Bomber – As Mad As A Cut Snake

I always wanted a Mercedes Sports car. My father, a child of the Depression, always said that “nothing is handed to you on a plate, Girlie”. The only car he ever gave me was a Matchbox Toy. It was a Mercedes, however. My daughters had to buy their own cars too and both held down part time jobs throughout High School and Uni in order to do so.

My eldest, a slip of a thing, was a tea trolley girl at the Repatriation Hospital where she met some very interesting characters, including Tony Bower-Miles, a Vietnam Veteran. In the Australian vernacular, Bomber, as he is affectionately known, would be best described as rough as guts and as mad as a cut snake. He would also give you the shirt off his back. My daughter grew up surrounded by some hardened old men which meant big, burly Bomber with his beard and six earrings didn’t phase her one bit. In fact this scary looking bloke would assist my daughter to negotiate the wards full of men, mostly vets, many who were in not such good shape.

I’ve recently read Bomber : From Vietnam To Hell And Back. Co-written with Mark Whittaker, who provides the history, time fames and context, Bomber’s running commentary is full of colour, profanities and brothels.

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Bower-Miles is one interesting fella. He likes a cold beer on a hot day, is not fond of authority figures, and is as courageous as they come. In Vietnam, where Land mines, in particular US made M16 anti-personnel mines, were one of the major threats faced by Australian troops, much of Bomber’s work involved cleaning up their aftermath. They were often positioned by the enemy and later used to great effect against Australian troops.

“A quarter of all the 504 Australians killed in Vietnam were killed by mines and booby traps. And of those, 55 were killed by M16 mines which were almost all lifted from the Australian minefield.” 

( True story. There is a line in Redgum’s Song “Only Nineteen”, which goes : Frankie kicks a mine the day that mankind kicks the moon. Private Frank Hunt was seriously wounded on 21st of June, 1969, along with 18 others, with another killed, by an Australian land mine.)

Bomber’s commentary is raw, and in no way prettied up, and is both a fascinating and terrifying read. After Vietnam he was transferred to Singapore for a time, and nearing conflicts end, returned to Australia via Darwin, to assist with the cleanup after Cyclone Tracy, which absolutely decimated the northern city. This too gives a different perspective to what we know about this catastrophe – hearing it from someone on the ground assisting with the rebuilding.

His return to civilian life was not a happy one including a marriage breakdown, and Bomber spiralled downwards into a world fuelled by alcohol and violence, exascerbated by pain from injuries that occurred from having been thrown off tanks on several occasions by bomb blasts in Vietnam. Throughout this period he maintained his friendships with fellow veterans in a self styled support system.

And this is where the true measure of the man comes to light.

In 2001, Bomber returned to South East Asia, putting his minefield breaching and clearance skills to work in the task of locating and destroying some of the 4 to 6 million land mines that still contaminated Cambodia. This trip was self funded as were the others that he later took. 

On a shoestring budget, Bomber established the Vietnam Veterans’ Mine Clearing Team. The men were removing mines planted by Pol Pot about 30 years ago as part of his battle for power. The Vietnamese planted mines during their invasion of Cambodia, and some farmers even used the mines to stake their claims.

The problem is none of these are recorded on maps, and walking around Cambodia can be life threatening. It’s anticipated there are about 40-thousand amputees in  Cambodia as a result of land mines. In early 2008 the Vietnam Veterans Mine Clearing Team – Cambodia Inc was registered as an incorporated entity in Queensland. (IA:36313) and registered with the Australian Government Business Register . 

Now that Cambodian Self Help Demining has official status, they work within the rules and that means Bomber and his mates must confine themselves to fund-raising. Interestingly, each of the mine detectors purchased through fundraising for the de-mining operation has a plaque attached in honour of one of the Engineers killed during the war in Vietnam.

Yes, Josie, you are quite right. Bomber is a larrikin and unsung hero, and most certainly, as mad as a cut snake.

 

 

20th June, 1909

This time nine years ago I flew into Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. Now some of you may be shaking your heads in wonder that anyone would travel to Tassie in the heart of winter. Located 240 km to the south of the Australian mainland, and separated by Bass Strait, Tassie is simply beautiful with an abundance of magnificent scenery. It can also be wretchedly cold.

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But my trip nine years ago had nothing to do with tourism or recreation. You see, I was a girl on a mission.

