Serendipity Part 1 : Yungaburra, FNQ.

In November 2020, during the middle of a Pandemic, I wrote about a musical tribute to our servicemen and women in the form of a CD called Spirit Of The ANZACS. Country singer, Lee Kernaghan, along with other Australian singer/songwriters Garth Porter and Colin Buchanan, were given access to the diaries, letters and stories of Australian and New Zealand diggers held by the Australian War Memorial as a project for the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.  These letters covered 100 years of ANZAC history from the First World War right through to Afghanistan. Many of the lines in the songs on this CD have been directly lifted from these letters, many written on the battlefield.

The song I included in that post was titled I Will Always Be With You from a letter written by Private Benjamin Chuck, 2 Commando Regiment, who lost his life in 2010  in the mountains of Kandahar Province  in a chopper accident during his third tour of Afghanistan. 

It’s been a year for serendipitous events.

Earlier this year I attended a social function commemorating Australian servicemen and women. There were several interesting stories including that of Hilda Rix, artist. Google her -it’s a fascinating tale. Another story was that of a father from Far North Queensland who lost his son in Afghanistan and who fund raised and worked his tail off to create The Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra on Lake Tinaroo.


The Avenue

The Avenue with its 250 m of sand coloured path representing the barren Afghanistan landscape, twin rows of Illawarra Flame Trees and Central Monument symbolizes ‘the final journey home’ of the Fallen. It comprises 3 main elements:
– The entrance and pathway to the Central monument
– The Monument and The Honour Board
– The journey home leading from the Memorial

A plaque representing each one of the 42 fallen soldiers (40 killed in action plus one training casualty and one non-combat related death) from the Afghanistan Campaign is present on the Honour Board adjacent to the Memorial. The centrepiece of the Memorial is a cairn of stones sourced from Afghanistan surmounted by a pair of sculptured wings in full flight depicting the contributions made by all services and symbolizing the undaunted spirit of the Australian Digger. The Avenue has all night lighting with the Honour Board and Monument bathed in blue light.

A series of plaques distributed throughout the Avenue feature service commendations from Military Commanders, Five VC Award Recipients, references to major engagements fought, the role of Explosive Detection Dogs, and literary contributions from community members.  

     – from https://www.avenueofhonour.com.au/memorial/history/


The entrepreneurial gentleman was Gordon Chuck, father of young Benjamin Chuck.

In April at my local Dawn Service in Cleveland, thousands stood in the cold and the rain to honour those who had served. This year the names of the fallen from recent theatres of war were announced over the loud speakers with nominated persons depositing a wreath by the cenotaph. It was a moving service with many shedding a silent tear. And Benjamin Chuck’s name was amongst those called.

I’ve started packing for a road trip. Shouldn’t. The financial advisor will spit chips but you know what ? You’re a long time dead.

One of my stops will be The Avenue Of Honour at Yungaburra, Far North Queensland.

Caroline Jones, Journo, & a Book Review

Winter temperatures in Queensland are at their lowest for over a hundred years and we are only twelve days in! Actually, I don’t mind it. You can get a lot done when you’re not a wet slimy mess as is the case in summer. Achieving heaps but at a relaxed pace. Even my reading is less frenzied.

Late last month Australian journalist, Caroline Jones died at age 84. One of the obituaries stated that Jones was a “groundbreaking Australian journalist and champion of women in media…who paved the way for women and became a passionate and generous mentor to young rural and regional reporters”.

Which led me down a rabbit hole, of course……

Essentially, Jones joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in 1963 becoming the first female reporter on the daily current affairs program, This Day Tonight. She went on to become the first female presenter on Four Corners, a hard-hitting news program, followed by a stint presenting a spirituality-focused radio program on ABC Radio National. This morphed into Jones hosting the much loved Australian Story from 1996 until her retirement from the ABC in 2016.

