The Emporium of Imagination.

In 2010, Itaru Sasaki, a garden designer from Ōtsuchi, Japan, learned that his cousin had terminal cancer with three months to live.After his cousin’s death, Sasaki set up an old telephone booth in his garden, to continue to feel connected to him by “talking” to him on the phone.According to Sasaki, the wind phone was not designed with any specific religious connotation, but rather as a way to reflect on his loss. In an interview, he stated: “Because my thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.”

The wind phone is a white, glass-paned telephone booth, located on a hill that overlooks Ōtsuchi, containing a black, disconnected telephone on a metal shelf. A notebook is placed next to the telephone for messages of remembrance. It was opened to the public the following year after an earthquake and tsunami killed over 15,000 people in Japan. It has since received over 30,000 visitors. A number of replicas have been constructed around the world, and it has served as the inspiration for several novels and films, including Tabitha Bird’s The Emporium of Imagination.

Bird is an Australian author who’s debut novel, A Lifetime Of Impossible Days, won the Queensland Literary Award 2020- People’s Choice Book of the Year.

The Emporium of Imagination is a magical shop that travels the world offering gifts that offer solace to the heartbroken with these extraordinary telephones that allow you to contact lost loved ones.

On arrival at Boonah, a rural town in South East Queensland, the store’s custodian realises that he is “dying”, and needs to locate a replacement custodian. The population of Boonah are initially receptive to the Emporium and its magic but then there are “issues”.

We meet the Rayne brothers recently orphaned following their fathers passing. We meet a tradie who was disowned by his father because of his sexual preference, and a young boy whose dream of dancing was quashed by his Dad. One woman always wanted to be an artist, another dreams of baking and love, and yet another, a single parent to a tribe, who longs to design and create clothing.

This is a town of secrets, of hurts, of broken dreams. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens at the Emporium of Imagination.

…………………………………………..

I’ve been reading a lot of biographies of late due to the research I’ve been putting into detailing some of Australia’s Female Trailblazers; getting a bit bogged down in facts and numbers, you know. So when I started reading this book I thought I was reading a children’s book, or at very least, a book for Tweens. But in between all the butterflies and unicorns are these great little stories about every day people, people you and I both know, and I stopped looking for facts and data and just read. Read like I did years ago with child like wonder. And that’s the beauty of this novel. It takes you back to before mortgage payments and health insurance premiums were your major concerns, to the days before your weekends were taken up by kids’ weekend sport. I loved it.

And talking children’s books I love this new one :

ABOUT NEXT DOOR’S DOG IS A VETERAN’S DOG

Veteran Joe and his family have moved in next door to Lucas. Dad and Joe are good mates who served in the military together.  

When Lucas sees Joe getting off the bus with Poppy by his side, he wants to know more. He listens to Dad but doesn’t really understand how Poppy helps Joe – until he sees it for himself.
At a café Lucas looks on while Poppy keeps watch, stays close to Joe, and allows him to relax and enjoy the celebration without worrying about what is happening behind him. That’s when Lucas begins to understand the wonderful work that Poppy does to help Joe to live a full life. He also learns that the way people look does not always tell the whole story.”

NOTE:

Disappearing for the rest of the month.I’m playing Mee Maw to the Chubmeister and then I’m off outback. Yee haa.

Silos, Rivers and a Boneyard

Other than the astonishing artwork on silos and murals in some of the country towns in the Southern Country Queensland landscape I was honestly taken aback by the beauty of the rivers.

Firstly, I didn’t realise that there were so many waterways in that part of Qld – the Balonne, Macintyre, Moonie and the Condomine – and that they all have a tendency to flood. My road trip provided a better understanding of why so many of our early poets and writers romanticised the river systems, the life blood providers, with the magnificent gum trees along the waters edge.

Where the lone creek, chafing nightly in the cold and sad moonshine,
Beats beneath the twisted fern-roots and the drenched and dripping vine;
Where the gum trees, ringed and ragged, from the mazy margins rise,
Staring out against the heavens with their languid gaping eyes…….”

– Henry Kendell : The Wail In The Native Oak

Never was the river more appreciated than at Nindigully, with the Grey Nomads out in force at Queensland’s oldest (1864) licensed pub.

If it looks familiar that’s because the Nindigully Hotel was used for filming Hugh Jackman’s first film in the ‘90’s – Paperback Heroes – where he plays a truckie with a penchant for writing bodice rippers.