This day, nine years ago, Hobart celebrated what would have been Errol Flynn’s 100th Birthday, being the township of his birth.(An aside : some would argue commiserate rather than celebrate as young Errol was a bit of a lad and upset many of the boring, old farts of Hobart. Tassie, being the Island that holds the six degrees of separation true is still home to many with a grudge).

Although Hobart couldn’t be any further away from Hollywood Errol’s daughter from his marriage to Nora Eddington, Rory Flynn, was in town to share the celebrations.

I won’t bore you with the details. I am sure that none of you would have been mesmerised by a pair of Flynn’s woollen swimming trunks being exhibited in the Hobart Museum, nor interested in the star laid in the footpath outside the local theatre. Okay, so I admit to being a tad eccentric……..

However, one of my favourite memories was an evening shared with my 23 year old daughter (proving that eccentricity must be genetic), watching a 1938 black and white movie on the big screen. Drinking champagne.

The Dawn Patrol is one of my favourite Flynn movies, which also starred Basil Rathbone and David Niven. Major Brand (Basil Rathbone), the commander of the 59th division of the British Royal Flying Corps in 1915 France, is frantic over the many casualties his squadron has suffered. When Captain Courtney (Errol Flynn) and his buddy Scott (David Niven) lose another of their best friends in a dangerous mission, Courtney lashes out at Brand, who hands Courtney the reins. Now in control, Captain Courtney soon sees things from Brand’s perspective as more good men are killed in the line of duty.

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Of course there is all the usual melodrama, and all the baffoonery expected between Errol and Niven, though for a movie with a message, a movie with a tragic ending, it was the simple joy of watching such an old flick together that gave us both much pleasure. And the champagne, of course.

So on 20th June, 2018, “here’s looking of you, kid”. Oops. Wrong movie.

Meet Boof

So, 2018 is proving to be the year that I singlehandedly seem to be keeping local Air Transport companies in business. More airline travel booked.

Off to the beautiful Tasmania for a wedding in Spring. Yes, it’s only a wedding and we don’t have to do it. However, I am a firm believer in spending the money to enjoy people’s company when they are alive. No enjoying company when you are dead, so I don’t do Funerals.

Flights next month to the beautiful, and very cold (when it’s not stinking hot), Hunter Valley, which is prime wine producing country. Hmmm, I wonder how I can help boost that little economy along?

This time I will be visiting my eldest daughter and the Grandfurbaby, Bentley.

Both my daughters are independent, resilient, and in their own ways, quietly changing their worlds one ripple at a time. This child of mine is married to a military boy, affectionately known as Boofhead.

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They have been together for some years now, though their careers have kept them apart these past eighteen months with both operating out of different parts of the country. Their commitment to each other means that they have managed to meet in neutral cities to enjoy the occasional long weekend together as well as holidays. To be honest, it has made me wonder how the generation to which my parents belonged managed living apart, sometimes for years, during WW2…….

This time, however, circumstances mean that there won’t be any stolen weekends for sometime. My daughter is fine : she uses these times when her fella is abroad to learn new skills such as speaking Spanish, dance lessons, and restoring distressed furniture. I am visiting her not because she is in anyway distraught, but because she does make a superb cocktail and plays a fine hand of Scrabble.

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With this venture overseas it is I who am sad, not so much the daughter. I worry that my ploy not to be that kind of mother in law – c’mon, you know exactly the kind I mean, the gushy, clingy type forever encroaching into their lives – means that Boof doesn’t realise how much a part of my family he really has become.

When he does visit I do manage to cook one of his favourite meals, Oysters Kilpatrick, and even though the house retains the odour for days, I know he enjoys my barbecued garlic prawns.

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Heck, at a recent bookfest I even found a battered copy of Major Richard Winters’ (from Easy Company) autobiography which I gifted to the lad. Surely that scored me some brownie points! Yeah, okay, so I read it first…..

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I have enjoyed spending a holiday weekend with him, playing board games around a cheese platter, with lots of laughter and a reasonable share of Bubbles.

And I still feel sad about his leaving. I hope that by walking his dog, and by spoiling his wife, I will be indeed honouring him in some small way.( And my daughter’s Grasshoppers, another skill she gained during one of the deployments).

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I sent him a text just before he left for overseas. Stay safe and come home to some garlic prawns on the barbie. I hope it’s enough.

