A Positive Beginning To The New Week

Firstly, a new children’s book: Tippy and Jellybean by Sophie Cunningham.

Based on the true story of Tippy the koala, and her baby, Jellybean, which was one of the tales that broke hearts all around Australia during our devastating bushfires last summer.

Tippy was found by rescuers in the Snowy River National Park just after the fires raged through the area with a burnt back and paws. She was crouched over her joey, Jellybean, who was unscathed.

Sadly, many of our koalas were lost when they made the mistake of scrambling for the top tree branches when fires went through, offering them absolutely no protection whatsoever.

Tippy and Jellybean have since recovered and have been released back to an area with eucalyptus trees.

Proceeds from this book will raise money for the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund.

Meet the real Tippy and Jellybean

And another Iso-Project successfully completed.

Serendipity

……………according to Dr Google is “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”

This noun has become a regular part of my vocabulary since undertaking short day trips to outlying townships in line with Health Directives. The Queensland Premier is encouraging residents to support local tourism and to boost small business by visiting rural communities. Only too happy to oblige, Anna…..

With the Lockyer Valley less than 90 minutes drive west of Brisbane I’ve enjoyed exploring some of the smaller townships that don’t receive much publicity – the places Marketing gurus apparently don’t deem worth much exposure. Of course, it’s the little places that have remained relatively unchanged for years that I find so appealing. So turn off the GPS and don’t be afraid to deviate from the main drag. You might even come across some local produce stalls, like I did!

Helidon is one of those “blink-and-you’ll- miss -it” spots famous for what’s underground, rather than above : the internationally renowned sandstone and mineral springs.

There is a walk through town of only two or three streets with markers to highlight significant buildings, including the first bank which now operates as a Bed and Breakfast.

(And there’s also a great little dress shop that’s been operating for 18years though only God knows why. One supermarket, one pub, a community hall, and a frock shop. Bizarre, though I did drop a few bob).

Driving through Grantham with its paddocks full of cabbages you are reminded that the Lockyer Valley is Queensland’s food bowl. Many of the parks in Grantham have been beautified since the 2011 floods which were devastating. Who will forget the images of people being recovered by chopper from the roof of the Grantham Hotel?

Last stop for the day was Pohlmans Nursery at Adare, just outside of Gatton.

Seen one Nursery you’ve seen them all?

Pohlmans are the largest wholesale nursery on the Eastern seaboard, supplying a range of innovatively marketed quality plants to almost 1000 nurseries, garden centres and selected stores across Australia. Seedlings that don’t make the grade for the wholesale side of the business are sold through their onsite Factory Outlet. This obviously changes on a daily basis but look what I picked up for $1!


More little towns to visit next fortnight……

June 6th and Nancy Wake

In a little bush school in Sydney many years ago Primary School children greeted each new day with a rendition of “God Save The Queen” and a “salute to the flag”. Back then June 6th was always commemorated as the Anniversary of D Day.

Thirty years later in a school across the border Primary School children sing a different anthem about land “girt by sea”. On June 6th these kiddies celebrate Queensland  Day, which is the official birthday of the Australian state of Queensland. Part of these celebrations include presenting “Queensland Great Awards” to outstanding Queenslanders for their lifetime of dedication and contribution to the development of the state and their role in strengthening and shaping the community in Queensland.

Award Winners at Roma Street Parklands, Brisbane City.

When my eldest, Pocahontas, was in Primary School her class was called to assembly for each of them to declare an Australian, dead or alive, who should be recognised as an outstanding citizen. Sports stars figured highly: tennis players, crickets, footy players as well as a handful of rock stars, actors and models.

Pocahontas, proving that eccentricity is hereditary, suggested The White Mouse as a worthy candidate. Her class mates giggled and teachers looked at each other boggled. The White Mouse was one of the codenames of Nancy Wake, the expat Australian and underground operative during World War 2.

I was reminded of this reading Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon.


From Goodreads:

In 1936 intrepid young Australian journalist Nancy Wake is living in Paris after witnessing firsthand the terror of Hitler’s rise in Europe, firing her resolve to fight against the Nazis. When Nancy falls in love with handsome French industrialist Henri Fiocca, no sooner has she become Mrs Fiocca than the Germans invade France and Nancy takes yet another name, a codename – the first of many.

