Sympathy Pains

My eldest daughter, Pocahontas, is 2400 kms away, living in a remote part of the Northern Territory. She is 39 weeks pregnant with her first child. Positive and confident she has Essential Oils and a music play list that heavily features Frank Sinatra packed to take to hospital.

I feel sick as. Regular tummy pains are forcing me to bed for short stretches and I’m having lots of little naps. When I’m up and about I’m firing on all cylinders, busy rearranging the furniture and cleaning out cupboards. Last week I sugar soaped the bathroom, this week I cooked Aubergine Chips.

I think I’m suffering Sympathy Pains or a phenomenon medically termed as couvade syndrome whereby you feel as if you are feeling the same pains as a loved one.

Even my ankles have swollen which really distresses me because my ankles have always been damn fine. I have the ankle jewellery to prove it.

Just as well I bought a box of books to sit this one out…………..

The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz

The Boy Who Followed His Father Into Auschwitz

    By Jeremy Dronfield

This is a true story, a story moulded from a secret diary written by Gustav Kleinmann  whilst in concentration camps during World War 2, and corroborated by his son’s Fritz’s memoirs, published in 2012 with the title Doch der Hund will nicht krepieren, (which translated means But Still The Dog Will Not Die).

The Kleinmanns are a Jewish family living in Vienna who get caught up in the events of the 1930s. In 1939 Gustav and his eldest son are arrested and imprisoned at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. When Gustav is transferred to Auschwitz  15 year old Fritz volunteers to go with his father despite it being considered a death sentence. He doesn’t want his father to be alone.

Through luck, fortitude, and a strong bond these two men go on to survive the eight day Death March through snow away from the advancing Red Army to incarceration at Mauthausen, followed by a spell at Mittelbau-Dora, and then finally Bergen- Belsen where they finally find freedom at wars end. It’s a bleak read, a dark read, as one would expect.

 The author also interviewed the younger son, Kurt, who was able to tie in the rest of the families’ circumstances during that same period.

Gustav’s wife Tini is courageous and resourceful, organising a work visa that enables the eldest daughter to go to England as a domestic, and Kurt when a young child, is sponsored and goes to America. Both end up living happy and successful lives.

Tini’s story is fascinating, scrounging for work, money and food and doing whatever it takes to keep her family together, even sending parcels of clothing to Gustav and Fritz at the camps in the early days. Sadly Tini and her youngest daughter were later amongst those executed at a death camp near Minsk.

Although Kurt was aware of these deaths it wasn’t until he met the author for research purposes that he learned how the executions took place. Seventy plus years later the information still has a gut wrenching effect.

This is a powerful and tragic read though love of family and resilience shine through. And no, there will never be enough Holocaust stories if it means preventing a repeat episode.

Around the world, people condemned the Nazis and criticized their own governments for doing too little to take in refugees. But the campaigners were outnumbered by those who did not want immigrants in their midst, taking their livelihoods and diluting their communities. The German press jeered at the hypocrisy of a world that made so much indignant noise about the supposedly pitiful plight of the Jews but did little or nothing to help.”

About The Author:
Jeremy Dronfield is a biographer, historian, novelist and former archaeologist. I look forward to chasing up his other titles.

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.🥰

Welcome To Spring

These cheerful Wattle Babies are the most good-natured of all of May Gibbs’  Bush Babies. Their bright yellow clothes brighten the bush on a Winter’s day. In Spring they love to go boating and swimming with their frog friends and have fun playing hide and seek with the baby birds. 

May Gibbs (1877-1969), author and illustrator, has captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of Australians with her lovable bush characters and fairytale landscapes. She is best known for The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

September 1st is Wattle Day in Australia.

I love everything about the Wattleit’s simply sensational.

My Wattle Sapling in flower for the first time

Travel During The Time Of Pandemic

Crawling out of a funk after another planned trip cancelled due to Covid. Here in Queensland we are living in a bubble, the positive being only 6 plague related deaths over the the last seven months. The negatives are multiple and soul destroying though we continue to move forward, even though we are really going backwards.

Qld Tourism has been spending big bikkies to encourage us to travel around our home State. It’s a big State with an area of 1,727,000 square kilometres, making it nearly five times the size of Japan, seven times the size of Great Britain, and two and a half times the size of Texas.

