“Defined by warm weather for most of the year, sun seekers flock to Brisbane to enjoy the Queensland capital’s subtropical climate, perfect weather to enjoy the great outdoors. Therefore, you wouldn’t expect to see a snowman on your travels, or would you?
Far from the snowman’s European ancestry, its home is now the Queensland Art Gallery’s sculpture courtyard.
Three years ago the life-sized snowman, created by leading contemporary artists and collaborators Peter Fischli and David Weiss, might have been an unexpected sight in Brisbane, however the sculpture has become a much-loved citizen and visitor favourite.
One of only four sculptures ever created, it places Brisbane in an exclusive club with the likes of MoMA, New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.”
Big, cold, looks like a 1960s unfrosted refrigerator but what a cheeky smile!
Best birthday present ever! And a great read for Halloween! After reading the draft manuscript of Jack Roney’s novel The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon on behalf of Carolyn Martinez of Hawkeye Publishing, I rated it highly in my appraisal.
Unfortunately life got in the way and I was unable to follow the progress of the book. The good news is obvious, Hawkeye Publishing accepted it for publication, my family gifted a copy to me, and here it is!
First, I wanted to learn more about the factual event the book is based on and delved into it online. The story relates to a real train crash on the Brisbane to Closeburn line on Monday 5th May 1947, a public holiday for Labour Day, and dubbed the Camp Mountain Train Crash. It proved to be the worst disaster in Queensland’s rail history.
In the prologue, author Jack Roney depicts what happened on that fateful train trip from Brisbane to Closeburn; a special picnic day for families and friends, a journey which ended in tragedy with a catastrophic derailing. Many lives were lost or changed forever.
However, there is one big difference in this story
After the train crash decades later in May 1982, a Labour Day holiday, best mates Toby, Dan and Jimmy join their Grade 7 Samford State School class early in the morning to watch the super blue blood moon lunar eclipse. Afterwards they go exploring in the old Yugar Tunnel, scaring bats and being scared. Someone or something is watching them from the trees. The three boys go into the dark tunnel… bats… fire and smoke… and depart thoroughly spooked.
After the tunnel adventure, the boys cycle to the ghost train site along a road where the train tracks once ran… hear train whistle… steam train engine… Jimmy disappears… of course, young Toby does not know or understand where his friend has actually gone. Dan is very upset. Toby’s life turns into a living nightmare because nobody believes him, and the police are sceptical when he says “Jimmy just vanished”.
Decades later, enter adult Toby, a 2017 jetsetting travel writer returning from a far-flung country. Roney does an excellent job of describing Toby’s extensive research to find Jimmy (which gets more and more desperate) to discover how and why his friend disappeared. He wants to believe his missing pal is still alive. He must be out there! Cue research into time-slip, time travel, portal, wormhole, lunar eclipse, tear in the fabric of space, super blue blood moon (a lunar eclipse coupled with a second full moon in one month) but is a return possible after such a crash?
Previously, without warning, the other friend Dan, now an adult, has gone missing under mysterious circumstances and his wife is distraught. From tax avoidance to suicide, Toby runs through the possible yet unlikely options.
Find out what Toby discovers. The clues are there. There are three time zones set in 1947, 1982 and 2017 for each lunar phenomena. Toby widens his research to make some sense of the disappearances with unexpected help from his landlady Mrs Doherty.
There is strong urban geography throughout, and I am sure teenage readers and speculative fiction fans would happily discuss conflicting emotions and plot nuances. Roney’s tweaks and turnarounds are clever and I went back once to see how the past fitted in with the present. The final twist is unexpected!
Written in four parts with chapter illustrations, The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon is a vividly realised adventure story which invokes a strong sense of friendship, keeping an open mind, and never giving up.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Jack Roney is a former detective and author of the crime thriller series The Angels Wept, The Demons Woke and The Shadows Watch. He is a member of the Queensland Writers Centre and Australian Crime Writers Association. His writing is inspired by over 30 years in law enforcement where he gained experience in general policing, criminal investigation, strategic policy, media and communications and also as an operational skills/firearms and police academy instructor. He draws on his experience to bring authenticity and realism to his writing. https://www.jackroney.com.au/#/
“This book is dedicated to the victims of the Camp Mountain train crash, the heroes who came to their aid, and the survivors whose lives were changed forever by the tragic events of 5th May 1947. May you never be forgotten”
I never thought I would last this long and still be interested in blogging the miscellaneous bits and pieces which make up my literary life.
Over the last five years I have written, read, liked, followed, commented and corresponded with many other bloggers around the world. It is such informative fun, thanks everybody, and I look forward to continuing.
What have I got to show for it? To answer that question, a look through my Archive List is required. Select a category from the drop-down menu.
Meanwhile, I have just returned from a holiday in Maryborough (an historic Queensland town – actually the whole region is pretty special) and one of the highlights was attending the Mary Poppins Festival in the birthplace of her creator, author P L Travers. Many will remember the Disney version of her famous book.
Naturally I did heaps of things and took heaps of photos, so once they are curated I will be posting a travel pictorial. “Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee” there is more to see.
Unfortunately it had been raining for several days when we left Brisbane and headed north with no sign of letting up. The journey to Maryborough, situated inland from the Fraser Coast region, is about 250km and it rained the whole way; it was still raining when we arrived.
The next day was the Mary Poppins Festival and a huge amount of outdoor activities with most people in costume. Lo and behold, the rain stopped! The whole day was fine and sunny. You guessed it, the next day it bucketed down again!
If I go prepared, rain is a novelty for me. I took an old family umbrella with frills around it. But when the wind blows cold (it is winter here in Australia) it’s not much fun hanging onto a brolly unless you are Mary Poppins. Her classic silhouette, in glowing red then bright green, blinks and beeps as pedestrians cross at traffic lights.
