Monday, December 29, 2014

Dr Spock & The Salad Dressing

I look like some kind of alien. Like Dr Spock's cousin who hates - fucking HATES -  the way The Dreaded One is drizzling the salad dressing.

Except Spock probably wouldn't hate.

Still. Jesus. So glad I don't see me from the outside. It's difficult enough from the inside.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Maitreya 2015

Today, working in my cafe, a bright little moment that cheered my internally gloomy mood...

A new regular came in and asked for her coffee. I remember her from her first visit because she looks interesting and familiar amongst our otherwise pretty straight and corporate clientele. Suits and ambos and doctors and nurses, and this cool looking one with her tatts and specs and unruly hair, her bright eyes and that smile.

During the transaction of coffee and money, she notices my wrist band from last year's Maitreya festival, and says, "That was a fun party."

"Have you seen the photos of the new site?" I ask.

"No, but I'm excited because I hear there is water."

We talk for a bit more. I like her smile and her happy eyes, and I wonder if some day soon, we might be friends.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Not A Review Of The Very Excellent Nick Cave, Melbourne, December 2014

I'm not reviewing Nick Cave from last night because I was just a punter... and yet today as I made another punter's coffee, sentences like this drifted through my mind...

"Counterpointing the gorgeous simplicity that is Nick Cave's lyrics, vocals and piano of, say, The Ship Song, were other songs of a more chaotic nature. I would loved for it to have been Stagger Lee (he was never going to play that one), but it was probably Higgs Boson Blues or even something more fucked up, in which each performer seems to go off into their own crazy world for a while and do their own fucked up thing... Warren Ellis hunched and terrorising a small stringed instrument, making it squeal and cry and howl; Nick Cave might also have been howling, or hitting some random metal things; somewhere some kind of crazy bell and keyboards and strobing lights and savage lyrics that make sense in a darkly supernatural way. It's crazy, cacophony for sure, but it's the most wonderfully harmonious and exciting cacophony you're ever likely to hear..."

Back in the real world: And here is your soy chai latte.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Grease The Musical, Regent Theatre, Melbourne, Review

                                                                Photo by Jeff Busby

Grease, The Musical
Regent Theatre
10th December, 2014

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

The latest in an increasing number of musical reviews by someone who doesn't usually go to musicals, but sometimes seems to quite enjoy them when he does go to them, if they are good.

Mention Grease and most people will probably think of the 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John and which holds number one position as the biggest movie musical box office hit of all time. It's interesting to note that the original stageplay was produced seven or so years before that, and in its early days was apparently a much different creature - rougher, edgier and with a lot to say about the development of American teen and pop culture.

But the movie cleaned up Grease and turned it into a kind of shiny cartoon, and this stageplay is basically a faithful reproduction of that shiny cartoon. As much as I enjoyed this production, I'd be really keen to see one more faithful to the original concept.

If you don't know the story, it's a romance about teenagers Sandy and Danny who meet while on holiday. The romance ends when the holiday does, only for it to be reborn in a different form when Sandy unexpectedly enrolls at Danny's school, Rydell High. Danny's a greaser with a womanising reputation to uphold, and Sandy's a bit of a goodie-two-shoes. No one thinks they are right for each other. Danny snubs her whilst still having feelings for her, until Sandy has an epiphany; maybe if she tarts herself up and acts tarty like the other tarts, Danny will fall for her properly. She does indeed tart herself up and Danny does indeed fall for her properly. The end.

Not ever having paid much attention to the storyline or the message, I was a little surprised by what the story was saying. Nothing here about being individual. Nothing about staying true to yourself. Everything about bowing to peer pressure and blending in. The realisation that Grease was saying that true love is only possible when you tart it up a little had me and my plus one, The Dreaded One, bursting into song on the way home: "You're the tart that I want, you are the tart I want, ooh, ooh, ooh..."

But Grease as it is here is not really about the story or the message; it's about the music. The music provides a very efficient distraction from the message because it's mighty fine music. This is a slick production oozing with talent, and there is no way of not smiling, seat dancing and maybe even singing along on occasion.

The songs are such a star that the show starts with an instrumental medley of what we are about to hear, just to whet our appetite. To us ancients in the audience, these are very familiar tunes.

The show proper gets off to a clunky start with the teacher treating the audience like her class and teaching us the rama lama ding dong part of We Go Together. I reckon there's only ever about 10 percent of an audience who wants to join in segments like this, with the rest of us just wanting to sit back and be entertained. The director knows this too, which is why revver-uppers appear through the audience to try to get things going. Very awkward segment that went for too long and didn't add anything to the show.

While I've got my negative pants on... Bert Newton as DJ Vince Fontaine... hmm. A cynical person might suspect that Mr Newton was not hired for the part based on his acting talent so much as the name of a national treasure being the drawcard for a certain demographic. There was no attempt to become the character, he was just Bert Newton saying the lines of another character. When the energy of the show was humming along and the Radio WAXX DJ booth rolled out it was like burning up the quarter mile only to hit quicksand. But hell, at the end he seemed to enjoy being up there on stage and the old dears probably got a kick out of it so whatever.

Just a second while I take off my negative pants... there... and put on my positive pants.

The good bits were very good indeed. Songs like Born To Hand Jive (John Paul Young still has the stuff) and Greased Lightning are loads of fun and are done here so well. Lots of infectious fun. As is the very funny Beauty School Dropout... hilariously kitsch. Slower, emotional songs like Sandy and There Are Worse Things I Could Do were also done to perfection, the latter revealing an unexpectedly vulnerable side to the hard, sassy character Rizzo. Lovely.

The encore closing the show was lots of fun and the entire, large cast had clearly enjoyed themselves. My only gripe here was when John Paul Young cheekily sang the opening lines of Love Is In The Air... And. Didn't. Keep. Going. Very funny, you utter bastard tease.

Apparently the very early productions of Grease went for a raw, rough production, the very opposite of what we have here. It's a stunning spectacle of a show that looks and sounds great, and for the most part you'll enjoy yourself almost as much as the performers do. (Just don't think about the message too much).

Now playing at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne.
For more info, go to the Grease website.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Some Girl Kissed A Girl I Know

Jesus - previous post an awesome song by the genius that is Tom Waits, followed by a Glee version of a Katy Perry song... WTF?

This parallel universe blogging is due to the funny story an acquaintance told me recently. She was at a club, having a great time. A girl approached her and asked if she could re-apply this acquaintance's lipstick. Said acquaintance thought it was a cute offer and said sure. Said acquaintance closed her eyes and pursed her lips, whereupon Lipstick Grl proceeded to totally pash Purse-lipped Acquaintance. Apparently there were equal parts tongue, utter shock and mooshed lipstick in the encounter. That's lots of tongue and lots of shock, and a LOT of mooshed lipstick, in case you are wondering.

Reminds me of another lipstick-in-a-club story involving yours truly, but that's another story. Might post that tomorrow with another astonishingly unexpected music clip.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Hold On

I've posted this clip here before. It's Tom's birthday today, I believe. He's 65 and doesn't like to fly, so in all probability I will never experience him playing live unless I go back to the U.S. Bummer. First world problem, for sure, but bummer.

Nick Cave next week which will be amazing. Another of the boys I like to sing out loud to.

For now, listen to this song and watch this clip. So fucking sweet and sad and just beautiful. Tom has said that he likes beautiful melodies telling him terrible things. Maybe that's true, but he also likes to tell us beautiful things to sweet melodies.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

the broken pencil

but when there is no more funny shit,
no more laughter,
no more silly,
too much serious,
too much conflict,
too much hate,
not enough love,
not enough compassion,
not enough sharing,
of too much food,
of too much shelter,
of too much stuff,
you find yourself
in the dark
silently screaming the question:
what is the fucking point?

no surprise
that there is no answer,
because there is no point.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Alyx Dennison at Catfish On Gertrude Street

Just saw this local performer again tonight. Amazed at her talent again. So impressed with her singing, song-writing and her affinity with kookiness. She is very funny, and this was a good thing to do on a wet Wednesday night.

