Trees are dropping leaves to survive and the ground is like iron. Just the other morning I watered my Dendrobium orchid and the long buds were tightly closed. Drought conditions have sent the ants in all directions in search of sustenance but even they were absent.
In the afternoon I returned from lunch with friends and à la voile! There was my tree orchid in full bloom!
Springtime is not properly acknowledged in my garden until this orchid flowers. It is always my September spectacular.
Australian orchidstend to be small, for instance the Cooktown Orchid which is the floral emblem of Queensland, but this species is large and robust. The dull afternoon light does not do justice to its display.
A semi deciduous pink-flowering orchid, it is ‘probably’ native to Australia, a Dendrobium Nobile, and in this case has been grown as an epiphyte – tree hugger. It has been in the family for over forty years and needs basically no care at all. The blooms have a very faint fragrance.
Why I say ‘probably’ native to Australia is because I always thought it came from the Pacific region. In fact, originally its forebears came from northern India/southern China where it would have been quite used to extremes in temperature.
Then I discovered hybrids have been produced. These can be subdivided into two types, the ‘English’ and ‘Japanese’ type, and later I read this historical document courtesy of The Shambles, a country garden at Montville in south-east Queensland:
Dendrobium nobileReliable soft cane epiphytic orchid. We have many unnamed flower colour varieties from mauve, pink and white range. A trouble-free orchid flowering in spring. Introduced to Britain c.1836 by Loddiges’ Nursery. Requested from Loddiges’ Nursery on 1st February 1849 for Camden Park NSW Australia and obtained from them, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in that year. India www.qos.org.au 1A.1885, 13.1900/1,15.Camden Orchid walk, West Garden, near back stairs, Blue trellis garden, Rain forest walk.
After reading the Wagga Orchid Society PDF (link below) and using a bit of guesstimation, years later my orchid could have been transported from the Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia, on consignment to a Brisbane plant nursery.
I now look at my tree orchid in awe and wonderment – such a lineage.
The following shot was taken a few days later in much better sunlight. There was a bee hovering around but it refused to be photographed.
P.S. If you are interested in lovely flowers and picturesque settings in rural countryside, I can recommend a visit to the website and blogspot of The Shambles country garden, Montville, Queensland.
It was a nice surprise to discover an older piece of writing I’d forgotten, particularly when it still holds up.
My overview of Fiona McIntosh’s historical fiction “Tapestry” was penned for Top 40 Book Club Reads 2015, a regular Brisbane City Council Library Service booklet written and compiled by unacknowledged library staff.
The book—billed as timeslip fiction—has a layered plot and it was hard to write a 100 word description without sounding too stilted. McIntosh chose settings in two countries, Australia and Britain, in two different eras of history. I particularly liked the second half in 1715 within the Tower of London.
After visiting the Tower of London to research her book, McIntosh had “An unforgettable day and I attribute much of the story’s atmosphere to that marvellous afternoon and evening in the Tower of London with the Dannatts when the tale of Lady Nithsdale and my own Tapestry came alive in my imagination.”
Author Fiona McIntosh has written quite a stack of books set in many parts of the world, and in different genres: Non-Fiction, Historical Romantic-Adventure, Timeslip, Fantasy – Adult, Fantasy – Children, and Crime.
Check your local library catalogue in person or online.
In order of appearance, the Brisbane Libraries Top 40 book club recommendations for 2015—I have not read Poe Ballantine’s chilling tale “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere” and I may never read it—See how many titles you’ve read!
The Visionist; Moriarty; Tapestry; The Bone Clocks; California; Z – Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald; The Mandarin Code; Merciless Gods; Upstairs at the Party; Friendship; Birdsong; Heat and Light; Time and Time Again; What Was Promised; The Austen Project; The Paying Guests; The Exile – An Outlander Graphic Novel; Lost and Found; Amnesia; Cop Town; Mr Mac and Me; Nora Webster; The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden; Inspector McLean – Dead Men’s Bones; The Soul of Discretion; We Were Liars; Stone Mattress – Nine Tales; Family Secrets; South of Darkness; The Claimant; This House of Grief; She Left Me the Gun; Mona Lisa – A Life Discovered; The Silver Moon; Revolution; Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere; What Days Are For; Mistress; Warning – The Story of Cyclone Tracy; The Birth of Korean Cool.
