Snugglepot and Cuddlepie – the Gumnut Babies.

With the recent unpacking of cartons containing the books of my children’s childhood, I have been a little reflective of late. Let’s blame May Gibbs, shall we.

May Gibbs was an English-born Australian children’s author, illustrator, and cartoonist. She is best known for her gumnut babies ( also known as bush babies) and the series of books about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

As a child May lived in rural communities in both South Australia and Western Australia spending much of her time observing the beauty of the Australian bush.

I grew up on the stories of the beautiful little gumnut babies who were always being chased by the wicked Banksia men. To this day, when I am going past a Banksia tree in the wild I acknowledge a slight fear because I know full well the intentions of those “ big, bad Banksia men”.

My eldest daughter has always been a huge fan of the gumnut babies, and as a baby chewed threw her first copy of the book. Literally. When she left here recently she took the replacement copy along with her, teeth marks and all.

My ex father-in-law was a worldly man. A Liverpool Scouse who had travelled the world as a Merchant Seaman and Master Mariner, and towards the end of his career was working to keep the unions in line.

It was only when the grand daughters entered his sphere that this tough old bugger became acquainted with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and he became enchanted with the artwork of Gibbs. I still remember a Devonshire Tea at Gibbs’ house in Sydney surrounded by her beloved bushland many, many years ago. “ Charming”, I can hear him say in an accent that took me three years to decipher. Charming is not an often used word from an old sea dog……

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie remain much loved figures to this day. One hundred years on their images are to be splashed over Customs House in Sydney during the coming Vivid (Arts) Festival.


Theses are the stories we need to keep alive……


It Takes A Village To Raise A Child

When my daughters visited from interstate a few weeks ago I subtly asked them about the 17 large packing cartons that I have been storing for them in my garage. Being subtle with girls who are both taller and brighter than their mother is an art form. We managed to unpack and sort through seven cartons, making only another ten to wade through on their next trip.

Fluffy toys, board games, letters from first boyfriends, and a collection of snow domes surfaced from within these boxes, as did a disco ball, karaoke machine and at least one hundred children’s books.

Most of these treasures have been rehomed. Well, except for the pink LEGO set. I have always had great fun with LEGO and this was the first developed with females in mind. I think I can have fun with this one Friday night with a glass of plonk.

The local High School is having a massive Garage Sale this coming Saturday and were only too pleased to be the recipients of much of this gear.

Funds raised will be going towards the Schools Chaplaincy program. The Chaplains are not wholly funded by the Government and as they are non denominational I truly believe they provide a respite, a quiet haven, a listening post, to many a student in need.

My tall, bright daughters attended this school over ten years ago. It is a tough school, a State School. It was the first High School in Queensland where the students held a sit-in on the school oval. I don’t mind a little Bolshoi. Indeed, I think these times call for more of it, but I digress…..

My girls did not utilise the services the Chaplains provided but I was always pleased to know there was an avenue for them should it be required. The vibe was very much “ it takes a village to raise a child”.

Some of the funds raised from this Garage Sale, which will have the local Community Centre full to the brim with furniture, brick a brac, plants, and an additional 100 children’s books thanks to our tidy up, will be donated elsewhere. And I just love this:-


Funds will be donated to The Library Project which is a group of local schools, churches and community service organizations who have banded together to provide libraries on the South Pacific Island of Vanuatu. This beautiful but poor little Island ranked last in Literacy and Numeracy in a list of South Pacific countries. The Library Project states that “the journey of a lifetime starts with the turning of a page”.

WOW, is that powerful stuff or what?

Talk about it taking a village to raise a child……And there is a lot more space in my garage too.





Australian Author Challenge – Aussie, Aussie, Aussie by Ben Probjie.

Ben Pobjie is an Australian comedian, poet, and writer. He studied history at the University of Western Sydney. He pursued a career in comedy writing and is known for his TV columns in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, and political satire for New Matilda, Crikey, and the ABC, among others. His books include Superchef, The Book of Bloke, and Error Australis. He has written for the TV shows Reality Check and The Unbelievable Truth.

