Book Of The Week

We’ve all heard “over-paid, oversexed and over here” said of the American servicemen in Australia during WW2.

I had not heard their retort, a popular toast which went : “To Australia – the land where the flowers have no fragrance, the birds no melody and the women no virtue.”

The Battle of Brisbane by Peter A Thompson and Robert Macklin is a well researched account of two days in November in 1942 during which an American military policeman shot dead an Australian soldier and wounded six others and a civilian. There were also many hand-to-hand fights where many on both sides were seriously injured.

To be honest it is not pretty reading.

This is a Brisbane I do not know, and times I’m not familiar with though I have friends who remember their school days with a bomb shelter in the playground. It is also interesting that all the landmarks mentioned are still spoken of by older folk and I am aware of where they would have been situated.

MacArthur’s stay in Brisbane is also covered – and is also not pretty. Many years ago I remember having a swish meal overlooking the Story Bridge and being told the room was old Doug’s HQs. Do you think I can remember where it is?

Similar View

Fascinating read but tragic. Just like the riots involving negro soldiers in Townsville, the bombing of Darwin, and the mini submarines in Sydney Harbour, so much of this information was hushed up at the time and when finally revealed lacked details. The identity of both the dead Australian and the American involved only came to light with the publication of this book in 2000.

Just wish that they’de hush up Ms Markle and Harry Windsor.








This Week In Books

The Friday Night Zoom Book Club discussed the debut novel Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos. As the author is an Australian of Greek heritage who has woven his experiences into this novel, at my youngest daughter’s suggestion we went for hellenic themed snacks.

Enjoyed the snacks more than the book.

My Spinach and Fetta Pie

At Primary School Fridays were Social Science days when we would learn about famous people. They were generally male. I clearly remember the famous females: Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Florence Nightingale and Daisy Bates. So I pounced upon Desert Queen by Susanna De Vries which I found at the Little Community Library in the local parkland.

Talk about shattered. Other than her work with female aborigines in the early 1900’s old Daisy was essentially a nut job. Married three times, including to Harry Harbord Morant (AKA Breaker Morant) old Daisy never bothered to divorce any of her husbands. As well as being a bigamist she was a pathological liar with grandiose ideas. I’m thinking bipolar. Nah, just a nut job.

Don’t you just hate biographies that crush all your long held beliefs?

Bribie Island Part 2

If I’ve given the impression that Bribie is full of old codgers you would be right – but then you would also be wrong. In recent years there have been new housing developments on canal estates with designer golf courses and with a boat worth more than twice than that of my house moored by the back door.

When visiting the Island, there is a huge choice of accomodation as well as eateries: both the Haves and Have Nots are well catered for. Much of the Island remains a National Park and is home to brumbies, wallabies, dingoes, and emus. I’ve not seen them though I believe the serious campers that arrive by boat are privy to these iconic creatures.

From my front door. Tough but someone has to do it.

One of my favourite places to visit on the Island is the Surf Club at Woorim with its glorious views across the ocean – a bonus in winter when the whales are travelling north. Virtually next door is the Woorim Cenotaph for Servicemen and Women.

And then there is this:

The Book Exchange at Bongaree has to be one of the best organised second hand retail outlets I’ve ever visited and is open 364 days. Lost an hour perusing an only came out with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo DVD.

Catering to tourists many of the Cafes have a book shelf that promote “borrowing a book, and leaving a book”.I must admit to judging accomodation by whether or not it includes holiday reading material.

There are heaps of clubs and weekly markets on Bribie which give the island a real community feel. Seven years ago a hairdresser with a salon on the island, with consultation from the local Uni , came up with the idea of Hairdressers with Hearts. This not-for-profit organisation trains hair stylists and barbers in providing support and resources to clients who download about domestic violence or elder abuse whilst in the chair.

The other community initiative that impressed me was the placement of a red bench seat along the busy foreshore of Pumicestone Passage. The idea behind these seats is that if you are experiencing any sort of domestic abuse you can flag the issue by using this seat. We have a red bench in our local shopping centre but no one knows it’s significance.

Anyway, I’ve channelled Jimmy Buffet at Margaritaville, lost numerous fish hooks, and am still finding sand in places I forgot existed, so its back to business for me this week. Bugger.

