew who I was and what I wanted to say and what I wanted to share with the world. “It wasn’t about ‘Look at me,’ but instead, ‘Look at this.’ These are the things that are important to me. These are the things that, for the greater good, I hope we are paying attention to.” BLACK-ISH IS ON THE STAR HUB OF DISNEY+.


I’d sound like a hell‑crazy tripper if I started talking about it here.







by Josh Martin @joshuamartjourn

Josh Martin is a freelance writer and the digital producer for ABC’s Insiders in Melbourne. His work has appeared in NME, MTV Australia and Crikey.



yron Bay trio Skegss bottle a surfy nostalgia for their youthful, joyous garage rock that channels 60s hedonism and celebrates individual freedom. Their sound – and attitude – has garnered them a giant Gen Z fan base who are dealing with their own era of dissatisfaction. The group’s breakout single ‘LSD’ compares a lust for life with psychedelics; their album covers are adorned with a surfboard-style sticker logo replete with flames; and they cite beer as much as any musician as their inspiration. Frontman Benny Reed, wearing a 60s print shirt with a mane of sun-bleached hair draping his shoulders, only adds to this impression while chatting over Zoom. He is a self-confessed rambler, his brain often outpacing his laconic speech. But Reed has emerged from 2020 a deeper thinker, articulating a bona fide philosophy for Skegss’ second album Rehearsal – that life itself has no rehearsal. “We’re all goin’ off life based on what other people have already charted,” Reed says. “So that’s kind of what the first verse of [lead single] ‘Valhalla’ is about – let’s pretend we’ve done this all before.” ‘Valhalla’ is a catch‑all for life’s best experiences, as well as the pitfalls of failing to live long enough to enjoy them. The song also refers to a turning point of sorts for Reed, which has seen him “fly under the radar” a bit more. He is reticent to say exactly what the incident was, other than that he got into a little bit of trouble at a show. “I won’t go into the details of it, but we just got confused for somebody else. Because they thought it was me, I got smoked by the authorities.” The cost of joie de vivre is the undercurrent of Rehearsal. Much of that sentiment has an unexpected


26 MAR 2021

Byron Bay garage-rock trio Skegss are aiming higher with their second album, but they haven’t lost their sense of fun.


Surf’s Up

source: Reed’s favourite film, Lucky (2017). It stars a 90-year-old Harry Dean Stanton as an atheist searching for enlightenment while grappling with his mortality. The film’s portrayal of individual happiness drives even Reed’s most specious booze anthems. “[Lucky] is goin’ round sayin’ ‘What realism is for you isn’t what it is for me’,” he explains. “It is a paradox in itself, that word ‘realism’. Because it contradicts itself – you can’t say it as a generalisation. It’s such an individual thing... You create your own reality inside the world anyway, because we all see things so differently.” But fans shouldn’t worry that Skegss have started making high art on Rehearsal – it’s just the band now have a rationale for their free living. ‘Picturesque Moment’ is inspired by Irish drinking songs, with Reed’s entire family belting out the chorus. Skegss formed in 2014, after Reed moved to Byron Bay from the small NSW town of Forster, where music was not a career prospect. “You [couldn’t] really play any gigs down there; there was no music scene,” he said in 2018. They blew up in 2015, when they signed to Ratbag Records, the label of fellow garage punks Dune Rats. They released four EPs with the rickety outfit, as well as their own sludgy-yet-melodic debut album My Own Mess. But Skegss’ savvy pop has outgrown their mentors – Rehearsal is their first release on Loma Vista Recordings, a US label whose roster includes the pop art of St Vincent, the thrilling rap of Denzel Curry and punk icon Iggy Pop. Their new album is the archetypal second album scaleup. The boys were paired with veteran post‑punk‑revival producer Catherine Marks (The Killers, Interpol), who gave a slight polish to their raucous hooks. They demoed the new songs at The Music Farm studio in Byron Bay, and fell in love with the 60s equipment – so much so that Reed ordered all the retro amplifiers and guitars from the studio to travel inland to The Grove Studios in Somersby, where they recorded the album. Reed says the retro gear gave the record a 60s sound. Despite this and the surf rock affectations, he pauses when asked if Skegss make nostalgic music. “It’s pretty easy to say that word,” Reed begins. “I don’t know if it is. Songwriting is quite visual for me. It’d just be too crazy for me to explain it. We could maybe do it if we were having a few beers or something but…I’d sound like a hell-crazy tripper if I started talking about it here.” He is similarly indifferent to the label of surf-rock, a label that has stuck with them since their inception. “All the music I listened to growing up wasn’t surf-rock. I don’t listen to any surf-rock bands now,” he says. Ultimately, Skegss are uninterested in labels not because they think they live outside them but because their process is simple and unfussy. Reed spends his days living near Brunswick Heads with an acoustic guitar, rutting out tune after tune like it’s a working day. It’s the one way in which the band has barely changed.

