Monday, July 20, 2009


Well, all this writing and I'm still only eleven years old - what a prodigious memory. But I'm not intending to plod on year by year relentlessly. As a break, here's a story some of you got by email, but I'd like to immortalise it here on my blogspot.


In the late '70s I was playing piano in Bibi's Garden Restaurant at the Woollahra Hotel, a space now occupied by the Moncur Restaurant. It was operated by Belinda (front-of-house ) and David (chef) Chibeba. You ordered at the counter and then waited for your number to be called. I remember once saying to Belinda, "I'd like a medium rump, please." She replied, "So would I darling, but what you're born with you're stuck with."

It was an outdoors venue in the summer, but as winter approached they shifted the action and the piano into the old hotel dining room upstairs.

One dark and stormy winter's night (sorry, but it really was) I was stoutly thumping away to only two tables of diners. One young couple had eyes only for each other, the other table consisted of a family group. I conjectured that the twenties-something son had just had some artistic success or maybe had graduated. Anyway, he was the centre of attention to his Dad and Mum and a couple of younger siblings. Neither table was paying any attention to me.

Any waiter or barman will tell you that the busiest night goes fastest, the slow ones just drag on. So it was this night for me.

I was about to take a break when a new couple arrived. They were rather rain-soaked and it quickly became obvious that they had taken considerably of drink. I decided to keep playing, to cover the slight disturbance thay had created.

He was the wonderful (now late) Frankie Mitchell, dress designer extraordinaire and so-so pianist himself. She I daren't name - she's still very much alive - but is a player from time to time in the up-and-down world that passes for Australian movie making.

As I played on (you'll have to imagine here the Harry Lime Theme from the 1940s Carol Reed movie "The Third Man" - the one that goes, dah-de-dah-de-dah-de dah, dah-de-dah-de-dah-de-dah... you know, Shirley Abicar had a great hit with it on her zither? Oh well...), they ordered soup, slurped it noisily from the bowls, all the time carrying on a spirited conversation that no one else in the room (and by now they couldn't help but be very aware of the new arrivals) could ignore - or understand.

I played on determinedly.

Finally, I just had to have a break. The moment I stopped playing, and all was silent, Frankie raised his head from the soup and said, with crystal clarity and in a stentorian voice that belied his bird-like frame, "The thing is, the nuns were cunts!"

Dah-de-dah-de-dah-de-dah, dah-de-dah-de-dah-de-dah...

It was a long night.

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