Red Dog – a box office star


He has those same copper-hued  coat and magnetic eyes of myriad Aussie
sheepdogs, however, there isn’t another quite as  unique as  KoKo,  the wonder  woofer star of Red Dog.  Here he is with the film’s sound recordist,
James Currie and his daughter  Nikola on location at Globe Derby Park.

KoKo, never camera shy, was only too happy to pose with James
and Nikola  in the name of future publicity. The KelpieXcattle dog, was acquired from a NSW breeder when he was 12 months old and his name was KoKo.

The film captures beautifully the bond between  a dog and his master within the unique setting of an Australian Outback  mining community.  It is based on the true story (if unashamedly embellished by the outback myths surrounding it)  by British author Louis de Bernieres about the  dog who became so wellknown for his travels through the Pilbara region of Western Australia that they built a statue to him in remote Dampier.

“Young Koko did the major work in the film,, but there was also the old Red Dog  and another hound who could run over the big mining pipes better than KoKo,’’ says James.

“They looked at a lot of dogs and Kriv loves to tell he audiences that they died KoKo’s  coat because he wasn’t quite red enough.’’

The British author  Louis Bremieres, spent a few weeks on location during filming.  The blokes yarned on location and Louis told James how  serendipity saw him accept an invitation to go to Writers’ Week  in Western Australia.

“Here was this Englishman with a French name and during the festival someone told him about this dog and they told him there was a statue of the dog at Karatha,’’ recalls James. “ And so he travelled there and met some of the people who knew Red Dog from the 1970s. Louis used everything available to him and wrote a 150 page book.’’

James reckons Louis was thrilled at the well-assembled cast  which reflected the multinational makeup of mining communities and its conglomeration of strange characters.

So much of this great film is uniquely Australian, from the moment a thirsty long-haul  truckie (Luke Ford)  walks into an outback pub.  But no-one is drinking because Red Dog is real crook and  the barman Jack (Nash Taylor) tells Luke how he has been poisoned and the vet had better come real quick.

And so his life story and that of the human who becomes his master,  the fancy-free American, John,  unfolds  in a laconic manner with their recollections laced  with humour, a dash of romance and some heartfelt tears . It’s a classy feel-good film and in the tradition of ”Lassie’’, it shouldn’t be  missed. Because Red Dog mirrors those countless other quirky Aussie KelpieX sheep dogs and cattledogs, we may have known on the farms and cattle stations in our own lives.

The film feaures John Lucas, Noah Taylor, Luke Ford, John Batchelor and bringing a wonderful feminine touch to the story is Rachel Taylor – but Red Dog steals the limelight and is the real star.

Editor’s note: I will be writing a feature on the illustrious career of James Currie for next month’s celebs and culture blog.


Mosque and Cathedral create Spanish Masterpiece

By Cathy Portas


We are in Spain, walking through the Hall of Columns in the ancient Mezquita mosque in Cordoba, yet I cannot stop weeping quietly. No words are needed to explain my emotional reaction to being here within the magnificent unique Moorish architecture, dappled as it is in soft light. Etheral church music floats through the space creating a rare moment of silent, spiritual reverence.

We have come a long way to find this place.  From the moment I picked up a little book in the Art and Architecture series “ANDULASIA” by Brigitte Hintzen-Bohlen Konemann at our local bookshop in Port Elliott, South Australia, I began to dream and plan our trip.

In 785 Abdal Rahman 1st began constructing a new mosque on the site of a Roman Temple and excavations here unearthed Roman mosaics dated from the third century. Later, it became a Christian Basilica. The beauty of this place is that his successors continued to expand the mosque until 988.

It wasn’t until the 16th Century when the Christians conquered Cordoba, that the church fathers built a massive Cathedral in the middle of the mosque, leaving the original structure still standing around it. It is easy to see where the cathedral is joined to the original building;  it encapsulates the unique charm of their architectural masterpiece.

We are deeply affected by the physical and spiritual beauty of the mosque. Against the side wall of the Hall of Columns there are many ornate prayer niches, but it is the exquisite mosaic-covered ‘Mihrab’ or prayer niche with it’s tiled horseshoe arch,  which faces directly to Mecca. Above it is a spectacular dome topped by a magnificent cupola (main picture) and when we look up, the sight takes our breathe away.

The Columns surround the very middle of the space where we find the double-height Cathedral, where everything is very bright, and quite different in architectural style and, consequently, feel.  It is also beautiful to the eye and ornate, but I feel it is a tad ostentatious and intimidating after the simplicity and warmth of the mosque. I spare a moment to be grateful that the mosque was left, at least in part, for us to enjoy centuries later, and not destroyed completely.  Could it be that this structure reflects an era where the two religions co-existed happily and importantly respected places of worship over the centuries?

