The WA Ballet … On Pointe with DRACULA

Dracula Programme Cover

Dracula is potentially an artistic minefield, it can so easily tip into Hammer Horror farce, shattering audience illusion, however the WA Ballet company has taken Bram Stoker’s iconic horror story and produced a masterpiece of dance and theatre.

Francis Ford Coppola, with his still stunning film Dracula (1992), understood the story was essentially that of lost love, despair and a corresponding descent into madness, Artistic Director Aurelien Scannella not only agrees with that interpretation, he’s come out of dancing retirement to take on the role of the Old Dracula.

It’s not often every element of theatre comes together in the way this production does – the sets, the lighting, the costumes, the music and of course, the dance. It’s a meticulous attention to detail I’ve not witnessed since the late Leonard Cohen’s concerts – perhaps there’s a Prince of Darkness synergy there?

Costumes and sets inevitably establish an era and a mood, but Phil Daniels and Charles Smith have also managed to set character, a Dracula aficionado will instantly recognise the main players, and it has the effect of enhancing the choreography. There was no sense the costumes had had to be worked around, rather a seamless match of costume and dance giving life to character.

The sets were, as to be expected, gothic and brooding, brought to life by Jon Buswell’s subtle, but evocative lighting, emphasising the collaborative thought and attention to detail throughout this production. Without in any way diminishing any particular set, the scenes that resonated for me, in no particular order, were the waltz scenes, the set reminding me of the Schönbrunn Palace interiors in Vienna, the power and sense of vastness in the interior of Dracula’s castle, the carriage delivering Jonathan Harker to the castle, Renfield’s asylum cell and the bed were Dracula’s brides seduce Harker.

Scannella has chosen to use music predominantly written by the Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, (dec), in fact much of the music features excerpts from his score for Coppola’s Dracula, if that sounds as if it was a simple task of matching film score to scene, nothing could be further from the truth. Kiwi arranger, Michael Brett has brilliantly matched diverse pieces to scenes, even including a little Chopin. Under the direction of Canadian conductor Judith Yan, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra is simply wonderful. As one might imagine, cellos are prominent, but special mention must be made of the piano – there was a keyboard passage that filled the auditorium with crystal clear emotion.

Ah, the dancers. It is after all, the WA Ballet. The cast were breathtakingly good, they were the characters, the illusion was peerless, whether it was the erotic danger of Melissa Boniface as Lucy appearing to float on pointe, or the innocence and sweetness of Carina Roberts in her dual roles of Elizabeth and Mina, the reasoned calm and comfort of Polly Hilton (Mrs Westenra), the studied, perfect, individual masculinity of Oscar Valdes (Jonathon), Gakuro Matsui (Arthur), Adam Alzaim (van Helsing), or Christian Luck (Doctor). Then there was the believable madness of Jesse Homes as Renfield, catching flies to eat, driven mad by the scent of his master. I don’t know which dancers were playing Draculas brides, however they were equally stunning, the eroticism and sensuality of the bedroom scene with Jonathon Harker on the bed, and the graveyard dance of the hunted stood out, reminding us of the undertones of sexuality that make this tale so fascinating. Then there were the kids! Although not required to dance, Dante Pendergrast, Zac Bresland and Leuan O’Donohue added poignancy as potential victims pursued by Dracula’s brides and in another scene, the lone child with his bereft mother who’d lost her baby to Dracula.

Then there is Dracula – two of! This was a masterstroke of creative thinking. Dracula withers without blood, without feeding he falls into decay and the monster is revealed. In other productions I’ve seen, Dracula drinks and gives some sort of power display, but in the WA Ballet’s production, (a new work), he is truly transformed, it’s both fascinating and beautifully done.

Aurelien Scannella plays the hungry decaying old Dracula, while Matthew Lehmann plays the young thirst quenched Dracula and they are two different beasts. Scannella’s Dracula is decay, evil and dangerous. His performance is like watching a tiger stalk, at once both repellent and riveting. Then he feeds and the transformation is astounding. In a fabulous display of choreography, lighting and dance skill, Lenmann’s reinvigorated youthful Dracula appears, whilst Scannella’s decaying Dracula fades into the shadows. Lenmann’s Dracula is not obviously a monster, he’s a sophisticated suave seducer, but he is still Dracula, you really have to see the changes to understand just how clever it is. Fantastic stuff. The production has added two butlers to the story and they work in two ways, firstly we quickly understand their appearance is a prelude to Dracula arriving, secondly, they serve to remind us there is an undercurrent of homoeroticism to the story, in fact their costumes are near naked as the story becomes more intense.

I’ve really had to stretch to fault this production, only two things slightly jarred for me – the first when Elizabeth throws herself off the castle parapet, the dummy used just fell to the floor, making an unrealistic thud as it hit the dance floor and the second, when the nurse screams seeing Dracula outside the window. The scream actually ruined the illusion for a minute – as a ballet, it succeeds beyond anything I’ve witnessed, in terms of conveying the tale without speech, the scream was a rare corny moment – it would be far more effective if she put her hand over her mouth and collapsed on the floor.  As for Elizabeth’s suicide, I’d like to see the dummy float to the floor without the Hammer Horror thud – easy to do with wire. But that’s really it, apart from those tiny two details, I can’t fault the production.

Apologies to dancers I’ve not mentioned, I counted about 36 performers on stage as the cast took their bows, the audience on Friday night rightly could not stop clapping, my two adult daughters were as overwhelmed as I was with the production, the three of us agreeing, we’d like to go again, it is that good. You will not see a better ballet performance and production anywhere in the world. I hope at some stage they do tour this, European audiences would go wild over it.

Greg Ross

ON AIR – A Review of Mike Carlton’s New Memoir.

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Hey Dad, I think you might enjoy this, something to read on the flight to Germany,” my daughter Saraj handed me an Advance Proof of Mike Carlton’s new autobiography.

Daughter knows dad. A long term fan of Mike Carlton’s work, I could not put the book down, spending much of my time down the back of the Airbus, leaning against the bulkhead, totally engrossed.

Although I grew up in New Zealand, his early years memories mirrored mine so vividly, once or twice I found myself lost in warm nostalgia and as I’d flown across the ditch to live in Oz in the eary 1970s, everything post adolescence resonated as well, astoundingly so.

Fear not, although for obvious reasons there is much about Australian media, especially radio, throughout the memoir, it is fascinating background, however this is the definitive book every Aussie Baby Boomer has been waiting for, it’s our history written in captivating detail, scene after scene of political history, from the disaster of Vietnam, through the experience of being a colonial in England, to the rambunctious pits of Australian business and politics.

As you would expect, Carlton is fearless and pulls no punches, one can imagine a few deflated, annoyed egos, will, (if they haven’t already), drop Carlton off the soiree list, but for the rest of us, anyone remotely interested in post WWII Australian history will treasure this memoir.