It was a short tram ride up the road to a place across the road from our cafe, and so many places were full. Food was being eaten, music was being heard... life was being lived.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

That Thing We Have

Yesterday The Dreaded One and I spent the day drinking and eating and laughing. This might seem like an unremarkable thing - and when you think about truly remarkable things like black holes in space and the very concept and bigness of the universe, it is pretty mundane.

But it's been a long time now, (30 something years? Get outta here!) and we still don't feel the need to dilute each others company with the company of others. We love the company of others, when they're the right people, but equally, we're happy to just hang out with each other.

I never really tire of looking at The Dreaded One. She is amazingly pretty. She stands out in a crowd, has her own very individual sense of style, and it's stylish. I feel very lucky.

But it goes deeper than that. We spend all day long working together in a potentially volatile environment. Dealing with customers and food and deadlines and the myriad other issues we have to deal with all day long (and the days are long), we probably should encounter more friction than we do. There is friction but we try to make it fleeting and just get on with things. And I like to listen to her as well as look at her.

Then we come home together. Often I will walk home from the cafe. Sometimes I stop off for a beer, staring out through a window and letting my mind wander. Then I'll come home and jokingly ask how The Dreaded One's day was.

And then it's the weekend. Yesterday we spent the day drinking and eating and laughing. Just the two  of us. Often I think she is immune to my sense of humour. She's had a lot of time to get used to it, and lately it hasn't even been around much. But it was there yesterday and she laughed genuine laughter. We still seem to enjoy each others company.

I don't know exactly what it is, but I like that thing we have.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Where Do You Stand On Michael Buble?

Watched Michael Winterbottom's The Trip To Italy starring the hilarious Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Loved it. Envy them for this being their job, but feel lucky to have been to so many places that were the setting for the movie... Naples, Amalfi, Ravello, Pompei...

I initially thought this shot was from the wonderful hotel we stayed at in Sorento - Villa Oriana Relais - but it wasn't. Must have been very close by though because the view is very similar.

Very funny movie, one you can watch over again and I probably will. Loved the first lines in this about where do you stand on Michael Buble? Hilarious.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another Muso In The Cafe

The person who works for us in Grumpy & The Dreaded One's Little Cafe Of Awesome had a friend call into the cafe for a bite to eat. He's a friend of hers from Sydney. Met them afterwards for a drink. Seemed like a really nice guy, full of life. He lives in our old Sydney hood, so it was nice to find out how the place is going. Talked about pubs like The Hollywood, The Cricketer's and The Hopetoun, which is still apparently boarded up and abandoned.

Turns out he's Simon Day from late 80s/early 90s band Ratcat. I had no idea. I know several songs, very evocative of a time before electronic music almost fully hijacked my attention. (Still love some non-electronic/guitar driven music, of course, but psytrance etc). I really liked their sound and it's fun to listen to this stuff again.

Ratcat are playing a gig at The Corner Hotel on Tuesday night. Hmm.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Wish In The Darkness

I choose not to hate religious silly-billies who kill other religious silly-billies. I'm atheist; your books, to me, are nonsense but it's okay to study your books in my part of the world. I'm atheist, I do not believe there is a God (but there is a small part of me me who isn't sure... think about the universe for long enough and you come to the realisation that you know nothing).

But for fuck sake, please stop screaming at each other that God is great as you slaughter your fellow God-worshipping humans. Stop raping in the name of God. Stop murdering in the name of a Great Creator. Stop mutilating your Creator's creations. Stop believing that you are God. Stop destroying lives. Stop creating sadness and despair. Stop your pointless war of hatred against people who just want and deserve to enjoy a brief and peaceful life on Earth. Stop poisoning younger generations in other lands with your hate. 

Just. Fucking. Stop it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Restaurant Called Lee ho Fook

Here is a (very short) review by me of a local restaurant, Lee ho Fook, which is mentioned in the opening verse of this Warren Zevon pop classic from the late 70s. Amazeballs. Like, how did they do that? It boggles the mind. I mean - it's 2014 and, like, time warpy weirdness. Aaaah-ooooh...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Martha By Tom Waits, Just because.

Some vintage Tom. I think he wrote this when he was 22 years old. So simple, so perfect. It's amazing to think he got even better over the years. I love his funny stuff and his wild stuff, but I think I love his love stuff the most.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Oy Vey

I have of late - but I know wherefore not - started saying Oy vey, a lot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I Have Of Late - But Wherefore I Know Not - Lost All My Mirth...

Back in the day when I started this blog, the whole point was to train myself to see the funny shit that is going on all around us, all the time. You can see shit happening and go hey, that's fucked up, or you can see shit happening and go hey that's fucked up, but imagine if this unexpected funny thing happened... how funny would that be? Or imagine seeing it from this angle? How great would that be?

Squint a little and you will see it.

Sadly, I don't have any of that left. Apparently I have lost my mirth.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Ooh - Scary Like A Viking

Grumpy: Do you mind shaving my head, The Dreaded One?
The Dreaded One: No, Grumpy, not at all.
Grumpy: This time, can you give me a Mohican stripe?
The Dreaded One: A Mohican?
Grumpy: Yeah - so I look scary, like a Viking.
The Dreaded One: Scary like a Viking? Sure, no prob.
A short, buzzy time later...
The Dreaded One: There. All done.
Grumpy: Cool. Do I look scary like a Viking?
The Dreaded One: Yes, you look scary like a Viking.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Almost Live On International Radio

Last Saturday I slept in like a boss. I really look forward to sleeping in after doing a full week of early starts. I got up just after 9.30, trudged upstairs and checked my phone; one voice message. I phone in to listen to the message, and unexpectedly there's the Northern hemisphere twang of a guy who does a show on CBC Radio in Vancouver. He wants me to phone him back so that we can have a bit of a chat. He wants to interview me but doesn't say what about. I think maybe he's got the wrong person but he leaves me with his studio number, his cell number and then says he'll also email me at

This is all very odd, he definitely seems to have all the correct contact details.

Still feeling sleepy, with a bit of confusion thrown in, I check my email, and there's a message from the same guy. He wants to interview me about Creepypasta. It's Halloween and I'm guessing he's read this story I wrote for Soot Mag.

He really wants to do this but it has to happen before 7am Melbourne time. He called me originally at 5am. I have waaaay missed this boat, baby. Bummer. Could have been fun, but I'm not sure how coherent I would have been at 5am or 7am. I didn't feel like I was going to be coherent for another couple of hours yet.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

I Want To Write A Story

I want to write a story, a made-up story. I used to write made-up stories all the time, hardly have the time or energy these days. But now I want to write a story. I want to do it in one draft, in several sittings. No revisions allowed.

The story... it's about this guy. Not me. It's not going to be an I story. I did this, I did that. He? Third person? Hmm. No. My trusty, unfashionable, my favourite second person. It's going to be a story about You.

You work in a cafe. (I know what you're thinking - it is a story about the author after all. But it's not. You have to trust me on this).

So you work in a cafe. You make coffee and serve food and make sure everyone is happy, gets their food and coffee on time. You're not great at the coffee but you're not bad, getting better. You get your fare share of compliments. You never intended to be the barista. The person who was meant to be the barista didn't show on the first day the cafe opened. She was hungover and someone had to make the coffee so you stepped in. That first day was nerves and shaky hands and flaky excuses and more than a few dodgy coffees. But you've gotten better. Sometimes all the ingredients - the grind, the dose, the steamed milk, the decorative pour - they all come together in a satisfying way and you know they are going to enjoy this coffee.

Another thing you do is you get to know people. All kinds of people you would probably never meet. You get a glimpse into all these diverse lives. People in the street catch your eye all the time, the pretty ones and the broken ones, the lonely ones and the old ones. All so different, trapped in their worlds, but you pass on by, wondering but never knowing.

