Elyne Mitchell and The Silver Brumby

This Clayton’s Lockdown that we’ve been experiencing since New Year,( the lockdown you’re having when you’re not having a lockdown), also known as the Shadow Lockdown, seems to be more difficult to endure this time round. Maybe it’s because the media keep insisting we are all going to cop a dose regardless, or alternatively there is little more to accomplish in the decluttering and home maintenance area.

Or maybe it is the fact that any travel adventures were dashed from Day 1 of 2022.

Last year I discovered there was an Annual Man From Snowy River Bush Festival in the wilds of Victoria. Lots of whip cracking, camp ovens, horses, markets, poetry and bush music. See here :https://bushfestival.com.au/whatson

Anyway, not going to happen. 

Good news homegrown bloggers and a little distraction, especially if you are not a tennis or cricket fan:-

A feature of this Festival is the Elyne Mitchell Photo Story Award.

Who was Elyne Mitchell?

Mitchell was the  author of a series of children’s books very popular with young girls, in the 50’s and 60’s : The Silver Brumby. There were 13 novels in this series in total and she also wrote non fiction books including her family history which I would love to read (her father was Henry Chauvel from the Australian Lighthorse Brigade in WW1 and she married a Changi POW who later became a politician) which included her own photographs, many of which were taken in the area where this Festival is taking place.

Hands up those who remember The Silver Brumby? 

Confession: I was never into equine flesh nor did I enjoy Black Beauty or Flicka. Too sad. More a Rin Tin Tin kind of girl…..

All photo story entries (maximum of 200 words)  must have “a specific reference to the theme “The Overflow” and an Australasian rural experience and must be the writer’s own work. Clear images must be provided. Written entries should demonstrate the significance of the image to the entry.”

There is an entry fee and th closing date is 14th of February 2022. More details here: https://bushfestival.com.au/whatson/elyne-mitchell-photo-story-award-competition.

I’m so over gardening, rearranging the house, and playing with new recipes this is going to be my shiny new plaything for the weekend. Looking at old holiday snaps might soothe the soul too 🙂

The 99th Koala – a Book Review

The 99th Koala by Kailas Wild is not the book to read if you are following authors aiming to be rewarded with the Booker Prize. This is a personal account of an ordinary man during extraordinary times who did some truly magnificent things. Written from the heart this is a book that is raw, with photos that will have you smiling one moment and wiping away a tear the next. Indeed, this is one of those books you’d buy just for the photos alone.

The 2019-20 Kangaroo Island fires burnt 211,474 hectares of land and resulted in two deaths, 87 homes destroyed and 59,730 livestock lost. The disaster affected nearly half of the island’s land mass and accounted for around 75 per cent of all hectares burnt in South Australia during the Black Summer fire season.  Who didn’t tune into the nightly evening news to watch the march of these deadly bushfires along the coast of  Australia?

Steven Selwood from South Australia Veterinary Emergency Management claimed 46,000 koalas were thought to be on the island before the bushfires. It is estimated as few as 9,000 remain, as the landscape was turned into scorched earth by the blazes.

Introducing Kailas Wild, self employed arborist, State Emergency Services Volunteer, and a conservationist with native animal rehabilitation training. Although the Australian Defence Force was on hand at Kangaroo Island assisting with the rescue of farm animals and wildlife a cry went out for more volunteers with tree climbing experience, and Kai drove for nearly 18 hours from Sydney to Kangaroo Island to answer the call.

For 7 weeks Kai worked long hours often utilising his own search and rescue techniques for koalas requiring medical attention. His ” days alone amongst burnt trees and dead animals” often left him emotionally and physically drained and ” starting each day crying into his Cornflakes”.

Kai successfully rescued 100 koalas which were transported to a makeshift Koala Hospital on the Island. Do you remember the media images sent around the world of koalas in laundry baskets receiving medical attention?  

Courtesy Reuters

Some koalas that looked healthy died of smoke inhalation and internal damages,  some died from nasty falls and stress, but many were rehabilitated and regained their health and were reintroduced to the wild including numerous joey koalas.

Two facts I found interesting :

  1. After a bushfire the blackened trees start to spurt new growth. I always thought this is a good thing. Guess what : fresh shoots on trees are known as epicormic growth and have a higher level of toxicity that makes them inedible for koalas. From the trees perspective this is a defence mechanism when it is trying to recover from fires.*
  2. Koalas in a tree may look healthy but it may well be that their paws are burnt so badly that any movement is extremely painful. These koalas generally starve to death………..and I simply can’t recount the tales about all the burns  that led to the peeling away of skin. 😢

Kai writes ” we all shared the profound sense of grief at the loss of over a billion of our unique wild animals, along with their habitats. The number was, and still is, beyond comprehension.”

