Books Across September

Because of my recent travels and oranges falling in price to $1.60 for a 3 Kilo bag I’ve been occupied by tourism pamphlets and marmalade recipes. My attempt at the latter is another Epic Fail though the peel is currently brewing to create an organic house cleaning product. Fingers crossed that effort is more successful. I’m also relying on Dr Google to navigate me through a couple of craft projects which is totally bizarre as I don’t craft. I’ll share if my Lazy Susan’s and table placemats make acceptable Christmas gifts….

(Pop Quiz 1: Is all this cooking and crafting a sign that I’m sliding into old age?)

September 7th marked Indigenous Literacy Day, at which time the Indigenous Literacy Foundation promotes literacy to improve the lives and possibilities of Indigenous Australians.

So I’ve also read two books from The Books That Made Us Challenge ( as in made us as a country) that featured on the ABC last year. Both deal with the white occupation of Australia and are cruel but fascinating reads.

Benevolence by Julie Jansen follows the life of young aboriginal girl, Mary, who was gifted to the white community by her father in exchange for a bag of flour. The Secret River by Kate Grenville is the story of an Englishman who came to Australia as a convict in the country’s early days but works his way up to being a wealthy land owner which just happens to necessitate the decimation of the local Aboriginal communities.

I’ve started on the third indigenous themed book in the Challenge – Carpentaria by Alexis Wright – but I’m a bit done in by history and tragedy at the moment.

So just for fun I’m working my way through The Island Of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
which is narrated by a fig tree. Yep, a fig tree. Thought some whimsy would do me well after all the bleak history but the mind is too occupied by craft glue and varnish.

The Little Library is going gangbusters and the assistance from other community members is making the whole caretaking process less onerous. I’m working on creating Book Marks for Christmas for the kiddies to colour and have just added this Book Bingo to create more engagement. I’m not fond of cricket. Can you tell?

(Pop Quiz 2 : Is this ease in handing over the reigns yet another indication of my slow slide into decline?)

The Zoom Book Club fell into a heap after Life returned to the New Normal after Covid, but we are getting back on track next week. I’ll make a cheese platter in preparation.

(Pop Quiz 3: A glass of red or a glass of white? Or two?)

At the other Book Club readers were asked to bring in the oldest book on their bookshelves. Talk about fascinating : all kinds of books made their presence, including guides to shorthand, Mickey Mouse annuals, and one lass ( in white gloves doing her Michael Jackson impersonation) brought in her book published in 1703. A great little exercise. Highly recommended.

A Bookfest this weekend, a tea towell exhibition, and a couple of new projects on the go. Don’t worry; it’s not ageing. Just doing the Gemini thing and ready for change…

Happy Weekend folks.

Tassie : 4 Seasons In 1 Day but oh so Beautiful.

French novelist, Marcel Proust,once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Every time I visit Tasmania, Australia’s smallest State and separated from the mainland, I come across some fascinating gems.

Firstly, at 60 Duke Street in prestigious Sandy Bay, the childhood home of Errol Flynn.

From Flynn’s My Wicked Wicked Ways:

A beach, Sandy Bay, was not far away and I was often there, swimming at the age of three. The beach was of hard brown sand, the water freezing cold. Mother was a good swimmer and she took me there very often. I have never been out of ocean water for very long since.”

In Kettering, where ferries transport people and cars to the beautiful and wild Bruny Island, I spotted this :

So you’re asking what’s the big deal, right?

The Oyster Cove Inn with its beautiful views of Kettering Harbour was built around 1890 for a wealthy British plantation owner named Alfred Cotton as a summer holiday home for his family. Cotton’s son, Sydney, was the model for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Sydney was a triple threat spy for the French, the Germans and M15 and a mate of Fleming’s and Hitlers 2IC, Herman Goering.( Yep, another biography I need to chase….)

At Margate Museum I learned the fascinating history of both the oyster and scallop industries within Tasmania. Better still one of the local Primary Schools was promoting The Young Archies Award. It is a take on The Archibald Prize, an Australian portraiture art prize for painting, generally seen as the most prestigious portrait prize in Australia and first awarded in 1921.

School children were asked to draw portraits of friends or family, with visitors to the Museum asked to nominate their favourites over a given period. The painter of the portrait voted the most popular would win an art set to the value of $200.

What a wonderful way to encourage and foster creativity. Loved it.

Lastly, in sleepy little Swansea on the glorious east coast we were fortunate to attend a performance sponsored by the University of Tasmania by the winners of The Ossa Music Prize. This ensemble, made up of a percussionist and a french horn, played compositions by other students from the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music, which were all based on the lives and history of earlier Tasmanians. Storytelling by music if you like.