But here in the cafe, you get to meet them, and you've only just realised what a cool thing this is. Not really a people person, you've had to learn how to talk with them, the way you've had to learn to steam the milk to silky perfection. Not that the talk is ever silky perfection, but it bumps along in it chunky way. They are rarely long meandering chats, being interrupted as they are by other customers or deliveries or the metalic screech of the coffee grinder. But here and there, in short bursts, a bigger picture emerges, a fuller view of the person is seen. The pretty ones, the broken ones, the lonely ones and the old ones, you get to know them and you realise that like you, they all have stories.

Where to begin? Who shall we meet first? Let's start with Hector, the only customer you've actually kicked out of the cafe...

To be continued.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Wonderful Eyes

You see beauty a thousand times a day. It's the strangers with their hair and their tattoos and their piercings so exotic. The high-heeled girl from that designer shop just down the road, with her half shaved head and those eyes... those eyes... those completely wonderful eyes. And the random strangers with their accents and their histories, and the locals and the regulars with their quirks and must I sit here at this table or can I sit at that table over there? You see the scars and the bandages and you see and hear the wounds. You see and listen to the damaged ones, and you try to make them feel comfortable and at home, because you're welcome here. And it's all kind of beautiful.

Tonight I saw beauty again. In the mirror, Ann's eyes squinting as she shaved my head. Not aware of me. Not aware that I was looking at those amazing brown eyes. She trimmed and fluffed and squinted, and I had a few moments to look into her wonderful eyes and think, yeah you, you beautiful you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Late Night Haiku For A Fucked Up Species


The slaves of their God,
Creator of life and love,
Or Satan's minions?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Imagine No Batshit Crazies

What the fuck is going on in the world? Idiots in a desert calling on  holy war in the name of some guy in a book, and idiots in other parts of the world killing innocent bystanders in the name of the idiots' agenda.

Sadly, the civilised part of the world has no other option to respond to this idiot, psychotic aggression. And nothing good will come of that.

But what else? What else does the civilised world do in the face of this archaic, barbaric idiocy?

Nothing good - absolutely nothing - has come from  religion that you can't get from compassion and common sense. Why are we as a species so superstitious? And how as a species have we seemed to degenerate into such levels of hatred, genocide and probably suicide? What is wrong with us?

Above, there is a lovely clip from John Lennon. I think he understood.

I've included, below, a lost verse from this great song of love and peace.

Imagine no batshit crazies,
It's blissful if you try,
No idiocy to deal with
You just poke 'em in the eye...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When The DJ Drops Your Jam

In light of not having anything happy to write about during these shitty (but in a first world problems kind of way) times, I give you this. I absolutely fucking hate this style of music, but absolutely love the pairing of this footage (the kid, I believe, was reacting to another piece of music) and the hellish tune. It makes me smile.

Looking forward to a fun weekend of debauchery with easy-going friends.


Sunday, October 19, 2014


I enter the cafe, walk through to the back and hang my bag on the rack and immediately hear the front door being knocked on. It squeaks open. A customer already wanting a coffee, fuck it. I don't agree to make coffees until I am at least 95% set up because it can just put you on the back foot very quickly. You spend time making coffee when you should be setting up, you will get another customer who also wants an early coffee and it's just a bad way to start the day. Which is why I leave the lights off and keep the door shut until I'm ready to start.

But I forgot to close the door. And there's this guy in a hoodie already inside the darkened cafe.

"We're not open yet," I tell him as I walk towards him.

He's hanging onto the open door, because if he lets go, I realise, he'll fall over. He's a smackie so high he's almost falling asleep on his feet.

"Okay - get out," I tell him, waving him out. Just then The Dreaded One arrives after parking the car. She sees the guy and stops, wondering what the hell is going on.

Then the guy says something. Says the same thing again. I notice that he's clutching some money in one fist and some empty tupperware containers in the other. He says that thing again. It's a question, and suddenly I wonder if he's not a smackie but someone with physical disorders in need of help.

"Sorry - what are you saying?"

He says that thing again, and now I understand.

"Any job vacancies?"

He is totally a smackie, totally whacked, and he's asking me to give him a job. It's funny and tragic. I tell him no, there are no job vacancies as I guide him out. The Dreaded One comes inside and I lock the door. I watch our whacked out friend make his teetering way up the road and into the day. There's a part of me - the into-the-abyss part of me - that envies him for his blissed out, fucked up state of mind.

But mostly I feel grateful that I am mostly okay, and that I have a little cafe to set up and a day of work ahead of me.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

You Bet You Are... The Many Voices In Abbott's Head

"I'm going to shirtfront Mr Putin, you bet you are - I bet I am."

The most intriguing thing for me about this recent bit of idiocy from our PM is the 'you bet you are' bit. What on Earth is that all about? What is actually going on in this guy's head? Was this another voice in his head backing him up? Does he have multiple personalities in his head in constant discussion with each other and this bit of dialogue accidentally slipped out?

Maybe the full, uncensored quote could have gone a little like this: "I'm going to shirtfront Mr Putin, you bet you are. Ooh by crikey you are sooo going to shirt-front that bear-cuddling fag, and Tone, my man, when you shirtfront someone they know they've been shirtfronted. You bet they do. You know they do, don't I... erm who's speaking now? Me, I am, and I don't want a pansy shirt-fronting, I want to bend Putin over and poke him from behind like that cellar scene with the gimp in Pulp Fiction, man that was a hot scene, I really liked that scene... didn't we? You bet we all did." 

Or something like that.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Team Awesome Is Awesome

Have had a few worrying weeks in the cafe. One of our workers, knowing we have been quietly stressing, gave us a bottle of wine to say thanks or cheer us up or whatever. She went to the pub across the road where we sometimes drink and asked the guys behind the bar which kind of wine we drink.

I think we chose well with our current team.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Conversations With Our Customers: I'm Beth Patterson, Bitch

We certainly seem to get our share of performers in Grumpy & The Dreaded One's Little Cafe Of Awesome.

I was packing away the outdoor furniture for closing yesterday when this intriguingly kooky looking chick with an American accent asked if I needed help with carrying the table. I told her I was okay and went inside. She followed me inside. I asked what she wanted. She said she wanted to recharge her phone and have something to eat. I looked at the outdoor furniture stacked upside down  - a pretty good sign that we are closing up - and said  "I'm sorry, but we're closed."

She apologised and left, and something about her intrigued.

She came back in this morning and I apologised about yesterday's confusion. No problem. She ordered some breakfast. She read one of my Grumpy columns on the clipboard menu as she ate. I always watch for a reaction. Much blankness until a certain point when she opened her mouth in a silent, still, laugh. A good reaction.

She  said she enjoyed her meal, said she enjoyed my writing, mentioned writing of her own. Conversation ensued. From what I could glean, she seemed to be a writer, musician, performer, here on tour from New Orleans.

Sometimes people can be well-known even though you know nothing about them, and asking them what their name is so you can Google them can be awkward. But I asked what her name was so that I could Google her.

"I'm Beth Patterson, bitch."

Pretty fucking funny..

Anyway, I Googled, and yeah, she's good. Amaaaazing bouzouki player and gorgeous voice. She seems like a bit of a nutter too. Awesome.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Once, The Musical, A Review.


Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

I have to start out by admitting that I don't like musicals. The last one I went to was six or so years ago and it was an accident. Musicals just seem a bit stupid, with their singing-instead-of-saying approach to story telling. What I want from theatre is just a good story well told. Song and dance? Bah.

Having said that, one of my most well known dirty little secrets is that I am a total sucker for a good romantic comedy, and as far as that goes, it doesn't get much better than this.

I think where Once stands apart from your garden variety musical is that it is about music. My usual seething hatred of musicals isn't justified here because this is not about people spontaneously bursting into song and dance for no logical reason, it is about music and the love of music. When the characters sing and dance here, it all feels more natural than in other musicals. The story is so clearly told and thoroughly engaging that you could forget you were watching a musical, if the music wasn't so damned good.

