ANZAC GIRLS by Peter Rees

In Primary School days, way back in the 60’s, one of the things that made the annual Anzac Day Ceremony so special was that you could wear your Cubs or Brownies uniform to school. My sister and her friends wore their white aprons with red capes and little hats bearing a Red Cross. My Annie Oakley outfit and cap guns were unacceptable.

Tragically, throughout my entire schooling, there was never any other mention of the magnificent work of the nursing services during either World War 1 or 2. Florence Nightingale was it.

I read Anzac Girls after watching the 2014 ABC Mini series of the same name, as well as attending a one act theatre production called The Girls in Grey, both of which were based on Peter Rees’ book.

Using diaries and letters, Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps and the wards, and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battle fronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and loves of these compassionate women to shine through and to enrich our experience.

This is a brilliant read. Forgetting about the courage, strength and humanity of these magnificent women amid all the expected carnage, there were some other factors that made this such a fascinating book.

Firstly, Rees cleverly wove other stories into the fabric of the Anzac Nurses which fleshed out Australian history and highlighting the time line and providing perspective. This included references to Banjo Paterson, poet and war correspondent, as well as C J Dennis, another poet who immortalised a “situation” regarding the AIF and brothels in Cairo in his poem , The Battle Of The Wazzir.

There was little recognition for these women at the time. Despite working in a theatre of war for over four years there was no financial assistance for housing, although soldiers were entitled. Some nurses had to work their passage home attending to soldier’s wives and children on board, and others had to depend on their families paying the passage home even though the British Government was paying the costs for transporting war brides. Woeful, absolutely woeful.


Lastly, and what I found particularly inspiring, is that many of these women went on to do magnificent things in civilian life regardless of the terrible things that they had endured. They were indeed trail blazers.

Best read for the year, and I will just add that I made a much better cowgirl than nurse.

There’s a Rose that grows in No Man’s Land,
And it’s wonderful to see.
Tho’ it’s sprayed with tears,
It will live for years
In my garden of memory.
It’s the one red rose
That the soldier knows,
It’s the work of the Master’s Hand;
In the War’s great curse stands the Red Cross Nurse,
She’s the rose of No Man’s Land.
(American song)

The Bulldog Track by Peter Phelps plus some

Another book launch at the local though I’m not attending this one. That’s a definate – no if’s nor buts. On a work day and I’m reluctant to take any days off until my final curtain call in coming weeks, plus I overdid it at the charity Bookfest last weekend. Take a peek….


Peter Phelps is an Australian actor who made his name in some truely dreadful Australian soapies back in the late 70’s. You know, the kind that gets lapped up. He has recently written a book about his grandfather, Tom Phelps, who seventy five years ago survived the other Kokoda Track, the Bulldog Track, in PNG.

Never heard of The Bulldog Track? Neither had I! Back in the 1940’s work was scarce in Australia and many of those men who were too old to go to war, found work in the goldfields of New Guinea. Of course, no one was expecting the war to come to the Pacific, but it did, and the Japanese took the northern cities of New Guinea.


As word of the invasion and the atrocities being committed spread, Tom and his fellow workers, men of differing nationalities, trades and professions, were caught in the middle of it all. After the airfield was bombed, the Australian military told them to get out via the ‘other’ Kokoda Track. They set off through the jungle into the unknown.

The Bulldog Track is some one hundred kilometres due west of the famous Kokoda Track and crosses some of the most rugged and isolated terrain in the world, combining hot humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and endemic tropical diseases such as malaria. Bulldog Track was longer, higher, steeper, wetter, colder and rougher than Kokoda Track.

Peter Phelps shares the story of Tom’s escape via foot, canoe, raft, schooner and rat cunning which were documented on Tom’s pith helmet in indelible ink that he wore during the duration.

Phelps Junior as a young man was in an Australian movie which made a huge impression – and yes, partly because of his poor acting. The Lighthorsemen is a 1987 film about the men of a World War I light horse unit involved in Sinai and Palestine Campaign’s 1917 Battle of Beersheeba. The film is based on a true story in which 800 young Aussie horsemen obey the order to gallop their horses across three miles ( that’s longer than the Melbourne Cup!) of open desert into shell fire and machine gun fire. Of course they succeed. There wouldn’t be a movie otherwise. They break through Turkish defences to win the wells of Beersheba.


In all this blood, guts and way too much mangled equine flesh to mention Phelps has a romance with an Aussie nurse, who was played by Our Sigrid, who was the belle of the ball before Our Nic. Talk about stuffing up a good yarn.

