The Emporium of Imagination.

In 2010, Itaru Sasaki, a garden designer from Ōtsuchi, Japan, learned that his cousin had terminal cancer with three months to live.After his cousin’s death, Sasaki set up an old telephone booth in his garden, to continue to feel connected to him by “talking” to him on the phone.According to Sasaki, the wind phone was not designed with any specific religious connotation, but rather as a way to reflect on his loss. In an interview, he stated: “Because my thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.”

The wind phone is a white, glass-paned telephone booth, located on a hill that overlooks Ōtsuchi, containing a black, disconnected telephone on a metal shelf. A notebook is placed next to the telephone for messages of remembrance. It was opened to the public the following year after an earthquake and tsunami killed over 15,000 people in Japan. It has since received over 30,000 visitors. A number of replicas have been constructed around the world, and it has served as the inspiration for several novels and films, including Tabitha Bird’s The Emporium of Imagination.

Bird is an Australian author who’s debut novel, A Lifetime Of Impossible Days, won the Queensland Literary Award 2020- People’s Choice Book of the Year.

The Emporium of Imagination is a magical shop that travels the world offering gifts that offer solace to the heartbroken with these extraordinary telephones that allow you to contact lost loved ones.

On arrival at Boonah, a rural town in South East Queensland, the store’s custodian realises that he is “dying”, and needs to locate a replacement custodian. The population of Boonah are initially receptive to the Emporium and its magic but then there are “issues”.

We meet the Rayne brothers recently orphaned following their fathers passing. We meet a tradie who was disowned by his father because of his sexual preference, and a young boy whose dream of dancing was quashed by his Dad. One woman always wanted to be an artist, another dreams of baking and love, and yet another, a single parent to a tribe, who longs to design and create clothing.

This is a town of secrets, of hurts, of broken dreams. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens at the Emporium of Imagination.

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I’ve been reading a lot of biographies of late due to the research I’ve been putting into detailing some of Australia’s Female Trailblazers; getting a bit bogged down in facts and numbers, you know. So when I started reading this book I thought I was reading a children’s book, or at very least, a book for Tweens. But in between all the butterflies and unicorns are these great little stories about every day people, people you and I both know, and I stopped looking for facts and data and just read. Read like I did years ago with child like wonder. And that’s the beauty of this novel. It takes you back to before mortgage payments and health insurance premiums were your major concerns, to the days before your weekends were taken up by kids’ weekend sport. I loved it.

And talking children’s books I love this new one :

ABOUT NEXT DOOR’S DOG IS A VETERAN’S DOG

Veteran Joe and his family have moved in next door to Lucas. Dad and Joe are good mates who served in the military together.  

When Lucas sees Joe getting off the bus with Poppy by his side, he wants to know more. He listens to Dad but doesn’t really understand how Poppy helps Joe – until he sees it for himself.
At a café Lucas looks on while Poppy keeps watch, stays close to Joe, and allows him to relax and enjoy the celebration without worrying about what is happening behind him. That’s when Lucas begins to understand the wonderful work that Poppy does to help Joe to live a full life. He also learns that the way people look does not always tell the whole story.”

NOTE:

Disappearing for the rest of the month.I’m playing Mee Maw to the Chubmeister and then I’m off outback. Yee haa.

The Storytellers Exhibition

“Storytelling is a tradition as old as time. From oral histories passed down through generations to children’s books, epic novels and poetry, it is the most versatile form of knowledge-sharing”.

The Museum of Brisbane, located on the third floor of City Hall, is currently presenting an exhibition about Brisbane storytellers. Focussing on storytellers such as Hugh Lunn, Benjamin Law, Nick Earls, Trent Dalton, Kate Moreton and more, you are taken back to Brisbane’s past when these nine writers look at both the people and places.

It’s an interactive experience which will have you sitting in the stadium at Lang Park, at a tram stop, or at Chinese restaurant down in the Valley.

Suitable for all ages, with activities for the Little People, this no cost exhibition will delight.

Go Brissie! Stick it to those southern states who – – – – – – – – – – – – – – ( fill in the gaps)

Tip : Make the effort BEFORE school holidays start.

The Light and the Dark

Starting with the Dark :

Shuggie Bain, the debut novel by Douglas Stuart, won the 2020 Booker Prize. The only time I had cause to smile over this novel was when another reader described it as “misery porn”. Sums it up perfectly.

1980’s Glasgow and the men are out of work and the women are finding solace in their addictions : gambling, drink, and tobacco.

Shuggie is the youngest of three children. His father is a philandering and abusive slug who relocates the family away from relatives to a town where the pits are closed and poverty abounds, and then does a runner leaving the kids under the total control of their alcoholic mother. The two older children make their escape though loving, effeminate Shuggie does his best to keep his mother afloat, even going without food for days because the dole money went on the drink. You just know it’s not going to end well……….

