My weekend with Jimmy Stewart.

Watched an old James Stewart movie today; old in that it was released in 1965, and because Stewart was nudging sixty when it was made. I remember having seen Shenandoah as a child in the days of black and white TV so it was good to revisit in colour. For some reason the haunting theme song had remained in my head all these years.

Despite it being a civil war flick some of the scenery is just beautiful. (I seem to be attracted to cornfields. Is there a name for that, I wonder?)


Stewart plays a widower on 500 acres of fertile farmland in Virginia, with half a dozen strapping sons and a daughter, and is reluctant to involve his family in the war happening on their front doorstep. There are all the usual Jimmy Stewart homilies, delivered just as one would expect, and of course once his youngest son is captured by the Union, Jimmy gets his dander up ……as he does…..and gets well and truly involved.

Doug McClure plays Stewart’s son-in-law, a Confederate Army officer. He was my mad crush when he played Trampis in a television series many moons ago, and when I saw him in this it reminded me why I swore off blondes.

Which takes me to this great find – Jimmy Stewart, Bomber Pilot by Starr Smith. What a fascinating read!


Stewart had always had a love of flying even before his acting career, and when war broke out he was keen to get amongst it. Initially the Studio bosses were not eager for him to get involved (not only because of his fan base but because he would have a price on his head) and so he bided his time as a flight instructor. However, Stewart did get to fly missions as a bomber pilot over Germany and was considered both a good pilot and Leader of men. He reached the rank of Colonel in 1945 and was the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Oak Cluster, the Croix de Guerre with Palm and seven Battle Stars.

More interesting are the remembrances of his men which quote Stewart as collectively calling them “ Fella’s” in any meeting, just as he did in his role in Shenandoah. Some of these tales really are the measure of the man. Well worth the read.

At Stewart’s funeral, the Shenandoah soundtrack was played as the pall bearers carried the coffin out to the car.*

Monopoly at the Beach Shack

No book shelf in this little beach shack we’ve been renting, but does that really matter when you only have to walk 100 metres to wet the fishing line? Besides, the fresh fish for tea every night I’ve really delighted in sitting on the porch with a pot of tea and watching all the other poor souls travel to work each day. Sad, but that does give me so much pleasure.


The shack does have a supply of local community magazines which I’ve just loved. From these you learn the whereabouts of the cheapest Sunday Roast, the location of the closest Garden Centre, and whereabouts the local markets are held. They are a fund of information.


I’ve just read a fascinating article written by a gentleman by the name of Neil Wilson about the board game, Monopoly. Hands up who hasn’t played Monopoly?

In my family, Monopoly was always one way to start a war, not help finish one.

There is also a local Book Exchange in the Village. Look what I found…..




From The Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

With limited time in Canberra my visit to the Australian War Memorial was reduced to hours. No matter. I focussed on the most recent Exhibition : Australia’s Special Forces.


I’ll share more about this another time. A lot to process and quite confronting.

So I pressed on to see the artwork depicting Teddy Sheean. Up until twelve months ago I was clueless about Edward “Teddy” Sheean, a sailor in the Royal Australian Navy during the Second World War. A friendly Tasmanian who was fond of both a story and a drink told me about this young, Tasmanian lad.

From Wikipedia :
“Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean was killed during the attack by Japanese aircraft which sank the Bathurst Class corvette HMAS Armidale in the Arafura Sea on 1 December 1942. Armidale set out from Darwin for Betano, Timor, on a twofold mission: to take relief troops to Sparrow Force, the Allied presence on Timor, and to bring back withdrawing troops. Under frequent air attacks, the ship was unable to complete its mission and sank within minutes of being hit by two torpedoes. After the order to “abandon ship”, Teddy Sheean, although twice wounded, stayed at his post at the aft Oerlikon gun, bringing down an enemy bomber. He was still firing when the ship sank”.


Artist :DaleMarsh

Sheean was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches “for bravery and devotion to duty when HMAS Armidale was lost.” In May 1999 Sheean was honoured by the Royal Australian Navy when Collins Class Submarine No. 5 was named HMAS Sheean. This is the first occasion on which a RAN vessel has been named after an ordinary seaman.


To this day there remains a push to award Sheean the Victoria Cross.

Forever Eighteen by Lee Kernaghan.

With Anzac Day less than ten days away the AWM is in full throttle preparing for thousands of visitors from interstate and overseas. It is both an amazing building, and a humbling experience.


PS Gone Fishin’.

Book Clubs and Potato Peel Pie

Book Review : The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

This was my air travel novel of choice. Bit quirky, not too weighty and with an interesting story line.Just perfect to slip in and out of the handbag when travelling…..

Firstly, this is my favourite quote within the book, which has proved totally correct as two days ago I thought Guernsey was a breed of cow.

That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you on to another book, and another bit there will lead you on to a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

“Guernsey in reality is part of the Channel Islands, in between England and France. From 30 June 1940, during the Second World War, the Channel Islands were occupied by German troops. Before the occupation, 80% of Guernsey children had been evacuated to England to live with relatives or strangers during the war. Some children were never reunited with their families.The occupying German forces deported over 1,000 Guernsey residents to camps in southern Germany, notably to the Lager Lindele (Lindele Camp) near Biberach an der Riß and to Laufen. Guernsey was very heavily fortified during World War II, out of all proportion to the island’s strategic value. German defences and alterations remain visible, particularly to Castle Cornet and around the northern coast of the island. The island was liberated on 9 May 1945, now celebrated as Liberation Day across both Guernsey and Jersey.” –  according to Wikipedia.


This novel is a collection of fictional letters, notes and telegrams, centred around a popular journalist during WW2, Julia Ashton, who is struggling to write her next book after the War.