( NOTE : No apologies for still preferring Todd McKenney as The Boy From Oz).

I have always loved the monuments in our country towns honouring the lives of those lost during times of conflict. They provide so much history about how much families and local industry lost during wartime.

Don’t even get me started on the history that can be found in cemeteries – but can I recommend Dunwich Boneyard on North Stradbroke Island for sinking ships, Spanish Flue, Leprosy, and Insanity?

The Freedom Tree at Surat
The Pilots Memorial at St George. I wrote a book review a while back on The Missing Man. This was Len Waters story : a decorated indigenous ace fighter pilot who couldn’t get a job after the war. Tragic.
And a summation of Wandoan’s history.

Some Devastating News

I’ve returned home from a five day road trip to a deceased fridge/freezer and a leak in the roof. That’s okay – both are solvable. I rushed out and bought a new fridge the next day. Nothing like buying a new frock or paying for a trip but thats neither here nor there. The ceiling repairs? Tradies during Covid are an interesting animal but that’s just another hurdle. No probs. I can deal with it.

The devastating news is something that cuts me to the quick. The emotional pain is real.

My special cake of soap, the one etched with a photo of Errol Flynn, has faded to such an extent that I can no longer glimpse that glorious visage.

It was a gift from my daughter, Pocahontas, 15 years ago. She handed it to me and said “this is your opportunity to get naked with Flynn” (in the shower)……which was a bit creepy as she was a teenager at the time.

Yep, fridges and ceilings are fixable. Errol Flynn soap is not.


Silos And Murals – Part 2

Forty kms out of Toowoomba along the highway to Millmerran you bypass the town of Pittsworth. Take your foot off the accelerator or you’ll drive past some of the prettiest murals along the trek each depicting the township’s history, culture, produce and attractions.

It’s amazing how much you learn from a mural and how many fellow travellers you meet along the way. I had to google Arthur Postle, a Pittsworth lad with the nickname “ The Crimson Flash” who held records in running in the early 1900’s, racing all around the world.

Another 40kms along the highway and this greets you at Millmerran.

Just WOW with parkland and onsite parking where you can stretch the legs. ( And a coffee cart. Yay!)

Just up the road is the Visitor Information Centre housed in a defunct railway carriage which is worth a visit in order to pick up a brochure about the historical murals dotted throughout the district.

My ex brother-in-law lived in Millmerran for a time. Because I didn’t like him one bit by association I did not like Millmerran. I know; makes me sound horrible but you wouldn’t have like the dipstick either.

I owe you an apology, Millmerran – what a lovely little town!

100 kms down the track is Yelarbon, with a population of 350 and with 8 grain silos covered with the most magnificent artwork telling the story of When The Rain Comes using over a 1000 litres of paint.

Australia is a big country, and Queensland is bigger than Texas, so you can drive vast distances and see nothing but landscape. Luckily I’m partial to landscape.

Last drive for the day, thirty minutes west to Goondiwindi.


Get a good nights sleep. You’re going to need it.

NOTE:

All of these rural towns have so much more to offer. In this instance I am restricting the attractions to murals and painted silos.

Road Trip Around Southern Queensland Country – Silos, Murals and Hospitality

The Queensland State Government has been dishing out tourist dollars in an attempt to encourage residents of the South East corner to visit attractions right along the coast of the state that are doing it tough because of closed international borders. 

So of course we opted to travel inland following the Southern Queensland Country painted silo mural trail throughout an area that had endured years of devastating drought, followed by damaging floods. Our five day road trip took us to two painted silos, three painted water tanks, and nearly 100 murals. We experienced some great artwork, gained further insight into Australia’s history, and sampled a smorgasbord of country hospitality.

Let’s start in Toowoomba, only 2 hours west of Brisbane and Qld’s largest regional city.

The original First Coat Festival took place in Toowoomba in 2014 as a creative initiative to encourage public places to be transformed into street art spaces with the walls of buildings and laneways used as backdrops ( as well as reducing graffiti issues). Over the next few years over 55 murals had been completed, and although the Festival is now defunct, the artworks continue to grow in numbers. The most recent additions are within the Grand Central Shopping Centre.

And here’s my first confession:

Toowoomba with its four distinct seasons, despite being only 120 kms away, is so unlike Brisbane (that is either hot and humid or warm and dry) I tend to visit some of the 150 parklands dotted across the city simply to enjoy the gardens. Traffic lights and shopping centres are avoided like the plague. We did walk down Ruthven Street to take in the murals.