Note for Pommepal: Too busy to manage the Butterfly House. Next month.

Bribie Island in WW2 and Yabbie Pumps.

Bribie Island has more seniors per head of population than any other Australian local government area and is affectionately known as “God’s Waiting Room”. There is also a higher chance of getting killed by a pensioner whizzing past on a mobility scooter than anywhere else in the country. And why not? It’s only and hour and a half north of Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city, and just a drive across the bridge to the Island. There is something really comforting about being able to just walk across the road to throw in a fishing line.

Lousy weather but who cares? Can you see the bridge?

Bribie Island is a haven for water lovers and the anglers and boaties just love the side of the island facing the mainland. Pumicstone Passage is also wonderful swimming for all ages and home to dugongs and dolphins. In fact, it was a Bribie gentleman that invented the yabbie pump.

The other side of the island, Woorim, is a surf beach looking out towards New Zealand and has a strong connection to WW2. An exhibit at the Seaside Museum at Bongaree (Free entry) highlighted this fascinating history of wartime Bribie.

Worth doing and there is a Scavenger Hunt to keep the Little People occupied
Not quite NZ. Moreton Island.

During the war locals were evacuated and both Australian and American soldiers were stationed on Bribie to practice both jungle warfare and sea landing skills. “Two mine control huts were used by Royal Australian Navy during 1942 and 1943, known as RAN 2. These monitored and controlled the guard indicator loops and mine loops set in the North West Channel.” – wikipedia

Well, you know I’m just a sticky beak at heart and this is what I discovered having left the patrolled surf area and having travelled as far as you can without a four wheel drive vehicle. This part of Woorim is well worth visiting as Rotary have added picnic facilities though it didn’t seem that many bothered.

More trivia about beautiful Bribie Island next time.

Hitler’s Brothel by Steve Matthews


Hitler’s Brothel is not just a fictional story about two young Polish girls separated by the tragic circumstances of World War 2. It is a tale interwoven with real historical events including some little known facts that had me constantly reaching for Google for clarification.

Yes, Auschwitz did have a brothel which was used as a reward for hardworking prisoners as an incentive to work even harder, and yes, the renowned fashion house Hugo Boss did make uniforms for the SS.

The story begins strongly in New Jersey USA in 2000, though it’s not until author Steve Matthews takes us back to Poland in 1940 that this reader became invested in sisters Ania and Danuta and the ghastly activities in which they became involved in order to survive on a daily basis.

This is no easy read thanks to the descriptive narrative. It is at times both bleak and brutal highlighting the ugliness of war and reinforcing that the Holocaust, that stain on humanity, must never be forgotten.

Although I have been a keen collector of Prisoner of War Diaries for many years I struggled with the details within this book. Was this because it is so much based on the female perspective?

Matthews states in his Notes, “ War is never over for those who experience it first hand. This story is for all the Anias who suffered in the concentration camps of WW2 – may your God bless you, and may you have finally found peace – whether you sleep beneath the ground or above it.” AMEN to that.

A copy of this book should be in every High School Library in Australia.

And another History Lesson:

Between 1971 and ‘76 I attended a High School in Sydney. Nothing special, nothing flash. One of the girls in the same form was dating a young apprentice plumber who drove a grey Vauxhall Velox. Another girl friend was dating his mate who drove a green Vauxhall Velox. Ugly old cars. That girl friend duck shovelled that fellow and started dating another of his mates, later marrying him and bearing two kiddies down the track.

Long story short: I started dating Mr Green Vauxhall and on weekends we would often have Vauxhall convoys, green and grey, and double date. Life in the Big Smoke, hey…..Another of my girlfriends was dating a bloke from our form who drove an ugly old Worsley. Is it any wonder I never had an interest in motor vehicles ?

Vauxhalls and why I hate them

The driver of the grey Vauxhall went on to marry a younger lass from the same high school and who also had a brother in my form. She had an older half sister who was my economics teacher in Year 12. ( It’s ok, I crushed economics). The teacher’s mother, who I met as an early teen and way before GDP and Fiscal Pie Charts, was the sister of my Dad’s best friend during World War 2 who was killed flying over the skies of Germany.

