Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Designing Love Never Dies

While audiences may not be unanimous in their praise of Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Love Never Dies, no-one is quibbling about its lack of spectacle. The person most responsible for this is Gabriela Tylesova, who designed costumes and set in just 6 months. Add to this the knowledge that the artist has two pre-school children and her achievement takes on gargantuan proportions.

My interview with Gabriela Tylesova, originally published in the July-August edition of Stage Whispers, can now be viewed online.

Read it here.

Other features and reviews.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Rehearsal Campers at Ringwood - Production Camps - Why Bother?

Singing can be heard from the dirt track leading to Mt Evelyn Recreational Camp at the foot of the Dandenong Ranges. It’s not rehearsal, but the dinner queue in the pine-lined dining room.  More than 100 students from Ringwood Secondary College, a production team of 10 staff and two ex-students are into the second evening of a three-day camp. In three weeks Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate will open on the school stage for eight performances.

Director of Performing Arts, Benjamin Moody is munching on fish ‘n’ chips. While his first involvement was in 2000 as a ring-in, this is his sixth camp as a production team member, and the first as director.

‘Unless you come away for three days, you don’t get an uninterrupted run through. The rehearsal hours for the chorus [on camp] are as many as we can get over the entire Tuesday night rehearsal period,’ he explains. ‘From my point-of-view, the distance we’ve come in the last 24 hours is quite phenomenal, and we still have two full runs to go.’

Year 12 student Shaun Dickson agrees. ‘At school we get a few hours a week, but at camp we have three days straight. There are no distractions, and there’s no going home. You wake up and you just do it. There’s nothing else. Everyone is here to do production. Everyone has their head in the zone.’  Continue reading

You may also be interested in
Review: Sweet Charity (Ringwood Secondary College, 2012)
All the World's a Stage for Amazing Drama Teacher
More features, profiles and reviews.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Charles Dickens presents A Christmas Carol

My review of the quite astonishing one man show by Phil Zachariah, Charles Dickens presents A Christmas Carol, is now published online by Stage Whispers.

More reviews and features.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Profile: Justin Burford

After six weeks in the wings nursing possibly the world’s worst ever sprained ankle, Justin Burford is keen to return to his role as Drew in the jukebox musical, Rock of Ages, at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre. 

Landing a lead role in a stage musical is not usually on the to-do list of rock musicians. So no-one was more surprised than Justin Burford when he virtually fell into the Australian production of Rock of Ages after his Perth-based band, End Of Fashion became a studio band last year.

‘I was wondering what I was going to do with my life,’ he ponders, ‘and then Rock of Ages came along, and it was just perfect timing.’ Continue reading

You may also enjoy

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ringwood Lake Park

Weekend Notes is an online site which reviews leisure activities across Australia and in other parts of the world including New York, Singapore and London. My review of Ringwood Lake Park is now published.

See all my Weekend Notes reviews

Thursday, September 29, 2011

10 Party Games for Grand Final Day

Melbourne is at a standstill. Poised, waiting for Saturday afternoon when the AFL Grand Final will be decided.

Tomorrow is irrelevant except if you are planning a gathering of friends to watch the game. As an avid AFL fan (Go Bombers) I am more interested in actually watching the game. So if you've been lured by the title you will possibly be disappointed. However, here are some ideas to mark the day.

1. Arrival: Face Paint
Invite your guests to show their true colours by donning face paint ahead of the game.

2. Lucky Door Prize
Hand out raffle tickets and draw winners at half time. Prize ideas include chocolate footballs, umpires whistle, footy garb, badges, posters etc...

3. Food
  • The usual MCG cuisine: meat pies, cold drinks, hot jam donuts, coffee
  • Team coloured food
  • White jellybeans or white witchetty grubs' - white maggots' (affectionate term for umpires)
  • Cake in team colours
  • Jelly cups in team colours

4. Clothes
  • Provide raincoats and make space behind the seating for those for whom footy is not right without  standing room in the outer.
  • Eye patches for one-eyed supporters
  • Whiskers for Cats supporters, feathers for Magpies.

5. Music
Obviously the team songs, but also Advance Australia Fair and footy songs by Mike Brady of 'Up there Cazaly' fame.

Ok, ok, so you'd like a few games to warm up before the game. What about these for starters:

6. Lolly Game
Chose either M&Ms, Smarties, Jellybeans or similar. Guests race the clock to fish team coloured lollies from a central bowl. The person with the most lollies of the right colours in their cup after a minute wins.

