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.
This novel is an unexpected entry in the Gaia Reading Challenge and is most definitely on the quirky side. You see, the narrator is a female Galah by the name of Lucky who translates from “screech to English” the events in a remote coastal village on the north coast of Western Australia in the 1960’s, just prior to the moon landing.
Admittedly, I’m a sucker for Galahs. I had my first as a pet when I was 10, Andrew, followed by Sam, playmate Lah Lah , and then Lenny who replaced Sam when he died. Lenny was a hormonal teenager so I had to rehome the latter two birds when I downsized. Neighbours were unimpressed with the noise : Lenny was like a recalcitrant teenager and squawked whenever anything that moved came into sight.
The fictional town of Port Badminton is on the open mouth of the real Shark Bay which Charles Darwin noted on his first visit to Australia as having “excessively beautiful parrots“.
Lucky introduces herself before she begins to tell the story of Port Badminton’s role in the 1969 moon landing :
“I’m in my cage on the Kelly’s back verandah. I sit here, unheard, underestimated, biscuit crumbs on my beak. But fate is a curious thing. For just as Evan Johnson’s story is about to end (and perhaps with a giant leap), my story prepares to take flight…”
Lucky shares her journey, “nestling with her siblings in our hole in our gum tree “ on the riverbank, feeling “a human hand reach in, making exploratory movements” , to finding herself in a cage on a back verandah of one of the locals.
Her position on the verandah provides a view of the happenings within Port Badminton as well as all the characters ; the prawn fishermen, the dingo shooter, the town drunk, the aboriginals, as well as all the newer families to town who are connected to the Dish, instrumental in keeping communication lines open to the astronauts.
Lucky focuses on the arrival of Evan Johnson, radio technician, and wife Linda who is keen to start a new life away from the Big Smoke. Of course, although Evan is distracted by his work, Linda is like a fish out of water and doesn’t cope.
The small town of Port Badminton becomes every small town, and the dynamics of its inhabitants are both familiar and the perfect combination of nostalgia and brutality. We feel the excitement for the scientists achieving their goals, and pity for the women who are simply making do.
The author includes authentic trivia from the 1960’s including pre dinner snacks of curly celery, feathered carrots, and radish flowers, cereal boxes containing collectable toys, home made Grappa at barbeques, Brownies raising funds ( Bob-A-Job), and washing the sheets in a copper each week. Who remembers those? *
The Galah is an intelligent animal, despite its reputation as a clown and a lightweight. A captive Galah needs constant activity if it is not to decline into depression. Tearing up books, page by page, is a mental, physical, and spiritual workout for me; as good as any gym, yogaclass or university”. Lucky’s most recent book is Donald Horne’s “The Lucky Country”.
Then there are the wonderful descriptions of the environment and landscape. ” TropicalCyclone Steve, a male cyclone with a beer belly and long, grey, windswept hair, thongs flapping at his feet, formed out of the ether somewhere in the Pacific” and “she watches the water suck back, back and then hears the flute-like sound, a roar, as the water comes crashing in again, sending a giant white fountain into the air. It drops and chases itself back down its lair in streaming white foam rivulets. The gurgling, sucking noises are thrilling.”
This read is a gem. It is not as simple as it seems with layers of storytelling including the frailty of relationships, expectations, and our interconnectedness with the environment as well as with animals. The descriptions of both the natural environment and the wildlife that live within it are totally authentic. Loved it!
*We used the copper for cooking freshly caught sand crabs and prawns. Must have been worth a few bob as it was the only item stolen from the family home after my father passed.
* NOTE :
Galah is also a derrogatory term that means a “loud-mouthed idiot.” Named specifically for the galah, a nativeAustralian bird that makes a distinctive (and quite funny-sounding) call.
Winter temperatures in Queensland are at their lowest for over a hundred years and we are only twelve days in! Actually, I don’t mind it. You can get a lot done when you’re not a wet slimy mess as is the case in summer. Achieving heaps but at a relaxed pace. Even my reading is less frenzied.
Late last month Australian journalist, Caroline Jones died at age 84. One of the obituaries stated that Jones was a “groundbreaking Australian journalist and champion of women in media…who paved the way for women and became a passionate and generous mentor to young rural and regional reporters”.
Which led me down a rabbit hole, of course……
I’ve just finished reading Jones’ 2009 book, Through A Glass Darkly : A Joy Of Love And Grief With My Father, a personal account of her father’s death and how she manages the grief over several years.
