Musk Sticks, Museums and Movies

In 2018 Sweden opened it’s Disgusting Food Museum

Australia’s contribution to the museum collection includes Witchetty Grubs and Vegemite – sacrilege! 

Perhaps most surprising within the museum is the presence of the humble Musk Stick. They’re simple, unassuming lollies that neither creep nor crawl. Hot pink and sickly sweet they are a throwback to many Australian childhoods. I have memories of crushing them up into the milk we were given in bottles at primary school, though I won’t share that with my daughters as I’m still nagging them about the benefits of Brussel Sprouts.

Who didn’t make their first trip to the “pictures” without a couple of musk sticks in a white paper bag? At 1c each they were an absolute bargain.

Selected Cinemas across the nation are holding a Hollywood Classics Festival until early December. Movies will be shown at the first time slot on Monday mornings once a fortnight. It’s going to be a bit early to eat a Musk Stick but I’m going to give it a go in silent protest and a nod to the past. That’s my August Goal. Judy Garland on the big screen at breakfast, tragics singing along to The Trolly Song, without throwing up.

Villers-Bretonneux, #kindjuly and nuts.

I’ve just booked into an Author-In-Action presentation at the local Library. Can’t wait to learn more about Vicki Bennett’s children’s book, Two Pennies.

In April, 1918 the village of Villers-Bretonneux in France was the scene of the world’s first tank battle between British and German troops which the Germans would win, occupying the township.

The Ecole de Garcons (Boys School) was destroyed along with much of the town on the 25th April 1918 when the Australian 13th and 15th Brigades recaptured it from the Germans in a battle in which over 1,200 Australian soldiers were killed.

The school was rebuilt with donations from Australia. School children and their teachers helped the effort by asking for pennies- in what became known as the Penny Drive -while the Victorian Department of Education contributed 12,000 pounds to the War Relief Fund. The school was appropriately renamed ‘Victoria’. The inauguration of the new school occurred on ANZAC Day in 1927. “N’oublions jamais l’Australie“ (Never forget Australia) is inscribed in the school hall.

The Rugrats have just returned to school after a fortnight of holidays here in Queensland.

The Little Community Library proved a huge success with the generous addition of CDs, DVDs and books for the older kiddies to ease them through the break.

A fellow Little Library Custodian shared with me that it was #kindjuly. Did you know this? (Marketing gurus: aren’t they precious…..)

Kind July – Stay Kind
If every Australian did one act of kindness a day for the month of July, that would be 775 million acts of kindness in Kind July (and 9.3 billion acts of kindness every year).

And I’m off for a dose of Community Theatre tonight : My Husbands Nuts. Honestly, I’m too intimidated to add an apostrophe in case I get it wrong.

Happy Trails:)

Christobel Mattingley and Battle Order 204.

We recently lost Australian author Christobel Mattingley, aged 87 years.

Mattingley was an award-winning author of books for both children and adults. Rummage won the Children’s Book of the Year Award: Younger Readers and Children’s Book of the Year Award: Picture Book in 1982.

In the 1996 Australia Day Honours Mattingley was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “service to literature, particularly children’s literature, and for community service through her commitment to social and cultural issues”.

Her most recent book is Maralinga’s long shadow: Yvonne’s story, which was published in 2016 and won the 2017 Young People’s History Prize at the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

I was introduced to the writing of Mattingley late in the game after reading Battle Order 204 about her husband David’s experiences as a bomber pilot in World War II.

Battle Order 204 is a historical, non-fiction novel that recounts the experiences of the bomber pilot of the Royal Australian Air Force serving with No. 625 Squadron RAF. It follows Mattingley’s dream to one day be a pilot and his journey from start to finish into the skies of Europe during the second world war.

The book is centered on the mission in which his Arvo Lancaster- after being struck three times shattering his hand and badly wounding his leg- was safely returned to the airfield in which it had launched from beating the crews proposal to abandon the wrecked aircraft, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The book contains photographs, logs and other images of Mattingley’s experiences throughout his service.

The books point of difference was that it was written in a manner to engage the Young Adult demographic. Of course I purchased several copies for younger members of the family.

Literary Dinners and Romance Novels.