7. Handball Competition
You know what to do.

8. Play 'Malthouse says', or 'Scott says' (aka Simon says)

9. Footy Piñata - a great half-time occupation. 

10. Ladder competition 
Divide guests into teams. Use either an actual ladder, or make one from cardboard and fix it to the wall. Provide each team cards on which each AFL team is written. Race the clock. Team members take turns to pick up a card and place it on the ladder in the order which the teams finished this year.

You may also be interested in 10 Party Games for Melbourne Cup Day 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Annie: An All-Time Favourite Returns to the Australian Stage

In Melbourne yesterday the Australian season of Annie was launched, with an impressive principal cast on hand at the Plaza Ballroom. Annie is set to grace Australian stages from December, touring Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

Read my Annie Update now published by Stage Whispers.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hidden Treasure in the Burbs - McAlpin Reserve

Ever been to Ringwood North?
Know about McAlpin Reserve?
It has to be one of the most serene places in Melbourne's suburbs.
Read my review now published by Weekend Notes.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Federation Playspace - Warrandyte (review)

Looking for something the whole family will love?
A trip to Federation Playspace is within coo-ee of activities to engage history buffs, fitness freaks, foodies, sweet tooths (or is that teeth), and wildlife lovers. My review of Federation Playspace in Warrandyte is now published online.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Behind the Phantom's Mask: Meet Ben Lewis

Desperate times call for desperate measures. During previews for Love Never Dies, line changes came so fast and furious that Ben Lewis, playing the Phantom, jotted them down on the handiest prop. Lucy Graham went backstage to peak behind the mask.
Backstage at the Regent Theatre is a rabbit warren. Costumes line the walls: wigs, feathers, tulle, and an array of moustaches hang on the wall. Ben Lewis strides confidently ahead: blundstone boots, black beanie, and coffee to go. He oozes confidence, but not the gung-ho variety. It reads,this is who I am, take it or not. Two costume attendants sit on the floor, mending, and smile as we pass. Three hours out from curtain, and backstage is effervescent. Voluptuous singing rolls along passageways, and laughter trickles through change room doors.
Landing the role of Phantom in Love Never Dies at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre means English-born Ben Lewis, 31, has “never been pushed to this extent before”. While he doesn’t describe himself as superstitious, Lewis admits a preference for fairly structured ways.

Continue reading.

You may also be interested in
Review: Love Never Dies (Melbourne)
Die Young and Have a Good-Looking Corpse (Jordie Lane talks about Gram Parsons)
Ray Lawler: The Summer of our 90th Year
Justin Burford: From rock band to musical theatre
More reviews and articles.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Inconvenience of Ageing

Some years back, on the eve of school resuming after summer holidays, my six-year old was visibly distressed. As far as I could tell, he had very little to worry about. My desire for routine's return mingled with the sadness I would feel as my children left the following morning.  But now this stood in the way of a peaceful evening.

A lump swelled somewhere between my throat and belly. I scratched about for positive responses, but the promise of rekindled friendships and games were no match for his angst. This boy-child had never been comfortable with change, and yet his intensity troubled me.

I tucked us both into bed and we lay in his darkened room. I recited A.A Milne, sang funny songs, and willed him to breathe deeply. But I could elicit no remedy. We lay in silence for a time. ‘Grade One is going to be great,’ I told him. But his response revealed deep fear: ‘Mummy, it’s going to get harder and harder every day, and there’s nothing I can do about it.’

He is right of course. Societal expectations increase relentlessly for most of our years. Ability brings independence, demanding responsibility as part of the bargain. But autonomy lasts only as long as a body can keep pace.  In ageing our physical limitations are linked to pride. Independence bleeds into dependence once more.  

Today I watched a woman getting into a car. It was no simple undertaking. She leant on a walking stick, and held onto a companion with her other arm as they shuffled across a carpark. She was, I imagined, in her mid 70s, although her incapacity may have pulled the wool over my eyes. As they neared the car, a third woman emerged from it. At every step in the process the two helped their friend into the vehicle until she finally settled in her seat. At one point they all laughed. Patience was the champion.

When I am sick or injured, I find it perpetually frustrating, but it dawned on me today that at some stage of life my physical abilities will not return: the ability to play sport, to play music, the walk a distance, to feed or wash myself, to tie my laces, or drive, or use the toilet.  I wonder how I'll go with that.

