Villers-Bretonneux, #kindjuly and nuts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Trails:)

Answering The Call and Gilgandra

It’s been a long day, an emotional day, and a girl does have a weakness for sparkling Shiraz. No melancholy, just thoughts.

Memories of a car trip twenty years ago, long buried, come to the surface. I’m not sad – no need to head for the hills. Please stay put.

Pocahontas, my eldest, is school captain. I refuse to allow her to attend the annual school excursion to the Snowy. 7 days on a bus with 60 other kiddies, aged 10 years or under, to spend three hours playing in the snow at Thredbo seems totally ridiculous. It’s not that I’m a helicopter parent. Afterall both my daughters have been travelling the world solo since they they were 18 years of age. But sorry, I’m a mother with a semblance of a brain and discover that for every child from a school in Queensland that visits Canberra 1000 kms away the school receives $100.00 per child. Effectively, this excursion is a fundraiser for the school. ( It’s not the Shiraz that makes me cynical. It has always been thus).

Mo, Pocahontas and Cat Balou

We plan a family holiday to coincide with the school excursion. Best family holiday ever. Country towns full of history. Lots of fun, lots of memories. My girls can tell you where Henry Lawson is buried, where Dorathea McKellar was born, can recite “My Country”, and can tell you about Captain Thunderbolt. Kids are such sponges, aren’t they?

We spend a night in Gilgandra, country NSW. Sheep and wheat country. A sad little town in that it is like thousands of other little country towns that have come to a standstill. It was known as the town with the most windmills back then. We loved it. You know why?

Gilgandra is also known as the “Coo-ee Town”. 

“Cooee!(/ˈkuːiː/) is a shout used in Australia, usually in the bush, to attract attention, find missing people, or indicate one’s own location. When done correctly—loudly and shrilly—a call of “cooee” can carry over a considerable distance.The distance one’s cooee call travels can be a matter of competitive pride. It is also known as a call of help, which can blend in with different natural sounds in the bush.”From Wikipedia

Back in October 1915 two Gilgandra men decide to do something about the declining enlistment for World War 1. A march from Gilgandra to Sydney is undertaken. As the miles pass the number of marchers increases. Three hundred and twenty miles of Australian sun, with little official backup,no radios, phone boxes nor mobile phones. The men rely on the generosity and love of bush folk along the way. 35 men begin the march. 263 men answer the Coo-ee.

So proud of their history this little community, including service organisations, church and school communities, put together a CD of songs reflecting that period of their townships history’s. Yeah, you know I’m a sucker……..

So much history, so many memories. Wait till I share what happened when the school captain refused to wear all white to Graduation.

Lest we Forget.

Just before ANZAC Day @ The AWM.

I’ve recently touched on some of my favourite monuments located within the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra – without even scratching the surface!

By far the most moving and thought provoking tribute occurs on the evenings of 23 and 24 April until the commencement of the Dawn Service on Anzac Day on the 25th.

Between dusk and dawn on these dates images of Australian servicemen and servicewomen from a variety of actions and battles across the history of Australia’s Military Service will be projected onto the Australian War Memorial’s façade.

Many images are black and white, some are in colour, and they are all authentic photos taken over periods of our nations military history.

It’s already coats and boots weather in our Capital City, yet the cold weather wont prevent all demographics from taking the time out to view this spectacular event. This is one of those lump-in-your-throat occasions which shouldn’t be missed if you are travelling through the A.C.T.

I did have more photos though they were lost when that phone went through the washing machine. Oooops.

A girlfriend crocheted the above tribute to the ANZACS for me with the colours representing the sun, the sand, blood and the poppies. She used scraps of wool left over from a much larger version that she created for herself as a double bed blanket. It is nothing short of spectacular. Valmae is the daughter of a Changi POW. Thank you, my friend x

Anzac Parade and the AWM.

Anzac Parade starts at the steps of the Australian War Memorial, in Canberra, and ends at Lake Burley Griffin. On the other side of the lake is Parliament House (which houses our politicians.) 

View from the top of Mt Ainslie

The Parade is visually powerful, with a red gravel central strip and dark eucalypt ‘walls’. The red gravel of the central strip was originally made from crushed Canberra house bricks. The material was chosen in part for the similarity to the ‘crunch’ made by military boots during a parade (and some suggest refers to blood). The ‘walls’ are created by the Victorian Blue Gum, Eucalyptus bicostata, and the planter boxes, which contrast in colour to the crushed red brick paving, have the native New Zealand plant Hebe ‘Autumn Glory’ growing in them, symbolising the ANZAC connection.

Taking a self guided walking tour along the Parade is something I do every visit to Canberra, regardless of the season. The fragrance from the Eucalypts and the overhanging branches are stunning. At dawn or dusk you’re more than likely to spot a grazing kangaroo, and the parrots and cockatoos that feed on the flowering gums are a constant reminder that Canberra is indeed our “Bush Capital”.

Lining each side of the Parade are monuments commemorating the military conflicts in which Australia has played a part. It officially opened on 25 April 1965 to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the ANZAC landing in Gallipoli.

One of the most recent additions to Anzac Parade, and also my favourite, is a monument to the Boer War. It was unveiled late last year.

The monument shows Australian troopers mounted on horses breaking through the trees of Anzac Parade. The significance of the four troopers is that they represent a four-man section, a formation for fighting and patrolling. When they went into combat, three men would dismount while the fourth would lead the horses to cover.  Letters from a soldier are at the feet of the horses.

There is also a nod to Australian Bush Poet and journalist, A B (Banjo) Paterson, who served in both the Boer War and WW1.

There are no Entry Fees to visit the Australian War Memorial.

See you in a couple of weeks!

