20th June, 1909

This time nine years ago I flew into Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. Now some of you may be shaking your heads in wonder that anyone would travel to Tassie in the heart of winter. Located 240 km to the south of the Australian mainland, and separated by Bass Strait, Tassie is simply beautiful with an abundance of magnificent scenery. It can also be wretchedly cold.

91AEB831-4B0E-453F-A856-4B7B440F08FC

But my trip nine years ago had nothing to do with tourism or recreation. You see, I was a girl on a mission.

This day, nine years ago, Hobart celebrated what would have been Errol Flynn’s 100th Birthday, being the township of his birth.(An aside : some would argue commiserate rather than celebrate as young Errol was a bit of a lad and upset many of the boring, old farts of Hobart. Tassie, being the Island that holds the six degrees of separation true is still home to many with a grudge).

Although Hobart couldn’t be any further away from Hollywood Errol’s daughter from his marriage to Nora Eddington, Rory Flynn, was in town to share the celebrations.

I won’t bore you with the details. I am sure that none of you would have been mesmerised by a pair of Flynn’s woollen swimming trunks being exhibited in the Hobart Museum, nor interested in the star laid in the footpath outside the local theatre. Okay, so I admit to being a tad eccentric……..

However, one of my favourite memories was an evening shared with my 23 year old daughter (proving that eccentricity must be genetic), watching a 1938 black and white movie on the big screen. Drinking champagne.

The Dawn Patrol is one of my favourite Flynn movies, which also starred Basil Rathbone and David Niven. Major Brand (Basil Rathbone), the commander of the 59th division of the British Royal Flying Corps in 1915 France, is frantic over the many casualties his squadron has suffered. When Captain Courtney (Errol Flynn) and his buddy Scott (David Niven) lose another of their best friends in a dangerous mission, Courtney lashes out at Brand, who hands Courtney the reins. Now in control, Captain Courtney soon sees things from Brand’s perspective as more good men are killed in the line of duty.

3E6A42A6-0CDE-4150-A7A5-39C2DD751D73

Of course there is all the usual melodrama, and all the baffoonery expected between Errol and Niven, though for a movie with a message, a movie with a tragic ending, it was the simple joy of watching such an old flick together that gave us both much pleasure. And the champagne, of course.

So on 20th June, 2018, “here’s looking of you, kid”. Oops. Wrong movie.

Mid Year Update.

A friend is currently travelling across France and posted this beautiful photo of Poppies growing wild in the fields. Aren’t they just beautiful?

I recently planted my second lot of 2000 Poppy seeds to be in full bloom for Armistice Day. 100 per cent Fail Rate, second time in a row. The long dead Depression parents must be watching over me. I can hear “ Pet, if you can’t eat it, we don’t grow it” in my head.

 

FCE36840-0603-43FD-B500-FAE037479E4DAs of today’s date I have finished 60 books this year. Another dozen or so were started, but dismissed as trash. Life is too short for Trash.

Here is my haul from the latest book charity sale. $5 well spent, don’t you think?  Well, closer to $20 when you take into consideration raffle tickets and Girl Guide Biscuits.

882520D4-CC78-499A-A157-2F4CCC04D070

The Little Street Library is starting to get a few visitors, with locals both contributing and borrowing books.It looks like some of our littlest readers are having fun:

Only one book left to complete the 2018 Australian Author Challenge. Four years ago I could have named only a handful of successful authors from my own country. This Challenge has motivated me to read and appreciate more Aussie literature, and not just by those few making a good living out of it. It has also allowed me to track my reading habits – with not a wretched spreadsheet insight – which has in turn encouraged the reading of different genres. (Is that personal growth? And aren’t I too old to care?).

Local author, Daniel O’Malley, a friend of my youngest daughter, who I very courageously reviewed here recently, (courageously because he writes “ Sci Fi, Fantasy, with a dash of Monty Python” !!) has recently had his book, Rook, picked up by the BBC for conversion to a television series. Good job, young Dan!

Another of my projects is creating a list of authors that will encourage me to read an author from every country in 2019. I’m thinking an A – Z thing.

The Christmas in July Trivia Night is coming along ok although getting bums on seats can be a pain in the posterior. (Collective groan). It is a fundraiser for Wounded Heroes, an organisation which assists our exservice men and women when they need a hand up. The Country Women Association, those great purveyors of scones, jam and cream, are on board to cook Roast Lamb and veg and Apple Crumble for 150. Wish you all lived closer….

And a development in the She-Shack…….

