Books Across September

Because of my recent travels and oranges falling in price to $1.60 for a 3 Kilo bag I’ve been occupied by tourism pamphlets and marmalade recipes. My attempt at the latter is another Epic Fail though the peel is currently brewing to create an organic house cleaning product. Fingers crossed that effort is more successful. I’m also relying on Dr Google to navigate me through a couple of craft projects which is totally bizarre as I don’t craft. I’ll share if my Lazy Susan’s and table placemats make acceptable Christmas gifts….

(Pop Quiz 1: Is all this cooking and crafting a sign that I’m sliding into old age?)

September 7th marked Indigenous Literacy Day, at which time the Indigenous Literacy Foundation promotes literacy to improve the lives and possibilities of Indigenous Australians.

So I’ve also read two books from The Books That Made Us Challenge ( as in made us as a country) that featured on the ABC last year. Both deal with the white occupation of Australia and are cruel but fascinating reads.

Benevolence by Julie Jansen follows the life of young aboriginal girl, Mary, who was gifted to the white community by her father in exchange for a bag of flour. The Secret River by Kate Grenville is the story of an Englishman who came to Australia as a convict in the country’s early days but works his way up to being a wealthy land owner which just happens to necessitate the decimation of the local Aboriginal communities.

I’ve started on the third indigenous themed book in the Challenge – Carpentaria by Alexis Wright – but I’m a bit done in by history and tragedy at the moment.

So just for fun I’m working my way through The Island Of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
which is narrated by a fig tree. Yep, a fig tree. Thought some whimsy would do me well after all the bleak history but the mind is too occupied by craft glue and varnish.

The Little Library is going gangbusters and the assistance from other community members is making the whole caretaking process less onerous. I’m working on creating Book Marks for Christmas for the kiddies to colour and have just added this Book Bingo to create more engagement. I’m not fond of cricket. Can you tell?

(Pop Quiz 2 : Is this ease in handing over the reigns yet another indication of my slow slide into decline?)

The Zoom Book Club fell into a heap after Life returned to the New Normal after Covid, but we are getting back on track next week. I’ll make a cheese platter in preparation.

(Pop Quiz 3: A glass of red or a glass of white? Or two?)

At the other Book Club readers were asked to bring in the oldest book on their bookshelves. Talk about fascinating : all kinds of books made their presence, including guides to shorthand, Mickey Mouse annuals, and one lass ( in white gloves doing her Michael Jackson impersonation) brought in her book published in 1703. A great little exercise. Highly recommended.

A Bookfest this weekend, a tea towell exhibition, and a couple of new projects on the go. Don’t worry; it’s not ageing. Just doing the Gemini thing and ready for change…

Happy Weekend folks.

Book Shelves and a Pop Quiz

After several weeks travelling up and down the east coast of Australia I’ve returned home to a house where everything is covered in a layer of dust.

Think I’m joking? I had a friend over for a roast last weekend as we hadn’t caught up since before the beginning of my travels. A satisfying meal, a few vinos and lots of laughs – I thought it went well. Imagine my horror later when I discovered that my friend had left a smiley face in the dust on my sideboard. 🙂

(Pop Quiz 1: Is this an indication of a good friend or a bad friend?)

So this week I’ve been dusting in earnest. Ceiling fans, picture frames, and bookshelves. Welcome to Spring Down under.

( Pop Quiz 2: Why is it referred to as Spring Cleaning and not Autumn Cleaning when there is dust all year round?)

I have shared previously that there are many books in my life. Not on my bookshelves as they were given a good cleansing when I downsized nearly five years ago. Even did the old smudge stick trick. All manner of books do come to me though, some via friends and neighbours, some through sources who know that the Little Community Library in the local parkland is always in need of preloved books, and some because people know that I know who needs books and do try to locate forever homes for them. For instance, I have a box of military books that used to belong to an ex Kokoda veteran in my Guest Room to on sell to a military book collector on behalf of his daughter. I have a box of preloved Harry Potters for a charity in PNG, and there are 50 paperbacks in my garage waiting to be rehoused. None are stored alphabetically nor colour coded incidentally.