Anyway, the itinerary held good. We achieved our goals, seeing interesting sights (the Mary River curves around the town and there were a number of yachts moored), strolled through art galleries and parks, antique shops, City Hall, the library, the historic Story Bank museum, and ate local produce including pizza in the skate park after dark. We met friendly, welcoming and relaxed people, and waved vigorously at the Mary Ann steam locomotive as it huffed and puffed down the tracks. A different way of life…
Enjoy more pictorial highlights of my Maryborough visit:
Author Overview:Helen Lyndon Goff (author P L Travers) was born and grew up in Maryborough, Queensland, before being sent to boarding school in Sydney NSW. Her writing was first published when she was a teenager. Later she worked briefly as a journalist and a professional Shakespearean actress.As author P L Travers, Goff wrote many children’s stories, non-fiction and collections, and lived a varied yet personal life. Wikipedia entry reads “In a 1977 interview on the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs, Travers remarked about the Disney film, “I’ve seen it once or twice, and I’ve learned to live with it. It’s glamorous and it’s a good film on its own level, but I don’t think it is very like my books.”
In honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (and because I like umbrellas!) I have reblogged my enthusiastic post from 21st April 2018 to add to the 70th celebrations in 2022 – it’s all about the umbrellas!
In UK, Her Royal Highness has two birthdays each year: her actual birthday on 21st April and her official birthday usually the second Saturday in June. Born in 1926, at the time of writing, she is 92 years-old and still going strong. Happy birthday, Your Majesty!
The birthday of reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II is celebrated at different times of the year throughout the Commonwealth countries and usually accompanied by a public holiday. In Australia, each State and Territory has decreed a different day.
In Queensland (named after Queen Victoria) we have a Monday holiday in honour of the Queen’s birthday and enjoy a long weekend. This year it falls on Monday 1st October 2018 and Brisbane residents will head to official celebrations, BBQs, coastal regions, rainforest walks or just laze around at home and read a book.
“God Save Our Gracious Queen”
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II holds her umbrella as she meets guests as she hosts a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in central London on June 3, 2014. AFP PHOTO / POOL / YUI MOK
Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee concert in London 2022 was an over-the-top extravaganza of real people, digital wonders, popular songs, personal tributes and Paddington Bear served tea. The music swelled while famous folk talked, superstars sang and everyone swished up and down the huge stage. At night, Buckingham Palace was an ever-changing canvas of celebration showing special moments from over 70 years. High above, fireworks shimmered, creating magical icons for smiling members of the Royal family and the ecstatic crowd of well-wishers, literally millions of cheering flag-waving people spread out as far as the eye could see. What a night!
The Laughing Kookaburra can be identified immediately by both plumage and call. The cackling laugh is often used in scary jungle movies.
Laughing Kookaburras are found throughout eastern Australia. They feed mostly on insects, worms and crustaceans (like the yabby crayfish above) although small snakes, mammals, frogs and birds may also be eaten. Prey is seized by pouncing from a convenient perch. The meal is eaten whole, but larger prey is killed by bashing it against the ground or tree branch.
The kookaburra photograph (above) was taken at Crows Nest, located 44km north-east of Toowoomba on the Great Dividing Range, Queensland. It is one of the larger members of the kingfisher family with a wingspan 64cm-66cm (25in-26in).
I have always loved keen-eyed, stocky little kookaburras. Suburban kookaburras living in parkland sometimes loiter around barbecue cooking areas. They are not dangerous birds and rather stand-offish but I would not encourage them with human food. That powerful beak is better suited to nature’s diet.
Laughing Kookaburra feathers are generally off-white below, faintly barred with dark brown, and brown on the back and wings. The tail is more rufous, broadly barred with black. There is a conspicuous dark brown eye-stripe through the face, like an old-fashioned burglar mask.
My grandfather was an artist, woodcarver and bespoke furniture maker, and he designed and cast this laughing kookaburra (above) in a plaster mould. After hand-painting the kookaburra, he framed it in the minimalist style of 1960s. Both he and my grandmother (a needleworker extraordinaire) created Australian designs when many things were influenced by British and European artisans.
The kookaburra’s scientific name is Dacelo novaeguineae but the name ‘kookaburra’ is generally believed to be derived from the original term ‘grab a stick’ or ‘gougou garrdga’ in Kamilaroi/Euhlayi language.
Group kookaburra calls are best heard in early morning and at dusk, and are crazy loud if you are standing under their tree.
A group of kookaburras is called ‘a riot of kookaburras’ because of the raucous noise.
Studies have shown that kookaburras pair for life. The nest is usually a bare chamber in a naturally occurring tree hollow. The breeding season is August to January and every bird in the family group shares parenting duties. The ideal set-up really.
Some of the nominees are dinosaurs. My family has always been fascinated by dinosaurs. From books, movies, kids series to figurines, they have loomed large in our home for many years. Now Queenslanders of all ages have the opportunity to help choose the 10th official State emblem, a fossil—it doesn’t have to be a dinosaur.
Choosing a Fossil Emblem
There are 12 fossil candidates lined up for the honour of being our State’s newest emblem. “Did you know in the Early Cretaceous Period, inland seas covered much of Outback Queensland? This means that Queensland has some of the most exciting fossil museums, dinosaur trails and discovery centres in the world, including the internationally renowned fossil sites of the Riversleigh World Heritage Area.“
“Outback Queensland towns like Hughenden, Richmond and Winton are on Australia’s Dinosaur Trail, and many other Outback areas such as Eromanga, Eulo and Quilpie regularly attract fossil hunters and dinosaur lovers.”
All Shapes and Sizes
I am surprised that as well as featuring large prehistoric creatures, the endearing platypus is on the list, and Lovellea wintonensis, the oldest known permineralised fossil flower (which dinosaurs munched on).
