Serendipity Part 2: The Airfix Kit

Before Covid I suffered a major attack of the vapours whilst in bed one evening scrolling through social media. The aeroplane in which my father and his Bomber Command Crew had flown during WW2 had become a newly released Airfix Kit. It was the unmistakeable nose art that alerted me. (Yes, an Airfix Kit : one of those model aeroplanes that comes in a thousand tiny pieces that you have to glue together. Very easy to suck up in the vacuum cleaner from personal experience…) 

Suffered a similar attack recently which I shared here having discovered that my father’s war diary outlining his missions flying over the skies of Germany ( as well as numerous dalliances with young women) had been earlier this year handed in to the Australian War Memorial as part of a Deceased Estate. Okay, so it was more of a hissy fit.

I have not been able to peruse said diary yet, though my youngest daughter had a two hour viewing session donned in a plastic coat and white gloves.

I had been chasing information about the meaning of the artwork. Depicting the crew members I’ve been trying to ascertain which of the figures represented my father. Since the death of my favourite aviation tragic and friend, writer Justin Sheedy, the military knowledge has been a bit light on so I joined a Bomber Command social media site. Oh, Justin mate, they speak a whole new language……

I also learned that after the completion of their Second Tour the crew, including my father,  were dispersed to become flight instructors or to other squadrons.

Further scrolling of the social media site and I was once again alerted by familiar nose art. SPOOKY. I learned that it was only weeks later that the plane with its new crew was lost over Germany. SPOOKY. An accompanying post from one of the crew’s daughters advised that her father had been taken to Prison Camp to sit out the war. SPOOKIER.

I’ve had kind offers of assistance to complete the Airfix Kit from site members. I purchased several kits, one for each of the grandchildren. It’s just a pity I never wear my glasses when I’m vacuuming.

The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen : Book Review

This novel is an unexpected entry in the Gaia Reading Challenge and is most definitely on the quirky side. You see, the narrator is a female Galah by the name of Lucky who translates from “screech to English” the events in a remote coastal village on the north coast of Western Australia in the 1960’s, just prior to the moon landing.

Admittedly, I’m a sucker for Galahs. I had my first as a pet when I was 10, Andrew, followed by Sam, playmate Lah Lah , and then Lenny who replaced Sam when he died. Lenny was a hormonal teenager so I had to rehome the latter two birds when I downsized. Neighbours were unimpressed with the noise : Lenny was like a recalcitrant teenager and squawked whenever anything that moved came into sight.

Sam and Lah Lah. I had a pink dressing gown at the time so I’m sure Sam saw me as a large Galah.

The fictional town of Port Badminton is on the open mouth of the real Shark Bay which Charles Darwin noted on his first visit to Australia as having “excessively beautiful parrots“.

Lucky introduces herself before she begins to tell the story of Port Badminton’s role in the 1969 moon landing :

I’m in my cage on the Kelly’s back verandah. I sit here, unheard, underestimated, biscuit crumbs on my beak. But fate is a curious thing. For just as Evan Johnson’s story is about to end (and perhaps with a giant leap), my story prepares to take flight…”

Lucky shares her journey, “nestling with her siblings in our hole in our  gum tree “ on the riverbank,  feeling “a human hand reach in, making exploratory movements” , to finding herself in a cage on a back verandah of one of the locals.

Her position on the verandah provides a view of the happenings within Port Badminton as well as all the characters ; the prawn fishermen, the dingo shooter, the town drunk, the aboriginals, as well as all the newer families to town who are  connected to the Dish, instrumental in keeping communication lines open to the astronauts.

Lucky focuses on the arrival of Evan Johnson, radio technician, and wife Linda who is keen to start a new life away from the Big Smoke. Of course, although Evan is distracted by his work, Linda is like a fish out of water and doesn’t cope.

The small town of Port Badminton becomes every small town, and the dynamics of its inhabitants are both familiar and the perfect combination of nostalgia and brutality. We feel the excitement for the scientists achieving their goals, and pity for the women who are simply making do.

The author includes authentic trivia from the 1960’s including pre dinner snacks of curly celery, feathered carrots, and radish flowers, cereal boxes containing collectable toys, home made Grappa at barbeques,  Brownies raising funds ( Bob-A-Job), and  washing the sheets in a copper each week. Who remembers those? *

The Galah is an intelligent animal, despite its reputation as a clown and a lightweight. A captive Galah needs constant activity if it is not to decline into depression. Tearing up books, page by page, is a mental, physical, and spiritual workout for me; as good as any gym, yogaclass or university”. Lucky’s most recent book is Donald Horne’s “The Lucky Country”.

