Friday, April 21, 2006

those autumn leaves

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As we near the end of April, the autumn weather begins to bite. Looking across the backyard I can see an arc of mushrooms across the lawn, and there is a speckling of red foliage across the trees and bushes.

Standing out at the front gate looking up at the mountain, there's a constant murmuring sound as autumn leaves blow down the street.

But it's not all poetic and pastoral. A couple of times this month the weather has suddenly turned nasty and the wind comes howling off the Southern Ocean, bringing with it snow and rain. You get up one morning and find that your garden furniture has been blown from one side of the patio to the other.

We just have to get used to it. It will be worse before it gets better.

The commercial television networks are always hungry for a dollar and it's never been more obvious than this year. The Easter period is apparently a fortnight when the ratings shut down, so the networks see no need to use up their lucrative top-rating programmes.

All the popular shows are either repeats or (a new innovation) "specials" which take a look at the history of the show with lots of clips from previous episodes. Shows like Desperate Housewives, Lost and Prison Break have all gone this route.

That's why they call it show business, emphasis on the latter word.

The cultural side of things starts to pick up at this time of year though.

The amateur dramatics with Hobart Rep kick off at the Playhouse, and the free concerts begin at the Moonah Arts Centre.

The Arts Centre concert season was opened by the Lord Mayor of Glenorchy, who introduced the 35-voice Tasmanian Song Company, who serenaded us with a selection of popular and choral numbers. They also gave us a few songs from Noel Coward and Flanders & Swann.

I made the acquaintance of Flanders & Swann's amusing songs at an early age. When I was at school, the last couple of days of the year were always a non-event – one of our teachers used to bring in a gramophone and pass the time playing us his favourite records, including Flanders & Swann.

By the time I left school, I knew the words to "Mud, Glorious Mud!" and several other songs off by heart.

Meanwhile down at the Playhouse the first production of the year was The Lion in Winter by James Goldman.

Imagine the situation – it's Christmas and the head of the family insists on everyone getting together to celebrate the yuletide season. It's not exactly a happy occasion; the three sons are all jockeying for position to see who will inherit the family business and the mother has mixed feelings about her husband's young mistress.

The difference to your family or mine is that the father is King Henry II and the family business is running England. Any differences of opinion inside the family can be not just disruptive but deadly.

James Casey and Leonie Adams were gripping as Henry II and Eleanor of Aquatane... and who would have thought there were so many good one-liners in a play about 12th century politics?

“Television exists to make time pass quickly,
to get rid of an evening,
to whittle one's life away,
whereas radio drama illuminates,
invigorates and stirs the imagination.”

I saw that on a radio website and I rather liked it.

Since becoming involved with some of the websites where people discuss and trade old radio programmes, I've been impressed by the amount of knowledge shown. But even I was surprised to see a message from one aficionado that he'd just posted on-line the first 2½ years of the Suspense series for free download.

The Internet is a continuing source of wonder even after all the years I've been on-line.

Called in at the Harrington Street newsagent to pick up the latest American and British monthly magazines. Hi, I said, I thought it was about time I came by; it must been a while.

Yes, they said, it's nine weeks.

Where does the time go?


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