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 possibly 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 fictionalised story 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 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 strangers in uniform and the repercussions this had on Brisbane society, some of which still lingers today.
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.
The world’s best loved insects – butterflies. As soon as I walked into the Bribie Island Butterfly House, a sense of calm enveloped me. Founder Ray Archer says “Butterflies are beautiful and very peaceful insects” and I can attest to that.
This tranquil not-for-profit organisation was founded by Ray and Delphine Archer who sold their business Olive Products Australia and moved to beautiful Bribie Island, off the south-east coast of Queensland, so Ray could devote time to his passion for breeding and raising butterflies.
I’d like to take you on a stroll through the butterflies domain. But first we will learn a few facts from the Nursery before entering their airy, sun-filled, flower-perfumed enclosure.
A LESSON OR TWO ON BUTTERFLIES . . .
A female butterfly may lay between 100 to 200 eggs, and within a week or so a caterpillar will hatch.
A caterpillar breathes through tiny holes in its sides and will eat its own weight in leaf material every day until the final skin is discarded and the chrysalis hardens.
Inside the chrysalis, metamorphosis continues as the butterfly is formed and this can take weeks, months or sometimes years.
When the final stages of the caterpillar are complete, the newly formed adult butterfly will emerge, needing a few hours to dry its wings before taking flight.
Butterflies don’t have a mouth, they use their proboscis like a straw to drink nectar from flowers.
Butterflies have two large compound eyes which offer a wide visual field and extreme colour vision.
The two antennae on a butterfly’s head help with navigation and detecting plant aromas and a prospective mate.
AND THE ONE YOU WILL BE TESTED ON . . .
Butterflies are insects in the macrolepidopteran clade Rhopalocera from the order Lepidoptera.
Ready to go inside? You have to go slow because butterflies don’t dive-bomb you like mosquitoes. Silent wings flutter by, difficult to photograph, I marvel at their fragility.
Photos left to right—Plant-filled entry; a vine chock-full of happy butterflies; misty air rises from a vaporizer; a Common Crow, why that name?; a Swamp Tiger against the blue sky; newly hatched Monarch; oops, there’s two Orchard Swallowtails mating, best move on . . .
NEXT I NOTICED QUIRKY THINGS TUCKED AROUND THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE . . .
Hanging pot planters and gumboots stuffed with plants.
A rather clandestine bubbler and a secret butterfly door.
Inspirational quote and landing pad stocked with nutritious butterfly food.
This lady (below) had to make sure she was butterfly-free before leaving. The butterflies landed on hair and hats. Interestingly, they stayed well clear of the heavy black plastic doors, perhaps because their focus is on light, bright colours.
Before departing I visited the plant section where butterfly-friendly plants (see chart) were available for purchase. There is no cafe and no merchandising, and nobody telling visitors The Rules. The only suggestion is to leave your worries in a bin at the door. Quite a refreshing visit in more ways than one!
The Bribie Island Butterfly House exists to provide a sense of purpose and lasting friendships among their volunteers, to offer visitors an enjoyable and educational visit in a peaceful environment and to help the disadvantaged via donations to charities.
Grow a patch of dandelions! Check out Lyn’s wonderful UK Butterflies And Garden blog. Pledge to stop using manufactured pesticides! Around my area, the green tree frog and butterfly populations have severely decreased due to the rise in toxic garden herbicides and pesticides. Think natural, not noxious!
And, of course, my avatar is a hand-drawn butterfly.
The University of Queensland Alumni Book Fair 2019 at St Lucia, Brisbane, had been in full swing for a couple of days before I arrived on the third day. One more day to go with no sign of running out of keen customers or brilliant book bargains.
The Exhibition Hall is huge!
The whole area was filled with tables covered in books of every shape, size, colour and genre. I couldn’t name every section without going cross-eyed but there were technical books, reference books, fiction, non-fiction, and fun stuff like mixed media (including old vinyl records) and cool kids books.
I could say romance novels jostled for position with items such as travel guides and political biographies but everything was grouped in an orderly manner, well marked and easy to access. I was surprised to see numerous large old dictionaries for sale, however, the eclectic poetry section caught my eye. Ooh, Bruce Dawe.
The whole area was spacious, clean and civilised. I expected a few gasps or cries of joy when The One, that perfect addition to a series or a special edition was found and held aloft. But no, basically the customers had their own agendas and moved calmly from book table to book table with carry bags, totally absorbed. By my estimation, I think you could expect to spend about two hours scanning and sifting through the books, more if you wanted to read pages here and there.