We sit and linger, so entranced by the beautiful columns that we find it hard to leave.


Moving Home

Packing boxes are scattered around our island home once more as we begin to pull up roots after living on Hindmarsh Island for a year.

It has been such an exciting sojourn living the sea-change leisure lifestyle on the River Murray, so close to the laconic historic River Port of Goolwa.

But like migratory birds on the cusp of Spring,  we yearn to move back home to Belair, to the backdrop of gum trees,  the Koalas and laughing Kookaburras and our handkerchief-sized view of the sea.  We will call our home Belle-Vue (French for beautiful view).

Yesterday, one of the last days we will live here, was an amazingly experience.   Kind friends invited us to  join them  a Spirit of the Coorong tourist’s cruise to the Coorong,  from the river port of Goolwa and past the River Murray Mouth to the National Park beyond. It was a trip I had wanted to take during the 50 weeks  we have stayed here and we learnt so much about the delicate ecology of the area where we have lived that I am ashamed we left it until our last week. (I am writing about this separately.)

It will be 12 months to the day when we move back home into our bare, but absolutely beautiful new retirement home.  A few days ago we received the letter from builder, Stellar Homes, advising us that the building project is almost finished and it’s time to re-connect all services and make an appointment to pick up the keys.

Last night, we were intoxicated with joy as we dined at the local restaurant, The Landing, to celebrate and congratulate ourselves that we had pulled off such a huge gamble  – razing our dated cream-brick home at Belair (where husband had lived for 30-odd years of his life) and building an exciting new retirement home on the same site.

This week, Stellar Homes sub-contractors, Gerry the tiler and Derek the stonemason have been busy in their respective corners.   Gerry, working alone, has been tiling the bathrooms, the two studies, the laundry and Al Fresco area for a few weeks, while, outside, on scaffolding Derek is laying sandstone on the large feature wall which defines our entrance porch. We finally chose a coursed ashlar pattern with a washed whitish mortar.

Carpentry is completed, cornices, doors,  architraves and sanitary ware are fixed in place and our glorious new kitchen is installed. Beautiful tongue-in-groove Brush Box timber flooring is down awaiting polishing.   Painters begin next week and then it will be finished.  Oh what a feeling!






Frilly flower symbolises hope for cancer cure

They  have elegant
fluted blooms and are known for their vibrant yellow colour, although daffodils
come in many shapes and shades of yellow and cream.

I am thinking, though, of Daffodil Day and how it focuses
our thoughts on cancer and our universal hope for a cure.  Cancer is indeed the scourge of contemporary
society and  I believe the Cancer Council
of Australia’s figures that one in two families will be affected by this frightening
disease before they reach 85.

Its impact on our contemporary lives cannot be
under-estimated when one casts an eye around one’s family, friends and work
colleagues and begins to count how many people we know afflicted with some kind
of cancer.

It is alarming how this deadly disease seems to hit so many
people and it is sobering to remember that lung cancer has now surpassed breast
cancer as the No. 1 cancer killer of women. Then there is myriad other cancers
which strike our loved ones.  Breast cancers
strike women at a rate of 1/8 in our lifetime;  Prostate Cancers have the same rate and then
there are the nasty spinal cancers, ovarian cancer and bladder, bowel, stomach
and liver cancers to name a few.

The Big C has hit our home like a loaded truck and I have
learnt in the last six months since Olivier was diagnosed with advanced
prostate cancer, and bone cancer.

So,  I will share the
three Rs of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The first R on Daffodil Day is, I believe, to Remember that
many researchers around the world are working towards a cure; that there are 11
million survivors of cancer who will celebrate birthdays in 2011.

The second R is Regression, which is what happens when
treatment begins to work.

The third R is  Remission when blood tests no longer show any
cancer cells following treatment.  This
is a big achievement, but with really aggressive blood cancers it may only be a
limited reprieve.

Oh! I have just thought of one last “R”.  We need to rejoice because the vast majority
of people diagnosed with cancer now survive and this is best illustrated by the
figures of children suffering childhood leukemia.  Forty years ago, no child survived leukemia,
but now most children will live into adulthood. And isn’t that great news?


Sweet Peas, Pearls, Stories and Style

Congratulations to the indominable Maria Kenda, AM, who gathered together an impressive group of renowned women to relaunch the Adelaide Ladies Lunch Club at the Naval, Military &Air Force Club of South Australia (Inc.) this week.

Maria launched the club in the 1980s and due to the success of her jewellery design  business, Kendacraft, it lay dormant for years.

And what a flourishing rebirth with the elegant room filled with 30 women, adorned with much bijoux, (particularly pearls) and creating an ambiance as delightful as the sweet peas decorating the table.