Here are my notes from the book review I presented at my local Crime And Mystery Book Club which meets once a month in our local library. Most of the participants had similar reviews. ♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward.
It is said Jimmy Barnes is the heart and soul of Australian rock and roll…if you like his style. His rasping voice was the sound of the Eighties and everyone knew his song lyrics. Four decades later and he’s still going strong.
James Dixon ‘Jimmy’ Barnes (né Swan) was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 28 April 1956 and raised in Elizabeth, South Australia. His career as the lead vocalist with the rock band Cold Chisel, and later as a solo performer, has made him one of the most popular and best-selling Australian music artists of all time.
From 1973–present, Barnes career has spanned singer-songwriter-musician with vocals, guitar, harmonica and flute and he has received tonnes of music awards (and two Australian Book Industry awards) been inducted twice into the ARIAHall of Fame and presented with the Order Of Australia medal.
Underneath the gravelly vocals and rough exterior, Jimmy Barnes struggled with an inferiority complex which manifested itself in alcohol and drug addiction for many years. The question on everyone’s lips was ‘How did he survive?’ Barnes wrote two autobiographies ‘Working Class Boy’ and ‘Working Class Man’ to answer this question.
I doubt his first book ‘Working Class Boy’ (published 2016) was fully edited. Raw and basic, it is a litany of hope, fear, addiction and the search for acceptance. Acceptance from his violent father, his mates and his audience. He writes about childhood abuse, how he ran amok through the towns of Elizabeth and Adelaide and later the Australian east coast, singing, drinking, finding a dealer, finding a girl and not sleeping for 24 hours or more. A son, performer David Campbell, is the result of a fling in his teenage years. Barnes’ second father, the man whose name he adopted, was a mentor of sorts until rock music became the epicentre of his life.
Barnes second book, a sequel titled ‘Working Class Man’ (published 2017) chronicles his thoughts of suicide and his continuous drug-taking and excessive alcohol consumption to the point of tedium. A horrible thing to say when I think of the mental and physical torment he was trying to escape. Still, it didn’t stop him singing—albeit clutching a Vodka bottle on stage every night—nor did it stop him gaining more and more success and greater financial stability as his music career took off. He began to live the life of a rock star.
Then Jimmy Barnes body let him down. After surgery, he tried to calm down and write his life story. It’s not a pretty read, examining old memories, but it’s honest. There are plenty of photographs and name-dropping, and Barnes talks about his wife Jane Mahoney, their children and extended family. He is now a grandfather and this shocked me the most!
“If you want to write a memoir, you’ve got to be ready to bare your soul” Jimmy Barnes
No rating because of the ‘chicken and egg’ situation, did his fame boost the books or did the books boost his fame?
Coming out of a hot dry summer, March weather is beginning to soften the sky and offer the cooler, more gentle mornings of autumn. There is no definite change of season, just a calmness, almost a feeling of relief after the insistent tropical heat.
Apart from, whack, an insect, there’s something serene and relaxing about strolling through a garden, touching leaves, sniffing flowers, following a creek and hearing the splash of a small waterfall through the trees.
To quote Rudyard Kipling “The Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!” so…
Here’s what I experienced one lovely morning…
Arriving early at the Brisbane Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, I strolled through a cool, green gully and thought it was strange to be in a capital city yet hear no traffic sounds. I floated along, enjoying the stillness, until my personal calm was shattered when the garden crew came on duty and the leaf- blowing brigade roared into action. I had to wait until one fellow walked out of shot to photograph Xanthorrhoea australis, the Grass-trees (below; left). The atmosphere shuffled its feathers and tranquility returned.
Wooden bridges and flowing streams…
Leisurely, I followed the meandering paths across bridges and green lawns, enjoying the mild sunshine. Strolling down a slope, I came to a bracken-lined watercourse then walked up a gentle incline towards king ferns, piccabeen palms and towering hoop pines. I’ve never fully traversed the 56 hectare (138 acre) area which displays mainly eastern Australian plants.
You can spot Eastern Water Dragons (lizards) and geckos as they scurry out of sight or get a giggle watching the many varieties of water fowl, ducking and diving in the lake. Feeding wildlife is not allowed and I couldn’t entice them into an appealing photograph.