A corner of the UQ Alumni Book Fair 2019
Stacks of boxes
In the first photo (above) in the distance you can see a stack of book boxes, then in the second photo you see the book boxes up close. That opened box was about head-height and a volunteer told me those boxes had stretched along the walls, and every day they were emptied. Volunteers in purple t-shirts worked tirelessly the whole time I was there, unpacking, shelving, answering queries, and working at the payment points.
In the adjacent cafeteria (delicious homemade strawberry cake) I displayed some of the haul. You will spy a small red book in the left-hand photo which I have opened in the right-hand photo. The dust-jacket is missing and the previous owner had not liked naughty boy Pierre and scribbled on him in pencil but I love it. After a bit of searching, I found out this little Maurice Sendak volume is one of four, a Nutshell Library boxed set published in 1962 by HarperCollins.
Time to go
On display in the foyer of the Exhibition Hall were enlarged travel images and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the duck and ducklings. Overall, the synchronicity of UQ Alumni Friends, Members and volunteers created an exceptional event.
Walking back to the bus stop, weighed down with my treasure, the water bubbling through the pipes of this fountain made a relaxing sound so I stopped to admire it.
As I stood there, I thought about the massive amount of books on every subject imaginable which showed how far we have come, and how much of value we have left behind.
On arrival, drinks and nibbles were a nice surprise after travelling by bus along winding streets to UQ Alumni Rare Book Auction. From then onward it was non-stop action from 6pm until 9pm in Fryer Library.
Beforehand, I walked not the ‘hallowed halls’ but the beautiful arched sandstone walkways of the Great Court to the Fryer Library entrance. I caught the lift to the fourth floor where several people were mingling in the foyer beside the bidding registration table. On receiving Number 30, I hoped it was a lucky number.
Lucky number 30
I wandered in to the library, strolled through all the assembled black chairs, and entered the book viewing area. Lighting was subdued but it was easy to see the fascinating array of old books waiting patiently for my frenzied bidding. Not quite frenzied; but to jump ahead, I did offer a bid for a beautiful book, at least I think it is, which started and finished at the same amount, i.e. nobody out-bid me. Shame really because Smith, A. Croxton ‘Tail-Waggers’ Country Life, London, 1935, 147 pp has superbly rendered B&W mounted etchings by Malcolm Nicholson.
Lights, camera, action
After ascertaining if I could take photos, permission granted, I ended up being so entranced by the bidding that I didn’t take many shots. The introductions, welcome and Acknowledgement of Country were conducted (first by university librarian Caroline Williams originally from Nottingham UK) and at 6.45pm, auctioneer Jonathan Blocksidge stood behind the lectern. Game on!
Quickly, keep up
The bidding was fast and Mr Blocksidge kept the pace up, the heat on and the bids rising. There seemed to be some pretty serious collectors and possibly agents in the audience and at times the bids rose in increments so rapidly it was hard to keep track.
The highest bidder
There were absentee bidders and Lot 27 rose above the reserve price. As the night progressed – 146 lots were listed – bidding ‘wars’ occurred, particularly between two people behind me. The jousting for Lot 62, first edition of ‘Human Action: A Treatise on Economics’ made the audience applaud in appreciation. Same for Lot 66 ‘The Natural History of Man’ and Lot 86 James Cook’s ‘A Voyage Towards the South Pole’ which later culminated in Lot 105 Charles Kingsford-Smith’s personally signed copy of ‘Story of Southern Cross’ going for a huge amount.
Regrettably, the star of the show and expected highlight of the evening Lot 146 Gauss (de Brunswick) book ‘Recherches Arithmetiques’ did not meet the hefty reserve price.
The UQ team of staff and volunteers worked tirelessly throughout the evening, quiet yet ready to assist, and I think they did an excellent job. In fact, I have been reliably informed that all of the auction organisers I had contact with are UQ Alumni Friends, Members and volunteers. They were supported by the Fryer Library team (led by Manager, Simon Farley) who organised the chairs, allowed use of the library space, and provided the hospitality pre-event. A success well deserved!
I purchased and collected my precious old book of ‘Tail-Waggers’ and headed out into the cool, calm night.
Stick around for Part Three coming soon, my adventure with books, books and more books. Or better still, visit the UQ Alumni Book Fair yourself!
So excited, I’ve never been to a rare book auction. In fact, I have never been to an auction. It’s not something which cropped up in my everyday life and I must admit from what I’ve seen on television, it can get pretty fast and furious.
There’s always the horror of twitching an eyebrow and accidentally bidding for a hugely expensive volume of poetry, the only book of its kind in the world, which has to stay in a glass case. Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.
Last month, I attended a talk at University of Queensland’s Long Pocket Campus, home of the University of Queensland Press, or UQP as it is fondly known, the oldest independent publishing house in Australia with an illustrious stable of authors. I browsed some of the newly published books on offer, grabbed a coffee and sat with other attendees to absorb an informative talk from the Publishing Director, right down to choosing bookcovers.
