What Have I Been Reading?

I’ve been focusing on independent authors, local to my area in the Redlands City area of Brisbane.  

Margaret Dakin was born and lived most of her life in Brisbane. She came to writing comparatively late after an adventurous life working in various occupations. After retiring in 2002, she joined a writing group and discovered a love of short stories. 

Margaret has had stage and radio plays produced as well as a musical titled A Bonnet For Eliza which was performed earlier this year. Blogged about it here:https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/2804

Margaret was one of six grandmothers local to the Redlands Coast in Brisbane who, having a little spare time on their hands, collaborated on a novel, The Written Word.

This novel is very topical as it covers overdevelopment and reclaiming of the mangroves ( despite being under the environmental protection of RAMSAR).*

*what a bloody farce

**available from Amazon Australia

Why am I sharing this one with you? Because Retirement does not mean one stops living and the grey matter does not dissipate. There is heaps to do and though I am no longer ruled by daily achievements it is nice to think that there is still enough blood pumping to rattle a few chains. So, there’s now a day in the works for all local authors to present their books to the community ( and hopefully make a few quid), and I’m chatting with those who know about such things about a local Government grant to get a local writer’s competition off the ground.

Why didn’t my mother teach me to knit or sew or even crochet? Might have been easier:)

Umm, I lied. I still measure my days by achievements, but then I classify having breakfast a win.

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:)

Christobel Mattingley and Battle Order 204.

We recently lost Australian author Christobel Mattingley, aged 87 years.

Mattingley was an award-winning author of books for both children and adults. Rummage won the Children’s Book of the Year Award: Younger Readers and Children’s Book of the Year Award: Picture Book in 1982.

In the 1996 Australia Day Honours Mattingley was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “service to literature, particularly children’s literature, and for community service through her commitment to social and cultural issues”.

Her most recent book is Maralinga’s long shadow: Yvonne’s story, which was published in 2016 and won the 2017 Young People’s History Prize at the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

I was introduced to the writing of Mattingley late in the game after reading Battle Order 204 about her husband David’s experiences as a bomber pilot in World War II.

Battle Order 204 is a historical, non-fiction novel that recounts the experiences of the bomber pilot of the Royal Australian Air Force serving with No. 625 Squadron RAF. It follows Mattingley’s dream to one day be a pilot and his journey from start to finish into the skies of Europe during the second world war.

The book is centered on the mission in which his Arvo Lancaster- after being struck three times shattering his hand and badly wounding his leg- was safely returned to the airfield in which it had launched from beating the crews proposal to abandon the wrecked aircraft, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The book contains photographs, logs and other images of Mattingley’s experiences throughout his service.

The books point of difference was that it was written in a manner to engage the Young Adult demographic. Of course I purchased several copies for younger members of the family.

Brumbies and The Man From Snowy River

It is only recently that I stumbled across my first mob of Brumbies during a road trip through northern New South Wales. Totally unexpected and just awesome. I actually held my breathe for a few seconds. Plenty of kangaroos, emus, echidnas and wombats but I’de never seen Brumbies, Australia’s free-roaming feral horses.

Brumbies are the descendants of escaped or lost horses, dating back in some cases to those belonging to the early European settlers, including the “Capers” from South Africa, Timor ponies from Indonesia, British pony and draught horse breeds, and a significant number of Arabians and Thoroughbreds.

And it’s not because I was horse mad as a child. Never liked them much in fact. I’m vertically challenged you see, and it always seemed a long way to fall.

Brumbies can be trained as stock horses and other saddle horses. They have been romanticised in much of our Australian Bush poetry. Brumby running is reminiscent of Banjo Paterson’s iconic poem, The Man From Snowy River, where expert riders rope the Brumbies and remove them to a new location.

In 1982 a movie of the same name was released starring all the usual suspects. There was a hellava lot of drama about Kirk Douglas playing the lead from memory. I found it more interesting that most of the men in the film were not actors but rather experienced horse riders and breakers.

Bruce Rowland’s soundtrack was quite stirring though I never need to hear it again. Both daughters played in the High School Symphonic Orchestra and played this piece in a competition requiring regular practise at home. One on clarinet and one on wretched drums………Now that was never in the Motherhood Guidebook!

There are currently discussions about culling the Brumbies due to their large numbers and the damage to our Alpine areas (where the movie was filmed).

I’m just so grateful that I had the experience.

A reminder that it’s not the destination, but rather the journey, or as Mae West succinctly put it, “ You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Book Review :Diving Into Glass by Caro Llewellyn

This memoir opens with a quote from John Wayne which sets the tone appropriately: – “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”.

Caro Llewellyn is a successful author of several non fiction books, and Director of numerous Literary Festivals, both at home in Australia and abroad. Jogging through New York’s Central Park, she loses feelings in her legs. Forty eight hours later she is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) a chronic, neurodegenerative condition that affects the central nervous system.

