Elyne Mitchell and The Silver Brumby

This Clayton’s Lockdown that we’ve been experiencing since New Year,( the lockdown you’re having when you’re not having a lockdown), also known as the Shadow Lockdown, seems to be more difficult to endure this time round. Maybe it’s because the media keep insisting we are all going to cop a dose regardless, or alternatively there is little more to accomplish in the decluttering and home maintenance area.

Or maybe it is the fact that any travel adventures were dashed from Day 1 of 2022.

Last year I discovered there was an Annual Man From Snowy River Bush Festival in the wilds of Victoria. Lots of whip cracking, camp ovens, horses, markets, poetry and bush music. See here :https://bushfestival.com.au/whatson

Anyway, not going to happen. 

Good news homegrown bloggers and a little distraction, especially if you are not a tennis or cricket fan:-

A feature of this Festival is the Elyne Mitchell Photo Story Award.

Who was Elyne Mitchell?

Mitchell was the  author of a series of children’s books very popular with young girls, in the 50’s and 60’s : The Silver Brumby. There were 13 novels in this series in total and she also wrote non fiction books including her family history which I would love to read (her father was Henry Chauvel from the Australian Lighthorse Brigade in WW1 and she married a Changi POW who later became a politician) which included her own photographs, many of which were taken in the area where this Festival is taking place.

Hands up those who remember The Silver Brumby? 

Confession: I was never into equine flesh nor did I enjoy Black Beauty or Flicka. Too sad. More a Rin Tin Tin kind of girl…..

All photo story entries (maximum of 200 words)  must have “a specific reference to the theme “The Overflow” and an Australasian rural experience and must be the writer’s own work. Clear images must be provided. Written entries should demonstrate the significance of the image to the entry.”

There is an entry fee and th closing date is 14th of February 2022. More details here: https://bushfestival.com.au/whatson/elyne-mitchell-photo-story-award-competition.

I’m so over gardening, rearranging the house, and playing with new recipes this is going to be my shiny new plaything for the weekend. Looking at old holiday snaps might soothe the soul too 🙂

The 99th Koala – a Book Review

The 99th Koala by Kailas Wild is not the book to read if you are following authors aiming to be rewarded with the Booker Prize. This is a personal account of an ordinary man during extraordinary times who did some truly magnificent things. Written from the heart this is a book that is raw, with photos that will have you smiling one moment and wiping away a tear the next. Indeed, this is one of those books you’d buy just for the photos alone.

The 2019-20 Kangaroo Island fires burnt 211,474 hectares of land and resulted in two deaths, 87 homes destroyed and 59,730 livestock lost. The disaster affected nearly half of the island’s land mass and accounted for around 75 per cent of all hectares burnt in South Australia during the Black Summer fire season.  Who didn’t tune into the nightly evening news to watch the march of these deadly bushfires along the coast of  Australia?

Steven Selwood from South Australia Veterinary Emergency Management claimed 46,000 koalas were thought to be on the island before the bushfires. It is estimated as few as 9,000 remain, as the landscape was turned into scorched earth by the blazes.

Introducing Kailas Wild, self employed arborist, State Emergency Services Volunteer, and a conservationist with native animal rehabilitation training. Although the Australian Defence Force was on hand at Kangaroo Island assisting with the rescue of farm animals and wildlife a cry went out for more volunteers with tree climbing experience, and Kai drove for nearly 18 hours from Sydney to Kangaroo Island to answer the call.

For 7 weeks Kai worked long hours often utilising his own search and rescue techniques for koalas requiring medical attention. His ” days alone amongst burnt trees and dead animals” often left him emotionally and physically drained and ” starting each day crying into his Cornflakes”.

Kai successfully rescued 100 koalas which were transported to a makeshift Koala Hospital on the Island. Do you remember the media images sent around the world of koalas in laundry baskets receiving medical attention?  

Courtesy Reuters

Some koalas that looked healthy died of smoke inhalation and internal damages,  some died from nasty falls and stress, but many were rehabilitated and regained their health and were reintroduced to the wild including numerous joey koalas.

Two facts I found interesting :

  1. After a bushfire the blackened trees start to spurt new growth. I always thought this is a good thing. Guess what : fresh shoots on trees are known as epicormic growth and have a higher level of toxicity that makes them inedible for koalas. From the trees perspective this is a defence mechanism when it is trying to recover from fires.*
  2. Koalas in a tree may look healthy but it may well be that their paws are burnt so badly that any movement is extremely painful. These koalas generally starve to death………..and I simply can’t recount the tales about all the burns  that led to the peeling away of skin. 😢

Kai writes ” we all shared the profound sense of grief at the loss of over a billion of our unique wild animals, along with their habitats. The number was, and still is, beyond comprehension.”