Select your preference for Queensland’s newest fossil emblem—
Visit the website View the illustrations Read the history Click a million years in the making!
“Water Dragons are one of our most frequently encountered lizard species here in South East Queensland. They thrive just about anywhere, particularly around water sources of varied descriptions where they usually can be found in good numbers and they don’t mind the presence of people.”
“They feed primarily on small spiders and insects but will take other small vertebrates on occasion.”
LIFEGUARDS ON DUTY at Yeppoon situated 38 kilometres north east of Rockhampton, Queensland, the gateway to Great Keppel Island and the wonders of the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
From Yeppoon, across beautiful blue water, you can see Great Keppel Island. It has been years since I visited this coastal region and much has changed but the beaches and islands are far more accessible.
Meander down Yeppoon’s main street or stroll along the esplanade to browse beach-chic boutiques and surf stores and keep an eye out for one of the many new street art murals adorning local walls.
The Capricorn Coast (on the Tropic of Capricorn, the circle of latitude around the world which contains the subsolar point at the December solstice) also delivers when it comes to sourcing fine food with specialty produce like premium, export quality beef (nearby Rockhampton is the beef capital of Australia) seafood, and tropical produce. There is a wide range of restaurants, cafés and clubs catering to all tastes and budgets.
Families are well catered for in Yeppoon, with the foreshore also boasting the fantastic ‘Keppel Kraken’ zero-depth water park, open daily with fun and free activities for the kids on hot sunny days. The new lagoon pool at the southern end of Yeppoon Main Beach also has a children’s play area and dining areas.
I’d say Yeppoon is unspoiled, a relaxed and friendly little coastal town.
On a sunny Friday morning, waiting to enter GOMA Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, I did not photograph the great long queue of people. However, there were no privacy issues, every single person was wearing a mask. Patiently observing restrictions, we were all determined to view the European Masterpieces exhibition on loan from The Met, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Once inside, after a quick squirt of lavender hand-sanitiser, directions from the highly organised gallery staff were followed, and metered groups were ushered through the necessary sign-in to enter a specially designed viewing area. I say ‘area’ but it was more like roaming around inside someone’s home. Admittedly a large home with muted lighting and grey walls but it was what hung on those walls that definitely became awe-inspiring.
The galleries were split into three groups:
1. Devotion and Renaissance
2. Absolutism and Enlightenment
3. Revolution and Art for the People
From Giovanni di Paolo (Paradise, 1445) to Claude Monet (Water Lilies, 1916) I have written a quick overview of my visit—and I only took a handful of photographs. There are 65 works of art on display, and so famous they do not need my documentation.
Deep down I have to confess that the age and history of many of the paintings captured my attention more than the artwork itself. Scary moments frozen in time, dramatic posturing, gloomy scenes were not the order of the day for me. I loved the works with life and action and, let’s face it, realism.
French painter Georges de La Tour’s work ‘The Fortune Teller’(see main entrance photo above) finally made sense to me when I saw it for real. It’s not about the old fortune teller at aLL.
I liked the ‘essence’ of Lady Smith (Charlotte Delaval) and her children George, Louisa and Charlotte, in this family portrait where she appears lost in thought while her children tussle beside her, glancing at the viewer. The portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (England) was commissioned by Lady Smith’s husband, a baronet and member of Parliament. Expressing cultural ideals of femininity and upper-class childhood, this work was a popular exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1787 the year it was painted.
I wandered past El Greco, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Goya, Rembrandt, Renoir, et al, and was drawn towards the sound of violin music. I left the dimmed rooms and walked into a brightly lit area where a lone violinist was playing. He finished with a flourish and an elderly gentleman and myself clapped enthusiastically but he appeared a tad embarrassed, nodded his thanks and exited the stage.
Directly behind me was The Studio, a long gallery set out with still life objects for the budding artist to create a modern masterpiece. There is a Renaissance backdrop for live models at special times. My eyes were drawn to the interactive displays and ‘paintings’ which brought the original art to life. Shades of Harry Potter, both clever and spooky!
The theatrette was not heavily patronised and after hearing the big bosses talk, I decided to seek out one of my favourite colourful artists and that is Paul Gauguin (France 1848-1903). His ‘Tahitian Landscape, 1892’ is smaller and less vibrant than I expected. A pleasant rural scene (below left) but not his usual tropical effervescence.
Claude Monet (France 1840-1926) and his sombre ‘Water Lilies’ wished me bon voyage and I was back into the real world.
As any person who frequents an exhibition knows, the exit is via the gift shop. This low-key store had some nice items but I wasn’t feeling it. The Library Café was looking inviting.
When I thought about the great works of art I had just seen, I pondered which one I could single out, which one I thought was the cream of the crop. The pleb in me rather enjoyed a large 1670 work by Jan Steen (Netherlands) ‘Merry Company on a Terrace’ for its rich vibes and domestic disorder. The original is bigger and brighter than the image (above right) shown here.
I think perhaps Covid-19 had something to do with the way I responded to the Met Masterpieces… and it was interesting to see how each century lightened the mood.
To quote architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959)“Respect the masterpiece, it is true reverence to man. There is no quality so great, none so much needed now.”
12 June 2021 – 17 October 2021 GOMA | Gallery 1.1 The Fairfax Gallery, Gallery 1.2, Gallery 1.3 Eric & Marion Taylor Gallery | Ticketed
Brooding rain clouds hang over the Stanthorpe Historical Museum gate.
Out the back is the blacksmith’s workshop mentioned in Part One. A guided tour of Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery was an eye-opener (costumes next) and the Stanthorpe Post Office 1901 was the first in Queensland. Its style is informal with Edwardian Baroque Revival elements and Royal coat-of-arms, but inside it’s 21st century business as usual.
Napoleon, Ferdinand and The Alchemist.
