Small Projects and a Book Review.

I was recently introduced to a woman of around my vintage at an author talk at the local Library. Turns out that she is a writer and during the worst of Covid was asked to commit to a “small project”.

Shirley Chambers’ “small project” was indeed a misnomer as it involved the chronicling of the rich literary history of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs, which are located to the west of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland.

Toowoomba, known as the capital city of the Darling Downs, has its colonial beginnings dating back to 1816. Much of its history has been preserved in its buildings and heritage-listed sites with the region also being renowned for its farmland and grazing. Shirley Chambers, who was born on a farm at Rocky Point on the Downs, has authored “Words From The Past”examining those who formed part of the literary landscape and how their time in the area may have inspired their life experiences.

Arthur Hoey Davis, born in 1868, is perhaps one of the better known authors from that region. Writing under the pseudonym of Steele Rudd (1868-1935) Davis wrote sketches of life which were based on his father’s experience as a selector, someone managing a free selection of land before it was surveyed. These sketches were combined and published as “On Our Selection“. The Rudd Park at Nobby stands as a reminder of his contribution.

Other writers were educators, some were country folk simply expressing their experiences in the bush, some became influences in the literary field, and Mary Hannay Foote, (1846-1918), was an absolute trailblazer becoming Queensland’s first professional female journalist. Several writers had their written work evolve into movies for the big screen, whilst the works of contemporary award winning children’s book illustrator-author, Narelle Oliver, (1960-2016), remain firm family favourites around the nation to this day.

Words From The Past” spotlights nearly thirty wordsmiths with a connection to the Darling Downs. Some were born in the area, others built their lives around the Downs, and a few were simply travelling through. It is an interesting and easy read which would appeal to those who love reading and Australian history, and at $10 a book ( postage additional) is going to make a delightful Christmas stocking filler!

Note to Sharon at https://gumtreesandgalaxies.com/author/gumtreesandgalaxies/, :I believe Shirley has banners featuring these writers at The Lighthouse…..


The Roots Of Heaven : The Book & The Movie

My latest read for the Gaia Reading Challenge was The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary, considered ” the first identifiably ecological novel in the literature of France, and perhaps the world.”- David Bellos

I had watched the movie of the same name earlier in the year featuring Errol Flynn, of course playing the town drunk. Sadly, I doubt any acting skills were required and released only twelve months before his death should be enough to paint the picture. Poor ol’ Errol.

It’s not a good movie, prone to preaching, being over wordy, and all the big name actors try to outshine each other which grates: Trevor Howard, Eddie Albert, Orson Wells, and Juliette Greco’s bosoms. However, the storyline about a wildlife enthusiast who attempts to protect African elephants from being hunted for their ivory was interesting enough to encourage my pursuit for more information which surely says something positive for the movie. (As does the cinematography featuring jumbos in all their magnificence in  French Equatorial Africa.)

The book, written between 1953-54, received the Prix Goncourt for fiction ( “for the best and most imaginative prose work of the year”) and was translated into English in 1957. It too is wordy though beautifully written, and a great deal of effort goes into explaining the motivations of each of the characters’ stance on the killing of elephants. 

In begins with Morel, played by Trevor Howard in the movie, seeking signatures on a petition to cease the hunting. In all, he obtains only two names. Even the local Priest refuses to sign as he has enough misery in solving the issues of the Africans with their leprosy, poverty, illness and starvation. Morel bellows, “this is nothing to do with politics – it’s a matter of humanity“. All the misfits come together – the nightclub hostess (Greco), the American outcast dishonourably discharged from the Army ( Flynn), the journalist (Albert) – after much navel-gazing in an attempt to thwart an attack on a large herd. 

Of course, the novel isn’t that simple with a cast of characters with different viewpoints; the “environmentalist” capturing elephants as zoo specimens, the commandant in charge of the territory with political aspirations, the Jesuit priest, the politician using the demise of the elephants to promote the view that Africa’s natural resources are being “stolen”  promoting Africa’s stance that it should become an independent country. 

There’s a law which allows you to kill as many elephants as you like when they are trampling down your fields and threatening your crops. It’s a wonderful excuse for the good shots among us. All you have to prove is that an elephant has crossed your plantation and has trampled a field of squash, and there you are, free to decimate a herd, to indulge in reprisals, with the government’s blessing.”

Honestly, it all becomes too complex especially when you realise the elephants become a symbol for human life. 

