Saturday, September 30, 2023




A scene from the 1954 movie..."Elephant Walk"



With the rapidly passing years I’m not as agile as I once, or twice, was.  Over the past couple of months I became sick to death hearing and seeing the word “Matilda”.  It was pushed down our throats left, right and centre, every which way, every day. Something I never dreamt, nor thought would happen, happened. I never watched a single match of the football competition, and I shut down my brain every time mention was of it was made on television…or tried to do so.

The superfluous use of the word made me give up waltzing with Matilda by the billabong. I used to jive with Clive, the jolly swagman, but I gave that up, too.  To escape the inundation, I grabbed my billie (not William), from the campsite under the shade of the Coolibah tree, and fled.  If the over-abundant Matilda usage continues, I’ll never again dance by the billabong, which will be such a shame.  I’ll be tearing my hair out. Actually, I’m doing that at the moment, just from typing the word.

After hanging up my swag and dancing boots I’ve decided I’m going to set up camp Under the Greenwood Tree. Instead of waltzing and singing I’m going to trade stories with Janene. the bookstore’s owner.

In spirit, Thomas Hardy, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, D.H. Lawrence, Bradbury, Salinger, Rowling, Atwood, along with a host of others, are there to keep us company while spinning a few yarns.  Perhaps, having turned over a new leaf, the ghost of the swagman is there, too.

What a terrific name for a bookstore, “Under the Greenwood Tree” is. Inside awaits a wonderful, massive array of books.  One could easily become lost in a world not unlike Wonderland.  If I fell down a rabbit hole, and the hole was Under the Greenwood Tree, I’d not complain.  Surrounded by the books and art, a perfect wonderland it would be.  While visiting the bookstore it’s impossible to ignore the presence of, and not be charmed by, Finn and Pippi Longstocking, the most well-read dogs on the mountain, if not in the whole of Australia, dare I suggest?  I dared!

My first introduction to books was when I was a very young child. Similar applied to my now late brother, Graham.  Before we both could read the written word stories were read to us by our mother and grandmother.  Once we mastered the art of reading, books played important roles in our lives.  Previously I’ve mentioned our Christmas stockings and birthday presents always included books…no less than four…more often than not, five each, for each memorable celebration.  Graham and I cherished our growing library. We also loved hearing the tales our Nana told us about the golden “olden days”; adventurous, interesting stories about her younger years growing up in the history-laden Gympie area.

To my delight, a couple of weeks ago I heard somewhere or the other (wherever the “other” might be) that paper books are coming back into favour, shoving digital off to the sidelines.  Very much I hope this to be the case.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of holding a book in your hands. The unique, un-matchable aroma of a new book, a fragrance beyond compare, should be bottled by Chanel or Dior! 

I was 15 when I first watched, and fell in love with the movie “Elephant Walk”, which starred the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor and the handsome Peter Finch. Their characters first laid eyes upon each other in a bookstore.  It was love at first sight…for them, and for me.

With a pressing desire to work in a bookshop or library, I wanted to leave school there and then.  In youthful exuberance, without haste, off to the local library I raced. However, upon discovering, during my interview, at the time, in those years of yore, one’s longevity of employment at the library wasn’t lengthy, I left, disappointed and downhearted.  Peter Finch, Mr. Darcy, and others would have to wait. 

It’d be a number of years before I learned about the fun in store for Lady Chatterley, and her gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors.  And then…no way….down along the track waltzed Christian Grey!          


Campfire Beans & Bacon: In cast iron skillet with lid or a Dutch oven, cook 5 or 6 bacon rashers until crisp; remove from pan; retain drippings in pan; add 2/3c chopped onion ad 1/2c chopped green capsicum; cook until browned, about 4mins. Add 1 drained, rinsed 425g can each of pinto beans, red kidney beans and navy beans; add 2c barbecue sauce; stir. Break bacon in half; add to pan. Gently stir bacon into mix until covered. Bring to low boil; cover; move to low heat area of campfire.  Simmer 45mins; add a little water if looking too dry.

Campside Honey Chicken: In bowl, combine 3tbs melted butter, 2tbs x-virgin olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1tbs minced ginger, 2tbs honey and zest of 1 lime. Using 30cm sheets of foil, build 4 packets. Place a 170g chicken breast in centre of each packet; season with cumin and smoked paprika. Divide 1 bunch of asparagus among the packets. Brush chicken and asparagus with honey-ginger sauce; season. Fold foil over the food; crimp several times to seal.  Preheat grill or grill pan over med-high heat. Grill packets until chicken is cooked through, 10-12mins. About 5mins before chicken is finished, add 2 halved corn cobs to grill. Cook, brushing with butter, until browned on all sides, about 5mins. Garnish chicken with chopped fresh coriander and chopped shallots; serve.