Both Ferdinand and The Alchemist have elaborate tail coats trailing behind their heavily detailed jackets. Dr Denise Rall used a variety of mediums but my photos don’t capture the sumptuousness of the bling-covered fabric. There were two prints of the Rooster and I almost took the cheeky fellow home! The Gallery has an array of art techniques including landscapes by local artists and thought-provoking ceramics.
Took a stroll through town.
This must be the biggest stone thermometer in Australia. A detour between buildings lead to a sculpture with an ibis taking flight (used in my ‘Exercise Makes You More Attractive’ post). During lunch I read the local newspaper Stanthorpe Today and discovered the old white 1960s Valiant sedan I had photographed cruising the streets was taking part in a Classic Car Rally. Just love those teatowels!
A pyramid in a paddock.
This one is made of local stone and called The Ballandean Pyramid. It was originally built for the Henty Vineyards former owner, Stuart Moreland.
Storm King Dam on a suitably overcast day.
Although not as cold as I was lead to believe. The lake has bungalows to cater for fishing enthusiasts. The view from Top of the Town Tourist Park down to the centre of town with a blue picnic table for contrast. Daisies amongst granite rocks, and more granite rocks and boulders at Donnelly’s Castle, almost impossible to photograph their size—but not teetering like giant hard-boiled eggs in some parts of the region. Captain Thunderbolt, an expert horseman and highway robber, used to hide in these geological wonders.
The U3A Conference 2021 in Stanthorpe.
A packed 2-day Program of informative U3A events with eloquent guest speakers, living up to the title of ‘Coolest’ Conference. A highlight for me was Copyright with Irene Sachs, a straight-forward look at Australian copyright laws. Everyone got a goodies bag and the Daisy mosaic tile was hand-made specially, a different one in each bag. There’s my grey Alpaca cardigan from Pure Inca. Fresh-picked fruit abounded, Stanthorpe apples were prominent—I love them! Local food take-home’s included Jamworks Rosella Jam, Sutton’s Apple Jelly, Stanthorpe Honey, Jersey Girls cheese, minus bakery delights consumed on route.
The evenings were misty and quiet…
… except for a heifer escaping after dark and running around mooing at midnight! The daytime sky changed colour often but mostly May sunlight shone on country Stanthorpe and the whispering eucalypt leaves. A return visit is inevitable.
Here’s to life-long learning!
At an altitude of 811 metres (2,661 ft), Stanthorpe holds the record for the lowest temperature recorded in Queensland at −10.6 °C (12.9 °F) on 23 June 1961. My blog post compiled on Queensland Day 6 June 2021.
The views change dramatically driving along the highway from Brisbane to Stanthorpe.
Through farmland, over Cunninghams Gap and the Great Dividing Range (Eastern Highlands) Australia’s most substantial mountain range and the third longest land-based range in the world. Through ‘Rose and Rodeo Capital’ Warwick then into the Granite Belt region renowned for fruit-growing and wine-making. The air becomes cooler, the May autumn leaves turn russet and the landscape is littered with huge granite boulders.
Stanthorpe is a pretty little town with a lot of history as I found out when I attended my first U3A conference.
Actually the 2021 conference was a good reason to visit this fabulous part of Queensland! On arrival, after traversing the town, the next stop was Top Of The Town Tourist Park’s well-appointed accommodation in The Cottage. A modern cottage, small and cute and separate from the other cabins and campers. That didn’t stop me talking to the locals for a good chinwag. The historical museum is nextdoor and that warranted a visit on the last day, so much to see inside! Anyway, it was a quick drive into town and a visit to the supermarket, and a Peruvian Alpaca wool shop just in case there was a cold snap. I did buy a handwoven cardigan which is very warm and snuggly. My photo shows the walk down to Quart Pot Creek. The sky was a clear blue and the water reflections sparkled.
Looking across Quart Pot Creek on the path to the Tourist Information Centre.
A huge stone thermometer read 15 degrees Celsius (59 Fahrenheit) and a tourist bus had just arrived so there were a lot of people milling about inside looking a handmade souvenirs and ordering morning tea. I picked up several leaflets and information on local sites of interest plus must-do events, like wineries, Girraween National Park, Wallangarra Railway Station Museum & Cafe (sadly not managed this trip) Truffle tour with Truffle dog hunts, Jersey Girls Cheese factory (what an experience!) and Donnelly’s Castle which are a jumble of prehistoric granite boulders at the end of a winding gravel road. After climbing these huge mystical boulders, the view was fantastic. Then it was time to head back for a delicious lunch at Lily’s Cafe in the High Street.
My next post will feature another side of Stanthorpe. The diversity surprised me.
A visitor to Stanthorpe would need a couple of weeks to visit all the internationally renowned wineries and local attractions, both natural and man-made like The Pyramid out in a paddock! And I loved the individuality of farm produce and accommodation. Top Of The Town had a trail up the hillside where you can stand on a granite rock and look out over the town in the company of native birds and pretty wildflowers. Brisbane doesn’t get much in the way of autumn leaves (although the weather does cool down) so this blog post features red, yellow, golden leaves.
In Part Two, I will post more photographs and write briefly about the U3A Conference. The conference ran over two days and the first guest speaker was Mike Hayes, Director of Viticulture and Chief Winemaker from Sirromet Wines, Ballandean, located in the Southern Downs near the Queensland/New South Wales border.
These two ducks were not very happy that I was walking past their pond.
The Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery pond had rainwater in it from a storm the night before but otherwise water is very precious in southern Queensland. I doubt the centre fountain is ever full although it does add to the feel of the season. The U3A Conference organised a guided tour of the Art Gallery and in my second post I will show two of the local artists creations. I was particularly taken by the work of costumier Denise N Rall; landscapes beautifully rendered in different mediums; an illuminated-style book of art.
