This category contains 10 posts

Race Day fashion starts at shoes, makes a fine finish with hat

Racetrack attire is a minefield, and you don’t have to attend the races to be aware that some appalling fashion choices are made each year by young ladies who have misread the brief and gone with ‘nightclub sexy’ instead of ‘wedding elegance.’

It’s an easy enough mistake to make and Your Girl Reporter’s only observation would be that if you’re going to participate in the dated ritual of playing clothes horse for a day, start with the footwear.

A well shod filly should be able to handle the wobbling walk from bar to bookie and back again in the softest conditions. The most elegant outfit will be let down by a staggering gait.

And after the shoes, the hat. Mine is a jiggling mess of dyed chicken feathers which most recently bobbed and nodded its way through the crowds at the Doomben track in Brisbane, Australia when Black Caviar enjoyed one of her many winning outings some years ago. Continue reading


Longbow – a very one-sided love affair

I fell in love with the longbow on the battlefield near Hastings where the Norman invaders settled the course of English history in 1066. I had turned up in 1989, a little after the event, to cover a medieval festival for the local newspaper.

Your Girl Reporter was earnestly taking notes while a big fellow in chainmail explained in some detail the intricacies of recreating the armour and weaponry of Ye Olden Tymes. “And it’s heavy too,” he said as he stuck his broadsword into the ancient turf with a manly smirk. “Go on, see if you can lift that.”

I obliged by failing to budge the thing an inch and that would have been the end of it except for the arrival on the scene of a man in Lincoln green. “Hey Robin, show the Girl Reporter your longbow,” he said and then, in case I was expecting an effete experience, “you have to be really strong to use one of these.”

Well, Gentle Reader, I surprised us all that day.

Continue reading

Distance learning: History, we’re standing in it  

bayeux-tapestry-death-of-harold-copyIn faraway England a band of history enthusiasts was on the march, heading south towards a field near Hastings in the footsteps of King Harold and his army who made the same fateful journey 950 years ago in 1066.

The story is well known, and not just among the English. Your Girl Reporter heard all about it at Kennedy Road Junior School in Hong Kong. We made a mural of scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry for the classroom and I was inspired enough to think that one day I might be able to go to England and stand in the very spot where Harold fell with a Norman arrow in his eye.  Continue reading

My secret life of crime revealed

It will shock you, I know, to learn that Your Girl Reporter is not averse to the occasional act of thievery. Every so often I am reminded of past misdeeds which trouble my conscience to greater and lesser degree. The recent publication of a new book by journalist, author and artist Derek Maitland was one such reminder.

The Fatal Line documents the biggest public enquiry ever held into Australia’s commercial broadcasting industry from the ringside perspective of Maitland and his fellow whistleblower at Sydney’s TCN Channel Nine.

I knew Maitland as one of the noisy, amorphous group of Hong Kong journalists on whose fringe I dwelt in those years of childhood when you don’t care what people do for a living. So it was a surprise years later to see his name on a bookshelf in England. And it gives me enormous joy that accuracy enables me to begin my tale of crime and misdeed with the following observation:

It was a dark and stormy night. Continue reading

A dance to welcome the merry month of May

Picture courtesy of Hastings Borough Council

Picture courtesy of Hastings Borough Council


It’s Spring in the northern hemisphere and in a little town called Hastings on the south-eastern coast of England they’re about to go a bit mad in one of the biggest and strangest long weekends of the year. Warning! This post contains more than a few traces of Morris dancing.  Continue reading

One pub tour and now I’m a beer bore

A return to the Sussex countryside rekindled a forgotten love for real ales and the traditional English pubs which serve them. But, like most strangers to the Sceptred Isle, I was horrified when presented with my first pint of ale. It looked and stank like warm, stale piss. Continue reading

Seeing is believing – The power of art

Of all the things I saw during my visit to Rome, nothing moved me more than Bernini’s magnificent sculpture of the Rape of Persephone. Like all my favourite works of art, it drags the viewer into the heart of its dreadful action.

Continue reading

The view’s all right on a Saturday night

FILOIt was a Saturday night in the First In Last Out, an Old Town pub in Hastings, UK when I got talking to a brickie called Neil. He had spent the day working at one of those big houses which are dotted around the Sussex countryside, not a country estate he said, but 14 bedrooms, that sort of thing. “It’s more of a favour for the owner than anything else, just on the weekends,” Neil said.

“She asked me if I’d be coming tomorrow and I said it depends. “If I get too drunk tonight I won’t be coming, but if I don’t get drunk enough I won’t be coming either, because I’ll want to get the rest of the session in tomorrow. Continue reading

The hills are alive with h*rny Greeks

A press trip to Austria took an unusual turn with no Alps, no Sound of Music, no Strudel and no Salzburg. Just a bunch of hoteliers with women on their minds. Continue reading

The Devil, Champagne and Black Caviar

The day I went to Ascot with a dead chicken on my head.

Hat - Copy Continue reading


Your Girl Reporter is now filing as Maria Spackman at www.mariaspackman.com Same great content, whole new website. I’m leaving Sally Baxter up, as I can’t quite bring myself to let her go completely, but it’s time to honour my family name – and use it. Hope you’ll join me for the Further Adventures of a Girl Reporter. It’ll be fun.