Maryborough and a Touch of Whimsey : Part 1

Maryborough is 300kms north of Brisbane, inland on the Mary River, and positioned between those tourist mecca’s, Hervey Bay and the Sunshine Coast. Founded in 1847, proclaimed a municipality in 1861, it became a city in 1905. During the second half of the 19th-century, the city was an entry point for immigrants arriving in Queensland from all parts of the world.

Maryborough’s income comes from numerous farming and station prospects in and around the city and it’s healthy fishing industry. Tourism also plays a significant part in the economy and sells itself as the Heritage City of Queensland  holding heritage markets each Thursday. Many 19th and 20th century buildings have been preserved and the suburbs are littered with the quintessential old Queenslander homes, ( which a Danish friend described as a “wooden s***box on stilts”) and which are worth a small fortune.

However, Maryborough’s real claim to fame is as the birth place of whom? Here’s a clue……

And another, in case that one was a little obtuse….

Yep, P L Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books lived in Maryborough before moving elsewhere at age eight. Her father managed a bank, in the building where, in a room on the second storey, she was born. This is in the centre of town and still in use, no longer as a bank but as a retail shop. A life-size bronze statue of Mary Poppins, as P.L. Travers described her, complete with umbrella was erected outside the old bank premises at 331 Kent Street, on the corner of Richmond Street, in 2005. 

It is now one of Maryborough’s most famous and photographed icons.

From dusk till 9pm every night there is an illuminated mural that is simply enchanting. ( I was between tea and a show so without camera – Damn!) Here’s another mural – the joint is jumping with them!

But there’s more – we Aussies are adept at flogging a dead horse, you see.

Every winter school holidays for the past ten years Maryborough has held a Mary Poppins Festival. The Festival offers something for all the family. The ‘Art of Storytelling’ program includes film, art, music, performance and literature during the 10-day event. Events are held in various locations across the CBD as well as heritage-listed Queens Park.

Maryborough, thank you for your hospitality. It was a lovely visit.

I do so love our country towns and learn something new at each and every one.LIFE LESSON : Get away from the cricket on the telly and help our farmers and country cousins by spending a few bob in their towns. You’ll be blown away by some of the stories these townships can share.

Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan

I’m currently wading through David Cameron’s The Battle Of Long Tan to better gauge the historical accuracy of the movie released this week, Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan.

Set in Vietnam in 1966 the 1st Australian Task Force headed by Brigadier David Jackson (Richard Roxburgh) is set up in Nui Dat where patrols are sent out into the local countryside. One night the camp is attacked by mortars and while the Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery are able to target them, the 1st Field Regiment need to follow up the next day to find the source. Alpha Company don’t find anything, so Harry Smith’s (Travis Fimmel) Delta Company is sent out to chase them down while a rock show – with Little Pattie and Col Joye and the Joy Boys- is happening back at camp and with monsoonal rain forecast.

All goes well until at the rubber plantation at Long Tan the 11th Platoon of D Company comes under heavy fire and it is soon discovered that this is not just a raiding party but a full battalion of the North Vietnamese Army. 108 young and inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers fight for their lives against 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers.

My initial qualms were about how this would stack up against the big money American movies. And you know what? There was plenty of blood and guts though the point that war is ugly was made without the focus on missing body parts. Bravo.

The Battle is also told through the eyes of Harry Smith and the other leaders on the ground which means that the audience is in on the tactics. Thank you, producers, for taking into consideration that we don’t all have military backgrounds.

This is a very Australian (and Kiwi) movie and the young larrikins come across as brash until they find themselves under fire. The language is littered with colloquialisms  though I admit to being thrown by “ we’re not here to **** a spider”.

Strong performances by all concerned. Reviews are raving about Travis Fimmel’s performance. I found his eyes so mesmerising that I tended to lose focus for a moment or two – a bit Paul Newman-ish.

Whilst this movie didn’t enlighten me any as to the whys and wherefores of this war, it did perpetuate the ANZAC ideals of mateship, larrikinism, and sheer courage.

What I did learn was that the Artillery at Nui Dat fired almost non-stop for 5 hours in support of the battle and that artillery fire was eventually being brought in “Danger Close” to within 50 metres of the Australian position.

And also that the helicopter pilots were as mad as cut snakes.  I’m now chasing a copy of (pilot) Dr Bob Grandin’s book. See here: 

https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/a-helicopter-pilot-remembers-the-terrifying-battle-of-long-tan-as-new-film-premieres-20190613-p51xkx.html

I like a movie which leaves me curious. Vietnam was not discussed in schools back in the day. No political agendas. How things have changed….

I hope that these (now old) men receive the respect that they perhaps did not have previously.