My boy-child is quite right: it does get harder and harder. But the lessons change. Eventually the responsibilities that come with aging require some relinquishment of independence. Such a painful dose of humility and self-reflection is, I am certain, the most difficult change of all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Kiss Me Kate (Ringwood Secondary College)

At Ringwood Secondary College this afternoon, shots were fired, a bird dropped dead, faces were slapped, pot plants hurled, people were deceived, and a whip was cracked. Luckily it was all in the script.

Read my review of the preview performance given to a largely primary school audience yesterday afternoon. If you're a local, why not buy a ticket.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

'Life Experience': the Most Yawn-Worthy Qualification in the World?

Perhaps I should have anticipated it, but her question took me by surprise.

The young, ambitious, unmarried reporter sits at her newsroom desk. Weekends are hers alone to waste. Her wages are spent on partying, updating her wardrobe and bottled water. One morning she receives a dozen red roses. On another she phones her parents for a loan. She is conducting a phone interview with a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary: What did you think when you first caught sight of each other across the crowded dance floor?

I sit at the neighbouring desk, intern reporter, married - mother of three, attempting a mid-life career change. My weekends are spent aside netball courts, in basketball stadiums, catching up on mountains of washing, and driving kids home from late-night parties. I have just concluded an interview with another 50th anniversary couple, and my questions were altogether different: What is the secret to staying with each other after all these years?

Mine is a question born out of the reality of everyday tedium, from seeing some relationships disintegrate and others thrive. But the rich fodder of experience and time reflect on it, is undervalued these days. Instead titillating tidbits are magnified out of all proportion, painting a false picture of reality and breeding unreal expectations.

Now she asks me a question. What have you got planned for the weekend? I am not bitter, but still I let her have it - from early morning sport to the smelly socks.  Her eyes glaze over. Just as I thought. Experience and loyalty bore people to tears. It is no badge of honour. It's not fun enough.

Thank God it is not the weekend that defines me. Luckily time has given me deep roots: the places, the people, the conversations, the books, the surprising encounters, the tragedies and the stories.

Each day I invite the next adventure and wait for it's riches to work on me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Circus Oz: Steampowered (review)

Just in time for the Victorian school holidays, Steampowered is brilliant entertainment for all ages.
Read my review now published on the Stage Whispers website.

More feature articles and reviews

Strange Bedfellows: More Aussie than Priscilla

Peter Cousens, Melissa Langton, Lucy Durack and John Wood.
 My conversation with the four stars of upcoming Aussie musical Strange Bedfellows on the Princess Theatre stage yesterday, is now published on the Stage Whispers website.

More feature articles and reviews

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hairspray: A 'Brand New Do' in Musical Theatre Technology

Hairspray the Musical is a visual and technological feast, a smorgasbord of bubblegum colours, brilliantly energetic song and dance, and animated landscapes behind which lie a level of technological prowess unprecendented in musical theatre. Find out how they do it, in an interview with Creative Director of Digital Content Robbie Klaesi, as the Melbourne production is unleashed for Sydney audiences.

More feature articles and reviews

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Love Never Dies: review summary in 'The Week'

From The Week, see my review cited amongst others on Australian premiere performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies at Melbourne's Regent Theatre.

Read my Stage Whispers review
Watch the Theatre Show wrap on opening night

Monday, June 6, 2011

portraiture and the facebook phenomenon

Serebryakora - Self Portrait
Imagine painting a self-portrait.

Which features or flaws would become more apparent to the beholder?
Would any of your 'best' features be seen as flaws by others?
Would you portray yourself sitting, standing, gazing out into the distance, or at work?
Would you be wearing everyday clothes, or your best.
Would you pose nude?
Would you position yourself at home, in recreational activity or within a completely other time?
Would you be alone, or surrounded by others? Who might those others be?

What intertextual references would be included, and what would they reveal about you?

Gaughin - Self Portrait
One genre for self-portraits is the social networking juggernaut, Facebook.
The profile presented by clients of Facebook is revealing as much by omissions as what is offered.

Do I see myself in the same way others regard me?

Am I wholly encompassed by what I contribute to facebook? Of course not. It is an imperfect account of who you are, because portraiture is not only who you think you are, but who others believe you to be.

You may also be interested in The Neighbours taste like....chicken?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: Love Never Dies

My review of the opening night performance of Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies, now playing at Melbourne's Regent Theatre, is now published by Stage Whispers.