I learned about poet Gwen Harwood, colonial architect William Wilson, and Mary Roberts. Who was Mary Roberts? An absolute trailblazer. More about her soon 🙂

Will be home tonight, thank God as I do not waste time at laundromats whilst travelling and my clothes reek. All part of the travel experience, hey……

Small Projects and a Book Review.

I was recently introduced to a woman of around my vintage at an author talk at the local Library. Turns out that she is a writer and during the worst of Covid was asked to commit to a “small project”.

Shirley Chambers’ “small project” was indeed a misnomer as it involved the chronicling of the rich literary history of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs, which are located to the west of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland.

Toowoomba, known as the capital city of the Darling Downs, has its colonial beginnings dating back to 1816. Much of its history has been preserved in its buildings and heritage-listed sites with the region also being renowned for its farmland and grazing. Shirley Chambers, who was born on a farm at Rocky Point on the Downs, has authored “Words From The Past”examining those who formed part of the literary landscape and how their time in the area may have inspired their life experiences.

Arthur Hoey Davis, born in 1868, is perhaps one of the better known authors from that region. Writing under the pseudonym of Steele Rudd (1868-1935) Davis wrote sketches of life which were based on his father’s experience as a selector, someone managing a free selection of land before it was surveyed. These sketches were combined and published as “On Our Selection“. The Rudd Park at Nobby stands as a reminder of his contribution.

Other writers were educators, some were country folk simply expressing their experiences in the bush, some became influences in the literary field, and Mary Hannay Foote, (1846-1918), was an absolute trailblazer becoming Queensland’s first professional female journalist. Several writers had their written work evolve into movies for the big screen, whilst the works of contemporary award winning children’s book illustrator-author, Narelle Oliver, (1960-2016), remain firm family favourites around the nation to this day.

Words From The Past” spotlights nearly thirty wordsmiths with a connection to the Darling Downs. Some were born in the area, others built their lives around the Downs, and a few were simply travelling through. It is an interesting and easy read which would appeal to those who love reading and Australian history, and at $10 a book ( postage additional) is going to make a delightful Christmas stocking filler!

Note to Sharon at https://gumtreesandgalaxies.com/author/gumtreesandgalaxies/, :I believe Shirley has banners featuring these writers at The Lighthouse…..


Wattle

Wattle Day has been celebrated on the first day of September each year since 1992, the official start of the Australian Spring. Prior to this, each State acknowledged the day at separate times depending on when the Acacias were in full bloom in that territory.

During my childhood growing up on a quarter acre block surrounded by suburban bushland Wattle Day was celebrated on the 1st of August, sharing the day with Horses’ Birthday. This meant wearing a sprig of Cootamundra Wattle, which flourished in Sydney, to Primary school on that day which seemed such a special event all those years ago.

I read something from our First Nations people (Dance of the Plants) about Wattle this morning which made my heart sing:

GARRON( Wattle) season is upon us. But if you believe in a little magic then you must listen to my Elders and my late Auntie Lennah♥️ a senior Bunurong Elder, she told us that we were never to bring GARRON into the house. It was to be hung on the door, outside the house, where it would keep the bad spirits away. If you bought it inside then you would get bad luck. The GARRON is a very important plant to Bunurong people, not only for food and medicine but also for bush dye, wood and a thousand other things.Enjoy the sunshine it brings right now as GARRON tells us the season is turning, soon it will be PAREIP(Spring).”

I have always loved Wattle. I have always lived with Wattle. Here’s one I planted as a sapling in the koala corridor that my house backs on to (to replace the palm trees that some idiot planted and which are not native to the area).

Some Wattle Trivia:
( courtesy of https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/australia/articles/golden-wattle-11-facts-about-australias-national-flower/).

-Australia was only federated as a nation in 1901, so its World War I efforts were integral to the formation of a national identity, and the golden wattle played a significant symbolic role. Wattle flowers were sold to raise money during the war, it became tradition to send pressed wattles in letters to wounded soldiers in Europe, and fallen diggers were often buried with a sprig of wattle.

-The flag might be red, white and blue but Australian sporting teams have been wearing green and gold on their uniforms since the late 1800s. The hues were officially recognised as Australia’s national colours in 1984 and these days you won’t spot a national sporting team decked out in anything other than green and gold. It even earns a mention in the cricket team’s victory song: “Under the Southern Cross I stand, a sprig of wattle in my hand, a native of my native land, Australia you f***ing beauty!”