As the elusive Lucienne Carlier she smuggles people across borders and earns a new name ‘The White Mouse’ along with a five million franc bounty on her head, courtesy of the Gestapo. Forced to flee France, Nancy is trained by an elite espionage group under the codename Hélène. Finally, with mission in hand, she is airdropped back into France as the deadly Madame Andrée. But the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed Nancy – and the people she loves – will become.

Based on a true story this is a fascinating look at a gutsy woman who liked her G &T’s and *lipstick. A little long and convoluted perhaps, with flashbacks and parallel timelines, though the information comes from Wake’s autobiography (of 1985) and numerous biographies. Well worth the read 🙂

Born: 30 August 1912.   Died:  7 August 2011

Awards : George Medal, 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, British War Medal 1939-45, French Officer of the Legion of Honour, French Croix de Guerre with Star and two Palms, US Medal for Freedom with Palm, French Medaille de la Resistance, Companion of the Order Of Australia and New Zealand’s Badge in Gold. 

Wake’s medals are on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

*Said to be Victory Red from the Elizabeth Arden range.

Ulladulla, Books and Empty Esky

My connection with the south coast of New South Wales goes way back. The beautiful coast is an area that was featured on the media over Christmas and New Year because of the apocalyptic bushfires. It was peak tourist season which made it both an environmental and economic disaster.

In normal years Easter would have been the perfect tonic for a semblance of financial recovery as families from Sydney and Canberra flock to the area for school holidays – and Ulladulla’s annual Blessing Of The Fleet celebrations. This is a ceremony which started back in the mid 1950’s when Ulladulla, which means “safe harbour”, was the port for the largest fishing fleet on the south coast and run by Italian immigrants who brought the centuries old tradition over from Sicily.

I have many fond memories of the Blessing Of The Fleet festivities including the year my sister and I were forced to get out of our cossies and to frock up in our Sunday best to meet the Special Navy Guest for the occasion, Admiral Crabbe, whom my  ten year old sister greeted with a “Welcome Admiral Crap”.

2020 has been anything but normal. We spent Easter in lockdown.

Back in the 70’s my Dad won enough money on a galloper named Rajah Sahib to buy a block of land on the hill overlooking Ulladulla harbour. In later years he would wait for the trawlers to return and watch the unloading of their catches from the comfort of his lounge room. Both his and my sister’s ashes were scattered in the ocean just outside the harbour and close to a favoured fishing spot.

Ulladulla, approximately 230 kms south of Sydney, is doing it tough just like so many other townships all along the coast.

Empty Esky is an initiative on social media firstly to promote business devastated by the fires and to encourage visits from tourists when allowed. They’ve highlighted breweries, bakeries, gift shops, jewellers and all manner of local produce to a broad audience.

My money is going to small business this year. I‘m a 1000 kilometres from the south coast so am unable to do much, but I can do a bit……….

………. starting with the Harbour Bookshop in Ulladulla, an independent book store on the highway that runs through the middle of town, which has an easy to manoeuvre website and posts all book orders over $60 at no additional cost. 

Thank you to my two Book Fairies for organising some new books for their old Mo and introducing me to this retail outlet on the coast.

Next month I’ll look into a boutique Gin Distillery I’ve discovered on Empty Esky just a little further down the coast.


Two Things : Magabala Books and the Little Library.

It was recently announced that Magabala Books won the Australian Book Industry Small Publisher of the Year Award.

Based in Broome, Western Australia, Magabala publish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors, artists and illustrators from all over Australia. An independent, not-for-profit Indigenous Corporation, Magabala is governed by a dedicated Board of Kimberley Aboriginal cultural leaders, educators, business professionals and creative practitioners.

Magabala publishes up to 15 new titles annually across a range of genres: children’s picture books, memoir, fiction (junior, YA and adult), non-fiction, graphic novels, social history and poetry.

What I found interesting was that Magabala also delivers a range of social and cultural initiatives, including providing books to parents in correctional centres so that they can record the stories for their children whilst in isolation. What a wonderful concept!


Restrictions were eased last weekend allowing parks and playground equipment to reopen. This called for a dose of disinfectant to the Little Community Library located in our local parkland which has been much utilised over the past months with our Council Libraries closed and only re-opening last week (for ten people at a time).