524 pages long, in 12pt type, the paperback is substantial, a William Heinemann book, published by Pengun Random House we now have the perfect gift for family and friends. If you were around Oz in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and still here, this is the must-have book for your library. It is that good.
Greg Ross

DEAR ETIHAD AND KLM … ALL I NEED IS SOME AIR TO BREATHE!

Now I must be honest, the return economy airfare of $1,136.00 Perth to Amsterdam was so ridiculously cheap, I have no right to comment about anything; on the other hand, it is an advertised service and the airlines involved have already sent me emails asking for comment.

I purchased the ticket from Air France in February this year and flew to Amsterdam on Tuesday 17th July. The first leg from Perth to Abu Dhabi was flown by Etihad and the second leg (Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam) was with KLM. Both airlines used Airbus A330s.

Although I’d been able to book my preferred seat with Etihad at the same time I booked and paid for the flight, there was no way I could book a preferred seat with KLM, which seemed strange, as Etihad was the code share airline, whereas KLM and Air France are the same company. The message on the KLM site was that I could book a seat 30hrs before the flight, however that also proved impossible, so in spite of completing onine boarding there was no choice other than to stand in the queue at the airport.

The very pleasant and helpful lady at the counter dealt with it, however I had to accept the window seat allocated on the KLM flight, there was no apparent way to change to my favourite ailse seat.

Compliments to the Perth border / customs – (God knows what they are called these days under the Turnbull / Dutton regime) – passage was thorough, but polite and quick. The finished departure lounge area is excellent, you can buy a drink, or a snack and there are now toilets everywhere. Time to board.

If you’re travelling on an Arab airline, you know the plane will be the latest, in perfect condition and the seat will have USB and 240v power, plus a large screen, as indeed did our aircraft. After a lengthy period of post operation non activity, I’ve put on a bit (read too much!) weight, but I was surprised to find that doing up the seatbelt was a struggle. The seats are excellent, comfortable, even for a wide bum bloke like me, legroom is also fine, athough I’m only average (175cm) height; however, if the person in front puts their seatback down, you’re stuffed, the only thing you can do is turn and apologise to the person behind, saying you have no choice but to do the same. I think if the airlines are going to cram people in like sardines, the time has come to axe seat recliners.

Worse was to come. I have no trouble doing long distance (10hr+) flights; however I am claustrophobic, and the first thing I do when I’m in my seat, is adjust the overhead air vent on to my head / face, that fresh forced air is a pyschological game saver for me. Unfortunately, the A330 has no personal air vents and to make matters worse, Etihad runs their cabin temperatures very warm, it must be 2c-3c warmer than other airlinines I’ve travelled on. When the meal had finished and the person in front had laid their seat back, I felt closed in, hot and trapped. In the finish, I spent the majority of the flight standing up at the back reading a book, only returning to my seat for turbulence and to relieve my aching legs.

The service on the flight was great and the cabin crew were really lovely – sometimes on Middle Eastern airlines, there is a reluctance to serve alcohol and service of anything can be slow; I always buy water to bring on board, as it can be up to an hour into a flight before you’re served anything (in economy); but this flght was superb. However, the heat and lack of air vents, combined with the curse of the reclining seat, meant I hated the flight and couldn’t wait for it to end.

It didn’t get any better when we landed at Abu Dhabi. No terminal for us, we exited out on to the tarmac, queueing in midnight 36c heat for buses to take us to the terminal; but at least there was air conditioning, not so in the terminal.

It seems in Abu Dhabi, they either haven’t got around to installing air conditioning in their terminal, or it might have broken down – but it was as hot as the desert and there are no automatic trains to transfer passengers across considerable distances, all in ridiculously high temperatures.

When I finally reached the gate for the next flight (KLM), I found utter chaos – the flight had started boarding, there was no orderly queue, rather half a dozen haphazard lines of people trying to pass through a two passport controller bottleneck and if anything, it was even hotter!

Of course it was, the doors to the outside of the terminal were wide open! Even when a bus filled up and left, the doors remained open waiting for the next bus. Eventually the bus pulled up beside the aircraft, but there we waited in the heat, as something was sorted out on board the aircraft.

Finally, we were welcomed on board the KLM Airbus A330, into fresh cool air, leaving behind the nightmare that was Abu Dhabi airport. For a major international airport, all I can say is they must be joking, it’s the worst I’ve ever had the misfortune to find myself in.

Sliding into my window seat, I was pleasantly surprised to find there was quite a bit of arm room between the seat and the window and although the aircraft didn’t have personal air vents either, there did seem to be some sort of airflow, coming down from the back of the overhead lockers, down past the window. I lent into it.

Compared to the Etihad A330, the KLM A330 was positively austere – no charging ports, a very small entertainment screen and the remote control tucked into the side of the armrest – I couldn’t help but think we’d gone back a generation in cabin design. But hey, the crew were friendly, the seatbelts were a lot longer than the Etihad belts and my fellow passenger, a Norwegian sailor, was a lot of fun, the flight was only about seven hours, it should be OK.

The crew came around within minutes of take off, asking what we wanted to drink, very friendly, great people. All good, until the kid in front suddenly lent her seat back. The wine went everywhere. I thanked the Gods I was wearing dark jeans. My Norwegian mate and I discussed murder, he suggested a time honoured Viking method – apparently you wound the criminal, then place them in a cage with crabs. I stared ahead at the kid!

Shortley afterwards, the cabin crew came round with our meals. I looked at our steward and shrugged, pointing at the seat in front of me which was almost hitting my forehead. He nodded and talked to the parent and kid, up went the seat. He also gave us both more wine and told us to let him know if we needed more. We grinned.

Somehow, the kid refrained from laying back her seat while we ate and waited for the tray collection, but within seconds of her tray being collected, bang! I hadn’t opened the wine, I also hadn’t finished my coffee. Yes, coffee all over my jeans. “I give up,” I said to my sailor mate, “I’m going down the back for a while.”

One of the cabin crew asked me if everything was OK; I explained that the laid back seat, the lack of air and the wine and coffee spillages meant I felt more comfortable standing down the back. She smiled ruefully and poured me a wine.

Full marks to the KLM cabin crew and I must say, it’s really good to see airlines like KLM, employing a mix of young and older staff. The Middle Eastern airlines appear very much fixated on pretty young things (male and female).

I tried sitting down a couple of times, but claustrophobia (no room, or air) got to me each time and within 30 minutes or so and back to the back I went.

Landing on a beautiful, clear, warm summer’s morning in Amsterdam is soul pleasing and while in the last couple of years, Schipol has been a nightmare with all the renovations completed, they’ve got it right, it’s a pleasure to pass through and it’s airconditioned!

Less than an hour after landing, I was on the train out of the airport, heading for Germany, thinking just how comfortable and civilised long distance train travel is; compared to long distance air travel, it was a relief to get off both aircraft to the sanctuary of the train.