Once is about a guy and a girl. Well, two girls, really. Guy is a broken-hearted busker about to turn his back on his music. Girl sees that he is about to do this but feels so passionately that his music and song-writing is great that she encourages him to do whatever it takes to get back into it. The romantic tension between them is the stuff of all great romcoms, but the outcome is what stays with you and makes this so memorable. Once is a story, perhaps, about three kinds of love: selfish love; unrequited love; and selfless love. This last one is the main one here - the most noble kind of love- and it's a bitter-sweet thing.

The stage is a bar in Ireland, and the show starts with audience members up on stage ordering drinks and standing about as a couple of performers start jamming on a variety of instruments and singing seemingly impromptu songs. It's how you imagine traditional Irish pubs to be. It's a good way to entertain those of us who arrived on time while we wait for those who didn't arrive on time. Gradually, the audience exits the stage to go to their seats, the lights go down and our story begins.

It opens with a song of melancholy, and our man (Tom Parsons) can sing. (And strum and act, sometimes all at the same time. He's good looking too. Bastard). But as soon as Girl (Madeline Jones) takes to the stage, there are laughs. She is a quirky and forthright Czek, a fellow music lover. She knows what's ticking in Guy's heart and she quickly becomes an important part of his world.

The leads are both well drawn, engaging characters, and as they slowly get to know each other, we get to know them and their very different worlds. There are multitudes of other characters – all warm, engaging and funny – played by head-shakingly talented actor/musicians. The casting process for this must have been an interesting experience.

Every musical instrument bar the theremin appears to be in the show, all played with precision to create feelings of warmth, melancholy, humour and fun. Lots of fun. The actors at all times appear to be absolutely enjoying themselves and playing their instruments. It's a wonderful thing to see. It's probably unfair to single anyone out from such an impressive ensemble of mostly local performers, but Amy Lehpamer perhaps best demonstrates this joy that I'm talking about; she shined brightly when she had her floor-stomping moments with her violin.

Once is a big, slick production, again not the kind of thing I'm usually drawn to. I'm usually found at banged up little theatres who put on edgy independent productions. I like risk takers like recent Fringe dwellers Stephen House and the Mellow Yellow crew.

But without reservation, I loved Once. It's a good story well told, with some wonderful tunes.

On at Princess Theatre, Melbourne until... erm... not really sure. But it's on now and you should definitely go see it. It's good. Really good.

Read about the show and buy tickets here.

Friday, October 03, 2014

In The Shop Of Infinite Sadness



How you?

I sad.


How You?

I sad too.

Oh. How sad?

Hmm. How to say... I sadder than yesterday.


But not as sad as I will be tomorrow.

Ah. That is sad.

No, that is not sad.

It's not sad?

No. It is happy.

How so?

This is the least sad I will ever be.

Ah. You are wise. This is the least sad I will ever be too.

Oh. Okay then. Bye bye.

Bye bye. I see you again tomorrow.

Yes, see you tomorrow. Bye.

See you.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Once, The Musical

I don't generally go to musicals. They usually annoy me. But this one has something about it... just ticks a lot of boxes. I'm about to head in now and see the Melbourne preview. I am quite excited and expect I'll be writing one of my gush reviews. I can feel it in me waters.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Laugh. Just Laugh. If You Don't Laugh, You Won't Laugh

I don't know another industry that is so open to criticism by absolutely any knucklehead as the hospitality industry is. (Aside from Hollywood). Who writes detailed reviews for social media of librarians or cab drivers or security guards? Why does the hospitality industry have to cop it?

And there are sites everywhere that give voice to illiterate, moronic, anonymous criticism from bitter trolls, and small businesses have to just sit back and take it with no right of reply. It's so wrong. Constructive criticism is a great thing. Just being negative while you hide your identity is not.

We're struggling a little at the moment, but we have to deal with this anonymous twat. This is his diatribe and my response to it. My response isn't posted in full on the website in question, which is frustrating because I thought the way to the thing of whatever was humour... I'm getting increasingly tired of this world.

All I ask is that if you are publicly slamming me, use your own photo and your real name. Otherwise, shut the fuck up. Your opinion is nothing unless you are prepared to stand behind it.

Have some integrity.

Here's this, for what it's worth:
Little cafe of terribleness
Doesn't like it
The food is quite uninspiring and the coffee is very bitter to the point of tasting burnt. The guy making the coffee certainly lives up to his nickname "grumpy" and never cracks a smile, but i kind of feel he needs to break away from that tradition if he's working in a customer service industry as he just comes across as rude. As for his co-owner, she seemed friendly, but when asking for water on the table, this never arrived even though the cafe was quiet, which reduces the chances of her being caught up in the hectic nature that cafes can sometimes become. As well as this, they are a bit too quick to clear your plates and cups which is a pet hate of mine as it feels as though you're being rushed out the door.So in summary: The coffee tastes cheap and there's better food quality and customer service in the surrounding cafes. This place would probably fit nicely in a rural area where there's less choice and people are not as aware of how fantastic coffee can taste when done well.

My reply to this idiot, who doesn't have the initiative to stand up and get the water for himself when the getting the water thing has gone awry for him...

You're kind of right when you say Grumpy never cracks a smile, but only kind of. Technically speaking, he rarely cracks a smile. He is someone for whom smiling and indeed laughing is a genuine response to the external stimulus of happiness, and like many people his mood-integrity is set to quite a high level, thus making the facial contortion that indicates genuine happiness to be a rare thing. This does not mean he is actually unhappy or as you suggested rude, he is just in a constantly ponderous, thoughtful mood. He is mostly quite happy, it just takes a lot for him to burst out in smile.

Unfortunately, he was born with an ugly head (we can't help but wonder how you neglected to mention this in your wide-ranging “review”). The ugliness of his features, the natural severity of his countenance even when his mood is so frequently mild and placid, has plagued him since childhood. He has spent his life explaining to friends and family and strangers that nothing is wrong, that he is not upset or angry, that no his best friend or pet budgie hasn't just died. He just has naturally severe features. It's quite the curse.

The thing is, when Grumpy does smile... on those rare and worthy occasions when he does crack a grin, it is a thing to behold. The heavens open and the angels sing and all the unicorns and fairies and dragons (the happy kind) throughout the magical kingdoms frolic together in unbridled joy.

And when he laughs – a far rarer thing than a simple crack of a grin – the sweetest cello sounds like crushed gravel by comparison. The angels and the unicorns and the fairies and the happy dragons are silenced in awe. So many musical notes of mirth spilling from such a butt-ugly head is like a... a rainbow emerging from a cat's arse. It is purely and utterly astonishing.

But criticism has been taken on board and Grumpy will attempt to crack a grin more often; the singing of angels is not heard nearly enough these days.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reasons To Be Pretty, Review

Reasons To Be Pretty

By Neil Labute

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Local on-again-off-again theatre company Mellow Yellow are on again, with their Fringe offering Reasons To Be Pretty by American scribe Neil Labute. But don't dally about – it's a short season with only a few days still to run.

Mr Labute is responsible for some pretty powerful scripts for screen and stage, usually pulling apart relationships and poking at the soft, sensitive innards of gender politics. Black comedy is his thing, and he's a writer with such an unflinching eye and ear for what makes us tick that he can make you squirm as easily as he can make you laugh.

Reasons To Be Pretty looks at our obsession with our appearance. It might not be yours or mine, but it is society's obsession. (Equally, it might well be yours and mine, or someone you know).

The play follows the relationships of four friends/workmates/partners - Steph (Steph Lee), her boyfriend Greg (Jason Schwab), Greg's workmate Kent (Sam Burns-Warr) and his girlfriend and co-worker Carly (Dayna Boase). As well as obsession with appearance, the play also examines loyalty, integrity and what binds us in relationships and friendships, and what can cause divisions.

The play starts with a pretty comical fight after Steph confronts Greg over a perceived insult. She heard that he said something less than flattering about her physical appearance, and she is livid. It's kind of comically over-the-top, yet I'm sure we can all relate; we've all be involved in arguments that mean everything at the time but seem ridiculous after the event.

