Sympathy Pains

My eldest daughter, Pocahontas, is 2400 kms away, living in a remote part of the Northern Territory. She is 39 weeks pregnant with her first child. Positive and confident she has Essential Oils and a music play list that heavily features Frank Sinatra packed to take to hospital.

I feel sick as. Regular tummy pains are forcing me to bed for short stretches and I’m having lots of little naps. When I’m up and about I’m firing on all cylinders, busy rearranging the furniture and cleaning out cupboards. Last week I sugar soaped the bathroom, this week I cooked Aubergine Chips.

I think I’m suffering Sympathy Pains or a phenomenon medically termed as couvade syndrome whereby you feel as if you are feeling the same pains as a loved one.

Even my ankles have swollen which really distresses me because my ankles have always been damn fine. I have the ankle jewellery to prove it.

Just as well I bought a box of books to sit this one out…………..

June 6th and Nancy Wake

In a little bush school in Sydney many years ago Primary School children greeted each new day with a rendition of “God Save The Queen” and a “salute to the flag”. Back then June 6th was always commemorated as the Anniversary of D Day.

Thirty years later in a school across the border Primary School children sing a different anthem about land “girt by sea”. On June 6th these kiddies celebrate Queensland  Day, which is the official birthday of the Australian state of Queensland. Part of these celebrations include presenting “Queensland Great Awards” to outstanding Queenslanders for their lifetime of dedication and contribution to the development of the state and their role in strengthening and shaping the community in Queensland.

Award Winners at Roma Street Parklands, Brisbane City.

When my eldest, Pocahontas, was in Primary School her class was called to assembly for each of them to declare an Australian, dead or alive, who should be recognised as an outstanding citizen. Sports stars figured highly: tennis players, crickets, footy players as well as a handful of rock stars, actors and models.

Pocahontas, proving that eccentricity is hereditary, suggested The White Mouse as a worthy candidate. Her class mates giggled and teachers looked at each other boggled. The White Mouse was one of the codenames of Nancy Wake, the expat Australian and underground operative during World War 2.

I was reminded of this reading Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon.

From Goodreads:

In 1936 intrepid young Australian journalist Nancy Wake is living in Paris after witnessing firsthand the terror of Hitler’s rise in Europe, firing her resolve to fight against the Nazis. When Nancy falls in love with handsome French industrialist Henri Fiocca, no sooner has she become Mrs Fiocca than the Germans invade France and Nancy takes yet another name, a codename – the first of many.

As the elusive Lucienne Carlier she smuggles people across borders and earns a new name ‘The White Mouse’ along with a five million franc bounty on her head, courtesy of the Gestapo. Forced to flee France, Nancy is trained by an elite espionage group under the codename Hélène. Finally, with mission in hand, she is airdropped back into France as the deadly Madame Andrée. But the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed Nancy – and the people she loves – will become.

Based on a true story this is a fascinating look at a gutsy woman who liked her G &T’s and *lipstick. A little long and convoluted perhaps, with flashbacks and parallel timelines, though the information comes from Wake’s autobiography (of 1985) and numerous biographies. Well worth the read 🙂

Born: 30 August 1912.   Died:  7 August 2011

Awards : George Medal, 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, British War Medal 1939-45, French Officer of the Legion of Honour, French Croix de Guerre with Star and two Palms, US Medal for Freedom with Palm, French Medaille de la Resistance, Companion of the Order Of Australia and New Zealand’s Badge in Gold. 

Wake’s medals are on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

*Said to be Victory Red from the Elizabeth Arden range.

A Mother’s Day Story….

My mother had long blonde hair the colour of corn. My strongest memory is of her nightly ritual of curling her hair into little pinwheels which she would tightly fasten to her scalp with a collection of bobby pins. When this task was completed she would dampen the pinwheels and then cover her hair with a scarf ready for bed. In the morning, after she had removed the pins, her long hair would be wavy and beautiful – reminiscent of Rita Hayworth’s hair in Gilda.

I’ve generally worn my hair long over the years. Mousy in colour, or Rat Blonde by those more charitable, it is dead straight and totally devoid of any waves, bounce, curls or anything else to make it of any interest.  And I’m certainly not fussed or vain enough to try curling rods or the like.

Both my daughters have inherited my hair, though one is blonde as in creamy coloured, and the other is dark. Very dark. So dark that she believes her true ancestry to be Persian. (She’s also inherited her mother’s imagination.)