Bleak as though beautifully written. I did not have a glass of wine for three days after reading this.

WARNING : Do not read listening to Leonard Cohen or if your mental health is already a little dicey. Not one glimmer of hope within the 430 pages.

And some Light:

At only 12 years of age Luke Harper has published his very first children’s book titled, Pigeons and Popcorn

In 2018, Luke entered the (Australian) National Child Writes Competition, a competition offering school children the opportunity to write and illustrate their own children’s picture books. Introduced to the competition by his school teacher from there he worked on his concepts and illustrations with a mentor.

Released in 2020 1,000 copies of Pigeons and Popcorn have been donated to Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation with all proceeds from sales being donated to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, a place Luke has previously been a patient.

Way to go…..

Two Stories

Read The Codebreakers by Australian author, Alli Sinclair.

“1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O’Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of Central Bureau – an intelligence organisation working with England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason”.

This book became far too “girlie” for me with an overdose of romantic interludes. What did interest me was the property in Ascot, inner Brisbane, from which the Central Bureau actually did work during the war.

In July 1942, General MacArthur moved his Headquarters to Brisbane. Central Bureau immediately relocated to Brisbane, establishing its headquarters in “Nyrambla” at Henry Street, Ascot. The residence was built in 1885–86. In September 1942, the US 837th Signal Service Detachment relocated to Brisbane. The Detachment’s officers and enlisted men moved into “Nyrambla”. The machines to decode intercepted Japanese ciphers that concealed message were placed in the rear garage of “Nyrambla” and this is where the women Codebreakers worked.

Nyrambla

Over the years Nyrambla has been lovingly restored and recently went on the market.

Women working in the garage……..*still shacking my head.

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Terrigal, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, is a seaside township popular with both locals and tourists. Back in the 1940’s it was a sleepy fishing village with a population of less than 500. 

During World War 2 the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia (SLSA) was stretched to provide rescue services along the beaches on the East Coast. Of the 76 original male members of the Surf Club at Terrigal only four were available to patrol beaches whilst the others went off to war.

This led the female members of the club – mostly wives, sweethearts and sisters – to ask permission to become lifesavers. Their application to the controlling body failed though this did not deter them.

After training by the chief instructor they were assessed by Central Coast Life Saving’s inaugural president Dr E.A. Martin.  In two exams, some 30 women qualified for the equivalent of the bronze medallion, receiving certificates on Terrigal beach and going on to patrol the area over the summer.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion even making their own swimming costumes and uniforms out of sheets, curtains and the odd parachute­, despite not having been awarded their bronze medallions.

At wars end 70 men returned and resumed lifesaving duties with the women then relegated to previous duties.

It wasn’t until 75 years later in 2017 that the women who patrolled the beaches of Terrigal during World War 2 were finally recognised. They were awarded their Bronze Medallions, most posthumously to their families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

75 years. *still shaking head.

1,000 Places To See Before You Die

This 531 page pictorial is not one that you would take to bed to enjoy. Far too cumbersome, and from experience you would be paranoid about spilling a cuppa tea all over it.

No, this is definitely a coffee table book – without the coffee!

Autumn brings with it a welcome break from the humidity. We are able to take walks in the middle of the day again, the ceiling fans have at last been switched off, and make up doesn’t slide off ones face whilst dining alfresco. The old saying that Brisbane only has two seasons – humid and dry – is pretty much on the money.

Which makes it the perfect time to get those legs on the move again. Lots happening in the South East corner over the coming months. It’s as if we’re all making up for lost time.

At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling. – Shanti

Off to a Rescue Deer Farm this week. Yep, like Rescue Dogs but with cuter furry animals. Deer and picnic baskets – a winning combination. Also off to tour an island only 40 minutes away with a horrific history of cruelty. A penal colony in the 1800s, any escapees tended to get eaten by sharks. Gulp.

Neither destination features in the above mentioned book. And that’s okay.

There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it. – Charlotte Eriksson

Books For Little Queenslanders

First 5 Forever is a family literacy program delivered by public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres (IKCs) with the primary aim of providing strong early literacy foundations for all Queensland children aged 0-5 years. 

In the first five years of life a human brain develops at its fastest. Family life and early experiences are important for healthy brain growth. Research shows that simple things like talking, reading, singing and playing with children from birth have positive impacts that last a lifetime and this has flow on benefits for the whole community. 

The First 5 Forever program at my local Library includes a weekly indoor session for mums and bubs as well as library staff meeting at local parks and nature reserves and running these sessions from picnic rugs. I am so looking forward to taking Harry Kilom in a few weeks time to one of these:)

As part of the First 5 Forever program The State Library of Queensland recently published 12 books under the umbrella of The Stories For Little Queenslanders series.