That Steph takes what Greg said so much to heart seems a little unrealistic... yet this is exactly how arguments and disagreements can unfold in what can quickly become the domestic battlefield. The staging of this scene is inventive, utilising the quirkiness of the space in The Wilde to create a voyeuristic feel, as though we are overhearing a neighbour's domestic screaming match.

Greg and Kent seem thrown together rather than being real friends. Again, this often the case in the workplace. You don't have any choice in who you work with so you make the most of it. They are very different people, Greg quiet with hints of intelligence in his reading material (this could be read as affectation) and Kent being a very similar character to the one he played in this very space last year in David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. That is, a pretty callous, superficial Typical Macho Guy. I really want to see Burns-Warr play a different role because he does this one so well you could almost believe that he's like this in real life. He does bastard really, really well. Chappeau.

Dayna Boase as Kent's girlfriend does a good job of playing a complex character – physically beautiful (just check that sexy smirk on the poster for the show), you expect confidence, but vulnerability is just under the surface, with manipulation also not out of range.

This is not feel good theatre. It is engaging and sometimes funny, generally a little sad in the way that we and our weird little ways of dealing with each other can be sad. It is also highly recommended.

Reasons To Be Pretty is on at The Wilde, 153 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy until October 4.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A String Of Memories. (Luckiest Fucker There Ever Was)

Big night. It was a big night. Daylight now and a headful of crashing thoughts that are either dreams or memories. What actually happened? That girl with the eyebrows, that conversation, that thing that was so fascinating, that bit when you found your stride and your talk caused hilarity... was it real or creations of the dream engine?

Luxurious stretch. A groan of pleasure and relief. Dodged a bullet. There will be no hangover today, just more of the same. It's almost lunchtime, almost booze time, almost time to start the ride all over again. More talk and more laughter because it's all so short and carp diem, motherfuckers.

You're in the second bedroom again. Starfishing it in your own bed, this pillow the best fucking pillow in forever.

Your eyes hummingbird open and you see a string of memories droop-hanging on the wall. There is Santorini and Andalucia and Ann and Annye. There is Gaudi and The Acropolis
, Vesuvius and Via del Amore with its locks of love and promises so pure. There's a golden tunnel in an almost forgotten Italian coastal town (was this where Gore Vidal lived?) where you once saw an A-list Hollywood actor. There is a dance festival called Boom where you've danced and swum naked and laughed with friends. Twice. And you could make it three times, maybe more before you die.

And back to those blues and whites of Santorini and that sunset that seems impossible. Your lover next door. She who made this string of memories, and hung them drooping on the wall.

The barbarians are bearing down, but right now in these slow trickling moments, you know you have seen amazing things and have a string of memories that no one can take away.

And you know you are the luckiest fucker there ever was.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Game Of Human

I think the beings playing the game Human Fuckwittery have recently taken the game to a new level. It's like... create an intelligent species... separate them by land and sea... give some poor lands and others rich lands... introduce religion... introduce another religion... make these religions conflict... bring in racism and sexism and then oh how great is this we fuck them up with politics... invent media... give the media power... destroy traditional media and replace it with social media because we have the technology... make envy a major thing... give technology and social media to the backwaters of civilisation who prey on the hopeless and the bitter and the confused who in reality simply want to feel a part of something... give these humans idiot rulers making idiot decisions that condemn the rest of them to a bleak future... let loose the maniacs and the conspiracy theorists who believe in nothing and everything and who will continue to do nothing but question and question whilst wrapped in their smug stupidity that does nothing enlighten or protect.
These beings playing the game of Human Fuckwittery, they must be having a great laugh right now.

Monday, September 22, 2014

LAX by Alyx

One of our workers sings and makes music. This is one of her songs. I think it is gorgeous. She is lovely and very funny, and today we had a lengthy discussion about the individuality of sneezing, and it was very funny.

Greatest thing ever is to have a good laugh while you are work. It brings everything back into perspective. I feel very lucky to have bumped into this particular human.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Grand Budapest Hotel

Finally saw this last night. What a wonderful movie. Am looking forward to watching it again. Such good storytelling, so many talented actors having fun with their roles, such overall excellent film making.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Happy Father's Day

Apparently it was Father's Day today.  Meh.

Friday, September 05, 2014

A Tip: Treat Good People Well

One of the reasons The Dreaded One and I started our own cafe was because we both had terrible experiences at roughly the same time of working for awful employers. We're hard workers, it's just how we roll. And we were treated like shit and taken for granted. At roughly the same time, we both said enough, and quit.

We both decided that if we were working this hard, we should be doing it for ourselves. That way, we can choose the people we work with, choose the music we want to listen to while we work, and we can do nice things for the people who choose to work for us, like having the decency to give them the tips they have earned.

We are now still working hard. We're very much hands-on. It's a bit of a struggle. Who knows what's going to happen.

But you get these little, lovely moments, these small gestures that mean a lot to you. You get good customer feedback. You get the random positive online review. You enjoy a lengthy conversation with someone who has chosen to work for you, and they're talking and you find yourself thinking I'm really glad I met you. You're pretty fucking cool. Whatever happens in the future, right now I like you a lot.

And if you're really lucky, these employees you quite like will describe you as pals, and will want to hang out and have drinks with you after work hours.

And they will bring this up with you prior to you giving them the previous couple of months' tips.

I think we're getting some of this thing right.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stephen House Interview, Almost Face To Face

Stephen House, Almost Face To Face.


Written by Lee Bemrose

Almost Face To Face
is the latest dramatic monologue from peripatetic award-winning writer/performer Stephen House. It's been a couple of years since the South Australian drifter performed his quite powerful Appalling Behaviour here, so I caught up with him to find out what he's been up to in that time, what drives him, and what to expect from his latest work.

So, what have you been up to since your last visit to Melbourne?
 My last show, Appalling Behaviour, kept touring. I did an Adelaide return (local council shows), a Tasmania Theatre Company season and a season at The Street Theatre in Canberra. I then spent some time in Sydney. I did an incredible writing development project with some blind artists at Tutti Ensemble SA, and had an extended stint in Whyalla SA doing a community youth theatre project for D-faces Youth Arts. Then as I often do… I disappeared from Australia and spent many months in Bali, Thailand and India – travelling, writing and existing.  

How was Appalling Behaviour received in those other cities?
The Hobart and Canberra seasons were both very successful and had incredible responses and reviews. It was wonderful to see it sit in a bigger company program at The Street Theatre (where it saw its 100th show). It always astounds me how that show pulls people in and sees them discuss what it means to them and what it says about our current world. It still feels like it’s an important theatre piece for the here and now. And that’s rewarding. Also, it was selected for publication by The Australian Script Centre. 

Have you ever taken Appalling Behaviour overseas? Or is it something you would contemplate? 
Well no, I haven’t, but just recently I’ve been in a conversation with a company in New York who are keen – which would be awesome. Also, for the last year or so I have been chatting to a company in India who are also keen. And if I do take it overseas next year I’m pretty sure I’d head to Edinburgh Fringe. I’ve never done an Edinburgh Fringe. So yes, it is kind of looking like maybe travelling overseas in 2015.  

How long has travel been important to you?
I’ve been pretty much on the road since living in the back of my station wagon for a few years when I was an 18 year old hippie surfer. And I still am on the road (not in the back of the car... well, not too often these days). That’s about 35 years travelling. Fuck… where has my life gone! I’m always travelling. Though I do have occasional bouts where I settle in somewhere for a few months a time.  

Why is travel so important to you?
I feel alive, challenged, inspired, amazed, free, on the very edge (sometimes), and excited. I’m addicted to being on the road, often alone, but not always. I love new people that come into my world for an hour, a day or night, or a month… or forever – crazy, beautiful encounters that come along, like unexpected gifts. But also sometimes I feel isolated, lonely, frightened, confused, excluded, and wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life. But all the feelings that go with just disappearing into the world and sometimes not knowing where I’m going are real, and make me feel so very much like I am living life.  