Today’s Life Lesson…… And The Little Street Library.

It has been over six months since I first mulled over the concept of erecting  a Little Street Library on my front lawn. I love both the practise of sharing and recycling books, as well as contributing to my local community. I shop locally, play locally, and extoll the virtues of my neighbourhood to a wider audience with my reviews of cafes, theatre, and exhibitions in the area via the World Wide Web.

For those wonderful souls in the blogosphere who have quietly listened to my frustration getting this Little Library project off the ground, literally, over the past months, I have some news to share.

Drum Roll please…………….

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I think the wait has been well worth it, don’t you?

Thanks must go to so many community groups for the completion of this project, including the local Men’s Shed who gave up the purchase of a ride on lawn mower to instead purchase the steel fabrication machine to build the container that holds the books. The artist, a young man by the name of Ben, donated his time to complete this work over the weekend, and was a Grafitti artist/terrorist in a previous lifetime, and now works as a Youth Worker. What a journey for a young man with a family!

My local Council representative has been wonderful to deal with having dropped in to my home on several occasions to discuss issues concerning the project – usually when I’m looking my worst having been in the garden for hours, up to my armpits in chook manure. Tracey, I have so many more projects that we need to discuss : a Street vegetable garden, road signs to warn drivers of the wildlife sharing our roads, and Bees. Yes, Native Bees.

Next week, the Library mobile van will be setting up in this parkland for the very first time, promoting Books and Reading in an event including craft and storytelling, aimed at the 0 to 5 year olds. Picnic blankets, hats and water bottles required. This kind of service wasn’t around when mine were Wee People but I can well imagine the pleasure of both mums and bubs.

The gas barbecue and rotunda are still on the agenda.

So, Today’s Life Lesson: You have to make things happen – they don’t just happen by themselves.

Woot Woo!

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Finishing with a Nice Story:

Lots of locals gathered at the park yesterday to watch Ben quietly work away at his artwork. A little girl said to him  “ but there are no fairies”. Guess what. There is now:)

 

Mother’s Day 2018

It’s Mother’s Day in Australia this weekend.

I was going to rant about the commercialisation of this date on the calendar and how these days have become mere marketing tools. But I am mellowing as I get older, so instead I will share some fun things.

First of all, my gift through the post from my youngest daughter, who writes Government policy for a living. WARNING : if you are feint hearted – don’t look.

A card from the eldest daughter thanked me for “ teaching us all the important things in life, like how to make a platter, the Hollywood Classics, and the best reads. Thankyou also for sharing with us your love of music and introducing us to Carole King”.

Platters. My kids were brought up on platters : good food, good wine, good social skills whilst grazing. What could be better? Here is a recent Easter platter.

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The Hollywood Classics. Some people have replicated Monet’s on their walls – I’ve always had Errol Flynn lobby cards. Now both kids have a collection that rivals mine, with one owning a collection of singing Bing Crosby dolls. I kid you not. They’ve both told me that everything but my Errol’s is going to the dump when I’m dead.

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Books. Because we all live in different parts of the country the youngest instigated a book club amongst the three of us, so each time we met up for a long weekend, we would sit around a champagne breakfast on the Sunday chatting about the designated book. This went really well for several years until the eldest nominated Book 1 of Game of Thrones. 1052 pages. I can remember the battle to get through each and every page. What a struggle, but mother can’t let the side down, can she? So, when we finally get to discuss this epic, number 2 intelligently discusses themes,
comparative history lessons, politics and feminism. I am gobsmacked but manage to comment. Number 1? Informs us she watched the television version instead.

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Music. Soothes the soul and suits all moods. My father eased each loss with music, as have I. Music has also been celebratory which I have shared with both daughters. Music and Theatre. Expensive interests, but “you’re a long time dead”. ( Thank you, Father Bear, for my mantra) . After our recent Queen with Adam Lambert Concert we made a pact to travel anywhere in the world to be at their last ever concert. Brian May is looking so damn good that might be another fifty years down the track.

So Happy Days to all mums and dads, grandparents, uncles and aunts, sisters and brothers, and all those who have had a hand in shaping our younger ones. With the grey hair comes the great memories.

Oh, and I’m off to see Beautiful, The Carole King Story.

PS I still have no grey hair.

