Curlews on Vulture Street by Darryl Jones

GAIA READING CHALLENGE

Darryl Jones is a Professor of Ecology at Griffith University in Brisbane. He has been researching the ways that people and wildlife interact in an urban environment for thirty odd years focusing on why some bird species are extremely successful in an urban landscape, whilst others less so. He describes his book as ” a memoir of an urban ecologist”  beginning his story by revisiting his childhood in rural New South Wales.

I found this an interesting read on two levels. Firstly, his investigation findings about magpies, lorikeets, ibis and crows – all familiar to urban Brisbane where I reside – are fascinating. Don’t get me started on the sex lives of brush (scrub) turkeys!

Secondly, its not that long ago when the house was full of teenage angst caused by not knowing where life was headed after High School. It was a repeat cycle from 40 years previous when it was entrenched that the Higher School Certificate was the “be all, end all”. This memoir is a reminder that life generally falls into place.

It was not that long ago that feeding birds in the back garden was considered a big No No. Neighbours reported local residents to Council for doing so. Since then, the public has been advised by ecologists the right and wrong way to interact with local wildlife, such as planting native trees and providing the correct foodstuff. It has been estimated that one in four houses in Brisbane has a bird feeder of sorts in the back yard. Research has shown that people genuinely like interaction with the wildlife in their neighbourhood but also see it as a form of atonement ie making up for humanity’s destruction of the natural environment. ( Interesting concept to think about?)

Guilty as charged…….

Incidentally, the title “Curlews on Vulture Street” relates to an incident where the good Professor was pulled up by a police person for holding up traffic in inner city Brisbane whilst awaiting for a Stone Curlew with chicks to cross busy Vulture Street. 

Well worth the read although I’ll never look at a scrub turkey in quite the same way.



Reading Challenges : Where Are We Up To?

I’m not really into Reading Challenges as Quality wins over Numbers each and every time. Just read any of my Performance Management Reviews over the past twenty years. Have never been results driven either as my father kindly reminded me on his deathbed. “Pet”, he said, “you’ve always lacked ambition”. Said like it was a curse. Yep, that’s me. Retired and self funded at 58. Booyah.

Challenges have definitely changed the direction of my reading which is a positive or I’de still be reading Arthur Upfield novels and biographies from the Golden Days of Hollywood.

I continue to work through the Around The World Reading Challenge having completed books written about other countries last year including Somalia, Sweden, Iceland, French Equatorial Africa, Botswana, Cypress and Ethiopia. Titles are not provided : it’s more a learning tool to gain a better understanding of a different country’s culture.

From “The Books That Made Us“, ( as in a Nation, as per ABC TV ) I completed another three or four titles though am still trying to work my way through Carpentaria by Alexis Wright. Interestingly, my daughter has been moaning about a 500 plus page 2013 Miles Franklin Award Winner for months from the same list which she let me borrow over Christmas. Cat Balou, take more holiday leave : Questions of Travel by Michelle de Krestser is NOT even included on that List. Should I bother?

Leah is the Caretaker of a Street Library on the other side of the country, in Bussleton, Western Australia. She created Leah’s Street Library Reading Challenge with more of an Aus-centric feel to it for 2022 of which I powered through completing 42 of the 50 required books. The themes which let me down included :

book published in year of birth
book written by an author of the same name
an audio book. ( Just not happening)

The Gaia Reading Challenge was created by Aussie blogger, Sharon from Gumtreesandgalaxies.com, to encourage more reading about the environment, climate and nature. Last year was my first time participating and I managed ten books including a couple of kiddies titles. Loved it! I’ve always been a bit of a Greenie – who remembers the Save The Whales marches in the 70’s? – but reading books of this ilk has encouraged me to further tweak my behaviours. More on this another time.

Please join in if interested. The more the merrier…..

The Zoom Book Club has petered out with Covid restrictions now eased though the Probus Book Club continues. More on this another time too.

Something I plan to implement in 2023 is to read more books by Australian authors from earlier days. This interest goes back to meeting and hearing a local author, Shirley Chambers, presenting her book “Words From The Past, a Literary Landscape of the Darling Downs“. Shirley’s book mentions author Ronald McKie who wrote the 1974 Miles Franklin winner, The Mango Tree, which became a movie several years later. Yep, I’ll research Miles Franklin Award Winners since its inception in 1958 – before I was even born ! This will also substantiate reading the de Kretser previously mentioned.

I have to get back to Carpentaria but would love to hear your reading plans for 2023.

Tippy and Jellybean by Sophie Cunningham


In June 2020 I posted about a children’s book that was released only a few months after the bushfires that devastated the east coast of Australia earlier that year. I clearly remember watching the news on the television with my eldest daughter early on the morning of New Years Day seeing the communities of the far south coast of NSW and just across the Victorian border escaping the ravaging fires and congregating to the closest beaches.

Here’s a copy of my post:

“Firstly, a new children’s book: Tippy and Jellybean by Sophie Cunningham.

Based on the true story of Tippy the koala, and her baby, Jellybean, which was one of the tales that broke hearts all around Australia during our devastating bushfires last summer.

