February 14th

February 14th is Valentine’s Day and more importantly, Library Lovers Day.

I have mentioned previously how much I have always appreciated my local Library, from the days when the daughters were tots and they would participate in craft sessions during school holidays, to book clubs, and twenty five years later taking little Harry Kilom to enjoy Baby Time, where he could sing songs and listen to a story.

With retirement one of my fondest pleasures has been meandering around the Library shelving units in search of the perfect book/s, sipping on a coffee whilst flipping through pages and simply enjoying some “Me” time. At this stage I’m still ordering books online so that I only have to run in and out to collect my reads but fingers crossed that will change sooner rather than later.

The Sunshine Coast Libraries ( to the north of Brisbane) have instigated something interesting fondly known as the 10 Seats, 10 Stories, in 10 Parks program. In ten different parks around the Sunshine Coast is a designated seat highlighting a children’s story as a way to promote a love of reading and literacy. There is even a map available if you want to follow the trail.

The Little Community Library is prepped for Valentine’s Day with its #blinddatewithabook promotion. Thank you to those who donated near new books for the project.❤️

And remember :

Love Stories by Trent Dalton

Trent Dalton is a Brisbane journalist who over recent years has written two hugely successful novels : Boy Swallows Universe and All Our Shimmering Skies, with the former having been transformed into a stage production.

At the end of 2020 Dalton inherited a 1970’s sky-blue Olivetti Studio 44 typewriter from a mate’s mother. Dalton vowed to  write something “filled with love and depth and truth and frankness and heart.” He didn’t want to write anything cynical and glib because “the market for cynical and glib has been flooded”. Hallelujah to that, Mr Dalton..

So Dalton packed up his Olivetti Studio 44 typewriter, a fold up table from BCF ( a Boating, Camping and Fishing specialist store) and two camping chairs and set up a station in the heart of Brisbane’s shopping and business precinct for two weeks requesting personal love stories from passing foot traffic. The result is Love Stories, a deeply moving collection of stories about love and hate and everything else in between. 

I loved this book because it is uplifting and offers hope. The stories are often “messy”, but are authentic and shared with joy. It is one of those books that can be dipped into as required. And yes, it is a reminder that love in all its various forms is stronger than Covid. Grateful for the nudge Mr Dalton…….

Interestingly, this book has promoted a kind of new literary game. The author “believes in love”-

Courtesy Love Stories by Trent Dalton.

My turn :

I believe in the luck of the Irish – four leaf clovers, leprechauns and fairies at the bottom of the garden. I believe every time a child says that they “don’t believe in fairies” somewhere, someplace, a fairy drops down dead. I believe Puff the Magic Dragon was real but think the existence of unicorns is taking it too far.

Your turn. Have a go in the comments…….

Diaries…….

There was a delightful article in a recent Australian Weekend Magazine stating that over 50,000 items had been donated to the Australian War Memorial over the last two years. Covid cleanouts have unearthed long-lost wartime relics from all across the country.

One 80 year old gentleman stumbled upon letters from his Flying Officer father to his mother, to whom he wrote nearly every day. The gentleman hasn’t read the letters stating that they “are too close to him, too personal”, and has them neatly boxed until his death.

This resonated as I recently came across information that my own father’s war diary was held by the Australian War Memorial.

Who? What? Where? See here:
https://wordpress.com/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/6579

Cat Balou (AKA Columbo), my super sleuth youngest daughter, has discovered that my father’s diary formed part of an Estate that was recently donated to the AWM. It appears that at wars end my father gave his diary to the family of a good mate killed over the skies of Germany. With the passing of a generation the family then donated the diary on to the AWM. Apparently, this is not an uncommon practise.

It is “too close……too personal” for me to read but young Columbo has a two hour appointment for viewing next week.

Plus Book Of The Month for January:

I’ve been chasing this one for yonks : the diary of Betty Jeffrey who alongside 64 other Australian Army Nurses was evacuated from Singapore, and who went down with the Vyner Brook, which had been bombed by the Japanese.

The women made it to safety at Banka Island where they were captured and held captive in various camps across Sumatra. They formed an orchestral choir in an attempt to beat boredom with their story becoming the basis of one of my favourite movies, Paradise Road.

These women suffered woefully over the three year period of captivity with only 24 surviving the ordeal. Despite being a “difficult” read at times these women were courageous, resilient and simply magnificent human beings. I tell you, it has certainly stopped my whinging any further about any self imposed isolation!

NOTE:

Betty received the Order of Australia for services to ex-servicemen and women in 1987.

