McLintock with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara , with a touch of Michael Pate.

The relentless heat continues so I am maintaining my position near the book shelf, DVDs, and bar fridge.

I’ve just watched a 1963 movie called McLintock starring John Wayne as G W Washington, cattle baron. Maureen O’Hara plays his feisty wife, from whom Duke has been separated for two years. It’s a fun little flick, requiring little thinking, though I suspect it’s political correctness may well get the thumbs down big time these days. You see, McLintock replicates a wonderful little movie made a decade earlier, also starring both Wayne and O’Hara, called The Quiet Man. Filmed in Ireland, The Quiet Man is renowned for its fight scene, its humour, and the taming of the shrew in Ms O’Hara with a spanking and public humiliation.

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( Confession : I adore this movie. Always have. I have even undertaken The Quiet Man tour whilst holidaying In The UK. Yeah, my daughters are quite embarrassed by it).

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What piqued my interest in McLintock was Australian actor, Michael Pate, who played Puma, one of the last of the Apache chiefs, whom G W represents at Council (and who arranges a little mutiny).

Michael Pate. Remember him? He was in a couple of those dreadful Aussie cop shows in the 70’s before moving into directing. Back in the 40s he was in the iconic Australian movie, Sons of Matthew, with my work pal, Megan’s, Aunty Laurel.

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I’ve just read Michael Pate’s, “An Entertaining War”, published in the 1980s, which I rescued from a friend who was in decluttering mode, and God Forbid, tossing a box of books into the bin.

Pate was involved in radio plays from a young age. He enlisted during WW2 though after suffering a debilitating bout of Maleria in the jungle of PNG transferred to the entertainment division where he helped boost the morale of the troops throughout the remainder of the war, both home and abroad. Singing,dancing, magic tricks, and jokes amused the soldiers and gave them a short break from the pressures they endured.

Pate gives a good account of the history of Australia’s endeavours to keep the troops chipper throughout both WW1 and 2 and drops names of many of those whom I have heard of, though never seen; old vaudevillians and radio star types. It wasn’t always as cushy as it may sound and the entertainers often put themselves in real danger.

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This is an interesting read, full of personal ancedotes and the memories of other wartime entertainers. It also includes information about how soldiers liked to keep themselves entertained, particularly the POWs of South East Asia, who regularly performed their own theatrical productions using virtually nil props.

I tended to skim read this book as the information became overwhelming, including the details of the crude playhouses built in the jungle of Rabaul to facilitate performances.

Some of the personal stories of the entertainers are fascinating and I particularly enjoyed the photo of Australian actor Peter Finch, another member of the services can you believe, who later played Ringer Joe Harman in A Town Like Alice.

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Michael Pate did do a fine job as an Indian, though I’m not sure he’d ever win the heart of Maureen O’Hara.

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.

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The Aussie Author Challenge 2018, is now in it’s 9th year and is hosted by Booklover Book Reviews at:

http://bookloverbookreviews.com/reading-challenges/aussie-author-challenge-2018
“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?

Two Book Reviews and a Nod to Spaghetti.

My genetic disposition means that I rarely look back. I inherited my fathers survival skills in that I continually look forward. So 2017 – All over, Red Rover.

My mother’s input into the equation means that I have never set goals nor been ambitious. It has always simply been the case of putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, and moving forward. Therefore, no New Years Resolutions. No list of books to read, no places to visit, nor new things to learn over the coming 365 days.

Thankfully, this morning is cooler and it seems that South East Queensland is finally getting a break from the oppressive heat and humidity that we’ve been experiencing since Christmas. You know the humidity is high when the makeup slides off your face……

So, my reading drought is well and truly over thanks primarily to the weather. Just finished another two books of very different natures.

City of Crows by Chris Womersley had received so many good reports from the blogging community that I downloaded this one from the local library. It is set in 17th Century Paris when France is rife with the Plague, and is a tale of a recently widowed woman who heads to the capital with her one remaining child. They are attacked mid journey and she is left to die whilst her young son is kidnaped, presumably to be sold as a slave. She is aided by an old woman with “powers” and teams up with a gent of questionable history and intent to save her son. There is much about demons, witches, and spirits, and just what a mother would do to save her only child.

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This novel was well written, though I kept dithering whether or not to push myself to finish it. It became a task of conscience and I am blaming myself, the heat, and a subject of absolutely no personal interest. I guess it says something in that I continued to the very end. Let’s just put it down to wrong time of the year for something so dark in nature, though I am led to believe, historically accurate.

My boss, another book hound, often leaves reading material on my desk that she has picked up in a sale. I had put reading The Old Fellow’s War by Edmond Nyst off for several months but so enjoyed it these past few days.

This book was published when Nyst was 80 years of age and he comments that “ all of a sudden I find myself writing about events that I have tried all my life to forget”.