Since downsizing 18 months ago I don’t have the same wall space to place my bibs and bobs.  Now I have an easel which will allow a rotating display. It’s my very own Peggy Gluggenheim Museum.

1BE77B26-8024-4040-9125-D81C96DEDE15

It is winter now and I am loving it, though just like grizzley bears, I do tend to go into hibernation.

Australian Author Challenge : Enemy by Ruth Clare

Ruth Clare’s debut Enemy won the Asher Literary Award, offered biennially to a female author whose work carries an anti-war theme. She was born in Brisbane, Queensland,  and raised in Rockhampton. She earned a degree in biochemistry and journalism at QUT in Brisbane, Queensland. She went on to train as a copywriter and worked in advertising. During this time she had been working on a manuscript. After finishing it in 2014 she found an agent. Her first book was published in 2016.

*********************

With the opening sentence, “I was born into the war still raging inside my father”, the reader immediately gathers that this autobiography is not going to be an easy read.

Doug Callum is an ex Vietnam Veteran, with a wife and three young children, with Ruth being the middle child. He is a totally different person to the young man conscripted to Vietnam and who was involved in the Battle of Coral–Balmoral. This battle (12 May – 6 June 1968) was a series of actions fought between the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) and the North Vietnamese 7th Division and Viet Cong Main Force units, 40 kilometres north-east of Saigon.

Ruth tells her harrowing story as a child growing up in a household of regimentation and strict discipline. She and her siblings are often covered in bruises and Ruth lives constantly on guard in fear of upsetting her father, and feeling unloved and unwanted.

295D0D84-2820-4DB0-BB27-97BF61B07F08

“I had never been to war, but I knew what it was like to be prepared to face the enemy every day. The difference was, my enemy wasn’t a faceless stranger. My enemy was someone I loved.”

She also tells her story as a young mother with her own children, looking back to take stock of her father’s behaviour, which she later learns has all the hallmarks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She seeks out and communicates with numerous Vietnam Vets who admit to similar antisocial traits as well as seeking counselling through the Vietnam Veterans Association.

When Ruth’s parents inevitably divorce, we breathe a sigh of relief – though not for long. PTSD is insidious and leaches into other situations with frightening ramifications.

However, Ruth’s story is not all bleak and you can’t but admire her personal strength and resilience, as well as her compassion for her flawed father and other PTSD sufferers. On a more personal level I admire the author’s willingness to learn the details of her Dad’s role in the military, something he rarely discussed, which adds greatly to her understanding of his condition.

Doug Callum died too young of a skin cancer, suspected to have been brought on by sitting in the jungle of Vietnam for days on end with Agent Orange raining overhead.

I also respect Ruth for her compassion for her mother who has her own demons.

Written extremely well, this is another of those books that should be included on High School Reading Lists, not only for its information about the war in Vietnam, but also mental health awareness and domestic violence issues.

Not a “nice” book, but one that would have taken much courage to write.

NOTE: June is PTSD Awareness Month in Australia.

Book Review : The Searchers, The Making Of An American Legend by Glenn Frankel.

Discovery of the year and bargain buy for $5 on a throw out table: The Searchers, The Making Of An American Legend, by Glenn Frankel.

Let’s start with an admission : my knowledge of American History is minimal. What we learned Down Under in our formative years was pretty much limited to what we watched on TV. Lots of Daniel Boone, Tarzan, and Combat. I don’t think it’s changed much over time as my own daughters see the USA through the programs Band Of Brothers and West Wing. If it makes you feel any better at school in the 60s we didn’t learn much about our own country either.

So although I was quite familiar with the John Ford movie, The Searchers, starring John Wayne, I was excited to find the history behind this movie on a table of cheap books in brand spanking new condition. You couldn’t leave it there, could you?

E1434C2A-4CD1-4222-B7BE-0C864699208E.jpeg

This book is divided into four parts. Firstly, we learn the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, the daughter of settlers to Missouri in the 1830’s, who was captured during an Indian raid and grew up as a Comanche, later bearing two sons to a Indian warrior. She is eventually located by the Calvary and returned to her white relatives, though this is more problematic than anticipated. It also includes an outline of other white children captured by Indians previously, although much of this earlier history was not recorded.

The next section of the book refers to Cynthia’s son, Quanah, who was a young boy when separated from his mother due to circumstances. Although they never reconnected Quanah embraced living as a white man as a young man, and was able to live comfortably with a foot in each door. He was instrumental in bringing understanding to both indigenous and white populations. All these years later, there is still an annual family reunion in which relatives from both branches of his family tree reconnect.