This is the story of what one ordinary man could achieve under horrific circumstances. Let’s all take some inspiration from Kailas Wild.

This Book Review is an entry in the Gaia / Nature Reading Challenge.

If you sign up and submit an entry before the end of February Sharon from Gumtreesandgalaxies.com will donate an Australian children’s book about wombats to a new charity aimed at promoting children’s literacy You can read more here :

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/96945328/posts/3773908941#comments

*It has since been established that some koalas can adapt to eating new growth.

The Books That Made Us and Ham

Late last year Australian actor, Claudia Karvan, hosted a three part television documentary that explored the stories that have shaped our nation’s identity in Books That Made Us.

Courtesy of the ABC

Claudia met with some of our most beloved and brilliant writers, including Booker Prize winners and best-selling authors and writers who have penned seminal stories, such as Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Helen Garner, Tim Winton, David Malouf, Kate Grenville, Christos Tsiolkas, Thomas Keneally, Liane Moriarty, Trent Dalton, Kim Scott, and Melissa Lucashenko.

Did anyone watch this series?

I had read a handful of the books listed over the years though my Zoom Book Club have determined that we will read from the Books That Made Us List over the coming months starting with Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River.” I’m loving it!

A fellow Little Community Librarian in Western Australia – Leah’s Little Library – has massaged a Reading Challenge to better reflect Australian culture. I’ve attached if you are looking for direction in your reading this year.

With a house full of people and dogs my holiday reading has been pathetic with the TBR once again out of control. I had a date to visit the Lifeline Bookfest in the city later in the month. Maybe it’s just as well it has been cancelled because of you-know-what ( which we refuse to give a name in an endeavour to reduce its power).


And the really good news?

The Christmas Ham made it through to January 10th. So two things : 1) I never want to see ham again and 2) let the ham and vege soup making process begin.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu – Book Review

Frank Sinatra popularised a song in the late 60’s that contained the lyrics “Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again, too few to mention”. My Way – can you hear it playing in your head now? – has recently been knocked off the top of the charts as the most popular song to have played at a funeral. As at last October the perennial favourite dropped to number two in the annual rankings, being replaced by Gerry & The Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Anyway, I totally get the sentiment. Even with Covid my life has been blessed. My only personal regret is not having made it to the Northern Territory to visit my daughter due to border closures, especially following the arrival of the country’s finest project, young Harry Kilom.

Kakadu National Park is in the Northern Territory, roughly 180 south east of Darwin, the capital city. It covers an area of 19,804 km2 making it the second largest national park in Australia. It is the size of Wales and nearly half the size of Switzerland to give you some perspective.

Our First Nations people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites as well as the diversity of the fauna and flora. Its cultural and natural values were recognised internationally when the park was World Heritage Listed.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu won an award in the 2021 Children’s Book Council Of Australia for “books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style.

Written by Pamela Freeman this book explores the changing seasons of Kakadu – the Dry and the Wet, then back to Dry – and how this impacts on the animals and plants that live in the region. Liz Anelli’s illustrations are simple though easily recognisable even by younger readers.

Each page includes a simple storyline about the environment in its various stages and in a different font at the bottom of each page is a paragraph of factual information, though still in language for younger readers to understand.

Interestingly, although we label the seasons of Kakadu the Dry and the Wet our Indigenous people believe that there are indeed six seasons. This is important because following the seasons is vital for their food supply.

One of the greatest dangers to the natural environment of Kakadu is the Cane Toad, imported in the early 1900’s to combat beetles hurting our sugar cane industry and which are poisonous to our native birdlife and marsupials. A note at the end of the book gives thanks to “the native water rats who have figured out how to safely eat cane toads”.

This is one beautiful children’s book and if you are unable to visit the NT it isn’t a bad substitute. Young Harry Kilom just loves the baru – crocodiles.

( For Gum Trees And Galaxies Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge ).

November In Books

Not a satisfying month for books. Could be my brain fuzz having to spend days dealing with a major roof leak, tradies and the insurance company.

Finished Nicole Moriarty’s You Need To Know, Small Acts Of Defiance by Michelle Wright and The J M Barrie’s Ladies Swimming Club by Barbara Zwitser. Anything else is a blurr.