Someone told Ben Pobjie he was both clever and funny – and he ran with it. He certainly has the gift of the gab…….. in the same vein as a used Car Salesman, as far as I am concerned.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie : Questionable Histories Of Great Australians is a selection of celebrated Australians and their achievements. Remember your Social Studies classes at Primary School when you would learn about a different person’s achievements each week? People like Helen Keller, Nancy Wake and Madame Curie, for example?

Well, this book is a bit like that, though containing only Australians.


The blurb from the booksellers states this book is “Australian history made palatable.” Palatable. When did history have to become palatable?

Maybe since “Child psychologists in Britain have issued new guidelines advising doctors to change the age for maturity from 18 to 25 years old. According to the experts, their decision was based on recent findings relating to emotional maturity, hormonal development and neurological activity.”( according to the Medical Daily)

Now step back and read those two sentences again.

I did enjoy the inclusion of some different names to the Usual Suspects, such as Aboriginal activist, Vincent Lingiari, and Movie Producer, Charles Trait. ( Who, right?)
The continual chatter became boring and I felt I was reading the ramblings of a 16 year old kid. Funny? No. Self indulgent? Yes. You can most certainly see the experience the author has gained from writing television commentary.

At the end of each Australian identity Probjie lists a task – Fun For You At Home.

Under Albert Jacka VC. MC, and first decorated Aboriginal, the task is:

Learn what it was like as a soldier in World War 1. Dig a trench in your back yard, half-fill it with water, and ask your friends over to shoot at you. If they come too close, stab them. Now you’re living like a real war hero”.

Look, I’m no history buff, and I enjoy irreverence as much as the next person. This is, however, neither clever nor funny. If I really wanted to be controversial I would suggest that the young Sydneysiders who thought they were hipsters would eat this up.

My Tip: spend the money on Avocado on Toast instead.

Palatable history. Now that’s funny.

The Colour of my Autumn Days.

All pointers were leading to it being a beautiful Autumn day.


So I decided to run with it and wore a smashing red dress with a dash of lace, accessorised by a new red bracelet, to the office this morning. I don’t understand this phenomenon that at the first hint of coolness in the air we women of Australia don clothes that are either a shade of dark brown, dark blue or black. That excludes Territorians and inhabitants of the Pilbara, who would battle to identify these colours. And Tasmanian’s, whom only ever wear those three shades, with the occasional addition of grey to spice up their wardrobe. What is that all about anyway?*

Well, I don’t succumb. No one ever said I was subtle. I prefer living in colour.

It has been a huge week. Haven’t picked up a book for seven days. Most of them have been packed up into boxes to allow the new carpets to be laid. From the garage where they are stored some boxes are going to the local High School for their annual Garage Sale to raise funds for the Chaplaincy. It’s very much a “ it takes a village to raise a child” thing with monies raised assisting local students in need, as well as purchasing new books for a Library in Vanuatu that was totally destroyed by a cyclone.

Getting new carpets is no easy task. It requires packing, moving, cleaning and restyling. It’s the cleaning that I’m really impressed with – NOT. Dusting skirting boards and killing Daddy Long-Leg Spiders is not exciting stuff. Neither is climbing up ladders to wipe down the ceiling fans. But you know the worst of it? Having to wash the curtains because they look so in need when all the rooms are cleaned and cleared only to have them fall apart in your hands, as it was the dust keeping them together all along. Yep, new curtains required pronto.

Some say that “a change is as good as a holiday”. Dismiss that as utter garbage – people who say that tend to be idiots.

Anyway, I’m in my pretty red frock, a burst of sunshine at the Railway Station awaiting my transport into the City for the last day of my working week. I throw up. Literally. And there is nowhere to hide in a sea of dreary black and browns. No subtlety about it.

I’m back in bed now. Not surrounded by books, nor cups of tea, nor DVDs, as I’m still living within a prison of cardboard boxes. The Fragonia Oil, with its antibacterial qualities, is in my diffuser clearing my head, and the multicoloured doona cover keeps me buoyed.


