I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Just the best fresh food at the local farmers' market

There's nothing like crunchy Pink Lady apples and crisp lettuce and beans sold at week-ends at our local market, and straight from the farm.
I live on the North Coast of New South Wales in Australia and our markets are legendary. The best seem to be around Mullu
mbimby and Brunswick Heads but our own small version can't be sneezed at.
Twice a month the locals get up early on a Sunday morning to get their supplies of fresh

This stall always has a big selection of really fresh fruit and veg. The food seems to last just so much longer and tastes so much better than the stuff from the supermarket chains.

This young stallholder has a great selection of spuds (potatoes to you) and onions and pumpkins.

Enzo makes his pasta in all shapes and sizes on the spot and sells it to eager buyers.

Olives cheeses and crisp loaves of bread are to die for at Lennie's Italian Foods.

This couple gives away religious tracts which they have printed and framed themselves.

Fresh flowers at $A6 for a bunch.

If market goers don't have time for their breakfast muesli they can count on a steaming cuppa at the market, a variety of hot Thai foods, tarts and cakes and muffins.
The market is held in the grounds of a large returned servicemen's club which also boasts wonderful sporting facilities such as a golf course, Olympic size pool and these tennis courts at the rear of the picture.

For breakfast, there's also 'Aussie yoghurt'! And what did I have?

A huge muffin complete with lashings of cooked apple, raisins and cinnamon. That's what!
Just $A2.50.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

The Black or Bubonic Plague Sydney 1900

My short fiction story 'Labyrinth' on my blog Journeys in Creative Writing was set in the year 1900 in Sydney - a time when rats on board ships coming from overseas brought the Black or Bubonic Plague and spread it throughout the town.
It was also a period when single women living alone (such as my heroine Miriam) still had few options of earning a livelihood other than in household service or prostitution.
According to NSW State Records the Plague hit in January and at the end of eight months 303 cases were reported and 103 people were dead.
A huge clean-up campaign was launched to disinfect the labyrinth of filthy hovels clustered in back lanes in the town, and many were demolished.
Gangs of rat catchers ranged the streets and official figures showed 44,000 rats were killed and incinerated.
These are a selection of photographs from the State Records web site:

This team of rat catchers posed alongside their haul for the day. One of the men is holding a trap used to catch the rodents that were then incinerated.

The standard of construction of these houses at 12 Robinson Lane Sydney was fairly typical, although the yard itself was more orderly than many others.

Not the most hygenic of butchers shops ... Presumably the sausages hanging from the roof were sold for human consumption. Sutton Forest Butchery 761 George Street Sydney in 1900.
Photographs courtesy NSW State Records.
Mercifully, how things have changed!
My story 'Labyrinth' on my blog Journeys in Creative Writing speaks of stark days, but I'm one who supports the old saying 'She who ignores history is destined to re-live it'. Read 'Labyrinth' now.


There's a most beautiful play gym, all colours and climbs and slippery slides and ropes, platforms and hidey holes, alongside Coolangatta Beach, not far from the Pandanus Palms.
It's populated by excited youngsters every day of the year.
This little magic wonderland is in Queensland, just across the border from my home state, New South Wales.
I pass it on one of my favourite walks.
But this is just one side of the coin at Cooly ...

Here Mums tend their flock and kids blast off into adventureland.

Little girls practise being mummies.
And others slide into their own different little world ...
Sometimes not even a big yellow slippery slide can make things seem right.
It's hard to believe that just across the way from this land of children there is a picnic shed where happiness is altogether more fleeting.
Here on most evenings, just as the cold creeps into your bones, homeless people gather for a handout of food from a small army of generous volunteers.
In this place of seeming plenty there is an increasing number of people - men women and children - who are without a safe place to lie their heads at night.
The new government says it will redress this wrong, but in the mean time the suffering continues.
Here, this has been the coldest winter for many years.
Tonight, as shadows lengthen and I walk my walk there is a man arrived early at the picnic shed, bagging his spot.
This homeless man wears sad track pants and hoody with warm newish-looking lambskin boots, and wheels a battered suitcase on a luggage trolley.
He carries a large teddy bear - his only companion.
Remarkably, the picnic shed is less than one hundred metres from the children's slippery slide.

Friday, 8 August 2008

My Country - Australia's Iconic Poem

This morning I received a post from Judy of Kentucky who is one of my loyal blogger friends.