-The designs of the Order of Australia medal (the highest honour an Australian civilian can receive), the National Emergency Medal and countless Australian Defence Force honours are based on the golden wattle. The national flower is also a common motif in works by iconic Australian artists Albert Namatjira, Sidney Nolan and John Olsen, as well as pieces like Banjo Paterson’s 1915 poem We’re All Australians Now, and John Williamson’s song Cootamundra Wattle.

– A sprig of wattle has appeared on the official symbol of the Commonwealth of Australia since 1912 … but it’s botanically incorrect. Wattle frames the kangaroo, emu and shield representing the country’s six states, but technically the spherical flowers and green leaves don’t provide an accurate depiction of the acacia. Ssssssh. Keep that one to yourself.

-Koalas can supplement their diets with Wattle if they are short on Eucalypts ( or aren’t too lazy).

Far North Queensland and Movies

Over 1,700 kms (1,000 miles ) away from home in Far North Queensland and I’ve bumped into a friend from the Adelaide Hills, way, way down south and along way from the east coast. When I say bumped, I mean literally. My facial recognition skills are shonky at best, and when face masks, sun screen and floppy sun hats are added to the equation the result isn’t pretty. Funnily enough, it was actually her husband I recognised from photos, though we’d never previously met.

Carol and I became friends 12 years ago because of our shared love of Australian movies. We both wrote reviews for a mutual literary friend.

So it was perhaps apt that I bumped into this woman at the North Queensland Army Museum in Townsville where a knowledgable volunteer was enthusiastically extolling the virtues of an army truck exhibit which was driven by Nicole Kidman ( AKA Our Nic) in the movie Australia.*

It’s a fascinating museum manned by volunteers and Army Reservists with entry by donation. At the entrance is a sculpture that represents the Australian tunnellers involved in blowing up Nazi bunkers near Ypres in Belgium during WW1 as depicted in the movie Beneath Hill 60. (From the book of the same name by Will Davies and based on the memoirs of Captain Oliver Woodward. An excellent read!) The movie was shot in Charters Towers, 135 km south west of Townsville, with the sculpture donated by the film crew.


In an attempt to elevate the 20 month old grandchild’s education to a higher plateau – afterall, you’re never too young to learn about Errol Flynn, are you? – we visited the popular Australian Hotel in the trendy Palmer Street Precinct for a refreshing bevvy. In my quest for Flynn memorabilia I visited this area forty years ago only to find the Errol Flynn Room – so named because he stayed there prior to his move into acting and before his New Guinea escapades – closed for refurbishment. Back then the pub was a lonely dilapidated shell of a building down by the Port ; these days the area has been gentrified and the accomodation is as swank as. Sadly, the Flynn Room no longer exists. ( Wretched millennials?)

A further 400kms north to Cairns and we came across the Australian Armour And Artillery Museum. About over museums by this stage, though if you have an interest in the movie Fury featuring Brad Pitt then this place with its movie memorabilia ticks all the boxes.**


Lastly,  looking over from Caldwell to Hinchinbrook Island where Nim’s Island was filmed. Lousy weather which made it all the better for investigating Australia’s biggest memorial park commemorating the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Coming full circle and travelling south once again we stopped at Bowen, famous for its summer mangoes .The township of Bowen hit a high note when the main street was transformed into a 1942 Darwin for the movie  Australia. Think the beef cows being shunted down the main street and along the wharf…..

Of course there is more movie paraphernalia in Far North Queensland. It’s just difficult when your hands are full – peeling prawns.

* Manual windowscreen wipers – very handy during a cyclone

*My advice? Get your hair done while the lads knock themselves out.

Castle Hill, Townsville – Indigenous name : Cootharinga

Castle Hill  dominates the skyline in Townsville, in Queensland’s Far North. Not only is it the landmark that provides orientation in this city, the views across to Magnetic Island are just spectacular.

In my previous visits to Townsville I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the giant pink granite monolith that sticks out like a sore thumb, though this trip I’ve finally made my peace. Rising to a height of 286 metres (938 ft) above sea level it is only 62 ft short of being claimed a mountain. It was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1993.

The Hill’s vantage was used by visiting American soldiers during World War II. An observation bunker still sits on one corner of the Hill. ( According to local legend, the visitors famously offered to demolish the hill and use the rock to build a bridge to Magnetic Island.)

Looking back at Townsville from Magnetic Island.

With six months of a weekly Walking Group routine under the belt we thought we’d tackle one of the walking tracks to the summit. No better time than winter because of Townsville’s soaring summer temperatures as well as the Death Adders (snakes) that inhabit the bushland.