Many years have passed since we met in such style and even though most of us are now older women, we recognised each other instantly.  We glowed in the joy of recognition and reunion and those shared stories of our changing lives flowed faster than the wine.

Because the event revealed that one unmistakeable fact, our lives have changed as most have moved from high profile roles into retirement and onto charitable boards, committees or causes.

Maria reintroduced the Golden Spoon idea whereby women are given two minutes to say anything they wish. (I, of course, plugged my website for older, computer-literate readers) and the women who spoke reflected exactly what my blogging hopes to achieve. I want to present women and men who  have metamorphised their lives in mid-life or in retirement, or to report on lives still firing into their dotage.

In my former journalistic career, I had written about a good sprinkling of these women and  Margaret de Zwart was one. Formerly of the Women Chiefs of Enterprise, she rose at the lunch and told us with such pride that her Wyona Alpaca Stud in Young, NSW began 20 years ago when she and husband joined their  children to buy three alpacas at the time of the drought.

One promptly died, another had a problem with mating, but the third went on to breed champions.

“Last weekend we achieved a wonderful achievement, our Wyona Sunsprite was elected Supreme Chanmpion of greys, which are extremely difficult to breed,” said Margaret.

It was at the Victorian Colourbration, Australia’s largest Colour Show in Ballarat and 540 alpacas entered and 205 fleece entries.

“We entered 5 alpaca and came away with nine ribbons.”

Helen Rice spoke about her role as chairperson of the UNESCO club in  Adelaide. “We do two projects every year to help people in need,’’ she said. “This year we are providng back packs for street kids who have been taken off the streets and put into school.  “It’s a special kind of school where they can relate better to what is being taught.

“Their back packs are full of all stationary needs, lunch boxes and things they would need but wouldn’t get from home.’’

At our corner of the table, we listened to  irrepressible baker’s wife, Rosemary  Milisits, who has been the other half of pie king, Vili Milisits for 43 years.  And her stories of daily life in the Milisits household also reveals the other story of women’s  lives – our partnerships with men.

“Vili is totally reliant on me to run his busy life (beyond the business),” she said.   And she told how she orchestrates his many extra community activities and she used as an example those 7am meetings on this or that government advisory council.  “I will have everything ready for him right down to stationery  the night before,” she said.  “Then  I’m the one who will drop  him off at the door of the meeting two minutes before 7’’.

Rosemary  has always been with him since she was 16 years old and he was 17 and an apprentice to renowned patissiere Cazzy.

“When we were married for the first three weeks instead of a honeymoon, his mother came over every night and Vili’s brother would have to bring her and she would stand there with her arms folded across her ample chest and watch me cook,’’ she recalled, immitating the stern stance of her late mother-in-law, Theresa.

“Back then I was the dearest, sweetest naive little girl of 19 and at the end of those three weeks, she said “Poof, this Australian girl can’t cook’’ and she started to send food parcels over to us and she did that for 38 years! “But that allowed me to work in the business.’’

“We have done a lot of work in the community and we never thought he would be in the position to do that.’’

Both are 61 years of age and they have been together for 43 years.

This partnership produces millions of pies and employs 300 people and Vili’s all-hours café in Marleston clocks over 26,000 customers on average over those 24 hours.

What’s that saying about “Behind every successful man……?


Gracious hosts, glorious food & Grange:

Surprises are such fun and doubly so when an outstanding event
is planned and orchestrated by your children to show their love and to say
“thankyou’’ for being good parents.

Such was our joy when we dined on a superb five-course
dinner with our children in their home and drank together the best Australian
wine – a Penfolds Grange Bin 95 1990.

Our extra-ordinary evening was shrouded in mystery when in  June the children asked us to book
Saturday, August 13 at 4.30pm for a “special event’’.   A formal invitation followed and we reckoned such a fuss was surely to announce their first pregnancy.

But when son Tyson stood at the door and welcomed us to l‘hotel de Williams dressed in a suit and tie wearing a small black brimmed hat, we thought it would be a murder mystery party. And this thought festered when he ushered us blindfolded through the open plan dining area (draped in black curtains) to get changed in a bedroom.  Then blindfolded,  like children playing pin-the-donkey, we were led  into the games room to greet Vanessa’s parents John and Sandra Herbig.

Our suspense was short-lived when the children stood in the arched  doorway and told us we were about to celebrate John and Sandra’s retirement and the completion our new retirement home.

“But we also want to celebrate how lucky we are to have you as our parents and to thank you for all that you have done for us both,’’ said Tyson. (Olivier is Tyson’s much-loved step-father.)

And with those heartfelt words we were shown to our seats. Before us  was a stunning l’art de la table – a beautifully dressed table, reflecting the fact that Vanessa was dux of the Cordon Bleu Hotel and Resort Management Bachelor degree course.

