Musk Sticks, Museums and Movies

In 2018 Sweden opened it’s Disgusting Food Museum

Australia’s contribution to the museum collection includes Witchetty Grubs and Vegemite – sacrilege! 

Perhaps most surprising within the museum is the presence of the humble Musk Stick. They’re simple, unassuming lollies that neither creep nor crawl. Hot pink and sickly sweet they are a throwback to many Australian childhoods. I have memories of crushing them up into the milk we were given in bottles at primary school, though I won’t share that with my daughters as I’m still nagging them about the benefits of Brussel Sprouts.

Who didn’t make their first trip to the “pictures” without a couple of musk sticks in a white paper bag? At 1c each they were an absolute bargain.

Selected Cinemas across the nation are holding a Hollywood Classics Festival until early December. Movies will be shown at the first time slot on Monday mornings once a fortnight. It’s going to be a bit early to eat a Musk Stick but I’m going to give it a go in silent protest and a nod to the past. That’s my August Goal. Judy Garland on the big screen at breakfast, tragics singing along to The Trolly Song, without throwing up.

Quandamooka Festival At My Back Door

Without being too controversial the best thing about visiting Brisbane in S.E Queensland is North Stradbroke Island. Casinos? Patting a koala? No thanks. Give me Straddie each and every time.

Winter on Minjerribah, as North Stradbroke is known to the traditional landowners, is also a time of much activity on the Island. The Quandamooka Festival runs across the winter months, and celebrates the original custodians and culture of the people living from Cape Moreton, on Moreton Island, south along the coast to Logan River, stopping just short of the Gold Coast, and including the Bay islands.

This year a wide variety of events have been organised including whale watching, cultural tours, Kunjiel (corroborees), music, eco boat tours, art exhibitions, fibre art and weaving workshops, bush tucker dining, arts and cultural talks by specialists, and First Nations dancers and performers.

I enjoyed the Opening Day at this festival at Dunwich on Straddie last year where we were welcomed with the smoke ceremony to ward off evil spirits. Although there is a variety of accomodation choices on the Island a day trip on the ferry from Cleveland is also a viable option. The twenty-five minute Bay crossing is simply beautiful and booking ahead is not required. Keep an eye out for dolphins and dugongs too!

The Squeeze and I enjoyed the aboriginal dances and music which were given relevance according to the culture. The Dance Of The Eagles, for example, refers to the schools of Mullet that arrive in the local waterways in winter. When the Eagles spot these fish they ignore the leaders, or first schools, as these are the Elders who show the way to the other schools of fish. The Eagle then goes in to feed on these younger fish.

What a wonderful opportunity to learn from another culture and to see the young children also learning by participation.

When the kids were little we would spend several long weekends a year on the surf side: lots of long beach walks, body surfing, and fish and chips in wet cossies at the pub. It’s beauty is stunning, wild and untamed.

The Hotel has since undergone a revamp and dripping wet bods are no longer allowed. Property prices have skyrocketed, and sadly, progress is beginning to leave its mark. * Find the twenty minutes to undertake the Gorge Walk and you’ll have a true understanding of how spectacular, brutal, and intoxicating Mother Nature can be.

I’ll be making the journey for the festival shortly. I’ll also be visiting the Historical Museum at Dunwich ( facing the Mainland) which was formally Brisbane’s Benevolent Asylum. The fish and chips will be much appreciated too.

Looking back to Cleveland on the mainland

More info on the Quandamooka Festival here :

*Yet again refraining from political comment. I must be growing up.

Mount Tamborine and a Life Lesson

I’ve just spent three nights catching up with friends in a beautiful house on a mountainside looking across to the Gold Coast. Any holiday rental home with its own wine rack, three fully laden book cases, and that comes with eight kookaburras is okay with me.

Mount Tamborine is only an hour south of Brisbane and 40 minutes to the west of the coast but it’s a whole different world: rainforests, waterfalls, crisp mountain air and natural beauty. Sometimes I wonder why we hanker to travel overseas when we have so many glorious spots on our own doorstop worth investigating.

Like many locals I generally day trip to the mountain. A scenic drive, fresh produce from stalls in front gardens, a Devonshire Tea in front of a log fire in winter, and a wander down Gallery Walk with its seventy specialty shops. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid tour buses on the main drag.

With a base on the mountain for a few days there is so much more to see and do. Add these to your MUST DO List:

Bush walk any of the designated tracks through any of the National Parks. Go early in the morning to see Paddymelons ( little wallabies)and keep an eye out for the elusive Lyre Birds. Note: sturdy shoes are a must. There are creek crossings required where you have to choose between walking a fallen log or stepping on mossy rocks. You just know I get a wet bum either way…..