Picking up quickly is a must: I have a date with Menopause The Musical.

And remember : “Life is about using the whole box of crayons.” ~RuPaul


• Except for my sister-in-law who shears her own alpacas, dying their wool for felting and then creates these outfits that would impress Picasso. Gorgeous, but the colours remind me of those bad old days of the 70’s ……and kiddies’ unicorn parties.


In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton

When I was still living in the family home Friday nights meant gathering around the television to watch a film from the “Golden Age of Hollywood”. Black and Whites, Classics, and Who Dunnits, all included a five minute presentation by film critic and journalist, Bill Collins, who just bubbled with enthusiasm, sharing information about the actors, filming techniques, theme music and all sorts of trivia connected to the film. Mothers, grandmothers and maiden aunts adored Bill Collins. I loved his personal library containing books which had since been turned into movies. His collection was massive.


At the recent charity book sale I picked up a book called In Harm’s Way, which because it had an illustration of a ship on the front cover I purchased thinking it was connected to a John Wayne movie of the same name.


Big mistake. In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton tells the true story of the USS Indianapolis which was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine in the dying days of WW2.

Of the 1100 plus men on board at the time, less than 320 survived, having spent almost five days in the sea battling oil slicks, thirst, hypothermia, and shark attacks, until their rescue. Yes, you read that right: shark attacks. All I can say is how bloody awful.

Despite the content the author has excelled in writing in a totally jargon free manner so you don’t have to have an understanding of ships, or the Navy, to grasp the situation (which is just as well for me).


The story is told in a very personal format weaving the background of three of the survivors – the Captain, the ship’s Doctor, and a young Private – from beginning to end, with lots of quotes included from other survivors.

Not only is the sinking of the ship and the resultant mayhem a tragedy in itself, but the Captain was also court-martialed and became a broken man, finally committing suicide.

I read this book in a single sitting, wanting to know more. As usual with such dreadful wartime tales there are also the wonderful, uplifting stories of the strength of the human spirit that make this old heart sing.

An interesting footnote at the end stated that where the survivor’s efforts to clear Captain McVay of blame failed, an American High School student, as part of a history project, was able to make the politicians listen, albeit too late. Way to go!

Somewhere in an unpacked carton in my garage I feel I may have this story on DVD, but it has to be twenty years old. I just have this faint recollection of sharks and a red headed actor in navy whites. You know, the ranger who was the first bloke on television without pants……Yes, that chappie.

You know I’ll be wading through boxes tomorrow, don’t you?


Whip Bird by Robert Drewe – Book Review.



Hugh Cleary has spent months organising a reunion of all the descendants of Conor Cleary, who immigrated from Ireland in 1854. The reunion is staged at Whipbird, Hugh and wife, Christine’s, vineyard near Ballarat, Victoria, and is a weekend event featuring – surprise! -lots of wine.

The scene is set. Over 1000 descendants from across Australia and overseas converge on the property, mostly wearing Team colours to identify their branch of the family tree. Knowing your kin isn’t compulsory. Lots of Irish relatives with the odd Asian thrown in for good measure -it’s that kind of weekend.

From here the novel is just like any other large family function in Australia, especially Christmas Day at Brizzy May’s Home, with an assortment of family and friends (and alcoholic drinks). Just the run of the mill conversations take place : politics, sport, multiculturalism, environmentalism, who is sleeping with whom, who has had Botox treatments. Nothing out of the norm.

Indeed, the beauty of this novel is that the author excels at “people watching” and his observations do raise more than a fair share of smiles. Middle aged ladies with their bat wings, the fashion trend of wearing shoes without socks, corporate greed within the banking sector, indigenous Australians making good football players, and the gentrification of city pubs. All the stuff you talk about at the office Water cooller really.

There is also a back story which has Conor, who was at the Eureka Stockade in Australia’s colonial days, attending the reunion. You will have to read for yourself the mechanics of this situation.