Most of the population live along the coast and nearly 902,000 square kilometres is considered “Outback”.

Anyway, advertising is obviously working as accomodation is at a premium as are the numbers of Grey Nomads ( retirees driving around in mobile homes and caravans). Good luck to them : they bring a lot of money to townships that would otherwise be doing it tough. But good luck trying to book a motel along the coast……

I pulled this beaut little guide to Queensland from the weekend newspaper and highly recommend it.

What makes this brochure different to other guides available encouraging travel around the State?

As well as separating the regions and the Must Do’s to visit, it provides
the title of a book to read which is based on that region, as well as a piece of music for the play list.

These are the reading and recommendations if visiting the Mackay area :

I figure that despite our current circumstances there are still opportunities to spend the kids’ inheritance.

Queenslanders, and pseudo Queenslanders, get your copy now.

Five Concept Albums Based On Books

I’m a bit of a sucker for Lists. I mean reading lists – not creating them. I don’t even write a shopping list.( C’mon people, how hard is it ?)

Because I have relied heavily on music to ease me through these past seven months of Covid I’ve been reading more than my share of Lists. In no way mind expanding and generally in one ear and out the other, which sums up all I can deal with during these times…..

I’m borrowing this information from Steven G from Weekend Notes who is a listophile extraordinaire as well as ad libbing.

War Of The Worlds by Jeff Wayne (1978), based on War Of The Worlds by HG Wells (1898)

The two-disc album remains a bestseller, having sold 15 million copies worldwide. It has spawned multiple versions including video games, DVDs, and live tours. You’de have to be living under a rock not to be aware of this album.

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth by Rick Wakeman (1974), based on Journey To The Centre Of The Earth by Jules Verne (1871; English)

Can’t say too much about this one : it evokes memories of Saturday nights spent in beanbags drinking Blackberry Nip.

Diamond Dogs by David Bowie (1974), based on Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)

This album includes the hit song 1984, originally intended for a stage musical based on the novel, which was never produced because permission was refused by Orwell’s widow Sonia.

Animals by Pink Floyd (1977), based on Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)

The album’s lyrics describe various classes in society as different kinds of animals: the predatory dogs, the despotic ruthless pigs, and the “mindless and unquestioning herd” of sheep. Described as “ the apparent social and moral decay of society, likening the human condition to that of mere animals”. Has there ever been a Pink Floyd concert which did not feature a flying pink pig?

Leviathan by Mastodon (2004), based on Moby Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

Songs  from this album, “Iron Tusk”, “Blood and Thunder”, “I Am Ahab” and “Seabeast”, were released as singles. Three magazines awarded the album Album of the Year in 2004 and in 2009 and 2015 MetalSucks named Leviathan the best metal album of the 21st century.

Might be time to listen to a little Dean Martin…………………..

Around The World Reading Challenge : Germany

The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Shalansky

Inge Lohmark has been employed in the education system for thirty years and is currently employed in a school that will soon be closing.

She lives and breathes biology and treats her students as specimens. A huge follower of Charles Darwin this is how she describes the children in one of her classes.

Right at the front crouched a terrified vicar’s child who had grown up with wooden angels, wax stains and recorder lessons. In the back row sat two overdressed little tarts. One was chewing gum, the other was obsessed with her coarse black hair, which she constantly smoothed and examined, strand by strand. Next to her, a tow-headed, primary-school-sized squirt. A tragedy the way nature was presenting the uneven development of the sexes here. To the right by the big windows, a small primate rocked, back and forth, open-mouthed, waiting only to mark his territory with some vulgar comment. It was just short of drumming on its chest.”

Set in the former East Germany which is starting to adapt to new ways only heightens Inge’s inability to do the same. She presents as bitter and cold and does not have a loving relationship with either her husband or adult daughter. I don’t think the reader really cares one hoot about Inge.

The language in this book at first appears stodgy, though the author has actually been very clever and written this short novel as if it were a biology paper.

Reviews of The Giraffe’s Neck, another nod to biology in that the long neck allows these animals to eat from the tallest trees, are very mixed. East Europeans see it as the next Modern Classic of German Literature and it is listed in the Top 100 German Books Translated Into English.