“Weary” Dunlop at the AWM.

Edward “Weary” Dunlop was working as a Surgeon in the UK when WW2 started. He enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps (6th Division) almost immediately and was posted in December 1939 as Medical Officer, Headquarters, Australian Overseas Base, Jerusalem, and appointed Acting Assistant Director of Medical Services. He was promoted to Major in 1940 and appointed Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services on the staff of the Australian Corps Headquarters and AIF Headquarters in Gaza and Alexandria, serving in both Greece and Crete. Remaining with this unit as senior surgeon (and second in charge) he subsequently served with them in Tobruk.

Following the withdrawal from Tobruk Dunlop was transferred to Java with the 6th and 7th Divisions where he took command of the Bandung Allied General Hospital. When Java fell he became a Prisoner of War.

Dunlop and the soldiers working under his command were then transferred to Singapore and the POWs referred to as “Dunlop Force” were then sent to work on the Burma-Thailand railway. 

He became a legend among Australian POWs as an inspiration for their own survival, working tirelessly to find solutions to a myriad of medical issues.

Dunlop’s commitment to exservice men in the post war years endeared him to the entire country.

His many awards included the Order of the British Empire (1947), Knight Batchelor (1969), Companion of the Order of Australia (1987), Knight Grand Cross, Order of St John of Jerusalem (1992), Knight Grand Cross (1st Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Royal Crown of Thailand (1993), Honorary Fellowship of the Imperial College of London, Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Honorary Life Member of the RSL and Life Governor of the Royal Women’s Hospital and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. In 1977 he was named Australian of the Year and in 1988 one of the 200 Great Australians.

I believe that to his mind the greatest honour he received was the respect and affection of his men for whom he continued to fight for their repatriation benefits until the end of his days.

I grew up on a diet of Dunlop which only encouraged my interest in later years. His War Diaries are a fascinating read in that he recounts the conditions under which the POWs survived, sometimes boringly so with accounts of repetitive rice rationing, as well as many of the major medical procedures undertaken to save lives with minimal or no medicines or equipment.

Interestingly, these past ten years I have collected numerous friends who are the children of Dunlop Force. One fella’s Dad worked on Cholera Hill where the bodies of POWs were cremated, and where Weary’s diary notes were safely hidden on scraps of paper as the Japanese were too frightened to intrude.

I found this children’s book today on sale at the local Post Office. I’m the boring Aunt who bitches no end about Disney princesses and fluff. Ten copies on order:)

The One Day Of The Year

One of the great benefits of retirement is the accessibility to theatrical performances. No longer am I confined to attending the more popular weekend shows where you run the risk of being allocated seats in the nose bleed section, especially if, like me, you get peeved about having to fork out for tickets 9 months before the event. ( I have a tirade down pat about this but won’t bore you here).

More free time also allows you to experiment with different kinds of performance art at less conventional theatre spaces. This year I’ve already visited three theatres that I didn’t even know existed! It’s been great fun, and you know what? Theatre can be as cheap as chips. No, I’m not getting any Seniors or Pensioner discounts to reduce ticket prices – if you hunt around some of these lesser known venues charge between $20 or $25 for an evening of great entertainment.

Next month Brisbane is hosting its annual Theatre Anywhere Festival, with over 400 performances happening in parks, garden nurseries, on buses, and shopping centre car parks. If you’re local look up Anywhere.Is. Last year I attended a show underground in what used to serve as a water reservoir in colonial days. The building was as interesting as the play.

Next week I am off to the local Community Theatre’s Rehearsal Night (fundraiser) for The One Day Of The Year. Written by Australian lan Seymour in 1958, this was compulsory school curriculum reading. At 14 I hated it. And Chaucer. What sane person didn’t?

Alf’s son Hughie and his girlfriend Jan plan to document Anzac Day for the university newspaper, focusing on the drinking on Anzac Day. For the first time in his life Hughie refuses to attend the dawn service with Alf. When he watches the march on television at home with his mother and Wacka, he is torn between outrage at the display and love for his father

I’ve always enjoyed theatre and once played D’Artgnan in a high school French class production. A friend asked me to join a theatrical group earlier in the year which I declined though I am attending a fortnightly group which includes a local playwright specialising in convict Australia, and an eccentric 80 year old screenwriter for the BBC. We clicked straight away – he carries a torch for Hedy Lamar and my notebooks are covered in photos of you-know-who.

Who has time to work?

Simpson and his Donkey.

In the 1960’s at school when we were learning about ANZAC Day and the Gallipoli Campaign, it was all about Simpson and his donkey. That’s it, other than it being an opportunity for the boys to wear their Cub uniforms on the day and the girls, their Red Cross apron and cape. No apron for this black duck – I wore Rosemary pinned to my shirt straight from my mother’s garden.

John (Jack) Simpson Kirkpatrick (6 July 1892 – 19 May 1915), who served under the name John Simpson, was a stretcher bearer with the 1st Australian Division during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I. After landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, Simpson began to use donkeys to provide first aid and carry wounded soldiers to the beach, for evacuation. Simpson and the donkeys continued this work for three and a half weeks, often under fire, until he was killed.

Interestingly, Bill the Bastard, the waler horse I recently read about, was the one who would carry Simpson’s body back down the valley when Simpson was shot by a spray of shrapnel.

(Note to self : Interconnectedness. Amazing stuff).

Not a good photo of the statue of Simpson and his Donkey at the Australian War Memorial. It remains very much a part of the ANZAC Legend and as such is difficult to get a look in with the tourists.

What I do like are these chairs located in the onsite Cafe, Poppies. Of course, my daughter virtually disowned me when I enquired how much they were to purchase, and whether the price included Carrot Cake and Coffee.