(Pop Quiz 3: My daughter colour codes her bookshelf. I was not allowed to take a photo as evidence. Question : WHY?)

Earlier in the year I did have 27 books in my To Be Read pile in my bedroom. Two piles really. These were books for Reading Challenges, Book Clubs, and that had piqued my interest but I just hadn’t had time to make a start on. There were books that had come highly recommended from girlfriends, award winning books, and even a “classic”.

My dusting frenzy means the TBR pile in my bedroom has dwindled to a paltry 3 books. Yeah, I’ll take the applause.

(Pop Quiz 4: So where the hell did this one come from?)

Small Projects and a Book Review.

I was recently introduced to a woman of around my vintage at an author talk at the local Library. Turns out that she is a writer and during the worst of Covid was asked to commit to a “small project”.

Shirley Chambers’ “small project” was indeed a misnomer as it involved the chronicling of the rich literary history of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs, which are located to the west of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland.

Toowoomba, known as the capital city of the Darling Downs, has its colonial beginnings dating back to 1816. Much of its history has been preserved in its buildings and heritage-listed sites with the region also being renowned for its farmland and grazing. Shirley Chambers, who was born on a farm at Rocky Point on the Downs, has authored “Words From The Past”examining those who formed part of the literary landscape and how their time in the area may have inspired their life experiences.

Arthur Hoey Davis, born in 1868, is perhaps one of the better known authors from that region. Writing under the pseudonym of Steele Rudd (1868-1935) Davis wrote sketches of life which were based on his father’s experience as a selector, someone managing a free selection of land before it was surveyed. These sketches were combined and published as “On Our Selection“. The Rudd Park at Nobby stands as a reminder of his contribution.

Other writers were educators, some were country folk simply expressing their experiences in the bush, some became influences in the literary field, and Mary Hannay Foote, (1846-1918), was an absolute trailblazer becoming Queensland’s first professional female journalist. Several writers had their written work evolve into movies for the big screen, whilst the works of contemporary award winning children’s book illustrator-author, Narelle Oliver, (1960-2016), remain firm family favourites around the nation to this day.

Words From The Past” spotlights nearly thirty wordsmiths with a connection to the Darling Downs. Some were born in the area, others built their lives around the Downs, and a few were simply travelling through. It is an interesting and easy read which would appeal to those who love reading and Australian history, and at $10 a book ( postage additional) is going to make a delightful Christmas stocking filler!

Note to Sharon at https://gumtreesandgalaxies.com/author/gumtreesandgalaxies/, :I believe Shirley has banners featuring these writers at The Lighthouse…..


Around The World Reading Challenge:- Botswana

A Carrion Death is the first in a series of crime and mystery novels set in Botswana and introduces Detective David Bengu , nicknamed Kubu because of his size (kubu means hippopotamus in Botswana). Written by Michael Stanley, a pseudonym for Micheal Sears and Stanley Trollop, there are six follow up books in the series. 

Being a crime novel there are numerous dead bodies spread around water holes and the semi desert sands of the Kalahari and Kubu has his work cut out. It’s slow work as you would expect in the heat and the dry. There are hyenas, vultures,  gold mines, and a witch doctor, all the things we would associate with Botswana.

Kubu is never too busy to stop for a feed and I enjoyed the Glossary for detailing what some of the meals involved. Other than wine, Kubu’s go to drink is a steelworks, made up of cola tonic, ginger beer, soda water and bitters and he’s fond of Elan Carpaccio. ( thinly sliced Antelope , pounded and served raw).