Of course it’s not that simple. Loss and Grief and Love and Family and Responsibility are all big subjects and so I’ve been dipping in and out of this book slowly, like dropping a spoon into a can of Milo and licking the grains aways at a pace that allows you to enjoy every single malty morsel.
Written in four parts, Jones initially provides a landscape painting of her father’s life. This resonated with me as it would with many whose parent’s lived through a Depression and World War. It’s a delightful read with it’s remembrances of times past : the weekly ritual of polishing shoes, back gardens laden with fruit trees, listening to the football on the radio.
Part two deals with her father’s illness and ultimate passing after an operation. This is brutal reading, with all the patient’s suffering, the medic’s attempts to play God, and the daughter’s inner rage, though again is so beautifully written. Maybe ” the medic’s attempts to play God” is poorly phrased, but you can guess, this resonated with me as well.
Caroline then exams her grief and questions her faith, even seeking out spiritual guidance from a psychic. Been there, done that. Seven years after losing her Dad Caroline concludes having coming to terms with the loss she experienced.
This is Caroline’s personal journey but it is a journey we all share in one form or other. The grim topic is made bearable because of its authenticity and it is so beautifully written. I’m sorry not to have paid her more attention whilst she was still with us.
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler
Please be aware that I have not recently suffered any loss and am not in mourning. I was simply intrigued by Jones’ career path and wanted to learn more about what made the woman tick. I’m so glad I did.
I will admit that something else about Caroline did resonate. Her mother died when Caroline was a young though there was no time for mourning as her father, a returned serviceman, was from that stiff upper lip generation. But the time does come, often years later, and when it does it ain’t pretty.
Next book will be fun and fluffy : decapitations, poisonings, nuclear war, genocide. Promise.
Friends and Dark Shapes by Kavita Bedford is to the early 21st century what Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip ( considered Grunge genre) was to the Melbourne drug scene of the late 1970’s, and what Puberty Blues by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette, was to the young adults living life on the southern beaches of Sydney’s with it’s sexism and culture wars during the same period.
In essence, Friends and Dark Shapes focuses on a group of friends who move into a share house in Redfern. They are all on the cusp of thirty and navigating insecure employment, cost of housing issues, second-generation identity, online dating, social alienation and questioning superannuation. Amongst all this anxiety, the connection between these friends is often fun and supportive, though our narrator is also mourning the recent death of a parent. Yes, it’s a contender for the currently in vogue Sad Girl genre of literature, but if you are at all familiar with people within that demographic, or have a passable knowledge of the tribalism of the city of Sydney, this is a book that will resonate. I loved it, and yeah, I get the references to gentrification of inner Sydney and how it has changed the landscape.
Talking of friendships, I recently celebrated a birthday with a lass I worked with some twenty years ago. It was one of those environments where it was said that if you survived you “gained the training to work anywhere”. True, and I was fortunate enough to escape with the mortgage paid out and my sanity intact. It was an environment that either encouraged friendships or destroyed them.
Anyway, this woman is also a Gemini with a birthday only two days after mine.
Gemini Traits :
Uses humor as a crutch
Could talk to a brick wall
Arguments as flirting
Knows a little about everything
During these volatile years we would exchange small gifts to acknowledge our birthdates. Sometimes you did these things purely to survive.
After we both headed in different directions we would catch up every couple of months, yet celebrate our combined birthdays over a flash meal and/or attendance at a musical or theatrical performance. $260 a ticket for the Moody Blues was worth every damn cent.
When we both started to prefer being in bed by 9pm we would celebrate our birthdays by sharing an experience. Neither of us are materialist and you do get to the stage when you just don’t need anymore STUFF. So we enjoyed events like pottery and painting lessons together.
Twenty years on and my friend suggested something new for our birthday. This year we each donated some money to the Guide Dogs Association to cover the purchase of jackets whilst the dogs are in training. This year we went to the organisation’s Brisbane Head Office and met Michael, the Labrador who is the local ambassador for Guide Dogs.
BEST CAREERS FOR GEMINIS
Actor who plays a quirky side character
Bubble gum wrapper joke writer
Isn’t it amazing how friendships evolve and last the distance?
Note : Number 3 in both Traits and Careers is on the money.
