About Jacquie

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Jacqueline Kent is… a writer of non-fiction and biography, fiction, general articles and literary journalism. Her working background includes radio interviewing, print journalism, radio and TV scriptwriting, editing books, ghostwriting, teaching editing and creative writing, and arts administration.
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The carols of Wheeler and James

Does anybody remember, let alone sing, the Australian Christmas carols of Wheeler and James? Judging by the Christmas that has just passed, the answer is no: lots of carols involving the little tiny child, little drummer boy (the word ‘little’ is sooo Christmas), having oneself a merry little Christmas, but no gathering Christmas bush together in this golden weather, or any of the rest of them. I wonder why this is? Perhaps because the most readily available version of the carols was recorded by, I think, the Adelaide Singers fifty years or so ago, complete with posh ABC vowels and choral arrangements.

As far as I recall — and I’m writing this, sloppily I suppose, without having checked Wikipedia or any other internet source — William James and Something Wheeler were two musicians who made careers at the ABC in the 1930s (I think William James was the head of ABC music). They decided to write a bunch of carols that were purely Australian. ‘The boobook calls across the night/The red moths flutter in the light/Oh sleep my little one sleep’. Well they weren’t immune to the ‘little’ plague, obviously, but for some reason those words from ‘Christmas Night’, linked to a very pleasant lullaby tune, always bring a lump to my throat. Mind you, sometimes the Australianness is strained: three drovers instead of three wise men? But I always loved them.

Kids don’t seem to learn them at school any more either. I think thisis a pity. For me, just seeing the sheet music in the  cardboard discount boxes outside  that music shop in Glebe Point Road — green and red and white on the cover, pics of Christmas bells — is a real Proustian madeleine. Brings back that pencil-shavings smell of the primary school classroom at West Ryde with Miss Shoemark doggedly sightreading her way through the carols while we piped along beside her. Haven’t heard them regularly since then, and that’s — ooh — a very long time ago. Maybe it was just a New South Wales thing? We never heard them at all when we moved to South Australia. And my two sisters, who were that much younger, never learned them at all.

What could be done to bring them back? There must be a whole generation of people who remember them. The tunes are nice, the words pleasant. And they say a hell of a lot more about Christmas in Australia than drummer boys and bleak midwinter. Maybe we just felt that Christmas here isn’t the way it ought to be, and that Wheeler and James should have known better than to celebrate it the way it really is.

Still, I can’t help feeling that here’s a good story, and I guess that just writing this post is an aide memoire to myself to write it. I really would be sad if W#038;J were entirely forgotten.

Winds

I know you’re not supposed to start a novel with weather, but nobody said anything about a blog, did they. Went for a walk yesterday, and we were almost shredded by the grey, blusterous westerlies.As I struggled along Rose Bay waterfront, I found myself thinking the usual grumpy thoughts of the middle-aged: we didn’t have weather like this when I was a kid. It may even be true, early effects of climate change and all.  I also found myself remembering something Ruth Park wrote in her book about Sydney: that, because of the tall buildings clustering in the CBD and elsewhere, the wind has changed in direction and flukiness, no longer being able to blow in the same place, in the same way. (Wind and its direction was pretty important to her: she wrote a children’s book illustrated by her daughters Kilmeny and Deborah and called ‘When the Wind Changed’, about a small boy who pulled faces until the wind changed and his features froze in a hideous mask.) I wonder if this is true? It sounds as if it ought to be, and in some ways the idea of a thwarted breeze is an attractive one. Continue reading Winds

Here and back again

Well, it’s been a while, rudely interrupted, etc. But life goes on, and so does Julia Gillard, and her  story has changed again and keeps changing. She used to make me think of Cate Blanchett at the end of the movie Elizabeth, the scene where she methodically puts white chalk all over her face, hiding her real self behind it:  having to turn into someone else for the sake of power. We’ve seen that Gillard mask slip in the last few months, with genuine anger bursting through. And many voters have approved. Continue reading Here and back again

Hobart Mercury

Hobart Mercury, 3 October 2009

Red Julia takes job seriously but not herself

For all Julia Gillard’s talents and ambition, it is her sense of humour and of the ridiculous that will see here through, writes WAYNE CRAWFORD

JULIA Gillard pleaded with Mark Latham not to proceed with the contentious policy on Tasmanian forestry that is widely thought to have tipped the balance, and helped cost Labor the 2004 election.

Ms Gillard – then a close ally of Mr Latham, for whom she had helped muster the support he needed to snatch the leadership from Kim Beazley – greeted Mr Latham’s pro-green forestry policy “with a sense of foreboding,” writes her biographer Jacqueline Kent.

Continue reading Hobart Mercury

The Australian

The Australian, October 2009

Gillard’s grasp on the political domain

The Making Of Julia Gillard
By Jacqueline Kent
Viking, 320pp, $32.95

TRADITIONALLY, political biographies come at the end of a career, although there are always exceptions. Two biographies of then opposition leader Kevin Rudd appeared in the months before the 2007 election, as Australians rushed to find out about the man who might be PM. And now we have the first of two biographies of Julia Gillard – the other, by journalist Christine Wallace is due next year – a mid-career politician, whose greatest triumphs (and defeats) are likely yet to come.

On the first page of The Making of Julia Gillard, Jacqueline Kent justifies her choice of subject, arguing that in a country where distrust of politicians is almost an article of faith, Gillard is a political celebrity. She is also Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Social Inclusion and an impressive parliamentary and media performer.

Continue reading The Australian