Then there are the wonderful descriptions of the environment and landscape. ” Tropical Cyclone Steve, a male cyclone with a beer belly and long, grey, windswept hair, thongs flapping at his feet, formed out of the ether somewhere in the Pacific” and “she watches the water suck back, back and then hears the flute-like sound, a roar, as the water comes crashing in again, sending a giant white fountain into the air. It drops and chases itself back down its lair in streaming white foam rivulets. The gurgling, sucking noises are thrilling.”

This read is a gem. It is not as simple as it seems with layers of storytelling including the frailty of relationships, expectations, and our interconnectedness with the environment as well as with animals. The descriptions of both the natural environment and the wildlife that live within it are totally authentic. Loved it!

*We used the copper for cooking freshly caught sand crabs and prawns. Must have been worth a few bob as it was the only item stolen from the family home after my father passed.

Washing Copper.

* NOTE :

Galah is also a derrogatory term that means a “loud-mouthed idiot.” Named specifically for the galah, a native Australian bird that makes a distinctive (and quite funny-sounding) call.

“Oh, Scottyya bloody galah! What are you ON ABOUT?!”

from the Urban Dictionary.

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.

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.

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.

The Adventures of Euca – Gaia Reading Challenge

It’s nearing Easter so I am preparing parcels to post to the Little People in my life.

“No chocolate, Mo. No sugar for this Little One”. This from a lass whose paternal grandfather fed her so many chocolate eggs for her 2nd Easter that she was as sick as a dog. Whilst I was quietly fuming – and cleaning – said child’s grandfather instilled his lifelong mantra : ” You’ve not had a good time till you’ve been sick”.

Thank goodness the maternal grandfather had a different outlook on life. A child of the Depression he did not believe in waste, so he lived by “everything in moderation”. Except fish. Fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner but that’s another story.

So that is why my Little People will be gifted something other than chocolate this Easter. Well, maybe a little Darrell Lea chocolate bilby but their main present will be a lovely little book called The Adventures of Euca : A Baby Leaf’s Big World.

Debut author Jennifer Howard is a nature lover who is “passionate about the environment, and about educating future generations on sustainability and the magic of the world we all live in.”

We meet Euca, a baby gum leaf, who lives on the very top of the tree, ” closest to the big golden sun whose lovely warm rays will help me to grow big and strong”.

Eucla takes us through his job role as a leaf to “help freshen the air for the whole wide world” as well as some of the native fauna who use the leaf coverage as home. He is close to his Grandpa Crinkle, an old wrinkled leaf further down the tree branches, and the life lesson is that at some stage the old leaf ” with a strong gust of wind” will fall to the ground and a new leaf will be born.

The illustrations by M K Perring are colourful and easily discernible to young eyes and this story is a gentle introduction to nature and the environment for our Little People.

I purchased my copies through Shawline Publishing Group. Always happy to support the independent author ( who have been known to become my all time favourites.)

Another Project Giving Life To History

Research undertaken by Australian historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher for their book, Untraceables – The Mystery of the Forgotten Diggers has led to an interesting pilot project adopted earlier this year by sixteen Primary Schools across the nation.

The historians created The Find Them, Remember Them: Creating Citizen Historians pilot program to establish Living Memorials to the Fallen by creating Citizen Historians of school children.

According to the authors “during WWI, 60 000 Australian soldiers died.  The issuing of medals to fallen soldiers was governed by the Deceased Soldiers Act 1918.  The intent of the act as proposed by the Minister for Defence was to honour the wishes of the deceased soldier with all war medals to go to either their next of kin or will legatee.  However, an ascension list (not contained in the Act) was adopted when settling intestate estates.  The dogged application of this list denied many female next of kin and the deceased soldier’s nominated next of kin, the right to receive their loved one’s medals creating an archive of uncollected medals.”

There is some controversy that unissued medals from WWI veterans, soldiers who fought and died for this country,  and their individual military heritage,  were archived around 1998, and their location is unknown and denied by the Directorate of Defence Honours & Awards (DH&A). 

The intent of the program is to research the soldier, and have students educate the local community at an appropriate ceremony.  The school will commemorate the sacrifice by their researched soldiers on commemorative occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day in an endeavour to keep their memory “alive”.

If eligible descendants are located from the pupil’s research they will be able to apply for custodianship of ( replacement) medals. If no descendants are located then the school can apply for the medals with the soldier thereby being “adopted” by that community.

A much better lesson in history than the old chalk-on-blackboard method, don’t you agree?