May proved an unpleasant conclusion to Autumn with another “weather event ” along the east coast causing more property damage and loss of life. Anyway, it’s been raining cats and dogs and though no damage I can’t walk in my back garden without flippers. Literally.
This means that way too much of May has been spent sitting on my tail. I confess to a dose of cabin fever and an overdose of caffeine hearing the news out of Uvalde followed by the unexpected passing of Ray Liotta. Forever Shoeless Joe. ❤️
Read two books from The Books That Made Us List including Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. Still not a big fan; some brutal editing may have endeared me.
Next month’s Bookclub read is Chasing The McCubbin by Sandi Scaunich which I devoured in one sitting, totally amazed that an author could write 60,000 plus words about garage sales. Yep, garage sales. Frederick McCubbin was an early Australian impressionist painter and it is an urban myth that stored in someone’s garage in suburban Australia is a McCubbin just waiting to be discovered and sold for absolute megabucks.
The best read for May – and probably the year – was Infidel, My Life by Ahyaan Hirsi Ali, for the Around The World Reading Challenge. Born in Somalia Ali also lived in Ethiopia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia as a child experiencing political upheaval, war, starvation and the degradation of women in muslim communities. She is now a political activist living in the USA.
Infidel, My Life is one powerful read and what she shares about female genital mutilation will have you absolutely squirming and fuming! For a list of her Awards go here :
Watched way too many DVDs but Movie of the Month goes to The Proposition, a 2005 Australian flick filmed in Winton, far west Queensland, which I visited last year in between Lockdowns and this country’s first Dark Sky Sanctuary. Worth watching for the scenery alone it is an Aussie version of a Western. Intense, brutal, harsh, gritty – kinda John Wayne on Methamphetamines – and I had to close my eyes a couple of times.
Also attended Opening night of a local community theatrical production and celebrated my birthday in the swankiest restaurant at the Casino in Townsville escorted by the Love Of My Life. Pity he’s 19 months old.
No projects completed which is distressing and blaming lethargy caused by the constant rain. Starting the new month whipping up a batch of Tangelo Marmalade so, June, watch out. These little legs are on the move…..
The fridge contains several chilled Sav Blancs which I’ll be downing with Mr Liotta, who will be Forever Shoeless Joe ❤️
My daughter gave birth to my first (human) grandchild over 3700 kms or 2300 miles away. I know, I should be able to use metric measurements by now as Australia converted from imperial in 1974 but not happening Jan. When the media puts out a bulletin warning about an escaped convict who is 164 cms I’m clueless. And when the weather man reports the daily rainfall in mms I still have to convert to the imperial, or if I’m totally honest, get someone to do it for me.
Back to bub who was born in a rural and remote community during the middle of a Pandemic when State borders were closed. As I was unable to visit during those months I did what every self respecting mother would do : posted Red Cross parcels full of treats for the parents-to-be and for our bub, and organised a couple of Zoom birthing hypnotherapy sessions for Pocohontas.
This little family have relocated since then, and we have enjoyed a few catch-ups, but they are still in another part of the country approximately 20 hours driving time away.
So how do I maintain contact and build a bond with the little fella?
Here are a few of my suggestions. Please feel free to add any of your own recommendations 🙂
FaceTime or Skype
Harry can’t talk yet, but seeing each others expressions and surroundings can often make you feel like you’ve actually been together. I have no doubt he recognises my face and voice ( saying to his mumma in his head ” who is this woman that wont shut up?”)
2. Send Snail Mail.
At the previous abode there was no Postman, but now Harry is excited to greet the Postie on a regular basis. Not only is it fun for him to receive something in the mail, but his mother is using this as training – checking the letterbox is a chore he must do, just like filling the dog’s water bowl- as well as a social activity.
Harry is too little for letters so I went through a period of sending him a post card each week that featured an Australian animal.
3. Create a Project.
I recently purchased a $6 picture book about Dinosaurs which I posted to Harry. He can’t read but he loves the pictures. Each week I have also been bundling up 2 or 3 plastic dinosaurs and putting those in the mail. He has connected the figurines to the book and goes searching for them amongst the pages.
He had a trip with his Playgroup to the local Museum last week and apparently went wild with the dinosaur statues.
Next project? I’ll be sending a felt board with a farm scene ( fences, farmer, chook, pigs, horses). Do you remember these back in the day? In the early 60’s I loved school just because of felt board play…….And I’ll be posting farm animals.