Sculptural features are ‘casually’ placed throughout the gardens and I think the most alluring is a silver fern seat (below; left) with interesting support.
Beside the pond and beneath the trees…
The Japanese Garden (below; entrance and pond) offers soothing symmetry and a waterlily’s single bloom. Nearby the concert bandstand has grass seating surrounded by trees with foliage of different patterns and colours. Around me, there’s a multitude of subtropical shrubs, cycads and flowers with names I never remember. You will notice that I do not attempted to be horticultural! A bit further along, in the arid zone, resides a sci-fi concoction of exotic cacti. The culinary, fragrant and medicinal herb gardens are pure indulgence. But if herbs aren’t your thing, the pungent eucalypt is my favourite and walking the Aboriginal Plant Trail with its edible food plants.
Biodiversity and water reflections…
The stillness of the morning created pleasing reflections on the lagoon which is fed by rainwater captured from the hills. You can choose between typical heathland or wetland regions made easily accessible for suburban folk. The Conservation Collection includes rare and endangered species in their natural habitats and I entered the steamy, geodesic hothouse (below; left) where equatorial plants are nurtured. My face beads in sweat, it’s not a place for humans to linger too long. Time for an ice-cream!
Tropical Display Dome at Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha, is a large lattice structure (geodesic) displaying plants from the tropics. A pathway winds upwards through the dome building, wrapping around a central pond with water plants.
Look outside the Botanic Gardens…
Outside the entry are several buildings of interest: Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (below; saved from extinction by a vocal community uprising) large carpark, small art studio, specialist library and auditorium providing a variety of events. I have booked a place in a workshop Monoprinting Australian Native Plants, so a blog post may be forthcoming. The new Visitor Information centre offers guided walks and Gardens Café has the ice-cream. The two white-coated fellows outside the café are entomologists, surviving statues from World Expo 88.
Pandas and children have a special treat…
The Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens Children’s Trail is a hide-and-seek ramble through the shady rainforest garden with special works of art dotted along the way and I couldn’t resist following it myself. Check out the wacky weathervane! And a log for native stingless Sugarbag bees. Mother and baby Panda bears enjoy the bamboo; they are a special fabrication of laser-cut aluminium by Australian sculptor Mark Andrews.
Parks and gardens change with horticultural trends. The smaller City Botanic Gardens are older and more formal, in keeping with the style of previous centuries, but I prefer the softness of Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. As the world becomes more populated and natural plant life decreases, Brisbane city dwellers like me need our botanical gardens to nourish and refresh our screen-dependant interior lives.
Tropical lagoon and green algae swirls at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019
Today 11/11/2018 is the Centenary of Armistice and Remembrance Day in Australia.
We remember those who fought and those who died––
At 11am on 11 November 1918 the armistice treaty, which Germany had signed earlier that morning, came into effect. The Great War, the ‘war to end all wars’ which had begun on 28 July 1914 was finally over.
Like millions of other Australians, I’ll follow tradition and observe a two-minute silence at 11am (no matter where I am) to honour the 420,000 men who enlisted and the 62,000 who didn’t return.
In Flanders Fields
Poem by Dr John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
A local newspaper notice attracted my attention. Did I read that correctly? A camel farm excursion? Here is the true story of my expedition into camel territory.
I’d heard about camel milk and wanted to know more, so I contacted the organiser National Seniors secretary. Of course, they had me at “camels” but when I see meals included, I’m there. The itinerary read “East Coast Coach depart 9am and arrive Summer Land Camel Farm, Harrisville, morning tea and guided farm tour. Lunch at Commercial Hotel (adjoining Thirsty Camel bottleshop) before travelling home via scenic route 4pm.” Hooked and booked!
On boarding the coach, I was given a warm National Seniors welcome, and on disembarking the coach 45 minutes later, the first thing I noticed was the vast blue sky over Summer Land Camel Farm. A rolling vista spread out around me. In the distance the smudged outline of the Scenic Rim, part of the Great Dividing Range, and in the foreground hundreds of camels! It was an odd sight, camels of different sizes grazing in the paddocks, until I realised they were at home in the landscape.