Over a lengthy phone chat with my eldest for Mother’s Day, my pearl-and-stiletto loving child who moved to rural and remote East Arnham Land earlier in the year, advised that her hair is the topic of much discussion within the community. Long straight hair makes for great paintbrushes for our First Australian artists apparently. She has been asked to donate to the cause.

This weeks task is to research Indigenous artwork. I’m wondering if there is a market niche that the three of us could satisfy.

Interestingly, my sister scored the naturally thick wavy hair with matching eyelashes. That’s how most sibling rivalry starts.

Cocky’s Delight

My daughter and her husband gave up the bright lights of the city to live in a remote northern region of our country. The pearl earrings and stilettos have been placed into storage, and the small car that was so brilliant for parking in tiny city spaces has been traded in for a beast that includes sleeping quarters, bull bar and racks for fishing rods. Hilarious as neither of them have fished in their lives.

When they visited over Christmas I thought I’de share a few meal preparation tips for basic and rural living because there certainly weren’t going to be any 3 or 4 Hat restaurants where they were headed. The only hats around would be wide brimmed with corks hanging off them to deter the flies.

This in itself was strange because I too am a city lass and have never been camping in my life. Never, unless you include camping in the back garden with the stereo, the drinks fridge and bathroom equipped with bubblebath.

Lessons from my childhood came flooding back, the lessons from a father who after years in Bomber Command during World War 2, returned to a position held for him for four years and who then allowed him twelve months leave to “find himself”. What did my private school educated, city slicker father do during those twelve months? Went sheep shearing, and shooting foxes and rabbits for their pelts of course.

This was the reason that as a child there was always a tin of Golden Syrup, or as it was better known, Cocky’s Delight or Cocky’s Joy, in the pantry. You see it was not as expensive as jam, did not need to be refrigerated, and came in a tin making it easily transportable, especially in saddle bags. Spread across damper straight off the coals it was considered the bees knees and bushies loved it.

My father was always happiest sitting in front of a fireplace shaped from large rocks way down the back yard, with fresh damper covered with Cockys Delight, and hot Billy Tea. Used to scare the bejesus out of us kids when he swung that billy tea around his head, as old bushies used to do

A cocky is a small farmer. He usually selected himself a 300 or 500 acre holding, clears it, fences it, pays for it, sows wheat in it – and then he goes to bed to wait for his crop.

The next morning he gets up and finds the paddock white with cockatoos grubbing up his seed. He is there to sow and reap -cockatoos. And that, they say, is how he got his name as a cockatoo farmer – a cocky.

⁃   C E W Bean, On The Wool Track. 1910.

So when the daughter visited I cooked Golden Syrup Dumplings. Minimal effort, minimal ingredients, and simple to cook on a camp oven. Flour, Butter, Cockys Delight and a dash of milk. I cooked it in the slow cooker and the daughter agreed it was a tasty alternative to Black Forest Cake and Pavlova which were going to be difficult to source in Arnham Land.

In hindsight I wonder if this was a precursor to the Depression style cooking now so prevalent thanks to the missing staples on our supermarket shelves…..

Exciting News : Part 1. Or Something Positive The Week The Media Tried To Break Us.

My eldest daughter, Pocohontas, thrilled me with the news that Bentley, my Grandfurbaby, is going to have a sibling in Spring. The two legged variety.

Bentley walking his mother down the aisle.

Of course I’m excited, though also living in trepidation. You see, I’m too young to be a grandmother according to my head. The calendar may suggest otherwise but I’m definitely no Nanna nor Grandma.  I think I will be a Meemaw

I do not knit or sew. Since retirement I’ve been very fortunate to attend numerous Workshops to learn new skills. Like making gravy boats out of clay and building bee motels and fantasy writing workshops. I have no compunction whatsoever to learn how to use a crochet hook or a sewing machine.

I do paint ceramics. But how many egg cups does a child need?

I like painting and working with colour though am not good at it and blame those early school years when the teachers used to hit us on the knuckles with a ruler for colouring outside the lines.

The old brain is creative enough,  it’s just that my body parts don’t seem to connect. A platter I painted as a wedding gift makes a fine dish for their pot plants.

She sent me a copy of the scan to put on the fridge door. We didn’t have scans back in the day. They were the days you could eat Camembert cheese and eat shellfish which was just as well as I craved prawns. It was an expensive pregnancy.

Apparently, it’s unacceptable to proclaim “ oh, so you’re having a penguin”.