I knew little of Spud except for a couple of small black and white photos I found hidden in an old tobacco tin after my fathers death, though it explained my families connection to Spike, whom I later learned was Spud’s younger brother.

The author’s wife is the lass who used to be in the grey Vauxhall all those years ago. Like getting close to 50 years ago – gulp.

Mr Green Vauxhall? That’s another story.

I’ll go now and prepare a quick quiz for tomorrow to make sure you’ve all been listening ………

Another Project and Library Lovers Day

In January 2020 Inverell Library, in rural New South Wales, launched a project to provide all newborns in the shire with a handmade library bag of specially selected books to support early literacy. The project is a joint initiative between the library and the Friends of the Inverell Library.

Reading to babies is a great way to nurture skills including talking, understanding, imagination, listening, concentration and creativity.

The team at the library put the call out to the community to find crafty locals who would like to sew a book bag for newborns. Those who lack sewing skills happily donated suitable fabric for the bags and instructions including required dimensions were made available.

Harry Kilom at 4 months, located in rural and remote Nhulunbuy NT, has been reading a lot of books with his parents. Thankfully Father Christmas was extremely generous as I was getting concerned about his Army Dad continually reading books about military strikes to the child.

What is interesting about bub’s haul is that I can tell from whom the books were gifted as they each reflect a particular person’s interests and history. The kid is lucky to have so many *different people in his life.

Another great project from a smallish country Library.

*Yes, you may read as odd or eccentric.

Up Close And Personal

The soft nuzzling combined with gentle clawing moved slowly up the inside of my thigh. Too shocked by circumstances I found myself numb, unable to move. Unable to think. Too stunned to react I sat perfectly still and waited for what was to come next.

The crisis was averted when the Spotter amongst the clan gave a chirp warning the fifty odd Meerkats in the enclosure of impending danger. The young female foraging for tucker under my billowing skirt immediately followed the spotters call and scuttled off towards the tunnels along with the others in her clan.

Living underground in burrows, which they dig with their long sharp claws, keeps mob members safe from Predators, especially in their natural environment of the deserts and grasslands of Africa.

Meerkats have bushy, brown-striped fur, a small, pointed face and large eyes surrounded by dark patches. They average about 50 centimetres long, including their tail and are extremely social animals.

Meerkats only go outside during the daytime. Each morning, as the sun comes up, the mob emerges and begins looking for food. They use their keen sense of smell to locate their favourite foods, which include beetles, caterpillars, spiders and scorpions. They”ll also eat small reptiles, birds, eggs, fruit and plants. Back at the burrow, several babysitters stay behind to watch over newborn pups. This duty rotates to different members of the mob, and a sitter will often go all day without food. The babysitter’s main job is to protect pups from meerkats in rival mobs who, if given the chance, will kill the babies. 

The Meerkat Experience at the Hunter Valley Zoo is certainly an Up Close And Personal one as I discovered.

The Zoo Keeper insisted that we sit on the dirt floor of the enclosure at all times during the 20 minute interaction with these inquisitive and social little creatures from the mongoose family. This reduces the fear factor for the Meerkats as we remain close to their eye level, and also reduces our abilities to make any fast movements which would frighten these flighty little creatures.

All our questions were answered by the Zoo Keeper who was able to identify all the meerkats and call them by name as she patiently explained their behavioural patterns.

Escape is certainly on ones mind when a Meerkat climbs onto your head, let me tell you. And why would a Meerkat climb onto your head? Two reasons : searching through ones hair looking for tucker is the obvious one – because who doesn’t have mealy worms in their long golden locks?- and also because it is a high point for that spotter Meerkat to watch for enemies.

This is a highly recommended interaction with the animal kingdom and one which we will always remember fondly.

The Hunter Valley Zoo is a private run zoo located at 138 Lomas Lane, Nulkaba, near Cessnock in the heart of the Hunter Valley, NSW. They also offer Close Encounters with Lemurs, Tamarins and Marmosets as well as exhibits of the usual array of animals and an extensive breeding program for endangered species.

With expansive picnic grounds and free barbeque facilities this is the perfect venue for family outings. There are regular talks from Keepers around the different exhibits which ensure that this is not merely a day gawking at the animals, but one where you can learn so much more about them.

My only tip? Wear trousers.