Off to the local Library to listen to Heather Morris on Friday, author of The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, so hope I can get the head into gear by then.

With all the rain I’ve been enjoying the garden and preparing seedlings to put in the Little Community Library for Christmas. Pumpkin seedlings mainly : my small attempt to eradicate hideous plastic pumpkins imported from China for next November.

I’ve also rescued and groomed some bears in need of adoption for the Community Library. Recycling and Sustainability, one step at a time……


This weeks movie watch was The Magic Pudding, an animated version of Norman Lindsay’s 1918 Children’s Classic. Albert, the Magic Pudding, and Bunyip Bluegum the koala, are characters much loved by those of a certain vintage, right up there with the Seven Little Australians.


The movie, released in 2000, featured the voices of Sam Neill, John Cleese, Jack Thompson, Hugo Weaving, and Toni Collette. Top shelf. It didn’t sit well with me for numerous reasons, particularly the ocker accents, and I think the humour will be lost on the Little Person. I’ll stick to a long time favourite for baby sitting purposes : Cujo, the rabid Saint Bernard.

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Holly The Holstein and 11/11.

Despite disappointment earlier in the week I have had a win with a gorgeous rhyming book perfect for the likes of Harry Kilometres and other Little People.

Holly The Holstein is Russell Smith’s first children’s picture book with its roots going back to his childhood growing up on a dairy farm in Millaa Millaa in Far North Queensland. After completing an Arts degree Smith went on to graduate as an officer in the Australian Army, eventually retiring as a Colonel.  ( It’s a tenuous connection to the military but still should score brownie points with the son-in-law).

Holly is a dairy cow and when this book was published earlier in the year many dairy farmers were really struggling with floods and deregulation of the industry. In Far North Queensland where there were once over 200 dairy farms there are now only 38. Smith is therefore donating all profits from Holly The Holstein to assist dairy farmers doing it tough and has already raised in excess of $10k. 

Country kiddies have been dressing up as Holly The Holstein for this years Book Week which is good change from wretched Elsa and Bluey.

In other news, the Cleveland Cenotaph had a good crowd for the 11th of the 11th which was wonderful following the last two years of major restrictions.  It was heartwarming to see kindy kids taking in the proceedings; touch wood this will ensure these ceremonies will be commemorated for years to come.

Some Real Duds

The front cover of Red Lead – The Naval Cat With Nine Lives by Roland Perry grabbed my attention with the announcement   ” the legendary Australian ship’s cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway”.

A $1 investment – what could go wrong?

61 pages in and my intuition kicked in necessitating the need to research some military websites, including the Australian War Memorial and the Naval Institute.

Guess what? 

A work of fiction. Very misleading and disappointing. A total non-story.

The reality is Redlead, like many of the cruisers crew, did not survive the sinking of HMAS Perth and there was no Dan Bolt, the ex veterinarian who adopted the cat at sea.

Indeed one reviewer summed it up thus: “Finally in this case you can ‘judge a book by its cover’.  The photo on the front cover of a cat sitting in the gun barrel is not Redlead; it’s the ship’s cat of HMS Cornwall taken in 1933. Also the front cover wording stating the “cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway” is false.”

61 pages. What a time waster!

Next up, The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French, another $1 investment.

I’ve mentioned Jackie French AM , Australian author, previously. Not only is she a historian, ecologist and wombat carer, she was 2014–15 Australian Children’s Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. Love her work, I really do.

Young Harry Kilometres, the grand child, is the product of a military family. Indeed, he was born in a rural and remote area of Australia because of his father’s military involvement. For overseas readers that means crocodiles, poison jellyfish, snakes galore, wild camels, and bison on the golf course. So little Harry is already ensconced in certain traditions. He’s been practising the manoeuvres to parachute out of a plane since he was three months old  and his library of army history is already enviable.

So I just had to pick this book up for Harry’s bedtime reading for his coming visit. Beautifully illustrated by Bruce Whatley with a sprinkling of vintage photos and Jackie French, writer of children’s books.

DEPRESSING

I appreciate that Gallipoli was not an uplifting experience however this book is not the kind of book to hand to a child as a learning tool. Jackie and Bruce were clearly on the red wine when they dreamt up this concept. I’m thinking an Art Gallery or Museum would have been far more suitable.

And you know what? Two lousy books in a row can destroy your day.

October Books and a Visitor

A great many books meandered through this house during October thanks to two local Rotary fundraisers. The two $2 Mystery Boxes that I purchased for the Little Community Library, each containing no less than twenty books, are stacked in the garage awaiting rotation. Although mostly exLibrary books there are many that have held my attention, including my favourite read for October : Fractured.

