Have You Ever Resorted To A Mud Map ?

Cause for celebration! The pile of books by my bedside is finally diminishing. 

However, I have just hit a hurdle : 

Hilary Mantel’s final historical fiction novel in the trilogy about Cromwell during the Tudor years is testing the Covid Brain.  As in testing Big Time. The Mirror And The Light isn’t so much a difficult read, although at almost 900 pages it would make a decent doorstop, I’m just not keeping up with the cast of characters. You know, who is married to whom, who killed whom, who slept with whom. It’s a puzzle, I tell you.

The front of the book includes a six page Character Reference Guide. I repeat : 6 pages of characters. At the best of times this would be challenging, during a pandemic when it can be a crisis to decide whether or not to get out of ones pjs it is just not on.

So before I go any further with this book I’m going to do something which I admit has proved helpful in previous reads jam-packed with historical data. Yep, I’m pulling out the coloured pens and creating a mud map. This should keep me on track with both timelines and the characters.

If nothing else a little colour in between all those pages filled with black and white and people being decapitated might be uplifting.

Have you ever had to create a mud map to work through a book ?

( Be kind: This is NOT Alzheimers – just practical.)

Victory in the Pacific Day : 15th of August

With the 75th Anniversary of the end of the War in the Pacific only a fortnight away, the Department of Veterans Affairs has upgraded the ANZAC360 app to include the Fall of Singapore.

This will allow the next generation of Australians to learn about the beginning of a precarious time in our history during the Second World War by using virtual reality technology, through drone footage and a blending  of modern day imagery with pictures and footage of the action.

The Fall of Singapore and capture of so many Australians was a devastating event and made a Japanese invasion of the Australian mainland a real possibility.

This is the third stage of the ANZAC360 app which brings to life the battlefields of the Western Front during the First World War, and important stories of the Burma-Thailand Railway and the Sandakan death marches in the Second World War.

This is a wonderful resource and learning tool for future generations. Well done and well worth a look.

The app is available for free download from the App Store – search ‘ANZAC 360’. 

The Queensland RSL (Returned Services League) will be commemorating VP Day with installations up in lights on Brisbane City Hall from the 10th of August to the 15th of August. The installation will run every 15 minutes from 6pm until 10pm each evening

I’ll be adding Rosemary saplings to the Little Community Library for the occasion.

Yes, I will tart them up. I’m just not sure how as yet.

Books & Happy Ever Afters

I’ve ripped through heaps of books during Isolation but to be honest remember the details of very few of them. It’s like “in one ear and out the other”. Covid Brain, and I’m sure this is a “thing” and will soon be entered into the Dictionary, had my kindle on overtime downloading reading material from the Library. Mostly mystery and crime novels which is bizarre as this is not my usual genre. I don’t even watch any crime shows on the telly.

I’m putting my interest in these books down to an attachment or soft spot for the protagonists, such as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike.

Both Reacher and Strike are similar characters: ex-military, built like a brick outhouse, loners, easily able to charm a bird into bed, and with a highly developed sense of right and wrong.

Unfortunately Jack and I are parting company after the 2019 released Blue Moon which had the lad go vigilante knocking off warring crime gangs. Time to retire ol’ Jack; way too much indiscriminate killing. Go and get yourself a Rescue dog, my friend.

Author Sue Grafton died before finishing her Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series. A female private investigator we’ll now never find out if Kinsey ever settled down with the one fella or even managed a decent haircut. Such a shame.

I’m currently fixated on John Puller, a creation of David Baldacci’s imagination. Another character with a military background this fella’s companion is AWOL the cat.

It must be the romantic in me : I’m waiting for the Happy Ever After endings.

Do you have an interest in the outcome of any particular character in a series? Alex Cross?

Talking Happy here’s the contents of my Mystery Box from the book sale fundraiser on the weekend. $20. Happy as!

A Sunday Drive To Manly

Manly is a bayside suburb of Brisbane located approximately 19 km east of the CBD and less than a fifteen minute drive north along the coast from where I call home.

Sundays at Manly are normally busy with Farmers and Creative Markets dotted along the foreshore. Not so today after heavy overnight rain although dog walkers, coffee drinkers and Little People on all sorts of wheeled transport were out in full force.

Because it is bounded by Moreton Bay – with its spectaculars view out to St Helena Island ( a colonial penitentiary with major claims to brutality) –  a number of boating clubs are based in Manly including the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron. In warmer weather there’s a lot of Jimmy Buffet wafting across the water.

Numerous Seafood Restaurants and Cafes line the streets, as well as The Mad Hatters Bookshop and an Art Gallery that never fails to disappoint.

Way back in the 1840’s the suburb in which I live was mooted as the Capital City of Queensland. However, when Governor Sir George Gipps visited it is reported that upon disembarking his boat he immediately sank into the mudflats up to his waist. He was so annoyed by this that he quickly changed his mind. It was low tide at Manly this morning with mudflats of a similar ilk. Can you tell?