In addition, Jones also worked alongside Aboriginal broadcasters at Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association in Alice Springs as they produced their first cultural and current affairs programs for television and was appointed an Ambassador for Reconciliation by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. She was a foundation member of the Australian Council for the Arts, formed in 1973, as well as a foundation member of the Australian Classification Review Board, formed in 1970. Jones was also co-patron of Women In Media, and in 2017 the annual Caroline Jones Women in Media Young Journalist’s Award was launched. 

Among the many awards she received were the Order of Australia in 1988 and being voted as an Australian Living Treasure by The National Trust in 1997. This is a woman who hung tuff amongst the corridors of testosterone.

I’ve just finished reading Jones’ 2009 book, Through A Glass Darkly : A Joy Of Love And Grief With My Father,  a personal account of her father’s death and how she manages the grief over several years. 

Of course it’s not that simple. Loss and Grief and Love and Family and Responsibility are all big subjects and so I’ve been dipping in and out of this book slowly, like dropping a spoon into a can of Milo and licking the grains aways at a pace that allows you to enjoy every single malty morsel. 

Written in four parts, Jones initially provides a landscape painting of her father’s life. This resonated with me as it would with many whose parent’s lived through a Depression and World War. It’s a delightful read with it’s remembrances of times past : the weekly ritual of polishing shoes, back gardens laden with fruit trees, listening to the football on the radio.

Part two deals with her father’s illness and ultimate passing after an operation. This is brutal reading, with all the patient’s suffering, the medic’s attempts to play God, and the daughter’s inner rage, though again is so beautifully written. Maybe ” the medic’s attempts to play God” is poorly phrased, but you can guess, this resonated with me as well.

Caroline then exams her grief and questions her faith, even seeking out spiritual  guidance from a psychic. Been there, done that. Seven years after losing her Dad Caroline concludes having  coming to terms with the loss she experienced.

This is Caroline’s personal journey but it is a journey we all share in one form or other. The grim topic is made bearable because of its authenticity and it is so beautifully written. I’m sorry not to have paid her more attention whilst she was still with us.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

      – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler


NOTE:

Please be aware that I have not recently suffered any loss and am not in mourning. I was simply intrigued by Jones’ career path and wanted to learn more about what made the woman tick. I’m so glad I did.

I will admit that something else about Caroline did resonate. Her mother died when Caroline was a young though there was no time for mourning as her father, a returned serviceman, was from that stiff upper lip generation. But the time does come, often years later, and when it does it ain’t pretty.

Next book will be fun and fluffy : decapitations, poisonings, nuclear war, genocide. Promise.

A Tea A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

Martha Beck, American author of multiple Self Help Books recently said  “Almost all my middle-aged and elderly acquaintances, including me, feel about 25 — unless we haven’t had our coffee, in which case we feel 107.”  

How true is this!

In my case insert tea. I do like the occasional good coffee with friends but to start the day on the right foot I need tea. A pot of tea. Hot, brewed, and in bed.

Indeed, one of my greatest pleasures since having retired is to sit up in bed drinking my Twinnings Breakfast Tea watching all the cars drive past taking the workers on their merry way to spend their day putting their nose to the grindstone. It is a joy to be a spectator and not a participant after thirty years in the workforce.

As a Senior my days are filled with varied interests, projects and people. The constant intake of beverages at Book Club, after attending a theatrical or musical performance and catching up with friends keeps me on the go and focused.  “Will you have a cuppa?” seems to be the current anthem of my generation.

Is tea an addiction? Certainly. Right up there with Errol Flynn, good books and dark, bitter chocolate. Add garlic prawns to that list too.

Beverage protocols do exist : tea for breakfast, coffee with cake, and tea with jam, cream and scones.  It’s that initial caffeine hit though, the one as the sun rises, that shapes my day. No heart starter equals no joy.

The evening beverage protocol is Secret Seniors Business. At my age I earned it.

Books and Birthdays

Friends and Dark Shapes by Kavita Bedford is to the early 21st century what Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip ( considered Grunge genre) was to the Melbourne drug scene of the late 1970’s, and  what Puberty Blues by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette, was to the young adults living life on the southern beaches of Sydney’s with it’s sexism and culture wars during the same period.