So, no, I won’t attend the lunch, though I’ll probably order a copy of the book.

The Bookshop – Movie Review

The movie, The Bookshop, was released in Australia only last week and sounded like a worthy view with its promise of quaint English seaside scenery. Sadly, even the scenery lands flat.

Florence Green, played by Emily Mortimer, is a widow who lost her husband during World War 2. They met in a Bookshop and her memories of their relationship are highlighted by out of focus shots with Vaseline smeared on the camera lens. Sixteen years later Florence is fed up just reading books, and decides to follow her dream of selling them.

She buys a derelict old building which has been sitting vacant for seven years on High Street which she makes her home and in which she sets up business as a Bookshop.

This does not go down well with the local doyen of society, Violet Gamart ( Patricia Clarkson), who envisaged this building as an Arts Centre, though not whilst it was empty, apparently.

Violet holds all the power within the community, and thus the other businesses follow her lead and are keen to see the Bookshop fail. 


Florence’s only real friend is Bill Nighy, playing Bill Nighy with a total lack of humour, as the recluse, Brundish, and they share a common interest in their love of books. When Lolita is published Florence lends Brundish a copy of the book for his opinion on whether Lolita will sell well in this conservative ‘50s hamlet (read: backwater where no one reads). This is all a bit creepy as Bill Nighy is no spring chicken, and a later scene has hints of a “moment” in spite of a 30 to 40 year age difference.

Honor Kneafsey plays Christine, the young girl who assists Florence in the shop after school. She is worth watching, though there are clues as to the outcome of the storyline midway through the movie thanks to the Director being so heavy handed.

The soundtrack to this movie is unsettling. It has a distinctly European flavour, and in no way harbours any nostalgia for 1950’s England. ( I believe the production company were a combination of English, German and Spanish influences, and it shows).


The protagonist bored me witless as I felt no emotional warmth and I felt like reaching into the screen, grabbing her by the shoulders and calling her a useless sap. The other characters were mostly stereotypes with Clarkson obviously on a sugar high for most of the proceedings and overacting throughout the entire proceedings. Her every movement was exaggerated and if I had a blowtorch I would have felt compelled to use it.

I came out of the cinema with more questions than answers. That can be a good thing in that it means it has maintained the attention. Or perhaps I am just grasping for straws….

Based on the book by the same name, and written by Penelope Fitzgerald in the ‘70’s, my favourite review reads:

The Bookshop ends up as a fine advertisement for its namesake. Buy the book and stay home.

– Graeme Tuckett, New Zealand

My Next Book Collection – “Bony”.

After my fascination with the Tarzan series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, I gained an interest in books by Arthur Upfield.

Arthur William Upfield (1 September 1890 – 12 February 1964) was an English born Australian writer of detective fiction.

Following his war service in World War 1 Upfield travelled extensively throughout outback Australia, obtaining a knowledge of Australian Aboriginal culture that he would later use in his written works. He is best known for the series of twenty nine books featuring Detective Inspector Napoleon “Bony” Bonaparte of the Queensland Police Force. Bony is of mixed parentage, with an English father and an Aboriginal mother.

My interest was piqued by an Australian television series from the early 1970’s based on the Bony series of books and starring James Laurenson. Laurenson, a New Zealander in fact, was indeed my reason to finish all homework in record time on a Tuesday evening. Tall and dark, my tastes were nothing but consistent.

Interestingly,  the money guys had to change the spelling to make the title easier to pronounce for the mums and dads at home.  Which just goes to show that having money does not equate to having brains…..


Being a born and bred city lass I was fascinated by the outback scenery on the tv. Vast open spaces, red dirt, the scrub, big blue skies, the strength of the people who managed to survive and thrive in such remote and brutal landscapes: it was all new to me and I was captivated. Not so impressed by the flies nor snakes, this was the birth of my next book collection. I must have kept Angus and Robertson in business in the late 60s with all those Gift Certificates!

Bony maintained my interest for several years, not because of any interest in crime or mystery, but because Upfield included much Aboriginal lore into his novels. As a primary school student my introduction to our indigenous peoples was limited to what we learned from social history books, which was minimal and totally unflattering. Sadly, I don’t think as a nation that view has changed much, though I was schooled never to discuss politics, religion, or sex at the table.


I’ve just reread the sixth book in the series, The Bone Is Pointed, some forty years after my first effort. Bony, university educated, comes across as arrogant, and a tad pompous, and his language stilted and far more English that Australian. All these years later I still enjoyed his Aboriginal tracking skills and the way he reads the lay of the land, as well as the spirituality of our first people.