Elyne Mitchell and The Silver Brumby

This Clayton’s Lockdown that we’ve been experiencing since New Year,( the lockdown you’re having when you’re not having a lockdown), also known as the Shadow Lockdown, seems to be more difficult to endure this time round. Maybe it’s because the media keep insisting we are all going to cop a dose regardless, or alternatively there is little more to accomplish in the decluttering and home maintenance area.

Or maybe it is the fact that any travel adventures were dashed from Day 1 of 2022.

Last year I discovered there was an Annual Man From Snowy River Bush Festival in the wilds of Victoria. Lots of whip cracking, camp ovens, horses, markets, poetry and bush music. See here :https://bushfestival.com.au/whatson

Anyway, not going to happen. 

Good news homegrown bloggers and a little distraction, especially if you are not a tennis or cricket fan:-

A feature of this Festival is the Elyne Mitchell Photo Story Award.

Who was Elyne Mitchell?

Mitchell was the  author of a series of children’s books very popular with young girls, in the 50’s and 60’s : The Silver Brumby. There were 13 novels in this series in total and she also wrote non fiction books including her family history which I would love to read (her father was Henry Chauvel from the Australian Lighthorse Brigade in WW1 and she married a Changi POW who later became a politician) which included her own photographs, many of which were taken in the area where this Festival is taking place.

Hands up those who remember The Silver Brumby? 

Confession: I was never into equine flesh nor did I enjoy Black Beauty or Flicka. Too sad. More a Rin Tin Tin kind of girl…..

All photo story entries (maximum of 200 words)  must have “a specific reference to the theme “The Overflow” and an Australasian rural experience and must be the writer’s own work. Clear images must be provided. Written entries should demonstrate the significance of the image to the entry.”

There is an entry fee and th closing date is 14th of February 2022. More details here: https://bushfestival.com.au/whatson/elyne-mitchell-photo-story-award-competition.

I’m so over gardening, rearranging the house, and playing with new recipes this is going to be my shiny new plaything for the weekend. Looking at old holiday snaps might soothe the soul too 🙂

The 99th Koala – a Book Review

The 99th Koala by Kailas Wild is not the book to read if you are following authors aiming to be rewarded with the Booker Prize. This is a personal account of an ordinary man during extraordinary times who did some truly magnificent things. Written from the heart this is a book that is raw, with photos that will have you smiling one moment and wiping away a tear the next. Indeed, this is one of those books you’d buy just for the photos alone.

The 2019-20 Kangaroo Island fires burnt 211,474 hectares of land and resulted in two deaths, 87 homes destroyed and 59,730 livestock lost. The disaster affected nearly half of the island’s land mass and accounted for around 75 per cent of all hectares burnt in South Australia during the Black Summer fire season.  Who didn’t tune into the nightly evening news to watch the march of these deadly bushfires along the coast of  Australia?

Steven Selwood from South Australia Veterinary Emergency Management claimed 46,000 koalas were thought to be on the island before the bushfires. It is estimated as few as 9,000 remain, as the landscape was turned into scorched earth by the blazes.

Introducing Kailas Wild, self employed arborist, State Emergency Services Volunteer, and a conservationist with native animal rehabilitation training. Although the Australian Defence Force was on hand at Kangaroo Island assisting with the rescue of farm animals and wildlife a cry went out for more volunteers with tree climbing experience, and Kai drove for nearly 18 hours from Sydney to Kangaroo Island to answer the call.

For 7 weeks Kai worked long hours often utilising his own search and rescue techniques for koalas requiring medical attention. His ” days alone amongst burnt trees and dead animals” often left him emotionally and physically drained and ” starting each day crying into his Cornflakes”.

Kai successfully rescued 100 koalas which were transported to a makeshift Koala Hospital on the Island. Do you remember the media images sent around the world of koalas in laundry baskets receiving medical attention?  

Courtesy Reuters

Some koalas that looked healthy died of smoke inhalation and internal damages,  some died from nasty falls and stress, but many were rehabilitated and regained their health and were reintroduced to the wild including numerous joey koalas.

Two facts I found interesting :

  1. After a bushfire the blackened trees start to spurt new growth. I always thought this is a good thing. Guess what : fresh shoots on trees are known as epicormic growth and have a higher level of toxicity that makes them inedible for koalas. From the trees perspective this is a defence mechanism when it is trying to recover from fires.*
  2. Koalas in a tree may look healthy but it may well be that their paws are burnt so badly that any movement is extremely painful. These koalas generally starve to death………..and I simply can’t recount the tales about all the burns  that led to the peeling away of skin. 😢

Kai writes ” we all shared the profound sense of grief at the loss of over a billion of our unique wild animals, along with their habitats. The number was, and still is, beyond comprehension.”