Film Reviews

Annabel Brady-Brown Film Editor @annnabelbb


ydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales continues its glorious programming with Pop Fictions, a free six-week film series that travels through the decades, tracing the long-abiding love affair between popular music and cinema. The series – guest-curated by two of the country’s finest critics, Anwen Crawford and Luke Goodsell – kicks off 3 April with a rare screening of Peter Watkins’ prescient pop nightmare Privilege (1967), about a manufactured teen idol imprisoned by fame. Velvet Goldmine (1998) opens with Oscar Wilde arriving by UFO, immediately setting the tone of Todd Haynes’s sensationally elastic take on history, identity and stardom. Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as glam-rock star Brian Slade, a fictional David Bowie stand-in, this mischievous glam-rock fantasia is the only Bowie biopic we need. Also unmissable: cult favourites Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982), with a teenage Diane Lane and Laura Dern among the proto-riot grrls taking nobody’s crap, and the original Sparkle (1976), about the rocky rise of a Supremes-styled R&B trio. The series contains pops of pure euphoria – see Mia Hansen-Løve’s tale of a French DJ, Eden (2014), or Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont’s irrepressible industry satire Josie and the Pussycats (2001) – as well as the comedown crashes. The program closes with Gus Van Sant’s haunting Last Days (2005), in which a rock star, affectionately evoking Kurt Cobain, circles the abyss. ABB



This Norwegian documentary on art and friendship takes as its subjects the Czech painter Barbora Kysilkova and Karl-Bertil Nordland, the man who stole two of Kysilkova’s works from a gallery window in 2015. When Kysilkova met Nordland at his trial, she asked if he would pose for her. Director Benjamin Ree arrived shortly thereafter and observed the friendship the two built. The film is, fittingly, a lovingly rendered portrait: with clever perspective switches, Kysilkova and Nordland are each given the chance to put both the theft and their relationship in context. There are moments in which Kysilkova’s near-fetishisation of Nordland’s status as “criminal” can disconcert, and it’s only in a conversation she has in the film’s second half that we see it unpacked. The film’s strength lies in its ability to look beyond the traditional narrative of artist and subject, emphasising its duality: speaking about Kysilkova’s scrutiny, artistic and personal, Nordland says, “She sees me very well, but she forgets that I can see her too.” GREER CLEMENS TOM & JERRY: THE MOVIE




It’s hard not to feel deep sympathy for the stars in live-action/animation hybrid films, hired mostly to react to a green-screened tennis ball that, through the magic of CGI, becomes a farting dog or something. With Chloë Grace Moretz as its human straightwoman, Tom & Jerry is merely the latest piece of necromanced nostalgic IP. The plot is slapstick-simple, each scene of hotel carnage offering nothing more than new props with which Jerry can bonk Tom on the head. For those of us amused by mouse-on-cat violence since 1940, it’s great! To its credit, Tom & Jerry also handsomely maintains the two-dimensional fluidity of the original shorts. But the usual pandering attempts to make 2021 viewers laugh fall flat; Tom should be leaving Tom‑shaped holes in things, not laying down Autotuned T-Pain vocals over a trap beat. It’s enough to inspire a new generation of children to turn to their parents and ask, “Who the hell are Tom and Jerry?” ELIZA JANSSEN


Alexander Nanau’s stomach-churning observational documentary follows a group of reporters at a newspaper (a sports newspaper!) for over a year, as their investigation of a 2015 Bucharest nightclub fire unfurls into a conspiracy that encompasses the whole state. This unglossy, Oscar-nominated film is free of talking heads or voice-over narration. Instead, Nanau’s unshowy camera follows tense conversations that play out in editorial rooms and political offices, broken only by the fleeting, un-gratuitous use of graphic imagery. Collective compels viewers’ attention through the sheer horror of the widespread disregard for human life that is uncovered – the dirty work of mobsters and medical staff in Romanian hospitals, right up through to the government – as the journalists’ discoveries lead to even more shocking revelations. It’s a heartbreaking dual portrait of a nation stinking of corruption, and of the exhausting heroism of journalists, political idealists and whistleblowers who refuse to give in, or be paid off. ANNABEL BRADY-BROWN

