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…….

The Emporium of Imagination.

In 2010, Itaru Sasaki, a garden designer from Ōtsuchi, Japan, learned that his cousin had terminal cancer with three months to live.After his cousin’s death, Sasaki set up an old telephone booth in his garden, to continue to feel connected to him by “talking” to him on the phone.According to Sasaki, the wind phone was not designed with any specific religious connotation, but rather as a way to reflect on his loss. In an interview, he stated: “Because my thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.”

The wind phone is a white, glass-paned telephone booth, located on a hill that overlooks Ōtsuchi, containing a black, disconnected telephone on a metal shelf. A notebook is placed next to the telephone for messages of remembrance. It was opened to the public the following year after an earthquake and tsunami killed over 15,000 people in Japan. It has since received over 30,000 visitors. A number of replicas have been constructed around the world, and it has served as the inspiration for several novels and films, including Tabitha Bird’s The Emporium of Imagination.

Bird is an Australian author who’s debut novel, A Lifetime Of Impossible Days, won the Queensland Literary Award 2020- People’s Choice Book of the Year.

The Emporium of Imagination is a magical shop that travels the world offering gifts that offer solace to the heartbroken with these extraordinary telephones that allow you to contact lost loved ones.

On arrival at Boonah, a rural town in South East Queensland, the store’s custodian realises that he is “dying”, and needs to locate a replacement custodian. The population of Boonah are initially receptive to the Emporium and its magic but then there are “issues”.

We meet the Rayne brothers recently orphaned following their fathers passing. We meet a tradie who was disowned by his father because of his sexual preference, and a young boy whose dream of dancing was quashed by his Dad. One woman always wanted to be an artist, another dreams of baking and love, and yet another, a single parent to a tribe, who longs to design and create clothing.

This is a town of secrets, of hurts, of broken dreams. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens at the Emporium of Imagination.

…………………………………………..

I’ve been reading a lot of biographies of late due to the research I’ve been putting into detailing some of Australia’s Female Trailblazers; getting a bit bogged down in facts and numbers, you know. So when I started reading this book I thought I was reading a children’s book, or at very least, a book for Tweens. But in between all the butterflies and unicorns are these great little stories about every day people, people you and I both know, and I stopped looking for facts and data and just read. Read like I did years ago with child like wonder. And that’s the beauty of this novel. It takes you back to before mortgage payments and health insurance premiums were your major concerns, to the days before your weekends were taken up by kids’ weekend sport. I loved it.

And talking children’s books I love this new one :

ABOUT NEXT DOOR’S DOG IS A VETERAN’S DOG

Veteran Joe and his family have moved in next door to Lucas. Dad and Joe are good mates who served in the military together.  

When Lucas sees Joe getting off the bus with Poppy by his side, he wants to know more. He listens to Dad but doesn’t really understand how Poppy helps Joe – until he sees it for himself.
At a café Lucas looks on while Poppy keeps watch, stays close to Joe, and allows him to relax and enjoy the celebration without worrying about what is happening behind him. That’s when Lucas begins to understand the wonderful work that Poppy does to help Joe to live a full life. He also learns that the way people look does not always tell the whole story.”

NOTE:

Disappearing for the rest of the month.I’m playing Mee Maw to the Chubmeister and then I’m off outback. Yee haa.

The Storytellers Exhibition

“Storytelling is a tradition as old as time. From oral histories passed down through generations to children’s books, epic novels and poetry, it is the most versatile form of knowledge-sharing”.

The Museum of Brisbane, located on the third floor of City Hall, is currently presenting an exhibition about Brisbane storytellers. Focussing on storytellers such as Hugh Lunn, Benjamin Law, Nick Earls, Trent Dalton, Kate Moreton and more, you are taken back to Brisbane’s past when these nine writers look at both the people and places.

It’s an interactive experience which will have you sitting in the stadium at Lang Park, at a tram stop, or at Chinese restaurant down in the Valley.

Suitable for all ages, with activities for the Little People, this no cost exhibition will delight.

Go Brissie! Stick it to those southern states who – – – – – – – – – – – – – – ( fill in the gaps)

Tip : Make the effort BEFORE school holidays start.

Two Stories

Read The Codebreakers by Australian author, Alli Sinclair.

“1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O’Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of Central Bureau – an intelligence organisation working with England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason”.

This book became far too “girlie” for me with an overdose of romantic interludes. What did interest me was the property in Ascot, inner Brisbane, from which the Central Bureau actually did work during the war.

In July 1942, General MacArthur moved his Headquarters to Brisbane. Central Bureau immediately relocated to Brisbane, establishing its headquarters in “Nyrambla” at Henry Street, Ascot. The residence was built in 1885–86. In September 1942, the US 837th Signal Service Detachment relocated to Brisbane. The Detachment’s officers and enlisted men moved into “Nyrambla”. The machines to decode intercepted Japanese ciphers that concealed message were placed in the rear garage of “Nyrambla” and this is where the women Codebreakers worked.

Nyrambla

Over the years Nyrambla has been lovingly restored and recently went on the market.

Women working in the garage……..*still shacking my head.