That’s a pity and of course, you can overcome most of the issues I’ve written of; flying Premium Economy or Business, it is true that you get what you pay for. When push comes to shove, Etihad had the better equipped cabin, however both crews were great, the food on both was very good, but the lack of air vents is a killer for me. In future I will only fly with airlines that have personal air vents and I do think all airlines should stop Economy seats from being able to be laid back. Most of all, I wish I didn’t have to go through the airport at Abu Dhabi again, the return journey will certainly be my last.
Greg Ross

Telstra … just add Foxtel and call the men in White Coats! Aargh!!

Dear Telstra

I find myself in some Alice in Wonderland mad dream, all because I made a decision last week, to accept your offer of including Foxtel  with my Telstra Bundle account.  “Do tell!” I hear you say. Herewith!

Having spent the prerequisite 40 minutes or so negotiating the deal with your chap Dhali – it could have been Charlie, I really have no idea and that in itself can be part of the problem in dealing with Telstra – misunderstandings due to speaking with somebody who sincerely wants to help, but whose accent is difficult to follow. But that is perhaps a debate for another time.

Dhali organised for a technician to come to my house sometime between 10.00am and 4.00pm today (Monday 2 July). Last night (Sunday night), around 8.40pm, my mobile rang – I missed it the first time, as I as glued to the TV watching the final episode of MYSTERY ROAD. However  the phone rang again within a couple of minutes and I managed to get to it.

It was a Telstra technician, apparently the bloke coming to fit the dish etc today, he told me there was a problem, in that it was going to be raining on Monday and that I needed to change the date. I agreed with him that it was going to be raining, heavily and that I had wondered what would happen. He repeated that I needed to change the date. I replied that surely he and his boss should work out what could or couldn’t be done and available dates, then ring me to ask what suited, he responded, saying ,”They already know, you have to ring them!” I replied that I didn’t want to do that, as I felt it was their responsibility to organise things, saying, “If I ring Telstra, I have to listen to the bloody computer woman, none of her options will fit the purpose and I’ll have to give my name rank and serial number to five different people before I get anywhere and the whole process will take another 40 bloody minutes!”

“You’ve got to do it!” he said once more.

I told him that it looked like it was going to rain for the whole week and I could imagine going through the process night after bloody night! He said I was right, it was going to rain all week and that probably nothing would be done until the following week, but it was my responsibility to ring them and change it.

I then explained to him that I was going overseas for four weeks in mid July and that in all probability the damn thing wouldn’t be installed before I left and that I might be better off cancelling it all and having another look when I got back in late August. He liked that idea and said, “Yes, why don’t you cancel it and look at when you get back, good idea, you just need to ring them.”

I was astounded, this bloke was definitely not headed for a role with the sales team any day soon.  I confess I did say, “Mate, I’m fucking well over this, I need to think about the whole bloody thing!” He replied that he was in agreement, I needed to think about it and then ring them! My head was spinning, I went back to my programme.

When it finished, (fabulous series, by the way – congratulations ABC), I decided to try the Telstra written Chat Line, to see what could be sorted. Here, I must say, I work in the mining industry, where safety is paramount,  I do understand that nobody should be up on a roof in wet weather.

I started ‘Chatting’ with Patrick.

Patrick was overjoyed to hear from me and told me not to worry, “I can be helping you with that.” We spent 23 minutes swapping lines and scenarios, eventually concluding that everything was booked for Friday 6th July,  between 10.00am and 4.00pm. For my assurance, he gave me a reference number: INT 1-1583366987866  and then wrote, “To show my confidence, you can also get a copy of this chat for your superb peace of mind.”  He went on to say, (bless him), “… you really deserve this great customer service … you’re now my 23rd RESOLVED concern for tonight and I’ll take your word on it.” I must admit, that baffled me, but hey, I’ll go with the flow. Warily happy, I turned my attention to the FI Austrian GP, only to find, that like me, my fellow Perthite, Danny Ricciardo was not having a great time.

This morning (Monday), I awoke to find a message sent late last night, by my good friend Patrick. Unfortunately he had  been unable to get through to anybody and guess what?

YES! You’re right! He suggested I ring Telstra in the morning to organise everything!

It’s not often I need a malt whiskey at 7.00am.

I’d  tweeted  a summary to Telstra and Foxtel. Never heard from Telstra, but Charlie from Foxtel came back to me, shocked, sorry and determined  (just like my other good friend Patrick), to help and rectify the situation. So he could fully understand what had preceded,  I sent him the transcript of my conversation with Patrick.

We had reached the stage of discussing the time frame, when my mobile rang. It was the technician from last night! It was 11.07am and it became immediately obvious nothing was happening in the Telstra workshop, or forward planning worksheets – although I seriously doubt you have that sort of thing! He asked me, “Have you decided to cancel yet?”  I started to laugh at the sales orientated commitment of this bloke. “No mate,” I replied, “I’m trying to work out what is the best thing to do for me, although I’m basically over this shit let me tell you!”

“It’s raining!” he said.

“Mate, I bloody well know that, I wouldn’t expect anybody to  get on my roof today and they’re still saying it’s going to rain all week.”

“Exactly!” he proudly and positively replied, “You won’t get anything done this week. So what do you want to do?”

I replied, “Mate, I have no bloody idea!”

“Well you need to ring them!”

“No mate, I’m not putting myself through all that push button 3, 4, 5 nonsense, I’ll send them an email.”

“Yes,” he replied, “Send then an email and tell them you’re changing it to another day, or later in the year, that’s what you’ve got to do” and he hung up.

I went back to chatting with my new friend Charlie at Foxtel, to find he’d sent me a message telling me  he completely understood my frustration, but I needed to call Telstra and explain the position to them, signing off wishing me a great day.

It’s now 2.00pm Monday afternoon and all my instinct says to just walk away and call nobody and just see what happens. I don’t think I care anymore, in fact, I think I might bring my overseas flight forward!

Greg Ross

The Twitter Experience – Don’t Dare Question, or Worse, Respond!

The world of social media, especially Twitter, has become an unwieldy Hydra, where the majority hide behind pseudonyms, belching out fire, disdain and character assassinations based on headlines, or worse, mob rule. Civilised debate is not tolerated and political correctness must be adhered to, or one can expect vilification to rain down. The point of a comment, or an article, is quickly consumed and lost by keyboard warriors and trolls grasping at what they consider to be the ‘real’ message.

I have learnt that the far left are as bad as the far right in any argument, both will assassinate you without a moment’s hesitation, there seems to be a thrill in a perceived kill and the mob closes in, triumphantly retweeting whatever rocks their boat, most having no idea of what the original post may have stated, it’s the dagger and the bullet response they love. The Romans knew the great unwashed loved the spectacle of slaying the beast and in some ways, there is little difference between gladiator auditoriums and Twitter. Except that on Twitter, there is no personal contact, the reality of sitting across from someone and calling them a “Nob” or “lacking emotional intelligence and empathy” and so on, is completely absent, it’s just some vague name on a screen. Such comments are almost inevitably  made from a position of remoteness and a complete lack of knowledge of the person they are defaming. It seems the more vacuous the accusation, the more the mob loves it and retweets without a care. Heaven help anyone who fights back.