We then move on to the author of the novel, The Searchers, Alan LeMay. LeMay, who specialised in the Western genre, was himself a descendent of early settlers to Kansas and grew up on tales handed down from the pioneers. Also a screenwriter, the author refused to be involved in transposing this book, a conglomeration of stories he had learned as a child, into a movie, and wanted nothing to do with Director, John Ford.

This is fascinating as Frankel, a Pulitzer winning Journalist, takes the reader through the changes from book version to movie, and how and why these changes were accommodated. I was astounded to learn that in the book Wayne’s character is killed by a woman. Hard to fathom, isn’t it?

The last section is an absolute joy for movie buffs, where we are taken through all the ins and outs of the making of the movie, with tantalising trivia all along the way. From the celebrities who vied for a role, the connection between those who did gain roles, as well as everything you wanted to know about Monument Valley and Ford’s passion for the site.

Many others who are far better equipped have commented on the movie. This book by Frankel is just so well written and well researched that it is an absolute joy to read. My next project is to track down a copy of LeMay’s novel through second hand book stores – starting now!

1164A51F-5522-4ECD-A7A8-272EC4B637B5

“Myths are neither true nor untrue, but the product and process of man’s yearning. As such, they’re the most primal thing bonding us to other people. Yet the phenomenon is much more than a snake feeding on its own tail. Myths gather momentum because they provide hope”.

Cynthia Buchanan “Come Home John Wayne, And Speak For Us”

Joan Crawford’s Eyebrows

I’m blaming the weather for a very bizarre morning tea. It has dropped to 22C and Brisbanites are rugged up in scarves, beanies and gloves. I’m loving it : winter puts us all on a level playing field. Sweltering summer, when we are reduced to singlet tops and bikinis – there is no place to hide.

But back to morning tea when one of the young things announced she had an appointment with the beauty therapist to get “Joan Crawford eyebrows”. I hadn’t realised that look was on trend, and was aghast that this twenty plus year old even knew who Joan Crawford was. Turns out she didn’t, but there are books full of eyebrow shapes from which you can select. Who knew?

So some of the more mature lasses at the table filled her in on Ms Crawford’s career as an actress back in the 30’s and 40’s, which is where the conversation really became surreal. Starting with “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane” and a natural progression to Bette Davis who had Errol Flynn decapitated and was best friends with Olivia De Havilland.

 

06424EEA-87DF-43D3-8B04-326B74E96A27

This then turned the conversation to lawsuits.

And as you can’t keep good girls down the conversation then touched upon Atticus Finch, Ally McBeal, and Victor Siffuentes. Someone even hummed the tune from Boston Legal. I kid you not.

By this time my head was spinning.

Things seemed to calm down with one of the women sharing information about her coming holiday to Malta. However, just like back in the bad old days of WW2 Malta was no safe haven. Someone announced that Captain Jack Sparrow’s ship, The Black Pearl, was serving as a touristy restaurant in the harbour, followed by a thump on the desk from the holidaymaker that it was really Errol’s old boat, which led to a hearty comparison of boats, and a discussion about the making of the Narnia movies.

When the hell did women gain such an interest in boats, I had to ask?

I came home early with my head reeling. Such was the state of my brain that I declined a wine – that’s just how bad I felt.  Totally frazzled I spent much of the early evening wondering about the contents of the cheese biscuits, as well as how a 22 year old would look with Joan Crawford eyebrows.

 

The Bookshop – Movie Review

The movie, The Bookshop, was released in Australia only last week and sounded like a worthy view with its promise of quaint English seaside scenery. Sadly, even the scenery lands flat.

Florence Green, played by Emily Mortimer, is a widow who lost her husband during World War 2. They met in a Bookshop and her memories of their relationship are highlighted by out of focus shots with Vaseline smeared on the camera lens. Sixteen years later Florence is fed up just reading books, and decides to follow her dream of selling them.

She buys a derelict old building which has been sitting vacant for seven years on High Street which she makes her home and in which she sets up business as a Bookshop.

This does not go down well with the local doyen of society, Violet Gamart ( Patricia Clarkson), who envisaged this building as an Arts Centre, though not whilst it was empty, apparently.

Violet holds all the power within the community, and thus the other businesses follow her lead and are keen to see the Bookshop fail. 

