Victory In The Pacific : 75 Stories in 75 Days.

Just like the 6th of June, (D Day), the 15th of August is another date that was ingrained into our brains as Primary School students way back in the days when Sydney was full of quarter acre blocks and nearly everyone drove a Holden.

This year is the 75th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War, also known as Victory in the Pacific Day.

Commencing as from the 2nd of June the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) has been sharing the stories of Australians from the period of World War 2 by way of a social media and a radio series called 75 Stories In 75 Days.

The radio segments are available for listening at http://www.dva.gov.au/75stories or you can choose to read the snippet instead. A new segment is made available each day. 

Not all the snippets are from soldiers. Some stories are from those who experienced life in Australia at the time, such as Nancy Eddy, who along with her two children was given only two hours notice before being evacuated from Darwin. Upon returning to Darwin at wars end her house was gone……

This is a fascinating look back at a different time and a reminder of the sacrifices of a previous generation. I found hearing the voices of those long since gone a little unnerving, though it certainly made the history all the more real.

What a great little initiative which unfortunately seems to have been lost under a plethora of Government Directives and depressing media reports.

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…..

Around The World Reading Challenge

I don’t need to count the number of books I read each year. I read because it gives me pleasure. Pure and simple.

This year I will add to the mix by deliberately focussing on reading books by authors from other countries, starting with Nigeria. Off to the Library next week to pick up Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

This week I’m staying home. It doesn’t sit right gallivanting at the moment. Doesn’t mean that I’m not having fun. I’m up to series 4 of West Wing, continue to puppy sit and walk the grand fur-baby, and have read a couple of (appalling) books.

Australian comedian Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules For Life was a massive disappointment. I’ve seen Kitty live several times and love her to bits. Why so many of our celebrities are turning their hand to books I don’t know.

A couple of short stories by Robert G Barrett were even more woeful. Barrett, an Australian crime writer, was a butcher by trade. Say no more. They reminded me of my Uncle Bill, a commercial traveller, who used to keep a box of girlie magazines and cheap pot boilers in a box in the backyard dunny which was covered in choko vines.

I read his first book back in the early 80s. It was Sydney-centric and I could relate. Who else would understand “ how could you live in the Eastern suburbs and follow St George?”. No more Les Norton for me.

My next big trip is to Papua New Guinea. All booked and paid. I guess it would be appropriate to source some PNG authors too. Any suggestions please?

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…..

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.

Legacy Week

Legacy is an Australian non-profit organisation established in 1923 by ex-servicemen. The aim of the organisation is to care for the dependents of deceased Australian service men and women from any of our military conflicts since WW1.

This Infographic indicates the assistance they have provided over the years:

The first week of September is Legacy Week when the majority of funds are raised through the sale of special badges and other products. Army Reservists and exservicemen and women in uniform tend to be out in force during this time.

The Legacy Garden of Appreciation at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne  is a living tribute to the generous support of Victorians for the work of Legacy. It features a sculpture of a widow and her children, symbolising the work of Legacy caring for widows and children of veterans.

The sculpture is surrounded by a garden in the shape of a cross. Inside the cross are Flanders Poppies which bloom around November and were seeded from Villers-Bretonneux in France.

Out the front of Legacy House in Albury, New South Wales, is a war memorial dedicated to the 80th anniversary of Legacy and its commitment to assisting families affected by war.

The war memorial features the silhouette of a family with one child holding a wreath. The wreath of laurel is represented in the Legacy logo and symbolises remembrance of those who gave their lives for their country. On the plaque is the Legacy torch, described as “the undying flame of service and sacrifice handed to us by our comrades in war who have passed on”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I was Primary School age there were classmates receiving assistance through Legacy though it was never questioned, merely considered normal. In hindsight it is a little frightening to realise that I belonged to a generation born not that very long after wars end.( Yeah, so it took me longer than most to figure that one out…duh…)

And just because I can:

Two Good Ol’ Girls

It’s officially been the warmest July (winter) on record though we’ve still lost a couple of Australian Icons.

Last week we lost MARGARET FULTON, aged 94 years. Scottish-born Fulton was the first food and cooking writer in Australia, a journalist, and commentator, with 25 cookbooks to her name.

She was awarded the Medal of Australia in 1983 “ in recognition of service to the media as a journalist and writer in the field of cookery”. In 1998, Fulton was added to the list of 100 Australian Living Treasures by the National Trust of Australia.

In all honesty, I never owned a copy, though my m-i-l swore by hers and probably prevented my death by poisoning.

A personal thanks to Ms Fulton who single handedly changed Australian cuisine from post Depression “ meat and three veg”, and for showing my mother’s generation that afternoon tea did not mean freshly picked radishes from the garden, curly celery – My God, do you remember this? – a packet of Jatz crackers, and a salt shaker. 