Now, first let’s clear up some camel falsehoods. Camels do not spit but alpacas do. Camel footpads are better suited to protect vegetation than cows and horses. Of course, it’s common knowledge that a camel can walk over a hundred kilometres without water and carry heavier loads than a horse. But did you know that they are excellent swimmers? Who’d have thought but it’s true.
We strolled to the beautiful old Queenslander homestead where a spread of fresh scones, homemade jam and cream awaited. Then we realised what we were eating. The white fromage cream I dobbed on my scones and the milk in my coffee were not from a dairy cow but a camel. Delicious! And, as we subsequently found out, very good for our digestive tract. Camel milk is like an immune boost, an anti-inflammatory which can benefit our gut, skin and hair.
I loved meeting the camels at the fence, talking to them as they blinked their long eyelashes, obviously assessing if I had anything edible in my hand. When they saw the camera, I believe they actually posed, holding quite still while I took full advantage of this photo opportunity. See the camel on the right smiling! Everything was peaceful and the air smelt fresh. No camel aroma wafting on the breeze. Then my models wheeled away to check out an inviting dust bath.
In Australia we have dromedary camels, one hump. The dromedary is the smaller of the two species of camel and female gestation period is 13-14 months or around 410 days. I saw a baby camel, 24-hours old, all spindly legs, wobbling and flopping yet determined to stand. I asked if I could sponsor a camel, an adorable critter to watch grow up. Not yet, but one day this may be possible. In the meantime I joined the Summer Land Camels Club and harbour happy thoughts of riding a camel on my next visit.
Our group walked to a vast shed where the cheese, cream and milk are tested and processed. We sat in the breezeway while Jeff Flood, biochemist and immunotherapist, delivered an intelligent, informative and heartfelt talk on all things camel. Even biomes got a mention, and Jeff is very open about the farm operations. I wished my school days had involved such an absorbing field trip.
A passionate cameleer from a farming background, Jeff Flood is CEO and co-founder of Summer Land Camel Farm, the largest of its kind in Australia. Apart from playing rugby and completing several scientific degrees, he discovered that the immune protein and nutritional content of camel milk has healing benefits, showing positive results when used to treat his young son’s eczema.
Then onward to the open-air camel dairy, where we learned the long road to milking. Camel milk and by-products are not high volume in Australia but its the largest commercial-scale camel dairy operation outside the Middle East and the third largest of its kind in the world. Jeff and co-founder Paul Martin are training wild camels, breeding, researching, testing and pioneering the way. Not only for Australia but the rest of the world. Why can’t camel milk sit in the fridge next to other beverage flavourings? Camellatté has a nice ring to it.
Jeff is concerned for the welfare of camels and told us some horrible yet true stories of the brutal decimation of the wild camel population in Australia. The camel is a neglected animal among the policymakers. Incorrect data is perpetuated to this day, mainly through ignorance and government propaganda.
During the tour, it became obvious to me that camels have been given a raw deal. They are well-suited to our Australian climate and in some ways more beneficial than imported European farm animals. A bit of racism involved here? Camels do not have top teeth yet they like rugged food; they can eat feral weed plants such as prickly pear and they don’t need lush green pastures to thrive. During drought years, companion-herds of camels and cows survive better. Camels can act as watchdogs, they have the intelligence of a six year-old child which is greater than a dog. Plus they can take you on very, very long walks!
Back at the homestead, we enjoyed some taste-testing and Summer Land Camel Farm staff excelled with their hospitality. Unlike almond milk or soy milk, I had an instant attraction to camel milk. It suited my palate without the “I’ll get used to it” phase. Being lactose-intolerant, that’s a blessing. I perused items for sale; from camel milk and cheeses through to soap, hand-cream and artwork by Fiona. If you forget the Esky, cold bags can be purchased for a nominal amount and my Camel Persian Feta and other goodies were safely tucked away.
Time to head off down the road and partake of a pub lunch at the Commercial Hotel in Harrisville. After our meal, we strolled around the small township. I looked left and right before crossing the road but it wasn’t really necessary.
The coach swayed gently as we headed homeward, and I was pondering this enjoyable day out when my thoughts reached a conclusion. I had looked into the eyes of a camel and seen a friendly, interested gaze. I think the world needs more friendly interest in camels. And more camel milk in coffee!