Tippy was found by rescuers in the Snowy River National Park just after the fires raged through the area with a burnt back and paws. She was crouched over her joey, Jellybean, who was unscathed.

Sadly, many of our koalas were lost when they made the mistake of scrambling for the top tree branches when fires went through, offering them absolutely no protection whatsoever.

Tippy and Jellybean have since recovered and have been released back to an area with eucalyptus trees.

Proceeds from this book will raise money for the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund.

Meet the real Tippy and Jellybean


I was lucky enough to come across a copy of this book at a recent Warehouse Sale and my immediate reaction was that two year old Harry would love this story, with its beautiful illustrations by Anil Tortop of a selection of cute and cuddly Australian animals.

Guess what? Harry is missing out. I can’t part with it; it’s such a heart rending story and a reminder of all the good that came out of that disaster, as is so often the case.

Tippy and Jellybean were rescued along with many other creatures that survived the fires and were taken to Rescue Shelters where veterinarians and volunteers saw to their medical needs, primarily attention to burns and dehydration.

Volunteers supplied fresh Eucalypt leaves from neighbouring properties for Koala feed and Tippy and Jellybean regained their strength in the Sanctuary until well enough to fend for themselves in the wild.

I love this illustration as it is such a reminder of those days as well as all the good that there is in people. (Sometimes it seems so easy to forget, doesn’t it ?) Fruit and vegetables being left out for wombats, possums and kangaroos, and all the handcrafted nests knitted for wildlife and birds. I remember shopping for a special wool for a girlfriend who attended a Workshop on creating nests for critters. She was busy knitting for weeks as were so many others.

Lastly, a reminder that despite the bushfires, nature returns to provide both food and a home for the animals.

Sorry, Harry.


Yes, I know I said I was done for the Gaia Challenge but I just couldn’t resist.

The Week That Was

I’ve been totally irresponsible and the current state of the house is a consequence. The ensuite needs decontamination, lawns need to be mowed, and the second guest room is screaming for a lick of paint. Don’t even mention the garage.

Saw a local community theatre production of “Calendar Girls” last weekend, attended the Wynnum Fringe two nights in a row to enjoy some non mainstream theatrical productions, won the raffle at a charity event, and planted thirty seedlings.

Watched a bizarre little movie which I picked up at the local U3A Trash N Treasure Sale. Highly recommended to seek these sales out because they are all downsizers offloading quality goods. This little gem was the 2007 film “Across The Universe” described as “jukebox musical romantic drama” incorporating 34 compositions written by the Beatles. Baffling in that I have never been a Beatles fan, not having been exposed to their music during the formative years. The wooden HMV radiogram in the old family homestead encouraged Gilbert and Sullivan or Mario Lanza LPs. Boy, did it shake like it suffered from Parkinsons when I put my T REX on the turntable.

Even with my limited Beatles knowledge I picked up on the references to Janis Joplin and Jimmi Hendrix and being set during the Vietnam War was interesting. It is an enjoyable little flick and having read the trivia notes on IMDB I’m keen to watch it again – and soon. Still shaking my head at some of the drug references connected to the Magical Mystery Tour…..

Strawberry Fields


Then this Little Library, in Houston, Texas, came up on social media. Bizarre, I’m telling you.


This week I read Louis de Bernieres’ novella, “Red Dog“, which was transposed into the popular Australian movie of the same name, and just finished Jane Harper’s “Exiles“.

Harper’s first book about AFP Aaron Faulk was also transposed into a popular movie, “The Dry” starring Australian Eric Bana. Book 3 with Faulk yet again investigating a crime in a regional setting and I could hear Bana’s voice as the story unfolded. This is the last Faulk book and the author has given him a “happy ending”. I didn’t find that part of the story quite so believable but then I had all the romance knocked out of me years ago.

As always Harper has made the landscape a character in itself and although I now want to visit a country town boasting vineyards I may not be prepared to leave the motel room alone for some time.

The pumpkin vines were becoming far too wayward. They had to go.

The house keeping? I was told a long time ago by a wise old woman that no-one has ever had engraved on their tombstone ” She Kept A Clean House”. I’m holding on to that thought.

Book Spines & Coffee Table Books

I don’t know whether it’s a result of my parenting skills (or  lack thereof ) but I was recently concerned by the discovery that my eldest daughter colour codes the books on her bookshelves. Even the Little Person’s books are arranged according to the colour of their spine.

I’ve read about this trend in Interior Design magazines of course though I didn’t think it was something that normal people did. Normal as in the majority of us who don’t live in a home with a 6 car garage and with a dedicated wine fridge that chills 1000 bottles simultaneously.

I guess it is another version of stacking glossy unopened coffee table books in pyramids or arranging their spines according to height. That is, books being used as a design object. Strangely my coffee tables have always been used for – da da – coffee cups. Never had a book out purely for display purposes in my life. Don’t even remember ever owning a coffee table book.

Have you? Don’t be embarrassed  – please share. Dr Brizzy is researching these phenomenas.