Grape vine leaves, not in a vineyard but the Stanthorpe Historical Museum.
These leaves caught my eye outside the blacksmith’s workshop. Inside was a blackened fireplace, anvil and countless tongs, pliers, buckets and metal utensils, hung around the slab bark hut. I don’t remember seeing the leather bellows to fan the flames but there must have been. The blacksmithy had a physically demanding yet highly necessary job in every town in days gone by. I found it difficult to even lift the hammer which would have been used to shape the red hot iron. And I have no doubt countless horseshoes and metal implements were forged in sheds like this with its corrugated iron roof, dirt floor and rough log seating.
Bye from sweet, sunny Stanthorpe until my next post Part Two also compiled on Queensland Day 6 June 2021.
The Bush Stone-curlew or Bush Thick-knee (Burhinus grallarius) is a large ground-dwelling bird with a life span of up to 20 years. The bush curlew is endemic to Australia and found in Brisbane, usually in parkland. The curlew will adopt a rigid posture when it becomes aware of an observer, as this one did, poised amongst the roses in New Farm Park.
Curlews are terrestrial predators adapted to stalking slowly at night. Their preferred habitat is open landscapes which give them good visibility at ground level where they search for invertebrates such as insects. The grey-brown coloration is distinguished by dark streaks, its eyes are large and legs are long. Both male and female care for two eggs laid on the bare ground, usually sited in a shaded position near a bush, stone wall or fallen branch.
Queensland Bush Stone-curlews are capable of flight but rely on the camouflage of their plumage to evade detection during the day. Domestic animals are their biggest threat. At night their call is an evocative and unforgettable sound, a sort of wailing cry which echoes across open ground.
In her memoir ‘The Only Way Home’ and YouTube video (see below) Liz Byron explains what it meant leaving her roller-coaster marriage, career, family dinners, large library and a comfortable, charming home to trek 2,500 kilometres through rural Queensland on the rugged Bicentennial National Trail.
Liz, mother and semi-retired sociolegal researcher, writes from her New South Wales Northern Rivers home. Her writing is confronting and visceral in its honesty.
Each step on this radical journey of self-discovery helped Liz make sense of grief and trauma, including the tragic loss of one of her four children. Liz’s fierce independence was confronted daily as she tackled details of equipment, food supply, lack of drinking water, thorny grass seeds and the hilarious will of her two devoted donkeys Grace and Charley.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to do a long distance trek?
LIZ : From the various facets involved in a long-distance trek, consider where you might lack experience and spend time acquiring the experience you need. From thirty years of overnight bushwalking, I was experienced at living outdoors, packing light, negotiating difficult terrain and camping, cooking in all weathers. However, I had no experience with large animals and allowed myself four years to get to know my donkeys, learn how to handle them on the road and have them face as many scary situations as I could predict might arise.
What was your most essential piece of equipment?
LIZ : My hoof pick. Everything about trekking depends upon the donkeys’ feet.
You talk about having to learn about adjusting your standards of what to expect, how did the BNT trek compare to what you expected?
LIZ : Adjusting my standards was more about adjusting my expectations of other people and myself. A strong theme in the book is that – because of all my outdoor experience – physical challenges were easily overcome. It was almost as if surviving physically demanding situations was no longer part of the lessons I needed to learn. The challenges were much more about relating to people from whom I needed help – because of the extremely dry conditions and NEVER part of my trek plan – so accepting my limitations, and theirs, changed my standards of what to expect in all sorts of social situations.
What was the most important thing that working with donkeys taught you about yourself?
LIZ : Accepting the way things are, like donkeys do, is far healthier, for both mind and body, than getting lost in thoughts about how things should be.
Several years have passed since you walked the Bicentennial National Trail, have the lessons you learned endured?
LIZ : Yes. Because lessons learned from experience, in other words, from our mistakes, naturally endure.
Thank you, Liz, I enjoyed reading ‘The Only Way Home’. Your unique memoir shows strength of purpose and insights into your remarkable journey.
A memoir of singularity of purpose and a deep determination to overcome all obstacles. Liz Byron challenges herself in every way, mentally, physically and spiritually to start afresh by walking the rugged Bicentennial National Trail towards a new, independent life. The BNT on the Great Dividing Range on the east coast of Australia has some of the most unforgiving landscapes in the world. Her companions on this journey are two donkeys with the wisdom of ages and Liz’s symbol, the wild watchful wedge-tail eagles.
‘The Only Way Home’ is an intimate memoir with a heartbreaking look into family life, the pain Liz suffers and the repercussions for those involved. It also captures the freedom of walking through wide-ranging bushland, fording rivers, and making camp with two charming character-filled donkeys Grace and Charley.
Liz had previously done a lot of bushwalking but without encountering such a harsh and challenging environment. Taking the extremes of drought country in their stride, her donkeys are clever and observant, and prove they can be stubborn for good reason. Humans just have to work out what those reasons are! Liz shows love and respect for her companions, their hardiness and their intuition. Grace and Charley each carried a load, packed and balanced, and it was amusing how they behaved when released to graze.
Interspersed with walking the Queensland section of the BNT, a trail originally intended for horses, Liz writes candidly about her fractured marriage, the love of her children and losing a child, the trauma of her own childhood and soothing meditation. A mixture of grief, courage and sheer willpower drives her forward as she launches herself into a second life in one of the most demanding ways imaginable.
Admittedly I am not an adept hiker but some of the trials and tribulations Liz encountered would have had me stumbling to the nearest township, flagging down a four-wheel drive and heading back to Brisbane. At one stage the soles of Liz’s hiking boots came adrift, not to mention needle-thin grass seeds digging into her skin. Sometimes the track was marked and sometimes it was not; they traversed barren sections, steep topography, waist high grass, slippery rocks and rested at the occasional restorative oasis.