In essence, Friends and Dark Shapes focuses on a group of friends who move into a share house in Redfern. They are all on the cusp of thirty and navigating insecure employment, cost of housing issues, second-generation identity, online dating, social alienation and questioning superannuation. Amongst all this anxiety, the connection between these friends is often fun and supportive, though our narrator is also mourning the recent death of a parent. Yes, it’s a contender for the currently in vogue Sad Girl genre of literature,  but if you are at all familiar with people within that demographic, or have a passable knowledge of the tribalism of the city of Sydney, this is a book that will resonate. I loved it, and yeah, I get the references to gentrification of inner Sydney and how it has changed the landscape.

Talking of friendships, I recently celebrated a birthday with a lass I worked with some twenty years ago. It was one of those environments where it was said that if you survived you “gained the training to work anywhere”. True, and I was fortunate enough to escape with the mortgage paid out and my sanity intact. It was an environment that either encouraged friendships or destroyed them.

Anyway, this woman is also a Gemini with a birthday only two days after mine.

Gemini Traits :

  • Uses humor as a crutch
  • Could talk to a brick wall
  • Arguments as flirting
  • Knows a little about everything

During these volatile years we would exchange small gifts to acknowledge our birthdates. Sometimes you did these things purely to survive.

After we both headed in different directions we would catch up every couple of months, yet celebrate our combined birthdays over a flash meal and/or attendance at a musical or theatrical performance. $260 a ticket for the Moody Blues was worth every damn cent.

When we both started to prefer being in bed by 9pm we would celebrate our birthdays by sharing an experience. Neither of us are materialist and you do get to the stage when you just don’t need anymore STUFF. So we enjoyed events like pottery and painting lessons together.

Twenty years on and my friend suggested something new for our birthday. This year we each donated some money to the Guide Dogs Association to cover the purchase of jackets whilst the dogs are in training. This year we went to the organisation’s Brisbane Head Office and met Michael, the Labrador who is the local ambassador for Guide Dogs.

Meet Michael, my kind of man.

BEST CAREERS FOR GEMINIS

  • Likable politician
  • Actor who plays a quirky side character
  • Devil’s Advocate
  • Bubble gum wrapper joke writer

Isn’t it amazing how friendships evolve and last the distance?

Note : Number 3 in both Traits and Careers is on the money.

May Update and Forever Shoeless Joe ❤️

May proved an unpleasant conclusion to Autumn with another “weather event ” along the east coast causing more property damage and loss of life. Anyway, it’s been raining cats and dogs and though no damage I can’t walk in my back garden without flippers. Literally. 

This means that way too much of May has been spent sitting on my tail. I confess to a dose of cabin fever and an overdose of caffeine hearing the news out of Uvalde followed by the unexpected passing of Ray Liotta. Forever Shoeless Joe. ❤️ 

Liotta in Field Of Dreams. What a ghost!

Read two books from The Books That Made Us List including Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. Still not a big fan; some brutal editing may have endeared me.

Next month’s Bookclub read is Chasing The McCubbin by Sandi Scaunich which I devoured in one sitting, totally amazed that an author could write 60,000 plus words about garage sales. Yep, garage sales. Frederick McCubbin was an early Australian impressionist painter and it is an urban myth that stored in someone’s garage in suburban Australia is a McCubbin just waiting to be discovered and sold for absolute megabucks.

McCubbin’s Down On His Luck

The best read for May – and probably the year – was Infidel, My Life by Ahyaan Hirsi Ali, for the Around The World Reading Challenge. Born in Somalia Ali also lived in Ethiopia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia as a child experiencing political upheaval, war, starvation and the degradation of women in muslim communities. She is now a political activist living in the USA.

Infidel, My Life is one powerful read and what she shares about female genital mutilation will have you absolutely squirming and fuming!  For a list of her Awards go here : 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayaan_Hirsi_Ali.     Legend.