This is the story of what one ordinary man could achieve under horrific circumstances. Let’s all take some inspiration from Kailas Wild.

This Book Review is an entry in the Gaia / Nature Reading Challenge.

If you sign up and submit an entry before the end of February Sharon from Gumtreesandgalaxies.com will donate an Australian children’s book about wombats to a new charity aimed at promoting children’s literacy You can read more here :

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/96945328/posts/3773908941#comments

*It has since been established that some koalas can adapt to eating new growth.

Some Military Stuff….

So much for a sedate start to the New Year. It’s all happening here on the south east corner of Queensland : tropical lows, the tail end of a tsunami, and floods. Yep, floods.

A while back I shared a visit to Maryborough, 200kms north of Brisbane and known as the home of P L Travers who wrote Mary Poppins, and the magnificent Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Walk created in Queens Park by the river. See here :

https://wordpress.com/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/3246

Queens Park went under in the floods which provided one of the most compelling and slightly spooky sights in months.

In the park is a life-sized sculpture which commemorates Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, believed to be the first man ashore at Gallipoli, and a Maryborough lad. The memorial display contains stones and sand from Gallipoli and depicts the soldier gazing towards the high cliffs at the moment the first shots rang out. The floods seemed to recreate the scene of Duncan first stepping ashore back in 1915.

And A Book Review :

Cheerio, Don was written by Susan Alley, the niece of the subject of this book, Donald Mitchell, a young soldier who served in PNG during WW2. Taken from letters to his family and his diaries about life on the Mitchell dairy farm in Coraki, northern NSW, this is an interesting read because of the insights it provides about Australian life during the war years.

As the only son of a dairy farmer Don could have applied for an exemption because of his occupation. When called up for duty his only sister resigned from her nursing position to work on the farm to help Dad, only returning to nursing when Don was demobbed.(Note : upon Don’s return Dad would not pay his daughter a weekly wage).

Other fascinating snippets include the very real fear that the Japanese  would invade the east coast and a “Scorched Earth” policy was indeed under serious consideration.

My fellow Aussies : did you ever hear about that in your High School History classes? Or that the road between Nimbin and Uki was land mined to stop travel between Qld and NSW? Or that many folk relied on brown paper to block out the lights during evening “black outs”? 

It was the trivia in this story I found fascinating – ration books, trenches in school yards to “protect” the children, the price of beef –  which is so often the case in these biographies about family members.

The Books That Made Us and Ham

Late last year Australian actor, Claudia Karvan, hosted a three part television documentary that explored the stories that have shaped our nation’s identity in Books That Made Us.

Courtesy of the ABC

Claudia met with some of our most beloved and brilliant writers, including Booker Prize winners and best-selling authors and writers who have penned seminal stories, such as Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Helen Garner, Tim Winton, David Malouf, Kate Grenville, Christos Tsiolkas, Thomas Keneally, Liane Moriarty, Trent Dalton, Kim Scott, and Melissa Lucashenko.

Did anyone watch this series?

I had read a handful of the books listed over the years though my Zoom Book Club have determined that we will read from the Books That Made Us List over the coming months starting with Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River.” I’m loving it!

A fellow Little Community Librarian in Western Australia – Leah’s Little Library – has massaged a Reading Challenge to better reflect Australian culture. I’ve attached if you are looking for direction in your reading this year.

With a house full of people and dogs my holiday reading has been pathetic with the TBR once again out of control. I had a date to visit the Lifeline Bookfest in the city later in the month. Maybe it’s just as well it has been cancelled because of you-know-what ( which we refuse to give a name in an endeavour to reduce its power).


And the really good news?

The Christmas Ham made it through to January 10th. So two things : 1) I never want to see ham again and 2) let the ham and vege soup making process begin.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu – Book Review

Frank Sinatra popularised a song in the late 60’s that contained the lyrics “Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again, too few to mention”. My Way – can you hear it playing in your head now? – has recently been knocked off the top of the charts as the most popular song to have played at a funeral. As at last October the perennial favourite dropped to number two in the annual rankings, being replaced by Gerry & The Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Anyway, I totally get the sentiment. Even with Covid my life has been blessed. My only personal regret is not having made it to the Northern Territory to visit my daughter due to border closures, especially following the arrival of the country’s finest project, young Harry Kilom.