There appear to be three major types of gladiatorial keyboard warriors – in the far right corner, it’s usually men. Inevitably trolls, they have no interest in debate, they just want to kill and immediately punch out lines such as, “Lefty fairy,” “dickhead,” “you’re an idiot,”What would you know fuckwit?”, “Muslim lover” is a favourite and there, I must say, it’s amazing how many Islamophobes want people killed, specifically, stoned to death. I always reply to them asking if they’re from Saudi Arabia.

Then there’s the far left. In that corner, sit a number of women with various crusading Amazonian agendas, plus a group of men, usually young, proudly displaying their feminism and desire to fight on the side of right. Now these two groups are not trolls, but as with trolls, they usually don’t want debate and they do love to close in for the kill, what differs is that political correctness rules. One small hint that you’re not towing the acceptable line and vicious retaliation thunders down. The saddest thing, is that usually, these people are championing a good and just cause, it’s just that reason and understanding have no place when one is on a crusade.

The shocking rape and murder of the young comedian Eurydice Dixon, has justifiably created an increasingly resonating call from women (and men) across Australia, for an end to violence against women and for women to be respected and safe wherever they may be. Who in their right mind, would not support that call?  However, as the days have gone on, the call has become a command to men everywhere, to change their behaviour, even to take responsibility as a group, for that and other terrible deeds. The fact that this particular murder was carried out by one individual has been lost in the message.

None of us know whether this person was in the grip of mental health issues, or drugs, or just plain evil, but the awful reality, is that there will always be people who go off the deep end and rape and murder, no matter what we do as a society. The Police were attacked for suggesting that women needed to be more careful. Now yes, that is a dreadful admission for any society to have to make, but it is the unpalatable truth. I certainly don’t like it and I doubt many men do, it’s not how most of us want things to be and that’s the issue –  screaming out that all men have to take responsibility is offensive to the majority of us who aren’t insane and don’t practice or condone violence against women or anybody. Protestations are met with howls of “This is not about you!” Yes, it is, the vilification is directed at every man. It’s an all-encompassing very broad accusation brush.

Somebody needs to harness this genuine and right indignation and rage and create a message of inclusion, not accusation. There is little or no understanding of how men work, think and respond. Men generally work in black and white – This is the problem, what is the solution? Or when being accused, they baulk and argue if they are innocent. In the case of hideous crimes such as rape, murder and paedophilia, the instinctive reaction of most men, is black and white – “I hope they catch that bastard and string him up!”

The call should be along the lines of “Guys, we need your help to try and change things,” rather than the strident ,”Men, you need to change!” But as long as the Voodoo Dolls and pins are out for any male who dares question the language and tone of the rhetoric, men will sadly, shut down and turn off from what is huge issue for all of us.

This sad divide has reached the stage where I’ve seen men called out for having said, or written that they have daughters and understand the issues women are confronted with. The chattering classes round on them instantly, screaming out that the man concerned is hiding behind the screen of his daughters. They’re not, they’re just explaining the process by which they have reached conclusions. However, they roll away, emotionally burnt , vowing not to get involved again. Better not to mention that you have daughters, a partner, or close female friends, indeed, men are learning it’s better to keep quiet and say nothing. I will guarantee that there are a lot of men who have been following this particular Twitter thread, thinking, “Fuck that. I agree with the poor bastard, but I’m not saying anything.” Anyhow, here’s the Twitter thread.

This is the link to Claire Harvey’s Article in the Daily Telegraph

Claire Harvey @chmharvey

Men don’t need to change their behaviour for Eurydice’s sake. https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/this-isnt-victim-blaming-its-common-sense/news-story/541ed3a57862600398c43448a2

@GregWRoss

At last, some reasoned comment on this hideous tragedy.

Greg Ross added,

The rape and murder – any rape or murder – is hideous, sickening and inexcusable, but as a man, I don’t need to change or be taught how to behave. I loath violence, but having testicles doesn’t make any more guilty than the woman next door. @abcnews @SBS @GuardianAus

Lisa Elliot

Then it’s not about you. ITS NOT ABOUT YOU. Omg why does it always have to be about you!!!! If you’re not dangerous great, but women don’t know that. Violent men can be very manipulative. So blame them not women for making you feel uncomfortable.

Replying to @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Don’t be absurd, all men are being targeted, or the message would be about violent individuals, you’re painting with a broad brush and it’s offensive.

Replying to @GregWRoss @chmharvey

It’s not about you!!! Omg this is the problem, when a woman is attacked you say you are the victim. You see, you can’t even empathise. Emotional intelligence is your problem and that of any man who can’t find empathy for women.

eplying to @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

See there you go – telling me what my faults are. Consider this – mothers are held to be the major influence on children un formative years – ladies stop breeding murderers.

@realDeanCool

Replying to @GregWRoss @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Mate, here’s a man writing about why men need to change. You should read it, you might learn something.

Replying to @realDeanCool @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Boys and girls – I’ve read it, I’m not in disagreememt, what needs to be understood is that your undergraduate enthusiasm and outrage is counter productive. I write to a journo thanking her for not blaming every man and suddenly I’m the problem? Bullshit.

@realDeanCool

FollowFollow @realDeanCool

Replying to @GregWRoss @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

You’re part of the problem if you believe that men don’t deserve the blame being heaped on them from everywhere else

5:02 AM – 18 Jun 201

Replying to @realDeanCool@Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Ah! There you go, men collectively. We’re all lumped into one brand, the lynch mob ready to hang anyone who protests.

  1. poet laureate‏ @realDeanCool5h5 hours ago

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The fact that you’re taking personal offense to the suggestion that men, and the cultural impact of masculinity, need to change, shows that you’re not actually considering what people are saying. You’re reacting to your own assumptions.

Direct message

  1. Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss5h5 hours ago

May I put it this way: An Aboriginal guy steals an article from a shop, do I then brand all Aboriginal men as thieves, not to be trusted?

Replying to @GregWRoss @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

This is a cultural issue. Not a race or gender-oriented issue. The culture of masculinity is the problem. Deflecting and denying shows that you still don’t understand what the problem is

Replying to @realDeanCool@Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Surely you understand that masculinity means different things to different cultures and societies. The culture one is brought up in, or lives in, affects behaviour.

  1. Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss4h4 hours ago

Replying to @realDeanCool @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Sadly, if we are to confront the horror of violence, we need to focus in the reality of recent studies showing Aboriginal men are 23 times more likely to be involved in domestic violence than other men.