Small Screen Reviews

Aimee Knight Small Screens Editor @siraimeeknight




 | DISNEY+

 | PS4, PS5, WINDOWS

Jaw-dropping in its intricacy, this CGI adventure showcases how far animation has come in the last decade. Set in a fantasyland inspired by Southeast Asian cultures, each frame sings with texture. Gold embroidery shines from sabai shawls; river water drips from a dragon’s drenched mane. Scallions, palm sugar and bamboo shoots sizzle in soups, looking so real you can almost feel the steam. The script, meanwhile, cannot match this visual splendour. Much of Raya retreads ground from previous Disney Fetch quests, particularly 2016’s Moana. Character designs, especially that of the mythic dragon Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina, The Farewell), can be distractingly derivative, weakening the gravitas of pivotal scenes. Despite these tired beats, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran, The Last Jedi) brings a freshness to the princess pantheon: unlike the naive ingenues before her, she is driven by grief, failure and a tremendous sense of distrust. Bolstered by Tran’s vulnerable performance, Raya’s imperfect attempts to heal her pain, and her land, are a guaranteed tearjerker. CLAIRE CAO

Maquette is a game about relationships: the moments that make them and the moments that break them. Maquette, too, is made in its moments, and thanks to gorgeous visuals and an excellent soundtrack, there are many that feel perfectly crafted – but, unfortunately, just as many simply don’t land. Using twisting scale and perception to its advantage, Maquette provides an experience that is contemplative and introspective. As a puzzle game, though, it sometimes lets itself down. The puzzles often veer between easy and perplexing, or simply feel out of place with the story being told. Where Maquette shines is in its visuals and music, which it wields boldly. The soundtrack is fully sourced from San Franciscan musicians, and effortlessly switches between soft nostalgic tracks from the 60s and obscure indie-rock numbers, each perfectly suiting the moment for which it was chosen. While Maquette treads some well-travelled ground in terms of its narrative and puzzles, there is still something here to make it worth the time you’ll spend with it. CAITLIN CRONIN


rom the folks who brought you laptops and smartphones comes a streaming series about phone calls – one that looks like a screensaver, sounds like a podcast, and seems designed to play as background chatter while the viewer casually flits between the three most addictive apps on their hand-computer. Perhaps this is a wilfully cynical way to look at the Apple TV+ Original Calls, a surreal and cerebral new mystery about quantum physics and the apocalypse. Nonetheless, it is a head-scratching specimen of technothriller aesthetics and, if not vertical, then elliptical integration in the ever‑expanding small screens sphere. Based on the French series of the same name, Calls (2021) features nine short audio stories, each depicting a life-changing phone conversation that accelerates an imminent Armageddon. With voice performances from the likes of Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian), Judy Greer (Archer) and Clancy Brown (SpongeBob SquarePants), the two- and three-hander scenes make for tense little cautionary tales on truth, jealousy, cowardice and consequence. Think: sonic Creepypasta, or Black Mirror by the Brothers Grimm. These conversations are visualised on screen by sound waves that quiver, glitch and ripple, while their movement, colour and shape intimate the speaker’s emotional state on an intuitive level. Like a Rorschach test made inside the internet, Calls outsources the task of visual storytelling to the mind’s eye. If nothing else, it’s an intriguing exercise in the power of suggestion. AK

26 MAR 2021




In the misty mountains of Tasmania’s West Coast, Jas (Tegan Stimson) has decided to do her Year 10 inquiry project on her father’s murder. Then there’s her fragile young teacher Ruby (Mabel Li), equally arrested by anxiety from her last traumatising job. Handsome new web series The Tailings brings together both women over the course of what is basically one hour of drama, told in six 10-minute episodes and written by Tassie schoolteacher Caitlin Richardson. We’re blessed with a solid cliffhanger in each of the six short instalments, as the small town’s collective skeletons come a-clanking out of the closet. Stimson, in particular, is great in her screen debut as the abrasive teenage amateur sleuth, defending/slagging off her late dad (“You can say it,” she interrogates. “He was a shit bloke”). But those expecting any shocking, soap opera plot twists should settle down. The Tailings is not that kind of show. It’s about Jas and Ruby’s enduring grief, rather than the morbid glamour of death itself, and the viewer is left feeling the bruise that lingers.