After studying the options in a guide that ranked the tracks by designating the number of PUFFS to complete – 5 PUFFS being the hike requiring the most physical effort – we selected the 1 PUFF Hiking Track. This was not a matter of being slack, but rather for romantic notions. You see, the Erythrina Track is also known as “The Ladies’ Track” because it was the inconspicuous route that ‘female friends’ took to visit the soldiers manning the pillboxes on the top of the Hill in WWII. Aaaargh, ain’t love grand……….

The 360 degree views were spectacular though I would argue the 1 PUFF ranking and suggest it be better considered 1 Breathe Away From Rigor Mortis. 

Looking across to Magnetic Island. The white structure in the right hand corner is the Far North’s latest cultural icon : the football stadium.

Next visit we aim to join the annual swim across Cleveland Bay to the Island. Only joking. Life is too precious…..

Heirlooms

From personal experience a common lament from empty nesters who are in the process of downsizing is that their offspring have no interest in the precious belongings handed down through the generations. The crystal punch bowls that were the crux of wedding parties all those years ago, the vases and all of those other family heirlooms simply have no place in todays modern homes with their all white interiors and granite bench tops. ( Didn’t anyone ever tell them that white shows up the dirt?)

My daughters were no different and the Wedgwood and Royal Doulton all went out with the cardboard moving boxes. And that’s fine.

My eldest however did have a special request. “Mo, these would be handy. May I have these?”

According to Australian Food Timeline the Jaffle Iron was “designed, named and patented in Australia in June 1949 by Dr Ernest E.Smithers”.

When the Jaffle Iron was first advertised in 1949, the device was described as a “pressure toaster”. Its advantage was that the edges of the bread were pressed together to contain the hot filling.  According to my reading the jaffle iron was embraced with some fervour. There were even cookery demonstrations showing how to use it ! One advertisement said:

It may be used over any type of heat and we suggest that if you are having a barbecue it might be an idea to provide your guests with three or four bowls of appetising filling and let them make their own. Haute Cuisine!

I remember these jaffle irons as a child from Easter mornings sitting around a man made barbeque carved out of blocks of local sandstone with a billy tea over the flames. Instead of lacy lingerie they also accompanied me on a honeymoon around the National Parks of Tasmania where I shared breakfast with potoroos and wallabies. ( There may have been some lacies but given the temperatures more likely thermals).

Many years beforehand, prior to my existence even, they accompanied my parents on camping trips to Cobbity in western Sydney before it became suburban sprawl, where they would spend their days swimming and shooting bunnies for home made rabbit pie.

Good choice, Pocohontas. Much more interesting than the crystal.

Platypus Matters : The Extraordinary Lives of Australian Mammals by Jack Ashby

Jack Ashby is the Assistant Director of the Museum of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, and an honorary research fellow in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. His first book was Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects and Platypus Matters: The Extraordinary Lives of Australian Mammals was published in 2022.

Let me start by saying that Jack Ashby is a marsupial loving eccentric and I just love him. His favourite marsupial is the platypus, followed by the echidna and then the wombat. He puts his special regard for these three creatures down to the fact that they “waddle”.

Ashby may well be a science nerd but he sounds like great fun around a barbie. In this book he makes the case that Australia’s wildlife is not a collection of oddities or creatures that can kill you as is so often presented in the media. He argues “why it matters that we think about how these animals are portrayed – how we talk about them, how we represent them on TV and in museums, and how we value them” . He states that “our unique wildlife is disappearing at a rate unparalleled by any other large region on Earth, and its conservation is surely tied to how these animals are understood.”

What could have very easily become another catalogue of interest only to other scientists or zoology students is fast paced, humorous and fascinating. Ashby’s respect for the platypus shines through with not only a discussion about their physiology, but also their history in relation to Indigenous Dreamtime, early colonial poetry, and an array of information which I have stored in my Trivia Bank.

For instance, newborn platypus ( or platypups) require mothers milk though platypus do not have nipples. They have milk patches. Who knew! The male is venomous, and war hero Keith Payne VC testifies that the pain from an affliction is worse than a gun shot wound.

And did you know that in 1943 Winston Churchill asked Prime Minister John Curtain for six live specimens as moral boosters and to promote the relationship between England and Australia during the middle of World War 2 ? (A Japanese submarine ruined those plans…..)

Facts about the other mammals are also intriguing : how echidnas have intimate relations, wombats pouches face backwards and why their poop is cubed, and taxidermy does not simply involve retaining an animals skin and stuffing it with tissue paper.