Inspired to know more about Oz, Judy is reading American author Bill Bryon's travel book In a Wide Brown Land and this in turn got me thinking about the source of his title - Dorothea McKellar's iconic poem My Country, ironically written when Dorothea was homesick for England, but already under the spell of her new homeland.

We learned the second stanza when I was in primary school - as did almost every Australian child of the time. It is probably the most memorised poem in the nation.

I love Bill Bryson's writing but, as I remarked to Judy, I do quibble with his opinion that Australia has a 'Martian-like desert middle'. The fact is that so many people seem to whizz through the Outback at a great rate of knots, not stopping to LOOK! (Bryson may have seen it from the air, even though he does visit here often.)

The place is mostly teeming with life - be it tiny fauna or exquisite desert flowers and interesting scrub, although I must admit there are places which are pretty desolate.

I remember stopping in a deserted area in the 1980s with 500km between petrol stations (or anything else) only to be approached by a pair of brolga (beautiful big birds of the crane family).

They seemed to be reasonably tame, so I suppose many other people had taken a break there as well.

This brolga pic somes to us courtesy of photographer John O'Neill and Wikipedia.

Anyway, here is Dorothea's poem:

The love of field and coppice, of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance, brown streams and soft, dim skies-
I know but cannot share it, my love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror - the wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests, all tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains, the hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops, and ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country! Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us we see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather, and we can bless again
The drumming of an army, the steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country! Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine she pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks, watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness that thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country, a wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her, you will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours, wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country my homing thoughts will fly.
- Dorothea McKellar

Thursday, 7 August 2008


Beaches and cliffs of the North Coast of New South Wales, Australia (where I live) just wouldn’t be the same without these amazing trees and yet it wasn’t long ago that they all seemed to be endangered.

Pandanus or Screw Palms stand like so many ugly/beautiful sentries along miles of our coast, punctuating the landscape with their sculptural silhouettes.
Their football-size fruit can stay on the tree for as long as a year and were used as food by Aborigines who sucked them or broke the shell to eat the seeds.

They also pounded and/or boiled the core of the trunk for diarrhoea and stomach pain, mouth sores and toothache and to relieve colds and flu.
However, experts warn that native plants should not be tasted without proper indentification and guidance as to use.

Horticulturists call the peculiar forms at the bottom of the trees ‘prop roots’ that the plant apparently developed as a way of supporting itself in loose sand.
These were also sometimes used as medicine and new shoots are also supposed to be edible, with the heart good chopped and added to a salad.
Every part of the plant was useful: Aborigines made headbands from leaves and wove them into dillybags. They even used the trunk to construct rafts.

These days the palms still help to emphasise the beauty of the coastline and are very popular with tourists and locals alike.
You can imagine the trepidation when we noticed a few years ago that the pandanus had begun to die.
However scientists got to work with a campaign to save the species from the effects of infestation of an insect called the planthopper.
This little beastie produces a sticky substance called honeydew, which encourages mould growth.
This eventually kills the tree's growing points, causing the death of the entire tree.
These days our pandanus seem to be healthy again, as you can see in these pictures which I took on a recent walk …
I’m indebted to the following University of Sydney website for details of indigenous use of this palm:

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Half a Trophy for Effort

Stop Press!
This blog, not yet five weeks young, has just won a sort of runner-up award given by a lively and generous blogger called Judy in Kentucky of Living on the Other Side of the Hill.
Judy runs a great blog about her family life sprinkled with many references to the history of her country, illustrated with fine pix. Her blog is a satisfying way to glimpse the lifestyle in a land far away ...
Anyway, there's a thing going on over there where winning bloggers get to nominate five others for a Blogger Award. Judy spent her five awards but was kind enough to nominate mine and one other as worthy of a look. She also mentioned 70 Plus's sister blog Journeys in Creative Writing as an OK site, and has constantly dealt out encouragement since she sent the very first comment to the 70 Plus site.
I didn't win an award, of course, but decided I'd post a picture of just half of the Blogger Trophy as a sort of incentive for effort ...
Thanks Judy!

While I'm here, I'd like to pay my own little tribute to Olive Riley, Australian blogger extraordinaire, who sadly died on July 12 at age 108. What a legend! See All About Olive