A gentleman from Guernsey writes to Julia as he is now the owner of a book bearing Julia’s inscription. They have a common interest in an Author which commences a series of letters about books which leads to information about Guernsey, and in particular the formation of The Guernsey Literary And Potato Pie Peel Society.

This group was formed during the time of German occupation and Julia has all Society members and other residents of the Island sharing their stories by mail. She travels to Guernsey to glean more and becomes an integral part of the Island’s fabric.

A fast moving novel with some eccentric characters in an interesting landscape ( very much like Doc Martin in Cornwall) I loved this read and completed it in two sittings. Now I’m off to research more about Guernsey, and yes, when the movie is officially released next week I’ll have my hand up.

Yes, it has flaws: Julia’s self importance gets on my nerves, and Kit, the five year old, could do with a spanking, but it is fun. It is the debut novel of a woman, since deceased, in her 70’s. My only regret ? No recipe for Potato Peel Pie!



“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.


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.


( 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.


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.


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.

Births, Deaths and Marriages with Vera Lynn.

More reflection upon the anniversary of the death of both my father and father-in-law. Passing is a more acceptable term, with connotations of soft music and a gentle transition. Neither of these hard, old men departed softly or with gentleness, determined to kick and holler all the way, just as they had lived. Same date, different year. I like to think that wherever they may be they are enjoying a cold ale together and having a good gripe about the state of Australian cricket.

Funny enough, this is the first time I’ve taken any interest in cricket. Always found it as interesting as watching paint dry. What about you?

Sorry, that’s a fib. I do remember back in the mid 60’s watching Garfield Sobers on the Tele hitting lots of sixes. Must have been that special father-daughter time, like watching Cassius Clay boxing, or Sunday nights with Hoss and Little Joe at The Ponderosa.

When my Dad relocated to a new home on the beautiful south coast where he would spend his days fishing, bowling and home brewing, I gifted him a colour television. Boy, did this make watching cricket that more palatable – you could finally see the ball. As a child I don’t think I even realised that the game of tennis was even about hitting a ball : never saw anything round shaped on the old black and white, and was quite clueless as to the point of it all. Yeah, not much has changed…….

He retired at 52 having outlived both the war bride and the love of his life, and having survived Bomber Command. His proudest achievement was 28 years of life in the slow lane in his quaint little village by the sea.

The father-in-law, a Scouse with an accent as thick as treacle, was an old Sea dog.

Put the two together and things became interesting, especially towards the later hours in the night. The Scouse, an old story teller from way back would pull out yarns of questionable content, whilst my Dad, who used to sing in English pubs for extra beer money when not flying, would break into song……or harmonica.


So, for both these tough old buggers I have just read wartime entertainer Vera Lynn’s autobiography.

Some Sunny Day follows Vera’s musical career which started before she was a teenager, singing alongside her father in English working clubs. In the 1930’s she worked in radio though it wasn’t until World War 2 that she became an iconic figure amongst service personnel, with her songs of hearth and home.

We join Vera on her travels around the world performing for the troops, where her spirit, along with her ability to connect with the men fighting for their country and those left behind praying for their loved ones, made her the ‘Forces Sweetheart.”


Her career after the war flourished, with hits in the US and the UK, but Vera was never able to leave behind her wartime role and was deeply affected by what she had seen. She details the hardships of rationing and living with bombs falling overhead, as well as the joy of performing with talented musicians and the fun of singing in dance halls.

Dame Vera Lynn turned 101 on the 20th of March.

This is an interesting book, though one written by a gentle woman from another time. There is no gossip, no sex, no surprises. What you see is what you get. Her later years were of little excitement unless you count popping in for a regular Devonshire Tea with the Queen Mum a thrill. It is a reminder of ordinary people living in extraordinary times.

My Dad always held Vera Lynn right up there.

So Cheers to all three of you. I know “we’ll meet again”.

Now, any more cricketers been sent home yet?


Paradise Road, a reminder of Vivian Bullwinkle’s story.

The 16th of February was the anniversary of the Banka Island massacre, which occurred in 1942 during WW2.

Twenty two members of the Australian Army Nursing Service and sixty Australian and British soldiers and other crew members who survived the sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke were massacred by Japanese Soldiers with machine guns, off the Indonesian Coast

The only survivor from this party of Australian nurses was Sister Vivian Bullwinkel.


I was reminded of this on my newsfeed yesterday. I was also reminded of when we were young and how the older generation used to speak of Lieutenant Colonel Bullwinkel with much reverence.

As there are no signs of a break in the heatwave, and the humidity remains over 90 per cent, it was yet another night for a DVD under the ceiling fans. (I digress, but I must point out that I am sick of feeling like a wet, slimy slug).

And Vivian Bullwinkel led me to a lovely little movie written and directed in the 1990’s by Bruce Beresford : Paradise Road.


Based on actual events Paradise Road is the story of Australian, British and Dutch women, who flee Singapore in February 1942 by ship, only to have their transport bombed and sunk by the enemy. When they reach land they are taken captive by the Japanese and imprisoned on the island of Sumatra.

This movie is very moving with all the usual brutality and atrocities expected and I dare you not to get a little weepy. It is also a tale of much bravery, resilience, and inner strength as the women form a vocal choir, singing music written for piano or orchestra….and I suggest that this show of unbreakable spirit will make you a little weepy also.

American actress, Glenn Close, starred in Paradise Road, though I believe a very young Cate Blanchett stole the show.

Good little movie. Beats these Marvel, Vampire, and Grey franchises any day.

Oh, and for a less sanitised version of Vivian Bullwinkle’s authorised story go here – well worth the read:,10040.