Two hundred pages in and the constant commentary began to grate. Topical, certainly, but I became weary of the whole exercise. This was my first Robert Drewe novel so I’m not sure if this effort was meant to be sarcastic or clever. Does Drewe like contemporary Australia or is he having a shot?

My interest waned at the Sidney Nolan incident as I felt the author had at that point gone over the top. Up until then, it was all totally believable, and I too felt like I was attending the reunion, camping under the gum trees, surrounded by grape vines, and with a vino in hand.










The Latest Trend In Book Shelf Placements. Yes or No?

Angela Mollard is an Australian journalist and social commentator. My youngest daughter alerted me to an article written by Mollard in the weekend paper.

The article opens with:

“LAST year when I planned to sell my house I had some stylists come in to make it look, well, stylish.
The first thing they did was pull all the books off my floor-to-ceiling shelves and stack them, with ruthless efficiency, in colour-coded piles.
Then they put them back on the shelves in little collections of colours with some of the books standing upright and others stacked horizontally.On top of the books they placed things from round the house — a globe, some colourful tiles from Mexico, a vintage camera, a photo of a sycamore pod and a bird’s nest I’d found under a tree in the front garden”.


My youngest daughter is working her way through the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die List. Many of the books on the List are quite old and hard to come by. One of her greatest joys is ruffling through antiquarian book shops where she will happily lose an hour in pursuit of a title. Most of these books she keeps where they find their “forever home” on her bookshelves. Some, upon reading, go elsewhere.

My youngest is in the process of relocating and is currently living in a state of fear. You see, her elder sister, the semi professional renovator and lover of all things minimalist, is determined to run with the interior decoration of the new abode. I am ashamed to admit that she is a huge fan of colour coordinated book spines.

Mollard warns us that “ a British interior designer called Lauren Coleman recently stacked her books backwards with the spines to the wall in order to keep the colour palette of her living room “neutral”.


What the heck?

I always thought you purchased a property on the basis of three things :

0. Position. Position. Position
0. Daggiest house in the best street
0. And It’s all about the “bones” of a house
0. Must be close to a variety of eateries and a decent dress shop.

So, I fibbed about that last one, but I do not lie when I share with you that no financial advisor ever told me to colour coordinate my book spines in order to pocket a little extra of the folding stuff in a sale.

Talk about a First World problem.

I am aware that my feet are firmly planted in another era, when indoor plants and macrame planters were on trend. What, they are back, did I hear you say?

That at least gives me hope that a bookshelf full of individuality and much loved reads will be back in favour in the not too distant future.

Today’s Pop Quiz:

Yes or No. Do you colour coordinate your book spines?



The Returning by Russell J Perry – Australian Author Challenge 2018

If you’ve even spent any length of time in Queensland, Australia, this book will tease all your senses. From the mango trees, the smell of cane fires burning, to the views across to Hichinbrook Island – goodness, I could even taste the cold ale at The Breakfast Creek Hotel in Brisbane.

The book opens with the death of an elderly gent. Elsewhere, within minutes, a baby boy is born, and we just know there has to be some sort of connection.

We then jump ahead 30 odd years and meet Jacob Shaunessy, a young man in his early thirties, who is dissatisfied with his lot in life. Jacob has vivid dreams, which include exotic landscapes, and an even more exotic young woman. He resigns from his job in the city and heads to Far North Queensland to start a new life and to chase  the source of his dreams.

Jacob becomes involved with the local sugar cane community in which he lives and works. His dreams lead him to the secrets of a previous generation, to mystery, and mayhem in this sleepy little township in the deep north.


This is an interesting novel in that it does makes you think about the relevance of dreams and the question of reincarnation. The back stories of all the characters are believable and interesting, and it is an easy book to read.

The author has successfully conveyed the essence of North Queensland, right down to the elderly Italian widows dressed all in black for mourning, without being overly wordy. The sudden downpours of rainfall, the heat that makes clothes stick to your body, and even the seemingly laid back policeman pursuing justice, are all very authentic.