****************************************************************************************************

Terrigal, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, is a seaside township popular with both locals and tourists. Back in the 1940’s it was a sleepy fishing village with a population of less than 500. 

During World War 2 the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia (SLSA) was stretched to provide rescue services along the beaches on the East Coast. Of the 76 original male members of the Surf Club at Terrigal only four were available to patrol beaches whilst the others went off to war.

This led the female members of the club – mostly wives, sweethearts and sisters – to ask permission to become lifesavers. Their application to the controlling body failed though this did not deter them.

After training by the chief instructor they were assessed by Central Coast Life Saving’s inaugural president Dr E.A. Martin.  In two exams, some 30 women qualified for the equivalent of the bronze medallion, receiving certificates on Terrigal beach and going on to patrol the area over the summer.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion even making their own swimming costumes and uniforms out of sheets, curtains and the odd parachute­, despite not having been awarded their bronze medallions.

At wars end 70 men returned and resumed lifesaving duties with the women then relegated to previous duties.

It wasn’t until 75 years later in 2017 that the women who patrolled the beaches of Terrigal during World War 2 were finally recognised. They were awarded their Bronze Medallions, most posthumously to their families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

75 years. *still shaking head.

Books For Little Queenslanders

First 5 Forever is a family literacy program delivered by public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres (IKCs) with the primary aim of providing strong early literacy foundations for all Queensland children aged 0-5 years. 

In the first five years of life a human brain develops at its fastest. Family life and early experiences are important for healthy brain growth. Research shows that simple things like talking, reading, singing and playing with children from birth have positive impacts that last a lifetime and this has flow on benefits for the whole community. 

The First 5 Forever program at my local Library includes a weekly indoor session for mums and bubs as well as library staff meeting at local parks and nature reserves and running these sessions from picnic rugs. I am so looking forward to taking Harry Kilom in a few weeks time to one of these:)

As part of the First 5 Forever program The State Library of Queensland recently published 12 books under the umbrella of The Stories For Little Queenslanders series.

One of the titles, The Cow That Swam Out To Sea, will resonate with anyone who remembers the 2011 floods in South East Queensland, and particularly the story about the cow that fell in the river at Lowood in the Lockyer Valley that floated down the Brisbane River. A true story, the cow was rescued 95 kilometres out in Moreton Bay, cold, wet and hungry.

I have so many mixed memories of the Brisbane floods. The one that never fades is that of catching one of the last trains out of Brisbane City with some work colleagues just before the transport system was shut down. Packed in like sardines with every square inch filled with people of all shapes and sizes I vividly remember hanging on whilst being squished up close and personnel next to a young man with his pet python hanging off his shoulders. I didn’t dare blink nor move. I have no recollection of even breathing for 16 train station stops.

Talking of Little People I put these in the Little Community Library in the local park today.

Xmas Reading : Honeybee by Craig Silvey

If you’re up for one of those emotional rollercoaster reads add this one to your Must Read List.

14 year old Sam is about to commit suicide when his eyes lock with an old man smoking a cigarette contemplating the same thing. Basically, five pages in and I nearly gave this a miss. Just too bleak for Christmas reading and why I avoid watching It’s A Wonderful Life.

Sam takes us on a journey of the disenfranchised and dysfunctional. It’s raw and tragic, though despite all the ugliness Sam has been watching Julia Childs’ cooking show since a really young age and he is passionate about his love of preparing food for people.

Yep, we were due a little light at the end of the tunnel………

Despite the depressing events that occur in Sam’s life – which include but are not limited to drugs, sex, violence, firearms, robbery, animal torture and bullying – he develops a strong friendship with old Vic who advises him to “Find out who you are, and live that life”.

You see, Sam is also transgender.

This coming of age novel is written with sensitivity and tenderness. Although a topic that I would generally choose to stay away from it was both eyeopening and educational in a tender hearted way.

There has been controversy in that the Australian author, whose previously released novel Jasper Jones is considered a contemporary classic, should not have written this book on the basis that he is a *cis man. So murder mysteries should only be written by those who stab someone to death or commit a heinous crime? Lighten up people. I would think that Honeybee would be of help to those youngsters struggling with identity issues.

Made me laugh, made me a little teary, and made me wish I had watched Julia Childs.

* Had to look it up :- Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. For example, someone who identifies as a woman and was assigned female at birth is a cisgender woman. The term cisgender is the opposite of the word transgender. Related terms include cissexism and cisnormativity.Wikipedia

Some Bookish Gossip

Excited! Excited!Excited!

Words Out West is a Readers and Writers Festival based in the Western Downs area of Queensland sponsored by the Western Downs Libraries. March 2021 will see a line up of writers, illustrators, educators and musicians do presentations in a variety of venues including country pubs.

Never been to Watta. No idea where it is, but I’d kill to be able to tell people that I had a Parmi at the pub with Shane Webcke.

Pyjama Angels:

The Pyjama Foundation works with Foster families across Australia with a learning-based mentoring program called Love Of Learning Program.

Essentially this means that trained volunteers known as Pyjama Angels are matched with a foster child in care and meet with that child for an hour and a half each week to read books aloud, practise numeracy skills and play educational games.