In what circumstances do you feel excluded?Just now and then in another place in the world, watching locals go about their familiar lives, it hits me that I am often an outsider, a wanderer, a nomad… this isn’t my place, or my home or my way. I have flown in like a migrating bird stopping off on a long flight to somewhere else. Excluded kind of; but that doesn’t always mean feeling bad though, sometimes it means just being on the outside of, looking in. It can also be empowering, to not be a part of something.  

Do you feel you are more creatively stimulated when in a foreign country?
I’m quite creative wherever I am. Even in my new Melbourne life (a room I just scored in Brunswick Street), I will feel inspired, I’m sure. I often have a current project I’m working on when I travel. I’ve just come back from several months Indonesia and Thailand. I was learning lines for Almost Face To Face while I travelled. I was also thinking about my novel (still in thinking and writing stage). Often when I’m in another place I do have a new idea, so take a few notes. In fact the first draft of Almost Face To Face, was written years ago on an Australia Council Irish literature residency, then put it away and forgotten about. Sometimes it takes me years to get back to something that sprung into my mind while travelling around somewhere. 

You don't exactly do the tourist thing when overseas, do you. Typically, what do you do when in a new city? What kind of experiences do seek out?
I’m generally looking for somewhere new that I want to live for a while, or returning to a place from before. I have a few regular stops. One is Rishikesh in India. In Rishikesh, I do Yoga classes with amazing masters, I wander alone along the banks on Ganges and bathe in her clean icy holy waters – direct from the Himalayas. I wander through dense city throngs and lose myself, completely. I catch up with old local mates, meet travellers from all over the world, and I write, think, and wonder. In big cities, I usually have different routines than in quieter places (more art, music, theatre, partying etc.) After Melbourne I’m heading back to Bali, where I’m making a life. My days there are often writing, swimming and surfing, and wonderful mates from all over Indonesia… and the world, other nomads. I also try to work out how the hell I’m going to survive! But don’t get me on to that! How the hell am I going to continue to survive, like this? 

Your new play... tell us a little about it.
A fragile travelling writer arrives in Dublin after a devastating stint in Paris. His trip to Dublin is not without a few dangerous elements. He quickly falls into a chaotic underworld, inhabited by off-beat characters, and finds himself living in a small upstairs room with a woman trapped there by the way her life has gone. But he ventures out on to the street and falls further into the hidden underbelly of Dublin. His creative muddled and indulgent life sees him fall into this new world and write it all down (again). But nothing comes without repercussions and consequences, and he is finally forced to face up to what he has become in life. It’s a play about having the courage to move on from what is no longer needed or valid, and having the empathy and understanding to realise that not everyone else can do that. Some of us are trapped by who and what we are, and always will be. And that’s ok. The play hits that home, I think. 

So how autobiographical is it?
There is a part of me and my story in every work I create. Even
Appalling Behaviour had more elements of me in it than people could ever know. There are parts of me and my life in all of my plays, and there are parts that grew from those parts and took their own life. My characters are not me, but they are a big part of me and my life, and I’m a big part of them and their life. But I never reveal too much about what (exact) part is me and real. I fall into worlds and write about them. I utterly live the worlds I write about.

What kind of play is
Almost Face To Face? Drama? Comedy? Other?
It’s a drama with elements of stream of consciousness story-telling and streaks of dark comedy. But others are better judges of that than me.

Given that
Almost Face To Face is set in Ireland, a country famed for its story tellers, do you thing you will take it to Ireland?I would love to take it to Ireland, and have thought about it. If fact regarding your question, the story telling tradition of Ireland had an effect on the style of this play and my inspiration for writing it. I performed a story telling type piece in Dublin many years ago. That experience has always stayed with me and had an effect on me as a writer performer, as did my time living in Ireland.

The dramatic monologue (it is what you do, isn't it?) would appear to be the most difficult form of story telling. Why do you do it when you could simply write a story to be read or a play for actors to perform?
Each time I embark on this journey with this form, I think why, why, why? It is so hard to crack. You can’t tell, not completely. It needs to be crafted in a way that some things are told, some are discovered and that the story filters out through a range of forms working together. Maybe the reason I do it is that it is such a challenge to get right. I love literary challenges. I never know if it is working until I get it in front of an audience. Its okay if they don’t like it (not everyone falls into the unusual worlds that do), but if they are with my story and engaged, then it has worked. That’s what I aim for. That they follow my story and want to know what happens. Dramatic Monologue for an hour alone on stage is a real challenge. Ah, scary! Why am I doing this, again?

What kinds of people will Almost Face To Face appeal to most?
I like to think that it’s a moving, human, sad and sometimes funny and beautiful story bubbling out of the underworld of Dublin. I think (and hope) that most people who see it will be taken on a real ride, somewhere special. My work is written for everyone; not only those who like to take risks. People that are interested in the human experience and condition should go with this work.

Do you have a line or passage from the play that encapsulates its spirit?
I don’t know if it encapsulates the spirit of the play but it encapsulates that moment of the play, and it’s a piece that often brings tears to my eyes, performing it…

Don’t’ go, he says. His call is like a knife in my heart. I so want take him away from this and them – from all that I am and have been too… find some of what is dragging me to escape and try for change and offer it up to him. But I can’t… I just don’t know how to give him anything at all, except money… I’m incapable… because I am struggling so hard to somehow help myself… to try to not be what I‘ve been for so, so long… that I have nothing left to help him along. And I’m nearly an old man. Fuck, what happened? Where do the years go?

Almost Face To Face is part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Season is at La Mama theatre from September 17 - September 28, 2014.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Master Class, 45 Downstairs, Review

Master Class

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose.

Initially, I confused Maria Callas with Diamanda Galas. The latter, I thought, would be a great subject for a play. When I realised my mistake I was a little disappointed because although Maria Callas did indeed lead an eventful life and was obviously worthy of celebrating in the form of a play, I don't really like opera. And after reading the press release properly, Master Class was going to contain some singing. Oh Dear. I wasn't sure about this. I mean, opera, really?

Right from the start, however, this play cast a spell. It's a loving tribute to La Divina, very funny, warm, and gives great insight into what it takes to be a great performer, to really excel at any creative vocation. I loved the writing, the acting, the structure of the story and – get this – the singing. Not ever having been to a live opera performance I have no idea why I thought I didn't like opera. The power of this kind of singing is extraordinary, and I do believe I'll be following up on this epiphany.

In 1971, after her career had peaked, Maria Callas conducted a series of master classes at the Julliard School in New York. Maria Mercedes takes to the stage as Maria Callas, an imposing, demanding figure oozing confidence, an acute sense of self and an enviable reserve of quips, one liners and comebacks. The character comes across as hard, driven and passionate. At times she seems more passionate about the artistic process than the feelings of her students (we, the audience, are addressed as her students), but there are moments where a couple of the students stand up against her and prove their talent when their tutor softens. You can't be this passionate about creativity and be a complete ice queen.

As the students finally get to sing, memories are triggered, actual recordings of Maria Callas are cued in their aural sepia tones, and Maria Mercedes does a wonderful job of revealing what it was like to be Maria Callas: to grow up poor through the Second World War; of what it was like to struggle with her weight, her craft and the importance of her perfectionism. We hear of her relationship with Aristotle Onassis and of what it was like to triumph against the odds to become La Divina. It's all quite nostalgic whilst remaining current and relevant to anyone unfortunate enough to want to succeed in the arts. These more personal, nostalgic sections are perfectly counter-balanced by the frequent laugh-out-loud ones.

And so we come to that singing. Other cast members were Cameron Thomas, kind of a piano-playing sidekick, and Georgia Wilkinson, Robert Barbaro and Anna-Louise Cole as the students in the spotlight. It was a revelation to me to be so close to fellow human beings with access to such rich, stirring vocals. Clearly there is a magical recipe of natural talent and rigorous training at play here, and these voices, mere human voices, have the power to stir emotions. It seems I don't dislike opera as much as I thought I did.

