Books In August

Failed the Book Bingo Challenge though not perturbed as I’m not visiting the Library looking for reads these days preferring to work through books laying around the house.

Biggest disappointment was Bastard Behind The Lines by Tom Gilling, a biography about Jock McLaren who escaped from both Changi and Sandakan during WW2. Because McLaren went guerrilla there was a lot of here say and to be honest, I needed a mud map to keep up with it all.( which could also be an indication of where my head was at. A reread may be worth consideration when life is a little more normal). I scored this book 1 out of 5 for format and clarity and 5 out of 5 for McLaren performing an appendectomy on himself. Ewww.

With half the country still in Lockdown my headspace needed a realignment from which I made the decision to be less isolated and move away from books. Prickle ball or crystal healing as alternative hobbies, what do you think?

Well, that was another Epic Fail.

A girlfriend donated a bag of books for the Little Library and some brand new kiddies books which I’m passing onto a local group who sew new pjs for children. These pjs will go into new backpacks for when Community Services are forced to intervene.

I couldn’t resist buying a bag of books from the local Op Shop for $6 – purely to assist the economy of course – and I’ve a few select books on marketplace trying to raise a few bob for Wounded Heroes, who assist ex vets and their families at a grassroots level. ( And who are doing it particularly tough at the moment).

The Friday night book club (with wine) continues and I’m rereading Catch 22 after forty plus years, and I’ve just started a new book club with the local Probus Club.

Crystals were never my thing anyway.

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray by Anita Heiss – Book Review

This is the first novel that has broken through my brain fog, courtesy of Covid, for quite some time

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) is an epic story of love, loss and belonging.”

Set in 1852, the Marrambidya – what we know as the Murrumbidgee – floods through the newly established township of Gundagai, leaving death and destruction in its wake. The local indigenous had warned the colonists though this went unheeded. It is a stark reminder that while the river can give life, it can just as easily take it away.

Wagadhaany is a 13 year old Aboriginal lass and considered to be one of the lucky ones because she survives the flood and lives in a settler’s home as a domestic. When she is forced to move away from her “mob” her spirit is crushed despite forging a friendship of sorts with the new mistress of the house. Her heart slowly heals when she meets a Wiradyuri stockman and she dreams of escaping from servitude and returning to the river of her ancestors, though there is danger in escaping from the white man.

Beautifully written with a nod to indigenous language, the images of rural NSW with its flocks of noisy cockatoo and the swirling currents of the river and dry plains are almost lyrical. The ugly events of our past are covered, such as the massacres, payment to workers by way of rations, abuse and mistreatment of the women, and early days of mission life. It’s not pretty.

Wagadhaany’s partner takes their twin sons camping on their first “walkabout”
to learn many of the Indigenous ways and I felt as a reader that I too was being educated in bush craft. I will never again move a log with my hands until testing first with my feet ( in case of snakes)! I particularly enjoyed the lessons gained from looking at the night sky given my recent reading about Aboriginal Astronomy.

In Gundagai today there is a sculpture of Yarri (Wagadhaany’s father in the novel) and Jackey Jackey commemorating how many of the colonists were saved during the flood in those early days.

Though not an in-your-face, aggressive look-what-you-done look back at historical events which is so very prevalent in other recent publications, this story is no less forgiving. It in no way detracts from the appalling treatment that our Aboriginals suffered but rather confirms that you can ” catch more flys with honey than with vinegar”.

Great read!

About the Author

Anita Heiss (born 1968) is an Aboriginal Australian author, poet, cultural activist and social commentator. She is an advocate for Indigenous Australian literature and literacy, through her writing for adults and children and her membership of boards and committees.

First Nation’s Storytellers


It is only over recent months that I became aware of Australian Aboriginal Astronomy after having listened to Astrophysicist and Science Communicator, Kirsten Banks, on of all things, a home renovation show.

Of Wiradjuri descent Kirsten has a particular interest in how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have used the stars for over 65,000 years for navigation purposes, predicting weather seasons, and for determining when the best time is to hunt for certain foods such as emu eggs. “ Aboriginal Astronomy can teach us about the link between the sky and the land”, she said.