One of the titles, The Cow That Swam Out To Sea, will resonate with anyone who remembers the 2011 floods in South East Queensland, and particularly the story about the cow that fell in the river at Lowood in the Lockyer Valley that floated down the Brisbane River. A true story, the cow was rescued 95 kilometres out in Moreton Bay, cold, wet and hungry.

I have so many mixed memories of the Brisbane floods. The one that never fades is that of catching one of the last trains out of Brisbane City with some work colleagues just before the transport system was shut down. Packed in like sardines with every square inch filled with people of all shapes and sizes I vividly remember hanging on whilst being squished up close and personnel next to a young man with his pet python hanging off his shoulders. I didn’t dare blink nor move. I have no recollection of even breathing for 16 train station stops.

Talking of Little People I put these in the Little Community Library in the local park today.

Our ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day next Sunday, on the 25th April, commemorating the fiasco at Gallipoli in 1915 during World War 1. As with last year many Dawn Services across the country have been cancelled due to COVID and instead we will be again gathering on our front lawns and balconies at 6am to listen to the Last Post wafting across the suburbs. In all honesty, I hope this becomes a tradition as it a moving experience connecting with community and allows all to participate.

In preparation for ANZAC Day this week I sold passionfruit and basil seedlings that I’ve been mollycoddling to raise funds for my favourite charity to assist our veterans. I’ll also be sleeping out in the back garden one night as a fundraiser for Wounded Heroes. Nationally, over 5,000 vets sleep rough on any one night so as a learning tool for families I’ll support this event by sleeping al fresco. (Umm, with a bottle of red).

Read this book – what an eye opener!

Firstly, it wasn’t until the 1880’s that the first Australian woman was allowed to study Medicine at University in her own country, so at the outbreak of  World War 1  the army refused to appoint female doctors. So what did these magnificent women Doctors do? Some raised their own funds to start field hospitals in France, many went to England to join the Royal Army Medical Corps, and one woman was the first female to be awarded the Military Medal. They performed all sorts of surgery and most of them continued being trailblazers at wars end, such as adding wings to city hospitals, in areas of research, leaving legacies for the training of future women medics and continuing to practise all around the world.

During the week I’ll prepare Rosemary cuttings to leave at the Little Community Library with a small note explaining its significance for the Little People and I am looking forward to catching up with a friend who has more passionfruit vines to sell.

For those who need an explanation as to the meaning of our ANZAC Day a couple of snapshots. First, crocheted by a ninety year old woman in a Retirement Village in Victoria. Says it all really.

And then this one:

Aboriginal Literacy

September 1st is National Indigenous Literacy Day, a day designed to bring awareness to the general community about the rate of literacy amongst our Indigenous communities.

“Only 36% of Indigenous Year 5 students in very remote areas are at or above national minimum reading standards, compared to 96% for non-Indigenous students in major cities.” –  2019 NAPLAN.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s approach to raising literacy levels starts at a community level with the supply of books. They have worked with many remote communities and published books reflecting up to 26 Indigenous languages from all across Australia.

These new and culturally appropriate books are gifted to schools and organisations operating in remote communities with an aim to develop familiarity and engagement with books for children under five through a daily dedicated Story Time session, so children can start school with some basic pre-literacy skills. 

The current COVID climate makes it difficult to raise funds for any charity especially after Australia’s recent frolic with bushfires, floods and drought. I can only ask, what’s next? Oh, yeah, a mouse plague.

What I have discovered is a range of picture books for the very young at my local Australia Post ( Post Office) published by Little Book Press. One of their projects is the Emerging Indigenous Picture Book Mentoring Project.

These books cost $4, have wonderful illustrations, and are written in both English and the local Aboriginal language. At the back there is also a QR code where you can listen to the author read the story in the Aboriginal dialect.

$4.

Just delightful for all kiddies, whether they be black, white, green or purple. Added bonus : light to put in the mail.


AFTERTHOUGHT :

My daughter who has been living in East Arnham land for over twelve months now – the one who gifts her hair to the local First Nation elders after a hair trim so that they can make new paint brushes – sent me a text over Easter. It said “ Mo, they caught a baru off the beach”.

Baru is a crocodile. By sharing communication, by acknowledging language, I hope that we can move towards closing the divide between our peoples.

AND ANOTHER AFTERTHOUGHT :

Watched the 2007 film Rogue on the weekend. Filmed in the Northern Territory by the same Director as Wolf Creek, the movie opens with some truly stunning images of the Territory. Absolutely gorgeous. Doesn’t last long unfortunately because it quickly becomes the crocodilian version of JAWS. OMG. Had to walk away but you’ll be pleased to hear it has a happy ending. But I‘m never, ever going on a Kakadu boat cruise.

