I Slept Next To Keith Urban

Shhhhh. Girlie Secret. I’ve got this thing for Keith Urban. Yes, the country singer from Oz who married Our Nic after that fiasco with Toy Man.

Keith is really, really cute. Like a kewpie doll on a stick that you used to be able to purchase from the Easter Show. Do you remember those? I never had a doll on a stick of course. Far too whimsical. My parents usually bought me the Nock and Kirby (Hardware) Sample Bag, and my sister the Shelleys Glue Sample Bag. That was back in the day when Show Bags were Sample Bags and contained exactly what the name suggests – samples.

So for the past three years my treat to myself for the new year has been to see Keith perform live at the Barn. Or as some call it, the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. My friend Tash and I make a night of it with dinner and drinks and then fantasise about taking Keith home with us. Separately. Not together. No wrong ideas, please. This really is a positive way to commence the new year..

Keith and Our Nic bring the cherubs home to Sydney for Christmas with the fam, head back to Nashville for New Years Concerts, and then return to the farm on the Southern Highlands of NSW for rest and recuperation. Of course, our definition of farm may differ slightly but that’s okay……

Being interstate this year meant I missed young Keith Urban. I have to admit I’m impressed by a self made man who wagged Maths classes for two years.

But did I miss him?

Let me tell you about the night I slept next to Keith Urban.

Driving home along the New England Highway in the middle of summer and school holidays can be tiresome. I wish I could wiggle my nose like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched and just “go” places.

We’d been on the road most of the day and it was nearing Wine O’Clock, so agreed to find a motel in the next town. Tamworth. Home of The Golden Guitar. Personally, not a big fan but the drive had been hard going. Ten klicks out the billboards are welcoming us to the Tamworth Country Music Festival. A big festival of ten days duration and starting that very day.

Holy Guacamole. CMF is Big Business and we know the town will be full of
Utes with bull bars, grey nomads, campers, line dancers, and God help me, yodellers. So we pull over at the first vacancy we come across : a newly constructed Conference and Wedding Reception set up. Suits me fine. No self respecting yodeller would be seen dead in a place so refined.

A good meal, local plonk, and we crash for the night thinking it odd that the car park is virtually vacant.

Up with the sparrows next morning and readying to exit a sexy little silver car drives in to the car park next to ours. Sorry, no further details about the vehicle. Cars are not my thing. But it is sleek, is silver, and is sexy.

Who sneaks in to a motel at 6am in the morning, I have to ask?

A country entertainer who has to perform that very night, that’s who.

And that’s my “ I Slept Next To Keith Urban” Story.

Don’t make me change it to a Chad Morgan (The Shiek from Scrubby Creek) Story, okay.

Mary Poppins and How I Mastered Vegetarian Lasagne

Confession

Not going to beat around the bush; simply putting it out there. Points for bravery, please.

I’m not into Dame Julie Andrews. Never have been. Sacrilege, I know.

The Sound of Music, released in 1965, marked my first ever visit to the cinema as a birthday treat with my cousins and I do remember being on the receiving end of a light slap for singing along with Maria…….as one does. Repeated numerous times on the television over the years I’ve never been able to stay awake till the end. That was until recently when my youngest daughter and I spent an evening with a couple of red wines under the belt and in the company of 4000 other folk at a showing of Sing-Along Sound of Music. Which, tragically, we did.

Mary Poppins was another Dame Julie effort and one I also battled to finish. All that dancing on the rooftops and all that soot made me feel nauseous, though I recently bought a carpetbag just like Mary’s. In hindsight, I don’t think Walt Disney meant that particular  portmanteau as a fashion statement.

I did enjoy the movie Saving Mr Banks, starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, a couple of years ago. It was allegedly based on Walt Disney’s efforts to obtain the filming rights of Mary Poppins from the author , P J Travers, the nom de plume of Helen Goff.

Helen Goff, was born on 9 August 1899 in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia. Her mother, Margaret, was Australian and the sister of Boyd Dunlop Morehead, Premier of Queensland in the late 1890’s. Her British father, Travers  Goff, was unsuccessful as a bank manager due to his alcoholism, and was eventually demoted to the position of bank clerk. The family lived in a large home with servants in Maryborough until Helen was five years old, when they relocated to Allora in 1905. Two years later, Travers Goff died at home at the age of 43.

Maryborough has many monuments  and walking trails to honour Travers amongst its rich history so during a country drive west of Brisbane a few years ago I went on the search for the Goff family home in Allora.

Except I neglected to pack any information, relying solely on memory from readings for directions. Big mistake. And no, not an age thing, but rather a Gemini thing. I ended up at Aratula in the Scenic Rim in the middle of their Annual Carrot Festival. Aratula sounds like Allora, right? Came home with a bag containing 20 kilos of carrots.

So when I was asked if I was interested in seeing the newly released Mary Poppins Returns, the answer was  a resounding “no”.

Another Country Town With A Story and a Film Festival: Dungog

Who knew?