Botanical Gardens are not just for Old People! Spectacular when you come from a part of the world that only has two seasons -warm or hot and slimy.

Under The Greenwood Tree is an independent bookstore and art gallery with not enough space to swing a cat. Chock a block with the most eclectic collection of reading material I’ve ever seen, I made a start on my Christmas shopping.

There are also four wineries, two distilleries and a cheese factory. Wick-Ed!

Sky House at Eagle Heights was a great spot to share with friends. We took a couple of meals up and shared our day over the local Witches Falls Syrah, and one evening dined on local produce.

Good times. Great friends. Salute.

LIFE LESSON: Never forget to look for the beauty in your own backyard.

Vale Bill Collins OAM

We lost Bill Collins, 84 years of age, during the week. 

I grew up with Collins who fronted the Golden Years of Hollywood on TV every Friday and Saturday night. For ten minutes before the evening movie he would chat about the program providing information that was so bizarre it was fascinating. Information about the costume and set designs, who was sleeping with whom, tidbits about the Director, and most importantly, where the concept for the movie originated.

It was Bill Collins who encouraged my collection of books that were the basis for favourite movies. I was not even in my teens when Collins took us through his home Library which absolutely had me gobsmacked. He used to move every few years to accomodate his growing collection. Boy, did I want that Library!

My introduction to Lust.

He also introduced me to a wonderful store under Town Hall Station in Sydney in the late 70’s. Ava And Susan’s specialised in movie and theatre books and LPs. I was 18, earning $63 a week, and I would buy something once a fortnight as a treat, and at the shop next door : a chicken specialty shop. My father was disgusted that a Teenager would bring home 8 quails for tea or half a dozen spatchcock.

Memories of my mother are limited but she did sit transfixed watching Bill in full flight. Everyone else’s mothers did too. It was bad news when he started introducing the mid day movie.

Collins gave so many people a great deal of pleasure. He was an eccentric but his joy was simply infectious. He will be missed.

Note : As is often the case you don’t know what you had until it is gone. When I downsized two years ago I tossed out boxes of VHS tapes with Collins introducing his favourite movies. He was a Flynn fanatic – of course.

Top End Wedding: Movie Review

National Reconciliation Week is a national campaign held each year to commemorate two significant milestones in Australia’s reconciliation journey—the successful 1967 referendum and the 1992 High Court Mabo decision. It is an awareness program designed to encourage Australians to join the movement towards a unified future by building positive relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Don’t worry…….I don’t talk politics or religion on an empty stomach.

This year during Reconciliation Week a prominent Australian sporting event took place at which a number of our Indigenous sportspeople refused to sing the National Anthem on the basis that there was no reference to the Aboriginal race in the song lyrics. 

Fair enough. Still no political commentary from this end.

I recently went to the cinema to see a great little Australian flick called Top End Wedding. Don’t go to the movies often. Too Old School: I keep my shoes on, don’t dangle my feet across the top of the seat in front, and I never, ever take KFC into the cinema to eat. I haven’t eaten KFC since I was 13 and they were still using chickens.

Miranda Tapsell (Laura) plays an Aboriginal lawyer in Adelaide who heads to Darwin to spring a surprise wedding to an Englishman, Gwilym Lee (Ned), upon her Indigenous mother and white father – only to find her mother has disappeared. She’s got 10 days to follow her trail across the Northern Territory, and finally to her mother’s birthplace, the Tiwi Islands, and salvage her wedding plans before they crumble entirely.

Many of the reviews I’ve read have knocked the movie for being “clumsy”. Guess what people? We aren’t a polished lot. Embrace it! Some of the earlier scenes do make you cringe slightly, but they are all scenarios that we are familiar with : the drunken Hens Party with crass girlfriends, wedding decorations from Spotlight, the phallic cake, and introducing the pet dog to the grandparents as if it were human. Happens all the time. Admit it. That’s how we live, it’s who we are.

It’s so Australian that I’m not sure that international audiences would get the humour, though the scenery would have them enthralled. Darwin is just so Darwin ( and I adore Darwin), the miles and miles of red dirt of Katherine, and the magnificent chasms and cliffs of Kakadu National Park are simply stunning.

The second half of the movie moves into different territory, literally and metaphorically. When Laura locates her Mum on the Tiwi Islands we are in a different cultural sphere. Though part of our Northern Territory, they are 80 km to the north of Darwin adjoining the Timor Sea. They comprise Melville Island, Bathurst Island, and nine smaller uninhabited islands, with a combined area of 8,320 square kilometres. 