Tip: Don’t rush out of the theatre. Read the screen right till the end. This is when you’ll be privy to a few sobs. Sitting in the dark in the quiet, I felt as if I’de been winded. 

***********

Vietnam Veterans Day is commemorated on the 18th of August, the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan for the men of D Company, 6RAR.

On the third anniversary of Long Tan, 18 August 1969, a cross was raised on the site of the battle by the men of 6RAR, honouring the 18 Australians who lost their lives.

In 2017 the Vietnamese Government made the decision to hand the cross back to Australia, as a gesture of “goodwill” (following a political incident which barred Veterans from visiting the cross in Vietnam for the 50th anniversary of the event. Just one of those little “incidents” that we must gloss over). It is now on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

What Have I Been Reading?

I’ve been focusing on independent authors, local to my area in the Redlands City area of Brisbane.  

Margaret Dakin was born and lived most of her life in Brisbane. She came to writing comparatively late after an adventurous life working in various occupations. After retiring in 2002, she joined a writing group and discovered a love of short stories. 

Margaret has had stage and radio plays produced as well as a musical titled A Bonnet For Eliza which was performed earlier this year. Blogged about it here:https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/2804

Margaret was one of six grandmothers local to the Redlands Coast in Brisbane who, having a little spare time on their hands, collaborated on a novel, The Written Word.

This novel is very topical as it covers overdevelopment and reclaiming of the mangroves ( despite being under the environmental protection of RAMSAR).*

*what a bloody farce

**available from Amazon Australia

Why am I sharing this one with you? Because Retirement does not mean one stops living and the grey matter does not dissipate. There is heaps to do and though I am no longer ruled by daily achievements it is nice to think that there is still enough blood pumping to rattle a few chains. So, there’s now a day in the works for all local authors to present their books to the community ( and hopefully make a few quid), and I’m chatting with those who know about such things about a local Government grant to get a local writer’s competition off the ground.

Why didn’t my mother teach me to knit or sew or even crochet? Might have been easier:)

Umm, I lied. I still measure my days by achievements, but then I classify having breakfast a win.

Two Good Ol’ Girls

It’s officially been the warmest July (winter) on record though we’ve still lost a couple of Australian Icons.

Last week we lost MARGARET FULTON, aged 94 years. Scottish-born Fulton was the first food and cooking writer in Australia, a journalist, and commentator, with 25 cookbooks to her name.

She was awarded the Medal of Australia in 1983 “ in recognition of service to the media as a journalist and writer in the field of cookery”. In 1998, Fulton was added to the list of 100 Australian Living Treasures by the National Trust of Australia.

In all honesty, I never owned a copy, though my m-i-l swore by hers and probably prevented my death by poisoning.

A personal thanks to Ms Fulton who single handedly changed Australian cuisine from post Depression “ meat and three veg”, and for showing my mother’s generation that afternoon tea did not mean freshly picked radishes from the garden, curly celery – My God, do you remember this? – a packet of Jatz crackers, and a salt shaker. 

Only days ago we lost 89 year old DORIS GODDARD. 

Goddard, the legendary publican who was known for putting the Hollywood in Sydney’s beloved Hollywood Hotel, Surry Hills, which she purchased in 1977 before the suburb was gentrified (and in the days when I was too fearful to walk those streets). She cemented herself as a Sydney icon, famous for pulling out her guitar and serenading fellow drinkers at the bar.

As a young woman Goddard travelled the world as a cabaret singer and actress playing bit-parts opposite the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Mel Gibson, Piper Laurie, Bob Hope and Sid James.

At this year’s Vivid festival held in Sydney Goddard was honoured when the Hollywood was made a canvas for visual effects house Heckler’s 50 Iconic Women projection. Goddard herself was inducted as the 51st iconic woman, alongside the likes of Kate Moss, Brigitte Bardot, Amy Winehouse and Queen Elizabeth II.

My favourite memory of Goddard is in the role of a Danish shot-putter opposite Bill Travers in Geordie, released in 1955.

Geordie is one of those nice little movies. No saloon brawls, no profanities, no car chases, no explosives. Remember those? The book of the same name was written by David Harry Walker a Scottish-born Canadian novelist.

It is the account of a young Highlander saddled in boyhood with the title Wee, for obvious reasons, and of the astounding results which followed a course of body building. He becomes the top-ranked hammer thrower at the Highland Games and is chosen to represent the UK in the Olympics at Melbourne, Australia. Of course, he wants to compete in his kilt which becomes an issue.

Thirty one years ago I gave my daughter Geordie as her middle name.  Damn those hormones. 

Only a few years ago a reporter asked Ms Goddard the secret of her success.

