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).


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?


The Great Escape – 75th Anniversary

Earlier this week marked the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape when 76 RAF PoWs attempted to escape from Stalag Luft III, of which only 3 successfully escaped and made it home.

Of the 73 who were recaptured, 50 were chosen at random and murdered by the Gestapo.

The International Bomber Command Centre in the UK found 28 of those who were in Bomber Command and whose names are on the Centre’s memorial. A wreath has been laid at The Spire to honour the 50 who died, and a poppy placed in each of the 28 members of Bomber Command on the Memorial Walls.

The remaining 23 who were not shot, were placed in various prison camps including Colditz.

I’m a tad fragile at the moment and swilling with drugs to beat a couple of bugs, thus providing time to think which is more often than not, a huge negative.

I’ve stumbled across the website of an Australian author, who as fate would have it, is also a mate of my late aviation-tragic friend and author, Justin Sheedy.

Kristen Alexander is currently a PhD candidate at University of New South Wales (Canberra) researching the experiences of Australians in Stalag Luft III and welcomes contact with anyone with family connections to former SLIII prisoners. She has been writing about Australia’s aviation history since 2002. Allen & Unwin published Clive Caldwell Air Ace in 2006 and Jack Davenport Beaufighter Leader in 2009. Barrallier Books published Australian Eagles in 2013. NewSouth published Australia’s Few and the Battle of Britain in September 2014. Pen & Sword published the UK edition in April 2015. Jack Davenport Beaufighter Leader was in the RAAF Chief of Air Force’s 2010 Reading List. Australia’s Few was included on the 2015 list. Kristen won the Military Historical Society of Australia’s 2012 and 2013 Sabretache Writer’s Prize. Her articles and book reviews have appeared in Flightpath, Aircrew Book Review, Sabretache, Britain at War, and Aviation Heritage. Taking Flight. Lores Bonney’s Extraordinary Flying Career was published by the National Library of Australia in March 2016.

Photos of the lost 50.

Kristen’s website is and she has a fascinating blog in which she discusses the Great Escape, and particularly how the Australian relatives responded. It’s well worth a read.

Time for more antibiotics…..

St Patrick’s Day and Music 1.

I’ve just booked lunch at the local pub for St Patrick’s Day. The food is sure to be gross – Guinness Pies and Pork Sausages and Mash – though the view of the bay and the band in the beer garden are personal faves.

From the beer garden to North Stradbroke Island

Tullamore Tree specialise in Irish music (though the lead singer is from Glasgow, which is Irish enough in concept), covering traditional folk songs, songs of rebellion, and recent hits. There’s generally a lot of communal singing followed by ungainly movement on the dance floor which is all good fun. Unfortunately, I’ve checked the wardrobe and I’m all out of orange and/or green outfits (which oddly enough were always my colours when I was younger, taller and thinner. Orange for Gods sake. Who wears orange?)

As I’ve been told I must stop singing Gene Pitney songs by numerous people over the last fortnight I’ve moved on to the Irish music that seems to have played such a large part in my life over the years. The neighbours are going to be totally fed up by the end of the week……

When I visited Ireland with Daughter Numero 2 I experienced numerous “moments”. Quite sure we are both Celtic at heart. Still get a wee teary remembering being in Galway and just getting lost in the music.

So of course the neighbours have already had to deal with some crooning from old Bing…………

Moving on……….

The Dam Busters and Books

My poor old father lived in a house full of women – except for the Siamese cats. All cats were male.

He should have had sons. He tried so hard to make us capable of catching and gutting fish, skinning rabbits, and excelling at marbles. One birthday he gave me a cricket bat, and on another a couple of cap guns ( which I adored). The nicest comment I ever heard him say about both my sister and I was that we “ never cried like girls”. PC. What’s that?

A tough nut he never talked about the war. Not in the home, nor with mates. Compartmentalising things into a box with the label, PAST, was his survival strategy.

Once I started high school my Dad started feeding me military books to read. He had already directed my reading towards the likes of Robinson Caruso, The Last of the Mohicans, and Kipling, but secondary school led to a change.

The first, which I remember vividly, was Enemy Coast Head, by Guy Gibson.V.C., who led the DamBusters Raid. He handed the book to me as I was running out the front door to catch a bus. Didn’t say a word – just passed it over. What an odd book to put into a school bag, hey……..

When I finished it within the week I simply left the book in his bedroom.

A few days later he handed me No Passing Glory by Andrew Boyle, the biography of Sir Leonard Cheshire. Same thing: he just handed it to me to read in silence.

A couple of weeks later my father asked if I actually read the two books. Of course, I said. One did not disobey one’s father – in those days, at least. He looked sceptical. So you know what the old bugger did? He started hounding his twelve year old daughter with questions – which of course I was more than capable of answering. Unfortunately, I was never able to answer the maths questions…

I was reminded of this when I read there were moves to remake the movie, The Dam Busters. New information has become available with the secrecy codes lifted apparently. See here.

Poor old fella would be so disgusted that I can cry with the best of them these days.

Bridge Of Clay : Book Review

Book Review : Bridge Of Clay

Author: Markus Zusak

Published: 2018

Zusak’s previous publication was the much lauded The Book Thief. Couldn’t finish it. At this stage of the game there are just “too many books and too little time”.

Picking up the 580 plus pages of paperback Bridge Of Clay was always going to be dicey. I needed to give this Australian author another go, and in spite of its bulk found it an easy read. I’de rate this a four-cups-of-tea-and two-mint-slice-biscuits book. Finished it in a single sitting.