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Nyst was 15 years of age when the Germans marched into Marseilles during World War 2. Born in France he was of Dutch parentage and helped his father ( who was later knighted for his services to humanity) hide Dutch Jews in surrounding villages. The three sons and mother were then sent to separate hiding spots though the author joined the Maquis, which was similar to the Resistance, yet operated within France under the direction of England.

This is another tale of skirmishes and brutality told with sadness as well as some humour, albeit black. It also includes a sorry episode about a small town, by the name of Oradour, which was totally wiped out by the Nazis just a few days after the landing at Normandy.

Nyst ends up enlisted and his military training sends him to army camps in both NSW and Queensland. His descriptions of major railway stations in both Sydney and Brisbane during the 40’s should bring a smile to anyone with any familiarity. He is then sent to Java to assist with the repatriation of the Dutch from the POW Camps.

Finally he returns to France to reconnect with family, though then travels back to Australia where he take up citizenship, starts a family, and is admitted as a barrister at the High Court of both NSW and Qld, and the High Court of Australia.

Ahhhhhhh, a girl does like a happy ending…….

Because we are also catching up on Movies I think it will be Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca tonight for a little bit of the Nazis marching into Marseilles.

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Oh, and Happy National Spaghetti Day on January the 4th.

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A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute ( or Finch Vs Brown)

When I was younger, thinner and still winning the war against gravity, I had this mad crush on a young Australian actor by the name of Bryan Brown. Six foot plus, cheeky smile, and always in roles which required that laconic Aussie humour. He lived on the wrong side of the tracks – literally – only 10 minutes from my home in southern Sydney, and when he wasn’t wearing a singlet (as in The Thorn Birds) he had his shirt unbuttoned. Give me a break: I was young and stupid-er once.

My youngest gifted me a DVD for Christmas that I had been chasing for over 30 years called A Town Like Alice, made in the early 80’s as a mini series for television. This was the performance that made me fall ( you can read lust should you so choose) for Brown, and fall hard. He played Ringer, Joe Harman, who was crucified by the Japanese in Malaya for stealing some chickens for a group of starving English women and children during World War 2.

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A Town Like Alice was originally a novel written by Neville Shute in the 50’s about a group of women and children taken captive by the Japanese, and marched from one end of the country to another, as there were no dedicated female POW camps. Young Jean Pagent, is responsible for a young babe in arms whose mother is one of many whom have died on this journey. She crosses paths with POW, Joe Harman, and there is some flirting as expected when an Australian bloke hasn’t seen a white woman for six months. Hearing the fate of this group, Joe aids the women by providing black market soaps and medicines. His good luck leaves him with the chicken episode. Jean thinks Joe is dead and Joe thinks Jean is married. The women settle into life in a Malaysian village for the remainder of the war where they plant rice alongside the Malayan women.

End of story, right?

Dead wrong- it’s only just the beginning.

Several years after wars end Jean inherits from a wealthy uncle and returns to Malaya to thank the villagers for their protection by building them a well. Here she learns that Joe has survived his ghastly ordeal which sends her on a convoluted trip to the north of Australia, barren cattle country, looking for Joe. At the same time, Joe has headed to England to look for Jean having discovered she was never married.

This is where the Peter Finch and Virginia McKenna film from the 50’s ends. Big smooch at the reunion in an airport in Far North Queensland. A good flick which holds up well despite being 60 years old, and there is nothing like a bit of old fashioned romance to make the heart flutter, is there?

The miniseries follows the novel more closely. Jean and Joe don’t reconnect until she gets back into her sarong, and then Jean battles to settle into a new country, learning different ways and utilising her personal strengths and entrepreneurial nous to make a good life for herself and Joe.

The film on the DVD is of poor quality, more gritty, and I suspect that they transferred old video footage direct to DVD. At times it seems more dated than the original version.

Peter Finch is probably classically better looking, but I’m still a Bryan Brown girl through and through, and he doesn’t seem to have experienced the same gravity issues.

If you get a chance, read the book. It is an easy read, and it seems a simple read, though it is multi layered and covers so many different themes : healing, discrimination, sexism. I tend to read  A Town Like Alice every two or three years and each time I feel something a little different towards it. Considering it is such a big story it is not a thick book. It is one that is sad, tragic, full of hope and love. Shute can certainly spin a good yarn.

And remember : “Alice is a bonzer town”.

 

 

 

 

Where Things Can Take You….

A few years back the High School I attended celebrated its 50th year with an array of celebrations, including a series of Class Reunions. Although I was unable to attend any of the events the festivities provided the opportunity to reminisce with many neighbours, friends and acquaintances from all those years ago via social media. The beauty of the internet is that I have since enjoyed catching up over a meal with people with whom I shared my ratty teenage years, as well as a play mate from the sand pit in kindy.