An extraordinary five-course published menu lay on our placements listing an amazing accompanying wine list.  Two decanters were behind us on the sideboard alongside an impressive array of wine bottles and glasses.

This was to be quite a night because there were three Penfolds wines on the menu and with no time to ponder on the magnitude of this, Tyson was pouring us a Belle Epoque Perrier Jouet 2002.

A generous antipasto platter was followed by a French culinary masterpiece – Veloute de Volaille or Velvety Cream of Chicken Soup. It delivered handsomely on smooth texture and taste and we savoured each creamy mouthful with the wine Tyson had poured – the first Penfolds – a Reserve Bin 05A Chardonnay 2005.

Basil and Lime Sorbet arrived in spectacular style. Vanessa had made bowls of ice blocks in which she placed three scoops of cool ice – after which we were invited to rest in the living area. This was time for Tyson to cook the main course of Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb while Vanessa handled the accompanying potato and horseradish cake and garlic beans.

Meanwhile, we “oldies’’ dozed off in sublime contentment before the smell of the cooked lamb aroused us .

“Ha, ha, it’s only 7.30pm,’’ laughed Vanessa. “Who can’t hold their Penfolds? The evening is just beginning!’’

Now was the moment.    With our plates before us filled with crusty lamb with a sauce spooned over the pink cutlets– Tyson brought over the piece de resistance – a carafe of the precious Penfolds Grange Bin 95 1990 which had been airing since 10am.  He told us how  he had bought it on-line at a wine auction specialy for tonight’s celebration.

It was an absolutely gorgeous wine and I salivate simply writing about it now.

“We really wanted to open a bottle of Penfolds Grange with our parents; It’s something my parents would never do and we knew Olivier, being French, would love it,’’  said  Vanessa as we all posed for photographs of ourselves with Australia’s premium wine variety.

“His work colleagues gave him a 1980 Grange for his 30th birthday and we decided we would buy another to share  with you and Olivier when the new house was built and when our parents retired.’’

This was a supreme wine and we chinked our glasses, swirling the rich red wine around the glass and smelling the aroma.

Quirky husband took his white napkin placed it over his head and around the wine glass to roars of laughter. “May this moment never end,’’ he murmured of its fulsome nose. Then, I took that first never-to-be-forgotten taste. No more than a sip to begin with, before a wonderful mouthful.

Against such a sublime moment, I created  a stir when I announced the lamb was too raw and placed my three chops back in the oven. Roars of disapproval could be heard from Tyson and husband Olivier. “It is perfect,’’ they retorted in  unison.
But I am not yet French, so my meat needs to be medium!

A decanter filled with one last Penfolds, a superb St Henri Shiraz 1998 awaited us with salad and French cheese – a special selection the children bought at  Smelly Cheese at the Adelaide Central Market.  Fromage de Meaux – Brie de la Brei (Ile de France);  Delice du Poitou Bleu de Basque and an English cloth bound 18 month old hard cheese from Devon were served with crackers and a crusty baguette.

“I think what makes me happiest is that we were able to share with our parents some fantastic wine and food and to experience  one on one with  them our close family bonds,’’ said Vanessa. “It was a wonderful evening together,’’ said Vanessa, whose day job is boardroom and catering manager for PWC Accountancy firm.

“I am lucky with my work that I am not in a restaurant all the time, but I still work with food and function planning, and I haven’t lost my passion to use my tools of trade at home; Of course Tyson loves doing the mystery stuff.’’

Sheer joy and camaraderie filled the space. We could only surmise how many weeks of planning this wonderful act of love had required to prepare and present such a fabulous feast.

“The planning was fantastic fun,’’ she said. “We sat around for hours looking at recipes.’’

“The best moment, of course, was when Tyson opened the top Penfolds Grange the crème de la crème of Australian wine and one of the best years as well and poured a glass for each of us.’’

However, there was one last moment of sweetness – a delicious, simple dessert centred around the Black Noble by De Bortoli and to finish our supreme evening, we devoured Black Forest Affogato.

Christmas lunch at our new house when they all return to chez nous will be quite a challenge.

PS: For Penfolds wine lovers, the tasting notes inThe Rewards of Patience by Andrew Caillard, Master of Wine notes: Penfolds Grange 1990 is “deep crimson. Powerful, ethereal, beautifully balanced wine with blackberry/plum/chocolate/sous bois/spicy aromas. A rich, ripe, immensely concentrated wine with generous sweet blackberry/plum/dark cherry fruit, mocha oak, some earthyflavours and velvety smooth tannins. Finishes long and chocolaty.  A superb Grange with tremendous energy, finesse and volume. 95 per cent shiraz, 5 per cent cabernet sauvignon.