Watched way too many DVDs but Movie of the Month goes to The Proposition, a 2005 Australian flick filmed in Winton, far west Queensland, which I visited last year in between Lockdowns and this country’s first Dark Sky Sanctuary. Worth watching for the scenery alone it is an Aussie version of a Western. Intense, brutal, harsh, gritty – kinda John Wayne on Methamphetamines – and I had to close my eyes a couple of times.

The Dark Skies view in the movie from a similar position is outstanding.

Also attended Opening night of a local community theatrical production and celebrated my birthday in the swankiest restaurant at the Casino in Townsville escorted by the Love Of My Life. Pity he’s 19 months old.

No projects completed which is distressing and blaming lethargy caused by the constant rain. Starting the new month whipping up a batch of Tangelo Marmalade so, June, watch out. These little legs are on the move…..

The fridge contains several chilled Sav Blancs which I’ll be downing with Mr Liotta, who will be Forever Shoeless Joe ❤️


Jezzine Barracks, Townsville (Part 2)

Townsville played an important role during WW2 and its significance is highlighted in monuments scattered around the 15 hectare heritage Jezzine Barracks precinct.

During WW2 Townsville played host to more than 50,000 American and Australian troops and air crew, becoming a major staging point for battles in the South West Pacific. The first bombing raid on Rabaul in Papua New Guinea was carried out by six B-17s based near Townsville.


The Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 is considered the most significant sea battle ever fought off the coast of Australia.  There is a fascinating diagram imprinted on the concrete walkway near the 5th US Airforce Memorial which guides you through the manoeuvres. 


The memorial itself is quite impressive in its simplicity yet it has a commanding presence with its views across to Magnetic Island and demands reverence. The information states “The United States 5th Air Force Memorial is dedicated to the men and women who served and those who paid the supreme sacrifice while serving with the U.S. 5th Air Force during the South West Pacific campaign of World War Two.”


In July 1942 there were three small Japanese air raids over Townsville. No lives were lost and structural damage was minimal, as the Japanese missed their intended targets. This   structure I found quite sobering.


Make sure you spend the time reading the information on the plaques attached to the memorial. Absolutely fascinating! You can read the plaques here:

https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/conflict/ww2/display/92837-united-states-5th-air-force-memorial

Jezzine Barracks is most definitely worth a couple of visits as it is not only situated on a breathtakingly beautiful piece of coastline, the history is fascinating. Just be wary of the crocs and stingers …….🐊🐊

NOTE :

NOTE:  Back in 2012 an Australian historian, Ray Holyoak, from James Cook University, was researching why US congressman Lyndon B Johnson visited Townsville for three days back in 1942. He found that about 600 African-American troops were brought to the city to help build airfields and bridges. These troops, from the 96th Battalion, US Army Corps of Engineers, were stationed at a base on the city’s western outskirts. Two white USA officers handed out serial abuse in the form of racial taunts and violence which resulted in a large-scale siege lasting eight hours.

Holyoak uncovered several documents hidden in the archives of the Queensland Police and Townsville Brigade from the night of 22nd May, 1942, confirming that the soldiers took to machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons and fired into tents where their white counterparts were drinking. More than 700 rounds were fired.

At least one person was killed and dozens severely injured, and Australian troops were called in to roadblock the rioters. 

Holyoak also discovered a report written by Robert Sherrod, a US journalist who was embedded with the troops which never made it to the press, but was handed to Lyndon B Johnson at a Townsville hotel and eventually filed away into the National Archives and Records Administration. For political reasons this incident was hushed up.

You can read more here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-10/historian-reveals-details-on-townsville-mutiny/3821906


Next Time : Surviving the Townsville heat with fruity drinks with umbrellas in them.

Jezzine Barracks, Townsville (Wulgurukaba)

It’s been thirty years since my last significant visit to Townsville 1,400 kms north of Brisbane. I did visit fleetingly ten years ago and not so fondly remember the tropical heat pushing me to a pub at 11am for a refreshing G&T and having to take a minimum of four showers a day to stop from smelling myself in the humidity.

Townsville, Australia’s leading garrison city, has undergone some mammoth changes in recent years and is a vibrant centre which manages to meld its Indigenous, Military and Colonial histories in equal parts.