Many thanks to the Rotary Club of Capalaba who came to the rescue with much needed children’s books to restock our Library in the park. Little People aren’t fond of ebooks or kindles……as it should be…..

S E Qld : Forest Hill

Travel restrictions were eased last weekend allowing Brisbanites to enjoy day trips of up to 150 kms away.

Forest Hill is a township in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, which is renowned as South  East Queensland’s food bowl.

Forest Hill was once home to five hotels, a hospital, a bakery and butcher, and was the largest rail freight hub for agricultural produce in Queensland and a more productive outlet than both the older townships of Gatton and Laidley. It also sits on the Cobb &Co Tourist Drive as a staging post for coach transportation in South East Queensland.

Most of that has gone now though the remnants remain in the form of early Australian architecture and Heritage listed buildings, such as the Lockyer Hotel.

The Forest Hill War Memorial, also Heritage listed, was erected to commemorate those in the district who had died or served in World War 1. It was unveiled by five mothers of deceased soldiers on 26 March 1921.

The old buildings now house Cafes and Gift Shops which make it easy to lose a few hours exploring.

My favourite retail outlet is Queenies, a local co-operative where those with a crafty bent are able to sell their lines. Some wonderful early Christmas shopping was achieved here. Earrings anybody?

Cafe 4342 is located in the original Post Office building and utilises fresh farm produce wherever possible.

During the 2011 Queensland Floods much of the population of Forest Hill was required to be evacuated by helicopter to nearby Gatton to avoid rapidly rising floodwaters. The entire region has also been hit hard by fire and drought so it is well worth the effort to clear your own cobwebs by taking a drive whilst spending a few bob in a country town.

TIP: Take an Esky. There are heaps of food stalls along the way.

Wombats


Wombats are short legged, muscular marsupials that look like little bears. Marsupials native to Australia they live in burrows. They spend daylight hours underground in their burrows and emerge in the night to forage for grasses, herbs, seeds, roots and bark. They have a very slow metabolism and it takes about 14 days to complete digestion. This aids wombats’ survival in arid landscapes. Interestingly – well, to me – wombat droppings are square in shape. How that works is beyond me but fascinating……( Keep that one in mind for your next trivia night!)

Wombats have been well represented over the years in Australian Children’s Literature, with the most popular including:

The Muddleheaded Wombat   –  Ruth Park

Wombat Stew  –  Marcia K Vaughan

One Woolly Wombat   –  Kerrie Argent

Diary Of A Wombat  –  Jackie French

Sebastian Lives In A Hat  – Thelma Catterwell

Wombat Goes Walkabout  – Michael Morpurgo

Did you know that we even have an annual Wombat Day ? The official day in set in Australia for October 22, but since the first celebration of the day in 2005, the rest of the world has seen fit to jump on board. As such, October 23 is World Wombat Day.  Add that to your diary now!

In Australia to be called a wombat is almost a term of endearment. A wombat often refers to an overweight, lazy, or slow idiot. He’s probably your best friend and eating Doritos on the couch right now. Or more bluntly, a Waste Of Money, Brains And Time.

Why are we even talking about Wombats today? Because I’m adding a Wombat experience to my Bucket List.

The Wombat Awareness Organisation in South Australia is the only free range, cage free wombat sanctuary in the World. It is also the only place where you can see two out of the three species of wombats living harmoniously together.

I’ve just scrubbed Disney’s Magic Kingdom off the list. I want to sit on a sofa with a wombat instead. See http://www.wombatawareness.com.

Damn Damper

Home Isolation means that I’m cooking and eating way too much. Mostly good healthy tucker using fresh vegetables from the garden, but it’s the need for “comfort food” like Damper that is getting me in trouble.

Damper is an iconic Australian bread historically prepared by stockmen, drovers and swagmen as flour and salt could easily be carried. Just add water – literally. Damper could be cooked over the coals of a campfire or in a camp oven, and was eaten with salted beef or lashings of Golden Syrup ( also known as Cocky’s Delight or Cocky’s Joy).

According to the Australian Dictionary Centre the name was derived from “damping” the fire, covering it with ashes. This preserved the red coals, ready to re-kindle the fire the following morning. The damper was buried in the ashes to bake. 