45 Downstairs was the perfect venue for this story to be told. It's a very open space, much like a small lecture auditorium, making the whole experience quite evocative of being back there, back then in the presence of La Divina.


At 45 Downstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne until August 28.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Conversations With Our Customers: Oh Lord

A guy places his coffee order. I ask him if he wants a copy of the receipt. He says, "Yes, I should take it or my boss might get angry.

I go full Hoges Ozzie wink 'n nod as I look at his preist collar and say, "You don't want to make your boss angry."

I really don't know if this was funny or lame Dad joke.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Silver Screen Daydream

(c) Lee Bemrose, obv.

And just as suddenly as she had come into his life, she was gone. For a while Ewan was in a mild state of shock. He felt the way you do when you walk out of a movie into the real world but your mind is reluctant to leave the movie behind. He was stunned that the whole thing had happened at all. Things like that simply didn’t happen to him. He was Ewan. Loner. Loser. He was not without some off-kilter charm, and he was not entirely unattractive, and at least he had a job, but he was still just Ewan.

They met in a bar. Only unlike in the movies, Ewan was drunk and alone, his mind some place he would never go to, playing out some scene that would never happen. Reality had dissolved. Ben had left but Ewan had decided to stay for one more drink. There were loud people all around, normal people with lots of friends and good jobs and interesting things to say. A B-grade comedy was playing silently on the wall-mounted television, and Ewan could pretend he was watching it, if he needed to. But he was thinking about this place, Paris, thinking about being an artist in Paris. He wondered what the air smelled like in Paris, wondered what the sky looked like, wondered what it felt like to stroll down the Champs Elysee at night, wondered how the sun felt on your skin sitting on the grass by the Eiffel Tower. He imagined a whole life where it was okay to be alone, where he didn’t have to speak, where his art justified his existence. He spent a little time wondering what kind of artist he might be. He thought about Lucy Jordan. He liked that old song, “... at the age of thirty seven, she knew she’d never...”

That’s when she sat down at his table. She spoke to him like they were old and comfortable friends.

What are you thinking?” she asked him.

It was only then that Ewan realised he had been smiling. How long had he been smiling like that? Jesus Christ, he must have looked mad. Alone and smiling at a sad song. And drunk. How did he get so drunk?

Sorry?” he said over the noise, desperately stalling for time, wondering what was wrong with her. She looked normal enough, even a little on the attractive side. She was thin, serious looking, was wearing a scarf because scarves were fashionable this season, and a soft leather jacket that he would later learn she had bought in Portobello Road. She pushed her thick-rimmed glasses back up on her nose and sipped her red wine, then asked him again.

What are you thinking?”

Ewan shrugged and sipped his beer and wished he had been drinking wine. What was going on here?

Nothing.” Ewan replied. “Nothing really. Why do you ask?”

You looked, I don’t know, far away, like you were dreaming of another life, in another place.”

Ewan looked at her properly then. He wondered how he looked as he smiled at her. He hoped he looked friendly and not just creepy. She was sitting at the table, her elbows resting on the table top, arms folded. She was looking right at him. They could be good friends, Ewan thought. Mates. Maybe more. To anyone who looked. Ewan wished that Ben would come back now. God that would be perfect. He wanted someone to see this. He looked around the pub as though there might be someone he knew.

I was thinking about... I’ve been thinking about going to Paris,” Ewan said. “For a holiday.” And thought what? He’d been thinking no such thing. But he sounded so convincing he almost believed himself.

She folded her arms tighter, scrunched that cherry red leather. “Ah, Paris. I like Paris.”

It was then that Ewan noticed she had a slight accent. She sounded Australian, but British too. He liked that. It made her exotic. This was too good. Where the hell was Ben? Ewan thought about texting him and asking him to come back. But no, that would be stupid. She would end up leaving with Ben. Ben could fuck off and find his own exotic girl.

You’ve been? To Paris?”

I go all the time. I used to live there.”

Ewan swooned a little. He’d never had anyone this cool talk to him like this. She had lived in Paris and she was talking to Ewan. Ben’s not going to believe this...fuck Ben, stop thinking about Ben. Think about her. Don’t lose her. Don’t scare her off. Act cool. Play the role. Be cool. Can you be cool? Yeah, yeah, I just need to relax. Offer to buy her a drink... holy shit, why did you get so drunk? She finds out you’re pissed she’ll be out of here. Fucking hell, how do I keep this going? What do I say? She’s lived in Paris and I’ve been nowhere...say something and say it now or she’ll get up and go to another table...

Wow. That must have been good. Living in Paris.” Ewan was a little impressed with how calm he sounded, and soon they were talking. Just talking. They told each other their names and she told him about Paris and he listened and nodded as though he were taking notes for his planned holiday. They had more drinks, and lost themselves in talk, and Ewan was funny and she laughed and she made him laugh, and somewhere in the back of Ewan’s mind was the realisation that this was possibly the happiest he had been in his entire, uneventful little life.

But it got better. In the following weeks there was more laughter and more drinking and more talking and more sex than Ewan had ever imagined. Well perhaps not more than he had imagined; he had a lot of imaginary sex. But it was more sex than he had ever really expected to have with the same person. They even fucked in the park a couple of times, in broad daylight. But mainly they did it at his place or hers, on the couch or in the shower, sometimes in the middle of cooking a meal when their mouths tasted of wine. It was delicious, raw, dirty sex and Ewan couldn’t shake that feeling that he was living in a movie. It was all just too good. It made Ewan feel like a different person. It made him feel like the person he always should have been. It made him feel like the lifetime of bumbling fuck-ups and mistakes had never happened.

And then she was gone. She went back to London, back to her life. And Ewan went back to his life, back to being Ewan. They both agreed that it had all been fun, but that was all. It was just one of those things. Ewan hoped that the manner he adopted indicated that this kind of thing happened to him all the time. Like, hey, I’m cool, whatever, it’s been a blast, have a happy life.

But that feeling lingered long after she had gone. Did that really happen? Had a woman really walked up to him in a bar? Had they really had what would have been referred to in a review, if it had been a movie, a torrid affair? How had it happened? Why Ewan? Was it ever going to happen again?

For a while Ewan tried to make it happen again, but it just didn’t work. He took to smiling at strangers in bars and pubs, but they didn’t see him. Or they ignored him. Just as they always had. In time he stopped trying to catch their attention and just accepted that it was never going to happen again. The world was simply too preoccupied with itself to bother with Ewan, just as it had always been. And in any case, the truth of it was, when he dug down deep enough and forced himself to look, the truth was that he didn’t want it to happen again. Not with someone new. Cora, it seemed, had taken something of Ewan away with her.

Ewan went back to his mundane job and his small group of misfit friends and getting quietly drunk with Ben, and dreaming of another life, in another place.

Ewan laughed when the first postcard arrived. It was so kitsch. A red double decker bus, a London Bobby, Big Ben and London Bridge, some stupid line about London. He flipped it over and read and smiled to himself. It was just a short note saying that she had been thinking of him and hoped he was well. He smiled until there were tears in his eyes. He had not really expected to hear from her, but he was glad he had. He went to the newsagent and bought the worst postcard he could find. It was so tacky it was brilliant.

Over the months he built up quite a collection of awful postcards from London and Paris (she had to catch the train to Paris from time to time for her job. Imagine!) and he visited all the tawdry souvenir shops in town to hunt down the ugliest of them from Sydney. It made more sense, of course, to email or instant message, but somehow they knew that this was better, that they both enjoyed this little game, the suspense of checking the letterbox each day and the small thrill of receiving the postcard. Ewan even enjoyed, in a strange way, the disappointment of the empty letterbox. It meant there would probably be something there the following day. Or the day after that. They had such a similar sense of humour that he knew she would be doing the same. That was the thing; they had clicked. And it got Ewan thinking.