Along the way, Liz kept a journal rather than taking photographs and if she stopped for the night in solid accommodation in lieu of pitching a tent, all she needed was a table and chair to update her journal. Liz often met farmers, cattlemen, country people, who were informative and willing to help with advice on the terrain ahead, plus an overnight paddock for her two stalwart pals.
Memorable lines from Liz ‘Folks in rural, remote, drought-stricken Queensland understood only too well the interdependent nature of being human. I, on the other hand, was trying to resolve an inherent dichotomy: seeking my independence as a woman at the same time as being a homeless wanderer heavily reliant on cattle station people’ – Liz is a vegetarian and food was a source of uneasiness, both getting and eating, and fresh produce was always a joy – ‘My commitment to receive help graciously was Step One.’
I liked the way the chapters and timeline were introduced. Backstory arrives at pertinent intervals with sections of Liz’s life before, during and after she walks the Bicentennial National Trail. Through Liz’s retelling more shocking revelations emerge, putting her quest in sharper focus.
Just reading, without travelling alone for 2,500 kilometres with two Equus asinus companions, this memoir invoked many emotions in me. From an embattled marriage to conquering those kilometres, Liz shares the insights gained on her path to independence and healing.
In her introduction, Liz Byron says ‘It was 2006, when I had been writing academic material for 20 years, before I decided to try writing my story. I had five lecture pads full of journal notes about the 2,500 kilometre trek I’d recently completed with my two donkeys. This seemed like a good place to start. And so I did. I wrote on and off for nearly fifteen years before feeling as if I understood myself and my life well enough to explain why I had done the trek.’ My thanks to Liz Byron for a review copy, the book is available on her website here.
The Bicentennial National Trail - AustraliaThe Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) originally known as the National Horse Trail, is one of the longest multi-use, non-motorised, self-reliant trails in the world, stretching 5,330 kilometres from Cooktown, Queensland, through New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory to Healesville, 60 km north-east of Melbourne, Victoria. This trail runs the length of the rugged Great Dividing Range through national parks, private property and alongside wilderness areas. The BNT follows old coach roads, stock routes, brumby tracks, rivers, fire trails and was originally intended for horses. The Trail would take most of one year to walk.
Lamb House is one very interesting residence! And it is uncommon to find such architecture in Brisbane still intact.
Lamb House needs restoration.
A heritage-listed villa, Lamb House is situated at 9 Leopard Street, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It was designed by Alexander Brown Wilson and built from c.1902 to c.1908. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992 and has been languishing unattended ever since.
Brisbane City Council is proposing amendments to some of its citywide provisions in Brisbane City Plan 2014 (City Plan) and submissions are now open for Major amendment package K – Lamb House. Council has opened consultation for Lamb House character protection.
Queensland Heritage Register states that “Lamb House, erected c.1902, is a rare surviving example of a grand, intact Federation period residence in the Brisbane district” and this Wikipedia entry practically screams Period Drama—
“Lamb House is a large, two-storeyed, red brick residence with a multi-gabled roof clad in terracotta tiles. Conspicuously situated above the Kangaroo Point Cliffs at the southern end of the suburb, overlooking the South Brisbane and Town reaches of the Brisbane River…”
“Queen Anne influences are evident in the timber and roughcast gable infill designs, the ornate cement mouldings to the entrance portico-cum-observation tower, and the elaborate chimney stacks and tall terracotta chimney pots.”
“The original plans indicate vestibule and stairwell, dining, drawing and morning rooms, kitchen and service areas on the ground floor, and six bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor.” Plus “The residence has substantial grounds with mature trees and gardens.”
The proposed changes to Lamb House (situated on Leopard and Wild Streets, Kangaroo Point with a stunning view of the Brisbane River, city botanical gardens and CBD) support Council’s commitment to protect the unique character of Brisbane, considering the property’s local landmark identity, and the character and streetscape values of the area.
These proposed changes include:
Zoning changes to lots held by Lamb House to become Character residential (Character zone precinct)
Updates to overlay maps to apply the Traditional building character overlay.
Adding the Significant Landscape tree overlay to the weeping figs on the lots on Leopard Street, Kangaroo Point.
Please consider making a submission because community input is vital for informing major amendments toCity Plan;andBrisbane City Councilis now seeking feedback on the proposed changes. You canHAVE YOUR SAYand submissions must be received by 11.59pm on Sunday 13 December 2020.
Residents can talk to a Council planner to ask questions or seek clarification on the proposed changes. Register for a free Talk to a Planner session from 23 to 25 November 2020 at these locations:
Lamb House, built in 1902 for Queen Street draper John Lamb (one half of Edwards & Lamb Emporium specialising in Drapery, Millinery, etc) is still owned by the Lamb family, Joy Lamb. Heritage-listed Lamb House and surrounding gardens are well worth preserving in my opinion. It might make up for the destructive Joh Bjelke-Petersen era and the wrought iron lace which disappeared during the midnight demolition of the landmark Bellevue Hotel in 1979, and give Brisbane a proper past for the future to appreciate.
DEAR READER, IF HISTORICALLY INCLINED, PLEASE CONTACT BRISBANE CITY COUNCIL. I ADORE OLD HERITAGE LISTED BUILDINGS – THEY MUST BE PRESERVED. BUT I HAVE NO CONNECTION WITH DECISIONS REGARDING LAMB HOUSE. I WATCH FUTURE EVENTS WITH INTEREST, AND SINCERELY HOPE THIS UNIQUE OLD HOME CAN BE REVIVED. GBW 2020.
This is a book I had to read. The name is derived from “an alleged 1942 WWII government plan to abandon Northern Australia in the event of a Japanese invasion”—there is nothing alleged about it. My father was a young soldier in WWII based in Melbourne when his division received the command to form The Brisbane Line. It made such an impression on him that later, when he was married, he relocated the family to Brisbane where I currently live.