This is the story of what one ordinary man could achieve under horrific circumstances. Let’s all take some inspiration from Kailas Wild.

This Book Review is an entry in the Gaia / Nature Reading Challenge.

If you sign up and submit an entry before the end of February Sharon from Gumtreesandgalaxies.com will donate an Australian children’s book about wombats to a new charity aimed at promoting children’s literacy You can read more here :

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/96945328/posts/3773908941#comments

*It has since been established that some koalas can adapt to eating new growth.

Some Military Stuff….

So much for a sedate start to the New Year. It’s all happening here on the south east corner of Queensland : tropical lows, the tail end of a tsunami, and floods. Yep, floods.

A while back I shared a visit to Maryborough, 200kms north of Brisbane and known as the home of P L Travers who wrote Mary Poppins, and the magnificent Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Walk created in Queens Park by the river. See here :

https://wordpress.com/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/3246

Queens Park went under in the floods which provided one of the most compelling and slightly spooky sights in months.

In the park is a life-sized sculpture which commemorates Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, believed to be the first man ashore at Gallipoli, and a Maryborough lad. The memorial display contains stones and sand from Gallipoli and depicts the soldier gazing towards the high cliffs at the moment the first shots rang out. The floods seemed to recreate the scene of Duncan first stepping ashore back in 1915.

And A Book Review :

Cheerio, Don was written by Susan Alley, the niece of the subject of this book, Donald Mitchell, a young soldier who served in PNG during WW2. Taken from letters to his family and his diaries about life on the Mitchell dairy farm in Coraki, northern NSW, this is an interesting read because of the insights it provides about Australian life during the war years.

As the only son of a dairy farmer Don could have applied for an exemption because of his occupation. When called up for duty his only sister resigned from her nursing position to work on the farm to help Dad, only returning to nursing when Don was demobbed.(Note : upon Don’s return Dad would not pay his daughter a weekly wage).

Other fascinating snippets include the very real fear that the Japanese  would invade the east coast and a “Scorched Earth” policy was indeed under serious consideration.

My fellow Aussies : did you ever hear about that in your High School History classes? Or that the road between Nimbin and Uki was land mined to stop travel between Qld and NSW? Or that many folk relied on brown paper to block out the lights during evening “black outs”? 

It was the trivia in this story I found fascinating – ration books, trenches in school yards to “protect” the children, the price of beef –  which is so often the case in these biographies about family members.

The Books That Made Us and Ham

Late last year Australian actor, Claudia Karvan, hosted a three part television documentary that explored the stories that have shaped our nation’s identity in Books That Made Us.

Courtesy of the ABC

Claudia met with some of our most beloved and brilliant writers, including Booker Prize winners and best-selling authors and writers who have penned seminal stories, such as Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Helen Garner, Tim Winton, David Malouf, Kate Grenville, Christos Tsiolkas, Thomas Keneally, Liane Moriarty, Trent Dalton, Kim Scott, and Melissa Lucashenko.

Did anyone watch this series?

I had read a handful of the books listed over the years though my Zoom Book Club have determined that we will read from the Books That Made Us List over the coming months starting with Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River.” I’m loving it!

A fellow Little Community Librarian in Western Australia – Leah’s Little Library – has massaged a Reading Challenge to better reflect Australian culture. I’ve attached if you are looking for direction in your reading this year.

With a house full of people and dogs my holiday reading has been pathetic with the TBR once again out of control. I had a date to visit the Lifeline Bookfest in the city later in the month. Maybe it’s just as well it has been cancelled because of you-know-what ( which we refuse to give a name in an endeavour to reduce its power).


And the really good news?

The Christmas Ham made it through to January 10th. So two things : 1) I never want to see ham again and 2) let the ham and vege soup making process begin.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu – Book Review

Frank Sinatra popularised a song in the late 60’s that contained the lyrics “Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again, too few to mention”. My Way – can you hear it playing in your head now? – has recently been knocked off the top of the charts as the most popular song to have played at a funeral. As at last October the perennial favourite dropped to number two in the annual rankings, being replaced by Gerry & The Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Anyway, I totally get the sentiment. Even with Covid my life has been blessed. My only personal regret is not having made it to the Northern Territory to visit my daughter due to border closures, especially following the arrival of the country’s finest project, young Harry Kilom.

Kakadu National Park is in the Northern Territory, roughly 180 south east of Darwin, the capital city. It covers an area of 19,804 km2 making it the second largest national park in Australia. It is the size of Wales and nearly half the size of Switzerland to give you some perspective.