So when I asked my daughter if it was acceptable to start a collection of Errol Flynn movies for the imminent eminent she said “ of course Mo, Errol and Audreys please. You can never start with the classics too soon”.

This Little Person will be in good hands.

The Tin Man, Cujo and Sue Grafton.

I’ve just finished The Wizard Of Oz jigsaw that I actually bought to gift to my youngest and I’m preparing to hang it in the She-Shack. Cat Balou hates this movie, as in DETESTS. Which is why over the years I have sent socks and stationary and anything else remotely TWOO to her through the post. It’s called Mother’s Payback.

When she was visiting recently she saw me working on it and despite now being in her thirties she insisted on covering the Tin Man’s face with a cloth. Six months living and eating in China, six months living and eating in India, and she can’t manage the Tin Man. Odd.

My nephew nearing 40 hasn’t forgiven me for putting him in front of the movie, Cujo, before he was school age. A nice little movie about a dog. What kid doesn’t like dogs?

These young things are a bit of a worry. Need a little more concrete in their diet.

So I’ve started a Sue Grafton puzzle whereby you also have to solve the crime. I always liked reading about the exploits of PI Kinsey Millhone, but not so any more. This is a tough one with no illustration for guidance.

Visited the Little Library today and was rather taken by the newly donated book with the yellow cover. Didn’t look between the covers just in case.

Oh, and a book review.

Somebody That I Used To Know by Bunkie King.

I’ve only ever thrown one book into the bin – a tasteless biography that detailed having to break the bones of a dead Mario Lanza to fit him into his coffin.

This was my second.

It is just so wrong. So wrong on so many levels.

Bunkie King is the sister of Leona King and together they shared a relationship with Australian actor, Jack Thompson for 15 years. “Nothing kinky” as they never all shared a bed.

This raised too many questions that I just didn’t need to ponder. Oh, and although she denies being a druggie having hash oil on toast for breakfast kind of says something, doesn’t it?

I’m sorry she suffered a failed marriage and a breakdown. If this was her idea of superannuation she failed that too.


This is the date that I was able to decontaminate and defluff the house after three weeks with the Grandfurbaby. Bentley, a gorgeous Labrador who suffers sorely from Only Child Syndrome and is profoundly deaf, has now travelled north to the land of crocs, dingoes and jabiru. That will test him…….and them.

My hostess skills were pretty minimal over these past few weeks. Cheese and charcuterie boards were the order of the day though I did throw fresh Tiger prawns on the barbie. Lots of garlic and a dousing of white wine – a damn fine effort, girlfriend.

So now I’m focussing more on where my year is heading, other than knitting sox from dog hair.

In the latter part of last year one of our cinema chains focussed on movies from Hollywoods Golden Era at selected locations across the country. This is being repeated commencing from February with sessions running first thing on a Monday morning. Yeah, first thing Monday is a bit hard to grasp, but I settled into it and found it a good way to start a new week. Do retirees even start a new week? 

Movies scheduled include Night Of The Hunter, Mr Smith Goes To Washington, On The Town and Casablanca. On the big screen people. And the more sessions you buy the cheaper the ticket price. 

Last Classic movie I experienced in this fashion there were only three of us in the cinema. This is not a good crowd if you’re after anonymity when you sob.

My Mondays are pencilled in : breakfast, coffee and an old flick.

Let’s take a look at Tuesdays…..

( Refer Event Cinemas)

Bushfires and Birthdays

Lugarno, 1963

My daughter has an awkward birthday in a few days. Each year she admonishes me because she has never had a dedicated birthday party. I retaliate with a reminder about the Christmas I was unable to drink anything cold and bubbly and suffered much discomfort.

Instead of a gift each birthday my daughter enjoyed an “experience” each year with a gold charm for a bracelet as a reminder of her special day. Boat trips up the river, trips to the theatre or to the aquarium: her charm bracelet, a gift for her 18th, is a beautiful piece of jewellery and memorabilia.

I’m reminded of this watching the bushfire news on the television. Cudlee Creek in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia has been ravaged by flames.

Pocohontas celebrated her sixth birthday at Cudlee Creek Wildlife Park. She remembers vividly that an emu stole her picnic lunch and she’s suffered ornithophobia ever since.

The fires remain out of control across several states.

I haven’t sent Xmas cards this year, and I haven’t written any letters, which as the product of parents who stored much importance in penmanship hurts. It doesn’t seem appropriate to send fun news to family and friends caught up in the fires.