The next Literary Dinner at my local pub, The Grand View, features Paullina Simons. Simons is a Russian-born American writer and the international best-selling author of the novels Tully, Red Leaves, Eleven Hours, The Bronze Horseman, Tatiana and Alexander, Lily and The Summer Garden.

My eldest daughter, Pocohontas, is not a big reader. Well, she is in that she consumes volumes of Government Legislation as well as travel guides to help plan holiday itineraries. But not fiction. This is the child who made me wade through 1500 pages of Book 1 in the Game Of Thrones series for a book club only to announce at the meeting that she was “too busy” to read so watched the tv program instead.

At one stage said daughter became very excited about The Bronze Horseman. “ Mo, you just have to read this one”. A romance novel, the book begins on 22 June 1941, the day Russia enters the Second World War after Operation Barbarossa. Tatiana Metanova, nearly seventeen, meets the handsome and mysterious Red Army officer Alexander Belov. The relationship between Tatiana and Alexander develops against the backdrop of the Siege of Leningrad and in the face of many difficulties.

Confession straight up. Romance and I don’t mix. It seems to have bypassed my DNA. However, I did read to the end and I did learn how the Russians, both soldiers and civilians, suffered during this period which was interesting.

A bright, young thing spied me reading The Bronze Horseman in the communal lunch room at the office. When she asked how I was finding it, I told her. Stupid me never did learn to keep my trap shut………… BYT proceeded to explain why it was her favourite book of all time and that it was a wonderful love story. I think she talked non stop for twenty minutes.

BYT is now a published Romance Writer and going great guns. What do I know?

*Spoiler Alert:
My bug bear was that Tatiana carried around with her for some twelve months a pair of sexy knickers for when she had the chance to do the wild thing with Alexander. Starving, freezing, only one set of clothes, people falling all around her on the snow covered city streets and dying, and 1) she never changes her undies and 2) she never even contemplates trading them for biscuits, a chicken, or even a glass of vodka.

Realistic, I tell you, not romantic.

Porter, Big Bands and Hip Replacements

Showing my age but I remember when pre wedding festivities consisted of a gathering of women who thought it dreadfully risqué to open a bottle of Porphrey Pearl or Cold Duck and to gift such wondrous things as wooden spoons , tea towels, and paper towel dispensers to the bride-to-be. Yes, the compulsory Kitchen Tea, when mothers and maiden aunts openly drank the McWilliams Port or Sherry from the flagon and guests dined on sausage rolls, Devilled Eggs and fruitcake. ( Question: why is it that any drink that is pink kills pot plants?)

Times have changed and the Hen’s Night is now almost as big as the actual wedding requiring just as much planning. Some young women fly out of the country for the event on the basis that “ what happens in Bali stays in Bali”. I did not attend my eldest daughter’s Hens as I’de had enough of waking up on Saturday mornings to find some strange teenager laying across my bed wanting relationship advice and breakfast. From a divorcee. What’s that all about?

My favourite Hens function took place nearly thirty years ago. Frocked up we went to a Saturday matinee to see A Swell Party, a musical which was overlaid with biographical content, followed by a slap-up Thai meal where we all got sill-ily sloshed. That was my introduction to the music of Col Porter.

I often play a CD of Porter’s music by the original artists. It’s old. The sound quality is not the best but it’s still fine music. Helps with the mopping.

De-Lovely is a 2004 musical biopic. The screenplay is based on the life and career of Cole Porter from his first meeting with his wife, Linda Thomas, until his death.  Critics may have panned the movie but I loved that it introduced a new generation to the music of Porter with a soundtrack featuring contemporaries such as Alana Morrissette, Robbie Williams and Sheryl Crowe.

So a recent Dinner Dance with a Big Band playing all the tunes of Porter and the songs of Dino and Cranky Frankie was just De-lightful.

Swing Central at Cloudland in Brisbane

Better than my previous weeks venture to a nightclub for Baby Boomers – yes, they are a thing – where the only positive was that I seemed to be the only one not requiring a hip replacement.

Plants For Wounded Heroes

I’m no Green Thumb. I lack the necessary patience, though I do enjoy having natives in the garden to attract birds, bees and bandicoots. Hailing from parents who lived through the Depression I also enjoy produce from my fruit and vegetable gardens. Little effort required and the pumpkin vines are currently taking over the tiny back lawn.