Second confession:

We hit the Fluffy Ducks. Big time. Think the last Fluffy Duck I consumed was in the late 70’s at the Hilton Supper Club listening to The Commodores. Long time ago….. Totally my fault. Couldn’t face the crowds.

The Visitor Information Centre has two brochures available: one to follow the mural trail, and the other to follow the mosaic trail. Both are very helpful.

To be continued………

The Storytellers Exhibition

“Storytelling is a tradition as old as time. From oral histories passed down through generations to children’s books, epic novels and poetry, it is the most versatile form of knowledge-sharing”.

The Museum of Brisbane, located on the third floor of City Hall, is currently presenting an exhibition about Brisbane storytellers. Focussing on storytellers such as Hugh Lunn, Benjamin Law, Nick Earls, Trent Dalton, Kate Moreton and more, you are taken back to Brisbane’s past when these nine writers look at both the people and places.

It’s an interactive experience which will have you sitting in the stadium at Lang Park, at a tram stop, or at Chinese restaurant down in the Valley.

Suitable for all ages, with activities for the Little People, this no cost exhibition will delight.

Go Brissie! Stick it to those southern states who – – – – – – – – – – – – – – ( fill in the gaps)

Tip : Make the effort BEFORE school holidays start.

Old Dogs and New Tricks

I failed Domestic Science at High School. The only F I ever received on a report card. I knew better than to enrol in Sewing Classes after having received a D, in a scale from A to D, at Primary School. My mother, a seamstress who could turn a parachute into a wedding gown during the war years, was appalled. She gave me her first Singer Sewing Machine thinking that it would provide encouragement. Never switched it on and it later became a garden ornament alongside the gnomes.

Unable to use a needle and thread the only thing I used a needle for was removing splinters out of little fingers when the children were small.

Knitting, crochet, and quilting were never options though I’ve always been pretty handy with a paintbrush. Over the years I have painted both the exteriors and interiors of several houses. Unfortunately, often in colours that have had real estate agents cringing. My last house I opted to bulldoze and redevelop after comments about my sunflower yellow and budgie green colour scheme.

(Personal Note : That’s what comes of living with someone whose life is coloured by beige).

So I’m a little surprised with two new hobbies I’ve picked up since retirement.
Having the time to explore new interests truly is one of the positives of the finality of a working life. No guilt whatsoever. Loving it!

Mind you, I’ve had some EPIC fails. Like square dancing. Who knew it was so hard to differentiate between your left and your right? The popularity of using the clocks on our electrics as opposed to a watch has only exacerbated this issue (for sum of us). And those flouncy skirts were cute when I was six, not so at sixty.

What I am enjoying is an online Art Therapy study program. I’ve done collage, meditation to promote creativity, learnt about colour therapy, created my Tree of Life, and am currently working with clay. Well, plasticine really – it’s less expensive.

Art Therapy is used as a healing process. I was creatively stunted when I was young and perpetually fearful of having my knuckles rapped with a ruler by over zealous teachers when I coloured outside the lines. A bit like Harry Chapin’s song :

(Personal Note : Probably accounts for Mr Beige).

My search for Trailblazing Aussie Women is proving fascinating. I started with names of well known women but this exercise has led me down a rabbit hole and I have stumbled upon an 8 year old who walked the Kokoda Track and proceeded to climb Kilimanjaro and Everest, an Indigenous woman with a degree from Harvard, and a lass who has been working on the Mars Mission.

LIFE LESSON : You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Exploring Brisbane During WW2 : A Walking Tour

The 2 hour tour begins at the Museum of Brisbane on the the third floor of City Hall, King George Square.

King George Monument in King George Square with City Hall in background.

City Hall was built in 1930 and at that time was the tallest building in Brisbane. It was an important building during WW2 as it housed a recruitment area, was a distribution point where the Red Cross handed parcels to troops heading overseas, and has a ballroom suitable for 1500 guests. It was standing room only for 3000 when Eleanor Roosevelt arrived in Brisbane.

City Hall

During the early 2000’s City Hall underwent a massive restoration. What do you think they found? In the men’s bathroom in the basement Australian soldiers had signed their names on the wall along with their service numbers, as did many American servicemen who included their regimental details. This has been preserved and a reproduction is located within the museum.

