Welcome to our 4th Bunch of Fives newsletter full of all the useful and sometimes useless information about the stuff we like. We are so thrilled you are reading this, let alone opening the email! If you know someone who would like to be in on the action, please forward this to them and tell them all the cool kids are subscribing to it, don't you know.
From My Bookshelf:
Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock
I fell in love with these books back in the mid 90s after a recommendation from an art school friend (thanks Scott Otto). The stories are told in a trilogy of books that are Griffin & Sabine, Sabine’s Notebook and The Golden Mean. Griffin is a lonely and unhappy artist living in London who makes postcards for a living when he receives a cryptic postcard from Sabine. She lives on a fictional island in the South Pacific where she illustrates postage stamps. As their connection and passion grows with their correspondence, so does Griffins fear that Sabine is a figment of his imagination borne out of loneliness. All the postcards are lavishly illustrated and can be physically taken out of the book and their envelopes. My kids are forever removing them which annoys me no end but shows how enjoyable these tactile books are. Magical, otherworldly, artistic and exquisite, if you can get your hands on these you will love what a good art book does for your sense of wonder...something unachievable and impossible on a smartphone or tablet!
The last novel I read was Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and it was simply remarkable. I was happy to shut myself away in the sub zero temperatures of my bedroom throughout winter because I needed to give it every ounce of attention it deserved. There was no time for getting side tracked by my kids’ fifth combined toilet run, FB, Insta land or some TV advertisement because, if I am being honest, it really doesn’t take much to distract me these days. It tells the story of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by memories of a love affair with his uncle's wife and of his subsequent experiences as a prisoner of war in a Japanese labour camp and his life post-war. The prisoners suffering and the conditions in which they were held captive were so intensely detailed it was suffocating at times, I felt weighed down with the futility of their horrific ordeal. (I know, poor me right?) Knowing that it was based on Flanagan’s own father’s experience as a POW and slave to the building of the Burma-Thailand railway made it even harder to process. There were tears. Lots of them. There are moments of intense cruelty, brutality, despair and senseless loss as well as kindness, forgiveness and a burning love story in the most extraordinary of circumstances. It’s authentic and I think it is an important read. It still resonates months after I read the last page and I'm busting to hear Richard Fidler’s Conversation Hour with Flanagan as they discuss his inspiration for the novel in depth. Something inside tells me I'm probably going to need the tissues nearby for that as well. You can read a lovely article where he discusses winning the Man Booker prize and the death of his father here Richard Flanagan wins literary award
Now I’m not sure how ‘old’ something has to be before it can be considered ‘old timey’ but who doesn’t love an old map? Back when I was teaching secondary art I came across these maps when the art room was getting a clean out. Apparently being out of date rendered them useless for the primary department and the geography room, so they were bundled up by the previous art teacher to be used as canvasses for the students to paint on...quelle horreur! When I asked about them, I was told to ‘take them to the tip’. I said sure...my house is kind of a tip so lucky for me, they now grace my kids bedroom walls. These are not easy to find anymore and if you do, they cost a pretty penny, so I consider them one of my greatest scores to date.
I am overly sentimental, maybe because I grew up in a household that wasn’t greatly and I think as a result I have become the keeper of significant family relics, archives, books and what few photo’s I can get my hands on. As a result, I have kept a lot of stuff from my grandfather’s time on this earth; tools, hats, jumpers, letters (he had the most exquisite handwriting). There is an old tarnished trophy that sits atop an old meat safe in my kitchen that belonged to my grandad, Victor. Back in the days where you only won a trophy and basked in all the back slapping glory at the pub for growing a good crop, not an all-expense paid trip to some far off land to see how they do things in their neck of the woods. I can only imagine the pride grandad must have felt being handed the award for the Bribbaree P.A.H. & I Assoc. Crop Comp in 1953. Men truly worked physically hard back then; with limited technology to assist in growing crops it was hands on, back breaking labour and the harvest season took so much longer than it does today. I'm not sure if it ever had pride of place anywhere in his home but I proudly display it in his honour. I love the form of it; that’s how a trophy should look, not some androgynous looking child with legs akimbo doing something or other with a ball or some such. And I kinda like the patina it has developed over the years too, decoratively speaking.
I love having a space to bang on about my favourite creatives and artists and this one was the most delightful discovery for me. I found Emma Lipscombe’s art in an interiors mag and set about stalking her on Instagram and then eventually emailed her to say I had to have her work in my house (plus my 40th birthday was coming up and I was after something special). She was so lovely and accommodating and just popped the painting in the mail from Western Australia - just like that. Emma is actually a landscape architect and she creates incredible geometric compositions by laser cutting perfect shapes, painting each tiny piece with her fingers, then reassembling them in the most heavenly colour combinations. I love the sense of order that creates a beautiful rhythm across the surface (something I often gravitate towards because it is so lacking in my house and garden). You can find her work at www.emmalipscombe.com or her instagram @emmalipscombe.