Book of the Week, and a contender for Book of the Year.

Cover shows author working from home writing programs to analyse the Concorde’ black-box recorder

Ann Moffatt was born in England in 1939 without an entitled childhood, having worked part time from an early age to assist with household finances. An accident which fractured her skull crushed her dreams of studying for a maths degree, and she filled in the days by reading books about computers. With her aptitude for maths and ability to learn on-the-job, Ann became one of the UK’s first female computer programmers, and was soon recognised as a leading authority on software development and the emerging field of database management.

Her first pregnancy prompted the company for which she was working to pioneer teleworking. That is, retaining women in the IT industry by allowing them to work from home whilst caring for their children, ultimately proving more productive than in-house.

In 1974 she came to Australia as a “sponsored expert” after being headhunted to work on the biggest computer implementation in the country (IBM), later moving on to roles including Director of the Institute of Information Technology and National Development Manager for the Australian Stock Exchange.

Moffatt’s professional experience includes as a programmer, analyst, designer, project manager, company and manager, as well as establishing and managing her own ICT service.

Over the years Ann has received many accolades. She is a Fellow of both the Australian Computer Society and the British Computer Society. She was a Board Member of the NSW TAFE Commission from 1998 to 2000 and a Board member of the IT&T ITAB from 1999 to 2000. She was also a member of the Wide Bay Institute of TAFE Council & the Hervey Bay TAFE College Council from 2001 to 2005. From 1998-2010, she was a Director of the Australian Computer Society Foundation, which advances IT through Education and Research.

In 2002, Ann was inducted into the Australian ICT Hall of Fame as the first female inductee. In 2005 USQ awarded Ann an Honorary Doctorate, which was conferred in May 2006. In 2011, Ann was inducted into the Pearcey Hall of Fame, which is the highest Australian professional award for a lifetime achievement in the ICT industries.


In May 2014 Microsoft listed Ann as one of 10 Australian Innovators, and in 2015 during her retirement, Ann established the Silicon Coast Extracurricular Code School (SCXCS) to teach students in Regional and Rural Australia how to program. In March 2016 Ann was named as one of Advance Queensland’s Community Digital Champions.

She remains active in the organisation she co-founded in 1990, FFIT, or Females in IT and Telecommunications, which has grown to more than 4,000 members.

During retirement she also found time to write this book, a fascinating read about her life and career challenges, and working alongside men who both adored her and abhorred her.

Here is a quote from a male colleague that Ann took to an Equal Opportunity Seminar sponsored by her employer in the mid 1980’s. You will either laugh or cry.


Well, it doesn’t work for me. At least my wife is female.She sits by the pool getting brown and plays tennis most days. She is there for me looking beautiful when I get home from work and when it’s time for bed she is ready for sex”.


494 pages in length and despite still being totally clueless about what computer coding is, or even does, this is an inspirational look at a life well lived.

Easter 2021 Favourites.

Brisbane emerged from a shotgun Lockdown to an Easter of rain. And it’s still raining. Apologies to all those (un)happy campers out there but I’ve loved it. Rain, as well as being good for the garden, slows you down. It limits your activity options. Yay.

And the garden is thriving. Pumpkins and rockmelons galore.

Read Daniel Keighran’s autobiography for Bookclub, Courage Under Fire. Keighran was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award in the Australian honours system, “ For the most conspicuous acts of gallantry and extreme devotion to duty in action in circumstances of great peril at Derapet, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, as part of the Mentoring Task Force One on Operation SLIPPER” on 24 August 2010.”

This young man is only a few years older than my daughters. The message I took from his story is that despite being brought up in abject poverty within a dysfunctional family – and we’re talking with a capital D – he was able to make something of himself to ensure a better life. 

The book is dedicated to his grandfather who was a softly spoken, self contained gentleman who served in WW2 and provided gentle guidance in young Dan’s life. He passed away only months before notification of the award. 

Based on a true story, the movie 0n Wings Of Eagles takes up where Chariots of Fire left off with Scottish athlete Eric Liddell having won gold for Britain at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Liddell, played by Joseph Fiennes, returns to his birthplace, China, to follow in the footsteps of his missionary parents. As World War 2 looms the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 brings great hardship to the locals and Liddell sends his family off to Canada to safety whilst he continues to minister at a school and is imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. Enduring dreadful conditions Liddell remains a leader of men, providing lessons to the children in camp, and by his patient endurance.

Released in 2016  this movie is often bleak though there are also moments of great beauty. Fiennes has never been on my radar because of the “hungry look” about him. I’ve always thought he could do with some of my Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pud. It works well for him here.