Dungog, on the Williams River in the higher Hunter Region is a dairy farming area with many fine colonial buildings still in existence. There are also many thickly timbered areas particularly around the picturesque Barrington Tops. Back in the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s the Brushbox was milled and laminated for the floors and wood panelling of Sydney’s iconic Opera House.

Coolarlie 1895

There is a palpable creative vibe to Dungog with its artisan co-operatives along the Main Street and quirky antique stores.

The James Theatre, the oldest purpose-built cinema still operating in Australia , started its life as an open air theatre in 1912 – how I loved the old open air on the NSW South Coast as a kid! – and now also hosts live performances, dance and film classes.

I was gobsmacked to learn that in 2007 Dungog held its first annual three day Australian Film Festival to foster Aussie films and talent. I only stumbled across this information by asking about the Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett Boulevard signs located at the Tourist Information Centre. Created specifically for the first Festival, all the other signs went “walkabout”, as they would. Why have I never heard anything about this Event ?

Typical wide streets of our country towns

This Festival morphed and expanded into the Dungog Festival five years later and continues to grow with interest from both locals and visitors alike. The dates for the 2019 event are Friday, 4th October till Monday, 7th October.

The blurb goes:

The festival will burst with the sights sounds and experiences of Arts, Activity, Food, Music and Fun in the pristine rural setting of Dungog. More than ever this year the Festival has events to suit all budgets including the addition of the free Sunday Street Party.

They are creating a dynamic program that will engage both the Dungog community and visitors from further afield. Key events such as the ‘Long Table Dinner’, ‘Gala Street Parade’, ‘James Theatre’, Sculpture on the Farm’, ‘Wallarobba Hall Oktoberfest’, ‘Garden Ramble’ ‘Long Lazy Lunch’ and much more are all certain to draw crowds.

Buskers, bands, solo artists and everything in between will create a vibrant atmosphere on the streets of Dungog, where just a few steps away the historic James Theatre will host a film program Dungog’s fresh approach to the moving image will deliver some truly retro and innovative cinematic experiences that venture outside the cinema walls, giving visitors new ways to engage with film around the town.

For more information: http://www.dungogfestival.com.au”.

I love supporting our country towns with these endeavours and will most certainly put my hand up for dog sitting duties that weekend. Without the dog.

TRIVIA : Just outside of Dungog is a little settlement called Gresford. Lots of beautiful rolling hills, it is the location of a property by the name of Torryburn. This was Dorathea Mackellar’s family home from 1898 onwards and where she wrote, as a teenager, the iconic poem, “My Country”.

From Wikipeadia. Traditionally starts at Verse 2. “ I love a sunburnt country”.

Country towns. Love ‘em.

Kurri Kurri, a Country Town With Heart, and a Great Book

The Hunter Valley, with its wineries, eateries, galleries and boutique accomodation, is a Mecca for tourists, and cashed up ones at that. On the fringe is Kurri Kurri, a township with few remnants of the architecture dating back to the early 1900s indicating that this place once enjoyed a mining boom. In the 1990’s all but one of the coal pits was closed and 11,000 people lost their jobs. 

All these years later this little country town is still doing it tough. The Workers Club has been boarded up, and charity stores outnumber other retail outlets.

We loved walking around the town centre and chatted to a few locals at the Cafe. I also ducked in for a quick haircut where a delightful lass shared local knowledge about places of interest.

(Personal Message for Cat Balou, daughter of mine : – Confirmed that there were NO grey hairs. From a professional, sweetheart. Take that!)

Which reminded me of a recent read : Janesville, An American Story by Amy Goldstein, which details the impact that the closure of a car manufacturing plant in Wisconsin at the beginning of the recession in 2008 had on an entire community. Goldstein is a staff writer on social policy for the Washington Post and shared a win in the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

This non fiction effort covers a period of five years which is fascinating in that the author follows characters from how they coped initially with their dismissal from their jobs and where they are down the track. It covers all that you would suspect, including homelessness, suicide, family breakdowns, loss of self esteem etc. It showed how the loss of one industry impacted on other industries and how the entire community was effected economically and socially.

On the positive it explains how some workers on the assembly line were able to set themselves up through study to become successful professionals, as well as how the community worked together to assist each other . “Barb believes that Lear’s closing was the best thing that could have happened. It’s closing taught her that she was a survivor. It taught her that work exists that is worth doing, not for the wages, because you feel good doing it”.

Although the American politics and mechanations went way over my head it was interesting to read that government funding into retraining programs did not have the successful outcomes anticipated.

The coffee is great in Kurri Kurri which labels itself  “A Country Town With Heart”,  and is worth a visit if travelling around the Hunter. It also has the largest number of murals on the mainland.

Let’s inject a few bob into our country towns this year, and hey, we might even learn something of our history, our heritage, along the way. And take it from an old girl: one five star marble bathroom looks the same as the next.

TRIVIA : – Kurri Kurri has produced the largest number of first grade Rugby League players in :

Andrew Johns

John Sattler

Paul Harragan

Eddie Lumsden

Mark Hughes

It’s All About The Journey.

