Carnival Of Flowers and The Dead Centre of Town

Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers has been extended from the usual ten day event and will now cover the entire month of September. As well as colourful public and private gardens on display there will be food and wine events, live music, art exhibitions, and yay, a movie night at the local cemetery.

For the Official Program go here : https://www.tcof.com.au/official-program-2/

I enjoy my visits to Toowoomba, less than 2 hours west of Brisbane and on top of the mountain range, and always manage to experience something new and exciting. Cinema under the stars amongst the tombstones would have certainly fit that bill as would have the High Cheese at Spring Bluff Railway with celebrity chef, Alastair McLeod. *sigh


Normally I would not hesitate to book accomodation and let the hair down a little. It was only a few months ago that we succumbed to an evening on the Fluffy Ducks in front of a roaring log fire at Toowoomba – a much needed respite from responsibility and reason.

With more of the country Locked Down than not because of this wretched Bug I’m not so comfortable roving for the moment. Local Government Areas are tending to Lock Down in a matter of hours, and despite appreciating all Toowoomba has on offer I’m not prepared to risk having to isolate amongst the floral displays for two weeks.

With the EKKA disbanded for the second year in a row – the annual Agricultural Show in Brisbane which sees our rural folk come to the city for some R and R – I hope the Carnival of Flowers is a huge success and is supported by our country cousins.

I expect to stay home in my own garden and nibble on Camembert. Not quite the same, damn it.

PS.

Change of heart. Booking a night away afterall. Toowoomba deserves our support…

Some Bookish Gossip

Excited! Excited!Excited!

Words Out West is a Readers and Writers Festival based in the Western Downs area of Queensland sponsored by the Western Downs Libraries. March 2021 will see a line up of writers, illustrators, educators and musicians do presentations in a variety of venues including country pubs.

Never been to Watta. No idea where it is, but I’d kill to be able to tell people that I had a Parmi at the pub with Shane Webcke.

Pyjama Angels:

The Pyjama Foundation works with Foster families across Australia with a learning-based mentoring program called Love Of Learning Program.

Essentially this means that trained volunteers known as Pyjama Angels are matched with a foster child in care and meet with that child for an hour and a half each week to read books aloud, practise numeracy skills and play educational games.

So far, Pyjama Angels are averaging 

  • 101,000 books read to children each year
  • 714 Pyjama Angels trained last year
  • 1,416 children supported each week.

My daughter, who did a ten year stint with Community Services, highly recommends the organisation.

#realheroesdon’twearcapes

Just Because:

Hay Bales At Kalbar, S E Qld

Another glorious Spring weekend made it perfect for a day trip out to a rural community.

Where did we go?

Kalbar, in the Scenic Rim, about an hour and a half drive south west of Brisbane and located in the Fassifern Valley, which is an area with high yields of pumpkin and carrots.

Kalbar Country Day has been an annual event since 1991 with its most prominent feature being Hay Bale Sculptures around the township with families and community organisations competing for the title of Best Hay Bale voted upon by the public. Last years event was cancelled as the drought meant that hay was in short supply and far too expensive.

So the city slickers flocked to Kalbar, population of around 1000, to support their country cousins, and to follow the trail of 81 colourful Hay Bales.

There was a Bush Poets Breakfast, carrot tossing competition, vintage car display and the main street was closed for market stalls which were offering mostly produce from the SEQ corner. Of course I came away with a pumpkin or two!

A lot of the old Queenslanders  (homesteads) are undergoing renovation and it seemed to me to be a popular destination for those chasing a Tree Change. Good luck to them………

QUICK QUIZ

How can you tell when you’re in a country town?

The Window Displays feature straw hats and whips.

Spring, Bruschetta and Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers.

Spring in Queensland is delightful and I am suffering from an over supply of tomatoes and basil from the garden. Obvious solution : Bruschetta in front  a  Sunday afternoon movie. ( Shenandoah with Jimmy Stewart for those interested. An old favourite and the tune is hauntingly beautiful).