I dearly wish I could discuss this novel with my late father but I do remember him reminiscing about the off-duty times and leave in tropical Far North Queensland where hi-jinks often lead to a soldier’s death. I am sure there was tension, corruption and murder among the thousands of American troops stationed in Brisbane, but on the other hand I know families of young women who married GI Joe’s and went to live in US never to return.
Enigmatic protagonist, Rose, has a boyfriend who is a prisoner-of-war and she says “It’s men who cause the trouble in the first place. It’s just another hypocrisy.”
Suitable for crime readers and historians, this well-researched yet fictionalised novel is based on a real person and his original paperwork. It is more interesting than a text book and follows Sergeant Joe Washington, a US Military Police officer and amateur photographer who joins local police in battling crime and black market corruption. Joe also has grave suspicions of a murder cover-up.
The humid atmosphere is laced with grunge and irritability offset by guys and gals dancing the night away at the Trocadero Dance Hall. Well-known landmarks and people make an appearance, for example notorious cop Frank Bischof, author Thea Astley and General Douglas MacArthur, an American who in WWII commanded the Southwest Pacific region.
The book is gritty and at times the inequality upset my 21st century sensibilities but it is based on true events. Powell has recreated a vibrant town which embraced a huge influx of cashed-up strangers in uniform and the repercussions this had on Brisbane society, some of which still lingers today.
In “The Art of War” Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote “All warfare is based on deception” and “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle” so I think Judy Powell’s book shows there was no battle—but plenty of deception closer to home.
Judy Powell is an archaeologist and historian with a passion for bringing the past to life. She has worked as a high school teacher, an academic, a National Parks officer, a museum administrator and has excavated in Jordan, Cyprus and Greece as well as leading historical archaeology projects in Australia. Powell, who lives outside Brisbane, was awarded a QANZAC Fellowship by the State Library of Queensland to pursue research into, and writing of, a series of crime novels set in Brisbane during World War II.
Pumpkin scones are a traditional morning tea favourite in Queensland. Unsophisticated yet delicious, these golden scones were much-loved by the late Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen, politician and wife of former Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and she often baked them for public occasions.
Seen as tea-time treats, they are available by the half dozen in bakeries and displayed in the cookery section of annual shows and exhibitions. For home cooking, pumpkin scones have stood the test of time due to their quick preparation and adaptability. They can be eaten sweet with strawberry jam and whipped cream, or savoury with cheddar cheese and chutney.
For full flavour, pumpkin scones are best eaten warm from the oven, but they store well and a quick turn in the microwave gives them a boost on a chilly morning.
Grandma’s Pumpkin Scones
3 cups self raising flour
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup mashed pumpkin – cooled
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, add mashed pumpkin. Sift in flour alternately with enough milk to make soft, light dough. Pat out or roll on floured board to desired thickness. Cut with round cutter. Place on tray and brush with milk or lightly dust with flour. Bake in a hot oven. Serve warm; plain or with topping.
Above recipe is adapted from Jenny Purvis, “Kilmarnock” Clermont, Queensland. Courtesy of “Country Hospitality: A Comprehensive Cookery Book” compiled by the Clermont Branch of Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association 1984 edition.
A prayer follows the foreword by former Executive Officer, Queensland Council ICPA, Mr E C Powne MBE, and reprinted below:
My Kitchen Prayer
Bless my little kitchen, Lord,
I love its every nook, And bless me as I do my work, Wash pots and pans and cook.
May the meals that I prepare, Be seasoned from above, With thy blessing and thy grace, But most of – thy Love.
As we partake of earthly food,
Thy table Thou has spread, We’ll not forget to thank thee, Lord, For all our daily bread.
So bless my little kitchen, Lord, And those who enter in, May they find nought but joy and peace, And happiness therein. Amen.
ADDENDUM: Kent pumpkin (also known as Jap pumpkin) has ribbed, grey-green mottled skin and golden yellow flesh. This pumpkin is of the sweeter variety, perfect for pumpkin scones, salads and baked dishes. Great mashed, roasted or steamed and mixed with a variety of sweet or savoury foods. Pumpkin is an excellent source of beta carotene and contains dietary fibre, potassium, and vitamins C and E for good health.
Australian traditional music has a dearth of love songs, but here is one from our home state of Queensland. The English folk singer and collector A.L. Lloyd wrote about this song—
“Throughout the fifty years from 1820 to 1870, broadside printers in London, Newcastle, Dublin and elsewhere did a good trade with the stall-ballad called ‘Banks of the Nile’, a song from the Napoleonic Wars. The song spread to America and Australia, and in Queensland it became parodied as ‘The Banks of the Condamine’, with the hero no longer a soldier but a horse-breaker or a shearer. It has turned up in sundry shapes, to various tunes, many times over, mostly in Queensland.”
This bush ballad was first published under another name in The Queenslander, the literary edition of the Brisbane Courier in 1894.
The Condamine River in southeast Queensland is 657 kilometres long and starts below Cons Plain and ends at the Balonne River.
It was named in honour of Lieut. Thomas De La Condamine (1797-1873) the A.D.C. to Governor Ralph Darling who also has a river named after him. But the Darling River has been known as the Baaka by the Barkindji people for thousands of years.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Condamine_River
David Burton has written an outstanding story about a tenacious young man determined to solve a mystery. In a tightly woven and highly readable plot he keeps the pressure up, and keeps it real. Shaun sees a man’s body floating in the local lake and when he returns with Constable Charlie Thompson the body has gone. The story kicks off from there and Shaun begins to investigate the mysterious death. He uncovers far more than he ever imagined. And he has a good imagination!