I’ve stated previously that I never attempt to solve the crimes in books. What I found fascinating in this novel was the description of how Kubu’s parents live compared to their son. Whilst Kubu is considered an “important man”, with a car and good job, his parents are from a different era. They live in a little house in the back blocks, have a mobile phone courtesy of their son but don’t know how to use it, and the electricity to the house rarely works. Yet, they feel like king pins. It’s the traditional with their belief system in the power of witch doctors versus  modern scientific practises such as forensics which makes this a worthwhile read.

Would I read any more books in the series? Look, if one fell in my lap I would read it, but I wont go chasing any copies.

Wouldn’t mind sampling the Chenin Blanc and some of that carpaccio. Anyone brave enough to join me?

The Roots Of Heaven : The Book & The Movie

My latest read for the Gaia Reading Challenge was The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary, considered ” the first identifiably ecological novel in the literature of France, and perhaps the world.”- David Bellos

I had watched the movie of the same name earlier in the year featuring Errol Flynn, of course playing the town drunk. Sadly, I doubt any acting skills were required and released only twelve months before his death should be enough to paint the picture. Poor ol’ Errol.

It’s not a good movie, prone to preaching, being over wordy, and all the big name actors try to outshine each other which grates: Trevor Howard, Eddie Albert, Orson Wells, and Juliette Greco’s bosoms. However, the storyline about a wildlife enthusiast who attempts to protect African elephants from being hunted for their ivory was interesting enough to encourage my pursuit for more information which surely says something positive for the movie. (As does the cinematography featuring jumbos in all their magnificence in  French Equatorial Africa.)

The book, written between 1953-54, received the Prix Goncourt for fiction ( “for the best and most imaginative prose work of the year”) and was translated into English in 1957. It too is wordy though beautifully written, and a great deal of effort goes into explaining the motivations of each of the characters’ stance on the killing of elephants. 

In begins with Morel, played by Trevor Howard in the movie, seeking signatures on a petition to cease the hunting. In all, he obtains only two names. Even the local Priest refuses to sign as he has enough misery in solving the issues of the Africans with their leprosy, poverty, illness and starvation. Morel bellows, “this is nothing to do with politics – it’s a matter of humanity“. All the misfits come together – the nightclub hostess (Greco), the American outcast dishonourably discharged from the Army ( Flynn), the journalist (Albert) – after much navel-gazing in an attempt to thwart an attack on a large herd. 

Of course, the novel isn’t that simple with a cast of characters with different viewpoints; the “environmentalist” capturing elephants as zoo specimens, the commandant in charge of the territory with political aspirations, the Jesuit priest, the politician using the demise of the elephants to promote the view that Africa’s natural resources are being “stolen”  promoting Africa’s stance that it should become an independent country. 

There’s a law which allows you to kill as many elephants as you like when they are trampling down your fields and threatening your crops. It’s a wonderful excuse for the good shots among us. All you have to prove is that an elephant has crossed your plantation and has trampled a field of squash, and there you are, free to decimate a herd, to indulge in reprisals, with the government’s blessing.”

Honestly, it all becomes too complex especially when you realise the elephants become a symbol for human life. 

John Huston, the Director of the movie, said he was “completely responsible… for the badness of The Roots of Heaven. I really wanted to make that one and Daryl Zanuck got me everything and everybody I wanted. But I had the screenplay done by someone who had never done one before, and it was bad. By then the cast, crew and me were in Africa; it was too late to turn back, we would have spent a fortune for nothing, so we went ahead and did the best we could.”

Producer, Zanuck (and sheet warmer for Greco) said “This picture is really great for us – intellectually great. Whether it’s commercially great, whether people will grab on to it, we must wait and see. If they grab on to a man in love with a bridge, then why shouldn’t they grab on to a man in love with an elephant?” 

Answer : Because there comes a point when a line is drawn between being lectured and being entertained.

30,000 Elephants killed in a year. Horrendous!