Home after a week pottering around the beautiful small townships of the New South Wales, South Coast Region. This trip, despite its short length, was a celebration of the end of one phase of my life and for the beginning of the next. The goal was to purge some sad memories and to create some that were new and fresh. It is amazing how quickly those goals were achieved.

This part of the world is a continuous coastline on one side of the highway, and soft green hills or rugged timberland on the other. It’s a part of the world where you don’t have to share a beach and there is a plethora of space to stop and think. Space where there is no white noise. Any plans for an overseas jaunt in coming months are seriously being overhauled.

My favourite travel writer, Bill Bryson, who totally cracks me up said “ To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”

Road trips are the source of much fascinating information. After a quick feed at a pub in Nowra, I learnt that The Archer Tavern was named after the racehorse that won Australia’s first and second Melbourne Cups in 1861 and ‘62. Archer was a long distance specialist having walked the 600 miles from Nowra to Melbourne for the big race.

This was the basis of a truly dreadful mid eighties movie starring Our Nic before she met that bloke Cruise, and a young Brett Climo. Whatever happened to him, I wonder?

In Moruya, further south on the Moruya River, you can’t miss the recently closed Air Raid Tavern situated on the Highway. A wooden carving of The Airman stands proudly outside. Moruya ?Air Raids? The hallmarks of a failed education system in the 1970s were once again raising their ugly heads.

Three trawler men lost their lives during WW2 when a Japanese Midget submarine bombed them off the Moruya Coast, on their way up the East Coast. Who knew that? Some more unpalatable history, apparently.

So, of course I had to look at the Midget Sub on display, very much bruised and battered, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Fascinating stuff.

For the penultimate in Trivia a celebration of another kind taking place further south near Narooma had themed food to match the quiz like game at hand, set up in tents in a back garden, with a soft summer breeze, the hum of cicadas, and a playlist of music from the last five decades.

Much thanks must go to these good people, these Adventurers, who have convinced me to add “Watch Dr Who Christmas Special” to my Must Do List. An achievement considering never having watched a Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Lord Of The Rings movie  which I rate highly as Personal Bests, right up there with my No Tupperware Policy.

And I picked up a first Edition copy of Rudyard Kipling’s, Kim, for my Errol Flynn Collection from a second hand bookstore in a little country town that served the best coffee.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said , “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” So true.

Against All Flags and Burrill Lake

I’ve previously shared the movies that helped mould the person I am today: Reap The Wild Wind with John Wayne being crushed by a giant squid accounting for my fear of seaweed ( and love of calamari), and Elizabeth And Essex with Errol Flynn and Bette Davis which was my excuse for decapitating my sister’s Barbie dolls.

A road trip through the haunts of my childhood on the New South Wales South Coast has stirred many memories; some good, some bad, but none ugly. Nothing is ugly once you hit the beautiful beaches and forests of this region, except perhaps for real estate prices.

Coming from a family that enjoyed fishing, swimming, and body boarding in these same waters I was reminded of successful nights of prawning and catching Blue Swimmer Crabs in Burrill Lake, just south of Ulladulla. The Father Bear would wade knee deep in water holding a Tilly Lamp, guiding everybody else who would have a net ready to scoop any crabs attracted by the light. No need for any bait. That was me. I always attracted crabs.(Get your minds out of the gutter please). Nips from crabs were plentiful though I never complained as nothing ever did beat a fresh crab sandwich with a spray of pepper.

Catching up with a friend and neighbour of fifty plus years standing over these past days we sat and watched Against All Flags, a 1952 movie starring Errol Flynn and Maureen O’Hara, which reminded me of the time where I confronted my military father and refused to be used to attract Blue Swimmers. It was the summer of rebellion. I was 8 and I had just seen this movie for the first time.

Onboard a 1700s merchant ship, determined British naval officer Lieutenant Brian Hawke (Flynn) bravely endures twenty lashes with the intent of using the wounds to help him go undercover on the pirate island of Libertania. Once there, however, Hawke is brought before the colony’s head pirates, the Captains of the Coast, and forced to prove himself in a fight to the death. As he endures the various trials of a pirate, he finds himself drawn to the beautiful buccaneer Spitfire (O’Hara) and torn between her and his mission to disarm the renegade settlement. Co-starring Anthony Quinn, it’s a Technicolor epic filled with buxom maidens, breathtaking swordplay and dazzling spectacle. From IMDB.

For the purpose of this story you need to know that when the pirates realise that Errol is a spy they inflict an awful punishment.  They tie him to a pole on the tide line and await these butt ugly crabs to come out of the water to scavenge for food. Errol as a main course – delicious!

Off set Errol was injecting oranges with vodka in defiance of the No Drinking Rule, and was seven years off his early demise. I think he still looked damn fine, and when the mogul princess in the movie kept asking for “more”, as in kisses, I knew just where her head was at. 

It was an absolute treasure to rewatch this movie all these years later in colour and with a wonderful friend. Cath, I never knew you were such a movie buff, particularly one with such an eye for bloopers. ( Watch for Spitfire’s beauty spot changing cheeks).

I still have a fear of live crabs though am partial to a good crab salad with mango.

The South Coast, Errol Flynn and good friends. What a great start to retirement.