For example :
The ceremony of bone pointing is a common ritual for bringing sickness among the [Australian] Arunta. The pointing bone or pointing stick is usually about nine inches in length, pointed at one end, and tipped with a lump of resin at the other. The stick is endowed with magical power by being ‘sung over,’ that is, curses are muttered over it, such as ‘may your heart be rent asunder’ and ‘may your head and throat be split open.’ On the evening of the day on which the bone has been ‘sung’ the wizard creeps stealthily in the shadows until he can see the victim’s face clearly by the firelight. He then points the bone in the victim’s direction and utters in a low tone the curses with which the stick was endowed earlier in the day. The victim is supposed to sicken and die within a month at the most. Two men may cooperate in the pointing operation. Spears may also be endowed with magic by ‘singing’ over them. A person who knows that he has been injured, even slightly, with a spear thus prepared will be likely to waste away through fear unless counter magic can be brought to his aid.
–from “Primitive Theories of Disease” by Spencer L. Rogers in Ciba Symposia (April 1942)

Unfortunately, I think Upfield’s books are very much dated with political correctness  madness having taken over our world, but I remember them fondly as a snapshot of an earlier Australia, when rabbits out numbered people, and our forefathers lived off the land.

I guess the really big questions have to be asked : why the heck did I marry (and divorce) a blond?


And who wears a white shirt in the Australian outback?

Answer: someone who has never washed or ironed in their life!


Australian Author Challenge : The Chooks by Sandy Clark.

True Story

Prior to attending the local charity book sale last Saturday we stopped for breakfast at a nearby Cafe. Normally I’m quite content with Smashed Avo to start the day but as it had been a challenging week I required a caffeine and cholestol fix (bacon and eggs), and not necessarily in that order.

It was whilst breakfasting that I spotted an interesting little retail outlet just down from where were seated, and being curious by nature (Read: A Stickybeak), there was a need to investigate.

Sandy Clark is an artist and designer and along with husband, Mike, run a new and upcycled furniture and decor outlet in my neighbourhood, called DaisyLane. Sandy is also an author having recently published and illustrated a children’s book with the title, “ The Chooks”.

“ The Chooks” is cheerful and colourful and just perfect for younger children. The illustrations are simple, and easily identifiable, as each member of the Chook family wears a recognisable outfit.

We follow the Chook Family on a day out.


Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But children’s books are so very hard to write having to succinctly tell a story which maintains interest within twenty pages or less.

The thing I really enjoyed about the Chook family is that it is set in my local area and mentions an iconic destination within the district. This, I think is fun for local kiddies, and makes the book a great gift for interstate grandchildren.


This book represents the author in her element, as she has designed a collection of kid’s tees bearing individual members of the Chook family to match, as well as framed prints for bedrooms, as well as stationary. How cool is this!


The book is in both hardcover and softcover  versions and is available direct ( refer or by ebook on Amazon. Another book in the series is coming soon.

I know a young lad in Tasmania who is getting a book with matching tee shirt from Santa……..

Let’s hear it for another Indie Author – YAY!





Australian Author Challenge : The Rook by Daniel O’Malley.

True Story:

When visiting my daughter in Canberra recently she handed me a book to read for the plane trip home. She had been out for afternoon drinks with friends during my stay, one of whom was burgeoning Australian author, Dan O’Malley.

My daughter did warn me that young Mr O’Malley was a Star Wars nerd which, quite frankly, put the fear of God into me. You see, one of my proudest achievements is never having watched a Star Wars movie. It’s right up there with never having owned any Tupperware.

One of the reviews I read for The Rook stated ,”Part Bourne Identity, part X-Men and with a hefty dose of Monty Python.” I do not have the words to describe my anxiety levels.


Daniel O’Malley graduated with a Masters degree in medieval history from Ohio State University. He then returned to his childhood home, Australia. His first novel, The Rook, was released in 2012 and was a winner of the 2012 Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

The Rook” is basically the story of two Myfanwy Thomases. The first one we never officially meet: she exists by way of a suitcase full of letters that she writes to the second Myfanwy throughout the course of the novel. She was working as a bureaucrat in a highly secret organisation, known as The Checquy Group, before her “demise” and has stumbled upon some information indicating there are traitors within this organisation which specialises in paranormal intelligence.

The second Myfawny wakes up with two black eyes and her memory scrubbed, finding letters in her pockets, which lead to her stepping into the job role as Rook at Chequay.

Some of her work colleagues are unsettling at the best. One is a vampire, another is one person with four separate bodies, and yet another looks into your dreams. Myfawney steps up in her position to resolve issues with slime, mould, and skinless bodies, and to oust the traitors within. It’s that kind of book.