Case in point, Jezzine Barracks, named after a fierce battle at Jezzine in Syria in 1941, which is a definite addition to your Must Do List.

The Traditional Owners of Garabarra are the Wulgurukaba people and the Bindal people, who retain an enduring ‘connection to country’ despite the impact of non-Aboriginal settlement in the area. For thousands of years Garabarra was the centre of a common food foraging area for local Aboriginal people – an area with immeasurable cultural and spiritual values.” – Wikipedia..

This area became a military base in 1886 and up until 2006 was very much Secret Squirrel territory. The area had been utilised for 120 years and is situated on the Kissing Point Headland on the northern end of The Strand, Townsville’s esplanade bordering the city central, with an outlook across to Magnetic Island and the Coral Sea.

Townsville is just coming out of a 10 day weather event like most of the East Coast.


Opened to the public in 2014 this 15-hectare heritage precinct now commemorates the military and Aboriginal heritage of the area, including majestic water views. There are 34 specially commissioned public artworks, extensive interpretive signage, a coastal walkway connecting to Rowes Bay, as well as the restoration of significant elements of the Kissing Point Fort complex.

The Seven Sisters – based on the seven sisters who came from the heavens to create all that was beautiful, being “Women’s Business”.


The site also includes the Army Museum of North Queensland – closed for my visit but I’ll be back there soon- as well as traditional plantings along the ethno-botanical walk, the Crossed Boomerang Amphitheatre, and the Kennedy Regiment Plaza ( which is bordered by it’s proud history).

The picnic and barbeque areas are popular with both visitors and locals and for a change of pace, a gorgeous little Art Gallery located in old army huts will provide your wallet with the opportunity to enjoy a little dance.

Parade Ground highlighting the regiments that were based at Jezzine.

An example of the history that borders the Parade Ground.
You’ve got it made when you have a Prawn Shell dish from Townsville:)

Next post I will cover the monument commemorating the The United States 5th Air Force Memorial that is featured at Jezzine Barracks. I’m still processing Townsville’s role in military history and it’s connection to the Battle of the Coral Sea ( which of course was not covered in our schooling. Please note sarcasm).

Staying Connected Despite Distances

My daughter gave birth to my first (human) grandchild over 3700 kms or 2300 miles away.  I know, I should be able to use metric measurements by now as Australia converted from imperial in 1974 but not happening Jan. When the media puts out a bulletin warning about an escaped convict who is 164 cms I’m clueless. And when the weather man reports the daily rainfall in mms I still have to convert to the imperial, or if I’m totally honest, get someone to do it for me.

Back to bub who was born in a rural and remote community during the middle of a Pandemic when State borders were closed. As I was unable to visit during those months I did what every self respecting mother would do : posted Red Cross parcels full of treats for the parents-to-be and for our bub, and organised a couple of Zoom birthing hypnotherapy sessions for Pocohontas.

This little family have relocated since then, and we have enjoyed a few catch-ups, but they are still in another part of the country approximately 20 hours driving time away.

So how do I maintain contact and build a bond with the little fella? 

Here are a few of my suggestions. Please feel free to add any of your own recommendations 🙂

  1. FaceTime or Skype

        Harry can’t talk yet, but seeing each others expressions and surroundings can often make you feel like you’ve actually been together. I have no doubt he recognises my face and voice ( saying to his mumma in his head ” who is this woman that wont shut up?”)

2. Send Snail Mail. 

          At the previous abode there was no Postman, but now Harry is excited to greet the Postie on a regular basis. Not only is it fun for him to receive something in the mail, but his mother is using this as training – checking the letterbox is a chore he must do, just like filling the dog’s water bowl- as well as a social activity.

           Harry is too little for letters so I went through a period of sending him a post card each week that featured an Australian animal.

3.   Create a Project.

           I recently purchased a $6 picture book about Dinosaurs which I posted to Harry. He can’t read but he loves the pictures. Each week I have also been bundling up 2 or 3 plastic dinosaurs and putting those in the mail. He has connected the figurines to the book and goes searching for them amongst the pages.