Far North Queensland and Movies

Over 1,700 kms (1,000 miles ) away from home in Far North Queensland and I’ve bumped into a friend from the Adelaide Hills, way, way down south and along way from the east coast. When I say bumped, I mean literally. My facial recognition skills are shonky at best, and when face masks, sun screen and floppy sun hats are added to the equation the result isn’t pretty. Funnily enough, it was actually her husband I recognised from photos, though we’d never previously met.

Carol and I became friends 12 years ago because of our shared love of Australian movies. We both wrote reviews for a mutual literary friend.

So it was perhaps apt that I bumped into this woman at the North Queensland Army Museum in Townsville where a knowledgable volunteer was enthusiastically extolling the virtues of an army truck exhibit which was driven by Nicole Kidman ( AKA Our Nic) in the movie Australia.*

It’s a fascinating museum manned by volunteers and Army Reservists with entry by donation. At the entrance is a sculpture that represents the Australian tunnellers involved in blowing up Nazi bunkers near Ypres in Belgium during WW1 as depicted in the movie Beneath Hill 60. (From the book of the same name by Will Davies and based on the memoirs of Captain Oliver Woodward. An excellent read!) The movie was shot in Charters Towers, 135 km south west of Townsville, with the sculpture donated by the film crew.


In an attempt to elevate the 20 month old grandchild’s education to a higher plateau – afterall, you’re never too young to learn about Errol Flynn, are you? – we visited the popular Australian Hotel in the trendy Palmer Street Precinct for a refreshing bevvy. In my quest for Flynn memorabilia I visited this area forty years ago only to find the Errol Flynn Room – so named because he stayed there prior to his move into acting and before his New Guinea escapades – closed for refurbishment. Back then the pub was a lonely dilapidated shell of a building down by the Port ; these days the area has been gentrified and the accomodation is as swank as. Sadly, the Flynn Room no longer exists. ( Wretched millennials?)

A further 400kms north to Cairns and we came across the Australian Armour And Artillery Museum. About over museums by this stage, though if you have an interest in the movie Fury featuring Brad Pitt then this place with its movie memorabilia ticks all the boxes.**


Lastly,  looking over from Caldwell to Hinchinbrook Island where Nim’s Island was filmed. Lousy weather which made it all the better for investigating Australia’s biggest memorial park commemorating the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Coming full circle and travelling south once again we stopped at Bowen, famous for its summer mangoes .The township of Bowen hit a high note when the main street was transformed into a 1942 Darwin for the movie  Australia. Think the beef cows being shunted down the main street and along the wharf…..

Of course there is more movie paraphernalia in Far North Queensland. It’s just difficult when your hands are full – peeling prawns.

* Manual windowscreen wipers – very handy during a cyclone

*My advice? Get your hair done while the lads knock themselves out.

Platypus Matters : The Extraordinary Lives of Australian Mammals by Jack Ashby

Jack Ashby is the Assistant Director of the Museum of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, and an honorary research fellow in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. His first book was Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects and Platypus Matters: The Extraordinary Lives of Australian Mammals was published in 2022.

Let me start by saying that Jack Ashby is a marsupial loving eccentric and I just love him. His favourite marsupial is the platypus, followed by the echidna and then the wombat. He puts his special regard for these three creatures down to the fact that they “waddle”.

Ashby may well be a science nerd but he sounds like great fun around a barbie. In this book he makes the case that Australia’s wildlife is not a collection of oddities or creatures that can kill you as is so often presented in the media. He argues “why it matters that we think about how these animals are portrayed – how we talk about them, how we represent them on TV and in museums, and how we value them” . He states that “our unique wildlife is disappearing at a rate unparalleled by any other large region on Earth, and its conservation is surely tied to how these animals are understood.”

What could have very easily become another catalogue of interest only to other scientists or zoology students is fast paced, humorous and fascinating. Ashby’s respect for the platypus shines through with not only a discussion about their physiology, but also their history in relation to Indigenous Dreamtime, early colonial poetry, and an array of information which I have stored in my Trivia Bank.