Many of these creatures aren’t well known around the world and even the qualified staff at international Natural History Museums are quite clueless. Did you know that Echidna’s back feet are backwards for digging purposes though taxidermied specimens do not reflect this, and the half a dozen Tasmanian Tigers around the world all have erections.

Great read. Jack, I’m in love…….Now feeling pumped for the next Trivia comp at the local bowlo.

Old Man Platypus

by AB Paterson

Far from the trouble and toil of town,
Where the reed beds sweep and shiver,
Look at a fragment of velvet brown –
Old Man Platypus drifting down,
Drifting along the river.

And he plays and dives in the river bends
In a style that is most elusive;
With few relations and fewer friends,
For Old Man Platypus descends
From a family most exclusive.

He shares his burrow beneath the bank
With his wife and his son and daughter
At the roots of the reeds and the grasses rank;
And the bubbles show where our hero sank
To its entrance under water.

Safe in their burrow below the falls
They live in a world of wonder,
Where no one visits and no one calls,
They sleep like little brown billiard balls
With their beaks tucked neatly under.

And he talks in a deep unfriendly growl
As he goes on his journey lonely;
For he’s no relation to fish nor fowl,
Nor to bird nor beast, nor to horned owl;
In fact, he’s the one and only!

Note :

Platypus are secretive creatures that travel alone. I have been fortunate to have spotted several in their natural habitat; once in the Royal National Park in Sydney and at a bush property on North Queensland’s Atherton Tableland. I also live 1 km walking distance down a bush track to what was once a Platypus Reserve. I keep walking down that way in case I luck out and spot another……

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.

Serendipity Part 1 : Yungaburra, FNQ.

In November 2020, during the middle of a Pandemic, I wrote about a musical tribute to our servicemen and women in the form of a CD called Spirit Of The ANZACS. Country singer, Lee Kernaghan, along with other Australian singer/songwriters Garth Porter and Colin Buchanan, were given access to the diaries, letters and stories of Australian and New Zealand diggers held by the Australian War Memorial as a project for the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.  These letters covered 100 years of ANZAC history from the First World War right through to Afghanistan. Many of the lines in the songs on this CD have been directly lifted from these letters, many written on the battlefield.

The song I included in that post was titled I Will Always Be With You from a letter written by Private Benjamin Chuck, 2 Commando Regiment, who lost his life in 2010  in the mountains of Kandahar Province  in a chopper accident during his third tour of Afghanistan. 

It’s been a year for serendipitous events.

Earlier this year I attended a social function commemorating Australian servicemen and women. There were several interesting stories including that of Hilda Rix, artist. Google her -it’s a fascinating tale. Another story was that of a father from Far North Queensland who lost his son in Afghanistan and who fund raised and worked his tail off to create The Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra on Lake Tinaroo.


The Avenue

The Avenue with its 250 m of sand coloured path representing the barren Afghanistan landscape, twin rows of Illawarra Flame Trees and Central Monument symbolizes ‘the final journey home’ of the Fallen. It comprises 3 main elements:
– The entrance and pathway to the Central monument
– The Monument and The Honour Board
– The journey home leading from the Memorial

A plaque representing each one of the 42 fallen soldiers (40 killed in action plus one training casualty and one non-combat related death) from the Afghanistan Campaign is present on the Honour Board adjacent to the Memorial. The centrepiece of the Memorial is a cairn of stones sourced from Afghanistan surmounted by a pair of sculptured wings in full flight depicting the contributions made by all services and symbolizing the undaunted spirit of the Australian Digger. The Avenue has all night lighting with the Honour Board and Monument bathed in blue light.

A series of plaques distributed throughout the Avenue feature service commendations from Military Commanders, Five VC Award Recipients, references to major engagements fought, the role of Explosive Detection Dogs, and literary contributions from community members.  

     – from https://www.avenueofhonour.com.au/memorial/history/


The entrepreneurial gentleman was Gordon Chuck, father of young Benjamin Chuck.

In April at my local Dawn Service in Cleveland, thousands stood in the cold and the rain to honour those who had served. This year the names of the fallen from recent theatres of war were announced over the loud speakers with nominated persons depositing a wreath by the cenotaph. It was a moving service with many shedding a silent tear. And Benjamin Chuck’s name was amongst those called.

I’ve started packing for a road trip. Shouldn’t. The financial advisor will spit chips but you know what ? You’re a long time dead.

One of my stops will be The Avenue Of Honour at Yungaburra, Far North Queensland.