This is the story of five brothers, the Dunbar boys, with Matthew the eldest, summing up the storyline with :

Me, Rory, Henry, Clayton, Thomas.
We would never be the same.
Many considered us tearaways.
Mostly they were right.
Our mother was dead.
Our father had fled.
We swore like bastards, fought like contenders, and punished each other at pool, at table tennis, at Monopoly, darts, football, cards, at everything we could get our hands on.
We had a piano no-one played”.

The Dunbar brothers are all very different characters and yet are close, and they are all hurting. Matt at 18 taking on the bulk of family responsibilities. There is lots of brotherly love mixed with the shenanigans of “boys” .(said by the mother of daughters who threatened to send any male baby back along with any redheads). The nostalgic feel warms the ol’ heart. ( reminiscent of the beginning of the 1944 movie, The Fighting Sullivans.)

These boys have been shaped by stories from their parents. It is through stories that we learn what moulded their parents. Young Tom even names his pets after characters in The Odyssey and The Illiad because of stories shared by his parents. Even their pet mule, Archilles, is a source of stories.

Clay has lost more than his brothers, and despite the crushing heartache and loneliness, he metaphorically and literally builds the bridge that finally brings the family to a place of healing.

The book does jump around a bit from present, to past and present again. The movies the boys watch are valuable reference points. This may or may not have assisted the Millenials any.

Millenials might not also get the references made by the crucial female apprentice jockey character. More nostalgia on my part : I have strong memories of attending a race meeting to see that very same horse race on Anzac Day 1986. Looking and feeling swish in red high heels and a green and red dress, the image was shattered when I fainted, legs in the air, down by the winning post. Last time I ever wore high heels.(No, not the bubbles – I was to discover later that I was with child!)

Bridge Of Clay is a series of stories within stories that complete a jigsaw puzzle and is totally engaging. The mother’s death is sad, though a bit like watching the movie Titanic; we know how it’s going to end, we know it’s going to be catastrophic, though as it lingers on and on and on we just wish it would get on with it and sink. Penelope took a very long time to die.

The storytelling is languid and comforting, like a breeze on a hot summer day.

Bridge of Clay totally resonates. It has a very familiar feel and I’m not convinced that I’m not the Dunbar boys’ long lost sister and we didn’t share a history at Lime Kiln Road, Lugarno.

A terrific read in the Coming of Age genre and has been nominated for several awards.


Hanging Dean Martin

On the 25th of December, 1995, entertainer Dean Martin died at his Beverly Hills home. He was 78 years of age.

Why is Dean Martin’s death a significant memory for me? Because along with Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”, Dean Martin’s “Christmas Album” was the soundtrack in the family home over the Festive season, ( with a smattering of Burl Ives, but let’s keep that just between us, ok).

I’ve shared previously that my youngest daughter collects Bing Crosby Dolls. My eldest collects Dean Martin ones. (Yeah, the apples don’t fall far from the tree….). She retains some memories of Xmas crooning and brings out Deano each December, although probably more as a hommage to her grandparents rather than the entertainer. Her Pop would sashay around the house, drink in hand, crooning along with Martin, though he preferred Resches Pilsner or a red. Her paternal grandmother didn’t sing, though she did her bit to ensure whiskey share prices never plummeted.

One of my next projects is to frame some of the old vinyls I have gathered over the last 45 years in their decorative sleeves. Not many – just half a dozen or so. They have all been transferred to CD as well as those stick things, yet I’ve been unable to part with them. Good music has always filled a hole and I can’t let go of them yet.

Why cant my kids just collect Beanie Babies ?

When I was in the process of splitting assets many, many years ago was it property or shares that caused arguements? Nope – it was the record collection. ( And my paintings but I’m not bitter and have let that go. Kind of * thinking how good it would feel to throw a brick or two around right now. Besides, I snuck James Taylor into my pile by switching with Jonathon Livingston Seagull. So there).

Framing records is a thing apparently. My youngest has been on trend for years. I’m not sure I’m ready to have Dean Martin looking down at me from the lounge room wall just yet…..

Cait’s Bing. Who else?

Children’s Literature And Stamps

Growing up as a child in Australia in the sixties I have fond memories of play with my friends involving Cowboys and Indians, Malvern Scooters, Slippery Dips, Marble tournaments and Stamp collections. That’s correct. Stamp collections. When rain prevented outdoor play we gathered at a mate’s home to swap postage stamps before adding any new additions to our albums. We would exchange stamps with the same enthusiasm that we exchanged football cards or the plastic jewellrey found in breakfast cereal boxes.

Yes, okay, so I was a nerd.

My enthusiasm for stamps waned many, many years ago when I became more interested in glitter eyeshadow and collecting vinyl LP records. Waned, not stopped completely, as to this day I continue to collect the colourful postage stamps of the Cocos Keeling Islands.

Yes, I’m still a borderline nerd.

Each year Australia Post honours individuals who are leaders in their field of endeavour, having dedicated their adult lives to their chosen pursuit, shaping Australian society and culture in the process.

A longtime favourite.

This year’s recipients are celebrated and award-winning authors – talented creators of narrative books and picture books for young people, from the youngest readers through to adolescents.

The Legends of Children’s Literature stamp issue, released for Australia Day, honours Mem Fox AM, Morris Gleitzman, Leigh Hobbs, Alison Lester and Shaun Tan. 

The 2019 Australian Legends of Children’s Literature stamp issue comprises of five $1 stamps, a first day cover, stamp pack, maxicard set, five booklets of ten $1 stamps, and a booklet collection pack.

Just remember : “ The President of today is just the postage stamp of tomorrow”.