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.

Dreamtime Journey Coach At Drayton, S E Qld.

I’m a little concerned that my last post about the Miles Franklin Award winning book, Too Much Lip, may have provided too many negative connotations about our First Australians.

So I thought I’de even the score by sharing a positive Indigenous experience from my recent road trip.

DownsSteam Tourist Railway & Museum is located at Drayton, an outer southwestern suburb of Toowoomba, South East Queensland, which makes it a perfect day trip to escape from the Big Smoke.

Toowoomba is on the crest of the Great Dividing Range, around 700 metres (2,300 ft) above sea level. This makes it substantially cooler, or less humid, than Brisbane with defined seasonal changes. Thus, the annual Carnival of Flowers to which those on the coastal fringe have been flocking each September to view the beautiful gardens for the past 70 years.

Operated by the Darling Downs Historical Railway Society and staffed wholly by volunteers, DownsStream Tourist Railway and Museum is dedicated to the establishment and preservation of a tourist railway for the Darling Downs region.

And the big bonus? You don’t have to be a train buff to enjoy this environment – it’s got this really pleasant vibe…..

The gardens are beautiful, you can enjoy a coffee on the station, and view the restoration of Toowooomba’s very own steam locomotive the “Pride of Toowoomba” which was built locally in 1915. After a little more than a century and well over a million miles steaming her way around Queensland, this once proud steam engine is now the only one of her class not to be scrapped. She is being restored to fully operational condition by volunteer craftsmen for mainline tours across the Darling Downs. (Keep an eye open for updates : there’s plans for train travel to the Granite Belt for wine tasting).

You can even enjoy a light lunch in one of the rail carriages!

The highlight of my visit was a tour of the Dreamtime Journey Coach which is a fascinating insight into Indigenous culture.

To acknowledge the contribution made by the indigenous workers to the construction of the railway up the range, an indigenous inmate from the Westbrook Correctional Centre volunteered to paint one of our carriages as part of his prison rehabilitation program.

Inmate “Domi” commenced painting the carriage in 2012, taking 19 weeks to complete his awe-inspiring, unique Indigenous Art Gallery on wheels (static exhibit).

The coach depicts the Aboriginal theme based on ‘Baiami’ who created the earth and all the wonderful landscape, mountains, lakes, rivers, billabongs, oceans and islands.

Experiencing our ‘Dreamtime Journey Coach’ is to take a spiritual journey from dawn to dusk. Domi’s paintings represent the traverse of a day, starting from the entrance with the orange and yellow colours of the dawn, then in the middle of the carriage the bright colours of the day and the other end of the carriage with the pink and purple colours of the dusk.

                – from website http://www.downstream.com

The twenty minute tour of this carriage, which included an explanation of characters, symbolism and meaning, tells a truly interesting and colourful story. Add to MUST DO LIST.

Located at 16 Cambooya Street, Drayton

Note : No, I do not collect tea towels. Not even good at using them.

Mount Tamborine and a Life Lesson

I’ve just spent three nights catching up with friends in a beautiful house on a mountainside looking across to the Gold Coast. Any holiday rental home with its own wine rack, three fully laden book cases, and that comes with eight kookaburras is okay with me.

Mount Tamborine is only an hour south of Brisbane and 40 minutes to the west of the coast but it’s a whole different world: rainforests, waterfalls, crisp mountain air and natural beauty. Sometimes I wonder why we hanker to travel overseas when we have so many glorious spots on our own doorstop worth investigating.

Like many locals I generally day trip to the mountain. A scenic drive, fresh produce from stalls in front gardens, a Devonshire Tea in front of a log fire in winter, and a wander down Gallery Walk with its seventy specialty shops. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid tour buses on the main drag.

With a base on the mountain for a few days there is so much more to see and do. Add these to your MUST DO List:

Bush walk any of the designated tracks through any of the National Parks. Go early in the morning to see Paddymelons ( little wallabies)and keep an eye out for the elusive Lyre Birds. Note: sturdy shoes are a must. There are creek crossings required where you have to choose between walking a fallen log or stepping on mossy rocks. You just know I get a wet bum either way…..

Botanical Gardens are not just for Old People! Spectacular when you come from a part of the world that only has two seasons -warm or hot and slimy.

Under The Greenwood Tree is an independent bookstore and art gallery with not enough space to swing a cat. Chock a block with the most eclectic collection of reading material I’ve ever seen, I made a start on my Christmas shopping.

There are also four wineries, two distilleries and a cheese factory. Wick-Ed!

Sky House at Eagle Heights was a great spot to share with friends. We took a couple of meals up and shared our day over the local Witches Falls Syrah, and one evening dined on local produce.

Good times. Great friends. Salute.

LIFE LESSON: Never forget to look for the beauty in your own backyard.

Of all of the Gin Joints she walked into mine…..

Every time I visit Canberra, our Australian Bush Capitol, I discover something different to tease my senses. I was not disappointed on my latest trip with an afternoon sitting in the sun at Tipsy Bull, a Gin Joint in trendy Lonsdale Street.

With over 230 different Gins available for tasting, as well as a selection of other drinks, this is a great spot for a catch up with friends.

What is it that makes the Tipsy Bull different to other bars?

As well as the friendly and knowledgable staff the De-Constructed Gin Journey is an experience in its own right.

Every Gin on the menu has its own story. I selected the Australian Green Ant Gin produced by the Something Wild Beverage Company. Green Ants are renowned Bush Tucker and our Indigenous hand harvest these ants for their medicinal qualities, protein and citrus flavour from the Northern Territory.

The floaters are Green Ants

Your selected Gin is then delivered on a paddle where you are advised to slowly savour the flavours before adding a selection of botanicals. Mine included lime, lemon, rosemary and juniper berries which you add to enhance the flavour according to taste before adding tonic water and ice.

It’s rather like making an Aromatherapy Perfume: it’s a slow process which is all about finding the right balance of taste and fragrance to meet your own requirements.

One of my companions selected a Coffee/Chocolate flavoured Gin with a Graveyard connection. (Yes, you read that right.) The other went for a flowery Spanish flavoured Gin with a hint of Ginger which was much enjoyed.

As Humphrey Bogart said in the movie, Casablanca , “Of all of the Gin Joints in all of the Towns in all of the World and she walks into mine.” Folks, I certainly intend to walk into the Tipsy Bull more often.

Does this make me an old soak? Not on your life! The process of getting your Gin to meet the requirements of your palate is a slow one. I sat on the one drink for two hours – with a nibble and lots of laughs in between of course.

Tipsy Bull is located at 2/5 Lonsdale Street, Braddon.

Add to MUST DO LIST when next in the ‘Berra.