VALE Clive James

clie j

Sad news today with the demise of Clive James, arguably one of Australia’s most erudite exports. I remember my father being a huge fan of Clive’s and peripherally I was aware of him when I wasn’t naming my pet cats or taming lizards.

Later in my life I began to admire this witty Australian who seemed to radiate out of the television screen with twinkling-eyed, devilish, observational humour couched in some truly delightful prose.

Everyone, including God, was fodder for his wit.

And I say that today more than ever we need people like James to puncture the bubble of conceit around the worn-out institutions that rut society. The man may not have been kind to his wife or his mistresses but he served as an alternative voice to the inflexible social norm that erodes a society if left unchallenged for too many decades. I hope we see his like again soon before the opportunity for significant change passes us by. Right now the world is seeing the result of failing to challenge the unconscious acceptance that proliferates dis-ease and rot in the form of Trump, celebrity Royals and the obscenely wealthy Forbes A-Listers who are increasing the chasm between rich and poor. This way lies stagnation, social gangrene and worse, revolution. The problem with all these outcomes is the lack of significant change. Observers with mental clarity and verbal parity like James can signpost change in a way that revolutions and plagues fail to. James had the gift of humour to temper his warnings and as we sink into the sticky mire of a world run by humourless grifters like Trump, Gates, Bezos, Johnson, Buffet, Zuckerberg etc we need humour almost as much as we need hope. To forge a scaling of this imbalance we may need to elucidate sectors of society that have been otherwise invisible and voiceless, for instance, women and minorities. It is incumbent upon each of us to seek out solutions that serve the planet and raise up the least among us because unless we start thinking globally and empathically we will not survive. And we need to facilitate change with humour.

It’s really that sad and that simple but we need to support leadership amongst the unlikely. Two inspired and unlikely leaders who spring to mind are Angelina Jolie and Sacha Baron Cohen. Listen to them both speaking passionately about the plight of an unbalanced world. The are humble, humorous and empathic. And there are others worth listening to. It is vital to our survival that we all tune in because the current crop of vainglorious headliners and power-brokers are too dazzled by the pond to notice Echo. When/if they raise their heads from contemplation of their own reflections they will realise that the adulation they have craved and courted has been nothing more than an echo of their own self-absorption and this rot evangelism that spews from the mouths of the Johnsons and the Trumps and the Gates serves no-one. James recognised this balderdash when it appeared differently striped and monogramed last century and he called it out. Maybe this was the secret behind James’ enigmatic smile: he knew he was reaching the masses in a way that the narcissistic power-brokers could not.

He was being heard.

Segueing tightly: you would have to have been on Mars not to have been aware of the taxpayer funded depravity Prince Andrew has been indulging in. I find it very interesting and somewhat telling that Royal news and gossip is one frame up from the latest updates on The Bold and the Beautiful in the right-hand side ads streamed daily. The goldfish bowl anachronistic existence of the British Royal Family is well-placed in the same column as the fictitious celebrity gossip around TBATB, surely one of the silliest and most tawdry soaps ever to come out of America. What purpose beyond expensive taxpayer funded entertainment does Royalty provide these days? And surely their purpose can be better served by a scripted soap with an interchangeable cast?

The insane amount of money forked out each year to support the ever-expanding Royal Family can be better directed towards social welfare and I can think of several commendable uses for Buckingham Palace other than housing the spoilt, idle and arguably indolent Windsors who are, let’s face it, hopelessly out of touch with the public they are supposedly serving.

But to return to the scourging wit of Clive James. No sector was too sacred for comment and largely he had compassion. Except when it came to women.

Of course no-one’s perfect and each must be allowed a narrow margin for error. And err he did. His long-suffering wife deserved a medal for tolerance and his parade of mistresses must have learnt quickly that they were little more than distractions. Obviously, James is not an island in this, but it’s sad that such a brilliant man failed to have the common decency to treat women with the kind of equity he espoused for the wider classless world.

Those of you who read my blogs regularly, all three of you, will know that my bête noir is my defence of women, whom I regard as the most downtrodden, overlooked sector of society. As other groups gain rights and recognition and equality, women are still fighting for a voice.