For more information go here:  https://www.huntervalleyzoo.com.au/

Do You Remember Little Golden Books?

Last week was a great week : everything about it reeked of a pre Covid week. Remember those?

Visited the local Art Gallery. Always an inspirational outing though often not good for the blood pressure as I have a tendency to get distressed about my own lack of artistic ability. I blame this on those teachers in the 1960’s who would rap your knuckles with a ruler if you coloured outside the lines.

Went to the cinema to see newly released Australian movie Penguin Bloom. Based on the book Penguin Bloom, The Odd Little Bird Who Saved A Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Greive and based on a true story. A pleasant little movie for all the family with delightful New South Wales coastal scenery and not animated ( and the only super hero is a magpie. Excellent!)

A community theatre production with an Aussie theme including dinner sitting outside under the huge gums at the local museum was a great night out with lots of laughs.


This is where I found this display, an entrant in the local Book Week competition, made from Little Golden Books. Do you remember Little Golden Books?

Anyway, this week has been lousy. WA is in Lockdown and is being throttled by bushfires and the situation is looking precarious in Victoria. This looks like an appropriately titled Little Golden Book right now.

An appropriate title for this week.

Edgar’s Mission and Story Dogs

Edgar’s Mission is a not-for-profit animal shelter in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. It provides care for homeless, abused, injured or abandoned animals, especially livestock or “farmed animals”. The sanctuary, sprawls over 153 acres and is given over entirely to the wellbeing of 432 rescue animals: ex-breeding pigs, injured lambs, one-eared survivors of dog attacks, cows born with blindness or other birth defects, chickens, roosters, turkeys, rabbits, spring-loaded baby goats and stray cats lounging in the sun.

One of the programs instigated to assist is encouraging volunteers to read to the animals. Apparently they like children’s books, particularly anything written by Enid Blyton, although the goats have a tendency to chew on the pages.

The animals find the voice of someone reading quite soothing and it reduces their anxiety levels. Sounds a better option than Diazepam, doesn’t it?

I’m just not sure which book/s I would read to the farm animals. Maybe The Wonky Donkey and some Beatrix Potter?

My local Library has recently instigated a program where 6, 7 and 8 year olds can visit after school and they can practise their reading skills and gain confidence by reading to a Story Dog.

For more information go here: https://www.edgarsmission.org.au/category/blog/

This Weeks Homework:

What book would you read to the animals at Edgar’s Mission?

Who is Patricia Cam?

Last week we celebrated (or commiserated depending on your point of view) Australia Day on January 26th.

I telephoned my daughter in the Northern Territory a few days beforehand and she responded with “ Can’t talk Mo. Off to a memorial service for the Patricia Cam”.

Who?

Thank goodness she later sent more information as I had been fearing the onset of Dementia having no inkling whatsoever of this Patricia person.

Turns out HMAS Patricia Cam was a merchant boat sunk off Nhulunbuy (which some of us grew up knowing as Gove) on the northern coast of the Northern Territory. It was bombed by a three seater twin floatplane from the Japanese Navel Arms 734th Kokatai on January 22nd, 1943.

Courtesy of Pastmasters Website noted below

In addition to the crew HMAS Patricia Cam carried a Methodist Reverend and five aboriginals, one being one of the native pilots who regularly assisted because of their knowledge of the unchartered reefs and shoals.

It’s an interesting story which you can read more about here :

https://www.pastmasters.net/hmas-patricia-cam.html

More importantly it’s another little piece of our history that only the inhabitants of that part of our country are aware of and nearly 80 years later it is history that has not been forgotten by the locals.

The memorial was constructed in 2017 and my daughter assures me that the service to this day remains well attended by descendants of those lost as well as military representatives.

NOTE :

East Arnham Land was on last years To Do List and we all know how that bombed. Recently released Australian movie High Ground was filmed in this beautiful but harsh landscape so this has been diarised for next week. Come a little closer – I have gossip: the word on the streets of Nhulunbuy is that actor Simon Baker will be fronting at the local footy ground where they’ll present the film. In today’s paper Baker has announced his divorce after 29 years of marriage and is said to be worth $50 million. I would suggest the Beauty Salon in Nhulunbuy is doing a roaring trade.