Damper has seen a revitalisation and gentrification of sorts. Each Australia Day, the 26th of January, the traditional Damper recipe is tweaked by thousands across the nation and is served alongside prawns, barbecued lamb chops, and lamingtons or pavlova. Ingredients can include goats cheese, chives, dried tomatoes, olives and spinach leaves. Even pistachio nuts. These days the bread base can include baking soda, powdered milk, or beer. No longer is the humble Damper something simply to warm the belly and enjoy with a Billy Tea, but rather a culinary experience. 

I prefer individual Dampers which are cooked and served on a stick. This method was popular as they were just the right size to soak up the meat juices, baked beans or fried eggs when travelling the outback. Yes, my weakness – soaking up the meat juices very a la Henry VIII. No apologies whatsoever to vegetarians. They were hung off a string that went from one side of the fire to the other and cooked over the heat of the fire. That’s the Dampers, not the vegetarians.

They’ve always been a success when I’ve cooked them. And who said we have to wait till next January?

Recipe

2 cups of Self raising flour

1 cup of water

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of butter

Mix. Divide into eight oblongs. Stick a skewer through the middle. Cook on bbq 15 minutes.

                                                   Or

Place in cake tin, wrap in alfoil, and surround with embers. Cook for 45 to 55 minutes.

A Scone, Anyone?

Is there anything better than a freshly cooked scone and a hot cup of tea? 

Don’t look at me: couldn’t cook a scone if my life depended on it. But if you happen to sample a scone cooked by one those magnificent cooks from the CWA with their secret recipes, the answer is No, No, and No!

The Country Women’s Association of Australia, or CWA, is the largest women’s organisation with 1855 branches across the country. Its aims are to improve the conditions for country women and children and to try to make life better for women and their families, especially those women living in rural and remote Australia. The organisation is self-funded, nonpartisan and nonsectarian.

One of their popular fundraises over the years has been to publish a book of recipes from within their ranks. Honestly, every female over fifty would have a well worn copy of a CWA Cookbook in the cupboards. No cause for shame – embrace it…..

First formed in 1922, the CWA during the Depression helped those in need with food and clothing parcels. During World War II, they provided meals for the troops in rural areas and made camouflage nets and knitted balaclavas and socks. More recently, they offer rural women a network, scholarships for education, as well as assisting with practical support during times of drought, fire and flood.

Date and Ginger Scones

A visit to the CWA tea room at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney has been a Must Do for more than 70 years. More important than the Grand Parade, the Farm Animals and the Show Bags, a Devonshire Tea was always the first port of call ( before the blokes headed off for a beer at the * Cattleman’s Bar, family commitments having been met).  In recent years the CWA would raise approx $150,000 from the sale of about 50,000 scones, tea, coffee and products made by members each year.

With this years Show cancelled the CWA have come up with a new initiative whereby you can purchase a virtual scone or a virtual Devonshire Tea. Go here :

Who said you couldn’t teach old dogs new tricks?

*Also renowned as a pick up spot after 6pm, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Note: Thank you Cat Balou for keeping me updated about the CWA scones. I haven’t forgotten that you shouted Devonshire Tea at the CWA Tea Rooms the last time we attended the EKKA ( Brisbane Show).

The Strange History of Possum Island Free State by Tim Slee

Tim (TJ) Slee is the Australian author of Taking Tom Murray Home, released in 2019, and the winner of the inaugural Banjo prize.

His latest novella has been released to support participating Australian Book Sellers. The author receives no royalties and requests that you support a local bookstore when they re-open for business. Go here for your free copy from Book Funnel:

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/g0hwxd6dec

The blub for The Strange History of Possum Island Free State states:

Sometimes you pick a place, and sometimes the place picks you.

Red Rigney was given five years to live. He didn’t expect to spend it living on Possum Island. But Possum Island had plans for Red Rigney.”

I read this in a single sitting. Loved it – just so Aussie in both tone and topic. Student squats in inner Sydney, the avant-garde arts scene, an island in the middle of the harbour, native title disputes, remnants of a convict past, the red tape of bureaucracy………. All so very familiar………

Slee sure knows how to tell a good yarn !