Music Reviews


Isabella Trimboli Music Editor

he mythology of Medusa is contested, but there is one interpretation on which most historians agree. The figure – often depicted with a tangle of venom‑filled snakes as hair – is a force of danger and rage that can ward off evil, and whose glance is enough to turn adversaries into stone. It makes sense then that Medusa is the dominant symbol of TROPIXX, Jesswar’s exhilarating and boisterous debut EP. The Brisbane-based, Fijian rapper bares her teeth for cutting, bravado-fuelled tracks about the power and resilience of her Pasifika community, the refusal to cower in the face of “bullymen” and the importance of getting your due. “Still waiting for the credit!” she raps on ‘Venom’. Jesswar emerged four years ago with the tauntingly brilliant single ‘Savage’ – the perfect introduction to the rapper’s brazen lyrics, East Coast rap-indebted instrumentation, and her focus on elevating and collaborating with queer people of colour. The EP came out of a rough period where she felt undermined and ignored. “Writing this project was a complete retaliation to that treatment. I feel like through that anger and rage, I found a calmness,” she told MTV. This voluble vengeance is best illustrated on the single ‘Medusa’, which is bound to enter the pantheon of excellent rap songs about demanding prosperity and getting what’s yours. But it’s also about the collective resistance and power of community. As she’s said, “I made something that was for myself and the phenomenal Black, Brown and Indigenous women in my life. They constantly teach me to stand tall and be as loud as I want and I look up to them.” IT






The Sydney trio’s second album is alight with the same intoxicating energy that saw them win the J Award for Australian Album of the Year in 2018. Reminiscent of the crushing vulnerability of indie heroes like Rilo Kiley and Death Cab for Cutie, Today We’re the Greatest sees the group deliver diary-level rawness, with songs that exhume secrets and probe deep insecurities. But despite following in its predecessor’s footsteps, Today We’re the Greatest manages to sound vital through its sheer conviction. First single ‘Questions’ encapsulates this, with singer Hannah Joy exploring addiction, truth and co-dependency over tetchy percussion, before a triumphant horn section subsumes the track. Elsewhere, ‘Bad Neighbours’ could easily soundtrack the road‑trip montage in a coming-of-age film, whereas ‘Lost in Los Angeles’ puts its hand up as an early contender for best Australian song of the year. Middle Kids pull off a rare feat: accomplished, emotive pop songs that challenge our understanding of the human condition. CHRISTOPHER LEWIS





On his second record, serpentwithfeet (Josiah Wise) revels in romance, zeroing in on intimate moments with an austere R&B backing. In what has become a hallmark of his work, Wise chronicles sexuality unashamedly, from delving into the heady moments of a first date on ‘Amir’, all the way to celebrating a one-year anniversary on ‘Sailors’ Superstition’. Wise shies away from heartbreak, instead celebrating the importance of finding love, particularly as a queer Black man. But this buoyancy is only present in the lyrics, with the production so bare that it can be hard to distinguish from track to track. Though the delicate layering of sounds creates a steady pace for the album’s sequencing, it lacks a clear direction and feels superfluous at times. Final track ‘Fellowship’, co-produced by contemporaries Sampha and Lil Silva, is an exciting change of pace, but comes too late on the album. DEACON is something of a paradoxical album – though the lyrics shine bright, the instrumentation, for the most part, misses the mark. HOLLY PEREIRA

This debut album from Danish group Smerz explores the unrelenting repetition of dance music through sparse Baroque symphonies. With jittering orchestration reminiscent of Arca, Smerz play with classical sounds melted across off-kilter rhythms and occasional jagged beats. Beyond simply mixing genres, the duo explore the in-between: it sounds like dance music but is rarely danceable; it resembles classical music but is too chopped up and debauched for a concert hall. You can sense the connection between Catharina Stoltenberg and Henriette Motzfeldt, old friends who blur their voices into one hazy, rap-like flow, which would sound sexy if not for its lethargic alienness. ‘Flashing’ showcases pop vocals over a lone 90s trance synth, devoid of drums; ‘The Favourite’ is a brief moment of digitised opera; and ‘Rap Interlude’ pairs Smerz’s lackadaisical flow with humming voices. The complexities of Believer refuse the possibility of background listening, and reward multiple deep listenings to truly unfurl. ANGUS MCGRATH

Book Reviews

Thuy On Books Editor @thuy_on





“If it doesn’t kill you, it’s one hell of a way to make a living!” So writes Tana Douglas, ostensibly the world’s first female roadie, setting the tone for her memoir Loud, which details three decades on the rock’n’roll circuit. Queensland-born Douglas was just 16 when she landed her first touring gig with AC/DC, quickly graduating from hauling amps to calling the shots for the likes of Status Quo, The Who, Iggy Pop and Santana. It’s hard to imagine a young girl holding her own in such an environment, but Douglas’ innate grit, unrelenting work ethic and taste for adventure see her rise to the top in an environment fuelled by testosterone. At times, she laments the blatant double standards, but there’s little bitterness. The bigger story in Loud (apart from the glorious behind-the-scenes anecdotes) is a nod to an industry that gave her a sense of family and worth, despite considerable personal sacrifice. Loud is a frank and funny memoir from a true trailblazer. EMMA SLEATH