Yes, my familiarity with the landscape probably garnered my interest quickly, though it’s the storytelling that maintained it.

Reincarnation? Up for debate. Vivid Dreams? Now those I understand. Every night is like a eight hour movie session in technicolor at my place.

High Five for an other Australian Indie Author!


Updates Only.

News in from the Uniting Church’s Hands Up monthly newsletter states : “January saw the Brisbane Bookfest and what a whopper it was! Over $1.459 million raised to support our 24 hour Lifeline Crisis Support line which was over $200k above the target!”

That’s a lot of preloved books, comics, magazines and CDs sold for charity. And here’s the rub – Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city. What must the figures be like in Sydney and Melbourne? And who said it was the time of electronic reading devices?

We do it all again mid year. I’m already squirrelling my gold coins away!


The Little Street Library Project which I instigated will be fully functioning by late March. After spotting one of these mini constructions whilst holidaying I initiated the building of something similar on my own front lawn, only to realise that in a cul de sac there would be minimal traffic to take advantage of the facility.


So I took the concept to my local Councillor who ran with the idea of erecting a mini library in the local parkland. Construction has been completed by the local Men’s Shed as a community project using steel for anti vandalism purposes. The Councillor has arranged for the locking and unlocking of the Little Street Library to be part of the daily tasks of the cleaner, employed by Council, when he attends to his duties each morning and night. So that’s kicking Vandalism’s butt also.


So why the delay? In an attempt to beautify the area in which the Little Street Library will be installed, and because the surrounding area is native bushland that abounds with wildlife, the Councillor has organised a bushland mural which will soften the look of the building to which the facility will be attached, adding to the total ambience – touch wood.

This is the pattern of the mural:


The books are ready for inclusion, thanks to friends for donations, especially the magazines and children’s books. I’m wondering if I should add a couple of small family board games…….


I also have a box of pre loved DVDs and CDs , all very playable, though have concerns about possible claims of damage to electronics. I’m told a couple of blokey sports books would also be appreciated. Yeah, like I have anything of that genre laying around…….

The LOML is donating a couple of books festooned with Dragons, and is adamant that the collection include a book covering chakras/meridians/astrological influences. Because the local Leaf Blowing Brigade will just love that!

Any additions required, you think?


Have You Ever Cried At A Rock Concert?

I have.

Last night at the Queen and Adam Lambert Concert playing in the barn at the swamp. Oops, I meant the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Lead guitarist, Brian May, one of the two original Queen members, still has “it”. Seventy years of age and I remain pea green with envy of his hair. Yes, it may have turned grey, but look at those curls. I hate men with good hair, don’t you? It is just so unfair. And his prowess on the gee-tar? Simply phenomenal.

The original drummer, Roger Taylor, may have walked on stage looking like he could play Santa at the local Shopping Centre next Christmas, but he did not lose a beat. Just brilliant. The drumming duel with a young fellow, forty years his junior, only emphasised his expertise.

Amazing musicians, and much thanks to my beautiful girls for flying in from cooler parts of the country for a night on the town with the “old bag”.

Young Adam Lambert is pretty, flamboyant, a showman, and charismatic. I think I’m in love…… ( Look, a bloke who comes on stage in black pants and a sparkley dress – sparklier than anything than I’ve ever worn – but still has me excited has to be good. Right?)

Yes, I had consumed a wine or two with lunch. Yes, I am on the wrong side of 50.

What brought me to tears?

Two things.

The realisation that these were Rock Gods performing, who in all likelihood, I may never have the opportunity to see perform live again.

And just like this video: Freddy Mercury. There was a “ kinda magic” in the barn last night. (Courtesy of You Tube)

And just because this is totally devoid of any reference to books, here’s the Pre Concert lunch that I prepared:-

Steamed fish goyzas , oysters kilpatrick, bbq prawns, marinated octopus, deep fried coconut prawns, sand crab, beer battered scallops and fresh prawns. Home baked whole meal bread too, but could someone please remind me to buy a decent bread knife…