Sunday, September 17, 2023



Eungella-Pioneer Valley, West of Mackay

Mr. B and Lady...Two of the wallaby residents of Hinchinbrook Island Resort

Kangaroos on the beach at Cape Hillsborough

“They behaved like animals”…the oft stated statement describing the misconduct of some homo sapiens/humans is way off base.  It’s insulting to animals. “Homo sapiens” means “wise man”.  However, there’s nothing wise about misbehaving humans. 

Through the years, since I was a small child, countless special, memorable, cherished moments I’ve spent with animals.

An exceptional occasion occurred in early 1998 when I was living in Mackay. As an escape, if only for a few hours, often on Sunday mornings I visited Eungella National Park up on the Clarke Range at the end of the Pioneer Valley, 80kms west of Mackay.  One morning, while sitting on the banks of a gently flowing stream in quite reverie absorbing the beauty and atmosphere of my surrounds, without warning, to my surprise, and utter wonderment, a platypus appeared before me.  I dared not move an inch…not a finger, nor toe. Transfixed, I watched the magnificent, unique little creature.  As one in a peaceful, magical world of our own, the Ornithorhynchus anatinus watched me in return, not at all concerned by my presence, nor I by its.

On Newry Island I lived alone.  Holiday-makers visited, of course.  Even when there were no resort guests, in truth, I was never really alone because my beloved furry companions, Pushkin and Rimsky, shared the island ambience with me.  Other inhabitants of our water-surrounded corner of the world were koalas, echidnas, possums, eastern grey kangaroos, wallabies, gliders, white tailed bush rats and marsupial bush rats.  Much to my two furry mates’ delight the possums frequently used the awning out from “our” upstairs’ quarters as their evening playground. Pushkin and Rimsky never bothered the native fauna, and vice versa applied.  All were good mates from a respectful distance.  

My other island paradise, Hinchinbrook Island, was a wallaby haven. There were no larger-in-size kangaroos on Hinchinbrook.  The wallabies claimed the island as their own, ensuring no guests arrived, or left, not understanding the fact.  Randy Mr. B, the lead wallaby, had no shame. Mr. B frequently made unwelcome, amorous advances towards Flowerpot and Granny, two of his female neighbours.  He didn’t care if his unwanted approaches towards the ladies were in front of blushing guests or not. 

I never thought I’d rue visiting Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park Resort, but one Sunday I almost did. At leisure, a friend and I were enjoying morning coffees out on the ground-level deck.  When my friend started spluttering I thought she was choking on her scone (of the baked variety, not her head).  My arm was hanging over the back of my chair. I felt something tugging at one of my fingers. Turning, I received the shock of my life.  A large kangaroo buck was doing his best to steal the ring off my finger!  The roo almost caused me to rue my visit, but, instead, I laughed, and shoo-ed him off.  Giving me a rueful look, “Skippy” signaled to his mates who’d been standing by witnessing the failed heist. Away the mob hopped, giggling, no doubt in search of other unsuspecting victims.

As I exited the amenities block at the Emu Park Caravan Park, a group of inquisitive emus, without forewarning, greeted me. Their presence certainly wasn’t what I expected during my visit to the Capricorn Coast.

A few years later, while driving a little Suzuki four-wheeler along the bush track between Collinsville and Glenden, another shock was in store for me. Lost in a world of my own, driving around a bend, I almost leapt out of the car when I came eye to eye with an emu at my driver’s side window. I’m not sure who was most startled, the emu or me. By the look on his face, it was clearly apparent, the emu, like me, wasn’t expecting company on the desolate country track. Old Man Emu tossed me a final shocked look; one that matched my own. Not taking a backward glance, with his long legs barely touching the ground, he rapidly sped off into the distance across the vast, open landscape.  Upon reaching home, after catching his breath, I bet he had a feathered, tall tale to tell.

Through the years I’ve come across quite a few goats and asses, too…as well as some of the four-legged variety.

Pumpkin-Spinach Scones: Dice 700g pumpkin into bite size pieces; drizzle with olive oil; bake approx 20 min. Cool slightly; set aside. In food processer, whizz 4c S.R. flour and 100g chilled cubed unsalted butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, place flour in bowl; using fingertips, rub butter into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Make well in centre of mix; pour in 375ml milk; mix well until just combined. Don’t over-mix. Add roasted pumpkin, 1c loosely packed chopped spinach, 1/4c chopped chives, 180g grated tasty cheese, and 1/2c crumbled feta; combine; don’t over-mix. Place mixture on floured bench; roll into long log, about 30cm x 10cm. Cut in half long ways down centre; then cut into 6 sections, making 12 scones. Place shaped scones on lined oven tray; bake 25-30mins. 

Coconut Scones: Combine 1c desiccated coconut and 1c warmed coconut cream in small bowl. Let stand 20mins or until mixture has thickened slightly. Combine 3c S.R. flour, 2tbs icing sugar and 1/4tsp salt in bowl. Add coconut mixture and 1/2c milk. Use a knife to "cut" coconut mixture and milk through flour mix to a soft, sticky dough. Turn out dough onto lightly-floured surface. Knead briefly until smooth; shape into a 2cm-thick round. Using a 5.5cm cutter dipped into flour, cut rounds from dough. Place scones side by side on prepared tray. Brush tops with milk to glaze. Bake 12-15 mins, until golden, and well risen. Serve scones with jam and cream.