Our First Nations people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites as well as the diversity of the fauna and flora. Its cultural and natural values were recognised internationally when the park was World Heritage Listed.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu won an award in the 2021 Children’s Book Council Of Australia for “books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style.

Written by Pamela Freeman this book explores the changing seasons of Kakadu – the Dry and the Wet, then back to Dry – and how this impacts on the animals and plants that live in the region. Liz Anelli’s illustrations are simple though easily recognisable even by younger readers.

Each page includes a simple storyline about the environment in its various stages and in a different font at the bottom of each page is a paragraph of factual information, though still in language for younger readers to understand.

Interestingly, although we label the seasons of Kakadu the Dry and the Wet our Indigenous people believe that there are indeed six seasons. This is important because following the seasons is vital for their food supply.

One of the greatest dangers to the natural environment of Kakadu is the Cane Toad, imported in the early 1900’s to combat beetles hurting our sugar cane industry and which are poisonous to our native birdlife and marsupials. A note at the end of the book gives thanks to “the native water rats who have figured out how to safely eat cane toads”.

This is one beautiful children’s book and if you are unable to visit the NT it isn’t a bad substitute. Young Harry Kilom just loves the baru – crocodiles.

( For Gum Trees And Galaxies Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge ).

Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge 2022

Sharon from Gum Trees and Galaxies is hosting an interesting Reading Challenge this year and it is one that appeals on several fronts. It’s not overly taxing and participants may just learn from it, in turn benefiting their life and the lives of their community.

The Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge promotes reading about nature, the environment and climate.

The challenge will officially start from the 1st of January 2022 and run until the 31st of December 2022. It is optional if you want to pledge to read particular titles. To help your selection of reading material there is a Book Bingo which is open to interpretation. These are the categories :

The wonder of a child
Deep Dive
Get Active
First Nations
It’s A Small World
Into theForest you go.

I’m a firm believer in trying to effect small environmental changes within my own community. Some of the things I have achieved over the past twelve months include sharing vegetable seedlings with neighbours at the Little Community Library ( instructions included), installing a Butterfly House, putting drinking water out for wildlife, liaising with Council about the planting of street trees on verges ( previously knocked down during the Development process) and shopping and buying local. Little ripples, I know.

Don’t believe me?

A strange car pulled up outside my house on Xmas Eve and I was greeted at the front door by a total stranger who handed me a gift bag and wished me a Merry Xmas. Boggled, I opened the parcel and this is what I found :

My first entry for this Challenge will be Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu which covers the First Nations and Wonder Of A Child book categories. Yes, sneaky I know…… This is my first book for 2022 which I’ve pinched from the grandson’s Santa sack.

As per the Challenge instructions I will include a quote. If you too would like to participate and believe in the “ripple effect” – where little ripples can turn into big ripples and effect change – please visit Gum Trees and Galaxies.

Happy 2022 Reading all!

Author Talk At Local Library

I have only one word to say after attending an Author Talk at the local Library : Wow! Just Wow!

Heather Morris is the author of The Tattooist Of Auschwitz (2018), Cilka’s Journey (2019) and the recently released Three Sisters.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, is the story of how Slovakian Jew Lali Sokolov fell in love with a girl he was tattooing at the concentration camp and is based on a true story.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When they are little girls, Cibi, Magda, and Livia, the Three Sisters of the book title, make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what. Years later, at just fifteen, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only nineteen herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her. Together, they fight to survive through unimaginable cruelty and hardship.

Heather Morris is passionate about telling stories and these are mighty powerful stories.

Other than the stories themselves two things stood out having listened to the author talk about her writing :

  1. In 2003 Heather was invited to coffee with a friend who wanted to introduce her to a gentleman with an interesting tale. Lali Sokolov entrusted Heather with the details of his life during WW2 which ultimately became her first book. He also shared stories about another young woman, Cilka, which became the second book. Three elderly women in Tel Aviv then reached out to the author having read about Cilka and their story became the third book. The story about how these books evolved is as fascinating as the tales within the books.
  2. Heather Morris wrote her first book at 65. You go girl!

Has anyone read these books?

NOTE : The author has been in discussions with the NSW Department of Education who have added The Tattooist Of Auschwitz to the school curriculum. WOW, just wow…

November In Books

Not a satisfying month for books. Could be my brain fuzz having to spend days dealing with a major roof leak, tradies and the insurance company.

Finished Nicole Moriarty’s You Need To Know, Small Acts Of Defiance by Michelle Wright and The J M Barrie’s Ladies Swimming Club by Barbara Zwitser. Anything else is a blurr.

Off to the local Library to listen to Heather Morris on Friday, author of The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, so hope I can get the head into gear by then.