“Stella Montgomery is in disgrace. The awful aunts, Aunt Condolence, Aunt Temperance and Aunt Deliverance,have sent her to Wakestone Hall, a grim boarding school where the disobedient are tamed and the wilful are made meek. But when a friend disappears, Stella is determined to find her – no matter what danger she encounters. Soon Stella is thrown headlong into the mysteries surrounding Wakestone Hall. Will Stella save her friend in time? And will she discover – at long last – where she truly belongs?”
Stella Montgomery and Wakestone Hall – the intrigue draws to an exciting close!
Wakestone Hall is Book 3 in the Stella Montgomery Intrigues and this series has captured my imagination. My inner child responded to the mysterious and creepy goings-on in the first two books, beautifully complemented by author Judith Rossell’s own illustrations of the Victorian era. The third book is out now with a book launch due in a couple of days. I can’t wait to read it! GBW.
Information: HarperCollins Publisher Published: 22 October 2018 ISBN: 9780733338205 Imprint: ABC Books – AU Number Of Pages: 280 For Ages: 8+ years old
Children’s, Teenage & educational / Fantasy & magical realism (Children’s – Teenage)
The Koala is a laidback leaf-muncher who gets hassled by the bad boys of the Aussie bush. Not by other native animals but tree-lopping developers and domestic pets. Koalas are a unique marsupial which needs human protection to survive. And eucalyptus trees, of course.
At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, an 18-hectare Koala conservation park in the Brisbane suburb of Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland, there is a new facility dedicated to Koala health and well-being. I paid them a visit to learn more…
The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus, not a bear) is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia. It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats.
To quote the KOALA SCIENCE COMMUNITY dedicated to Research, Connect, Protect:
“United by a common purpose to conserve koalas across their range, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Brisbane City Council worked together to build and establish the Brisbane Koala Science Institute, located at the sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland. The Institute and this online community are further supported by Lone Pine’s not-for-profit organisation, the Research for Nature Foundation, which will help fund various South-East Queensland koala projects, in partnership with local scientists, researchers, and industry professionals.
At the unique Brisbane Koala Science Institute at leafy Lone Pine, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Koala information I absorbed in a short space of time. There are interactive (and multilingual) displays, research labs with public viewing areas and a koala observation area.
♥ Koalas have special teeth for grinding down eucalyptus leaves which ferment creating sleeping patterns which mean they can sleep more than 18 hours a day. ♥ Koalas have large, strong claws to help them climb smooth-barked eucalyptus trees. ♥ A Koala baby, joey, lives in the mother’s pouch for six months then grows up to become a big eater, consuming about one kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per day. ♥ Koalas front paws can grip small branches as they reach for the juiciest leaves. ♥ Koala lifespan is between 10 to 16 years which naturally depends on environmental conditions.
Although I focused on the Koala, there are many more unique Australian species to see here, from kangaroos to cockatoos, eagles to emus in a beautiful bushland setting. I recommend the following link and video highlights featuring all the wildlife residents of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary:
These vivid flowers would be perfect at Christmas time. But, no, this spectacular red Callistemon, an Australian native Bottlebrush, flowers in springtime and early summer.It has long fluffy tubular flowers that look beautiful in gardens and taste delicious to all kinds of native birds, insects and other wildlife. The flower 'brushes' are so soft, not spiky at all.There were two Rainbow Lorikeets hiding in the branches, eating the nectar and chatting away, but they wouldn’t keep still for a snapshot.I saw this long row of flowering plants in an industrial-type setting in Brisbane yet Callistemon grows in every location, tall shady trees to knee-high potted shrubs and used as groundcover.Information from this website Australian Plants Online Flowering Callistemon indicates that I’ve photographed 'Hannah Ray' which is 4 metres high and suitable for streetscapes.It brightened my September day!♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward
An illuminating review of Trent Dalton author of ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ and his discussion with Matthew Condon during the Brisbane Writers Festival 2018. June Perkins does justice to the subject and pays tribute to Trent, her own parents and the value of education. Read on… ♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward
So the absolute highlight of the Brisbane Writers Festival for me was the talk I attended by Trent Dalton.
I saw Trent a few weeks ago on Q and A, on the ABC, as well as Sofie Laguna, and was so impressed by the way they both conducted themselves on the panel I set out to look up their books.