1D9DE02F-BE8F-4ECB-8874-293D893CFFAC

Florence’s only real friend is Bill Nighy, playing Bill Nighy with a total lack of humour, as the recluse, Brundish, and they share a common interest in their love of books. When Lolita is published Florence lends Brundish a copy of the book for his opinion on whether Lolita will sell well in this conservative ‘50s hamlet (read: backwater where no one reads). This is all a bit creepy as Bill Nighy is no spring chicken, and a later scene has hints of a “moment” in spite of a 30 to 40 year age difference.

Honor Kneafsey plays Christine, the young girl who assists Florence in the shop after school. She is worth watching, though there are clues as to the outcome of the storyline midway through the movie thanks to the Director being so heavy handed.

The soundtrack to this movie is unsettling. It has a distinctly European flavour, and in no way harbours any nostalgia for 1950’s England. ( I believe the production company were a combination of English, German and Spanish influences, and it shows).

AC45EC47-C699-453A-B416-BB0666326D37.jpeg

The protagonist bored me witless as I felt no emotional warmth and I felt like reaching into the screen, grabbing her by the shoulders and calling her a useless sap. The other characters were mostly stereotypes with Clarkson obviously on a sugar high for most of the proceedings and overacting throughout the entire proceedings. Her every movement was exaggerated and if I had a blowtorch I would have felt compelled to use it.

I came out of the cinema with more questions than answers. That can be a good thing in that it means it has maintained the attention. Or perhaps I am just grasping for straws….

Based on the book by the same name, and written by Penelope Fitzgerald in the ‘70’s, my favourite review reads:

The Bookshop ends up as a fine advertisement for its namesake. Buy the book and stay home.

– Graeme Tuckett, New Zealand

Meet Boof

So, 2018 is proving to be the year that I singlehandedly seem to be keeping local Air Transport companies in business. More airline travel booked.

Off to the beautiful Tasmania for a wedding in Spring. Yes, it’s only a wedding and we don’t have to do it. However, I am a firm believer in spending the money to enjoy people’s company when they are alive. No enjoying company when you are dead, so I don’t do Funerals.

Flights next month to the beautiful, and very cold (when it’s not stinking hot), Hunter Valley, which is prime wine producing country. Hmmm, I wonder how I can help boost that little economy along?

This time I will be visiting my eldest daughter and the Grandfurbaby, Bentley.

Both my daughters are independent, resilient, and in their own ways, quietly changing their worlds one ripple at a time. This child of mine is married to a military boy, affectionately known as Boofhead.

3D869F7D-95F4-4B7F-B665-25EF0491C871

They have been together for some years now, though their careers have kept them apart these past eighteen months with both operating out of different parts of the country. Their commitment to each other means that they have managed to meet in neutral cities to enjoy the occasional long weekend together as well as holidays. To be honest, it has made me wonder how the generation to which my parents belonged managed living apart, sometimes for years, during WW2…….

This time, however, circumstances mean that there won’t be any stolen weekends for sometime. My daughter is fine : she uses these times when her fella is abroad to learn new skills such as speaking Spanish, dance lessons, and restoring distressed furniture. I am visiting her not because she is in anyway distraught, but because she does make a superb cocktail and plays a fine hand of Scrabble.

47B345C2-3111-4225-8B44-9A9A3B419861

With this venture overseas it is I who am sad, not so much the daughter. I worry that my ploy not to be that kind of mother in law – c’mon, you know exactly the kind I mean, the gushy, clingy type forever encroaching into their lives – means that Boof doesn’t realise how much a part of my family he really has become.

When he does visit I do manage to cook one of his favourite meals, Oysters Kilpatrick, and even though the house retains the odour for days, I know he enjoys my barbecued garlic prawns.

50D42D4B-12FD-4A7C-9D5E-7553778AEF82

Heck, at a recent bookfest I even found a battered copy of Major Richard Winters’ (from Easy Company) autobiography which I gifted to the lad. Surely that scored me some brownie points! Yeah, okay, so I read it first…..

BB65C109-2E7D-4F29-8C1D-EDC7D38EE57E

I have enjoyed spending a holiday weekend with him, playing board games around a cheese platter, with lots of laughter and a reasonable share of Bubbles.

And I still feel sad about his leaving. I hope that by walking his dog, and by spoiling his wife, I will be indeed honouring him in some small way.( And my daughter’s Grasshoppers, another skill she gained during one of the deployments).

4A35BE19-DF7B-46CE-B1C5-B0F1550F5C14

I sent him a text just before he left for overseas. Stay safe and come home to some garlic prawns on the barbie. I hope it’s enough.