My interest was further piqued on my recent outback Queensland travels and in particular Winton. Winton’s small population, low humidity, and low light pollution make it the ideal location to stargaze and the area around the Australian Age of Dinosaurs is now one of only ten internationally recognised areas certified as a Dark Sky Sanctuary.


Since then I have been receiving social media alerts regarding Aboriginal artwork related to the skies. ( see Aboriginal Skies)

With a daughter in Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory – which I grew up calling Gove – an area in East Arnham land populated for some 40,000 years by the Yolgnu people, we all have a new appreciation for the story tellers from our First Nation. Contemporary Australian Indigenous art often references astronomical subjects and their related lore such as the Seven Sisters.

Here are examples of some of the art works:

This fabulous artwork was submitted by Annette Joy. Annette is a Gourmanjanyuk/Wergaia artist and the painting represents Yerrerdetkurrk, which is the star Achernar. Yerrerdetkurrk is the ‘Nalwinkurrk’, or mother of Totyarguil’s wives. The ‘Nalwinkurrk’ never allows’ her son-in law to see her. Achernar is a bright, binary star system located in the constellation Eridanus, and is the ninth-brightest star in the night sky.

“Hydra the Water Serpent” from the ‘Shared Sky Exhibition’. This exhibition highlighted the connections between Aboriginal & contemporary astronomy. This artwork is acrylic on linen (70cm x 52cm) and the artist is Nerolie Blurton. “The Water Serpent, stretched across the sky with its many heads, was a monster until it was cut and killed. The red blood drips down from the clot. The browns and orange show that the Hydra can be seen best in autumn.”

If Aboriginal Astronomy intrigues you I recommend reading the story of The Emu In The Sky by Ray and Cilla Norris. Fascinating and guaranteed to give you a brand new perspective.

Dark Sky and Dinosaur Country at Winton overlooking Banjo’s “plains extended” and “vision splendid”.

Isn’t it bizarre how watching something on TV simply to learn how to stop bugs eating young eggplants can take you on such a convoluted journey ? * shaking head and muttering.

Murder At The Dunwich Museum

It hasn’t been a fun week with my only outings having been to put the rubbish bins out for collection and to check the letterbox.

In between Lockdowns (yes, plural) I did manage to attend an author talk organised by the Library in a nearby park. It was lovely to sit outside in the sunshine and listen to an informative talk by Dr Karen Thurecht, a medical anthropologist by trade.

Thurecht has recently released her first mystery novel, Murder At The Dunwich Asylum, which piqued my interest because the location makes up part of my playground.

The Dunwich Benevolent Asylum was established by the Queensland Government to provide accomodation for the destitute, aged and infirm and operated from 1886 to 1946. Located at Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay over 21,000 people were admitted during its operation with around 1000 to 1600 at any one time.

Although I haven’t yet read the book I enjoyed learning more about the Asylum’s history, and look forward to Thurecht’s coming novels which also feature familiar settings : the cane fields near Jacobs Well and Frogs Hollow, now known as Brisbane.

My Lockdown reading isn’t going well. Thank goodness for Daniel Day-Lewis sans shirt in The Last Of The Mohicans to keep a girl sane.

Only 16 hours until the postman is due to drive past again……

This Weeks Find

The youngest daughter’s middle name is Geordie. Yep, Cat Balou Geordie Whyte. The Geordie is a derivative of a family name, and is also from a movie that appealed to me when I was young and fresh faced, far too many moons ago to mention here.

Originally a book Geordie was first published in 1950 by author David Walker ( 1911 – 1992) a Scottish-born Canadian writer. Essentially, the story is about a boy known as Wee Geordie who enrols in a fitness course by correspondence because of being bullied by local children about his small stature. He becomes an athlete and as a young man represents Scotland in the Hammer Throw at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

Turned into a movie of the same name in 1955 the role of Geordie was played by Bill Travers and I think it was at this stage of my life that I developed a bit of a thing for blokes wearing a kilt. Or maybe it was just Travers because I adored him in later movies, Born Free and a Ring of Bright Water. ( Do you remember this one? Started me on my quest for a pet otter. Right up there with a Mercedes sports car. Never happened, neither of them).