When I heard Trent would be attending and presenting at the Brisbane writer’s festival he went right to the top of my must-attend sessions.
When Trent entered the room there were huge cheers. He pumped the air with his fist, and yet there was no ego in that fist pump. It was more like a boxer, who has triumphed over a huge battle in his life, and is now saying thank you to an appreciative crowd. A Rocky moment, part of a montage. He thanked us for choosing to attend…
You have the month of September to sign up to the new Indigenous Literacy Day fundraising campaign and fill your virtual shelf with books for children in remote communities. Participate in the launch on Wednesday 5 September and discover how to fill a bookshelf for children in the remote Australian outback.
It’s something new, something a little different, something the Indigenous Literacy Foundation believes you’ll enjoy sharing with your friends and family, and something that gives you the opportunity of ensuring kids in remote communities have access to quality, new books.
Commencing on Indigenous Literacy Day (5 September 2018) the new ‘Fill a Bookshelf’ fundraising campaign aims to raise $300,000 to help ILF gift 30,000 new books to schools and service organisations in remote communities where books are scarce.
How does it work? The idea is simple…
Sign up online to create a fundraising page and receive an empty virtual bookshelf.
Ask family, friends, colleagues to donate a virtual book to your page (in the form of a donation)
Fill your virtual bookshelf!
Change the lives of Indigenous children.
Your donations will help buy new, carefully selected books for children who have none. To put it quite simply – without your support, in a very real sense – bookshelves in remote Indigenous communities are empty.
All children in Australia deserve the same opportunities – in education, employment, health and wellbeing. Evidence shows that literacy is the pathway to CHOICE for these opportunities, and BOOKS are the building blocks for literacy. If you believe this too, sign up today!
The Indigenous Literacy Foundation
PO Box 663 Broadway NSW 2007
Indigenous Literacy Day is a national celebration of Indigenous culture, stories, language and literacy. Indigenous Literacy Day aims to raise awareness of the need to support literacy in remote and isolated Indigenous communities of Australia.
This fun tag was brought to my attention by productive book blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley of BookJotter fame. Originally created by Beth of Bibliobeth the idea is to share a picture (aka ‘shelfie’) of your favourite bookshelf and then answer ten questions related to the titles displayed.
Visit Beth’sblog to see more info, the logo and tag and view posts by participating bloggers. Then launch your own unique Q&A Shelfie by Shelfie.
I think many readers will find these titles unfamiliar…
1. Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?
Short answer is ‘subliminally shelved’. Long answer is there are many bookshelves in our home and until I decided to participate in Shelfie by Shelfie I didn’t realise that most of my books are grouped. Either when they arrived or over a period of time, I’m not sure. There are clumps like non-fiction, poetry, humour, crime, fantasy and (not all shown) Australian content.
2. Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you, i.e. how you got it / a memory associated with it, etc.
Hard to pick just one. I know some of the authors (or received uncorrected bound proofs to review prior to publication) but my all-time special one would have to be ‘My Beachcombing Days: Ninety Sea Sonnets’ by Brisbane poet John Blight. His daughter, a family friend, gave it to me as a birthday gift in the same year as disastrous flooding hit the city. The flood waters also coincided with me securing a glam job in a travel agency which had 12 inches of river mud throughout the ground floor office.
3. Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?
No contest! It would be Tom Keneally’s ‘Shame and the Captives’ a semi-factual diatribe about World War II prisoners-of-war from Italy and Japan who are held in a compound in Gawell, New South Wales, but allowed to work on a local farm. It does have its altruistic moments but there’s bloodshed aplenty and the ‘uncertainty and chaos’ never worked for me.
4. Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?
‘Withering-by-Sea’ written by children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell. Young heroine Stella Montgomery is the epitome of someone I would have loved to have known when I was a child. I did read a lot of British kids books! Set in Victorian England, the story is both adventurous and creepy. Apart from dressing up as a mature-age Stella Montgomery for library Book Week, two years ago I had my copy of the book signed by Judith Rossell when I attended her writers workshop in historic Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne.
5. Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?
Hmm, that would be a toss-up between Nobel Prize for Literature winner Patrick White ‘The Cockatoos’ and Miles Franklin ‘My Brilliant Career’ both yellowing reprints dated 1974 and 1979 respectively. I guess Mr White wins.
6. Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?
Another toss of the coin. ‘Truly Tan Hoodwinked!’ (Book 5) kids chapter book written by Jen Storer, and ‘Care of Australian Wildlife: For Gardeners, Landholders and Wildlife Carers’ by Erna Walraven, a 2004 revised edition but in mint condition and recently purchased in a second-hand bookshop. The most adorable teeny tiny Koala baby is on the front cover. The Koala wins by a nose.
7. Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)
I have a ‘thing’ for DBC Pierre, expat Aussie writer, and admire his off-kilter books. I own two of his novels (the rest were loans) and love ‘Breakfast with the Borgias’ which I willingly re-read; and I’m usually not a re-reader. Perhaps the fact that one of the characters is named Gretchen has something to do with it.
8. If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.
There is a small cardboard cut-out figure of Lisa Simpson from TV series The Simpsons which probably came with a McDonalds meal deal. Lisa is holding an armload of books and in the show she is the lone advocate of literacy and learning. I always like to think she influenced a generation of TV viewers to read. And that she’s happy on this shelf.
9. What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?
It doesn’t tell you that I borrow hugely from my local library; or that I read too many e-books; nor that my current audio book is, ironically, ‘The Book Case’ by Dave Shelton narrated by Colleen Prendergast. It does shout that I’m an Australian reader.
I read most genres and most writers regardless of nationality (translated helps!) but I keep coming back to Australian authors. In an online book forum, I recall an American reader saying he only read American books because he understood them. He didn’t mean the language, he meant emotional ties, recognition, connection. That’s what I get from Australian books, nevertheless, I do think we have to step outside our comfort zone.
10. Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.
A free question I can make up sounds good. NOTE I do not activate Comments, you will have to answer it in your own Shelfie by Shelfie blog post.
BONUS QUESTION: Do you discuss the books you read in a face-to-face situation, online book reviews, or clutch your latest read to your chest saying ‘my precious, my precious’?
Happy reading, blog stars!
For modern Australian book reviews I can recommend blogger and bookseller Simon McDonald https://writtenbysime.com/ while this list contains notably mature Australian authors: Thea Astley
Janette Turner Hospital
Jill Ker Conway
Leonie Judith Kramer
John Dunmore Lang
James Phillip McAuley
Bernard Patrick O’Dowd
Katherine Susannah Prichard
Henry Handel Richardson
Alfred George Stephens
Arthur William Upfield
Don’t you love being on the verge of discovering a new author, that feeling of anticipating! Look at the beautiful location where romance writer Annie Seaton is holding the book launch for her latest release Whitsunday Dawn––in the Whitsunday Islands at beautiful Coral Sea Resort.
“Ecological impact, divided loyalties and the pristine beauty of the Whitsundays under threat, can mining spokesperson Olivia Sheridan expose the truth in time?” Author Annie Seaton brings to life a new era of romance and eco-adventure. Perfect for fans of Di Morrissey and a sun-kissed tropical lifestyle.
As WP readers will know, I’m not usually a romance reader but I’m rather taken by the beautiful location of this all-Australian story. Watch out for my review.
On her website Annie says “I am truly blessed to live by the beach on the east coast of Australia. I am following my lifelong dream of writing, and discovering that readers love reading my stories as much as I love writing them is awesome. It’s what keeps me at my desk each day when the garden and the beach are calling to me!
“You can read of the topical human and social issues I explore in Kakadu Sunset, Daintree and Diamond Sky. My latest release with Harlequin Mira WHITSUNDAY DAWN (August 2018) is an historical/contemporary story set in the Whitsunday Islands in 1943 and 2017.
“My inspiration comes from the natural beauty of our Australian landscapes and I’m passionate about raising awareness of the need to preserve the pristine areas that surround us.”
Will you be in the vicinity of the wonderful Whitsundays? Visit the launch of Annie Seaton’s newest book WHITSUNDAY DAWN being held on Friday 7 September 2018 at Coral Sea Resort Jetty, Airlie Beach, Queensland. A welcome drink then cash bar will be available with complimentary gourmet nibbles and canapes from the Coral Sea Resort kitchen. RSVP via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AnnieSeatonAuthor/
Did you see them pass today, Billy, Kate and Robin,
All astride upon the back of old grey Dobbin?