We broke for a tasty lunch then listened to the ins-and-outs of publishing publicity, Selling The Brand. Another world really but invaluable knowledge for a writer. Our group participated in a Q&A quiz about books and authors. I threw up my hand and answered correctly, winning myself a new novel ‘The Geography of Friendship’ by Sally Piper which I will read and review.
DOWN A HILL AND UP A HILL . . .
Afterwards, we all trooped outside, down a hill and up a hill through the lush native gardens to where the Archives live. Amongst the thousands of new and used books donated every year, there are rare and valuable tomes, well-kept considering their age. On the shelving, behold every genre, every topic, every format imaginable. And nearly every item in the Junior Section held nostalgia for me. It is here I learned about the UQ Alumni Rare Book Auction 6pm on Friday 3 May 2019.
Photographed in the archives at University of Queensland, this magazine and many rare books will be auctioned in Fryer Library on Friday 3 May 2019 at 6pm.
BROWSE AND BUY – TAKE A TROLLEY – BOOK VOLUNTEERS WELCOME
I will have to leave you hanging, dear reader, because I will write Part Two when I’ve actually been to the Rare Book Auction in Fryer Library which itself is full of literary treasures. See you there?
French artist Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) used monoprinting to created beautiful works of art. Most were not acknowledged in his lifetime but I had the opportunity to try his technique.
The workshop I attended was run by Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha. Everyone met at the BCC Library and then walked down to the activity room. Our instructors were Frances and Lee-anne and their introduction covered the evolution of Australian native plants, the background to Gauguin’s work and monoprinting. A monoprint is a one-of-a-kind print that forms part of a series.
It was a two-hour class with about twelve people and we were itching to get started. We couldn’t wait to peruse the beautiful and aromatic array of Australian native plants ready to make our imprints.
Here is my quick overview
Beginners Guide to Monoprinting
You may have read that monoprinting is an age-old printmaking method which produces a single image. I’d have to say that is only partially correct – the image can be reversed or added to several times, each time producing a different image. (See my coloured prints above).
I rolled out four paint blobs (yellow and red) on an acetate pad, added a leafy tree branch and a clean sheet of paper on top before smoothing it out flat. Peel off. Two for the price of one! I placed ferns and leaves with the branch, added fresh paper on top, pressing down hard. I reversed the procedure and did ‘mirror’ images.
You may have heard that you need lino or woodcarving tools. I used a wooden chopstick to press and draw my B&W designs. There were several which didn’t make the grade and I tried to choose the better ones. (See my black and white prints below).
It is thought that you need to work on a glass plate or gel plate, but a sheet of tough plastic (clear heavy acetate) works well with monoprinting paints and is easy to clean. Of course, you can upscale your equipment when your hobby turns into a money-making enterprise.
A special roller isn’t really necessary to spread the paints, you can use a small rubber roller with a plastic handle. No flattening press needed. Once the overlay paper is in place, you can use your hands to smooth the paper flat, or add background patterns through the paper with the tips of your fingers.
Pigmented paints and printing inks produce colours which look great but the traditional black-and-white looks dramatic. I didn’t achieve any depth to my work but the middle black-and-white print (below) is reversed and the hatching in the background was done with the backs of my finger nails.
We ran out of time and I would have loved to have dabbled more. The free class I attended supplied the equipment – plus afternoon tea – and the paper used was office A4 size. It was porous enough and strong enough to take my amateur efforts.
The trick is to work fast, especially in Queensland temperatures, because the paint will dry quickly. Drying caused one of my prints to have a ghostly quality. That was part of the fun – the results were often a surprise.
Monoprinting is a forgiving and flexible technique, experimental yet satisfying, and several participants achieved a pleasing degree of botanical detail worth framing.
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
It’s a sunny, springtime day in subtropical Brisbane and we are heading towards Mt Coot-tha, the ‘mountain’ which is really a hill. The temperature is balmy and the drive is easy, out along a flat highway which decimated countless trees and native bushland.
Mt Coot-tha “Summit” Restaurant & Bar.
Ascending the steps…
We cruise by the Botanical Gardens, the Planetarium, the quarry (!), the cop with a radar speed gun, the tourists in an overheating VDub Kombi-van and climb towards the summit lookout which sits atop what was colloquially known as ‘One Tree Hill’.
Plenty more trees now, well, there is at the moment but Brisbane City Council may revert to one. The council is keen to upgrade the area, adding tourist lures like a zipline and tree-top canopy walk. Bye-bye quiet little harmless native animals and birds who take sanctuary there from the six-lane highway below.
Lunch in the shade of Kuta Café atop Mt Coot-tha, Brisbane.