John Huston, the Director of the movie, said he was “completely responsible… for the badness of The Roots of Heaven. I really wanted to make that one and Daryl Zanuck got me everything and everybody I wanted. But I had the screenplay done by someone who had never done one before, and it was bad. By then the cast, crew and me were in Africa; it was too late to turn back, we would have spent a fortune for nothing, so we went ahead and did the best we could.”

Producer, Zanuck (and sheet warmer for Greco) said “This picture is really great for us – intellectually great. Whether it’s commercially great, whether people will grab on to it, we must wait and see. If they grab on to a man in love with a bridge, then why shouldn’t they grab on to a man in love with an elephant?” 

Answer : Because there comes a point when a line is drawn between being lectured and being entertained.

30,000 Elephants killed in a year. Horrendous!

Far North Queensland and Movies

Over 1,700 kms (1,000 miles ) away from home in Far North Queensland and I’ve bumped into a friend from the Adelaide Hills, way, way down south and along way from the east coast. When I say bumped, I mean literally. My facial recognition skills are shonky at best, and when face masks, sun screen and floppy sun hats are added to the equation the result isn’t pretty. Funnily enough, it was actually her husband I recognised from photos, though we’d never previously met.

Carol and I became friends 12 years ago because of our shared love of Australian movies. We both wrote reviews for a mutual literary friend.

So it was perhaps apt that I bumped into this woman at the North Queensland Army Museum in Townsville where a knowledgable volunteer was enthusiastically extolling the virtues of an army truck exhibit which was driven by Nicole Kidman ( AKA Our Nic) in the movie Australia.*

It’s a fascinating museum manned by volunteers and Army Reservists with entry by donation. At the entrance is a sculpture that represents the Australian tunnellers involved in blowing up Nazi bunkers near Ypres in Belgium during WW1 as depicted in the movie Beneath Hill 60. (From the book of the same name by Will Davies and based on the memoirs of Captain Oliver Woodward. An excellent read!) The movie was shot in Charters Towers, 135 km south west of Townsville, with the sculpture donated by the film crew.


In an attempt to elevate the 20 month old grandchild’s education to a higher plateau – afterall, you’re never too young to learn about Errol Flynn, are you? – we visited the popular Australian Hotel in the trendy Palmer Street Precinct for a refreshing bevvy. In my quest for Flynn memorabilia I visited this area forty years ago only to find the Errol Flynn Room – so named because he stayed there prior to his move into acting and before his New Guinea escapades – closed for refurbishment. Back then the pub was a lonely dilapidated shell of a building down by the Port ; these days the area has been gentrified and the accomodation is as swank as. Sadly, the Flynn Room no longer exists. ( Wretched millennials?)

A further 400kms north to Cairns and we came across the Australian Armour And Artillery Museum. About over museums by this stage, though if you have an interest in the movie Fury featuring Brad Pitt then this place with its movie memorabilia ticks all the boxes.**


Lastly,  looking over from Caldwell to Hinchinbrook Island where Nim’s Island was filmed. Lousy weather which made it all the better for investigating Australia’s biggest memorial park commemorating the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Coming full circle and travelling south once again we stopped at Bowen, famous for its summer mangoes .The township of Bowen hit a high note when the main street was transformed into a 1942 Darwin for the movie  Australia. Think the beef cows being shunted down the main street and along the wharf…..

Of course there is more movie paraphernalia in Far North Queensland. It’s just difficult when your hands are full – peeling prawns.

* Manual windowscreen wipers – very handy during a cyclone

*My advice? Get your hair done while the lads knock themselves out.

May Update and Forever Shoeless Joe ❤️

May proved an unpleasant conclusion to Autumn with another “weather event ” along the east coast causing more property damage and loss of life. Anyway, it’s been raining cats and dogs and though no damage I can’t walk in my back garden without flippers. Literally. 

This means that way too much of May has been spent sitting on my tail. I confess to a dose of cabin fever and an overdose of caffeine hearing the news out of Uvalde followed by the unexpected passing of Ray Liotta. Forever Shoeless Joe. ❤️ 

Liotta in Field Of Dreams. What a ghost!

Read two books from The Books That Made Us List including Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. Still not a big fan; some brutal editing may have endeared me.

Next month’s Bookclub read is Chasing The McCubbin by Sandi Scaunich which I devoured in one sitting, totally amazed that an author could write 60,000 plus words about garage sales. Yep, garage sales. Frederick McCubbin was an early Australian impressionist painter and it is an urban myth that stored in someone’s garage in suburban Australia is a McCubbin just waiting to be discovered and sold for absolute megabucks.

