Maracas, Bushfires and The Breaker – Part 2

This time last year I spent several days in Tenterfield, New South Wales, for the inaugural Peter Allen Festival. Less than twenty kilometres across the border from Queensland and with a population of less than 5,000 you wouldn’t think there would be much more to learn about a rural township.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

This trip was a whole different kettle of fish and included a tour of the town with a local historian. So much information to take in when a girl has a head full of music, local Sav Blanc, and sore muscles earned on the dance floor.

I was already aware that Solicitor, Major James Francis Thomas, who defended Harry Harbord Morant at his court-martial for war crimes during the Boer War, was a Tenterfield lad. Thomas was portrayed by Jack Thompson in the 1980 film Breaker Morant.

Thomas died in the 1940’s a rather broken man though well regarded. Only within the last ten years a sugar bag full of Thomas’ military memorabilia was found at the local Tenterfield Tip having been stored at an old rural property just out of town.

What was in the sugar bag?

A penny on a leather string inscribed H H Morant which was worn by The Breaker around his neck when he was executed by a British firing squad in 1902 and bears the mark of a bullet hole.

An Australian red ensign bearing the names of Morant and his co-accused, Peter Handcock. Their birth and execution dates are inked into the Southern Cross stars on the design. It reads: “Utter scapegoats of the Empire”. There is a grainy 1902 photograph of Thomas standing by the flag-draped grave in Pretoria of the dead Anglo-Australian horseman, bush poet and military officer, and this is believed to be that same flag.

A first edition, signed copy of George Whitton’s book, Scapegoats of the Empire, the Lieutenant’s account of court proceedings. ( He was sentenced to Life Imprisonment).

All artefacts are available for viewing at the School of Arts in Tenterfield.

LIFE LESSON: Always expect the unexpected.

Note : Tenterfield is just one of many rural towns suffering severe drought with dam levels down to 30 per cent. Much of the district was engulfed in flames during our visit, with no power and two major highways cut.

Thank you to the wonderful people of Tenterfield for their hospitality over the Peter Allen Festival weekend. Thank you all so much for your grace under fire – literally. Thank you for sharing your stories, your hearts, and your history.

A huge thank you to the organising team. You are all “the sons and daughters” and we’ll be back again next year. May the coming months be kinder to you all.

Maryborough and a Touch of Whimsey : Part 1

Maryborough is 300kms north of Brisbane, inland on the Mary River, and positioned between those tourist mecca’s, Hervey Bay and the Sunshine Coast. Founded in 1847, proclaimed a municipality in 1861, it became a city in 1905. During the second half of the 19th-century, the city was an entry point for immigrants arriving in Queensland from all parts of the world.

Maryborough’s income comes from numerous farming and station prospects in and around the city and it’s healthy fishing industry. Tourism also plays a significant part in the economy and sells itself as the Heritage City of Queensland  holding heritage markets each Thursday. Many 19th and 20th century buildings have been preserved and the suburbs are littered with the quintessential old Queenslander homes, ( which a Danish friend described as a “wooden s***box on stilts”) and which are worth a small fortune.

However, Maryborough’s real claim to fame is as the birth place of whom? Here’s a clue……

And another, in case that one was a little obtuse….

Yep, P L Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books lived in Maryborough before moving elsewhere at age eight. Her father managed a bank, in the building where, in a room on the second storey, she was born. This is in the centre of town and still in use, no longer as a bank but as a retail shop. A life-size bronze statue of Mary Poppins, as P.L. Travers described her, complete with umbrella was erected outside the old bank premises at 331 Kent Street, on the corner of Richmond Street, in 2005. 

It is now one of Maryborough’s most famous and photographed icons.

From dusk till 9pm every night there is an illuminated mural that is simply enchanting. ( I was between tea and a show so without camera – Damn!) Here’s another mural – the joint is jumping with them!

But there’s more – we Aussies are adept at flogging a dead horse, you see.

Every winter school holidays for the past ten years Maryborough has held a Mary Poppins Festival. The Festival offers something for all the family. The ‘Art of Storytelling’ program includes film, art, music, performance and literature during the 10-day event. Events are held in various locations across the CBD as well as heritage-listed Queens Park.

Maryborough, thank you for your hospitality. It was a lovely visit.

I do so love our country towns and learn something new at each and every one.LIFE LESSON : Get away from the cricket on the telly and help our farmers and country cousins by spending a few bob in their towns. You’ll be blown away by some of the stories these townships can share.

Following The Festivals

When it comes to throwing a party, general celebration and epic public events, Aussies do it as well as anyone. Throughout the year in every corner of the country, you’ll find a huge range of events and festivals showcasing everything from art, music, sport, writing and Aboriginal culture to film, comedy, dance, food and beer. Lots of food and beer.

With retirement I seemed to have slipped into the practise of chasing local festivals. Not having to worry about getting home late on a school night is so liberating after thirty odd years of pre-dawn getups.