Set in a gritty, rundown Queensland coal mining town, the atmosphere is hot, dry and pulsating with undercurrents from personal relationships through to shonky mining regulations. My assumptions were overturned, clues were flipped and hopes were dashed. From angry picket lines headed by volatile Peter Grant, head of the mine workers union, to various forms of small town mindset, Shaun’s investigations pull him deeper and deeper into a world of unanswered questions.
The subtext throughout the story is “Who believes Shaun actually saw the man in the water?”. Not many people, it seems. Even his mother Linda struggles to accept the situation, although a family death may be clouding her reasoning. Shaun does appear to have a kind of obsessional limerence.
Fortunately Shaun has a keen ally in his long-time friend Will, a larrikin with a charming manner. They both believe the drowned man was murdered and someone has masterminded a cover-up. They negotiate their way through a minefield of possibilities, taking risks, and discovering the mental and physical challenges faced by coal workers and their families. Only once did I suspend disbelief when Shaun infiltrates a building, but it’s a pivotal moment.
In between covert operations, annoying teachers and school classes, Shaun and Will are on the school debating team with Megan Grant. Shaun adores Megan from afar and he imagines a future of “happy ever afters” together. Investigations continue in Brisbane with their debating team when a challenge is held in a Harry Potteresque private school perched on a hillside (I recognised it) and they stay overnight in enemy territory. A gripping spy-like chapter for you to discover.
I loved the personalities David Burton has created, the characters often did the opposite to what I expected, making them fallible yet understandable. In certain cases, there’s a fine line between liking and loathing. There is power in subtlety, and from the frustration of workers about to lose their jobs, to the death of a loved one, nothing is overstated.
David Burton has given Shaun a proactive role with plenty of intrigue. I have no hesitation in saying “The Man in the Water” is an excellent mystery for young adults and older readers. I became fully absorbed in the story and was right beside young Shaun trying to unravel the riddle. The end result is definitely worth it!
Quote from Chapter 32 “From the sky, Shaun’s home town looked like it was surrounded by yawning black holes. It was epic. The mines were colossal dark wounds in the earth, the town a sort of defiance among the rubble. It was a god’s sandpit. He pressed his face against the window and watched as the earth turned with the plane. They were coming in to land.”
David Burton is an award-winning director, playwright and author. By the age of 30, he’d written over two dozen professionally produced plays, published a book, and been a core part of some of the most innovative theatrical projects in Australia.
He’s now 32, a Dad, and has written a new YA fiction book “The Man in the Water” which I reviewed.
From Brisbane, we head inland to Gatton where we stop for lunch before crossing the fertile vegetable-growing plains of the Lockyer Valley. Our goal is the garden city of Toowoomba, situated in the Darling Downs region of southern Queensland on Australia’s Great Dividing Range.
The gradient is steep and it’s a slow climb up the mountain before we crest the plateau and turn left to Picnic Point lookout. It’s a traditional spot for travellers to stretch their legs and take in the magnificent views which seem to stretch forever into a blue-grey smudge.
After checking into our boutique hotel, we take a short walk into town, passing old homes with steep corrugated iron roofs and interesting turrets and chimneys.
A charming old building in Margaret Street, once a grand home with circular driveway, is available for business lease.
In the city centre, shops and offices are still housed in quaint older-style buildings which seem to go on forever when you are inside.
The Book Tree bookshop is an Aladdin’s cave of books and accessories and a friendly salesperson. The haberdashery store Lincraft is on three levels, basement, middle and top (with creaky wooden floorboards) crammed full of craft-creating supplies and good customer service.
Friendly staff seem to be the theme throughout Toowoomba including the upmarket shopping precinct Grand Central which contains everything the modern shopper has come to expect—plus a book swap library.
The seminar, the reason for our visit, isn’t until next day so we decide to walk through Queens Park Botanic Gardens, bypassing an old steamroller, to visit Cobb & Co Museum. Originally a coach museum in honour of Cobb & Co horse-drawn coaches which ran the length and breadth of Queensland in ye olde days, the museum has been rehoused and now contains a myriad of local and culturally significant items.
We are lucky enough to get a personal guided tour—thank you, Sharon—and learn the ins and outs of the exhibits from coaches to goat carts, blacksmith forge to wooden clothing (photos below) and local Indigenous heritage.
The museum interior meanders like an old country trail with something different around every bend.
I discover that even though male passengers paid full fare, in the olden days they were expected to assist with river crossings, fallen logs, opening and closing stock gates, and to ‘lighten the load’ by walking up hills. What a hardy bunch! We need survivor TV shows to see that level of guts and determination today.
Images below show Chris Mills-Kelly’s delicately carved wooden bonnet, dress and shoes for the Artisans Challenge 2012. It is both fascinating and moving; these small articles represent the clothing Indigenous children were made to wear for photo opportunities, adoption interviews and to impress important visitors, in contrast to their natural birthright.
Hand crafted from wood by Chris Mills-Kelly and displayed in Cobb & Co Museum, Toowoomba, Queensland.
After a delicious museum lunch with a huge lamington for dessert (below) we wind our way back to the hotel through misty rain.
My brochure reads “Although the famous coaches and tenacious horse teams and drivers are now long gone, Cobb & Co continues to live on in Australian history as the country’s greatest coaching company.”
The Cobb & Co Museum conducts workshops and various events and activities throughout the year. Our museum guide told us the workshops book out quickly. The specialist trades of yesteryear are back in fashion, wheelwright, silversmith, leadlighting, etc. One day I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at kangaroo leather plaiting. It’s a three-day course to make a belt or a whip, so watch this space. Yippee aye yay!
We walked by this gracious old residence, Harris House, every day. At leisure, I explored parks, galleries and cafes. Everybody was ready for a chat. Of course, I checked out the fashion clothing stores. Toowoomba is colder in winter than Brisbane so I ended up buying several long sleeved t-shirts which I wore in layers under my jacket.
So nice to have a change of scene and a change of season.
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