Murder At The Dunwich Museum

It hasn’t been a fun week with my only outings having been to put the rubbish bins out for collection and to check the letterbox.

In between Lockdowns (yes, plural) I did manage to attend an author talk organised by the Library in a nearby park. It was lovely to sit outside in the sunshine and listen to an informative talk by Dr Karen Thurecht, a medical anthropologist by trade.

Thurecht has recently released her first mystery novel, Murder At The Dunwich Asylum, which piqued my interest because the location makes up part of my playground.

The Dunwich Benevolent Asylum was established by the Queensland Government to provide accomodation for the destitute, aged and infirm and operated from 1886 to 1946. Located at Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay over 21,000 people were admitted during its operation with around 1000 to 1600 at any one time.

Although I haven’t yet read the book I enjoyed learning more about the Asylum’s history, and look forward to Thurecht’s coming novels which also feature familiar settings : the cane fields near Jacobs Well and Frogs Hollow, now known as Brisbane.

My Lockdown reading isn’t going well. Thank goodness for Daniel Day-Lewis sans shirt in The Last Of The Mohicans to keep a girl sane.

Only 16 hours until the postman is due to drive past again……

First 5 Forever

My local Library has a First 5 Forever program that caters to three age groups: babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

First 5 Forever is a statewide program providing strong early literacy foundations for all Queensland children ages 0-5 years at which local libraries provide fun, free, family-friendly activities and resources to help make the most of a child’s first 5 years”.

So of course when I recently played the devoted Meemaw I booked 8 month old Harry Kilometres into two sessions of First 5 Forever, one outdoors at a local park and the other at the Library.

The outdoors venture was a bit of a disaster because of the weather. Bub had flown in the night before from remote northern Australia where at night he sleeps under a ceiling fan with the air conditioning on, and Brissie decided to emulate Melbourne with chilly winds and 8 degrees. He had to wear long pants for the first time in his life as well as socks and a beanie and was suitably unimpressed. And not a subtle beanie either, thank you Meemaw.

Our indoor venture was much more successful with sessions only 45 minutes in duration ( 30 in songs, movement, and stories and 15 in play) and more favourable climatic conditions.

Of course I bribed the little blighter with the promise of his first babychinno – which was another success.

During my recent travels I visited the Chinchilla Botanic Gardens.

Chinchilla is most commonly known as the ‘Melon Capital of Australia’, and plays host to a Melon Festival every second year in February. 

( Aside : Not a fan of Watermelon though I detest the waste of good food during this popular tourist festival. As for Rockmelon, also known as Canteloupe, why it is considered a complement to seafood has me stumped. What a waste of decent prawn meat.)

Located in the Western Downs Region of Queensland, Chinchilla is just on 300 kms northwest of Brisbane.  In 2020 its Parkland was announced as winner of the Park of the Year at the Queensland Parks and Leisure Australia Annual Awards.  It IS beautiful and caters for all demographics with a variety of facilities.

I was delighted when I came across this cute First 5 Forever bench seat to encourage our Littlest Readers. A wonderful initiative.

Another Project and Library Lovers Day

In January 2020 Inverell Library, in rural New South Wales, launched a project to provide all newborns in the shire with a handmade library bag of specially selected books to support early literacy. The project is a joint initiative between the library and the Friends of the Inverell Library.

Reading to babies is a great way to nurture skills including talking, understanding, imagination, listening, concentration and creativity.

The team at the library put the call out to the community to find crafty locals who would like to sew a book bag for newborns. Those who lack sewing skills happily donated suitable fabric for the bags and instructions including required dimensions were made available.

Harry Kilom at 4 months, located in rural and remote Nhulunbuy NT, has been reading a lot of books with his parents. Thankfully Father Christmas was extremely generous as I was getting concerned about his Army Dad continually reading books about military strikes to the child.

What is interesting about bub’s haul is that I can tell from whom the books were gifted as they each reflect a particular person’s interests and history. The kid is lucky to have so many *different people in his life.

Another great project from a smallish country Library.

*Yes, you may read as odd or eccentric.

This Week In Books

With the current health situation I have been avoiding the local Council Library. Too many restrictions make this an uncomfortable destination for those of us who tend to enjoy three or four hours simply browsing.

This means that the well supported Little Community Library in my local parkland has provided the majority of my reading material these past months. The greatest benefit of this is my introduction to authors and genres that I might not under normal circumstances even contemplate. Neighbours have obviously been decluttering since Christmas as whole series of books have been donated. Keep up the great work People!

I thought I’de share my new favourite writers who I am now relentlessly pursuing.

Robert Crais –  an American author of detective fiction. Crais began his career writing scripts for television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, Miami Vice and L.A. Law. Sixteen of his novels feature private investigator Elvis Cole and his laconic ex-cop partner, Joe Pike. 

Robert North Patterson – an American fiction writer, attorney and political commentator. Love, love, love these books. More please….