This week I enjoyed a function for the Bris Funny Fest (which differs from the Brisbane Comedy Festival in that it showcases emerging performers putting on a show for the first time.) Next week is Seniors Week and I have tickets to a series of old time radio shows at the local museum. “Dad and Dave” – who remembers them?

I’m particularly enjoying the Festivals held in country towns. With Australia suffering such debilitating drought – with a dam at less than 25% capacity the Granite Belt is unlikely, for the first time ever, to produce any wine next year – so many farmers are going under and our country cousins are doing it tough. The three day Camel and Culture Weekend at Tara in Queensland’s Western Downs last week brought a much needed economic boost to the township as well as purpose.

It’s the Peter Allen Festival in country Tenterfield next month, followed by a Baroque Festival in Victoria, and daughter of mine, Cait’s Classics, if you are reading this I thought Floriade, the huge flower festival in the nations capital would be fun. (Can we go to that gin joint again? Pleeeeeease)

Now that I’m getting into the swing of being gainfully unemployed I will be better organised next year. I’ll even print a calendar of events to stick on the fridge. The Darwin Cup next August is already booked as is an Eastern Arnhem Land adventure to learn more First Australian culture. Oh, and the passport is getting a run for its money too…..

Retirements tough.

Musk Sticks, Museums and Movies

In 2018 Sweden opened it’s Disgusting Food Museum

Australia’s contribution to the museum collection includes Witchetty Grubs and Vegemite – sacrilege! 

Perhaps most surprising within the museum is the presence of the humble Musk Stick. They’re simple, unassuming lollies that neither creep nor crawl. Hot pink and sickly sweet they are a throwback to many Australian childhoods. I have memories of crushing them up into the milk we were given in bottles at primary school, though I won’t share that with my daughters as I’m still nagging them about the benefits of Brussel Sprouts.

Who didn’t make their first trip to the “pictures” without a couple of musk sticks in a white paper bag? At 1c each they were an absolute bargain.

Selected Cinemas across the nation are holding a Hollywood Classics Festival until early December. Movies will be shown at the first time slot on Monday mornings once a fortnight. It’s going to be a bit early to eat a Musk Stick but I’m going to give it a go in silent protest and a nod to the past. That’s my August Goal. Judy Garland on the big screen at breakfast, tragics singing along to The Trolly Song, without throwing up.

Quandamooka Festival At My Back Door

Without being too controversial the best thing about visiting Brisbane in S.E Queensland is North Stradbroke Island. Casinos? Patting a koala? No thanks. Give me Straddie each and every time.

Winter on Minjerribah, as North Stradbroke is known to the traditional landowners, is also a time of much activity on the Island. The Quandamooka Festival runs across the winter months, and celebrates the original custodians and culture of the people living from Cape Moreton, on Moreton Island, south along the coast to Logan River, stopping just short of the Gold Coast, and including the Bay islands.

This year a wide variety of events have been organised including whale watching, cultural tours, Kunjiel (corroborees), music, eco boat tours, art exhibitions, fibre art and weaving workshops, bush tucker dining, arts and cultural talks by specialists, and First Nations dancers and performers.

I enjoyed the Opening Day at this festival at Dunwich on Straddie last year where we were welcomed with the smoke ceremony to ward off evil spirits. Although there is a variety of accomodation choices on the Island a day trip on the ferry from Cleveland is also a viable option. The twenty-five minute Bay crossing is simply beautiful and booking ahead is not required. Keep an eye out for dolphins and dugongs too!

The Squeeze and I enjoyed the aboriginal dances and music which were given relevance according to the culture. The Dance Of The Eagles, for example, refers to the schools of Mullet that arrive in the local waterways in winter. When the Eagles spot these fish they ignore the leaders, or first schools, as these are the Elders who show the way to the other schools of fish. The Eagle then goes in to feed on these younger fish.

What a wonderful opportunity to learn from another culture and to see the young children also learning by participation.

When the kids were little we would spend several long weekends a year on the surf side: lots of long beach walks, body surfing, and fish and chips in wet cossies at the pub. It’s beauty is stunning, wild and untamed.

The Hotel has since undergone a revamp and dripping wet bods are no longer allowed. Property prices have skyrocketed, and sadly, progress is beginning to leave its mark. * Find the twenty minutes to undertake the Gorge Walk and you’ll have a true understanding of how spectacular, brutal, and intoxicating Mother Nature can be.

I’ll be making the journey for the festival shortly. I’ll also be visiting the Historical Museum at Dunwich ( facing the Mainland) which was formally Brisbane’s Benevolent Asylum. The fish and chips will be much appreciated too.

Looking back to Cleveland on the mainland

More info on the Quandamooka Festival here : https://www.redland.qld.gov.au

*Yet again refraining from political comment. I must be growing up.

2019 Peter Allen Festival in Tenterfield, NSW.

Last year I visited Tenterfield to attend the Inaugural Peter Allen Festival, a colourful celebration of Allen’s contribution to Arts and Culture, not only in Australia but internationally.