It can well be said the Anzac’s are not dead, their deeds and fame will live for evermore.  Australia’s duty to her dead may be expressed in four words- ‘Don’t let them die’!  Their memory should never be allowed to die.” Parramatta Mayor, Ald.

When The Movie Is Better and Flynn is Fat

Reading Challenges are funny things. They can make you look at books differently.

For example, last week I watched an old Errol Flynn movie. Nothing unusual about that: Errol is “my guy”. The Roots Of Heaven was released in 1958, a year before Flynn departed this world for the next, and though at 49 years of age he was heavier than when he was wearing Lincoln Green and wielding a sword he was still a good sort in a favourite uncle kind of way. In the movie he played the town drunk though I’m not convinced any acting was involved.

Not a great movie ( about the hunting of elephants for ivory) but I was interested enough to investigate further and discovered that the concept came from a 1956 book written by Romain Gary, which was described as the ” first environmentalist novel“. This led me to locating a copy which I intend to include in the Gaia Reading Challenge. It may take months as it is coming from a library on the other side of the country, and that’s okay – I’ll be reading a book that I never knew existed because I watched a movie I had never previously heard of and a genre I would not normally read all because of a reading challenge.

Talking of books to movies I recently read Rosalie Ham’s debut novel from 2000, The Dressmaker. Described as a Gothic Novel – whatever that means- the story is set in a 1950s fictional Australian country town, Dungatar, and “explores love, hate and haute couture“. In 2015 it became the basis of an Australian movie of the same name starring Kate Winslet and a host of local actors including the prettiest Hemsworth: Liam.

Not straying far from the book the movie is much more fun in an over the top kind of way. All the characters are eccentric including a cross dressing cop (Hugo Weaving) and I found myself laughing out loud with this one. Winslet is even more beautiful than when she survived the sinking of the Titanic twenty plus years ago, and the costumes are just stunning. As a girl who was very comfortable slopping around in pjs for the last three rain sodden days and has no fashion sense whatsoever that is a big call.

Were the critics impressed? Who cares! A fun story line, OTT characters, with a decent dash of secrets, dirt, crime and mayhem. IMDB describes it thus :”Tilly, a beautiful dressmaker, returns to her hometown in Australia to care for her ill mother, Molly. Armed with her sewing machine, she sets out to take revenge on the people who had wronged her.”

Viewing this movie came at the perfect time for me. The L.O.M.L has a hankering for his old home town, a pretty little place on the east coast of Tassie, which is slightly bigger than the mythical Dungatar but with more than its fair share of eccentrics. Quirks are mandatory to be accepted as part of the community. Every time he mentions relocating I remind him of what happened in The Dressmaker……….


Note :

I will do an official review of The Roots Of Heaven, both the book and the movie, once I’ve read the story. Just saying upfront that Juliet Greco was not awarded the role because of her acting abilities or her enunciation of vocabulary.

Love Stories by Trent Dalton

Trent Dalton is a Brisbane journalist who over recent years has written two hugely successful novels : Boy Swallows Universe and All Our Shimmering Skies, with the former having been transformed into a stage production.

At the end of 2020 Dalton inherited a 1970’s sky-blue Olivetti Studio 44 typewriter from a mate’s mother. Dalton vowed to  write something “filled with love and depth and truth and frankness and heart.” He didn’t want to write anything cynical and glib because “the market for cynical and glib has been flooded”. Hallelujah to that, Mr Dalton..

So Dalton packed up his Olivetti Studio 44 typewriter, a fold up table from BCF ( a Boating, Camping and Fishing specialist store) and two camping chairs and set up a station in the heart of Brisbane’s shopping and business precinct for two weeks requesting personal love stories from passing foot traffic. The result is Love Stories, a deeply moving collection of stories about love and hate and everything else in between. 

I loved this book because it is uplifting and offers hope. The stories are often “messy”, but are authentic and shared with joy. It is one of those books that can be dipped into as required. And yes, it is a reminder that love in all its various forms is stronger than Covid. Grateful for the nudge Mr Dalton…….

Interestingly, this book has promoted a kind of new literary game. The author “believes in love”-

Courtesy Love Stories by Trent Dalton.

My turn :

I believe in the luck of the Irish – four leaf clovers, leprechauns and fairies at the bottom of the garden. I believe every time a child says that they “don’t believe in fairies” somewhere, someplace, a fairy drops down dead. I believe Puff the Magic Dragon was real but think the existence of unicorns is taking it too far.

Your turn. Have a go in the comments…….

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 🙂