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.

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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.

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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!

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The book is in both hardcover and softcover  versions and is available direct ( refer http://www.daisylayne.com.au) 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!

 

 

 

 

Another Movie That Shattered This Child.

Just as Hollywood’s leading man, John Wayne, exacerbated my seaweed phobia as recently shared, another of Cinema’s leading men from the 40’s changed my attitude towards play and life in general.

I must have been very impressionable as a child, although at no time did I pick up any of my mother’s genteel interests such as lacework, tapestry or sewing. I remember being gifted an old Singer sewing machine when I was twelve. Eventually it made a half decent decoration in the garden.

Back to this particular leading man, another tall chap with swagger.

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The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex was released in 1939 and starred Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth 1, a simpering Olivia de Havilland, and Errol Flynn as the Earl of Essex. The circumstances don’t matter much for this exercise. What countered was the fact that a dashing Earl of Essex, lost his head. Literally. Chop, chop, chop, it fell into the basket beside the chopping block.

It must have been a few years before the dreaded giant squid episode – Go here – and I remember being devastated and screaming like a banshee. Poor Captain Blood. Oh, my precious Robin Hood.

It’s okay. I did recover my sensibilities. Of a sort.

I took to decapitating the heads of the few dolls possessed by other family members. The original Wednesday Adams. Headless Barbie’s were de rigour in my home.

My mother was aghast. My father bought me a cap gun and an Indian teepee for the back garden. Too much TV, he said.

Have any movies shaped your life? Please share……..

NB Apologies for the lack of Literary references. Having one of those spells when every book you pick up is just……dreadful. Thank goodness for the charity book sale this weekend!

 

Motherhood – The Hardest Job Ever.

I would give myself a rating of 8/10 for my motherhood performance this weekend.

I have delivered on the meals apparently. This is my Pumpkin Red Thai Curry cooked lovingly despite having been on the go since 4am. Delicious, and all those fresh vegetables ensured we had the strength to continue with the task of unpacking removalist cartons the following day.

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My daughter, the one working through “1001 Books To Read Before You Die”, left me in charge of stacking her bookshelves. Her new abode is a contemporary two bedroom unit, although she refers to it as being “ one bedroom and a reading room”.

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Anyway, I lost points for putting the Stozhenitsyns next to her collection of Musical DVDs. Think Ms must have been an old dance hall girl in a previous life. Did you not know that Julie Andrews and Doris Day cannot sit next to, or on the same shelf as, The Cancer Ward?

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Also Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra movies are their own genre and are in a separate musical DVD section.

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Mothers are very good, however, at buying toilet brushes, washing powder, and bath mats. I’ve graciously declined the opportunity to be in charge of rehoming the CDs.

I’ve also located a couple of really eclectic chairs most suitable for any Reading Room, but Ms is quite dismissive. What do you think?

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Yes, I know. Down to 6 out of ten.

 

“An Awkward Truth”, Vegemite on Toast, Basil Plants & Cheongsums.

Breakfast in the garden this morning which was lovely. Nothing beats the old Vegemite on Toast. We are supposed to be in our second month of Autumn, and though the mornings and evenings are just perfect the daytime temperatures are still hot and humid. It’s those cyclones floating around the far north and Coral Sea causing the havoc.* already wiping sweat from brow.

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Disappointed not to move any plants over the weekend particularly as there will be no further opportunities till next month. When I get back from the Deep South where I’ll be playing mother, I’m heading north to play father’s daughter. Yep, I’m going fishing for a few days.

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( Photo taken 196……*    Oooooops, brain fog)

The Rosemary plants which I was hoping to sell for Anzac Day will now require replanting into bigger pots which is this mornings task.

Then I’m lunching with the Geranium Lady who fundraisers for the same organisation. She has a Christmas in July dinner and trivia night in the works and has approval from the organisation to use their banner for the function. I hope to hold a small plant table on the night which will include the Rosemary bushes and the Basil which are taking over my garden like Triffids. I thought I would add a jar of my Basil salt with these plants as so many people don’t seem to know just how versatile this herb can be. If I’m brave enough I will also try my hand at Rosemary infused Olive Oil.

Have also a couple of flowering exotics on the go which, fingers crossed, in a nice pot will make a half decent raffle prize, as will some Roses pilfered from one of the neighbours garden waste bags.