To be honest I struggled with the first few chapters. Totally out of my comfort zone. It didn’t take long to get into the rhythm, however, which was aided by some humour along the way. The banter between our heroine and Shantay lightened the storyline as did the relationship with Ingrid, and conversations with the naked Belgian. Hell, I even got a kick out of the insults traded with Fish Tank boy !

It’s a fast paced book which tells a good story. It may be a tad different, particularly to me, though it is definately entertaining. I hope the daughter lends me the sequel : Stiletto.

Who said you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks, hey…..



Updates Only.

News in from the Uniting Church’s Hands Up monthly newsletter states : “January saw the Brisbane Bookfest and what a whopper it was! Over $1.459 million raised to support our 24 hour Lifeline Crisis Support line which was over $200k above the target!”

That’s a lot of preloved books, comics, magazines and CDs sold for charity. And here’s the rub – Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city. What must the figures be like in Sydney and Melbourne? And who said it was the time of electronic reading devices?

We do it all again mid year. I’m already squirrelling my gold coins away!


The Little Street Library Project which I instigated will be fully functioning by late March. After spotting one of these mini constructions whilst holidaying I initiated the building of something similar on my own front lawn, only to realise that in a cul de sac there would be minimal traffic to take advantage of the facility.


So I took the concept to my local Councillor who ran with the idea of erecting a mini library in the local parkland. Construction has been completed by the local Men’s Shed as a community project using steel for anti vandalism purposes. The Councillor has arranged for the locking and unlocking of the Little Street Library to be part of the daily tasks of the cleaner, employed by Council, when he attends to his duties each morning and night. So that’s kicking Vandalism’s butt also.


So why the delay? In an attempt to beautify the area in which the Little Street Library will be installed, and because the surrounding area is native bushland that abounds with wildlife, the Councillor has organised a bushland mural which will soften the look of the building to which the facility will be attached, adding to the total ambience – touch wood.

This is the pattern of the mural:


The books are ready for inclusion, thanks to friends for donations, especially the magazines and children’s books. I’m wondering if I should add a couple of small family board games…….


I also have a box of pre loved DVDs and CDs , all very playable, though have concerns about possible claims of damage to electronics. I’m told a couple of blokey sports books would also be appreciated. Yeah, like I have anything of that genre laying around…….

The LOML is donating a couple of books festooned with Dragons, and is adamant that the collection include a book covering chakras/meridians/astrological influences. Because the local Leaf Blowing Brigade will just love that!

Any additions required, you think?


Pacific, by Judy Nunn. My most expensive book purchase…..ever!

I’ve been back at work now a total of five weeks. Why does it feel like five months? Breaking it down further, and taking into consideration my reduced hours, that’s a total of only fifteen days. And I’m already feeling the need for a break.

My two hours a day spent in transit to and from my work place is prime reading time – usually when I consume my share of “light and fluffy”. With the current workload the light and fluffies are a treat. How tragic is this?

I recently picked up from a charity sale a book by Australian author, Judy Nunn. Nunn is a prolific writer, though as she had starred in an Australian television soapie in a previous life, I had been avoiding her books like the plague. Pacific had a nice cover, was in excellent nick, and I was feeling mellow. Blame the hot weather……


It was wonderful to be totally surprised. What an entertaining read. Doesn’t it just throw you when your preconceived ideas are completely off the mark?

Samantha is an Australian actress (who started out in soapies), who succeeds on the stage at West End, and follows on in a role as leading lady in an American blockbuster to be filmed in Vanuatu, an island in the Pacific Ocean.

The film, “Torpedo Junction”, is based in Vanuatu during WW2 and is the story of Samantha’s character, Jane Thackeray, the wife of a missionary who becomes much loved by the locals for her own humanitarian deeds, and is known as Mama Tack by all.

It was only having read Pacific that I learned that after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during WW2, the island was used by Allied forces as a military supply and support base, naval harbor, and airfield. This later contributed to the island’s diving tourism, as the United States dumped most of their equipment and refuse at what is now known as ‘Million Dollar Point’.


I spent a week in Vanuatu back in the early 1980’s. It was the first time I had visited a country outside of Australia that was different to my norm. Locals bathed under waterfalls, travelled to work by canoe, and the dead were on platforms high in the trees, covered by vegetation. The landscape was beautiful with its lush greenery and golden beaches, and its giant Coconut Crabs scared the hell out of me but we’re fine eating. I was very young and madly in love at the time. The Ni Vanuatu’s had only just grasped power of their country from the French and I had a penchant for swimming on top of the water, not under.