Lisa Elliott‏ @Lisa11Elliott

FollowFollow @Lisa11Elliot

Replying to @realDeanCool @GregWRoss @chmharvey

He proved to me he’s definitely part of the problem, the part that doesn’t believe there is a problem unless it’s about him. Narcissistic characteristics. Nasty old guy.

  1. Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss5h5 hours ago

Replying to @Lisa11Elliott @realDeanCool @chmharvey

There we go again – assumptions. You still can’t see that I was attacked due to a Tweet I sent to a journo re an article she wrote, then people saw fit to attack me … and you don’t like that I fought back.

poet laureate‏ @realDeanCool5h5 hours ago

You were “attacked” for making this about you. It isn’t about the individual, it’s about the collective. The individual can influence the collective, but both need to shift attitudes and behaviours.

  1. poet laureate‏ @realDeanCool5h5 hours ago

More

You’re resisting that because you appear to believe that admitting male culture is toxic would place blame on you for existing, rather than seeing that you, and I, are a small part of a much larger problem.

  1. Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss4h4 hours ago

Where you are wrong, is in imposing your belief systems on me. Certainly our beliefs may match in some areas, however you are missing the point.

 @GregWRoss

Replying to @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Lacking emotional intelligence? Read my first post properly, so far, you’re demonstrating a sad lack of intelligence. Stop screaming outrage and let’s all work together.

7:19 PM – 17 Jun 2018

Lisa Elliott‏ @Lisa11Elliott19h19 hours ago

Replying to @GregWRoss @chmharvey

No thanks, you’re not worthy.

  1. Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss18h18 hours ago

Rushing into judgement, typical sm keyboard warrior, just read the headline, not the story. Grow up.

 @NickSchwanck

FollowFollow @NickSchwanck

Replying to @GregWRoss @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Nah, she’s right. You’re a complete nob.

  1. Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss16h16 hours ago

Replying to @NickSchwanck @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Oh dear! As is anybody who questions the outraged PC brigade. Insults, no reasoning, no engaging, just rage and abuse. Come back when you’re an adult.

Lisa Elliott‏ @Lisa11Elliott16h16 hours ago

This isn’t PC to women, sisters, daughters, mothers, wives, this is our reality. This is our existence. #metoo means we ALL have experiences of violence at the hands of men. Don’t you dare call it PC. This is how we live every single day of our lives. Fool.

Replying to  

Good. All you need to do is not sexually harass, sexually assault, rape, or murder any woman. Since you don’t do that, congratulations. You don’t need to change your behaviour at all, except to tell your mates off if they do any of the above, which I’m sure you already do, too.

  1. April Love‏ @ApribLove16h16 hours ago

My Mum used the phrase, there are none so blind as those who don’t want to see. Wasting our time saying the same things, to the same men not listening. Be part of the solution Greg, not part of the problem. Your confronting, condescending tone enables no positive dialogue.

Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss16h16 hours ago

Yes you are right, however if you follow the trail, I adopted the confrontation and condescension dished out to me, that seemed to be how these people communicate. You are the first to show reason.

Replying to @ApribLove @Lisa11Elliott and 2 others

This is what is rather frustrating – people are off point, assuming I don’t agree with the push to stop violence. It’s interesting to see people attacking me, then tell me it’s not about me.

  1. April Love‏ @ApribLove5h5 hours ago

Greg no one is off point. We need to make this exactly about what it is, male violence towards women, factual. I’m sure you see recent event as heinous, so what can you do to positively lend support to our story?

  1. Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss4h4 hours ago

Ah, I wouldn’t dare – I’ve seen how other well – meaning men have been attacked for stating they have daughters and understand. The shut – down is brutal. However what I will do is time – line this thread with a story on my blog, people can then judge me with facts at hand.

And hours later, it’s still going:

Gary Rockliff‏ @GR_ComputRepair

FollowFollow @GR_ComputRepair

Replying to @GregWRoss @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Shut your foul mouth you piece of shit.

12:36 PM – 18 Jun 2018 from Sydney, New South Wales

    1. Greg Ross‏ @GregWRoss5m5 minutes ago

Replying to @GR_ComputRepair @Lisa11Elliott @chmharvey

Grow up Gary!

Replying to @GregWRoss

You daft cretin.

Replying to 

Get fucked you pathetic person

And there you have it, one person , April Love, with meaningful dialogue, asking for help, which I would gladly offer. There are lots more, but it’s a wonderful example of the bullying which poses as debate on Twitter. Would the same screaming take place at a town hall meeting, or in a cafe? The barely suppressed violent anger in the subtext of so many of these Tweets, is an education.

Greg Ross

 

Anzac Day Reflections

I grew up when Anzac Day had a quiet, solemn dignity, there was no question of celebration, rather the fine noble need to pay tribute to those who had laid down their lives for us. My uncle, a Gallipoli veteran, told me harrowing stories that still shock me, always finishing his accounts, telling me he absolutely loathed war. My father talked little of his experiences in WW11, barely hiding a muted rage toward anything Japanese, while his brother, less emotionally damaged, told me how much he and his men grudgingly respected Rommel, (as opposed to Hitler). Proud of their war service, both detested war, however Anzac Day was their release from the nightmare memories, as they proudly walked with comrades alive and fallen.

Today, businesses advertise and tweet spurious Anzac associations, social media warriors hijack the occasion for unrelated causes, politicians don uniforms they’ve never earned, posing for cameras, holding wreaths or rifles, football clubs claim they’re honouring the day, while raking in a fortune at the turnstiles, cities send parking inspectors out to dawn services to write $200.00 fines, not to mention the Director of the Australian War Memorial seeking to have service people towing asylum seekers back to Indonesian waters honoured as war heroes at the War memorial.

My dad and my uncles would turn in their graves at the farce Anzac Day is fast becoming. Much is made of the Anzac legend, as we claim it represents the soul of our nation, yet we are destroying it with the collapse of political, corporate and individual respect.

Greg Ross

On Being Bill – the Wanneroo ‘Town Hall’ Public Meeting

I’ve never warmed to Bill Shorten, that wooden, business suited, monotonous TV interview persona, has inevitably left me underwhelmed. However somebody on Twitter the other week, gently chided me for thinking that way, saying if I ever had the chance to meet and listen to him in person, I would change my mind. I replied “Fair enough.” After all, I’ve been wrong about politicians before, Malcolm Turnbull is a prime example. I really liked Malcolm, pre PM days, but the relentless Prime Ministerial years of ‘Not being Malcolm’ have sadly exposed him as hollow. I don’t dislike him as such, I just feel sorry for him – you wouldn’t want him in the trenches with you, as the old saying goes. Was there a chance I would want Bill in the trenches with me?