What makes this so traumatic is that Caro has survived a childhood marred by having a father confined to life in a wheelchair. At twenty years of age, Richard Llewellyn contracted Polio, though remaining positive and determined, he flirts with his nurse whilst in an Iron Lung and ends up marrying her.

This disability doesn’t prevent Richard from working and the Llewellyn’s open a successful art gallery, whilst bringing up two young children. Taking its toll on Caro’s mother, this leads to the disintegration of the family unit. Ultimately, this leads to a successful life for each of the parents with the father receiving an Order of Australia for his Disability Advocacy work, and mother finding herself as a mature age student and becoming the renowned Poet and Author, Kate Llewelyn. 

Courtesy of author

Caro spends several years trying to find herself, and it is in New York, where she has finally found her niche and is relatively settled, that her life is shattered by her medical diagnosis. It is by looking back at her father’s example over the years that she finally comes to terms with the shortcomings of her body, overcoming them to the best of her ability

I found this book bordering the depressing side whilst at the same time totally compelling. To make such worthwhile lives out of such grim circumstances is amazing, though it does come at an emotional cost for Caro.

The voyeur in me was also fascinated in Caro’s relationships with men and her career choices. No tradies or public servants on her horizon: she mixed it with political activists, music entrepreneurs, and writers including American, Phillip Roth. With her writing and job role presenting Literary events around the world, is this the true legacy of strong, audacious parents, I wondered?

* Published by Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd in 2019

My Favourite Author

A few years ago a friend put me onto an emerging Sydney author who had recently had his first book published: Goodnight, Crackernight. It was a nostalgic look at growing up in Sydney in the 70’s and how sad it was when the annual fireworks were cancelled by the Fun Police. Crackernight had always been such an important date on the calendar for kids, and especially for this kid, as it fell on Empire Day, in May, the day after my birthday. With a family that told stories of leprechauns and fairies at the bottom of the garden I believed that the fireworks were in honour of my birth right up until I was in my early teens, just as I had always been told. Goodnight Crackernight was a book that stirred many childhood memories and was simply good fun.

The Northern Territory still has a Crackernight.

The author, a few years younger than I, was a military aviation tragic and his follow up book was a first in a trilogy about young Australians that travelled thousands of miles to the other side of the world to fight a war in the skies over Europe.

I chased this book down after my father died. He had flown with Bomber Command and later in Pathfinder Force during WW2 but being part of that “stiff upper lip” generation it was never discussed. Plus, the house was full of women. Only the cats were male.

I reached out to Justin Sheedy because his book was a great read and one geared towards non aviation types such as myself. Nor The Years Condemn saw a couple of Aussie lads through the Empire Flight Training Scheme, across to the UK, and into battle against the enemy. Military Historic Fiction it nevertheless provided a lot of factual information about the processes that young men, just like my Dad, had to undertake to qualify for the Air Force. It helped me to understand why young men left their homeland and families to participate in the big “adventure” on the other side of the world.

We started communicating after I put something on social media recommending this book which had given me my first belly laugh on the train journey to work. Page 7 won me over with “Even Catholic girls put out for Wings”. Justin replied and we have been chatting on Messenger ever since.

We shared the odd joke and I know I got a couple of friends interested in his books. When Ghosts Of The Empire and No Greater Love were published I bought six sets of the trilogy for my Dad’s Grandchildren as Christmas gifts along with the Airfix Kit of my Dads ( Halifax) plane. I didn’t have the knowledge of Bomber Command to pass on but young Justin did. The three books were full of fascinating information, information about Enigma, Bletchley Park, the Guinea Pig Club, and so much more. He was such a fine storyteller, and wrote so fluidly, that you felt at times that you were in the plane alongside these young men. I remember sobbing on the flight home from a holiday on Norfolk Island because of the tragic ending of Book2. His characters were just that real.

His third book, No Greater Love, with a storyline featuring Malta during WW2, has inspired me to take one last long haul journey.

Justin excused himself last winter and said he had to disappear for a while to focus on writing Book 4.

I heard from him two weeks ago to say he was 80 per cent done with his new book and that he had a contract for all his books to be reprinted and released overseas. He said his “dream of becoming a success was fast becoming a reality”.

My reply was simply “Justin, you are already a success”. I like to think he was genuinely touched. Never met the fella though we became friends. Funny that, hey…..

We’ve just lost young Justin Sheedy. Forty nine years of age. 49. Died at his desk at his day job. 49. My old nemesis. I am the first female in three generations to make it past 49.

Justin, Fly high, my friend. More stories in the next realm with a good red or two x

There’s a few LIFE LESSONS in all this:

Life IS short. Don’t stress it – just do. Spend the kid’s inheritance ….with them…and have fun together. This “you need $5 million to retire comfortably” is scaremongering from Financial Advisers who make money from us suckers. Calling BS. Stay matey with your travel agent and they’ll take care of you. Don’t dismiss Indie authors who don’t have the backing of million dollar marketing gurus. You would be surprised how many little gems there are out there that deserve a read. And hang on to the good people in your life..