Kakadu National Park is in the Northern Territory, roughly 180 south east of Darwin, the capital city. It covers an area of 19,804 km2 making it the second largest national park in Australia. It is the size of Wales and nearly half the size of Switzerland to give you some perspective.

Our First Nations people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites as well as the diversity of the fauna and flora. Its cultural and natural values were recognised internationally when the park was World Heritage Listed.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu won an award in the 2021 Children’s Book Council Of Australia for “books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style.

Written by Pamela Freeman this book explores the changing seasons of Kakadu – the Dry and the Wet, then back to Dry – and how this impacts on the animals and plants that live in the region. Liz Anelli’s illustrations are simple though easily recognisable even by younger readers.

Each page includes a simple storyline about the environment in its various stages and in a different font at the bottom of each page is a paragraph of factual information, though still in language for younger readers to understand.

Interestingly, although we label the seasons of Kakadu the Dry and the Wet our Indigenous people believe that there are indeed six seasons. This is important because following the seasons is vital for their food supply.

One of the greatest dangers to the natural environment of Kakadu is the Cane Toad, imported in the early 1900’s to combat beetles hurting our sugar cane industry and which are poisonous to our native birdlife and marsupials. A note at the end of the book gives thanks to “the native water rats who have figured out how to safely eat cane toads”.

This is one beautiful children’s book and if you are unable to visit the NT it isn’t a bad substitute. Young Harry Kilom just loves the baru – crocodiles.

( For Gum Trees And Galaxies Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge ).

Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge 2022

Sharon from Gum Trees and Galaxies is hosting an interesting Reading Challenge this year and it is one that appeals on several fronts. It’s not overly taxing and participants may just learn from it, in turn benefiting their life and the lives of their community.

The Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge promotes reading about nature, the environment and climate.

The challenge will officially start from the 1st of January 2022 and run until the 31st of December 2022. It is optional if you want to pledge to read particular titles. To help your selection of reading material there is a Book Bingo which is open to interpretation. These are the categories :

The wonder of a child
Deep Dive
Get Active
First Nations
It’s A Small World
Into theForest you go.

I’m a firm believer in trying to effect small environmental changes within my own community. Some of the things I have achieved over the past twelve months include sharing vegetable seedlings with neighbours at the Little Community Library ( instructions included), installing a Butterfly House, putting drinking water out for wildlife, liaising with Council about the planting of street trees on verges ( previously knocked down during the Development process) and shopping and buying local. Little ripples, I know.

Don’t believe me?

A strange car pulled up outside my house on Xmas Eve and I was greeted at the front door by a total stranger who handed me a gift bag and wished me a Merry Xmas. Boggled, I opened the parcel and this is what I found :

My first entry for this Challenge will be Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu which covers the First Nations and Wonder Of A Child book categories. Yes, sneaky I know…… This is my first book for 2022 which I’ve pinched from the grandson’s Santa sack.

As per the Challenge instructions I will include a quote. If you too would like to participate and believe in the “ripple effect” – where little ripples can turn into big ripples and effect change – please visit Gum Trees and Galaxies.

Happy 2022 Reading all!

Author Talk At Local Library

I have only one word to say after attending an Author Talk at the local Library : Wow! Just Wow!

Heather Morris is the author of The Tattooist Of Auschwitz (2018), Cilka’s Journey (2019) and the recently released Three Sisters.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, is the story of how Slovakian Jew Lali Sokolov fell in love with a girl he was tattooing at the concentration camp and is based on a true story.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When they are little girls, Cibi, Magda, and Livia, the Three Sisters of the book title, make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what. Years later, at just fifteen, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only nineteen herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her. Together, they fight to survive through unimaginable cruelty and hardship.

Heather Morris is passionate about telling stories and these are mighty powerful stories.

Other than the stories themselves two things stood out having listened to the author talk about her writing :

  1. In 2003 Heather was invited to coffee with a friend who wanted to introduce her to a gentleman with an interesting tale. Lali Sokolov entrusted Heather with the details of his life during WW2 which ultimately became her first book. He also shared stories about another young woman, Cilka, which became the second book. Three elderly women in Tel Aviv then reached out to the author having read about Cilka and their story became the third book. The story about how these books evolved is as fascinating as the tales within the books.
  2. Heather Morris wrote her first book at 65. You go girl!

Has anyone read these books?

NOTE : The author has been in discussions with the NSW Department of Education who have added The Tattooist Of Auschwitz to the school curriculum. WOW, just wow…