In this searing memoir, Yumiko Kadota calls herself a “recovering doctor”, and indeed there is a lot of trauma in this book. Kadota is a Sydneybased junior medic grappling with insidious misogyny, racism, bullying and punishing work schedules on her way to realising her dream of becoming a surgeon. It’s an upsetting but compelling tale of how an ambitious young woman with a fierce work ethic (her motto was “knife before life”) became increasingly broken and cynical by training and working within Australian public hospitals, a system that, ironically, was inimical to mental health. The title refers to Kadota’s desire to reclaim the word “emotional”. As she says, sometimes it’s not just about saving lives or curing conditions: “Sometimes it’s just about human connection – what we say and how we treat patients and their families can and does make a difference to their experience of illness.” THUY ON


Mirroring a class he’s taught for decades, Booker Prize-winner George Saunders unpacks seven stories by Russian masters Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol as an intimate (and quirky) guide to writing fiction. He clearly adores these “fastidiously constructed scale models of the world” – sharing the full pieces before going back over each in great detail. Saunders also recounts his own experience of toiling away with Hemingway-style fiction before making a stylistic breakthrough by setting his first “Saunders-esque” story in a failing theme park. His selections here are enjoyable, if a bit slow. While it’s a rare treat to see a brilliant writer pull back the curtain on the form’s inner workings, this might not appeal to casual readers. Alternating between stories and insights, it can feel more like a podcast or running movie commentary than a book of essays. That’s because it’s designed to be functional, though Saunders admits there are no hard and fast rules: “The big questions have to be answered by hours at the desk.” DOUG WALLEN



26 MAR 2021

love autumn; I mean, who doesn’t? I always think of Keats’ ode to this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. It’s a time for light jumpers, leaves a-dropping in glorious colour and cool weather that’s conducive to more reading indoors. As usual there are a ridiculous number of books recently released that pique interest. Here are a few on my list: the new YA novel from Nova Weetman called The Edge of Thirteen, about teetering on the edge of “who you are and who you want to be”. Alas that’s a problem not just restricted to teenagers. I think there are plenty of us caught between desire and reality. Another on the to-read pile has a rather winsome title, The Emporium of Imagination, by Tabitha Bird. It’s magical realism about a shop “that travels the world offering vintage gifts to repair broken dreams and extraordinary phones to contact lost loved ones”. This sounds like pure transportative escapism. Another YA title, Waking Romeo by Kathryn Barker, also sounds interesting. It’s a reimagining of Shakespeare’s play in the year 2083 and set in London. The Bard with time-travel elements? Colour me intrigued. TO

Public Service Announcement

by Lorin Clarke @lorinimus

My philosophy on Saturday morning: ignore it. Ignore the phone. Ignore the noises in the house. Ignore the Things That Must Be Done. Ignore the compulsion to get dressed. Ignore the outside world. Ignore it all. Ignore media. Ignore the tidying. Instead…lay about. Stare into the middle distance. Remember some stuff. Imagine some other stuff. Everything else? Ignore it. Contrast that to the me who goes for a jog. That me is listening to loud pop music and running like the wind. My philosophy for that hour: Go! Just go! Maybe you’re in a movie? Maybe you’re escaping something? Maybe you’re full of beans and keen as mustard and go! Just go! I do have some central philosophies that do not change, or change much. Among those philosophies is a reverence for the moment when the show is about to start and the lights go down and the audience has to settle. That moment, to me, is one of the best moments of any theatre show. How is this a philosophy? The philosophy is as follows: art is delicious. People making things that tickle other people’s imaginations, that make them sad or scared or cross or breathless with laughter, that is just a complete delight. Especially when it works. When it works, the moment after the curtain falls and before the applause is one of the other best moments of the night. There’s a Dr Seuss book for kids in which someone walks through the day with a big grin on their face and arms spread wide and the text says GREAT DAY FOR UP! Sometimes, usually after a good sleep and when the weather is just about perfect, my philosophy is GREAT DAY FOR UP!

