“I CAME THROUGH AND I SHALL RETURN”

Sometimes inspiration flags, sometimes life gets in the way of writing. Blogs go into a state of suspended animation. 

Here are a dozen opening lines to be avoided when returning after a hiatus.

I’ve been away.

No-one noticed.

Did you miss me?

Nup.

It’s been ages since I’ve sat down at the keyboard.

And…?

Such a very busy time…

Naturally no-one else in the entire blogging world is busy.

So much has happened, I don’t know where to start.

Come back when you’ve worked it out.

Thank you to all my loyal readers who’ve waited patiently.

You hope.

I promised to post regularly and I haven’t.

Self-abasement is charming.

I feel terrible about not posting these last six weeks/months/decades.

Ditto grovelling.

I’m so grateful for the support of my readers.

Such authenticity. Anyway, they’re not yours.

I’ve missed you all.

But mostly I’ve missed having my ego stroked.

Most sincere apologies for the silence.

Enough breast-beating, already. Who’s actually upset?

It is so good to be back!

Translation: I’m shit-scared no-one will even remember my blog.

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Above all, only publish when you actually have something worthwhile to offer.

Now, what was I going to write about…

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Title quote: Doug MacArthur, Adelaide, South Australia, 1942.
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TIKI EVE

Some people are really good at casual social interactions. Sadly, I’m not one of them. I have to be convinced, cajoled or corralled into attending gatherings larger than four adults and even then it’s usually all I can do to avoid glancing at my watch with insulting frequency.

On reflection, my partner would probably substitute ‘and’ for ‘or’ in the previous sentence. Convinced, cajoled and corralled. I am just not that good at small talk.

It’s not that I dislike people. In low-density situations (preferably one-to-one) I relish human connection. In fact, I’ve made a career out of bounded intimacy. But parties aren’t my best thing, especially ones full of strangers. 

As we pulled up outside the New Year’s Eve party of a couple we’d never met, I glanced at said partner with a slightly troubled expression. Is this a bit odd? Rocking up to a tiki-themed NY party with a bottle of Margaret River Rosé and a garish pink shirt? She managed to roll her eyes and look lovingly amused simultaneously, which has a degree of difficulty of 4.2. I did wonder, she said mildly.

I knew the answer, of course. For the first time, a blogosphere entity was beaming from hyperspace into the real world. A fellow of diverse creativity, restless curiosity and a peppery reaction to intransigent stupidity, the source of our party invitation is also a prolific Facebooker, being responsible for more of my ‘Like’ clicks than anyone else during 2018.  (I recognise that last one, partner said in response to this observation. She does irony too). He’d also promptly and generously offered a sound production tutorial to a young musician friend and alerted me to one of the concert highlights of recent times: Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto at the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Pity we didn’t actually meet on the night. 

Walking down the driveway, a little ahead of Ms Lonely Keyboards and the boy, I felt a pang of anxiety, instantly dissolved by the warm greeting and firm handshake of our host. We both grinned. Good to meet you. Come inside.

As we passed through a jungle of exotic decorations—all tiki-themed, of course—I realised that we were, in fact, the first to arrive. Gulp. The hostess was jamming small coloured edibles onto toothpicks, her smile of greeting just a little strained. Preparations were still very much in progress. We were unfashionably unlate. Double gulp.

Well, one thing I do know is that if you have a task, you feel less at sea. Ms Keyboards knows that intuitively, probably because her work rate is about triple that of normal humans. Or perhaps just mine. Anyway, within moments she had taken over the toothpick business, freeing the hostess for something else. Our host was also into spearing; bits of chicken onto pointy sticks. A-ha! Let me relieve you of that job, I said. Stabbing diced dead animal is a culinary task within even my limited capacities. As people dribbled in, I cheerily said hello and promptly forgot the names, but it didn’t matter. I was on the team and the pyramid of impaled chicken was growing steadily. 

When our jobs were done, we adjourned to a little table on the verandah and enjoyed the summer night, the wonderful range of tropical set decorations and even the tiki-themed music. Our host joined us for a few minutes, which was nice. It didn’t matter that our conversation was interrupted by welcoming duties; that’s the role of host, isn’t it? To facilitate the enjoyment of others. These particular others were a friendly couple; Peter said, sotto voce, you’ll like David, you have a lot in common. Off he bustled, off drifted the new arrivals, off drifted Ms Keyboards to see if there was any food for the boy. I wandered too, noting that the barbeque was starting up. Another job! Within minutes I’d commandeered a spare pair of tongs and was rotating the very same kebabs I’d prepared earlier. And sausages too. And some things with pineapple on sticks. You can take this Hawaiian thing too far, I said to the host. Fortunately he took the crack with good humour. There is a bond that forms when you’re sweating over a hot BBQ; a camaraderie forged in smoke and sweat and grilled meat. It’s a primal encounter where you also get to chat and drink. Having a yarn confirmed all I’d gleaned from this new friend’s posts and our email correspondence. It was really nice, and if I hadn’t been concentrating so hard on not cracking the halloumi, I’d have noticed I was remarkably relaxed.