            He had a trip with his Playgroup to the local Museum last week and apparently went wild with the dinosaur statues.

            Next project? I’ll be sending a felt board with a farm scene ( fences, farmer, chook, pigs, horses). Do you remember these back in the day? In the early 60’s I loved school just because of felt board play…….And I’ll be posting farm animals.

       4.    Talking About Things We Can Do Together On The Phone.

               Again, I am not sure what the little fella does or does not understand but he seems to listen when I talk about going on a picnic or cooking pancakes together.

I’m disappearing next week and travelling north. I’ll be armed with dinosaur figurines, a tee shirt featuring a dinosaur, and his mother’s 30 year old Beatrix Potter apron so we can stir bowls whilst cooking without getting into a complete mess. I hope we can go on walks, eat ice creams and pancakes and maybe even plant a few vege seeds together. He’s still a bit young to sit through an Errol Flynn movie but that is on next years Must Do List.

And don’t worry; I do have treats for the grand furbaby too.


See you soon HB.

Mee Maw xxx


Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children” – Alex Haley

Plantastic! A to Z of Australian Plants

During a recent wander around the local environmental centre, Indigiscapes, with the Tuesday walking group I came across this book in the Gift Shop. (So now you also know I’m a sucker for Gift Shops, especially ones that carry jams and condiments made from local products. And children’s books. Children’s Books make me weak at the knees.)

Plantastic! A to Z of Australian Plants written by Catherine Clowes is exactly as the name suggests: an Australian Native for each letter of the alphabet. Clowes is a botanist and a teacher with a love of sharing knowledge which she does so well in this book which would have been an absolute Godsend to homeschooling mums and dads during periods of Lockdown.

Why?

Each double page is dedicated to a designated native. Those pages contain a concise description without getting over technical and losing the kiddies’ interest and illustrations by Rachel Gyan which are clear and easily identifiable. But the thing I really found both fun and inspirational is that each plant description includes a task to encourage our Little People to immerse themselves and engage in Nature.

For example, under L for the Lilly Pilly is a description, an illustration, and a task. In this case the task is to pick a berry from the Lilly Pilly and to plant it in potting mix and to nurture it with water and sunshine. Will it grow? I don’t know but I’m sure as hell going to experiment once the local Lilly Pillys start fruiting.

At the back of the book is a map of Australia which highlights where each of the 26 selected natives are found. So much information so simply presented.

I purchased several copies because I know several young mums who will find this book a huge help during the next school holidays.

April Update

Retired coming up to three and a half years ago and I still have a need to “achieve”. Small achievements are quite acceptable, but I don’t sleep well if there hasn’t been something successfully completed throughout each day. Mopping floors does not count yet mowing lawns does. Strange, isn’t it?

So where did April go?

Successful completion of #A-ZChallenge. Look out for Errol Flynn Trivia in 2023.

Attended a Soap Making Workshop. Attempted to repeat my efforts at home and nearly blew the house up. (Does that count ?)

Attended theatrical performance, a cabaret about Depression which was littered with humour.

Completed Harry’s Book Cart though after a few heated discussions it evolved from a bus to a fire engine. I just need to paint ladders on the sides.

Successfully mastered scones. Only took 45 years. Rosemary, Pecan Nut and Parmesan Cheese – to die for…….

Attended a concert : Troy Cassar-Daly and Ian Moss. Loved the former, the latter thinks he’s Brian May. Still, soaking up live music was wonderful, especially without a mask.

Mastered Egg Plant Lasagne. Still picking 6 or 7 aubergines a week so all new recipes are welcome.

Finished 2 books for the Gaia Reading Challenge, 2 for the Books That Made Us List, and 3 for Book Club. Reviews to come.

Planted pumpkins and tomatoes in vege garden. Bonus points because they are ALL still alive.

Painted patio and fence without any paint splatter on brickwork. Now that deserves a Gold Star!🌟


Most importantly, enjoyed my pots of tea watching those around me go to work. Boy, do I love retirement……