A girlfriend doesn’t look like getting home to her loved ones for Christmas. Another had flames in her suburb yesterday where two homes were lost. A cousin in the Blue Mountains remains vigilant. It doesn’t feel like Christmas. It is smokey, hot and the mood is sombre.

And then this. Totally uplifting. These guys were rescued from the Cudlee Creek blaze by members of our Rural Fire Service. Makes the heart sing.

Figures obtained by AAP revealed police had dealt with 98 people – 31 adults and 67 juveniles – for deliberately setting fires in Queensland alone.

Don’t give me “mental health” or “broken home” BS. This is simply criminal.

See you in a few days my beautiful girl. There is a bottle on ice with your name on it.

Here’s to a better days for all…..

Sure Beats Vegemite

My youngest daughter will be playing tourist in Agra over Christmas. Loving her work stint in India she is making sure she clocks up as many experiences as possible.

Cat Balou is loving sampling the Indian foods and spices and I guess being a vegetarian (for medical reasons) helps. She is off to a Celebration of Rice this weekend which should be fascinating.

She disappeared to Sri Lanka for a break recently so my (early) Xmas gift to her was a cooking class whilst in Colombo. Both my daughters undertake cooking classes when travelling through other countries – somewhat surprising given that for many years as University students a Vegemite sandwich was the extent of their culinary expertise.

When they flew the nest to pursue their careers in different parts of the country cooking a seafood paella together on their return home became a family tradition. Well, Cat Balou and I cook paella – Pocahontas was in charge of the sangria

In Australia, there’s this practise of judging a pub meal by the standard of its chicken schnitzel, affectionately known as a schnitty. It just is. When my daughters and I travel outside the country we judge by the paella we consume.

Cait’s Sri Lankan cooking class included Coconut Cassava Chips and a Beetroot Curry which she promises to repeat when she arrives home. I’m not sure what wine goes with a beetroot or jackfruit curry. I’m not even sure what a jackfruit is, or where to buy one, though I am looking forward to the experience.

Daughter of mine always immerses herself into the cultures she visits including delving into the literature. It’s a habit she’s had since childhood: diving in head first from one interest till the next. Here’s Cat Balou’s tip for the next great Indian writer:

I’m a little anxious about any new cooking skill Pocahontas may bring back from her time in remote Nhulunbuy……………

Books Can Be Friends.

My interest in the Second World War started after hearing an ex POW being interviewed on the radio one rainy Sunday morning way back in 1982. Looking back that sounds odd because as a child I was aware that my father as a younger man had flown in Bomber Command and had a War Bride from Brighton. Said bride remained in England and my father never boarded a plane, any plane, ever again. It was simply not discussed – all very stiff upper lip and a house full of females…..that kind of thing.

A young Stan Arneil was a Prisoner Of War in Changi following the Fall of Singapore. He wrote One Man’s War for his family’s benefit as they had no inkling of his earlier life. He went on to become a family and Church man with a successful career.

Listening to this interview I tuned into the hardships he and his fellow POWS endured and wondered how could someone who suffered so much speak with such positivity.

That was the beginning of my interest in POW autobiographies and biographies. I love reading of those whose resiliance and mental strength saw them through such dreadful times. I wonder how they moved past the darkness to find their peace and build upon their lives. I wonder too about luck, the luck of the draw.

I still have my copy of One Man’s War which is written in diary format. It’s one of those books that I am unable to part with. It is older than my children and outlasted a marriage, as has Of Love And War, a collection of letters to and from Captain Adrian Curlewis and his family.

Another Changi POW Sir Adrian Curlewis returned to civilian life becoming a Judge as well as being instrumental in implementing the Australian Life Saving movement.

His mother was Ethel Turner, author of the classic children’s book, Seven Little Australians, first published in 1894.

At a recent charity book sale I was saddened to see multiple preloved copies of Edward ‘Weary ‘ Dunlop’s War Diaries available for $1 each. Another survivor of Changi and the Burma Railway, Weary was not only a leader of men but a medical man who successfully completed hundreds of life saving procedures with very basic instruments and medicine.

I was saddened on so many levels : this is the kind of a book lauded by a particular generation with an age group decreasing in numbers, and I also wondered if the loss of these books meant that this part of our history would be lost in years to come.

I’ve informed the daughters that there are a carton of my favourite books joining me in that last journey when they cart me out of the house in a long wooden box, together with a dozen CDs – because music is important even on bad days – and my Errol Flynn movie collection. You never know if they might come in handy. The girls can hang on to the concrete possum collection.