Spring also marks the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, an annual event  for over seventy years that ensures thousands of tourists visit for the magnificent displays of colour, the heritage, culture, food and country hospitality. 

Toowoomba, 2 hours drive west of Brisbane, is Queensland’s biggest inland town, and at 700 metres above sea level has a kinder climate than our capital. The floral displays may not have been as diverse this year because of Covid 19 though the parklands full of garden beds were every bit as beautiful.

Looking out east from the top of the range to Brisbane and the coast
Poet, Dorothea Mackellar got it so right!

There are simply too many places of interest to visit in Toowoomba to mention in one post so I will tackle them in future posts. The Cobb and Co Museum is Number 1 to add to the Must Do List: it takes you back to the times of  horse-drawn carriages and steam trains with its interactive displays and heritage trade workshops in silversmithing, millinery, whip plaiting and blacksmithing. A great place for the Little People to become immersed and the fresh scones are only as country folk can prepare them. ( Question : Why is this ?????)

Bitterly disappointed to discover the Milne Bay Military Museum permanently closed as it requires a new location. When I last visited I was bogged down in school projects and laundry and was clueless about the Kokoda Track. Shame! Shame! Shame! Might be time for a few letters from a garrulous retiree or two….

So good to see you again, Spring….

The Daughter, Books and Jaipur.

I’m looking forward to having my youngest daughter home for a few days following her five month work stint in India.

Means I have to stock up on bubble bath, cab sav, and errrr……blue vein cheese ( which I detest and refuse to keep in the food fridge in case it contaminates anything). And yes, with a good book in hand she will require all of the above for recuperative purposes and all at the same time!

Cat Balou attended the Jaipur Literature Festival last month. The JLF is the largest free literary festival in the world which takes place in Jaipur, India, with the Diggi Palace Hotel and surrounding gardens serving as the main venue of the festival. I’m so looking forward to hearing about her adventures. I know she’s posted a box of books to her home address.

She tells me she also splurged on a scarf made from the same material as one of the tents at the festival. Now thats clever marketing.

Works as a scarf too

I’ve been boringly good and not spent a penny on books this year. I’m thinking of talking to my local councillor about adding one of these up next to the Little Community Library. What do you think?

Ooooops, sorry. I lied. I did buy some books.

Poetry And Another Festival.

Because when I read, I don’t really read… I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.” Bohumil Hrabal

Just because I haven’t shared many books recently doesn’t mean I’m not reading. As always my life is surrounded by books, many in boxes ready for the continuation of their journey to a charity shop, to the Little Community Library, or to the next Literacy fundraiser. I put my hand up to volunteer one morning a week at the local aged advocacy organisation and without knowing anything about me they’ve asked if I’de take on their library. Bizarre…..

Books continue to pile up by my bedside. With the pointy end of the year closing in the size is not decreasing. There have been too many distractions to read anything of any substance.

Such as a Poetry Workshop. Yep, poetry, as foreign to me as an ironing board or knitting needles.

Although it was an interesting afternoon and the facilitator was fascinating poetry is just not my thing.

I blame the education curriculum of the 1970’s. Why would you waste three months talking about the love sonnets of John Donne to 14 year olds? At that age it was all about Farrah Fawcett hairdos and fur mini skirts.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that as kiddies in Primary School we can all draw, all sing and all enjoy The Owl and the Pussy Cat, but once we reach High School we are labelled either good or bad at something.

One positive did come from the Poetry Workshop:

Now looking forward to attending The Oracles of The Bush Festival, an annual event which celebrates Australian Bush poetry, music and literature. Diarised for 2-5 April, 2020 in Tenterfield, northern New South Wales. This is another opportunity to learn something about my own country, and maybe spend a few coins giving our country folk doing it tough a bit of a hand.

This property was where the wedding reception for Australian bush poet Banjo Paterson and Tenterfield lass, Alice Walker, was held.

For more information go to:

http://www.tenterfieldtourism.com.au/events-details.php?eid=14

Oh, and if anyone is interested in completing my poetry homework that would be very helpful, thank you.

