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.

Porter, Big Bands and Hip Replacements

Showing my age but I remember when pre wedding festivities consisted of a gathering of women who thought it dreadfully risqué to open a bottle of Porphrey Pearl or Cold Duck and to gift such wondrous things as wooden spoons , tea towels, and paper towel dispensers to the bride-to-be. Yes, the compulsory Kitchen Tea, when mothers and maiden aunts openly drank the McWilliams Port or Sherry from the flagon and guests dined on sausage rolls, Devilled Eggs and fruitcake. ( Question: why is it that any drink that is pink kills pot plants?)

Times have changed and the Hen’s Night is now almost as big as the actual wedding requiring just as much planning. Some young women fly out of the country for the event on the basis that “ what happens in Bali stays in Bali”. I did not attend my eldest daughter’s Hens as I’de had enough of waking up on Saturday mornings to find some strange teenager laying across my bed wanting relationship advice and breakfast. From a divorcee. What’s that all about?

My favourite Hens function took place nearly thirty years ago. Frocked up we went to a Saturday matinee to see A Swell Party, a musical which was overlaid with biographical content, followed by a slap-up Thai meal where we all got sill-ily sloshed. That was my introduction to the music of Col Porter.

I often play a CD of Porter’s music by the original artists. It’s old. The sound quality is not the best but it’s still fine music. Helps with the mopping.

De-Lovely is a 2004 musical biopic. The screenplay is based on the life and career of Cole Porter from his first meeting with his wife, Linda Thomas, until his death.  Critics may have panned the movie but I loved that it introduced a new generation to the music of Porter with a soundtrack featuring contemporaries such as Alana Morrissette, Robbie Williams and Sheryl Crowe.

So a recent Dinner Dance with a Big Band playing all the tunes of Porter and the songs of Dino and Cranky Frankie was just De-lightful.

Swing Central at Cloudland in Brisbane

Better than my previous weeks venture to a nightclub for Baby Boomers – yes, they are a thing – where the only positive was that I seemed to be the only one not requiring a hip replacement.

My Day In Numbers

0 – Episodes left in Game Of Thrones

“You know nothing, Jon Snow”. Ygrette was sooo right. Snow, ya dipstick. Talk about conned.

4 – Assignments submitted 2 weeks ahead of schedule.

A few profanities were thrown at the computer and there may have been a meltdown, but you know what? The old girl’s still got it.

5 – exservicemen have committed suicide since Anzac Day

( and 1 on active service but you didn’t hear it from me).

Appalling.

6 – Months of Retirement. 💖

15 – Days and I’m off again

Off to the hinterland to review a $3k a week house with log fire and spa, located near wineries and two distilleries. Tough one but someone has to do it. See Retirement

20 – Years since release of Ten Things I Hate About You.

Have you been to one of the special screenings? Oh, Heath, you were something else. Sigh…….

42 – % of Homeless in Australia are women due primarily to Domestic Violence.

Take a bow, Australia. You must be so bloody proud. NOT.

60 – years of age.

It’s just a number and still no grey. Well, a wisp only, though my eyebrows are fading. Bloody awful to think my first tattoo may be a new set of eyebrows. Thinking Baby Jane….

75 – years since D Day.

This was something we commemorated when I was at school. My daughters know the 6th of June as Queensland Day. Not sure what it is we are celebrating: incompetent pollies, brown paper bags full of cash, destruction of the reef, coal mines owned by Indian interests, fracking in our farmland, and my favourite, the developers who do secret deals to build 3600 units by reclaiming mangroves in the dugong breeding waters off the coast. Yay, Qld Day!

76 – Seats won by the Liberals in the recent Elections

Not a political comment. Just concerned about a society full of Snowflakes……

80 – years

Book Review: Brother Digger by Patricia Shaw

Nearly thirty years ago I picked up a book for 50 cents at a discount store in Adelaide, South Australia. I had two toddlers and a husband who had a predilection for Italian shoes and bespoke suits. It was all I could afford. 

Brother Digger sparked my interest in Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway and provided the impetus to spend (a lot) more money on books about the subject. I’ve told the daughters that when I’m cremated this book is coming with me. It’s the story of the Sullivan brothers, not to be confused with the tv series, The Sullivans, nor the 1944 movie The Fighting Sullivans.

This one changed my life trajectory.

Patricia Shaw is an acclaimed Australian novelist. A teacher and political journalist before becoming head of the Oral History Department of the Parliamentary Library, it was during this period that Shaw wrote Brother Digger after a conversation with her neighbour, Frank Sullivan. 

Drawn from the reminiscences of the Sullivan brothers, and the friends that fought beside them during World War 2, Brother Digger is the true story of the five Sullivan brothers from Queensland who all enlisted in the 2nd AIF.

The Sullivans lived in rural Toowoomba, in a family of twelve children. Parents, James and Sylvia, did it tough during the Depression, though always managed to find sustenance for any callers looking for a feed.

Each of the Sullivans had a different war, and the author managed to interview all except the eldest, Jack, who passed in 1969. The information provided by each of these men, forty years later, is conversational in tone, personal, and none of them hold back. This makes the history feel real. Steve says of the Fall of Singapore, “There were no fortifications. It was another bloody balls-up.”

Although not big in size some of the stories within this book are huge. Jack and Steve had major authority figure issues with English military personnel yet both were leaders of men. Eugene makes several long term friendships at Changi, including Ringer Edwards on whom author, Neville Shute, based the character Joe Harmon in A Town Like Alice.

My favourite quote comes from the father, James, who said to his sons, “Bloody mad going off to fight for the British again. Will Australians never learn? And that Menzies! He’ll sing God Save The King and do exactly what the British tell him to do.”

Lt. Jack Sullivan served in Tobruk and PNG.

 Lt. Eugene Sullivan served in Malaya and Singapore, and was incarcerated at Changi POW Camp before being sent to work on the Burma Railway.

Frank served in the Middle East, was captured by the Italians and shipped to Italy. When the Italians surrendered he was transferred to a German stalag for the duration.

Steve joined the Citizen Military Services, or the chockos (as in chocolate soldiers that melt under pressure). He was awarded the Military Medal for his service in PNG.

Vic, eighteen at enlistment, served in PNG.

Each of the men have a fascinating story which is entwined with events at home. Telegrams are received, there’s a family wedding, the collation of Red Cross parcels, and Sylvia proudly receives her Female Relatives Badge with five stars.

It touches upon their reintegration into society at wars end. Eugene made a claim for medical conditions from his incarceration, including scratched eyeballs, a Japanese punishment ( not included in their records), and ulcerated legs, which were declined by Repatriation. He never appealed having been told he was a “bludger” and “no hoper”.

This is history at its best, a personal history and an insight into a slice of Australian life. It is filled with honesty and humour despite the ugliness of war.

Is there any particular book that made a change to your life?

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