Hardy plants in the sun all day.
We reach the carpark of our destination, fluke a spot, and notice the air smells eucalyptus fresh. It’s an interesting walk through various nationalities of smiling, picture-taking tourists. We join the milling crowd and peruse the Summit Restaurant & Bar menu before deciding the dollars signs are for high class meals. It is easier to tag onto the lunchtime queue at Kuta Café with its two-tiered eating decks.
Old natural stone from the surrounding area.
View from almost the top tier of the lookout.
I enjoy a delicious chicken salad wrap and share a huge bowl of baked potato wedges with heaps of sour cream and sweet chill sauce. After keenly snapping views towards the river and western suburbs, Brisbane CBD, and Moreton Bay with Moreton Island sandhills way in the distance, we detour the gift shop and head back to the car.
A friendly magpie lands on the car mirror, enquiring about food, but we have none to give, so it takes off—see below for this gripping encounter.
The Xanthorrhoea plant is uniquely Australian. It grows in the South East of Australia thriving in well-drained, aerated soils with low nutrient content.
Sticky-beak Magpie looking for food.
We agree not to drive the long way, the full circuit around Sir Samuel Griffith Drive which passes leafy barbecue areas, transmission towers and headquarters of local television stations.
Heading down the hillside, the city views and far-reaching scenery becomes less and less until ground level, then the highway roundabout appears, perfectly positioned opposite Toowong Cemetery.
The City of Brisbane is growing, the traffic is growing, the drivers are getting faster. Or am I turning into a grumpy older person? Time for a nap!
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!
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:
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/
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.
Here’s a map of Queensland and video of Brisbane City which makes me think I live in a pretty good place. Nomad Girl of The Jasmine Edit films short, interesting videos around the world. She makes it look like fun; maybe I could make a video, too?
Oops, just noticed a spelling error near the Great Barrier Reef.
If you are interested in early Queensland architecture from Victorian, Federation and inter-war era, please click here to view Wikipedia Queensland Architecture
Actor Ioan Gruffudd stars as the boat-dwelling Dr Daniel Harrow in the new TV forensic drama series ‘Harrow’ filmed in Brisbane, Australia. The goal for this intellectual forensic drama, featuring an unorthodox and edgy forensic pathologist who lives aboard an untidy boat on the Brisbane River, was achieved by the combined talents of ABC Studios International and Hoodlum Entertainment.
Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd, whose recent screen credits include movie ‘Fantastic Four’, TV series ‘Liar’, ‘Forever’ and earlier ‘Hornblower’, is now 44 and says he has more life experience to get under the skin of somebody like the flawed, smart and sarcastic Dr Harrow. Ioan, who also filmed ‘San Andreas’ in Queensland, fell in love with Brisbane, swimming with dolphins, attending theatre productions and an Ashes test cricket match at the Gabba stadium which unfortunately ended with treatment in hospital for heat stroke.
Leigh McGrath, executive producer of the 10-episode season of ‘Harrow’, says “Brisbane has got the tropical heat and humidity which I think adds a different feel to this forensic drama. Normally they are cold, they are Scandi noir, whereas we went the opposite.”
To quote The Australian newspaper journalist Justin Burke “The pilot episode presents an exquisite personal test for Harrow: does he quit his career and sail to Bora Bora as promised with his troubled, thieving, drug-addicted daughter? Or does he heed the professional challenge of grieving father Bruce Reimers (Gary Sweet), who is begging Harrow to reopen the investigation into his daughter Olivia’s death?”
“In addition to the procedural, crime-of-the-week element of the show, there is an overarching mystery that we are presented with in the opening scenes. Someone is seen dusting a body with concrete and throwing it off a small boat into the Brisbane River in the middle of the night. Who and why will be revealed in good time.”
If you click Ioan’s name (further on) you will see video footage of ‘Harrow’ filmed around inner Brisbane. Dr Harrow, a senior medical examiner, is based in the Queensland Institute of Forensic Medicine which in real life is the heritage-listed Brisbane Dental College near City Hall. Postmortems are not as easy on the eye as handsome Ioan Gruffudd.
This series is like reading a crime book with my home town in the background, I love picking out familiar landmarks and wondering how the film crew recreated a gruesome scene. The Brisbane River (Maiwar) stars but there are several familiar supporting actors to spice things up, e.g. Anna Lise Phillips, Remy Hii and Robyn Malcolm.
Keri Lee, boss of Disney’s ABC Studios Intl, is negotiating with global networks so hopefully this major drama series will be made internationally available. Meanwhile Australian viewers can watch ‘Harrow’ on ABC1 on Fridays 8.30pm 2018 or all complete episodes on iView.
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 world 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