Category: Blog

Rice pudding at The Globe

Rice puddings were a staple of my childhood diet; a thick, glutinous stodge with the only saving grace being the over-browned skin covering its surface. This was the dessert course equivalent of the crackling on the pork or the marrow to be sucked from stew bones.

Beyond that, rice was an unappetising dish, dressed up in its fancy cloak in a failed attempt to make the mundane appealing and even exciting.

In the intervening years, this grain has assumed a far more tasty role as we have become familiar with exciting dishes from the sub-continent, the Orient and even Europe.

Curry and rice,  sushi, risotto, paella and numerous other once seemingly exotic creations have become firmly established on our menus, within the home as well as when eating out. And, of course, and perhaps predominantly, when indulging in that ubiquitous convenience the takeaway.

Yet for all that, it is still that duplicitous dessert – alluring on the outside, such a stodgy mess within – that first jumps to mind whenever the word “rice” is mentioned.

And so it was when I read that Rice is now on the menu at London’s Globe Theatre. Not any old rice, but Emma Rice. She who has emerged through the ranks of the theatrical fringe to become the director of that most esteemed playhouse.

The very name has me running for the exit – or, rather, speeding past the box office without a stop for tickets.

I have tried – oh, believe me, how hard I have tried – to succumb to the allure she holds for many theatregoers; or cultists, as they seem to have become in their fanaticism.

But every time her productions leave me underwhelmed.  Many nights I waded through muddy fields to get to the Kneehigh theatre’s tent pitched in a Cornish meadow to join her acolytes in another night billed as exciting, edgy theatre but which transpired as chaotic, and eventually boring, mayhem.  The final straw was her much-vaunted production of that theatrical classic, Rebecca, which departed the tent and toured the nation’s theatres.

Oh dear, what a mess we weave when we attempt to be different. Such a mishmash. It aimed at times for humour, at times for high drama and at times for farce – and failed on all fronts. Many a ticket-holder departed at the interval, clearly overfed on another Rice pudding.

And before she has even taken the reins at the Globe she has promised to shake things up  That dreary old “innovation” of casting women in men’s roles is to resurface, the audience is to be encouraged to talk and shout, and mewling babes in arms will be welcomed and embraced.

Oh dear, as if  things aren’t bad enough with plays being uprooted from their writers’ original settings for no rhyme or reason, incessant chatterers on mobile phones and the regular explosions of flashlight Instagrammers.

She will cut Shakespeare’s plays to make them shorter (for the TV generation with short attention spans), rewrite the texts to make them clearer to society’s dimmer and dumber members and, of course, disrobe her actors and clothe them in modern dress.

But this is what happens when one builds a coterie of adoring followers who will hear not a word of dissent. Oddly, it was Rice herself who mentioned “the emperor’s new clothes” when expressing disdain for prevailing attitudes to mainstream theatre.  Perhaps it might be equally applied to those who so blindly follow this beguiling but mess pudding-maker.

John Jess, Seeker of Justice – the Voyager story

Another challenging editing job has reached its successful conclusion, and one of which I am especially proud.

It was a long time in the overall process with much rejigging, rewriting and tightening of the text. Meticulous and determined research produced a voluminous amount of detailed information, much of it revealed here for the first time, that had to be whittled down, ordered and presented in readily accessible form.

The gestation period for this “baby” was lengthy and arduous,; a birth of extended and sometimes labour.

It is a story that needed to be told, and who better to tell it than the main man’s daughter?  Author Elizabeth McCarthy (Jess)  lived with the stresses and strains of this fight for justice for many years yet manages a dispassionate account of the in-fighting, devious politics and outright obfuscation that dominated her family’s life throughout this saga.

The Voyager “incident” has become a major and tragic event of recent Australian history and one that is destined never to diminish. Its impact on the political and naval landscape will long remain with us and this book adds a vital new dimension to the immense and diverse record already in existence.

Victory for older drivers

Let’s have three cheers and a quick spin of the Zimmer frame for Ms Justice Simler.

The High Court judge has decreed that age alone is not a reason to remove a person’s driving licence.

It is a decision for that rare quality known as commonsense. There has never been any understandable logic behind the restrictions imposed on drivers simply because of their age. It suggests that a person who is in the best of health and in possession of all necessary faculties suddenly, on a single day, becomes gaga, uncoordinated, hard of hearing and devoid of sight. By having a birthday  they are determined as having lost all ability to control a moving vehicle.

Justice Simler’s landmark ruling reversed a decision by  the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to revoke the licence of a 78-year-old woman after a road accident for which she was held responsible.  Without any supporting medical evidence, the DVLA had asserted that the woman had been rendered unfit to drive by “age-related cognitive impairment”.

The judge said the DVLA had acted solely on a basis of age – that the woman was an older driver. It had ignored clear medical evidence that the woman did not, in fact, suffer from cognitive impairment.

Licensing authorities are not alone in applying this inflexible age-based ruling. Car rental companies are equally restrictive. Until a certain date, I was able to hire a car and enjoy the freedom of self-drive mobility. The following day, I was confined to barracks as it were.  It was as if my ability to drive had  evaporated overnight.

Fortunately I found one company that has the sense and business acumen to go against the flow without fuss or question or excess charges.

There is no logic in such draconian age-based rules – especially when one regards the lack of driving ability daily displayed by those many years younger. Driving skills, road sense, reaction times and general awareness of other motorists are what need to be assessed rather than  assuming there is a line in our lives beyond which we immediately become senile and decrepit.

At the moment I am fortunately in rude health and in possession of all my faculties. Many others several years (even decades) younger are less blessed. Yet they are the ones who have the freedom to drive without question or impost.

Here’s hoping Justice Simler’s decision will be more than “considered” by the DVLA (and rental companies)  and that regulations affecting older driver – or at least attitudes – will change for the better.

Drive on …



Well said, Russell

In the last three days I have re-written the same chapter three times. Each time I’ve cut and added characters, I’ve changed the sequence of events, I’ve added, eliminated and altered the backstory, I’ve had new ideas, discarded old ones and drank x cups of coffee. And each time it’s been a little bit better, a little bit tighter, and a tiny step closer to what I actually want to happen. And I look forward to doing the same tomorrow. It’s called writing.

These are not my words, but those of fellow scribe Russell Proctor on the Facebook page of Australian Writers Rock. They seemed to sum up the whole writing bizzo so blindingly well. They encapsulate the whys and wherefores more succinctly, and just as precisely, as anything uttered by most of the poseurs and presenters we have reverently listened to at festivals, symposiums and workshops.

Sometimes there is just too much agonising, analysing and proselyting. As Nike urges the more active among us: Just Do It!

We’re back ….

It’s been a long time since the last post, mostly because of lassitude and techno ineptitude. But with a brand new look, a bit of expert tuition and a wish to write, there’s every chance communication will become slightly more frequent. Meanwhile, there is a book to write and a PhD thesis (not mine) to edit.