Only days ago we lost 89 year old DORIS GODDARD. 

Goddard, the legendary publican who was known for putting the Hollywood in Sydney’s beloved Hollywood Hotel, Surry Hills, which she purchased in 1977 before the suburb was gentrified (and in the days when I was too fearful to walk those streets). She cemented herself as a Sydney icon, famous for pulling out her guitar and serenading fellow drinkers at the bar.

As a young woman Goddard travelled the world as a cabaret singer and actress playing bit-parts opposite the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Mel Gibson, Piper Laurie, Bob Hope and Sid James.

At this year’s Vivid festival held in Sydney Goddard was honoured when the Hollywood was made a canvas for visual effects house Heckler’s 50 Iconic Women projection. Goddard herself was inducted as the 51st iconic woman, alongside the likes of Kate Moss, Brigitte Bardot, Amy Winehouse and Queen Elizabeth II.

My favourite memory of Goddard is in the role of a Danish shot-putter opposite Bill Travers in Geordie, released in 1955.

Geordie is one of those nice little movies. No saloon brawls, no profanities, no car chases, no explosives. Remember those? The book of the same name was written by David Harry Walker a Scottish-born Canadian novelist.

It is the account of a young Highlander saddled in boyhood with the title Wee, for obvious reasons, and of the astounding results which followed a course of body building. He becomes the top-ranked hammer thrower at the Highland Games and is chosen to represent the UK in the Olympics at Melbourne, Australia. Of course, he wants to compete in his kilt which becomes an issue.

Thirty one years ago I gave my daughter Geordie as her middle name.  Damn those hormones. 

Only a few years ago a reporter asked Ms Goddard the secret of her success.

Sweetheart,” she said, “I have been happy no matter where I am. You have to make the f***ing most of what you’ve got on the day you’ve got it. No one’s going to give it to you.”  

Bless ‘em.

Wattle and Koalas

Wattle Day has been celebrated on the first day of September each year since 1992, the official start of the Australian spring. Prior to this each State acknowledged the day at separate times depending on when the Acacias were in full bloom in that territory. My memories as a young lass are of wearing a sprig of Cootamundra Wattle, which flourished in Sydney, to school on the 1st day of August each year.

The Golden Wattle was incorporated as an accessory in the design of the Australian Coat of Arms in 1912.

I’m a big fan of Wattle (but then I don’t suffer from Hay Fever) and have recently planted a Wattle sapling, along with other native trees, on the fringe of the Koala corridor which my property borders. Pretty sure the neighbours will be unimpressed. Stuff ‘em.

Both the Koalas and Wattles are at their best at the moment. The former may well be cute but the bucks are noisy when they’re feeling antsy. Noisy and determined. And they’re most certainly feeling antsy at the moment.


Tree planting endeavours on my part are an attempt to encourage the bees, butterflies and bird life. All creatures welcome really – except snakes.

Wattle flowers were sold to raise money during World War 1 and it became tradition to send pressed wattles in letters to wounded soldiers in Europe. Fallen diggers were often buried with a sprig of wattle. The green and gold of Wattle inspired our national colours which we see at the great sporting events.

Wattle……just love it.

Cootamundra Wattle by John Williamson

Don’t go lookin’ through that old camphor box woman,
You know those old things only make you cry.
When you dream upon that little bunny rug
It makes you think that life has passed you by
There are days when you wish the world would stop woman,
But then you know some wounds would never heal
But when I browse the early pages of the children
It’s then I know exactly how you feel.
Hey it’s July and the winter sun is shining
And the Cootamundra wattle is my friend
For all at once my childhood never left me
‘Cause wattle blossoms bring it back again
It’s Sunday and you should stop the worry woman,
Come out here and sit down in the sun
Can’t you hear the magpies in the distance?
Don’t you feel the new day has begun?
Can’t you hear the bees making honey woman,
In the spotted gums where the bellbirds ring?
You might grow old and bitter cause you missed it,
You know some people never hear such things
Hey it’s July and the winter sun is shining
And the Cootamundra wattle is my friend
For all at once my childhood never left me
‘Cause wattle blossoms bring it back again
Don’t buy the daily papers any more woman,
Read all about what’s going on in hell.
They don’t care to tell the world of kindness,
Good news never made a paper sell.
There’s all the colours of the rainbow in the garden woman,
And symphonies of music in the sky.
Heaven’s all around us if you’re looking,
But how can you see it if you cry.
Hey it’s July and the winter sun is shining
And the Cootamundra wattle is my friend
For all at once my childhood never left me
‘Cause wattle blossoms bring it back again.

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.