With all the nostalgia someone recommended a book called “Goodnight, Crackernight” by young Australian Author, Justin Sheedy. This book was always going to resonate with me as Cracker Night, in Sydney, was originally celebrated on Empire Day, May 24th, the day after my birth date. I grew up believing, with assistance from my parents, that the fireworks were in honour of my birthday.

Yes, I also believed in fairies at the bottom of the garden, leprechauns, and Unicorns. Didn’t you?

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The blurb on the back of the book sums it up :

“Crackernight! One night a year, the infinite normality of the suburbs is shot with utter magic. Goodbye, Crackernight is the story of one boy’s childhood in 1970s Australia. It is a story of fireworks, of fun that cost nothing, of second-hand bikes, UFO-crowded skies, streakers, lime green Valiants, half-sucked Sunny Boys and electric pink hotpants. It is a story of growing up and innocence left behind – at a three-day swimming pool party. It is the tale of an era, of far simpler times, of an annual neighbourhood festival and an Australia long since gone”.

“Goodbye Crackernight”: A portrait of growing up when a child’s proudest possession was not a Playstation but a second-hand bike.”

So, I became a fan of young Justin Sheedy, who just happened to be a military aviation tragic, and who had written two books of a Second World War trilogy, and was busy working on the final instalment.

My old Da had served in Bomber Command during WW2, but did not talk about his exploits. A house full of women, and the stiff upper lip attitude as was expected, you see.

So I naturally gravitated towards Sheedy’s fictional military history books. Firstly, because I had a need to learn more about how and why young Australians were excited to head to the other side of the world to fight the Nazis in the sky, and also because Sheedy spins a darn good yarn.

Sheedy’s books have taken me on a journey that was never anticipated. After using his fictional characters in historically correct situations I have learnt so much about the Empire Air Training Scheme, London’s Kangaroo Club, the amazing Guinea Pig Club, the female pilots who ferried aircraft, and most recently, Malta’s role during the hostilities. WOW – all great stuff. This interest has led to the hunting down of further reading material on these subjects which is another task which gives me a total buzz. I guess, in a small way, it gave me insight into my Da as a young man, before he had the quarter acre block, the mortgage and me.

So now that I have settled on my new Christmas lunch recipes – Smashed Brussel Sprouts and a Cous Cous and Roast Pumpkin and Feta Salad – I am looking forward to the coming recluse time, when the blinds are pulled down, the music plays quietly, and recovery from another frantic year can commence.

Number one priority is to complete this Airfix Kit. It’s a Halifax from WW2. Bizarrely, the nose art on this Kit plane is exactly the same as the nose art on my Da’s plane.
A sponsored ad for Airfix Kits just popped up on social media just over twelve months ago when I was sitting up reading late one night. Let’s just say apoplexy set in.

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Where things can take you, hey….

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My Anzac Biscuits

There have been lots of books and little bruschetta amongst these pages so far so lets remedy this with information about Anzac biscuits, which we Aussies claim as our own.

ANZAC Biscuits have long had an association with the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops sent to Gallipoli during WWI. However, it is incorrect that the sweet biscuit recipe was created to send to serving troops due to their longevity during transportation.

There was an Anzac Wafer, similar to hard bread, which provided sustenance to soldiers, though these were not sweet and were often used for other purposes such as writing messages. For some interesting reading refer to the Australian War Memorial –
https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/anzac-biscuits

The sweet Anzac biscuit became popular during the war years as a fundraiser for the war effort, as they contain no eggs and also have a reasonable shelf life. Baked by Mothers, wives and sweethearts, these biscuits symbolise love and care from home.

One hundred years on and each ANZAC Day, on April 25th, the Returned Services League – affectionately known as the ” Rissole”- benefit from the sale of Anzac Biscuits in commemorative tins. Funds raised go towards to ex service members, both past and present, and their families.

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Ingredients

• 2 cups plain (non-self raising) flour
• 1 cup white or brown sugar
• 4 tablespoons golden syrup (cane syrup)
• 1 cup desiccated coconut
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 tablespoons of water
• 2 cups rolled or instant oats
• 225 grams butter or margarine

Procedure

0. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, and melt the syrup and butter in a saucepan. Add the baking soda and water to the syrup mix.
0. Mix the wet and dry ingredients, adding water if necessary.
0. Separate and roll the mixture into small balls, and flatten them on oven trays.
0. Bake at 150°C (300°F) for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

The finished biscuits are quite chewy and crisp, and do have a long shelf-life.

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NOTE: I do not include either the brown sugar or coconut in an attempt to reduce sugar intake. This makes my Biscuits less aesthetically pleasing, though the flavour remains the same – just perfect with a cup of tea.

Just as well there is always a chilled bottle of wine in the fridge and a selection of cheeses as an alternative for impromptu guests.