Another Festival Just Across The Ditch.

First of all a confession:

I’m a seafood snob. Comes from catching, filleting and cooking my own fish since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Both my parents were keen fishos ( to non Aussies thats fisherpersons. We lazy Dinky-Di’s abbreviate nearly everything) and I received my first rod at the age of 3 or 4. Our annual family holidays were always at a sleepy fishing village on the south coast of New South Wales, which thanks to progress is now bustling. One of those places where you take your life into your own hands trying to cross the road.

Ummmm, a while ago……

We never holidayed anywhere else. My father would say “ I’ve seen the world. Dropped bombs on it.” I was always badgering him to go somewhere different and new. Never happened. “ I’ve seen the world. It didn’t impress.”. To shut me up he gave me airline tickets for my 21st birthday. To Port Macquarie – 350 klms up the coast from home.

Although my sister and I revelled in the beach culture eating seafood three meals a day quickly lost its appeal. Can’t even consider cold fish on toast for breakfast these days.

We learnt so very much about seafood as my Dad was instrumental in tax law changes in line with the seasonal catches of the local Italian fishing fleet all those years ago.

So I know my seafood. Fresh fish and prawns are as familiar to me as dark chocolate.

Therefore I have never eaten seafood at restaurants ( makes me a cheap date, I know), and don’t buy any seafood for Easter nor Christmas despite it being traditional, as so much of it has spent time in the deep freeze.

And I would throw myself under a train before eating any of that imported rubbish from Asia so readily available in supermarkets. Just pass me a bucket…….

A seafood banquet is my speciality when guests come to town. Admittedly, I think its the only reason the son-in-law visits.

So I’m excited about the Straddie Oyster Festival, an annual event which provides local farmers, fishermen, and restaurateurs the opportunity to promote their produce in a relaxed party atmosphere in parkland backing on to Moreton Bay.

North Stradbroke Island, affectionately known as Straddie, is a sub-tropical island located 30 km southeast of Brisbane and is the world’s second largest sand island. Take my word that the 30 minute trip by water taxi or 60 minute journey by barge from the mainland across to the island is a delightful respite from the Big Smoke in itself.

Catching the water taxi over to Straddie

But back to the Oyster Festival held at the Ron Stark Oval in Dunwich with its beautiful water views. There will be prawn and oyster eating competitions as well as live mud crab races. Market stalls and live music will keep Mums and Dads contented whilst the jumping castle and face painting will keep the kiddies occupied.

And remember, with the Festival taking place on Saturday, 23rd of November, from 10am till 6pm, it will be warm enough for the children to paddle and play in the sand so pack their swimming gear. (Always wears them out and ensures a good nights sleep which I totally endorse).

View from Dunwich back over to the mainland



Minjerribah, as North Stradbroke is known by the traditional landowners, will also have Indigenous Art displays including framed ceramic tiles, fibreglass turtle shells, and artworks. I’m as keen as mustard.

NOTE: North Stradbroke Island is well worth a visit at any time of year. It’s Mother Nature at its best ( and sometimes at her worst).

Seafood Breakfast in Tasmania is an exception to the rule. Doesn’t matter what the time of day a girl never declines the offer of Tasmanian Scallops or a Scallop Pie.

Cheers!

Lastly, here are some amazing facts about our Moreton Bay Marine Park:

  • It’s Queensland’s third-largest—and one of Australia’s top 12—shorebird habitats.  
  • It’s one of three extensive intertidal areas of seagrass, mangroves and saltmarsh on Australia’s east coast. 
  • It supports the southernmost population of dugong in Australia and is among the top 10 habitats nationally for this vulnerable species.
  • It’s one of the most important feeding areas for threatened marine turtles along Australia’s east coast and we have 6 of the world’s 7 species of marine turtles!
  •  bottlenose dolphin population, centred around Point Lookout, is one of the largest congregations of bottlenose dolphins in the world!

Alas, Progress is threatening the bay with plans to build 3,600 units into the Mangroves despite it being a designated RAMSAR Wetlands area.
End of rant.

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.