In a simple Dylanesque twist of fate, Dr Anne Aly, the Labor MP for Cowan, sent out invites to an old style ‘Town Hall’ meeting with Bill Shorten, to be held on Monday 9th April at the Wanneroo Tavern. Now I love Town Hall debates, I participated in one as an Independent  candidate (failed!) during the 2013 WA State Elections, you have to think on your feet and answer truthfully, even though you’re aware somebody in the audience is inevitably going to be offended, possibly even outraged at your response to an unscripted question. And of course, here was my chance to see Bill Shorten away from the TV studios, I replied in the affirmative.

It’s 11.00pm, some two and a half hours after the event concluded, I learnt a lot and I’m still mulling over some things. Firstly, the venue was packed, with people standing on the sides and rear of the venue. I assumed they were mostly rusted-on Labor voters, with the odd sprinkling of Doubting Thomases, such as myself, plus a few LNP plants. However what really stood out, was age, I’m prepared to bet the average was about 65yrs, these were ‘Howard’s Battlers,’ hard working pensioners, some still working, facing the impossible demands of cost versus savings and pension. Yes, there were a few younger people here and there, plus the usual enthusiastic young ‘How To Vote’ card booth volunteers, but the subliminal message was that young people are simply not engaged in politics, whilst older people are.

Alannah MacTiernan was there, which made me smile, as Bill had studiously ignored any talent and experience she has (and she has it in spades) when she was on his federal team. I didn’t see Tim Hammond, although I guess he didn’t want to rain on Dr Aly’s parade. There were some other Labor MPS, State and Federal, but their names didn’t ring a bell with me, plus one or two local councillors.

Bill Shorten made his entrance with his wife Chloe alongside, a good move, the entire hall stood and applauded, the true believers were indeed in the room. Yes, I stood and applauded, it seemed polite, rather like the old days in the movie theatre when ‘God Save the Queen’ was played. You stood as you were worried somebody would cuff you for your indiscretion.

Anne Aly acted as MC, thanking everyone for their attendance and introducing Bill and Chloe, then launching into her good news story re Bill’s announcement to give the Joondalup Hospital major funding if Labor is elected. She presents well and is confident, although somebody should have road tested the mic before the event. She then announced the Q&A session would begin.

Now this wasn’t a true Town Hall debate in the old style, although some unannounced questions were taken from the floor towards the end of the session. Participants, including me, had been asked to submit their question by email and as you signed in, you were given a slip of paper with your question typed out and told to read it if called upon. Anne picked out the questions, one assumes to suit the narrative, telling us Bill would deal with three questions at a time. He’d made notes in answer to the questions, although he didn’t refer to them when speaking. That’s the nature of politics these days, stage managed as much as possible, which just may have something to do with the disconnect, lack of trust and antipathy so many people feel towards politics and politicians.

And so to Bill Shorten, smartly dressed in a suit and tie, I thought back on a golden rule I always taught salespeople in my days as a luxury car dealership marketing manager – “Don’t out dress the customer!”  If I was his advisers, yes, have him arrive in the suit, but three minutes in, say “I know I’m overdressed, I’ve just done several TV interviews, do you mind if I relax and whip off the jacket and tie?” Then have him lean against a table facing the audience, walking forward into the audience on key points. Won’t work at a Business Breakfast, but it will work talking with ‘Howard’s Battlers.’

There was no doubt he was across the questions he answered and his grasp of figures is noteworthy. Yes, it was Dorothy Dixer, in that the questions were pre-selected, but his answers were important and detailed, I was impressed with his honesty in how he replied to the extremely important (for all West Aussies), question on the GST carve-up, it was very informative and acceptable as a compromise. But a Hawke like larrikin Man of the People he isn’t. I began to form the impression his forte is large audiences, he’s possibly not particularly comfortable one on one, that’s not a fault as such, a lot of people are like that, it also would explain his wooden TV performances.

Having said that, every now and then, he’d make a joke, for example, answering a question on aged care, he at one stage said, “… it’s the canary in the coal mine,” then laughed and said, “Well, perhaps not a coal mine, some other sort of mine!” It got a deserved great response. Later, he mentioned Michaelia Cash, then said, “Not that I ever want to talk about her!” bringing loud laughter from everyone, including me. I thought, “Strewth, this bloke actually has a sense of humour, he’s quick witted and funny, why the hell doesn’t he let Bill Shorten the person of the leash?”

He doesn’t smile naturally – perhaps he’s on guard and doesn’t want to detach from the serious political image he prefers, he certainly makes mention of his belief that the public are tired of the constant bickering, name calling and open warfare of politics these days. I’m absolutely sure he’s correct on that, but I’m equally sure Australians do love a bit of ‘Larrikin on the Loose,’

He took several questions from the floor in the last 15 minutes, it was a good move and he was obviously across the topics well enough to answer thoughtfully, although a question about WA’s Landgate, had him quite naturally perplexed, which he freely admitted to – it wasn’t a question to be aimed at any Federal politician. However he handled a disgruntled produce farmer very well and respectfully. The chap was in his mid-80s, and bluntly said he was going to vote informal as he no longer believed any politician, stating he had in excess of one hundred people working on his farm, just outside the town of Wanneroo, but couldn’t get any locals, every worker was a foreigner. He also stated he believed Australia is living way beyond its means and we are leaving a huge debt problem for our children to deal with, what did Bill Shorten and Labor intend to do about it all?

This was the test I’d been waiting for. Bill was good, using a short spiel on why the guy should not waste his vote, to give himself time to construct an answer. He then responded that with his policies on taxation, he intended to make the top of town contribute fairly, but not excessively, so that the burden of debt would not be crippling for future generations. He went on to say he felt our way of life had made farm work unattractive to kids, he believed we needed as a nation, to put farm work back on the agenda as an excellent viable and worthy way of earning a living and this should be done at a young age (presumably primary school level). It was a clever response, letting him segue into policy on education, superannuation and taxation.

Anne Aly then took to the microphone again, thanking Bill and everyone for attending, Bill also thanked everyone and dropped a clue about a forthcoming announcement for her electorate, saying he’d been resisting saying anything, as he needed something to say on Wednesday. He then good naturedly posed for photos and handshakes with the audience.  In our very brief meeting, he called me “Brother,” in much the same way Gough Whitlam once called me “Comrade,”

I drove away thinking deeply about the man and I’ve reached the following conclusions; he’s a politician through and through, not in the manner of Malcolm Turnbull, who sees himself as a leader – someone above politics! Rather, Bill lives and breathes politics, anything else is a distraction. The Bill behind the Bill Shorten mask is genuine, there is passion there, but he’s simply not a publicly demonstrative person. I suspect these ‘Town Halls’ are doing him the world of good, in that it’s helping him overcome an inbuilt unease with small, or one on one meetings. He is more likeable in person and far more trustworthy than he appears on TV.