In other news my struggles to cook desserts in any shape or form are real. Two batches of chocolate brownies went into the compost bin yesterday. What coloured spine does the recipe book have?

2022 Gaia Reading Challenge Summation

I’ve just finished reading my last entry for the 2022 Gaia Reading Challenge, which Gum Trees And Galaxies devised in “an attempt to encourage connection with the natural world……..The Gaia challenge has been about connecting and caring.”

This was my first year participating in the Gaia and although I did not successfully complete the Book Bingo I am pleased that the Challenge encouraged me to read ten books from a genre I would not normally select. That to me is success.

As I stated last year I’m a big believer in trying to effect small environmental changes within my own community. Some of the things I have achieved during 2022 include sharing vegetable seedlings with the neighbourhood via the Little Community Library, putting drinking water out for wildlife, planting two native trees on the verge, planting two native trees in the koala corridor to replace two non natives, propagating herbs and vegetables, and sharing seedlings with friends and family.

I’ve also seen red with the number of citrus fruit left to rot in neighbourhood gardens so after some experimentation can now whip up marmalade which sees glass jars recycled and zesty fruity deliciousness shared amongst friends. My garage looks like a small processing factory! The citrus skins are not wasted as I am marinating them in vinegar to create a non toxic house cleaner (not to be used on varnished surfaces).

Best of all when we were travelling around Tasmania a few months back we caught up with a lovely lass for a vino in a harbour side hotel who brought along a Gaia book recommendation. Conversation in a pub about the environment – who knew it was even possible! ( Book ordered from Library, Janet. Thank you❤️).

So I’ve just read The Root Of All Disease by Elmer G Heinrich which is about mineral depletion and how it affects the nutritional value of our food intake. Tests  show that over a fifty year period the minerals in our vegetables have reduced dramatically, which is bad news for our health as minerals are vital for a multitude of bio chemical processes, including enzymatic and chemical processes which occur in the human body at all times.

 

If you thought the supermarket tomato you ate today tasted different from the ones eaten straight from the garden in your childhood you would be correct:  these days it takes more than ten tomatoes to get the same mineral content out of one tomato fifty years ago. There was a lot of science in this one which means I didn’t get as much out of it that I could have, though the gist was scary enough.

This is put down to continuous cropping and erosion as well the addition of chemicals and fertilisers. I was disappointed that the book did not provide a list in layman’s terms how to rectify the damage -other than consuming mineral supplements – but you know what? Once again, the topic has created conversation around the dinner table. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?

I have two guest bedrooms undergoing major redecorating with visitors due in a fortnight so that’s all for me in this Challenge. See you in 2023 and Thank You, GT&G.

Some Aussie Stories…..

2022 has been my year of Tim Winton novels : Dirt Music, Cloudstreet, Breath, and The Shepherd’s Hut. An Australian writer Winton was named a Living Treasure by the National Trust of Australia, and has won the Miles Franklin Award four times.  

Two and half weeks in and I’m abandoning the latter novel. I’m done. Sorry Tim, it’s me, not you. Too much ugliness in the real world I don’t need anymore of it in my own little bubble. Shepherd’s Hut is almost too painful to read.

I’ve also put Carpentaria, another Miles Franklin winner by Alexis Wright, to the wayside. I will come back to it when the days are meant for languishing under a ceiling fan but for now I’m battling to work out if the author is being sarcastic, passive aggressive, or if I just lack sophistication required when it comes to award winning books. Guessing the latter.

Talking of stories I did attend a presentation of short films at our local Performing Arts Centre last week. “A Celebration Of Stories from Minjerribah”, as North Stradbroke Island is known by our First Nations People, these shorts captured cultural stories from Elders and community members about the stolen generation, an old mission, passing on traditions, and the last Aboriginal fishing crew on the Island and how fishing on the open beach connects them to their ancestry.

A few tears, a few laughs, and Straddie never fails as a beautiful back drop. 

Brothers N Books

Back in 2020 Captain Dylan Conway from the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) spent 14 months virtually bedridden following surgery.

“As a means of keeping his mind occupied, Captain Conway read more than 100 books on self-development, from recounts of combat operations and philosophy to stories of perseverance in times of extreme hardship.”

This was the beginning of Conway’s initiative, Brothers N Books, which was initially aimed via Instagram at other Defence personnel, first responders and anyone else facing challenges.

As Brothers N Books gained momentum Conway started receiving donations of books for people in need. This has since grown to the charitable organisation setting up 15 free community libraries filled with uplifting books across Australia – and growing – with funds raised from the sale of merchandise.

Conway states that “The same way that diet, working out and socialising assist in living a happy, healthy life, reading books can also contribute to your overall wellness and health.”

According to the Brothers N Books website ( go here: https://brothersnbooks.com/)

their Mission is to :

  • Make reading cool
  • Create community libraries across Australia
  • Promote reading as a means of therapy, personal growth and success
  • Recommend books that change lives in the hopes of changing someone else’s

Conway has since returned to work and has most recently been involved with the ADF’s Flood Assist Operation in northern New South Wales.

Captain Conway, you are a gem, Sir !

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?)