You can also read my profile of Phantom Ben Lewischeck out my photos of the after-party and the Theatre Show's wrap on You Tube.

More reviews
Tell me more about Stage Whispers
My review cited in The Week 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lloyd-Webber in Town: Sneak Peek at 'Love Never Dies'

 I was delighted to attend the Media Sneak Peek of Love Never Dies today at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne. With Andrew Lloyd-Webber in town, the excitement and anticipation is high, particularly after mixed reviews in London. At the media brief we were told Lloyd Webber had composed more music to add to the score in Melbourne this week.

Read my report now published on Stage Whispers.
Tell me more about Stage Whispers

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: CLOC's Fiddler

My review of CLOC Musical Theatre's Fiddler on the Roof is now published by Stage Whispers. It's a warm and wonderful amateur theatre production, of a perennial favourite.
More reviews
Tell me more about Stage Whispers 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Neighbours Taste Like....Chicken?

The Neighbours taste like....chicken? is now published online at The Pluck.
It's a case of My Son the Vegetarian meets Eating the Neighbours pets.
Oh, and comments are welcome. Enjoy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Squeezing Blood from Stone: productivity in education

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu says teacher pay rises beyond 2.5% will be linked to increased productivity and major productivity gains. But how is productivity to be measured, or indeed achieved? Larger class sizes? Increased teaching hours? Improved student results? Let’s assume for a moment that better results are directly attributable to the amount of time spent at school, and that progress can be measured by test results.

An international comparison is illuminating. Along with Chinese, South African, Korean and Philippine students, Australian kids have around 200 days of school each year. Only Japanese kids attend more often with a whopping 243 days annually. Kids in the USA (180 days), Canada (194), Sweden (178), France (180) and the United Kingdom (195) all attend school for fewer days than ours.

According to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), days of school appear to be irrelevant when it comes to educational success. In all four assessments of 15 year olds carried out since 2000, across 65 participating nations, Finland has ranked first or second. Last year more than 100 delegations descended on Finland to discover the secret of their success.

Here’s what they found. Finnish students start school at 8 years old. The school year numbers 190 days of 4-7 hours in length. Finnish students have moderate amounts of homework, and no private tuition after school. School is compulsory for nine years and beyond this the retention rate is high. Books for basic education are free, and school meals are provided to ensure students are well nourished. Finland spends around 6% of gross domestic product on free education, Australia spends 4%, and the OECD average is 4.6%. Only a small number of private schools receive government subsidies. Investment in teachers is a high priority with  all Finnish teachers required to have a Masters degree. On average they work almost 3 hours less per week than Australian teachers.

While PISA results from students from some Asian countries are almost as impressive, these are achieved through high student workloads. For its 4-5 weeks additional schooling Japan is only marginally ahead of Australia.

Perhaps when Premier Baillieu talks of ‘major productivity gains’ he is not thinking globally, but nationally. Assuming productivity is to be measured by results, let’s take a look at NAPLAN, the national test given to all students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Last year students in Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT were the top performers in the country, despite the fact spending on Victorian students is more than $1,100 per student below the national average.

Here’s the problem. 'Productivity’ is an economic parameter, measuring efficiency in production, and implying a comparison of input, such as capital invested, wages paid, and number employed, with output. But here’s the thing. Educational value can’t be numerically measured because people don’t inhabit the educational environment on a level playing field. Moreover capacity to thrive academically and socially is influenced by many variables, many of which are beyond a school’s power.

Take a bunch of kids on an excursion by train into the Immigration Museum. A refugee child will have a different response to the child with Asperger’s syndrome, or a child with a mild intellectual disability. The experience for one who has never travelled on public transport contrasts with the one who spends 4 hours a night on computer games, or the artistic child, or the train obsessed child, or the child who only gets 5 hours sleep a night because mum works two jobs. It’s impossible to determine whose learning has been of greater value, because what we learn depends on where we have been.

But it’s not just down to the Premier. In Finland teachers are the most highly respected profession, with medical doctors coming in at second place. Victorians have to decide whether education is a priority or not. Ultimately our kids will be better served by well resourced, motivated and valued teaching staff, than by a workforce that is constantly receiving negative signals that they are not doing well enough and must achieve more with less.