A singer-songwriter, musician and entertainer known for his flamboyant stage persona and lavish costumes, Peter Allen was born in Tenterfield in 1944. His most famous song Tenterfield Saddler honours the memory of his grandfather, George Woolnough, who had been a long time Tenterfield resident and owner of the Tenterfield Saddlery on High Street for fifty two years. Classified by the National Trust the building remains mainly untouched to this day.

The 2019 Peter Allen Festival, held from Thursday, 5th September to Sunday, 8th September, will incorporate a range of activities including arts, culture, singing, songwriting, theatre, dance and entertainment and promises to highlight the rural lifestyle, heritage, history, food, local produce, and the indigenous history of the area.

Reservations for some of the big ticket events of the weekend are already available for purchase. These include Peter Allen On The Big Screen, The Jackaroos Breakfast, and Livy and Pete: The Songs of Olivia Newton-John and Peter Allen. Refer http://www.thepeterallenfestival.com.au.

Only 4 hours drive from Brisbane in northern New South Wales, Tenterfield is located in a valley within the Great Dividing Range. Its largely preserved architecture, natural attractions and rich farmland make it a worthwhile destination when needing to relax and recharge.

Tenterfield has a good range of accomodation options including hotels, motels, B&Bs, and caravan parks. Refer to Www.visittenterfield.com.au.

What is my fondest memory from last years Festival?

People singing in the streets, an entertaining show at the School of Arts Building that had us all out of our seats, and the infectious community spirit at the street markets where I purchased enough fresh produce, jams, and chutneys to fill the pantry. And loud shirts. Lots of loud shirts.

Tenterfield is also full of wonderful history. Take the time to discover it all. It’s well worth the effort:)

NOTE: When I drive to Tenterfield from Brisbane I allow umm, errr, …………nine hours * slinking with a slight dose of shame.

Morning tea at Pottsville just over the border with a whiff of salt air and/or a walk on the beach, a visit to Uncle Peter’s Secondhand Bookstore at Clunes, lunch at Casino (and some good country clothes shops), and a scenic drive in the afternoon to my destination via a quick stop at Tabulam, where General Henry Chauvel was born (and a monument to The Australian Light Horse).

I Slept Next To Keith Urban

Shhhhh. Girlie Secret. I’ve got this thing for Keith Urban. Yes, the country singer from Oz who married Our Nic after that fiasco with Toy Man.

Keith is really, really cute. Like a kewpie doll on a stick that you used to be able to purchase from the Easter Show. Do you remember those? I never had a doll on a stick of course. Far too whimsical. My parents usually bought me the Nock and Kirby (Hardware) Sample Bag, and my sister the Shelleys Glue Sample Bag. That was back in the day when Show Bags were Sample Bags and contained exactly what the name suggests – samples.

So for the past three years my treat to myself for the new year has been to see Keith perform live at the Barn. Or as some call it, the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. My friend Tash and I make a night of it with dinner and drinks and then fantasise about taking Keith home with us. Separately. Not together. No wrong ideas, please. This really is a positive way to commence the new year..

Keith and Our Nic bring the cherubs home to Sydney for Christmas with the fam, head back to Nashville for New Years Concerts, and then return to the farm on the Southern Highlands of NSW for rest and recuperation. Of course, our definition of farm may differ slightly but that’s okay……

Being interstate this year meant I missed young Keith Urban. I have to admit I’m impressed by a self made man who wagged Maths classes for two years.

But did I miss him?

Let me tell you about the night I slept next to Keith Urban.

Driving home along the New England Highway in the middle of summer and school holidays can be tiresome. I wish I could wiggle my nose like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched and just “go” places.

We’d been on the road most of the day and it was nearing Wine O’Clock, so agreed to find a motel in the next town. Tamworth. Home of The Golden Guitar. Personally, not a big fan but the drive had been hard going. Ten klicks out the billboards are welcoming us to the Tamworth Country Music Festival. A big festival of ten days duration and starting that very day.

Holy Guacamole. CMF is Big Business and we know the town will be full of
Utes with bull bars, grey nomads, campers, line dancers, and God help me, yodellers. So we pull over at the first vacancy we come across : a newly constructed Conference and Wedding Reception set up. Suits me fine. No self respecting yodeller would be seen dead in a place so refined.

A good meal, local plonk, and we crash for the night thinking it odd that the car park is virtually vacant.

Up with the sparrows next morning and readying to exit a sexy little silver car drives in to the car park next to ours. Sorry, no further details about the vehicle. Cars are not my thing. But it is sleek, is silver, and is sexy.

Who sneaks in to a motel at 6am in the morning, I have to ask?

A country entertainer who has to perform that very night, that’s who.

And that’s my “ I Slept Next To Keith Urban” Story.

Don’t make me change it to a Chad Morgan (The Shiek from Scrubby Creek) Story, okay.