For instance, newborn platypus ( or platypups) require mothers milk though platypus do not have nipples. They have milk patches. Who knew! The male is venomous, and war hero Keith Payne VC testifies that the pain from an affliction is worse than a gun shot wound.

And did you know that in 1943 Winston Churchill asked Prime Minister John Curtain for six live specimens as moral boosters and to promote the relationship between England and Australia during the middle of World War 2 ? (A Japanese submarine ruined those plans…..)

Facts about the other mammals are also intriguing : how echidnas have intimate relations, wombats pouches face backwards and why their poop is cubed, and taxidermy does not simply involve retaining an animals skin and stuffing it with tissue paper.

Many of these creatures aren’t well known around the world and even the qualified staff at international Natural History Museums are quite clueless. Did you know that Echidna’s back feet are backwards for digging purposes though taxidermied specimens do not reflect this, and the half a dozen Tasmanian Tigers around the world all have erections.

Great read. Jack, I’m in love…….Now feeling pumped for the next Trivia comp at the local bowlo.

Old Man Platypus

by AB Paterson

Far from the trouble and toil of town,
Where the reed beds sweep and shiver,
Look at a fragment of velvet brown –
Old Man Platypus drifting down,
Drifting along the river.

And he plays and dives in the river bends
In a style that is most elusive;
With few relations and fewer friends,
For Old Man Platypus descends
From a family most exclusive.

He shares his burrow beneath the bank
With his wife and his son and daughter
At the roots of the reeds and the grasses rank;
And the bubbles show where our hero sank
To its entrance under water.

Safe in their burrow below the falls
They live in a world of wonder,
Where no one visits and no one calls,
They sleep like little brown billiard balls
With their beaks tucked neatly under.

And he talks in a deep unfriendly growl
As he goes on his journey lonely;
For he’s no relation to fish nor fowl,
Nor to bird nor beast, nor to horned owl;
In fact, he’s the one and only!

Note :

Platypus are secretive creatures that travel alone. I have been fortunate to have spotted several in their natural habitat; once in the Royal National Park in Sydney and at a bush property on North Queensland’s Atherton Tableland. I also live 1 km walking distance down a bush track to what was once a Platypus Reserve. I keep walking down that way in case I luck out and spot another……

Positive Outcomes : June

With blue skies returning throughout June I was finally able to extricate myself from the couch. So far it’s been Queensland’s coldest winter in over a hundred years which means I’ve been pushing forward if only to keep warm.

It’s been a productive month, including having bags packed for my travels north to warmer climes where crocs, leeches and Irukandji jellyfish are the norm.

Harry’s Book Cart is ready for delivery, though not convinced it wont turn into a carrier for his baru collection.(Indigenous for crocodiles).

I’ve been busy cooking marmalade from fruit that friends tend to let fall from the tree to rot. Never made it before, only ever eat it on scones, but have jars going everywhere: Tangelo and Lemon, Ginger and Lime, and Grapefruit. Orange and Whiskey next on the agenda.

Lots of small achievements and interesting outings which made June a beaut month. Even washed the windows and disinfected all kitchen cupboards. Is it sad that this provided joy?

Completing projects makes me feel useful. I need to feel useful. The Little Community Library had a Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover promotion and fellow Blogger, Gretchen from Thoughts Become Words, last year threw suggestions out into the Blogosphere about swapping books in aid of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. On to it : more news next time.

However, have now hit the wall and need to head north for some R & R.

Happy Trails to all…….

Serendipity Part 2: The Airfix Kit

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.

The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen : Book Review

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.

Sam and Lah Lah. I had a pink dressing gown at the time so I’m sure Sam saw me as a large Galah.

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. ” Tropical Cyclone 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.

Washing Copper.

* NOTE :

Galah is also a derrogatory term that means a “loud-mouthed idiot.” Named specifically for the galah, a native Australian bird that makes a distinctive (and quite funny-sounding) call.

“Oh, Scottyya bloody galah! What are you ON ABOUT?!”

from the Urban Dictionary.