Travers, not in a kilt, sadly.

Nice little storyline, nice little movie…….You may remember those type : no car chases, no f bombs, no nudity.

So, after my whinge last week about the Little Community Library and a rant about slack-arsed people within my community, what did I find on the bookshelves?

Geordie’s sequel published in 1965, Come Back, Geordie.

Who even knew?

I haven’t read it yet and am considering not bothering. After all, it’s been nearly fifty years since I read the original and sometimes it is wiser not to revisit. After all, I’m not so fresh faced……

Oh, and poor Cat Balou was born during my Dylan Thomas phase so she copped another bizarre name too. Poor thing. She’s done well to stick out the harassment – unlike Wee Geordie.


NOTE : Back in Lockdown and just loving it – NOT. Been decluttering so much I’m now looking at pulling plaster off the walls.

Grey Days and Hissy Fits

It’s been a disappointing winter with grey days, Covid and all of its accoutrements. So I admit to a recent hissy fit when for the past few weeks there has been a lack of children’s books in the Little Community Library up at the local park. None as in Nil. Zilch.Nada.

I appreciate that Little People can get attached to books and not want to share them, and I also get that times are tough and may be a borrowed book is as good as it gets for some families. That’s okay. Any child with a book is a positive, right?

With school holidays, lousy weather, and a three day day lockdown I put a call out for donations of books for the kids. Cheekily I even included information about a pop up preloved book sale ( fundraiser) happening less than two kilometres away.

Guess what? Nil. Zilch. Nada. And being bloody minded I refused to put a hand in my own pocket…this time.

Inwardly I fumed. How hard is it to return or donate a second hand book about Peppa Pig or Thomas the Tank Engine?

My interest waned in the Little Library and my visits dropped to a weekly perfunctory event only. There was even the odd rant about not being everybody’s mother or grandmother. Gemini’s do tend to rant after all.

There have also been a few unsavoury looking types hanging about the park of late. Not being judgemental but hey, I found an official document in the Little Library reminding so and so of his coming appointment with his parole officer. Gulp. Made me wonder if donated books were being sold off at Garage Sales or the like.

Anyway, I relented yesterday and set off to the park to discover twenty kiddies books, a couple of Disney DVDs and an adults section absolutely overflowing.

Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou

The Life Lesson being, I guess, that we are all battling a lousy winter and outside, unseen forces -something that’s truly worth ranting about.

Masks and Winter

Winter in Brisbane is usually delightful. It’s the time of year which allows us to recoup and regroup for the coming summer. It’s the time of year when physical exercise during the daylight hours doesn’t leave you a quivering mess. It’s the time of year when your makeup doesn’t slowly slide down your cheeks leaving a puddle on the tablecloth.

This winter sux. Covid sux. Everything sux. We’ve come out of a three day Lockdown ( which was easy peasy) to compulsory mask wearing and I tell you, wearing masks obviously means less oxygen getting to the brain. Because I assure you, the nut jobs are out there.

Yesterday I received a monthly newsletter from my insurance company. Targeting the mature demographic the newsletter includes warming soup recipes and road trip tips for those with vans and mobile homes. All rather innocuous.

It also includes the article “Seven Guaranteed Page-Turners To Read This Winter”. I’ll list the recommendations below.

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.                                      1987

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.                                                          2002

The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan.       2014

The Yiddish Policemans Union by Michael Chabon.                     2007

The Poisonwood Diary by Barbara Kingsgrove.                            1999

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.                                               2005

The North Water by Ian Maguire.                                                    2016

I have no doubt that they are all fine reads but only one was written within the last five years. Doesn’t this just reek of laziness to you?

So, here’s the book I last read – and thoroughly enjoyed :


Here are my coming reads for Bookclub:

And you’re suggesting I just need to get out more, aren ‘t you?

AGREED. It’s just difficult to co-ordinate a frock with a mask and be able to breath at the same time.