Jigging, jogging off to school, down the dusty track––
What must Dobbin think of it––three upon his back?
Robin at the bridle-rein, in the middle Kate,
Billy holding on behind, his legs out straight.
Now they’re coming back from school, jig, jog, jig.
See them at the corner where the gums grow big;
Dobbin flicking off the flies and blinking at the sun––
Having three upon his back he thinks is splendid fun:
Robin at the bridle-rein, in the middle Kate,
Little Billy up behind, his legs out straight.
Poem originally published in ‘A Book for Kids’ 1921
Ever get poetry nostalgia? Australian school children learn poems by C J Dennis, Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson and many more. Often a particular poet’s verse follows them through life, even though their lives are nothing like the rough and tumble era in which these pioneer poets wrote.
Changes were afoot in Australia in late nineteenth/early twentieth century and were reflected in the country’s poetry. In the evening, after dinner, someone would recite a poem or two. Years later, I grew up with Banjo Paterson’s ‘The Man From Snowy River’, a rollicking ode to bush men, stock riders, the dangerously rugged land and the great value of horses.
Slow Clothing reflects author and refashion advocate Jane Milburn’s own unique style, independent of “fast fashion” trends. Upcycled from denim jeans, the dress Jane wore during her talk at a local BCC library had the potential to look strange but was distinctive and quite beguiling.
Jane, sustainability consultant and founder of Textile Beat, touched on several key elements during her talk––environmentally unfriendly fabrics and dyes; sweat shop labour; landfill; passive fashion; synthetic vs natural fibre; signature style and minimal wardrobe. Hot topics included recycle by exchange, shopping tips, Sew It Again mending and creating new from old. Jane tends to hoard fabric offcuts and used buttons, and has a passion for real cotton thread.
Rethinking clothing culture doesn’t mean wearing your clothes until they fall apart at the seams, it means mindful immersion, repairing and refashioning your garments.
An attentive audience, Jane encouraged us to make thoughtful, ethical, informed choices to reduce our clothing footprint on the world. Until recently, she regularly visited charity shops for secondhand garments but is currently resisting the temptation and working with what she’s got. “We believe secondhand is the new organic and mending is good for the soul. In return, we are liberated and satisfied.”
In her book Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear Jane shares insights and upcycling advice. She has created templates like Upcycled Collar and History Skirt, guiding home sewing conversion of a beloved garment to reflect the changes in our lives.
To provide meaning and story to her own favourite pieces, Jane Milburn restyles and sews her clothing by hand. Currently testing t-shirt cotton drawstrings as an alternative to underwear elastic (elastic is made from synthetics) Jane stitches everything by hand.
Help! I can hear you say, nobody has hand-sewn an outfit since the mid-twentieth century––except maybe Vivienne Westwood––but don’t panic, Jane’s book provides testimonials, illustrations and clear instructions for eco-dyes and upside-down jumper skirts through to sewing on a button. Eco-fashionistas unite!
Although Slow Clothing is a multifaceted, easy-to-read book with positive chapter headings (Purpose, Authenticity, Creativity, Action, Autonomy, Reflection) amid the ingenious apparel, I am missing a frivolous note, perhaps a ball gown? On a serious mission, Jane has created a Slow Clothing Manifesto with ten tags to keep in mind when out shopping: think, natural, quality, local, few, care, make, revive, adapt, salvage.
Quotes from Jane embody the Slow Clothing philosophy “Slow Clothing brings wholeness through living simply, creatively and fairly” and “We buy thoughtfully, gain skills, and care for what we wear as an embodiment of ourselves.” Personally I am hoping to see people clutching their Slow Clothing Manifesto cards at an op shop near me.
The current trail Jane Milburn is blazing makes fascinating reading. Arts Queensland, meeting VIPs, War on Waste ABCTV, visiting 103-year-old Misao Jo in Osaka, hosting a Clothing Repair Café, conducting workshops and championing natural-fibre, Jane says “It has been personally satisfying to see the uptake of upcycling as a conscious practice with many young people interested in its potential for customising their clothes.”
Unfortunately I didn’t get to ask Jane Milburn how we go about combating the greed of designer labels. But the clear message is––help reduce landfill by upcycling your clothes to reflect your own unique style.