On the iconic quarter acre block that I grew up on, the so-called Australian Dream, (long since battle-axed for the prolific development of McMansions) we grew all our own Veges as well as having the backyard chook shed for eggs and a couple of additions to the table at Christmas. Chicken in the Basket was a family favourite, though after having just read Tom Clancy’s The Teeth Of The Tiger, I don’t think I’ll ever think about that meal in the same way.

The parental vegetable garden was a staple right until the end. Indeed, my father’s casket was covered with home grown spinach and tomatoes which I cooked up at the wake with garlic and pasta complementing the depletion of the contents of the wine cellar.

Since my retirement I’ve taken cuttings of plants which I have nurtured and then sold at a local market on a semi regular basis. Preloved books also find new homes and I am lucky in that several friends donate saleable items. This is my form of aerobics : stretching, bending, reaching (some groaning) and Vitamin D.

Rosemary plants are popular sellers

All monies raised go to Wounded Heroes which assists our exservice men and women at a grassroots level. This non Government funded organisation finds crisis accomodation for our vets, funds accomodation and fuel for medical appointments, and assists with real hardship cases. Recently, an exserviceman with a young family was diagnosed with his third bout of cancer. Wounded Heroes came to the fore with funds to assist with travel costs and parking fees. The day after Anzac Day a young exserviceman committed suicide. The Government covered the funeral cost, but it was Wounded Heroes that paid for the casket to be transported 1000 kms away to his home town. With a volunteer escort. Respect.

Succulents also sell well

So I play in my garden and sell a few plants. Sadly, I am unable to replicate the beautiful Bat Plants despite numerous attempts. This is a real shame as I always wanted to be called Bat Woman. Even had a little leather number on the drawing board.

NOTE:

I am not responsible for any actions which may occur when someone tells me “ there is nothing to do”.

Steinbeck And The Bikes Of Wrath

Last night, dressed in my usual winter fashionista outfit of Bed- Sox-with-matching-Wheat-Pack, I sat up watching The Bikes of Wrath. Not generally one for late night TV my interest was piqued by a blog, Exploring my own backyard by Graeme Cash, and his recent post on Cannery Row, Monterey: great photos of places I’ve heard about but never visited. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/62875230/posts/5335

The Bikes Of Wrath is a documentary film made to reenact the journey depicted in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Set in 1930s America, it follows the Joad family who are escaping drought and the Depression in Oklahoma and are heading to California for a better life.

Five young Australian lads opt to cycle the 2600 km journey to best take in the countryside and recreate the tough slog of the original migrants setting off with $420 between them, the modern day equivalent of the Joad’s $18, aiming to reach their destination in thirty days.

Having had minimal cycling experience, the lads are ill prepared. They purchase musical instruments on their arrival in Oklahoma expecting to raise funds busking along the way, transported in bike trailers, which only causes further dramas. Within days there are fractures and torn muscles.

I was full of trepidation when the young men camped for the first night in Sallisaw. Visions of the 2005 Australian movie, Wolf Creek came flooding back. (Three road-trippers in remote Australia are plunged into danger when they accept help from a friendly local. Let’s just summarise by saying that meat hooks feature.)

Through chance encounters with everyday Americans, the cyclists expand on the novel’s core themes of migration, inequality and the perceived land of opportunity. The group (subtlety) explores whether America has progressed since the book was written, discussing the wealth gap, immigration and the American Dream. 

The people they meet along the way are warm, kind and fascinating. This is an America not seen by most, certainly Down Under. I loved the human connections, the characters, and particularly the locals reading excerpts from the novel.

If you’re in trouble or hurt or need—go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help—the only ones.

This year is the 80th anniversary of this Pulitzer winning novel. It was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962. 

How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can’t scare him – he has known a fear beyond every other.

To be honest, I never “got” this book when it was compulsory textbook reading. At 13 or 14 years of age, not surprising. It’s big on concepts and honestly, I battled deciphering the dialogue. This doco should be referenced in all schools with its historic photographs of landscape, the people, and the times.

Great viewing. Thought provoking, warm, and with a cast of characters…….

Off to the Library today – for a copy of the book and the movie!