McCubbin’s Down On His Luck

The best read for May – and probably the year – was Infidel, My Life by Ahyaan Hirsi Ali, for the Around The World Reading Challenge. Born in Somalia Ali also lived in Ethiopia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia as a child experiencing political upheaval, war, starvation and the degradation of women in muslim communities. She is now a political activist living in the USA.

Infidel, My Life is one powerful read and what she shares about female genital mutilation will have you absolutely squirming and fuming!  For a list of her Awards go here : 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayaan_Hirsi_Ali.     Legend.

Watched way too many DVDs but Movie of the Month goes to The Proposition, a 2005 Australian flick filmed in Winton, far west Queensland, which I visited last year in between Lockdowns and this country’s first Dark Sky Sanctuary. Worth watching for the scenery alone it is an Aussie version of a Western. Intense, brutal, harsh, gritty – kinda John Wayne on Methamphetamines – and I had to close my eyes a couple of times.

The Dark Skies view in the movie from a similar position is outstanding.

Also attended Opening night of a local community theatrical production and celebrated my birthday in the swankiest restaurant at the Casino in Townsville escorted by the Love Of My Life. Pity he’s 19 months old.

No projects completed which is distressing and blaming lethargy caused by the constant rain. Starting the new month whipping up a batch of Tangelo Marmalade so, June, watch out. These little legs are on the move…..

The fridge contains several chilled Sav Blancs which I’ll be downing with Mr Liotta, who will be Forever Shoeless Joe ❤️


When The Movie Is Better and Flynn is Fat

Reading Challenges are funny things. They can make you look at books differently.

For example, last week I watched an old Errol Flynn movie. Nothing unusual about that: Errol is “my guy”. The Roots Of Heaven was released in 1958, a year before Flynn departed this world for the next, and though at 49 years of age he was heavier than when he was wearing Lincoln Green and wielding a sword he was still a good sort in a favourite uncle kind of way. In the movie he played the town drunk though I’m not convinced any acting was involved.

Not a great movie ( about the hunting of elephants for ivory) but I was interested enough to investigate further and discovered that the concept came from a 1956 book written by Romain Gary, which was described as the ” first environmentalist novel“. This led me to locating a copy which I intend to include in the Gaia Reading Challenge. It may take months as it is coming from a library on the other side of the country, and that’s okay – I’ll be reading a book that I never knew existed because I watched a movie I had never previously heard of and a genre I would not normally read all because of a reading challenge.

Talking of books to movies I recently read Rosalie Ham’s debut novel from 2000, The Dressmaker. Described as a Gothic Novel – whatever that means- the story is set in a 1950s fictional Australian country town, Dungatar, and “explores love, hate and haute couture“. In 2015 it became the basis of an Australian movie of the same name starring Kate Winslet and a host of local actors including the prettiest Hemsworth: Liam.

Not straying far from the book the movie is much more fun in an over the top kind of way. All the characters are eccentric including a cross dressing cop (Hugo Weaving) and I found myself laughing out loud with this one. Winslet is even more beautiful than when she survived the sinking of the Titanic twenty plus years ago, and the costumes are just stunning. As a girl who was very comfortable slopping around in pjs for the last three rain sodden days and has no fashion sense whatsoever that is a big call.

Were the critics impressed? Who cares! A fun story line, OTT characters, with a decent dash of secrets, dirt, crime and mayhem. IMDB describes it thus :”Tilly, a beautiful dressmaker, returns to her hometown in Australia to care for her ill mother, Molly. Armed with her sewing machine, she sets out to take revenge on the people who had wronged her.”

Viewing this movie came at the perfect time for me. The L.O.M.L has a hankering for his old home town, a pretty little place on the east coast of Tassie, which is slightly bigger than the mythical Dungatar but with more than its fair share of eccentrics. Quirks are mandatory to be accepted as part of the community. Every time he mentions relocating I remind him of what happened in The Dressmaker……….


Note :

I will do an official review of The Roots Of Heaven, both the book and the movie, once I’ve read the story. Just saying upfront that Juliet Greco was not awarded the role because of her acting abilities or her enunciation of vocabulary.

Diaries…….