Sweetheart,” she said, “I have been happy no matter where I am. You have to make the f***ing most of what you’ve got on the day you’ve got it. No one’s going to give it to you.”  

Bless ‘em.

Build It And They Will Come

I recently came across an obituary from the local newspaper for author W P Kinsella that I had tucked between the pages of a book several years ago. Amongst other things Kinsella wrote Shoeless Joe from which the movie Field of Dreams was derived. Kinsella’s literary agent described the author as a “dedicated storyteller, performer, curmudgeon, an irascible and difficult man”. Love him already.

Shoeless Joe is a good read, with more flesh than the movie, though this does not necessarily make it any better.

Iowa farmer Ray (Kevin Costner) hears a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying “If you build it, he will come,” and he feels the need to act. Despite the threat of bankruptcy, Ray builds a baseball diamond on his land, supported by his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan). Afterward, the ghosts of great players start emerging from the corn fields to play baseball led by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.(Ray Liotta …big sigh and twinge of lust).

This stays pretty much to the original storyline, and much of the dialogue from the book is in the movie. This was a tad disconcerting in that I could hear the “voices”, particularly of Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones, whilst I was reading. I could only “hear” Shoeless Joe in the first half when he did his spiel about what playing the game meant. Maybe this means nothing other than I’ve watched the movie far too often.

The camaraderie of the ball players is far more prominent in the movie version providing much of the humour and humanising the ghosts.( It’s about here we can offer a collective sigh for Liotta again……….)

Which brings me to a recent project: the Butterfly House in my back garden.

Build it and they will come. Fingers crossed anyway. I’ve also planted Marigolds, Lavender, and Geraniums so here’s hoping for house guests soon.

Next project? A Bee Motel.

Villers-Bretonneux, #kindjuly and nuts.

I’ve just booked into an Author-In-Action presentation at the local Library. Can’t wait to learn more about Vicki Bennett’s children’s book, Two Pennies.

In April, 1918 the village of Villers-Bretonneux in France was the scene of the world’s first tank battle between British and German troops which the Germans would win, occupying the township.

The Ecole de Garcons (Boys School) was destroyed along with much of the town on the 25th April 1918 when the Australian 13th and 15th Brigades recaptured it from the Germans in a battle in which over 1,200 Australian soldiers were killed.

The school was rebuilt with donations from Australia. School children and their teachers helped the effort by asking for pennies- in what became known as the Penny Drive -while the Victorian Department of Education contributed 12,000 pounds to the War Relief Fund. The school was appropriately renamed ‘Victoria’. The inauguration of the new school occurred on ANZAC Day in 1927. “N’oublions jamais l’Australie“ (Never forget Australia) is inscribed in the school hall.

The Rugrats have just returned to school after a fortnight of holidays here in Queensland.

The Little Community Library proved a huge success with the generous addition of CDs, DVDs and books for the older kiddies to ease them through the break.

A fellow Little Library Custodian shared with me that it was #kindjuly. Did you know this? (Marketing gurus: aren’t they precious…..)

Kind July – Stay Kind
If every Australian did one act of kindness a day for the month of July, that would be 775 million acts of kindness in Kind July (and 9.3 billion acts of kindness every year).

And I’m off for a dose of Community Theatre tonight : My Husbands Nuts. Honestly, I’m too intimidated to add an apostrophe in case I get it wrong.

Happy Trails:)

Christobel Mattingley and Battle Order 204.

We recently lost Australian author Christobel Mattingley, aged 87 years.

Mattingley was an award-winning author of books for both children and adults. Rummage won the Children’s Book of the Year Award: Younger Readers and Children’s Book of the Year Award: Picture Book in 1982.

In the 1996 Australia Day Honours Mattingley was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “service to literature, particularly children’s literature, and for community service through her commitment to social and cultural issues”.

Her most recent book is Maralinga’s long shadow: Yvonne’s story, which was published in 2016 and won the 2017 Young People’s History Prize at the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

I was introduced to the writing of Mattingley late in the game after reading Battle Order 204 about her husband David’s experiences as a bomber pilot in World War II.

Battle Order 204 is a historical, non-fiction novel that recounts the experiences of the bomber pilot of the Royal Australian Air Force serving with No. 625 Squadron RAF. It follows Mattingley’s dream to one day be a pilot and his journey from start to finish into the skies of Europe during the second world war.

The book is centered on the mission in which his Arvo Lancaster- after being struck three times shattering his hand and badly wounding his leg- was safely returned to the airfield in which it had launched from beating the crews proposal to abandon the wrecked aircraft, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

The book contains photographs, logs and other images of Mattingley’s experiences throughout his service.

The books point of difference was that it was written in a manner to engage the Young Adult demographic. Of course I purchased several copies for younger members of the family.