The Real Thing (podcast)
Best mates Tim Nicastri and Mike Williams road trip around Australia discovering characters, scenes and stories that make our country distinct. In their own words their podcast is “a celebration of unique Australian characters and the search for the real Australia- whatever that is”. Think Hamish and Andy without the budget, profanity filters or stylish hairdos. Actually, when I put it that way, just don’t compare them to each other at all. These guys have interviewed some interesting characters and covered some very Aussie subject matter. A few favourites have got to be episode #10 Freedom is a Goat about the adventures of a goat called Gary and his best mate and comedian, Jimbo. Gary has almost 2 million followers on Facebook and I think the YouTube hits are pretty astronomical too. Jimbo has uploaded innumerable videos of Gary just doing everyday goat stuff really; Gary running, Gary eating grass, Gary cruising amongst the tables at Jimbo’s comedy gigs and, evidently, people went nuts for the odd couple. Jimbo, uses some extremely colourful language and I don’t really suggest you go looking for the videos unless you're not easily offended by vulgarity, but this was a humorous episode of how their friendship and fame blossomed. Episode #11 Rage till you Puke delves into the history of the brilliant music program ‘Rage’. I grew up with Rage and I remember putting in all nighter’s as a teenager watching old classics and the newest hits in my brother’s room, barely able to keep my eyes open, willing them to watch just… one… more…that, btw, is the whole aim of the producers game. Or episode #14 Lizzy, Queen of Costumes that documents the life of Lizzy Gardiner, who won an Oscar for costume design for the film Pricilla: Queen of the Desert. Who knew she came from a very liberal family from Dubbo, got shipped off to PNG to live for a year with a long lost (i.e. unknown) relative and then on to a boarding school in Sydney- an experience she found truly awful? Well, I do. Now. So if any of you are about to embark on any long holiday drives to the coast or great Aunt Betsy’s place in the middle of Woop Woop, download a couple of these for company. But you better chuck your old school headphones in or your stylish no strings Beats by Dre earphones on though (and, no, I'm not being sponsored…unfortunately) cause some of the conversations aren’t really for the kiddlywinks’ ears. You can download the ABC Listen app and subscribe to the podcast or pop by the ABC RN website to find eps there.
Dvorak: Symphony No.9 in E Minor “From The New World” Op.95 Second movement, Largo.
I promise you that I am the furthest thing from a highbrow lady although I would forgive you for thinking “well lah-de-dah” if you walked into my studio last year and heard my morning indulgence of tuning in to Martin Buzacott on ABC Classic FM (I have a thing for his slightly condescending tone...I dont know why but he just sounds so bloody smart and knowledgeable). Back in 2009, Classic FMs Classic 100 Countdown (like the Hottest 100 but for classical music) for symphonies voted this symphony in at number 1. Dvorak wrote it in 1893 during his stay in America. A recording was even taken to the moon by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It is hugely popular and I can see why. It is a piece that I sat down and really listened to carefully sometime during the drought that nearly broke us in about 2007. I remember playing it over and over, looking out at the dust blowing around, and feeling a sense of melancholy, nostalgia and finally hope as the symphony reaches its glorious major key finale. There are 4 movements so make sure you look for the second one, Largo. (If you give the other ones a listen you might hear hints of John Williams scores for Star Wars and Jaws as a lot of people have mentioned.)
I’ve been trying to relax and look on the lighter, brighter side of life lately so I am always on the lookout for something that can bring a smile to my face or an uncontrollable full body-wobbling giggle. Enter Celeste Barber. Actor. Comedian. Writer. Lady. I cannot get enough of her. Each day she posts a photo or a short video of someone famous doing something normal or inane -usually it’s posing in the latter- and parodies it with her own ‘artistic’ interpretation. The results are hilarious. She’s the mother to four children living in suburbia, the self-proclaimed “queen of low budget lifestyle aspirations”- she’s just real. She also has a You tube channel called #Challenge Accepted where “she does what famous people tell her to do, by watching their tutorials, then she shows us how much better our lives would be when we live like a famous person”. Please watch her making Miranda Kerr’s Morning Smoothie and I challenge you not to choke on your morning instant coffee. She is honest in a medium that allows us to be anyone or anything we want other than whom or what we are in reality through filters, photo shopping (not sure if that’s still a thing, is it?) and technological wizardry and I think it’s really refreshing. @celestebarber or #challengeaccepted
Here is where I am passing on the hot tip from my cousin in Mudgee who loves a good Ebay antique or retro find but like me, couldn’t bid on any of the good larger pieces of furniture because we live in the sticks and freight is expensive! So fret not my rural friends...welcome to TruckIt . If you want something delivered you just enter the details and truck drivers, even some person with a ute heading your way will quote you for delivery anywhere! Got a bed or couch to hand on to a kid/nephew/mate in the big smoke? Found that amazing Parker lounge suite for a steal on buy swap sell but can't get to Lismore? Old mate will pick it up and drop it off. Sorted. Check it out at http://www.truckit.net
The summer school holiday period always brings out a couple of cracking kids movies to keep the little ones entertained, and their parents sane for a couple of hours when the walls start to close in on them. It is also- according to Facebook- an excuse to eat junk food like an animal in the dark so I try to fully adhere to that ‘gospel rule’ of the cinematic experience every time. Anyhoo, Sarah and I took our girls to Young’s Southern Cross Cinema to see the newest Disney & Pixar production, ‘Coco’, and it did not disappoint. Based on the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead the film follows Miguel, a 12 year old boy with a talent and love for music. Through an act of desperation he finds himself in the land of the dead on a journey to uncover the truth behind his family’s history and the generational ban they have placed on music in their lives. It is vibrant with colour and loud with wonderful mariachi/flamenco music and although it is essentially about death it is so full of life. It is a glorious tribute to Mexican culture and a great film for children who are old enough to comprehend and process the subject of death. Can I also just say/ask, how good are animators getting at their craft? It is visually stunning. It was a little too long for my four year old to sit through at 109 minutes but our older girls (Miss 5 & 6) sat glued to the screen for the duration.
OK, it’s a Pixar movie so you WILL at some point be trying to ‘discreetly’ wipe a steady stream of tears from your face, whilst your children loudly draw attention to your emotional reaction to the films ‘message’ for all and sundry to see and hear. It didn’t happen to me this time around, but it will happen if you're not expecting it. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.
To watch the official trailer
Just an update for those who were following my ‘what the hell bird is that?!’ adventure. Apparently it’s just a Butcher bird. Disappointing, huh?