There was a delightful article in a recent Australian Weekend Magazine stating that over 50,000 items had been donated to the Australian War Memorial over the last two years. Covid cleanouts have unearthed long-lost wartime relics from all across the country.

One 80 year old gentleman stumbled upon letters from his Flying Officer father to his mother, to whom he wrote nearly every day. The gentleman hasn’t read the letters stating that they “are too close to him, too personal”, and has them neatly boxed until his death.

This resonated as I recently came across information that my own father’s war diary was held by the Australian War Memorial.

Who? What? Where? See here:
https://wordpress.com/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/6579

Cat Balou (AKA Columbo), my super sleuth youngest daughter, has discovered that my father’s diary formed part of an Estate that was recently donated to the AWM. It appears that at wars end my father gave his diary to the family of a good mate killed over the skies of Germany. With the passing of a generation the family then donated the diary on to the AWM. Apparently, this is not an uncommon practise.

It is “too close……too personal” for me to read but young Columbo has a two hour appointment for viewing next week.

Plus Book Of The Month for January:

I’ve been chasing this one for yonks : the diary of Betty Jeffrey who alongside 64 other Australian Army Nurses was evacuated from Singapore, and who went down with the Vyner Brook, which had been bombed by the Japanese.

The women made it to safety at Banka Island where they were captured and held captive in various camps across Sumatra. They formed an orchestral choir in an attempt to beat boredom with their story becoming the basis of one of my favourite movies, Paradise Road.

These women suffered woefully over the three year period of captivity with only 24 surviving the ordeal. Despite being a “difficult” read at times these women were courageous, resilient and simply magnificent human beings. I tell you, it has certainly stopped my whinging any further about any self imposed isolation!

NOTE:

Betty received the Order of Australia for services to ex-servicemen and women in 1987.

Ah, the serenity………

0nce again the house is still. The vacuum cleaner is full of dog fur and I suspect a couple of Scrabble tiles. There are still 12 blocks of various cheeses, olives and a carton of Cab Sav in the fridge so I have no need to cook till February nor visit a supermarket. I did nine loads of washing yesterday which only confirmed that putting the ironing board out in a garage sale twenty years ago was the right decision. The silence is golden.

In between three weeks of playing Mummy Dearest – but not in a Joan Crawford kind of way – I did squeeze in a little binge watching, sashaying around the kitchen with Yul Brynner as the King of Siam and crawling through air conditioning ducts with Bruce Willis in the greatest Christmas movie ever made in movies 1,2,3,4 and 5 (watching the receding hairline with glee).

Young Cat Balou gifted me with a DVD of the television mini series Feud : Bette and Joan, as in Davis and Crawford, and based on the making of the movie “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane”. Starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange respectively I adored this muck in all its depressing detail about the treatment of women particularly by the Hollywood machine during the so-called Golden Years. My viewing partner found the bitchiness between these two “stars” too brutal to watch and scampered after Part 4 which was okay as it meant sharing the Toblerone (and plonk) was no longer required for the final 4 parts. Besides, if I’m invested allow me to view in peace. Does that work for you too?

My favourite viewing was an obscure little Australian flick (1998) which I am adding to my list of favourite Xmas movies, right up there with Die Hard, and Joyeux Noel. It made such a little ripple upon its release that I’m giving you all 12 months to locate a copy for December 2022.

Crackers is a Christmas movie that will resonate with many as it includes much of our Aussie culture including dog poop, a pub brawl, weed in the mince pies, and grandpa, an old Rat Of Tobruk, who hits the turps and is an ex con. The aesthetics are straight from Christmas’s past: the wooden spoon and fork hanging on the wall, the painted tyres turned into swan planters on the front lawn, the aboveground swimming pool. It’s every bit as chaotic as Christmas always tends to be, yet amongst all the dysfunction it’s about a family who cares about each other.

The only actor I recognised was a younger, trimmer Peter Rowsthorn, 15 years before he played Kim’s doormat husband in Kath And Kim.

Before we move away from the movie theme did you know that LEGO are considering a kit for the house from It’s A Wonderful Life? I want three.

Ah, the serenity.

It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas…

So, to borrow a phrase, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….The days are long and hot, cicadas chirp throughout the evening, and the kookaburras and magpies start their birdsong from 3.30am onwards. Oh, and the grass needs cutting on a weekly basis. It’s exhausting I tell you.

Ronan Keating’s version…..