They are inhabited by the Tiwi people as they have been since before European settlement. The Tiwi are an indigenous Australian people, culturally and linguistically distinct from those on the mainland just across the water and number around 88 per cent of the population.

This has definite universal appeal with themes of family, friendship, cultural differences and reconciliation. Reconciliation. A good little flick with a subtle message and fun soundtrack.

Tip : Take tissues

*Bathurst Island has a fascinating history. It was from Bathurst Island that the Japanese aeroplanes were spotted headed for Darwin. The Catholic Father reported the sighting but no one took any notice. In the movie Australia, which depicted the Bombing of Darwin the island where Nulla and the other indigenous children were taken was Mission Island, which was actually Bathurst Island.

The Year of Indigenous Languages.

The United Nations has declared 2019 as the Year of Indigenous Languages.

According to NAPLAN (who measure literacy levels) only 34% of Indigenous Year 5 students in very remote areas are at or above national minimum reading standards, compared to 95% for non-Indigenous students in major cities. Apart from the historical, health, social, and educational disadvantage issues, many remote communities don’t have many, if any, books. Most of the remote communities report there are fewer than five books in family homes.

The Great Book Swap is an annual event and a fantastic way to celebrate reading locally, and raise much-needed funds for remote communities. Schools, workplaces, libraries, universities, book clubs, individuals and all kinds of organisations can host one. The idea is to swap a favourite book in exchange for a gold coin donation. This year, the goal is to raise $350,000 to gift 35,000 new, carefully-chosen books to children who need them the most.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by American author Eric Carle was first published 50 years ago, and has been translated into at least 40 languages.

The Yuwi language of the Yuibera and Yuwibara traditional owners in the Mackay region has no fluent living speakers, and was considered extinct by the State Library of Queensland in 2015. But thanks to a massive revival effort, a small group of volunteers has collated 1,000 words of Yuwi vocabulary, enough to translate The Very Hungry Caterpiller. Yuibera and Yuwibara children in Mackay can now hear the story in their ancestors’ words and the volunteers plan to translate local Indigenous stories into children’s books next.

Awesome. Simply awesome.

For further information go to

2019 Peter Allen Festival in Tenterfield, NSW.

Last year I visited Tenterfield to attend the Inaugural Peter Allen Festival, a colourful celebration of Allen’s contribution to Arts and Culture, not only in Australia but internationally.

A singer-songwriter, musician and entertainer known for his flamboyant stage persona and lavish costumes, Peter Allen was born in Tenterfield in 1944. His most famous song Tenterfield Saddler honours the memory of his grandfather, George Woolnough, who had been a long time Tenterfield resident and owner of the Tenterfield Saddlery on High Street for fifty two years. Classified by the National Trust the building remains mainly untouched to this day.

The 2019 Peter Allen Festival, held from Thursday, 5th September to Sunday, 8th September, will incorporate a range of activities including arts, culture, singing, songwriting, theatre, dance and entertainment and promises to highlight the rural lifestyle, heritage, history, food, local produce, and the indigenous history of the area.

Reservations for some of the big ticket events of the weekend are already available for purchase. These include Peter Allen On The Big Screen, The Jackaroos Breakfast, and Livy and Pete: The Songs of Olivia Newton-John and Peter Allen. Refer

Only 4 hours drive from Brisbane in northern New South Wales, Tenterfield is located in a valley within the Great Dividing Range. Its largely preserved architecture, natural attractions and rich farmland make it a worthwhile destination when needing to relax and recharge.

Tenterfield has a good range of accomodation options including hotels, motels, B&Bs, and caravan parks. Refer to

What is my fondest memory from last years Festival?

People singing in the streets, an entertaining show at the School of Arts Building that had us all out of our seats, and the infectious community spirit at the street markets where I purchased enough fresh produce, jams, and chutneys to fill the pantry. And loud shirts. Lots of loud shirts.

Tenterfield is also full of wonderful history. Take the time to discover it all. It’s well worth the effort:)

NOTE: When I drive to Tenterfield from Brisbane I allow umm, errr, …………nine hours * slinking with a slight dose of shame.

Morning tea at Pottsville just over the border with a whiff of salt air and/or a walk on the beach, a visit to Uncle Peter’s Secondhand Bookstore at Clunes, lunch at Casino (and some good country clothes shops), and a scenic drive in the afternoon to my destination via a quick stop at Tabulam, where General Henry Chauvel was born (and a monument to The Australian Light Horse).