Which segues into that when I arrived home, I read a number of Tweets from people complaining about Leigh Sales treatment of him on 7.30 Report earlier in the evening. I’ve only seen the clip where she persists in trying to get him to answer whether he’d told somebody he’d rip up any contract with Andani if elected. Unlike his ‘Town Hall’ event, he slipped into political mode and not only pointedly danced all around her attempts at getting a Yes or No response, he twice smiled a very false stage managed grin. Here was just another politician refusing to answer the question, reprimanding the interviewer for not understanding that he had answered the question and switching a false smile off and on as needed, perhaps signalled by a handler somewhere off camera. WTF? John Hewson sprung instantly to mind. The fact is, as with Richard Nixon, the medium of television is not Bill Shorten’s friend.

If I was called on to help get the Preferred Prime Minister opinion polls over the line, I’d tell him to be himself, tell him to crack those little jokes. Yes, maintain the dignity, but let that quick wit out, show us a bit of Hawke Larrikin, give us a little Keating Mongrel – but not too much of that, just enough to tease, grab the TV interviewers, confront and control them. Unsettling journos is dead easy, just keep asking them questions, they inevitably get annoyed, quickly losing control and voila, the audience is on your side. You keep playing by their rules, why?  The Murdoch media machine actively hates you, Labor and the unions with a passion, so forget giving them anything, the bad headlines will be conjured up day after day regardless, besides, you won’t get to young voters with anything Murdoch. Radio and social media, (probably Instagram), are the paths to the youth attention. Use the ABC and SBS more, but make it work for you, give some thought to connecting with young voters through school programmes and visits. You’ve already got the attention of ‘Howard’s Battlers,’ they’re beginning to understand how much the LNP dislikes them, regarding them as welfare recipients, or worse, cheats, dragging the economy down, a burden on decent society! It is a class war, but you didn’t start it, the LNP and the Murdoch media machine created it and revel in it.

I am going to vote for Bill Shorten – well, Labor in my electorate, for two reasons; I loathe where this hideous LNP coalition has taken our country, how they have destroyed our ethos of a Fair Go and after seeing Bill speak in person, my gut feeling is he’s quite possibly as boring as bat shit, but he’s likeable, genuine and capable of providing a much needed steadying pair of hands to a Ship of State currently rudderless.

Greg Ross

The Vineyard Kitchen … Simply Superb.

Vineyard Kitchen Cafe

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Bickley. It’s not exactly the sort of name to conjure up mental images of beautiful scenery or great food and wine, it sounds more like one of those solid boring Victorian era mill towns and I’m equally sure Mr Wallace Bickley (late of Heidelberg), was an equally solid pioneer. It is, at best, a dull name for a beautiful valley in the Darling Ranges, east of Perth. It was not always thus; think of Bickley as our colonial response to the British Royal Family and Windsor. WW1 meant that Germans and German names were a touch tricky, so the very German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha became Windsor and so too, did the beautiful Heidelberg district become Bickley.

Almost a century later, the valley is a relaxing day drive mecca  just 40 minutes from the Perth CBD, it’s full of little cafés wineries and health retreats, etc, with seemingly more appearing by the month. German and Dutch people might be very interested to know, there is also a White Asparagus farm in the valley. It’s fair to say that more than a few of these businesses would like to see the area renamed to the far more appealing Heidelberg, all of which segues into a bunch of Germans, an Italian, a Frenchman, a Kiwi and an Aussie or two, taking lunch at The Vineyard Kitchen at the Brookside Vineyard.

It is a very sharp turn off Aldersyde Road into Loaring Road – most cars will need two turns to make it, then a short steep downhill drive leads to the property entrance. It’s beautifully laid out, full of ferns, native trees, a babbling brook and various fruit trees with a gravel road leading in. You actually drive through the outdoor dining area and kitchen / wine tasting building to the lawned parking area on the other side. It’s all set on the picturesque  lower slope of the steep valley, utterly hidden from the road, only 200 metres away.

The main building was, I suspect, a fruit packing shed in days of old, these days adapted to house the kitchen, wine tasting and purchasing area and an indoor dining room (in case of inclement weather). It’s rustic, authentic and peaceful. Bookings checked, we’re ushered to our table by the brook and menus and wine lists given out. The reasonably extensive wine list comprises all their own wines – Brookside and our waitress makes an excellent suggestion that once we’ve chosen our dishes, we might like to come up to the building (ten metres away) and do some wine tasting, before choosing our wines.

Courses chosen, we repair to the bar. Our host and hostess are utterly relaxed and  want us to try everything, a very civilised and much appreciated approach. The wines are very much in the style of the wines to be found down in the Swan Valley – fresh, with that  little touch of vibrant sharpness, a very different style to say, Margaret River or Coonawarra, I have a preference for the more gutsy reds from those two districts and I can struggle to find a red wine to my taste, even in Europe; however they have an excellent Cab Sav Merlot blend that did the job perfectly – the Frog, the Wog and the Kiwi (Christian, Carlo and Greg) spent a very contented Sunday afternoon, consuming a bottle … or two. My German wife, a lover of Champagne and Prosecco, was very happy with Brookside’s Champers and the rest of our party gave thorough approval for the white wines on offer. You can buy everything by the glass, averaging around $12.00, or buy bottles, averaging $25.00 per bottle (the blend we three very contentedly consumed was $35.00 per bottle).

Back at our table under the ferns, the entrees were delivered and they were exquisite, in both presentation and taste, we hadn’t expected quite the level of cuisine we were being presented with! Sure the dishes on offer looked great in print, but sometimes things are lost in the translation from menu to plate. I won’t write down an exact list of every dish, you can look up the current menu on their website if you’re considering visiting the establishment,  suffice to say, there was food for every taste, in terms of entrees, menus and deserts. I had Vodka and Beetroot cured Kingfish as an entrée, Asparagus Risotto as a main and Crème Brule as a desert, Christian felt his main course duck was a little dry, but that was the only niggle from any of us. I’ve posted photos of several of the dishes with this review. The service was fantastic, nothing obsequious, absolutely no attempt to hurry, none of that infuriating removal of dishes and glasses before you’re had time to put your fork down. The young ladies serving us were quite lovely, elegant and trained, it felt European. There were ten of us and the total bill (food and wine) came to $611.00, some didn’t have entrees and some didn’t have desserts, most had coffee. Now that’s not an expensive day for ten people, when you consider we’d also been graciously given a very full wine tasting experience.

The Vineyard Kitchen was an astounding revelation – this was a Margaret River dining experience just 30 minutes from home. If somebody had said the wonderful Aaron Carr was in the kitchen, I would not have been surprised – he wasn’t, I went to thank and congratulate the chef, a young guy with a big smile – since when do chefs smile?  Often in Perth, our restaurants and cafés are sort of nouveau riche in their approach, you sense that it’s business, formulaic, as a customer, you’re almost in the way; down at glorious Margaret River , it can be a touch snooty – fabulous food and scenery, but not quite relaxed, if you’re not part of the in-crowd. The people at The Vineyard Kitchen have come up with a formula, that’s quintessentially Australian, totally relaxed, while utterly professional, serving exquisite food along with very acceptable wines in gorgeous surroundings, all within a short drive of most Perth suburbs! It was a fantastic find, it’s now our priority restaurant café to take visitors, friends and family. It’s a lovely scenic drive, either up Welshpool Road through Lesmurdie, or up Kalamunda Road. All of us, including overseas visitors and locals agreed this was a knockout, we’d recommend this place to anybody, whatever the weather. I have no hesitation giving The Vineyard Kitchen five stars, it simply doesn’t get any better.