In earlier days Manly was known as a holiday spot for those from the city or farmers from the country and it still has a bit of that vibe.

Worth a visit, particularly during those wicked Queensland Summer months when you’re about to throw yourself under a bus if you don’t get some relief from the humidity.


Some of the local restaurants are flash but always remember, you are paying for the real estate. Sails at the Manly Hotel puts on a good feed and you don’t need a second mortgage.

How I Know Life Is On The Improve

Yes, I have enjoyed a Chicken Schnitzel at the local pub, and yes, I’ve finally had a hair cut.

But here’s the biggie. The Real M’Coy. The Cat’s Pyjamas. The BIGGIE that makes things feel like we are at last getting back on an even keel after bushfire, drought and a pandemic. Or at the very least to some semblance of normality……

The local Rotary Club is holding a sale of preloved books as a fundraiser for both national and international projects. It’s not the usual version with books laid out for your selection but more of a Pot Luck affair because of limited numbers and self distancing rules. No matter ; a box of adult fiction for $20 or a bundle of kids books for $10 reminds me of fossicking through a show-bag from the Royal Easter Show in Sydney when I was a child many, many moons ago. ( My personal favourite was always the Liquorice Bag).

Anything SciFi , Dystopian or with a Dragon on the cover will be shared amongst friends or end up at the Little Community Library. Afterall the one thing this pandemic has achieved is to remind us to be a little kinder to each other. Touch wood.

These were a recent donation to the Little Library by a local pensioner.

Next Project and Victory Gardens.

I’m very much an accidental gardener with a tendency to kill all indoor plants which explains my preference for native shrubs and trees : you simply ignore them and they attract bees and birds.

My vegetable garden provided much pleasure over recent months providing both occupation and produce. I claim that my unexpected weight loss over Isolation – despite way, way too much comfort food – was because of the produce straight from the “paddock”. It was satisfying to swap produce with friends as well: some tomatoes for Anzac Biscuits, chillies for home made tomato sauce.

So I’ve been encouraged and have recently planted a variety of Brassicas for winter. My thoughts have even turned to reforming my minuscule front yard into a garden plot for citrus trees and a variety of herbs.

Which has led me to reading about Victory Gardens :

From wikipeadia

During 1942 food shortages had an impact on the Australian home front with massive labour shortages, a severe prolonged drought, and major shortfalls in imports of seed stock and fertiliser. 

In January 1942 the Prime Minister, John Curtin, launched “Dig for Victory”, a publicity campaign urging householders to grow their own vegetables as a contribution to the war effort. 

Many Australians were already keen home vegetable gardeners, being self-sufficient, with fruit and vegetables and a “chook shed” down the back. Others took to the idea afresh and turned over their whole front and back gardens to vegetable production, often selling excess produce to raise funds for the front. Some people formed neighbourhood gardening groups as a means of feeding their families. Others formed gardening collectives, specifically to raise funds for the war effort. 

I grew up on a quarter acre block with vege gardens, fruit trees and the chook shed way down the back ( with the cubby house,  cowboy tent and rope swing).

A girl always needs a project so I think this is next on the list – incorporating a sleep box for the ducks, of course.

The Australian Silo Art Trail

Our State Government has spent millions of dollars promoting Queensland in an effort to jump start tourism with the recent relaxation of Covid 19 restrictions. Now I know I’m being judgemental ( Sorry LA, Waking Up On The Wrong Side Of Fifty), but MORONIC: point me to a Queenslander who doesn’t know the location of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Northern Territory Government had the right idea in handing out tourist dollars to the first 200,000 Territory travellers, bypassing the Marketing gurus completely and putting the dollars directly into the hands of those who would share it amongst small business. Love your work…..

However, good breeding dictates that one must not discuss politics before supper and/or a bottle of vino.

Some five years ago a movement began in Western Australia to beautify the landscape and encourage tourists to rural communities by using silos for murals.

Yep, painting murals on silos depicting regional history and points of interest.

This has since grown to become The Australian Silo Art Trail and continues to flourish and attract thousands to regional centres. There are currently 36 painted silos which can be covered in six Silo Art Trail road trips in five states, as well as artworks on 40 water towers.

Thallon, Qld

I’ve just purchased the Silo Art Calendar for 2021 – because I’m optimistic that we will get through this wretched year – and am amazed by some of the stories reflected in the artwork.

If you are interested in learning more go here:


So ready to pack my bags. My feet are growing mouldy.


For best results when traveling throw out the bloody GPS.

 “ Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a Storyteller.”      – Ibn Battuta

Around The World Reading Challenge : Ireland

The Hungry Road is a novel by Dublin author Marita Conlon-McKenna detailing the plight of the Irish at the time of the potato Famine.

Downloaded digitally from the Library, with my Covid brain I initially baulked at the 88 Chapters. There was no need for trepidation: this was an easy read.

The story opens optimistically enough in June 1843 as crowds gather for the Monster Repeal Meeting in Skibbereen in West Cork to hear their hero speak. Here we are introduced to our protagonists – farmers Mary and John Sullivan, Dr Dan Donovan, and local priest Father John Fitzpatrick – and  each have a separate story reflecting their changing Ireland.