James regularly featured a singer called Margarita Pracatan whose claim to fame was that she was chronically out of tune and hopelessly arrhythmic. She was funny, hilarious actually. But we laugh at her because she’s so bad and therein lies the rub for me. We women can be forgiven for being famous, successful and wealthy as long as we are incompetent, pretty, obliging and dumb. Being stupid is really important. The most successful comediennes on television in recent years have been exquisite, man-hungry and stupid – Fran Drescher and Sofia Vergara. I’m sure in person they are smart and savvy but onscreen they are the latest incarnations of similarly-sculpted comediennes who dared not reveal their IQs – Lucille Ball, Rosalind Russell, Goldie Hawn to name but a few. Survivors all. But how are they serving the rest of us who struggle to raise the bar and be the best we can be?

What is the worst thing that could happen if Shakespeare’s sister was to emerge or Clive James’ equal was to wink at us in Prime Time?

Would the male population crumble?

Would the plinthed patriarchal heads of Art, Literature, Politics, Religion, Philosophy, Science and the Culinary Industry (Jamie Oliver etc) stumble and smash on the cold hard tiles of feminine acuity?

Or would the world be enriched, balanced and redefined?

It’s a pity James didn’t set the bar a little higher where his love life was concerned because he could have impacted greatly on the stalled inequity of women worldwide. But he didn’t and like all flawed heroes, Byron, Miller, Hemingway, I must take him as he was and celebrate the illuminated best of him. So let me leave you with one of his poems. I know the sentiment, having lived just up the road from the poor lions at Taronga Zoo and every day walking through the Zoo (I had a free pass to get to the ferry) I paused to commiserate with one tired old fellow who paced his lonely life out in a cage no bigger than a prison for the worst of human offenders. I see him still, his exquisite Majesty whose royal life in Africa where he had been a King was only a hazy strange dream that haunted him on sultry nights. Poor darling never lived to see the much-improved prison the current crop of lions are interred in. Prisoners still but at least they are in a family group and the wardens/zoo keepers do their best to keep them from going mad.

VALE Clive and thank you for recognising so many cages and may you now fly high enough to escape the visual and visceral bars that ever-so-slightly blinkered your estimable life.


The leaves of Tower Bridge are rigged to open
For any taxi I might chance to catch.
They say that when the ravens leave the Tower

It means they’ll use my rain-stained study skylight
As a toilet. I can see Canary Wharf
Like a Russian rocket packed around with boosters

The night they send it up from Baikonur.
Tate Modern’s bridge is cleared for one sick pigeon
To crash land. When that lens-shaped office block

Is finished it will bend a ray from space
To burn the Belfast like a sitting duck.
I’ve known the NatWest Tower since it was knee-high

To the Barbican, another high-tech know-how
HQ that used to look like the last word.
From my place I can see last words in vistas

As far downriver as the spreading spikes
Of the Dome, some sad bitch of a sea urchin
Losing its fight against a stray Dutch cap

While hot-house pleasure boats leak foreign voices
Like tourist minibuses nose to tail
In the corridors of Buckingham Palace.

Been there, done that. The Queen, she hung one on me.
I’ve got it in a box. The box to frame
My body will be built here, like as not,

And probably quite soon. I’ve lived in London
For longer than some people live all told.
Except for the way out, I know it backwards.

So at night when the lions at Taronga
Roar in my memory across the water
I feel the way they must have felt, poor bastards —

​Gone in the teeth. The food dead. On display
All day and every day. Sleep in a fortress.
Every familiar walkway leads to strangers.

clive j


D5SuUA7WAAAPdDi I have been prompted to analyse the concept of forgiveness by watching The Crown no less. In Episode 7 I think it is the Queen is struggling to forgive the Duke of Windsor who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson when it is revealed the couple were close friends, and indeed, allies of Hitler’s. The young Elizabeth can’t forgive her uncle this act of treason and asks the evangelist Reverend Billy Graham, who happens to be in town, whether or not forgiveness is a must for any good Christian.

His response was, predictably, that if Jesus advised it then Christians must follow…without question.

To support his claim he cites the words of Jesus on the cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” But I would posit that this is not quite the same thing as forgiving his murderers himself. He is asking God to overlook their state-fuelled ignorance and cruelty and here I am making a leap, allow their souls to develop unimpeded by punishment.

Let’s just stay with that statement a moment longer. The dying Jesus was asking God, we presume, not to punish the people who nailed him to the cross and I assume all of those involved in his murder. This statement alone backs up something I have always believed, something every Christian would argue with me about, that Christ’s murder was not part of some over-arching plan sanctioned by God. If it was, Christ would not be asking God to forgive the perpetrators because they “know not what they do”. The perpetrators would have been part of the plan, pawns in the greater game. Clearly, Jesus was in the wrong place at the wrong time and fell foul of some small-minded censors who couldn’t handle his originality and vision. His pleading with his Father to forgive his murderers indicates that God did not orchestrate the crucifixion in any way. It was a tragedy that showed God where humanity was up to in the spiritual trajectory – not far.