So far, Pyjama Angels are averaging 

  • 101,000 books read to children each year
  • 714 Pyjama Angels trained last year
  • 1,416 children supported each week.

My daughter, who did a ten year stint with Community Services, highly recommends the organisation.

#realheroesdon’twearcapes

Just Because:

“All Our Shimmering Skies” by Trent Dalton : Book Review

Australian journalist, Trent Dalton, hit gold with his debut novel Boy Swallows Universe. Critics promptly declared the quirky novel about growing up in the suburbs of Brisbane the “ latest Australian classic”.

Big call, and although I enjoyed the read, I only connected with it after hearing that many aspects of this coming of age tale mirrored Dalton’s own life. The author did have a renowned Queensland criminal as a babysitter and his mother most certainly had an unconventional life. 

I gained an appreciation for BSU after listening to Dalton at my local Library. He was open, funny-as and a delightful raconteur, chatting to the audience as if he was simply sharing stories over cold beer at a backyard barbie. 

I’ve just finished Dalton’s follow up novel, “All Our Shimmering Skies”. 

Molly Hook is a gravedigger’s daughter whose only friend is the shovel she uses in the Darwin cemetery. Life is harsh with her alcoholic father and uncle after her mother’s death. She survives the 1942 bombing by Japanese war planes though believes her family is cursed which goes back to previous generations who were gold prospectors. Molly undertakes a long and dangerous journey deep into untamed country to find Longcoat Bob, an Aboriginal Medicine Man. With her is Greta Maze escaping an abusive relationship with Molly’s uncle, who is following them menacingly. As they travel they are joined by Yukio, a Japanese pilot, who has parachuted from his crashing plane.

There’s only people, Molly. There are good ones and there are bad ones and then there’s all of us nuts stuck in the middle.“

I loved this book and think it absolutely smashes BSU. It is storytelling full of whimsey and magic and includes the Dreamtime, history, intrigue, and maybe a few tears. I was even reminded in part of old cowboy movies. Bizarre, right ? This tale too is quirky and the critics might deem some parts “unbelievable”. Who cares?

I’m not one to “judge a book by its cover”. Indeed, with my penchant for preloved books many that I read are devoid of a cover, or in the very least are so damaged that they have their own story to tell. Shimmering Skies with its cover full of colour is just like Trent Dalton’s storytelling. 

Loved it !

Dad And Dave Country – Nobby, Qld.

Two hours drive west of Brisbane lies the township of Nobby on the Darling Downs, population few and far between. Why visit Nobby? This is where author Steele Rudd was said to have written many of his stories ensconced at the local pub.

Rudd’s Pub is an interesting spot with its farming memorabilia filling the walls and ceiling space as well as references to Rudd’s iconic characters, Dad and Dave.

Steele Rudd was the pseudonym of Arthur Hoey Davis (14 November 1868 – 11 October 1935) an Australian author, best known for his short story collection On Our Selection.

The Barmaid battled to find a clean glass. Wonder why?

The stories contained in this book provide a humorous account of life on a plot of land ‘selected’ in the late 1800s. Apart from the humour of life in the bush and of yokels visiting the city, these stories also included Dave’s awkward romance with local lass, Mabel.

The 1920 movie On  Our Selection and 1932–1952 radio series Dad and Dave helped turn the characters into Australian cultural icons before the days of television. A Selection referred to “free selection before survey” of crown land under legislation introduced in the 1860’s to encourage settlement and agriculture.

The movie was remade in 1995 starring Leo McKern, Joan Sutherland, and Geoffrey Rush with the theme song by John Williamson. No-one ever said it was a good movie and harking back to more simple times it would not sit well with todays audience though it would have resonated with the previous generation.

JW took several decades to reach his prime.

The refreshing bevy at Rudd’s Pub was pleasant, as was the walk around Sister Kenny Memorial Park and Museum (in a nod to her work with poliomyelitis).

Our real find was Steele Rudd Park which sits on a corner of the original Selection on Steele Rudd Road, East Greenmount.

The park features replica historical buildings and information about Rudd’s childhood and later life. It includes a picnic table and gas barbeque as well as bathroom facilities – though be careful where you sit : bush facilities have a tendency to attract frogs 🙂

This is pretty country surrounded by gently undulating plains with its pastures full of fat cattle. Still, it is not difficult to imagine the hardships endured by our pioneers attempting to raise large families on these plots fighting constant battles against dust, drought, snakes and heat.

Lets finish with a typical Dad and Dave joke :

Dave decided to take Mabel to the Snake Gully Café for lunch. Dave looked at the menu and said, “They’ve got sheep tongues on the menu, Mabel. I think I’ll have that. What about you?” 
Mabel said, “No Dave, I couldn’t eat anything that came out of an animal’s mouth.” 
“What would you like then, Mabel?” said Dave. 
Mabel said, “I think I’ll have an egg.”_

* Well worth a visit.

**Worth watching the 1995 version if only for the line up of Australian actors : Ray Barrett, Noah Taylor, Barry Otto, and my 80’s crush, Rory O’Donaghue from The Aunty Jack Show. Do you remember Aunty Jack ?Even named a cat after him.🥰