Refusing to go anywhere near a shopping centre and the humidity is preventing any reading of real worth. This means resorting to DVD’s because I just cannot view anymore tragedy on the telly. Thank goodness for the local Op Shop which also serves coffee and Hummingbird Cake for $8.

This week I found a copy of all time favourite, Valiant, a delightful computer generated epic set during World War 2, and covering the exploits of carrier pigeons. With its references to the White Cliffs of Dover, Andrews Sisters, the Dambuster theme song, and a cute white mouse working with the Resistance called Charles De Girl it goes way over children’s heads.

The movie ends with Valiant and his fellow members from Squad F being awarded the Dickin Medal with a message then displayed commending all the animals that in real life saved thousands of lives during World War II.

Forty five minutes of pure pleasure. Chew on that, Spiderman.


I did venture to the dark side, also known as having crossed the Brisbane River in a northerly direction, to enjoy carols performed by the Brisbane Army Band. Brilliant and a great wake up call to get into the mood.

This weekend a friend has volunteered to play guinea pig as I attempt fellow blogger’s ( Valerie AKA Muriopsis) Sweet Potato Casserole recipe as well as a tropical Coconut and Lychee Granita.

If all else fails I have this to fall back on. $5. Bargain.

November In Books

Not a satisfying month for books. Could be my brain fuzz having to spend days dealing with a major roof leak, tradies and the insurance company.

Finished Nicole Moriarty’s You Need To Know, Small Acts Of Defiance by Michelle Wright and The J M Barrie’s Ladies Swimming Club by Barbara Zwitser. Anything else is a blurr.

Off to the local Library to listen to Heather Morris on Friday, author of The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, so hope I can get the head into gear by then.

With all the rain I’ve been enjoying the garden and preparing seedlings to put in the Little Community Library for Christmas. Pumpkin seedlings mainly : my small attempt to eradicate hideous plastic pumpkins imported from China for next November.

I’ve also rescued and groomed some bears in need of adoption for the Community Library. Recycling and Sustainability, one step at a time……


This weeks movie watch was The Magic Pudding, an animated version of Norman Lindsay’s 1918 Children’s Classic. Albert, the Magic Pudding, and Bunyip Bluegum the koala, are characters much loved by those of a certain vintage, right up there with the Seven Little Australians.


The movie, released in 2000, featured the voices of Sam Neill, John Cleese, Jack Thompson, Hugo Weaving, and Toni Collette. Top shelf. It didn’t sit well with me for numerous reasons, particularly the ocker accents, and I think the humour will be lost on the Little Person. I’ll stick to a long time favourite for baby sitting purposes : Cujo, the rabid Saint Bernard.

.

John Rambo and 007.

It’s been a humid weekend best spent in air conditioning watching DVDs. Yes, I’m old school – no Netflix, Stan, Foxtel or streaming. One of the saddest events of modern history is the passing of the movie rental store. Thank God for my local Op Shop where I can acquire a movie fo 50 cents which can either be retained or returned after watching!

Feeling the need for a girlie flick I sat through the Rambo trilogy starting with First Blood. Odd, I know. Blame Sylvester Stallone’s hair that I fantasise cutting each and every time. As usual, participated in screaming at the tele egging John on through out proceedings.

I think I must be the only Aussie not to have seen the new James Bond movie. The local Movie Club recently attended the cinema but I declined. I’ve declined all their invitations to the flicks.

You see, when I’m watching the screen the last thing I want to do when the lights turn on is have someone talk at me. ” Well, what did you think?”

Leave me alone. Please.

I’m happier taking the whole experience in, rather like a boiled lolly – preferably one of those black and white striped aniseed flavoured ones – when you let it roll around your mouth, slowly releasing the different flavours. Nothing analytical about the process at all – just allowing thoughts to percolate. Know what I mean?

Same with travel.

I detest being with a group of people who arrive at a new destination and who insist on discussing their feelings about said site. The ooohs and the arghhhhs add nothing to the experience. I remember first stepping into Florence, Italy, and just standing completely still, watching, breathing, taking it all in. One of my fellow travellers wanted to discuss. I wanted to thump him. Thank goodness for those twenty odd years of parenting skills including the ability to tune out or it may have become ugly.

Daniel Craig will eventually end up at the Op Shop and as I’m told I need to be aware of the back story will rewatch his previous efforts over coming weeks. Homework: who would have guessed.

Rambo requires attention first. There’s more movies in the series to locate. Fingers crossed he can finally afford a decent hair cut.