Some days my philosophy is: this page will turn. We’re in a stupid chapter at the moment. This is the chapter when the laundry leaks on the downstairs neighbours and the car breaks down and you have to go to bed with a cold for three days and you say the wrong thing to the wrong people and the house is a mess and THIS PAGE WILL TURN. Maybe tonight. Maybe at the end of this week. It might even make the next chapter brilliant by comparison. Maybe right now you’re in a devastating chapter. Devastating chapters are all description. Just paragraphs of awfulness. Occasional jarring dialogue. No pictures. No good bits. You don’t even read it properly. You’re just scanning it and turning pages and hoping you’ll get to the next bit everybody keeps talking about where things get better. THIS PAGE WILL TURN. Sometimes my philosophy is: screw philosophies. Life is a meaningless collection of floating cells understood as a temporal narrative by humans struggling for meaning THEREFORE nothing means anything which is QUITE LIBERATING because that means BILLS ARE MEANINGLESS and SUCCESS is an invention and ICE CREAM IS DELICIOUS BECAUSE FACTS ARE JUST FACTS. Deploy your own narrative. Spread yourself through time and space whatever it may be, however you like. But don’t be a jerk about it. The meaninglessness of the universe does not entitle you to jerkdom. A good philosophy is that reading a nice book is a privilege beyond belief. That people can read marks on a page made by another person WHO MAY EVEN HAVE DIED CENTURIES AGO and be transported into a shared imaginary space with that person and ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAVE READ THOSE MARKS is the stuff of science fiction. Science fiction is a type of book. See what I did there. I have more philosophies than this before breakfast. Public Service Announcement: it doesn’t have to be consistent. Not every day is a great day for up. Sometimes you just have to turn the page.

Lorin Clarke is a Melbourne-based writer. The second season of her radio series, The Fitzroy Diaries, is on ABC Radio National and the ABC Listen app now.



as anyone ever asked you something like, “What’s your life philosophy?” I realise having a philosophy does not, in the above kind of framing, mean “Are you a utilitarian or an existentialist?” It tends to mean “What is your approach to life?” or “What are your key beliefs?” For me, the answer differs according to so many wildly oscillating factors that I may as well be a thousand different people across the period of a week. Much like “What’s your five-year plan?” I feel like the question seeks to trap me into narrowing the possibilities that lie ahead of me. Public Service Announcement: play your philosophy by ear.

26 MAR 2021

Breakfast Philosopher


Tastes Like Home edited by Anastasia Safioleas



Tastes Like Home Pietro Demaio


Purè e Concentrato di Pomodoro

10kg tomatoes

10 x 750ml glass bottles Large stock pot Tea towel

Method Make sure that the tomatoes you are going to preserve are the best you can get – ideally, genuine vine-ripened Roma tomatoes from your own garden or that of a friend. I am sure everyone has a compare who grows them! Modern, chemically ripened supermarket tomatoes are low in sugar and high in acid. This increases their shelf life but doesn’t give you the sweet flavour of a sun‑ripened tomato. Check your tomatoes for ripeness by cutting them open. Even if they’re red on the outside, they may be greenish or pale on the inside – a sign of chemically ripened tomatoes, which are no good for this recipe. A kilo of tomatoes will give you a 750ml jar of passata, so make as few or as many jars as you like. There are a few ways you can make passata. My preferred method is the easiest way! I bottle the tomatoes without cooking or using a machine. This allows me to keep all of the tomato and juice. It also means that all I need are the tomatoes, bottles or jars with lids and the boiling pot – no special equipment and only one process. I use clean, wide-mouthed bottles, such as juice bottles, or large pickle jars. If you want to make sauce the traditional way – 100 bottles at a time – then use crown-seal bottles. Halve or quarter the tomatoes and place them in the bottles or jars. You can add basil or chilli, if you like – although some feel adding basil at this stage makes it bitter. Up to you! Roughly crush the tomatoes with the handle of a wooden spoon until the containers are filled to about 2cm below the rim (don’t overfill as the jars will explode during the sterilisation process), then wipe the rims and seal. Place a clean towel in the bottom of a large stockpot and place the bottles or jars on top. This stops them from rattling and breaking. Fill the stockpot with water to approximately 2cm beneath the rim of the lids. Slowly bring the water to boiling point over a 40-minute period. This is very important, as you want the centre of the bottle or jar to be the same temperature as the outside. Once you reach boiling point after 40 minutes, turn the heat down and simmer for at least 40 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the bottles or jars cool in the stockpot overnight. Once cooled, you’ll often have 4-5cm of clear liquid at the top of the bottles or jars. Do not throw this away – it is pure tomato juice and full of flavour. Check that the centres of the lids are firm and drawn inwards. If any lids have popped out, it means that container has not sealed, so you will need to use the produce immediately or repeat the above process using a different lid. Obviously, the sauce will contain tomato seeds and skins. If you prefer a smooth sauce, pass it through a food mill or simply blitz it in a food processor. Store the sealed bottles in a cool, dark place for up to three years. When using it for pasta, cook the pasta in the sauce for the last 2-3 minutes so that it soaks up any excess liquid.