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I haven’t packed any books for my travels yet and will drop by the library later today.  I’m currently reading about the bombing of Darwin during WW2; An Awkward Truth by Peter Grose. I really don’t know what to make of this one as it defies the very little we learnt about this event in our history.

And I mean very little. Embarrassingly, most of my knowledge came from that dreadful Kidman/Jackman movie titled “Australia”. If you’ve never seen it, don’t bother. Best thing about sitting through this three hours of wasteland was Our Nic’s Cheongsum. Just gorgeous but I can’t wear one – I’de look like a wine barrel!

The raid by the Japanese was bigger and more destructive than that of Pearl Harbour only weeks earlier. Although there was much bravery exhibited saving the seamen blown into the waters of Darwin Harbour, as well as a handful of courageous aircrew and civilians, including a prisoner from the local Gaol with ambulance training, the incident in reality was a blot on the landscape with looting, drunkenness, total ineptitude by Authorities, and an Administrator who lacked integrity, was selfish and an utter…..well, you get the picture.

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This is the Goodreads blurb:

The people of Darwin abandoned their town, leaving it to looters, a few anti-aircraft batteries and a handful of dogged defenders with single-shot .303 rifles. Yet the story has remained in the shadows.

Drawing on long-hidden documents and first-person accounts, Peter Grose tells what really happened and takes us into the lives of the people who were there. There was much to be proud of in Darwin that day: courage, mateship, determination and improvisation. But the dark side of the story involves looting, desertion and a calamitous failure of leadership. Australians ran away because they did not know what else to do.

Absorbing, spirited and fast-paced, An Awkward Truth is a compelling and revealing story of the day war really came to Australia, and the motley bunch of soldiers and civilians who were left to defend the nation.

Fascinating stuff, but I’m finding it difficult to get my head around it. Darwin nearly eighty years ago had only dirt roads and a population of less than 6,000,  the army only had one round of live ammunition per man, sharing their guns in the evenings with those standing guard, and communications were limited. The first sighting of the Japanese planes over the ocean were even identified as Kitty Hawks.

When I visited this northern-most Australian City last winter I felt there was much pride in their military history. I had no inkling of anything other than the general folklore so am feeling a bit conflicted.

 

 

Remind me to order the documentary of the same name from the Library too, please.

Here Is Their Spirit – Australian War Memorial : Book Review

I’ve been rereading “Here Is Their Spirit – A History Of The Australian War Memorial” by Michael McKernan which was published to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the official opening.

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Officially opened on Remembrance Day, 11th November, 1941, the concept of the AWM was conceived by WW1 historian, C E W Bean. His vision was for “commemoration and understanding, or more accurately, commemoration through understanding”.

The idea of a museum memorial date backs to 1916, when Bean witnessed the battles in France, though the Australian War Records Section weren’t established until 1917.

An Architectural Design Competition in 1927 did not have a winner though two entrants were asked to work together to fulfil a brief, a brief much reduced due to the Depression.

This book gives a fascinating insight into the trials that went into creating this magnificent building, both political, financial and practical.

It was also wonderful to read how the public embraced the concept and came to the Memorial’s aid enthusiastically when there was a plea for additions to the collection, such as letters, medals, and photographs. One General had to be advised on the quiet that live shells were an inappropriate donation!

Unfortunately, there was a period of disinterest and lack of funding which meant that some priceless objects were either tossed out or stolen.

An interesting read, despite being published nearly thirty years ago with much change instigated since then.

These days the AWM is much valued and considered a national treasure. It has ever changing exhibitions and is constantly being innovative in bringing our past to the forefront. For the centenary anniversary of Gallipoli the projection of 200 iconic wartime photographs on the outside wall of the building each evening was just stunning on so many levels. ( and helped increase the share price for Kleenex I have no doubt).

Disappearing shortly for a few days as a Mother’s job role includes restocking fridges and a pantry. My youngest is on the move so I’m also looking forward to stacking the bookshelves-and not in colour coordinated book spine fashion!

I’ve been promised a Yum Cha which is a great motivational tool. Or is it a bribe?

She’s just up the road from the AWM. Do you think she’ll know if I get lost amongst the cartons one afternoon?

“ Here is their spirit,
In the heart of
The land they loved;
And here we guard
The record which they
Themselves made.”
C E W Bean