Ewan looked at the ticket. He couldn’t believe it. Who would have thought? And his passport. His own passport. He shook his head in wonder. He looked at the photo again. He should have held his chin up a little more. Slight double chin. Never mind. He smelled the passport. He looked down at the blank pages. He smiled. “Thank you Lucy Jordan,” he said quietly.

Ewan had everything planned. Mrs Thompson, his neighbour, would call in and water the plants and feed the cat. He had considered asking Ben or his mother but they would snoop; Mrs T, he felt sure, would not. But he hid his stash of porn in a locked suitcase just to be sure. He said goodbye to Owen, trying, he knew, to load the moment with more drama than was reasonable. He just about conjured tears, but it was no good; the cat quite clearly did not give a shit. One last look around his neat unit, and it was time to go.

Ewan knew he shouldn’t feel as excited as he did as he swung his suitcase into the boot of the cab. But he couldn’t help it. He closed the boot and walked to the side and hesitated before taking the back seat.

Domestic or international, the driver asked in a thick Mediterranean accent and with little interest.

Ewan paused a beat before intimating “International,” as though it was the kind of thing he said all the time. The taxi driver grunted as he pulled out into the traffic. Ewan looked at the security camera mounted above the rearview mirror. He did something subtle with his mouth before turning to gaze out the window. Three quarter profile. Perfect.

This is no good at all, Ewan thought as he took his new woolen coat off and wiped the sweat from his brow; he was trying to get into the spirit of things, but the London weather was not co-operating. 26 degrees and sunny? He wanted fog and frost and bitter cold, not summer heat. Didn’t fly half way around the world for something I could have at home. He considered saying this out loud so that a passerby might realise that we was an international traveler, but he realised he was being foolish; he was not here for the weather. He would save this line for another, more appropriate time. An uttered complaint about the food perhaps. Or the wine. Yes, he would peruse a wine list and mutter “Koonunga Hill?” And deliver his line and the waiter would be suitably impressed.

Ewan walked and walked that first day, eventually taking in too many tourist attractions. He had not intended to walk so far, nor see so many tourist attractions. He had actually intended to go for a bit of a stroll, wait for the tiredness to set in and go back to his hotel room for a sleep. But he got lost. Each time he thought he knew where he was it proved to be a trick, and there was another tourist attraction which he decided to see in case he never found it again. Eventually, hot and tired and unable to take in another single piece of historical information, he placed his fate in the hands of a London cabbie, a nice enough bloke who didn’t have the decency to ask where Ewan was from. Back in his hotel room Ewan lay down on his bed, his body aching, and closed his eyes on the blur of centuries of history.

And woke confused. Such dreams. But what is this? This place? These dreams. This room. What time? But day or night? And why don’t I know? Oh god, they were beheaded on this very spot? What? What? Beheaded? Who beheads? Who got beheaded?

When his world came back into focus, Ewan giggled a little; he was already looking forward to being home and telling anyone who cared to listen about all the things he had seen.

On the second day Ewan decided to deliver the postcard. He hadn’t wanted to visit on the first day; that would have seemed odd, he knew that. He had hoped he might bump into her in the streets of London. But no such luck. So it was back to the original plan. And here he was, standing on her doorstep thinking yellow, her door is yellow. As yellows went it was not bad, but yellow was not his favourite colour. In fact it was probably his least favourite colour. Sometimes purple really bugged him, but purple was usually in some sort of context, like hippies or something, and it could well have been the context and not the actual colour that bugged him; what use had hippies ever been? But yellow... yellow needed no context, and in fact it was doubtful yellow even had a context. Certainly there was no connotation or implication that sprung to mind... canaries perhaps, although it’s not like you always look at yellow and immediately think ah, canaries... why do you do this? Just knock on the yellow door and get this started. She will laugh so hard when she sees you... but what if she doesn’t laugh? Or worse, what if she laughs too hard? It should be okay. Waited two days. Wait on – flew half way around the planet and waited two days and that makes it all right? My God - is this not a case of stalking? Am I a stalker? She will let you know soon enough if she thinks you are stalking her, now will you just knock on the yellow door please?

Ewan raised his hand to the yellow door and paused. He thought about the thing, the part of him that Cora had taken. It was a small thing. He imagined it sitting in the palm of a hand, so bright you couldn’t see it properly. But it was the most important thing. The single most important thing. Whether she laughed too hard or didn’t laugh at all, he was going to tell her. He was going to say the words just like they do in the movies. And if it was wrong it would hurt, but he would turn and walk nobly away –

The door swung open.


An expletive apology tumbled from Ewan’s mouth.

What are you doing? Almost gave me a heart attack.”

I’m... er, I’m Looking for Cora,” Ewan said. He realised he was speaking in a slight British accent, similar to this woman’s accent. And he realised that he was blinking rather a lot. He resisted the urge to run his hand through his hair; a little bit of Hugh Grant went an awfully long way.


Yes, I was, erm, I... I was in the area and thought I’d pop in and... is... is she in?” Ewan asked as he squinted a little. He wasn’t sure where this Hugh Grant business had come from, but he was committed now. The accent stays, he told himself, so does the stammering and the blinking, but do not touch your fucking hair.

No. No I’m afraid she’s not. She’s staying with her boyfriend for a while. Can I giver her a message?”

Ewan felt everything stop. He wanted someone to say cut! He wanted someone to say no no no that’s not the line! First positions everyone, get ready for another take and let’s get it right this time people. Aaaand...action.

Boyfriend,” Ewan said flatly as he felt the postcard being screwed into the palm of his hand. “Ah.”

The woman stepped fully outside and locked the door.

Yes, bless her. Think she’s in love with this one. Who shall I say called?”

He almost said Owen, but it was too close to his own name. Under no circumstances must she ever know that he had been here. Cora had not known the clumsy part of him, the stupid version the rest of the world knew. So instead he said that his name was Grant, told her twice so there could be no mistake, and said they had gone to university together and that he had been in the area, and that it had been several years since they had seen each other, and that he would call again soon.

Ewan had never been so embarrassed and depressed as he was for the rest of his stay in London. He stayed in his hotel room. He ate little. He drank a lot. He sent postcards back home. He berated himself and fabricated fictitious versions so that no one would ever know what a fool he was. For Ben and his friends, he had spent a wonderful month with her but it had not worked out. They would expect photos - he had lost his camera, and in any case did not want reminders of this beautiful thing gone wrong. His mother would be saddened to hear that the position he had applied for at the BBC had given to someone else - never mind, the company had paid for the flight and it had been an invaluable experience. Mrs Thompson... oh God, why had he told her he was going to Paris to get married to a woman named Lucy? Why had he done that? He would tell her that poor sad Lucy never made it, fell ill and didn’t make it. He had attended her funeral, not her wedding. Yes, that’s what happened.

As Ewan stood in the line amid the chaos of Heathrow Airport, shuffling closer to the check-in, he knew he had everything covered. He knew that no one would ever know the details of this mistake. He knew they would never guess the stratospheric level of his stupidity. His shame would be forever his own. And he knew their correspondence would cease.

What Ewan might never know was the turn his life might take. He might never know that if the story had been in the hands of another director, Ewan would have been told look up, look up now. Look at the passengers streaming through the arrivals gates. See the tired ones and the happy ones, all these lives streaming through and branching off into their own worlds. Look up now Ewan, look at the faces, find that one face in the crowd, that one in a million. There. Yes. That’s her. She’s the one. Read her face. She looks tired, yes, it has been a long flight, but there is more, so much more. Your reaction? You piece it together, you realise the misunderstanding. You are relieved and amazed, and somehow frightened by how infinitesimally close you came to missing each other. Go to her now, this director would have said, that’s what you must do, Ewan, before it’s too late, before you lose each other forever. As she turns and heads to the baggage collection area, that is your cue to go to her. You will not have to say anything. You will simply know, both of you will know and you will move into each others arms hold each other like you never want to let go, and it will be exactly like it is in the movies, the happiest of endings. But you must look up now, Ewan. Stop looking at the blank pages of your passport and look up...