But back to forgiveness. Who are we to forgive? Doesn’t the very notion of forgiveness imply perfection? Have we never stumbled, erred or hurt anyone? Which of us is perfect enough to forgive? No matter which way you spin it forgiveness is arrogant. It’s a variation on judgement and God knows we’ve all been warned about judgement. I think forgiveness is a crock. It’s separatist, patronising and narcissistic. To forgive someone is to set yourself apart and offer blessing and who are we to do that?

I believe only God has the authority, the vision and the wisdom to forgive, or overlook sin. For those of you who read my blog regularly you will know I do not believe God is one old white man with a beard. I believe God is the life-force of a multiplicity of beings whose souls resonate on the level of joy and harmony. I believe God is the Collective energy of these combined souls and it is a powerful force indeed, one that can’t be argued with or redirected other than by consensus. So for Jesus to implore the collective force of benevolent powerful beings to please “forgive” a bunch of ignorant crooks/murderers he must have developed a significant “soft spot” for humanity. I do not believe we were created in God’s image, wholly conscious and ready to take on the world. I believe we evolved over millennia and have gradually grown in awareness and spirituality into creatures worthy of God’s attention, and as I’ve just posited, the attention of a joyful, highly-evolved collective of beings. I also believe that by the time Jesus decided to be born among us we had grown sufficiently to warrant further inspection and possible inclusion in the collective depending on how their man-on-the-ground experienced us.

When Jesus walked the earth he met a number of highly-receptive people ready to take that leap of faith and try wings. He also met a bunch of troglodytes who hated him and wanted to keep the power firmly clenched in their miserly fists. In short he met the usual mix of humanity we are familiar with today. But he was taken down by the trogs and rather than have the Collective abandon humanity altogether he asked that these misdemeanours be overlooked in favour of the few worthwhile souls whose minds were open to new information. I think.

So back to forgiveness. If we consider ourselves sufficiently evolved to “forgive” the misdemeanours of others what are we actually offering? If it’s an unimpeded trajectory towards enlightenment in terms of being able to work harmoniously with a group of incredibly evolved and well-intentioned entities that make up the Godhead then fine, very generous, but also exceptionally arrogant because I can almost guarantee you are no more advanced than your perpetrators and not in a position to be offering anything beyond your willingness to not keep harping on about what “they did to you.” Even if the sin is murder or rape forgiveness for these acts of violence belong in a different realm. The ones with the overview are in a far better position  to decide how much more time a violent ignorant human being needs before they ‘get it” and start treating others with respect and gratitude and love. How we deal with our own pain and loss is up to us and it’s nobody else’s business.

Rather than Bible-shaming people and judging them as un-Christian a better stance may be to accept that we are all, without exception, human beings struggling to make sense of it all and doing our best to “get a life” that satisfies and fulfils and moves us closer to the light of reason and love.

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Paltia’s Review of Catch the Moon, Mary

Sometimes I read reviews of my debut novel #CatchtheMoonMary that are so profound they make me see the world differently myself!

This is one such review from Paltia, a friend of one of my Irish guardian angels, Peter Donnelly.

Oct 29, 2019 Paltia rated it 5STARS on Goodreads – First off, a big thank you to Peter Donnelly @The Reading Desk for his review. His thoughts pushed me to find this book. This is a dreamlike story where the world is filled once more with endless possibilities. From a distance the angel Gabriel hears music. There’s something distinctly different in what he hears. This piano playing might restore his hope to bring light to the world. He spreads his tattered wings and flies to its source. As he listens he is transformed. He becomes a bright vision sparkling with promise taking on the appearance of early morning leaves when strung with dew like iridescent pearls. He offers a lonely and abused girl safety and fame in exchange for his control. All time collides in this moment. Her music in the present summons a distant past of dancing in and with the revolving universe. Her music is also of the future. If only Gabriel can prove that he brings light, transformation and love. Or does he? Wendy Waters encourages the reader to look up and see the stars themselves dancing against the midnight velvet sky. To read this story is to believe in the enchantment of love again. Her words remind us to celebrate the power of music as nothing less than the nectar of the gods. Waters writes with the pen of a writer, the understanding of a therapist and the endless empathy that reflects her belief in beauty and compassion. An extraordinary story that one wants to believe.