Life in Skibbereen quickly plummets with the arrival of potato blight which after successive years results not only hunger, poverty and disease but the death of millions.

The hard working Sullivans are eventually turfed off their plot for non payment of rent and like millions of Irish before them take the arduous voyage by ship to New York in search of a better life.

Interestingly, Dr Donovan was a real-life character who became medical officer at the workhouse in Skibbereen in 1839. His notes from that period appeared in several publications in Ireland and England in the 1840’s as Diary Of A Dispensary Doctor which helped to shine a light on the suffering of the people of West Cork. The author weaves information from his writings into her story making the retelling of the appalling  living conditions in Ireland at the time all the more authentic.

This book could have been better marketed as Class 101 : A Guide to the Irish Famine Without The Politics and is highly recommended for Young Adult readers. Personally, I’m happier to retain all the history regardless of how unpalatable. Hopefully it is then something we can learn from.

About The Author

Marita Conlon-McKenna (born 5 November 1956) is an award-winning author best known for her Famine era historical children’s book Under The Hawthorn Tree. A prolific writer she has published over 20 books for both young readers and adults. No stranger to West Cork, her mother’s people came from Skibbereen and her grandmother is buried in Abbeystrewery cemetery, which also contains a mass grave where some 9,000 coffin-less Famine victims are buried.

Banjo Paterson Has A Permanent Spot On The Bookshelf

I was recently reminded of a pair of books that I’ve been carting around for nearly twenty years though with over 1,500 pages between them they are not the type for genteel bedtime reading.

Fellow blogger Kevin Adams is a lover of all things music with a particular bent for traditional folk, with a tendency to write music of a historical nature. I particularly enjoyed his album A Crossword War – Bletchley Park Remembered In Song and his more recent  homage with Pegasus, A Song For D Day.


But back to the books : Singer Of The Bush, the complete works of Andrew Barton Paterson from 1885 – 1900, and Song Of The Pen covering the period 1901 – 1941. First editions, they were a gift for my father when he retired and cost me $40 each – a hellava lot of money when I was earning only $116 per week!

Paterson, fondly known as Banjo,  (17 February 1864 – 5 February 1941) was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on rural and outback areas. His more notable poems include “Clancy of the Overflow” (1889), “The Man from Snowy River” (1890) and “Waltzing Matilda” (1895), regarded widely as Australia’s unofficial national anthem.

He was a war correspondent during the Boer War, an ambulance driver in the First World War and honorary vet for the Light Horse Brigade as well as a farmer, lawyer and massive sports fan.(His nickname came from a racehorse he’d won a few bob on).

Copies of Paterson’s published submissions to The Bulletin, considered the premier news magazine at the time, include illustrations by famous artists such as Norman Lindsay. There is also a wealth of history within these tomes including the poet’s friendships with fellow balladeers Henry Lawson and Breaker Morant.

I find it disappointing that copies of these volumes are regularly on throw out tables at charity book sales. If you find a set in reasonable condition they are well worth picking up to be reminded of an earlier Australia.

Add To Must Do List :

Yeoval NSW.      Banjo Paterson Cafe and Museum

Yass NSW.          Banjo Paterson Park

Orange NSW.      The  biennial Festival of Arts presents a Banjo Paterson Award for poetry and one-act plays.

Another Day Trip To The Lockyer Valley

Winter in South East Queensland means farmers are harvesting potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli and silverbeet in the Lockyer Valley, less than 90 minutes west of Brisbane. For any day trip taking an esky is compulsory for purchases from road side stalls including fresh eggs and honey. I’m making fortnightly trips out that way following our Premier’s advice to “re-ignite the economy”.

My most recent find in the Lockyer Valley was Scotty’s Barn And Garage at 1709 Flagstone Creek Road, Upper Flagstone which is one of those spots that are worth a visit, particularly if you aren’t concerned about being separated from your partner for hours.

You see, Scotty’s Garage is a showcase of automotive memorabilia with vintage cars and motor bikes and everything in between. There are pumps, petrol signs, workshop tools and car paraphernalia that I am unable to name ( and don’t care). The Love Of My Life, an old bikie in a previous lifetime, lost hours lusting over the 1939 Lincoln Zephyr and an Indian motorcycle.

Then when the Barn Doors are opened you’ll be gobsmacked by the replica 1950’s diner with dance floor, jukebox and pinball machines.

No milkshakes sadly, but you can cross the lawn for Lunch or a Devonshire Tea with Homemade Ginger and Walnut Scones. I sampled more than I should have waiting for the boyo to emerge from his Fantasy Land.

This is a family friendly venue with areas to picnic and playground equipment for the Little People.

As with all places post Covid you need to book in advance http://www.thebarnandscottysgarage.com.au 07 4697 5334

You know, I’m sad my trips to PNG, Longreach, WA and Darwin have been cancelled this year, but I am loving discovering new places closer to home:)