I admit that I probably under valued this book because of a lack of knowledge about German history and politics. Germany was not discussed in our house, and my father ( ex Bomber Command and Pathfinder Force) actually pulled me out of German classes in high school. Having said that this is one sorry affair. Nor did it provide any incentive for me to do any follow up reading to improve my understanding.

About The Author :

Judith Schalansky was born in 1980 in Greifswald, Germany. She has degrees in both history of art and communication design and works as a freelance writer and designer in Berlin. This is her first novel.

Have You Ever Resorted To A Mud Map ?

Cause for celebration! The pile of books by my bedside is finally diminishing. 

However, I have just hit a hurdle : 

Hilary Mantel’s final historical fiction novel in the trilogy about Cromwell during the Tudor years is testing the Covid Brain.  As in testing Big Time. The Mirror And The Light isn’t so much a difficult read, although at almost 900 pages it would make a decent doorstop, I’m just not keeping up with the cast of characters. You know, who is married to whom, who killed whom, who slept with whom. It’s a puzzle, I tell you.

The front of the book includes a six page Character Reference Guide. I repeat : 6 pages of characters. At the best of times this would be challenging, during a pandemic when it can be a crisis to decide whether or not to get out of ones pjs it is just not on.

So before I go any further with this book I’m going to do something which I admit has proved helpful in previous reads jam-packed with historical data. Yep, I’m pulling out the coloured pens and creating a mud map. This should keep me on track with both timelines and the characters.

If nothing else a little colour in between all those pages filled with black and white and people being decapitated might be uplifting.

Have you ever had to create a mud map to work through a book ?

( Be kind: This is NOT Alzheimers – just practical.)

Books & Happy Ever Afters

I’ve ripped through heaps of books during Isolation but to be honest remember the details of very few of them. It’s like “in one ear and out the other”. Covid Brain, and I’m sure this is a “thing” and will soon be entered into the Dictionary, had my kindle on overtime downloading reading material from the Library. Mostly mystery and crime novels which is bizarre as this is not my usual genre. I don’t even watch any crime shows on the telly.

I’m putting my interest in these books down to an attachment or soft spot for the protagonists, such as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike.

Both Reacher and Strike are similar characters: ex-military, built like a brick outhouse, loners, easily able to charm a bird into bed, and with a highly developed sense of right and wrong.

Unfortunately Jack and I are parting company after the 2019 released Blue Moon which had the lad go vigilante knocking off warring crime gangs. Time to retire ol’ Jack; way too much indiscriminate killing. Go and get yourself a Rescue dog, my friend.

Author Sue Grafton died before finishing her Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series. A female private investigator we’ll now never find out if Kinsey ever settled down with the one fella or even managed a decent haircut. Such a shame.

I’m currently fixated on John Puller, a creation of David Baldacci’s imagination. Another character with a military background this fella’s companion is AWOL the cat.

It must be the romantic in me : I’m waiting for the Happy Ever After endings.

Do you have an interest in the outcome of any particular character in a series? Alex Cross?

Talking Happy here’s the contents of my Mystery Box from the book sale fundraiser on the weekend. $20. Happy as!

How I Know Life Is On The Improve

Yes, I have enjoyed a Chicken Schnitzel at the local pub, and yes, I’ve finally had a hair cut.

But here’s the biggie. The Real M’Coy. The Cat’s Pyjamas. The BIGGIE that makes things feel like we are at last getting back on an even keel after bushfire, drought and a pandemic. Or at the very least to some semblance of normality……

The local Rotary Club is holding a sale of preloved books as a fundraiser for both national and international projects. It’s not the usual version with books laid out for your selection but more of a Pot Luck affair because of limited numbers and self distancing rules. No matter ; a box of adult fiction for $20 or a bundle of kids books for $10 reminds me of fossicking through a show-bag from the Royal Easter Show in Sydney when I was a child many, many moons ago. ( My personal favourite was always the Liquorice Bag).

Anything SciFi , Dystopian or with a Dragon on the cover will be shared amongst friends or end up at the Little Community Library. Afterall the one thing this pandemic has achieved is to remind us to be a little kinder to each other. Touch wood.

These were a recent donation to the Little Library by a local pensioner.