4. Talking About Things We Can Do Together On The Phone.
Again, I am not sure what the little fella does or does not understand but he seems to listen when I talk about going on a picnic or cooking pancakes together.
I’m disappearing next week and travelling north. I’ll be armed with dinosaur figurines, a tee shirt featuring a dinosaur, and his mother’s 30 year old Beatrix Potter apron so we can stir bowls whilst cooking without getting into a complete mess. I hope we can go on walks, eat ice creams and pancakes and maybe even plant a few vege seeds together. He’s still a bit young to sit through an Errol Flynn movie but that is on next years Must Do List.
And don’t worry; I do have treats for the grand furbaby too.
See you soon HB.
Mee Maw xxx
“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children” – Alex Haley
During a recent wander around the local environmental centre, Indigiscapes, with the Tuesday walking group I came across this book in the Gift Shop. (So now you also know I’m a sucker for Gift Shops, especially ones that carry jams and condiments made from local products. And children’s books. Children’s Books make me weak at the knees.)
Plantastic! A to Z of Australian Plants written by Catherine Clowes is exactly as the name suggests: an Australian Native for each letter of the alphabet. Clowes is a botanist and a teacher with a love of sharing knowledge which she does so well in this book which would have been an absolute Godsend to homeschooling mums and dads during periods of Lockdown.
Each double page is dedicated to a designated native. Those pages contain a concise description without getting over technical and losing the kiddies’ interest and illustrations by Rachel Gyan which are clear and easily identifiable. But the thing I really found both fun and inspirational is that each plant description includes a task to encourage our Little People to immerse themselves and engage in Nature.
For example, under L for the Lilly Pilly is a description, an illustration, and a task. In this case the task is to pick a berry from the Lilly Pilly and to plant it in potting mix and to nurture it with water and sunshine. Will it grow? I don’t know but I’m sure as hell going to experiment once the local Lilly Pillys start fruiting.
At the back of the book is a map of Australia which highlights where each of the 26 selected natives are found. So much information so simply presented.
I purchased several copies because I know several young mums who will find this book a huge help during the next school holidays.
Alok Jha is science and technology correspondent at The Economist and the author of The Water Book.
The blurb on the back cover made it sound fascinating. ” Water seems ordinary – it pours from our taps and falls from the sky. But you would be surprised at what a profoundly strange substance it is. It defies the normal rules of chemistry, it has shaped the Earth, its life and our civilisation. Without it, none of us would exist.” And ” The Water Book will change the way you look at this ordinary substance. Afterwards, you will hold a glass of water up to the light and see within it the strangest chemical, something that connects you to everything and everyone else in the universe.”
The Water Book begins with a quote from chemist Felix Franks, ” Of all known liquids water is probably the most studied and least understood.”
Page by page I started keeping notes. On his way to Antartica, the author tells us ” in those frozen lakes and rivers, the ice does more than decorate the surface; it insulates the water underneath keeping it a few degrees above freezing point – and crucially liquid – even in the harshest of winters”.
After pondering this information one night – because doesn’t that nullify what we’ve been told about the effects of climate change in respect to choral bleaching? – and having read that water comes from outer space I abandoned this book at Page 50. Not the author’s fault : Science was just never my forte and I need my 8 hours sleep.
The L.O.M.L has a brain that functions that way having worked in the field of hospital equipment. He kindly offered to review The Water Book on my behalf and said he loved it.
I know: ain’t love grand………..
The Water Book, by Alok Jha. ( Review by LOML)
The story of a voyage on Academik Shokalskiy, a 70 metre long ice-strengthened Russian Polar vessel, on a trip to Antarctica, following in the footsteps of Douglas Mawson, a British-Australian explorer and Geologist, who went there in 1912 and 1929. Alok was part of a private science expedition, and he tells us what happened from the time they left New Zealand on their journey south, to being stuck in ice for a fortnight, to their rescue in January 2014. He treats us to descriptions of daily happenings aboard ship, then diverts to scientific observations on everything about water, really! From its occurence in the universe from molecular to galaxy size. The people who made discoveries about water, and any of its alternate states. From snowflakes to icebergs, to underground oceans, consisting of ..not only water, but other chemicals, ie, liquid ammonia, close to absolute zero in temperature terms, in our local universe. He explores the relationship between life as we know it, and water in depth..so to speak. The subjects he discusses never ceases to amaze, and the book as a whole is at once educational and a throughly good read.