Written by now Australian lass and Psychiatrist, Dawn Barker, this debut novel is about a happy family who have just had their first child which results in infanticide. It looks at the differing viewpoints of all family members and is a confronting read. Her second book is about surrogacy and her third addiction and family breakdowns, so Barker is putting all her medical training to good use.

The TBR pile is breeding, along with the tomatoes, with the humid weather.

I’ve just finished the next book club read – The Newcomer by another Aussie lass, Laura Woollett. Based loosely on the real life murder of a Sydney woman on Norfolk Island (infamous as it was the Island’s first ever murder) this was another confronting read because of its ugliness and brutality, which is in total contrast to the island’s spectacular beauty. I didn’t like the book, though it has made me think. That is often said to be the sign of a good story , isn’t it?


N I.

Starting to get organised for a visit from the Little People : the Labrador and Harry Kilom. Anything located two foot or closer to floor level is being relocated to safer territory and I’m having wonderful fun going through my daughters’ old children’s books. Especially Koala Lou by Mem Fox having had a visit from Bruce over the weekend.

Always welcome, Bruce.

Murder At The Dunwich Museum

It hasn’t been a fun week with my only outings having been to put the rubbish bins out for collection and to check the letterbox.

In between Lockdowns (yes, plural) I did manage to attend an author talk organised by the Library in a nearby park. It was lovely to sit outside in the sunshine and listen to an informative talk by Dr Karen Thurecht, a medical anthropologist by trade.

Thurecht has recently released her first mystery novel, Murder At The Dunwich Asylum, which piqued my interest because the location makes up part of my playground.

The Dunwich Benevolent Asylum was established by the Queensland Government to provide accomodation for the destitute, aged and infirm and operated from 1886 to 1946. Located at Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay over 21,000 people were admitted during its operation with around 1000 to 1600 at any one time.

Although I haven’t yet read the book I enjoyed learning more about the Asylum’s history, and look forward to Thurecht’s coming novels which also feature familiar settings : the cane fields near Jacobs Well and Frogs Hollow, now known as Brisbane.

My Lockdown reading isn’t going well. Thank goodness for Daniel Day-Lewis sans shirt in The Last Of The Mohicans to keep a girl sane.

Only 16 hours until the postman is due to drive past again……

Longreach – Lonely or Otherwise

With house guests and travels my recent reading history is abysmal.

Lonely In Longreach” by Australian author, Eva Scott, is chick lit that I picked up after having spent a few days in Longreach, 1000 kms north west of Brisbane.

I wont bore you with more holiday snaps though Longreach is home to some really big hitters in the tourist department. The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which opened in 1988, showcases the history and the culture of life in rural Australia. It is nothing short of spectacular : informative, user friendly, and totally fascinating.

Sitting in the outside arena watching a drover working his horses in the daily show reminded me of Errol Flynn in the 1950 movie Montana. (Yeah, I wonder about the things that go around in my head too.)

The Qantas Founders Museum is another Must Do as is the Sunset Cruise on the Thomson River.

All of these venues are mentioned in the book “Lonely In Longreach”. Which in turn had me thinking of another movie : Sleepless In Seattle. Same premise – kid worries his widowed Dad is lonely so fixes him up by signing him up to a Dating App and arranges for his choice of stepmother to fly in from the Big Smoke to give a career chat at the local high school. We all know how the story ends, don’t we?

Then I had to read “Everything Is Beautiful” by Eleanor Ray for Book Club.

Amy is a loner who suffered major heartbreak a decade ago and deals with it by collecting bits and pieces. Read: she is a hoarder with a house full of junk.

Readers were meant to be sympathetic to Amy’s situation though consensus amongst this group of readers was that Amy needed to “have a teaspoon of concrete and harden up”. Not the outcome the author was looking for, I would suggest , and I wondered if this was the Australian readers’ take as opposed to the English ( which is Ray’s ethnicity). Okay, agreed, the answer could be that my Book Club is full of neanderthals……..

Thank goodness for the coming Pop Up Book Sale fundraiser on the weekend.

NOTE:

Coming out of a three day Lockdown which had me housekeeping like crazy. I’ve deleted 350 “Followers” from Word Press. My apologies but at this stage of the game I am not in any need of nutritional or financial advice, information about cryptocurrency nor the stockmarket, and nor do I require the services of a pretty Asian lass. Don’t even start me on Life Coaches…….