Friday, May 6, 2011

All I Want for Mother's Day is a Bus Every 10 minutes

Last week my nine year-old accosted me with the perennial words, “Mum, I’m bored I don’t know what to do”. Looking up from my newspaper I pondered a whole two seconds before he said – get this – “Hurry up mum, you’re wasting my time”. When I reminded him I don’t have to provide entertainment 24/7, he replied incredulously, “Yes you do – you’re the MUM”.

If television advertising is any measure, my son’s view is widely shared. The closer we get to mother’s day, the louder it becomes. After all, if Nick Riewoldt, grown man and iconic AFL footballer, can take his washing to mum’s why can’t you?  Why, with a hug and grin, or perhaps a new electrical appliance, she’ll happily pick up after you for another whole year.

Think about it. Driving kids around for an afternoon of activities makes me a “great mum”, but teaching a child to read a timetable, hail a bus and buy a ticket borders on negligence. Just ask Lenore Skenazy.

Suburban mums are literally tied to the steering wheel, but what we want and need is half-decent public transport on weekends. There’s plenty of evidence that effective transport is a measure of quality of life, and mothers are getting a raw deal.

Each weekday my two eldest kids get around by using their own legs, which work perfectly well, and the local bus which runs every 15 minutes in peak.

But with hourly buses on weekends it all falls apart. Consequently, I spend my weekends in a car. There’s nothing good about it, save an occasional illuminating conversation, and the chance to erode the 120 hour learner-driver requirement.

Last weekend I clocked up 164 kilometres, taking kids to sport in Lilydale, Forest Hill, Ringwood and Heathmont, and a band practise in Box Hill. Thanks to a Saturday night get-together in Kilsyth South, I made the same 20 minute trip four times. Add the fact 20% of Melbournians are aged 17 and younger, well, you do the maths!

Australia’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling includes living in a household without a car as a social exclusion risk measure for children. No surprises there. Buses are the sole means of public transport for over two-thirds of Metropolitan Melbourne, but scant weekend services mean young people depend on lifts or risk social exclusion.

Everyone knows kids need to get out and meet flesh-friends rather than virtual ones, play sport, have part-time jobs, go to parties, and get involved in creative activities. Strange that when independence is enabled, one never hears “I’m bored mum, what can I do”. 

From where I sit (mostly at the traffic lights) the Public Transport Users Association campaign, Every 10 minutes to Everywhere looks a treat, with trams, trains, and main road buses every 10 minutes, from 6am to midnight, 7-days-a-week, and Nightrider buses every half-hour, 7-days-a-week. Do I think it will ever happen?  Do you?

So here’s a tip for Mother’s Day. What she really wants is time, and that’s something you can give. Here’s how. Support the PTUA campaign for increased public transport. Then catch a bus to the shops and buy a long handled claw to pick your own socks up with. Oh and Nick, learn how to use a washing machine would you please. It ain’t rocket science.

You may also be interested in 
The Neighbours taste like....chicken?
Eating the Neighbour's Pets
Mothering: protection, prevention, permission and paralysis

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Review: Next to Normal

Melbourne Theatre Company's production of the musical drama, Next to Normal is playing for the next month at The Playhouse (Arts Centre). 

You are invited to read my review of opening night published by Stage Whispers today.

Read Lucy's review
Other reviews by Lucy
Tell me more about Stage Whispers

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

10 Party Games for the Royal Wedding

As Wills and Kate prepare to tie the knot I can't claim particular interest. After the royal marriage fiascos that have gone before, its hard to get too misty-eyed about this one. That said, it is an excuse for a gathering of friends, so why not have some fun with the theme at the same time?

Here's a bunch of fun ideas for a gathering on the wedding day at your place, at your street party, or youth group night.

1. Wedding Band rolling relay
William is not to wear a wedding ring. Play a relay where teams have to roll a wedding band to the other end. You might like to use a fun alternative like a keyring, a hoolahoop, tyre or a doughnut!

2. Jelly baby beheading races
A game for teams of three. The executioner beheads the jelly babies and two team members consume either the head or body of 50 jelly babies. First team wins.

3. Get Me to the Church on Time
Masquerading as a glorified wheelbarrow race. Competitors race to the marker where they have to dress in various items such as a crown or veil, a cloak, high heeled shoes, put lipstick on, throw confetti on themselves, and then race to the finish line.

4. Royal sash game
On arrival guests are given six sashes each to wear diagonally across their body. Royal blue is a great colour choice. Each time someone says the word "wedding' or "royal" (or choose your own words) at anytime during the party any party member can take one of their sashes. If you don't want to use sashes, try pegs) though they're not very glamourous). After an hour the person with the greatest number of sashes wins.