Signature Wall Reproduction

Diagonally across the road from City Hall sits a church, a familiar landmark within the CBD, which was the site of 16,000 marriages between American men and Australian women during WW2.

Proceeding to ANZAC Square and The Shrine of Remembrance we then visited the Memorial Galleries underneath this structure. Most locals are unaware of the Galleries : for twenty years I too was totally ignorant and walked past on my way to the railway station. It is well worth a visit with its interactive displays and the staff are an invaluable source of information.

Self indulgence

Moving on we heard all about the Battle of Brisbane, the “ riot between United States military personnel on one side and Australian servicemen and civilians on the other on 26 and 27 November 1942.”

This was the American PX during WW2 and site of the riots

This concluded our walking tour though not the insights gained about Brisbane and her involvement during WW2. Brisbane had the name of Jazz Capital of Australia thanks to the influence of American soldiers. Who knew? We learnt about the HMAS Centaur, a submarine base in nearby New Farm and the SS Growler, and I was so excited to see my very first Air Raid Shelter, one of only three remaining in the vicinity. I repeat : who knew?

This walking tour is suitable for all fitness levels and we totally enjoyed seeing the city in a totally different light.

For further information go here : https://www.museumofbrisbane.com.au/whats-on/walking-in-wartime/

We paid an additional $10 each to also visit the MacArthur Museum.

Absolutely fascinating and I learnt more in a 1 hour talk by a passionate volunteer named John, standing in front of a map of the Pacific, than I did during six years of high school. Toss out the text books. This was easily digestible, understandable, and logical and the personal tidbits made it interesting to boot.

Here’s ol’ Doug’s office :

I worked in the Brisbane CBD for twenty years and knew little of this history. Once again I put it down to COVID making us more familiar with our own backyards. Now that’s a positive from a negative, wouldn’t you say?

Doe Ri Me

Whoever knew there were feral deer in Brisbane?

Honestly, I had no i-deer.

I’ve never seen any in my 25 odd years living in South East Queensland, though there are three main species, originally introduced in the early 1870’s, found around the western suburbs of Brisbane. They are considered pests for a variety of reasons and Brisbane Council undertakes an integrated approach to deer management which includes “monitoring, education, trapping, and shooting”. I repeat: shooting.

Just like dogs and cats that have been injured and need to recuperate, need to be re-homed, have been orphaned, or generally need to be rescued, Brisbane has a Rescue Deer Sanctuary.

Lyall Deer Sanctuary, nestled in the foothills of Mt Samson, has been taking in deer in need for over thirty years.

On site are also cows, goats, chickens and peacocks, all friendly and demanding pats (and pellets at $1 a bag). This is a nice place to introduce the Really Little People to animals.

The real positive about this outing, other than our picnic lunch and the fawns with wet noses who wanted cuddles, was that unlike with dogs and cats that need a home I had no interest in putting a deer in the back seat of the car.

The Light and the Dark

Starting with the Dark :

Shuggie Bain, the debut novel by Douglas Stuart, won the 2020 Booker Prize. The only time I had cause to smile over this novel was when another reader described it as “misery porn”. Sums it up perfectly.

1980’s Glasgow and the men are out of work and the women are finding solace in their addictions : gambling, drink, and tobacco.

Shuggie is the youngest of three children. His father is a philandering and abusive slug who relocates the family away from relatives to a town where the pits are closed and poverty abounds, and then does a runner leaving the kids under the total control of their alcoholic mother. The two older children make their escape though loving, effeminate Shuggie does his best to keep his mother afloat, even going without food for days because the dole money went on the drink. You just know it’s not going to end well……….

Bleak as though beautifully written. I did not have a glass of wine for three days after reading this.

WARNING : Do not read listening to Leonard Cohen or if your mental health is already a little dicey. Not one glimmer of hope within the 430 pages.

And some Light:

At only 12 years of age Luke Harper has published his very first children’s book titled, Pigeons and Popcorn

In 2018, Luke entered the (Australian) National Child Writes Competition, a competition offering school children the opportunity to write and illustrate their own children’s picture books. Introduced to the competition by his school teacher from there he worked on his concepts and illustrations with a mentor.

Released in 2020 1,000 copies of Pigeons and Popcorn have been donated to Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation with all proceeds from sales being donated to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, a place Luke has previously been a patient.

Way to go…..