Longreach – Lonely or Otherwise

With house guests and travels my recent reading history is abysmal.

Lonely In Longreach” by Australian author, Eva Scott, is chick lit that I picked up after having spent a few days in Longreach, 1000 kms north west of Brisbane.

I wont bore you with more holiday snaps though Longreach is home to some really big hitters in the tourist department. The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which opened in 1988, showcases the history and the culture of life in rural Australia. It is nothing short of spectacular : informative, user friendly, and totally fascinating.

Sitting in the outside arena watching a drover working his horses in the daily show reminded me of Errol Flynn in the 1950 movie Montana. (Yeah, I wonder about the things that go around in my head too.)

The Qantas Founders Museum is another Must Do as is the Sunset Cruise on the Thomson River.

All of these venues are mentioned in the book “Lonely In Longreach”. Which in turn had me thinking of another movie : Sleepless In Seattle. Same premise – kid worries his widowed Dad is lonely so fixes him up by signing him up to a Dating App and arranges for his choice of stepmother to fly in from the Big Smoke to give a career chat at the local high school. We all know how the story ends, don’t we?

Then I had to read “Everything Is Beautiful” by Eleanor Ray for Book Club.

Amy is a loner who suffered major heartbreak a decade ago and deals with it by collecting bits and pieces. Read: she is a hoarder with a house full of junk.

Readers were meant to be sympathetic to Amy’s situation though consensus amongst this group of readers was that Amy needed to “have a teaspoon of concrete and harden up”. Not the outcome the author was looking for, I would suggest , and I wondered if this was the Australian readers’ take as opposed to the English ( which is Ray’s ethnicity). Okay, agreed, the answer could be that my Book Club is full of neanderthals……..

Thank goodness for the coming Pop Up Book Sale fundraiser on the weekend.

NOTE:

Coming out of a three day Lockdown which had me housekeeping like crazy. I’ve deleted 350 “Followers” from Word Press. My apologies but at this stage of the game I am not in any need of nutritional or financial advice, information about cryptocurrency nor the stockmarket, and nor do I require the services of a pretty Asian lass. Don’t even start me on Life Coaches…….

First 5 Forever

My local Library has a First 5 Forever program that caters to three age groups: babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

First 5 Forever is a statewide program providing strong early literacy foundations for all Queensland children ages 0-5 years at which local libraries provide fun, free, family-friendly activities and resources to help make the most of a child’s first 5 years”.

So of course when I recently played the devoted Meemaw I booked 8 month old Harry Kilometres into two sessions of First 5 Forever, one outdoors at a local park and the other at the Library.

The outdoors venture was a bit of a disaster because of the weather. Bub had flown in the night before from remote northern Australia where at night he sleeps under a ceiling fan with the air conditioning on, and Brissie decided to emulate Melbourne with chilly winds and 8 degrees. He had to wear long pants for the first time in his life as well as socks and a beanie and was suitably unimpressed. And not a subtle beanie either, thank you Meemaw.

Our indoor venture was much more successful with sessions only 45 minutes in duration ( 30 in songs, movement, and stories and 15 in play) and more favourable climatic conditions.

Of course I bribed the little blighter with the promise of his first babychinno – which was another success.

During my recent travels I visited the Chinchilla Botanic Gardens.

Chinchilla is most commonly known as the ‘Melon Capital of Australia’, and plays host to a Melon Festival every second year in February. 

( Aside : Not a fan of Watermelon though I detest the waste of good food during this popular tourist festival. As for Rockmelon, also known as Canteloupe, why it is considered a complement to seafood has me stumped. What a waste of decent prawn meat.)

Located in the Western Downs Region of Queensland, Chinchilla is just on 300 kms northwest of Brisbane.  In 2020 its Parkland was announced as winner of the Park of the Year at the Queensland Parks and Leisure Australia Annual Awards.  It IS beautiful and caters for all demographics with a variety of facilities.

I was delighted when I came across this cute First 5 Forever bench seat to encourage our Littlest Readers. A wonderful initiative.

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.

…………………………………………..

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.