Pietro says…


n Italy, everything involving food was, and often still is, an excuse for a festa. There is always lots of preparation, often several days’ work and plenty of opportunity to taste the fruits of your labour – whether it is the preserving of tonno, making cheese and ricotta, or salamis, or grappa – with a multitude of helpers and friends. Making sauces, particularly pomodoro, is no exception. Making tomato sauce or passata is an essential part of the year in an Italian household. Tomatoes form the basis for many, many meals, and most Italians have no concept of restraint, so will plant far more than the average household needs. Each year my father would buy 20 boxes of red juicy tomatoes from our relatives in the country – and so the annual tomato day would begin. The whole family would be on hand: Dad directing, Mum cleaning bottles, the children passing the tomatoes through the passata machine and then placing the sauce in the old crown-seal beer bottles. The next lot would put on the crown seals and then place them in a large cauldron for boiling, supervised by Dad. After two hours boiling, the fire would be extinguished and, once cool, the cauldron was stored for the year. At the end of the day Mum would make the most fantastic plate of homemade pasta with sugo. We actually still have our sauce day, except now I am the eldest with my sons, partners and granddaughters helping. Such a special time! PRESERVING THE ITALIAN WAY BY PIETRO DEMAIO IS OUT NOW.

26 MAR 2021






By Lingo! by Lauren Gawne GOOD

CLUES 5 letters Dance party Loose change Reckon Saturate Strait 6 letters Become aware Become extinct (2 words) Family relation Film factory Small unit of time 7 letters Cable trunking Go for a meal (2 words) Part Pulling‑in power Wearisome 8 letters Ignore








Each column, row and 3 x 3 box must contain all numbers 1 to 9.

3 4 6 1 4 8 5 6 2 7 3 1 3 8 4 5 3 7 9

6 7 8 3 9 5 4 7 8 Puzzle by

Solutions CROSSWORD PAGE 45 ACROSS 1 Achieve 5 Mercury 9 Cut in half

10 Medic 11 Polecat 12 Outtrot 13 Plug 14 Schoolroom 16 Bartending 19 Glen 21 Igniter 22 Combust 24 Abide 25 Cremation 26 Sleuths 27 Rotunda

DOWN 1 Arc up 2 Hotel quarantine 3 Eunuch 4 Elastic 5 Mafioso 6 Remotely 7 Under no illusion 8 Yachtsman 13 Publicans 15 Sentient 17 Directs 18 Nuclear 20 Impact 23 Tonga

20 QUESTIONS PAGE 9 1 By the Sea 2 Approximately 17,300 years 3 Naomi Osaka 4 c) Poetry 5 Mushroom Records 6 22 March 7 Celeste Barber 8 Rice and fish/seafood 9 Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) in The King’s Speech ; Princess Margaret in The Crown ; Anne Boleyn in Henry VIII 10 New South Wales 11 b) Ethiopia 12 The Weeknd 13 True 14 LV 15 They’re all left-handed 16 The ManhattAnt 17 Christopher Wren 18 Taiwan 19 Bingo 20 Brisbane

26 MAR 2021

Using all nine letters provided, can you answer these clues? Every answer must include the central letter. Plus, which word uses all nine letters?



Word Builder

Good has been in English for so long that it has travelled interesting paths beyond the general sense of something positive and well-liked. For example, a good thing became a gift or a benefit, which then became property that we sold as goods by the late 13th century, and came to be associated with theft (“stolen goods”) by the 20th century. The phrase Good Friday was first recorded in English in 1290. This most sombre day in the Christian calendar takes its name from a specific religious sense of good meaning “pious” and “holy”. Alternative names that have never really taken off include “Black Friday”, “Holy Friday” and “Long Friday”, now historical, but used up to the 13th century.

by Steve Knight

Quick Clues














14 15






1 Get angry (3,2) 2 Form of enforced isolation during

20 21



pandemic (5,10)





Cryptic Clues DOWN

1 Get pain that’s very piercing (7) 5 Copper interrupts festive element (7) 9 Split pants if at lunch (3,2,4) 10 For being funny, company sacked health worker (5) 11 Ferret around for lace top (7) 12 Tutor to jockeys: “How to win harness race” (7) 13 Seal to swallow turnover (4) 14 Classes here tackling HSC – John returns jumper to

1 See red stocking in underwear cupboard (3,2) 2 No stopping another tequila bender here in

Mike (10)

Men (7)