Jon Cleary – was an Australian writer and novelist. He wrote numerous books, including The Sundowners (1951) which I read in a bushland primary school in the back blocks of Sydney when I was 10 after loving the movie starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. I was only allowed to borrow the novel from the School Library if I had a note of approval signed by both parents. I’m currently working my way through Cleary’s Sydney Police Inspector Scobie Malone series. 

I particularly enjoyed this one as that little bushland suburb, Lugarno, scored a mention.

Yes, a lot of crime, murder and mystery. What does that say about Pandemics ?

Pandemic Quilt Project

The Greater Brisbane area has just come out of a three day Lockdown albeit with restrictions. Having been flat chat for the last month I relished the enforced slow down: movies during the day, toasties for tea and never picked up a broom.

It reminded me once again of all the satisfying projects that came out of Lockdown 2020. ( Don’t look at me like that : stuffing and baking a cauliflower does not qualify as a project apparently).

Back in autumn, when Lockdown was as its strictest, ABC Radio Brisbane put out a call to Queenslanders to contribute a small textile square which would be made into a ‘quarantine quilt’.

The only criteria were that the squares needed to measure a particular size, they should feature joyful and colourful motifs, and they needed to represent people’s isolation experiences during the pandemic, with a focus on what made them happy.

Too easy? Not for this black duck who failed art and sewing and was asked to leave cookery class in High School.

Courtesy of Queensland State Library.

The submitted squares came in by the hundreds.

“Woven into each square are the personal stories of individuals who have not only struggled through life in lockdown, but who have also kept a sense of humour about life in a pandemic. The finished squares, mostly depicting the lives of women around the state, feature everything from going bra-less at home, a plumber doing repairs, gardens, books, cups of tea, jigsaw puzzles, and face masks.”

Once all the squares were collected they were attached to backing thereby constructing the quilt, which is now hanging proudly in the Queensland State Library.

What I really like is that each square includes the details of how it came to be : who created it, how it was created, and what it represents.

Courtesy of Queensland State Library

For more info, including a breakdown of each and every square, go here:

https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/blog/queensland-quarantine-quilt-comes-state-librarys-collection

Considering I neither knit nor crochet I found this fascinating.

Now that’s what I call a PROJECT.

This Week In Books

Firstly, my fave : A beautiful friend from the other side of the country sent me through the post a May Gibbs Gumnut Babies cardboard book, Goodnight Gumnuts to share with Harrison Miles ( born on October 7th) when he visits his Meemaw. You are one of the world’s sweethearts, Tenielle.

Peter Corris, Australian crime writer’s Lugarno. My home town and birth place of both daughters. Ok, not one of Corris’ best efforts and just 103 pages in length. Only one decent description of the suburb I felt with “ it was elevated and leafy, without any through traffic. Nice place if you had a good car and a swimming pool and didn’t mind being that far from the CBD. It looked like everyone living there would be much the same – comfortable and conservative -but I knew that wasn’t true ; there’d be secret drinkers and crossdressers and One Nation voters”.      

Cecila Ahern’s sequel to PS I Love You. Hated the original – loved the movie. Gerard Butler, Harry Connick Jnr and Jeffrey Dean Morgan – what’s not to love? Enjoyed this novel about adjusting to loss but not sure if it was because of the author’s story telling ability or more that my thoughts kept returning to the previously mentioned boyos. Probably the latter……

Had wanted to read Where The Crawdads Sing for months if only to learn more about crawdads. Imagined them to be like a yabbie. Bzzzzzzz. Wrong. I enjoyed this novel  though the American colloquialisms, especially about food, had me baffled. A good read.

Another good week for the Little Community Library with one of the local mummas painting and hiding rocks around the park for the Little People.

And great news! Further easing of COVID restrictions mean that Author Talks at my local library are recommencing. These are fantastic opportunities to learn what motivates writers and what makes them tick. Haven’t been disappointed yet.

Yee Haa!

Libraries, Linguistics & Fantasy

A couple of years ago I attended a talk given by Roly Sussex about the role of Libraries in future years given that the world is becoming so heavily digitalised.

Roland (RolyDenis Sussex is Emeritus Professor of Applied Language Studies at the School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies of the University of Qld. He hosts a talkback radio program broadcast across the country and has a weekly column in newsprint. Comparative Linguistics may sound a little on the dry side but this fella is as fascinating, and as funny, as all getup.

I was reminded of this outing when I accompanied a friend to a Fantasy Writing Workshop on the weekend at one of Brisbane’s outer suburban Libraries. A newer Library than my local it was connected to a swimming centre, just as Sussex indicated in his discussion of Libraries becoming the community hub of suburbs in the future.

And what a lovely, little, user friendly venue it was too!