With all the rain I’ve been enjoying the garden and preparing seedlings to put in the Little Community Library for Christmas. Pumpkin seedlings mainly : my small attempt to eradicate hideous plastic pumpkins imported from China for next November.

I’ve also rescued and groomed some bears in need of adoption for the Community Library. Recycling and Sustainability, one step at a time……


This weeks movie watch was The Magic Pudding, an animated version of Norman Lindsay’s 1918 Children’s Classic. Albert, the Magic Pudding, and Bunyip Bluegum the koala, are characters much loved by those of a certain vintage, right up there with the Seven Little Australians.


The movie, released in 2000, featured the voices of Sam Neill, John Cleese, Jack Thompson, Hugo Weaving, and Toni Collette. Top shelf. It didn’t sit well with me for numerous reasons, particularly the ocker accents, and I think the humour will be lost on the Little Person. I’ll stick to a long time favourite for baby sitting purposes : Cujo, the rabid Saint Bernard.

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War Records Conundrum

I recently located an interesting children’s book about Sister Marie Craig, one of the “Flying Angels” who cared for some 18,000 injured soldiers on flights from Papua New Guinea to the hospital in Darwin during WW2. After the misleading book  about a cat who survived a sinking ship, Changi and Sandakan as mentioned with much disgust last week, I didn’t want to get caught out again, so checked the records at the Australian War Memorial. Sister Craig’s story is fair dinkum and is an interesting one……

So, whilst looking at records at the AWM, I discovered a new record under my father’s name which is out there on the internet for all the world to see. Their database contains the names of WW1 and WW2 soldiers, service numbers, rank, date of discharge and decorations and other basic information. I’m not sure about other Conflicts – records were still being digitalised at one point. It’s a user friendly database and you simply search using a name.

Service records are available for a fee and the AWM will post a copy of these documents. I ordered my father’s service documents after he died : 42 pages, which to be honest, apart from medical history, promotions, and changes of pay means little to me. 

( I digress, but on my first visit to the AWM in Canberra as a young woman travelling with a young man who found it difficult to locate hotel accomodation because we were not married – Canberra being Australia’s porn capital no less – a research officer at the AWM explained veterans service documents by using the records of a deceased Prime Minister as an example. Though not fond of the deceased Prime Minister in question I was somewhat appalled that his medical records included a dose of VD during his time in a theatre of war which was clearly pointed out by the employee. So much for privacy.)

But back to the old man.

Dad’s plane.

There is now a record that states under Collections that the AWM is in possession of my father’s leather bound diary from 15 April, 1943 to 24th August, 1945 that includes movements, roles, and flying missions etc. It also states ” entries describe leave, dances, the Boomerang Club and meeting girls”. Photographs, poetry, propaganda leaflets are also included as well as details of his marriage to an English sweetheart. ( Not my mother).

My father never discussed the War. It wasn’t until he was in his 70’s that he let things slip, like Dresden and how ” bloody cold” it was high in the skies above Europe. He wasn’t quite the hard old bastard by then.

There was never any mention of a diary nor a first wife.

My curiosity is piqued but it is not my life. It is a diary of a life before I was even a twinkle in the eye. A life 15 years before mine even started. 

That these records of times past are retained for historians is a wonderful thing. I get that. What I don’t get is that there are 566 words included in the description of the diary’s contents available on a search under my father’s name on the Australian War Memorial’s website available for all and sundry to see.

I’m a little conflicted :don’t dead people deserve some privacy? I can hear the old bugger telling me to ” cop it sweet, Pet”, but it just doesn’t sit well.

Any thoughts?

Holly The Holstein and 11/11.

Despite disappointment earlier in the week I have had a win with a gorgeous rhyming book perfect for the likes of Harry Kilometres and other Little People.

Holly The Holstein is Russell Smith’s first children’s picture book with its roots going back to his childhood growing up on a dairy farm in Millaa Millaa in Far North Queensland. After completing an Arts degree Smith went on to graduate as an officer in the Australian Army, eventually retiring as a Colonel.  ( It’s a tenuous connection to the military but still should score brownie points with the son-in-law).

Holly is a dairy cow and when this book was published earlier in the year many dairy farmers were really struggling with floods and deregulation of the industry. In Far North Queensland where there were once over 200 dairy farms there are now only 38. Smith is therefore donating all profits from Holly The Holstein to assist dairy farmers doing it tough and has already raised in excess of $10k. 

Country kiddies have been dressing up as Holly The Holstein for this years Book Week which is good change from wretched Elsa and Bluey.

In other news, the Cleveland Cenotaph had a good crowd for the 11th of the 11th which was wonderful following the last two years of major restrictions.  It was heartwarming to see kindy kids taking in the proceedings; touch wood this will ensure these ceremonies will be commemorated for years to come.