Later, after supper, I was chatting to the musician Peter had introduced earlier. That was great too; lively, funny, filled with forays into different topics and random jumps from sound compression to Steve Winwood joining Steely Dan for an encore. 

Later again, Ms K and I were chatting to David and his wife. So, asked David, how do you know Peter? I just met him tonight, I said. What can only be described as a guffaw exploded. Seeing you barbequeing together, I assumed you’d known each other for years. I grinned back. Couple of hours.

Which just goes to show that what the world really needs is more barbeques. 

Or maybe more Tiki parties.

LAVA BAR

Lava Bar constructed by Peter and photographed by Wendy

GOING FOR GOALS

I like lists. They help you get all the “should do” clutter out of your head and on to a bit of paper. I usually use the back of an envelope from one of those utilities that seem to send bills twice as often as they used to. One of them sent me a fifty dollar bill the other day, but the lady in the Milk Bar said that I couldn’t buy twenty Choc Wedges and ten dollars of mixed lollies with it because it was made of cardboard not plastic and anyway it was too big. So when I got home with a packet of Minties (all I could afford) I made a list for the afternoon. It went something like this:

  • Have great idea for a film
  • Write best-selling screenplay
  • Get rich
  • Buy box of Chock Wedges
  • Relax

A few minutes later I added a couple more items to the list:

  • Stop eating chewy sweets
  • Make appointment with dentist

When my partner got home she said it was a very impressive list but maybe a bit demanding for one afternoon. I could see what she meant, as the only thing on the list I actually did was ring the dentist. But as I told my partner (who’d spent the day achieving amazing feats in the business world) I had actually done some extra things not on the list. I wrote them at the bottom:

Buy painkillers

Have lie down

It was a great feeling when I drew big black lines through those last two but I could see my partner’s point when she said that maybe I could learn a bit more about goal setting. Her workplace hired this corporate “coach” and it has really helped her get crystal clear about lots of things, so I rang him as soon as I’d written “Ring Coach Chappy” on my list. We arranged to meet the next day right after my dental appointment.

Let me tell you it was a revelation. He gave me more tips than a hairdressers’ convention and all of it was useful. One of the first things he told me about was setting realistic goals. I caught on immediately. Of course I couldn’t write a whole story in one afternoon. A realistic goal soon came to me and I got two pieces of paper. On one I wrote:

  • Think up title for film

and on the other I wrote:

“Going for goals” 

A screenplay by Bruce Jenkins

Then I put a big tick next to the sentence on the first sheet. (That was another tip: tick things off just like the teacher occasionally did in primary school). It felt fantastic! I even came up with an improvement and went out to the toy store and bought my very own elephant stamp. I put a stamp next to the tick and felt even better. Then, because my mouth was still a bit sore from the dental work in the morning, I went back to my goals list and wrote “Have a rest”. I was pretty sure I’d be getting another elephant stamp in an hour or two.

The coach said that breaks are important, so after dinner, some tele and the video of last night’s home improvement program, I settled down to my next planning task: making a “to do” list for the next day. The coach said that many people find it helpful doing this before bed as it enables them to clear their minds and relax. That made sense to me and I concentrated hard on setting achievable goals. 

It made me realise what an amazing number of tasks there are each day just to get ready for work or whatever. I was still fine-tuning my teeth-brushing sub-list (left hand lower molars, right hand lower molars paying special attention to new filling…) when my partner told me in crystal clear terms to turn out the light. I did, of course, but I slept very badly due to the worry of not completing my list, let alone allocating A, B or C priorities to each item. Are upper molars more important than lower? I started leaving messages for the coach about dawn.

Feeling rather tired and anxious, I spent a few hours picking bits of Minty out of the telephone receiver, which might be why it took a while before the coach got through. He thanked me for the amazing detail I left with his paging service and said he now had a good grasp on the problem and what I needed was a goal ladder. Goal at the top and steps to reach it. Sounded good to me and I got right on to it. 

When my partner rang at lunchtime I told her what I had been working on and asked what sort of replacement light fittings she wanted in the dining room. She quite understood that the sort of ladder you need for lofty goals like mine is a bit unwieldy and had some great suggestions for where I might find some new antique vases for the dresser.