24 Live offer impedes acceptance from both sides (5) 25 Using 21ac to make body 22ac turns into cream (9) 26 Criminal hustles detectives (7) 27 Catch more Chubby on Bandstand (7)

3 Harem slave (6) 4 Flexible (7) 5 Gangster (7) 6 From a distance (8) 7 Fully aware (5,2,8) 8 Sailor (9) 13 Hotel owner (9) 15 Capable of feeling (8) 17 Controls (7) 18 Relating to atomic energy (7) 20 Collision (6) 23 Island nation (5)



16 Simpson boy to finish working for 13dn (10) 19 Dale Kerrigan’s last after breaking leg (4) 21 Design it ergonomically, in part to make lighter (7) 22 Burn bra, content to follow leaders of Conquest Over


1 Accomplish (7) 5 Chemical element (7) 9 Bisect (3,2,4) 10 Health worker (5) 11 Ferret-like mammal (7) 12 Excel in the act of harness racing (7) 13 Stopper (4) 14 Learning venue (10) 16 Form of hospitality work (10) 19 Valley (4) 21 Used to start a fire (7) 22 Burn (7) 24 Live (5) 25 Form of funeral (9) 26 Detectives (7) 27 Dome covered building or room (7)

lockdown (5,10) 3 A harem slave? Sounds like you, Rob (6) 4 Flexy carbon computer sale in promotion (7) 5 Gangster from Sofia ordered second gathering (7) 6 From isolation, ready to release ad for motel (8) 7 Enlightened US rolled in moves to divide union (5,2,8) 8 He has many chats at sea! (9) 13 They manage to keep fifty-one cans under the bar (9) 15 Maiden left feeling capable of feeling (8) 17 Orders urgent CT scan up front (7) 18 Atomic Kitten’s ending a cruel twist (7) 20 Contact single politician where she works? (6) 23 Cotton garments encapsulating Pacific nation (5)


5 3 2 1 7 4 6 9 8

7 1 9 6 8 2 4 5 3

8 4 6 5 3 9 1 2 7

1 8 4 3 2 5 7 6 9

9 2 7 8 4 6 3 1 5

3 6 5 9 1 7 8 4 2

4 9 8 2 6 3 5 7 1

6 5 3 7 9 1 2 8 4

2 7 1 4 5 8 9 3 6

Puzzle by

WORD BUILDER PAGE 43 5 Disco Coins Count Douse Sound 6 Notice Die out Cousin Studio Second 7 Conduit Dine out Section Suction Tedious 8 Discount 9 Seduction

26 MAR 2021




Click 1967

Mirka Mora and family

words by Michael Epis




hen Mirka Mora arrived in Australia in 1951 her English consisted of two phrases: “The sky is blue” and “The fountain is in the garden.” She was lucky to get here: a train ride nine years earlier had almost ended her life. In July 1942 she, her two younger sisters and their mother, along with 13,000 other Jews, were rounded up in Paris, held in a sports stadium, then put on cattle trains to Pithiviers, whence they would be taken to Auschwitz and be murdered en masse. Mirka was saved by her mother’s wit. Having packed a pencil, paper and envelope, she had her daughter peer through the slats of the cattle wagon and call the station names. She noted the names on the paper, put it in the envelope then dropped it through a crack in the floor. It was addressed to her husband. A good Samaritan found the envelope and delivered it. Safe seemingly because of his position in a factory making gloves for German soldiers, he went to Pithiviers and retrieved his wife and daughters. And didn’t Mirka make a difference to Melbourne. She was a painter, soon ensconced in a coveted studio at 9 Collins Street, opening Mirka’s Cafe on Exhibition

Street, bringing a much-needed touch of French flair to post-war Melbourne. Later she and her husband Georges ran Balzac Restaurant in East Melbourne, before moving on to Tolarno in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, where her murals still adorn the walls (even if the venue is currently shuttered). Mirka, with her ravishing looks and flamboyant nature, was adopted as Melbourne’s quintessential bohemian – never mind her sons Philippe, William and Tiriel (on ladder) and husband Georges, pictured at Tolarno. It’s fitting though – she had elected Melbourne only because she had read Scènes de la Vie de Bohème (on which the opera is based), in which a character goes to Melbourne to make his fortune. That character was in real life Antoine Fauchery, a photographer who did indeed come to Melbourne in the 1850s. Mirka painted throughout, wild colourful creations that collapse the distinction between human and divine, male and female, child and adult. Her equally colourful dresses and character perhaps during her life outshone her work, some of which is on display at Melbourne’s Jewish Museum of Australia until 19 December.


17 APR 2020

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