My local Library hosts numerous Clubs – writing, jewellery making, chess, mahjong, robotics, crafts – and supports a diverse demographic. Next weekend they are even showing classic black and white movies on a regular basis which will be beaut with a coffee from their Cafe.

The Logan North Library at Underwood just changed the playing field. Fantastic and fully utilised on a Saturday afternoon which was good to see.

Why the Fantasy Writing Workshop? You’re right : it’s not my thing. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins is about my only foray into fantasy. 

Many years of assisting people with their career choices means that I was fascinated to learn what motivated young author, Tara Ingham to get into fantasy writing. Old habits seem to die hard…….

Ingham started writing at 14 and is an inspirational speaker. We sat with three young high school lasses who were fully engaged with the proceedings.

I had better try to order Once I Rise and Once I Remember from the Library.(refer http://www.taraingham.com).

To Censor or not to Censor – that is the question.

Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.”

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

The Little Community Library in the parkland near my home continues to gain momentum. I put a call out for more children’s books at the beginning of the school holidays and the neighbourhood came good with DVDs, small toys, and colouring in sets as well as a variety of reading material.

Over the past weeks there has also been the donation of numerous LGBT Romance novels. Often they are sneakily hidden between the pages of other books.

Personally, I’m not offended, but as this communal Library is frequented by children of all ages who utilise the reserve with its playground equipment I have been taking these books out of circulation. Effectively I’ve played Censor. It doesn’t sit well but I have genuine concerns that if a 7 year old goes home with one of these novels a parent could go into meltdown. This could possibly result in the loss of this resource.

A friend has questioned my stance, given that I’m not so zealous with the plethora of religious books that are donated.

None of these books are tossed into the garbage bin. They are donated to an organisation where they can be better appreciated. The plethora of religious books are given two weeks on the shelves before they are removed. I think that’s generous.

Am I becoming a Book Nazi?

The National Archives in Canberra has updated its cafe with a new display on banned books. You can read about the secret history of Australian censorship as you sip your coffee. You can also examine a censor’s report or flip through a copy of a book or magazine once prohibited in Australia. This Cafe is going on my Must Do List For when I next visit the ACT.

What Have I Been Reading?

I’ve been focusing on independent authors, local to my area in the Redlands City area of Brisbane.  

Margaret Dakin was born and lived most of her life in Brisbane. She came to writing comparatively late after an adventurous life working in various occupations. After retiring in 2002, she joined a writing group and discovered a love of short stories. 

Margaret has had stage and radio plays produced as well as a musical titled A Bonnet For Eliza which was performed earlier this year. Blogged about it here:https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/2804

Margaret was one of six grandmothers local to the Redlands Coast in Brisbane who, having a little spare time on their hands, collaborated on a novel, The Written Word.

This novel is very topical as it covers overdevelopment and reclaiming of the mangroves ( despite being under the environmental protection of RAMSAR).*

*what a bloody farce

**available from Amazon Australia

Why am I sharing this one with you? Because Retirement does not mean one stops living and the grey matter does not dissipate. There is heaps to do and though I am no longer ruled by daily achievements it is nice to think that there is still enough blood pumping to rattle a few chains. So, there’s now a day in the works for all local authors to present their books to the community ( and hopefully make a few quid), and I’m chatting with those who know about such things about a local Government grant to get a local writer’s competition off the ground.

Why didn’t my mother teach me to knit or sew or even crochet? Might have been easier:)

Umm, I lied. I still measure my days by achievements, but then I classify having breakfast a win.

Vale Bill Collins OAM

We lost Bill Collins, 84 years of age, during the week. 

I grew up with Collins who fronted the Golden Years of Hollywood on TV every Friday and Saturday night. For ten minutes before the evening movie he would chat about the program providing information that was so bizarre it was fascinating. Information about the costume and set designs, who was sleeping with whom, tidbits about the Director, and most importantly, where the concept for the movie originated.

It was Bill Collins who encouraged my collection of books that were the basis for favourite movies. I was not even in my teens when Collins took us through his home Library which absolutely had me gobsmacked. He used to move every few years to accomodate his growing collection. Boy, did I want that Library!

My introduction to Lust.

He also introduced me to a wonderful store under Town Hall Station in Sydney in the late 70’s. Ava And Susan’s specialised in movie and theatre books and LPs. I was 18, earning $63 a week, and I would buy something once a fortnight as a treat, and at the shop next door : a chicken specialty shop. My father was disgusted that a Teenager would bring home 8 quails for tea or half a dozen spatchcock.

Memories of my mother are limited but she did sit transfixed watching Bill in full flight. Everyone else’s mothers did too. It was bad news when he started introducing the mid day movie.

Collins gave so many people a great deal of pleasure. He was an eccentric but his joy was simply infectious. He will be missed.

Note : As is often the case you don’t know what you had until it is gone. When I downsized two years ago I tossed out boxes of VHS tapes with Collins introducing his favourite movies. He was a Flynn fanatic – of course.