So now I’m working on a new strategy for getting things done. It comes from this really amazing web site called the Yellow Pages On-line. You just tap in the service you want and pick someone from the list that magically appears. Ring up and explain your problem and someone comes and does the job for you. Brilliant.

Right now I’m looking up Screen Writers, but after my nap (tick!) I’m going to ring the coach and tell him what I’ve learned. And I’d be happy to be a consultant at his next corporate training to share my knowledge – and maybe the elephant stamp.

 

mind-blowing--unbroken-flower-vase-with-broken-arms

FRENCH OPEN – DAY ONE

Excitement is a word often associated with Paris, as is love. Both are present in abundance as the French Grand Slam approaches like a fully laden 747.

Most of the main contenders have settled into their accommodation and have familiarised themselves with the facilities which are, as usual, outstanding.

Around the practice courts casual observers have been delighted to see legends of the game Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli having a gentle trundle round the clay, the guitarist with an ever-present cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth while the dapper violinist has had the small band of watchers in stitches by miming playing his racquet with a bow. They are not here to compete, of course, but to play an exhibition match for invited guests. It was a lovely moment when jazz-fusion pioneer Jean-Luc Ponty—much fancied to go deep into the second week of the tournament—was seen chatting with Master Grappelli after the practice session. Ponty exudes a quiet confidence, having taken home the trophy twice already in his career, most recently with his brilliant use of sequencers on the enduringly fresh jazz-fusion-electronica LP Individual Choice.

Also on a practice court, though behind some hastily arranged hessian curtains, was number one seed Jean-Michel Jarre receiving last-minute coaching from his father. It was rumoured that raised voices were heard, though it is likely this was only a result of Jean-Michel whacking tennis balls at lurking paparazzi who demanded to see Charlotte Rampling. ‘We’re divorced,’ muttered Jean-Michel sulkily. ‘Concentrate!’ bellowed his father.

Other magic moments occurred during the closing stages of the qualification rounds, when two of the most colourful entrants played an inconsistent yet wildly entertaining match that lasted well into the evening. No-one gave Moving Gelatine Plates much of a chance against the internationally admired Gong, but the lesser known outfit put in a terrific effort across three fluctuating sets. What a treat for the small but enthusiastic crowd to see such musical madness on display. The Plates, as they are known to their fans, certainly have the musical chops to make it in the big time, though their wilful eccentricity—breaking into a weird version of ‘Three Blind Mice’ during feature piece ‘London Cab’, for instance—sometimes causes them to come unstuck.

Unstuck is a word sometimes associated with Gong too. Unhinged is another. The pot-head pixies were all over the court, dancing, singing and generally taking the piss, though some of the match’s most exciting moments came when the saxophones of Didier Malherbe dueled and danced with the woodwinds of MGP’s Maurice Helminger.

In the end, the deeper experience of Gong got them across the line. After all, MGP only made two albums and Gong are almost immortal. Still, the Plates made many new friends and vowed to return with more Gallic Zappa-ish shenanigans next year.

Let’s hope they do.

The contrast between the mad good-humour of the above match with the scandal that followed could not be more marked. Less than an hour after the two teams downed racquets and opened a magnum of champagne, Gong were disqualified for being insufficiently French. In the subsequent press conference, David Allen, his normally cheerful Australian dialect noticeably strained, expressed disbelief in the tournament referee’s decision.

‘More than half the band are, or at some point will be, French,’ he said. ‘Some individuals are already half-French and others are becoming so as they share in the band’s tea-rituals. It’s silly and we are going back to England where Richard Branson understands us. Or did, at some point.’

Moving Gelatine Plates were awarded the now-vacant place in the main draw, but politely declined.

‘We’ve had a great time playing with Gong,’ they said, ‘But that’s enough tennis for now. We’re going back to bed because no-one understands us.’

Officials, panicking a little at the gap in the draw, made a hasty phone-call Jacques Loussier. The jazz pianist had been eliminated during the quals and was in the act of checking out of his hotel when he took the call. Reluctant at first—‘This is no place for a serious musician,’ he is reported to have said—the chamber jazz maestro was lured back with the promise of the #3 seeding, placing him in what many consider to be the most volatile quadrant of the draw.

The top seeds, then, are as follows:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre
  2. Jean-Luc Ponty
  3. Jacques Loussier
  4. Heldon

The entire draw appears below.

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Further posts in this series can be found at VINYL CONNECTION

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The French Open series was inspired by, and is a tribute to, much-loved and greatly missed writer/comedian John Clarke [29 July 1948—9 April 2017].

The Tournament by John Clarke (Text Publishing Company, Melbourne, Australia, 2002)

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