Greg Ross

 

SWAN VALLEY GOURMET … WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

The Facebook promo looked very inviting – a lush bucolic Swan Valley setting along with the offer of a Friday night special – $15.00 Fish and Chips and a $5.00 glass of beer. The Swan Valley Gourmet seemed worth a visit. We booked online, requesting an outside table and the affirmative booking response was very prompt. All good, we were looking forward to it – we rather enjoy finding little gems of cafés to visit.

So early Friday evening, we drove out to the café. The entrance is via a gravel road and it was obvious there was on-going construction work, with a relatively new home on the left, the road turns right, going past a typical farm dam, with, as you’d expect, a low water level at this time of the year. I did for a second, wonder if that was the rather lovely dam scene in the promo shot, but decided it wasn’t. 100 metres along the track and we arrived at a large three story shed, the area facing us was shambolic, so we figured the entrance was around the other side. It wasn’t, that turned out to be the parking area, which looked for all the world like any lay-down area at a farm or mine site. It was a tired and dispirited view, even a grey BMW car stood forlorn next to the shed, its grill filled with old cobwebs. But hey, parking is parking, it could only get better.

We walked around to the front, where there was a nice green lawn leading down to the dam. As we walked along the veranda, there were a couple of tables with chairs adjacent to the entrance door, both with Reserved tags on them, it did look as the tables had just been dumped there, with no attempt at decoration or neatness, but hey, we loved the wonderful, chaotic Café Mueller (now sadly closed), so quirkiness is no barrier for us, we rather like it.

We entered through the fly screen door, to be confronted by an interior that looked like  the early stages of a theatre café stage set, or a second hand furniture store. At the counter in front of us, the lady asked our name, confirmed our booking and said, “You’re on Table 53.” We had no idea of their numbering system, so we confirmed that we’d booked to sit outside. “No. Can’t do that, neighbours.”

“Oh, we did specify.”

“No, sorry, nobody’s sitting outside, you’re on Table 53. Where’s Table 53?” she called out. Another staff member replied that it had been moved and was on the other side of pillar to our left. She ushered us to the table, gave us the menus and explained there was free iced water on a table.

By now we were both wishing we’d gone somewhere else, but they did seem like nice people, we reasoned they were probably just starting up and that no doubt the food would make up for the chaos and dishevelled shed. We looked at the menu and couldn’t quite work out what to get, so we waited for the waitress to return. She didn’t, but it gave us plenty of time to look around. It really was a shambles, with utterly no attempt at décor or fittings, even a few small flowers in vases on the tables would have given the place a lift. There were other people there, looking as taken aback as we were, a young couple with two little kids arrived and they’d obviously been expecting an outside table.

After five minutes or so, one of  the staff members and I must stress, they were all lovely people, although stress is probably the operative word, came over, telling us we had to order at the counter. OK. After a very pleasant discussions with the guy at the till, we decided on a Seafood Basket at $20.00, extra chips for $5.00, a Side Salad for $5.00 and with much encouragement – “Our bread is the best, freshly baked, you have to have some!” We also ordered Bread and Butter at $2.00. The inquiry re Tartare Sauce saw another .50c added to the bill, a glass of Uber Beer was $5.00 and a glass of local white Sav Blanc, $10.00, all up the bill was $47.50. While we were ordering, there was utter confusion amongst all the staff, seemingly around everything, as they all politely questioned each other, alternating between frowns and distracted smiles in our direction. I became convinced it was their first night. Anyhow, we sat down and waited.

Now I’m not suggesting for one minute the meal took a long time to deliver, it didn’t, all good there, however while we were waiting, we popped out to the loos. We figured it wasn’t around the car park side, so went to the other side of the shed, sure enough, in what looked like an abandoned cottage, with stuff piled up on the veranda against the building sides, were the Ladies and Gents. Rustic and clean is the best description. My only other comment would be about the placement of the men’s urinal – there was a boy’s urinal as well, but whoever placed the men’s on the wall, was obviously a seven foot basketballer! It really is true – size doesn’t matter, but bloody hell, height does!

Back to our table and dinner is served.

We looked at it, then looked at each other. It looked for all the world, like pre-packaged seafood from a supermarket. There was only one piece of fish in the Seafood Basket and the chip servings were small, not only that, this was not the first dip in hot oil for the chips, most of them were dry and a number were shrivelling, but this was saved and made edible by the appreciated supply of a homemade relish / sauce (at no charge). The small bowl of salad wasn’t just tired, it was exhausted – limp, sinking in resignation upon itself and the over-supply of balsamic vinegar. The bread? The two slices had actually been buttered! And I’m really sorry to say, whoever is doing the baking has got the basics nailed, but there is a long way to go before a premium sourdough appears. The whole food scenario reminded me of roadhouses at the end of the day in small towns back in the 1970s.

We looked at each other and wondered whether to just leave it and go, but decided we’d paid almost $50.00, so we’d eat. Now the food wasn’t awful, it was quite edible, but the portions were small, there was no presentation, the food was tired and very ordinary. It was strangely depressing, we felt we’d wandered into somebody’s barn, where they were knocking up a quick meal for the workers at the end of a hard day.

We left, with the usual polite salutations and drove off stunned. We often dine at our local, the Rose and Crown, for the same money, we get far fresher food, far bigger portions and a large selection of drinks in a fabulous outdoor setting, or we can amble along to Alfred’s Kitchen, (it’s all about the crowd there, not the surroundings), for a great deal and great fresh food. None of what we’d experienced made any sense, except on the basis that it must have been a first night.

In summary. The staff are lovely people, very stressed, but polite and smiling, however it’s blindingly obvious nobody has extensive experience running a café or restaurant – at least I hope they don’t! It would be absurdly simple to tidy up the parking area – put up a fence to block the shambles, put up half a dozen large pots with trees or flowers and if they want to continue a rustic home style theme, put up some quaint, funny sayings along the path.

The front door / veranda presentation is a joke, you really can’t advertise the place in the way they do and then present guests with what they walk through. The same applies to the interior, c’mon, either you’re having a lend of people, or you really don’t know what to do.

And that most important of ingredients for a café – food – if you’re offering supermarket grade food, you can’t charge the prices you are and you simply can’t call yourself a gourmet establishment! What were you thinking? You’ve opened way too early, I’d hate to see your endeavour fail, but it will if you don’t get some expert help.

Greg Ross