Anyway, Mama Tack has a fling with an American gent in uniform, which is all very honourable. He returns stateside and the novel follows through to the years of Vanuatu’s independence, with Mama Tack continuously aiding her beloved natives. Her story entwines with Samantha’s in real life, and is an enjoyable read that could easily be turned into a movie. One of those old fashioned movies of course, the ones that depend on clever conversation, without any special effects, and definately no car chases! (Won’t happen, will it?)

Unable to face another five weeks of work without the prospect of a decent break my youngest daughter has agreed to accompany me on a short holiday to Vanuatu. Can you believe that the time it takes  me to get from A to B is less than two days travel for me to work and back?*Shaking head.

So my bargain book purchase from a Charity Store has proved rather an expensive exercise.

I’m looking forward to showing my child the place where her mother learnt how to concoct a damn fine Champagne and Brandy Cocktail, as well as visiting Santos where there is still much evidence of habitation by the Americans, apparently.


Australian Author Challenge – 2018

For the third year running I have decided to participate in the Australian Author Challenge. This exercise is not about pushing myself to increase the number of books I read, but rather, to focus on writing by Australian Authors.

This Challenge has made me select books from genres I would generally not have considered reading – such as dystopian and YA – as well realise that I had a tendency to read books written by males. These days, thanks to this Challenge, Hannah Kent and Helen Garner are two Australian Authors from whom I am anxiously awaiting their next effort.

Sure, I have always been aware of the books on the Best Seller lists, and for many years these were the books I either purchased, borrowed or was gifted. Mostly, these have been overseas Authors. At this stage of the game I’m neither led by trends, what’s in fashion, nor what’s selling well, and that refers to life in general, not just the books with whom I choose to share a bedroom or a handbag.

These days there is a whole other market out there with the growth of self publishing and independent authors and bookstores.  From these avenues I have been fortunate to read some wonderful stories from varied genres including historical military fiction, travelogues, personal memoirs, and Second World War diaries. They may not have garnered the same publicity, nor made a Best Seller List, and they are never going to be transformed into a Hollywood Blockbuster, but they have been worthwhile and entertaining reads nonetheless. For the 2018 Australian Author Challenge I hope to explore more books from both these areas.


The Aussie Author Challenge 2018, is now in it’s 9th year and is hosted by Booklover Book Reviews at:
“Whether you are a patriotic Australian, an aspiring or armchair tourist or simply an international reader wanting to discover some talented new authors and interact with like-minded readers, the Aussie Author Challenge could be for you!”

I have signed up for Kangaroo Level, which means my Challenge is to :

Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 4 of those authors are female, at least 4 of those authors are male, and at least 4 of those authors are new to you; Fiction or non-fiction, at least 3 genre.

There are also Challenge levels requiring less reading. It would be great if some of the blogging community could also pick up an Aussie book or two. I’de love to hear your thoughts.

Off to the Library tomorrow. Is it odd to be excited?

Legends Of The Fall by Jim Harrison

Yes, agreed, have been reading books and watching far too many DVDs. In my defence, Brisbane’s humidity has been simply woeful with the hottest ever Christmas Day on record, and the temperatures haven’t decreased by much yet. Plus, we are still living on leftovers, including my other Epic Christmas Fail : Cous Cous with Pumpkin(home grown) in Nutmeg, with Bok Choy and Feta Cheese. I enjoyed this dish, but not for seven days in a row.


Look what I picked up for $1 at the local charity shop? This book is actually made up of three novellas, the last being Legends of the Fall, which is only 81 pages in length.


Have we all seen the 1990’s movie, starring a young Brad Pitt (before he was tainted by train wreck relationships), and Anthony Hopkins in one of his best ever roles? Legends of the Fall is another of those movies I tend to watch once a year : great story, beautiful scenery, Native Indian folklore, and a good dash of whimsy.

The novella, by James Harrison, published twenty years beforehand, is about three brothers and their father living in the wilderness and plains of Montana in the early 20th century and how their lives are affected by nature, history, war and love. The books time frame spans from World War I through to the Prohibition era, with an epilogue that dates to the next generation.

The writing is concise, breathtakingly beautiful whilst at times being totally brutal. It’s a wonderful story, and one from which the movie has not deviated from all that much, but rather expanded upon.

My copy of the book looks as if it’s been through the wars. Nevertheless, it’s one that I will not be parting with.

And I promise to brush my hair tomorrow and leave the house and sofa, even if it’s before 8 am to beat this wretched heat.