I have suffered mightily this week from a debilitating dose of midge bites that I collected during an early morning walk along a local tributary. I point this out because I could have stayed in bed eating honey on crumpets with a pot of tea, reading a trashy magazine focusing on Meghan Markle’s latest shenanigans or the breast enlargement/reduction of a so-called celebrity.
Instead I opted to walk in nature, smelling the Eucalypts, listening to bird song, and admiring spiderwebs. It’s all about mindfulness, being in the moment, and taking responsibility for your own health. A stupid mistake for which I am still paying. Look at my arm….
So what is a midge? Also known as no-see-ums they are tiny flies, about the size of a pin head, and their bites can cause severe reactions. Only the females bite, using the blood they obtain as a protein source to develop their eggs. So much for the sisterhood. And yes, I had sprayed with insect repellant though I’m obviously more allergic to bites than others.
The itch factor during the nights has been horrendous. For two nights I spent every two hours under cold water in the shower hoping for relief which provided plenty of time to ponder on why tummy bugs, toothaches, and itchy bites tend to affect us more at night. Any clues?
Dr Google provided information with regards to reducing the irritation and discomfort of midge bites though keep in mind that I also suffered bites to my scalp, my face, and inside my ears. Imagine if you will three nights without sleep resulting in dark rings around the eyes and red blotches all over my face and arms. I looked like an ice addict.
So here are my Top 5 Tips to ease Itchy Bites :
Vinegar rubbed all over effected areas works well and after the third application you wont notice that you smell like a fish and chip shop.
Aloe Vera Gel is soothing though not recommended if you haven’t vacuumed the house for a while as it picks up all the fluff and pollen floating in the air.
Perfume seems to calm the itching immediately, although only the $200 a bottle kind, not the cheap stuff you spray into your lingerie drawer.
From personal experience, the antibacterial kitchen wipes that sold in huge numbers during the height of the pandemic do a great job in calming irritated skin. When I visited Uncle Dan’s, the local bottle-o, ( or grog shop for non Australians) to restock they were amazed to see me rubbing myself down with antibacterial wipes at their point of entry instead of wiping down the trolley.
You know all that hand sanitiser you purchased in bulk in readiness for the next Lockdown? Marvellous for calming bities. Who knew?
Thank goodness I was able to pick up a few cheap books at the local Rotary fundraiser to ease me through those long, disturbed nights.
Disclaimer : I am not a medical practitioner, nor a health expert, or anything even remotely close. I drink too much coffee, will kill for dark chocolate, and will do the same for a good sparkling shiraz.
It’s nearing Easter so I am preparing parcels to post to the Little People in my life.
“No chocolate, Mo. No sugar for this Little One”. This from a lass whose paternal grandfather fed her so many chocolate eggs for her 2nd Easter that she was as sick as a dog. Whilst I was quietly fuming – and cleaning – said child’s grandfather instilled his lifelong mantra : ” You’ve not had a good time till you’ve been sick”.
Thank goodness the maternal grandfather had a different outlook on life. A child of the Depression he did not believe in waste, so he lived by “everything in moderation”. Except fish. Fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner but that’s another story.
So that is why my Little People will be gifted something other than chocolate this Easter. Well, maybe a little Darrell Lea chocolate bilby but their main present will be a lovely little book called The Adventures of Euca : A Baby Leaf’s Big World.
Debut author Jennifer Howard is a nature lover who is “passionate about the environment, and about educating future generations on sustainability and the magic of the world we all live in.”
We meet Euca, a baby gum leaf, who lives on the very top of the tree, ” closest to the big golden sun whose lovely warm rays will help me to grow big and strong”.
Eucla takes us through his job role as a leaf to “help freshen the air for the whole wide world” as well as some of the native fauna who use the leaf coverage as home. He is close to his Grandpa Crinkle, an old wrinkled leaf further down the tree branches, and the life lesson is that at some stage the old leaf ” with a strong gust of wind” will fall to the ground and a new leaf will be born.
The illustrations by M K Perring are colourful and easily discernible to young eyes and this story is a gentle introduction to nature and the environment for our Little People.
I purchased my copies through Shawline Publishing Group. Always happy to support the independent author ( who have been known to become my all time favourites.)