5. Pin the ears on the father-of-the-groom
OK, so its an adaption of pin the tail on the donkey. Or come up with your own invention.

6. Royal Carriage obstacle course including walking on egg shells, jumping through hoops, smiling at the camera, waving at the crowd, and outrun the paparazzi.

7. Chocolate Royal biscuit eating race
This is an adaption of the salada biscuit eating contest. Two or three contestants are chosen to compete, and have to be the first to eat a whole packet of Chocolate Royal biscuits. No washing down with water allowed.

8. Sing 'Land of Hope and Glory', 'Rule Brittania' and 'God save the Queen'

9. Marshmellow or Boiled egg Polo
Use drinking straws and marshmellows for this game.

10. Public reading
Once everyone has settled down with a glass of bubbly or like, have a refined public reading. The choices here are endless. Consider Princess Smartypants (Babette Cole) or A.A. Milne's If I were King or The King's Breakfast. For romantic quotations from literature click here.

You may also be interested in
10 Party Ideas for Olympics Gatherings
10 Party Games for Grand Final Day
10 Ideas for the Queen's Birthday
10 Party Games for Melbourne Cup Day

Friday, April 15, 2011

Review: Beautifully Imperfect (NICA - circus)

Here's a great night out for thinking circus fans, Beautifully Imperfect is on at the National Circus Centre in Prahran until 20th April. Get there if you can. It is quite astonishing. For more about the show, read my review now published in Stage Whispers.

Get tix online through NICA
More reviews by Lucy 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rock of Ages - musical theatre (review)

Rock of Ages is the newest musical comedy production to hit Melbourne. Its a fun night, time-warping back to the 1980's, when big hair and shoulderpads were in, and mobile phones were the size of a brick.
Read my review in Stage Whispers.

More reviews

Monday, April 4, 2011

Eating the Neighbour's Pets

Pedro is eating our neighbour’s pets. It’s happened twice now. The first time he scooted through our legs at the front door, sprinting past five minutes later with a glossy black fowl in his jaws. And he kept running. We had no idea where he’d caught the chook, or what he did with it.  And we weren’t inclined to start knocking on doors.

We returned home to Melbourne and dined out on the story. We salved our consciences by concluding the chicken had it coming – it must have been out of its pen after all. Many people were shocked. But Pedro is a Labrador, they pondered, he is so friendly - how could he? Some children refused to pat him despite his waggly tail. Everyone nodded soberly when urged to shut the front door.

Months later we were back at the beach house. I returned from a massage to a flutter of brown and white feathers by the front door. My bloke broke the news. He told how the distressed owner and her pre-school child had followed Pedro home. How Pedro had crunched on his prey as they talked. The chooks were more than a source of eggs, she said, they were the kid’s pets. How the child had looked at our dog. Our dog, eating her pet.

We were ashamed. Our vegetarian son was mortified. Our offer to pay for new chooks was declined. Pedro was banished to the back yard, and what was left of the unfortunate bird deposited in our wheelie bin. My massage, negated.

Veterinarians are increasingly offering yearly checkups to chooks as suburban ownership increases. After initially getting chooks for their laying power, many people develop an attachment, keeping their brood for years after they have stopped laying.  

Live poultry sales to suburban and inner-city households have been doubling in past years, and local council laws typically allow 5-10 backyard hens without registration fees.

Backyard poultry advocates Aussies Living Simply say, “a chook is a pet who pays board”. They say the benefits of keeping hens can’t be measured by egg production alone, as hens eat food scraps and garden bugs, fertilise the garden, and provide companionship and entertainment like other household pets.

“The costs of having your own backyard chooks or other poultry is negligible when you know that the egg they have given you is from a known and trusted friend, for simply giving them a good life and home,” says one member.

But any inclination I had to keep a few hens is now thwarted. Our accidentally free-range dog has developed a taste for free-range poultry. He is canis lupus, a descendent of wolves, an instinct we’ll never override. When he runs free again, and it’s only a matter of time, we’ve promised to run and shut our neighbour’s gate.

We have no right to be mortified, we omnivores. This very moment people all over this globe are hunting their own food. Food they will kill by their own hand, then skin, gut, and cook or eat raw. So while we tut-tut about my dog Pedro, we need to face the fact that our lunch today is what someone else has killed on our behalf. Bon appétit!

You may also be interested in  
wisteria awakening