Saturday, September 09, 2023



Upon looking in the mirror one Monday morning in 1971 after I’d spent the weekend at Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island I saw red.  Having spent far too long under the hot, summer south-east Queensland sun, I looked like a cooked lobster or crab! What a silly prawn I was to have been so careless.  Even more embarrassed was I when I began to peel like a bunch of bananas.

Dining out in restaurants wasn’t the “thing” when I was a kid.  Actually, back then there were no restaurants in my old home town, only small cafes.  The opening of the Dorith Restaurant in the early 60s was a major, exciting step forward into the “modern” world for the Gympie townsfolk. To dine out, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, was daunting to a shy, young lass just beginning to tip her toes into the unknown, adult world. Until I gathered up courage, I viewed the Dorith from afar. 

A friend and I had not long turned 16, and were on our first unsupervised visit to the “big city” aka Brisbane.   For lunch, we chose to dine at Christies, a popular venue in Queen Street at the time.  My friend ordered toasted sandwiches. Inhaling deeply, bravely I decided to try my luck, test my nerves…swallow my embarrassment; bite the bullet…in this instance, the spaghetti.  

In a case of do or die; or choke and die, I chose Spaghetti Bolognese.  With fork in hand, surrounded by strangers, I tackled the tangled mangle of strands before me. I managed to swallow the spaghetti with finesse, no mess, and no embarrassment.  Not a strand went astray. Whew!

A few years after conquering the art of eating spaghetti while in the company of strangers, I resolved to test my mettle out in the public dining field once again. Determinedly, I dared, again, to tackle the unfamiliar, resolving to stick to my guns until my embarrassment subsided, and success was achieved.  My challenge was to conquer handling chopsticks, without dropping food, poking out my eyes, or those of fellow diners. I figured the best way to achieve my goal was tackling the challenge while I was in the presence of strangers. Taking deep breaths, alone I ventured forth into the unknown, a couple of times a week. Off to lunch at one of the many Chinese restaurants in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley to teach myself the skill I went, head held high.  With unwavering firmness of purpose, I managed not to make a total fool of myself, nor did I turn the colour of beetroot during the process…not that I can recall, anyway. 

The following is a prime example of…“you can’t take me anywhere”.  

A number of years ago, I managed, at the commencement of an evening of “firsts”, to spill my first glass red wine down the front of my new, cream, woolen jumper. Luckily, I was the one wearing it, and not someone else.  Not only was it the first time I’d worn the jumper, and the first time I’d been invited to the home for a night of pleasant dining, wining and conversation, but, also, it was the first time I met the other guests. The spillage caused the colour of my face to match that of the spilt Shiraz, but I forged forth, pretending I’d resurrected the tie-dyeing craze of the 60s-70s.

To top things off…the other day after a brief visit to my nearby neighbours, my car battery decided to cark it. My poor neighbour, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, even though my dilemma occurred at his place, had to push my car, with a totally useless me at the stirring wheel, out of his yard, and down the road a bit to push-start it.  I needed a kick-start, too…still do.  Feeling like an idiot, I turned scarlet.  Embarrassed I was for having being the cause of his unexpected, excess exercise that morning. Mingled with my redness was a great deal of gratitude for his thoughtful assistance.  No wonder he’s dodged me ever since!

Colour flooded my face when, after about a year of calling a neighbour of long ago, Pat, I discovered her name was, in fact, “Dee”…Dee Pending, not Pat Pending!  Mr. and Mrs. Collins who lived next door to Dee didn’t give the future much thought when they named their son, “Tom”.  Tom was a popular feature in cocktail bars. Every time the barmen called out his name he flushed a brilliant shade of red as he ducked for cover.

Beetroot Curry: Slice 500g beetroot into slices of about 3 mm in thickness. Once sliced, julienne the beetroot slices into batons. Place julienned beetroot in a saucepan, with ¼ red onion, sliced, sliced green chilli, 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, 5-6 curry leaves, 1/2tsp curry powder, 1/4tsp turmeric, 1/2tsp cayenne, and 1/4tsp salt; combine well. Stir in 1/2c coconut milk and 1/2c water. Place over med-high heat; stir occasionally, until it comes to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cook, covered, about 5mins. Uncover; cook further 5-10mins, stirring frequently, until beetroot is al dente.  Cooking time will vary depending on beetroot thickness and size. Add more water or coconut milk, if needed.  Serve with rice.

Berry Delightful: Combine 3c mixed red berries (cut strawberries in half), 2tbs sugar, 1tbs fresh orange juice, 1tsp finely grated lemon zest, 1tsp lemon juice, 1tsp fresh lime juice, and 1 sprig of basil, torn into pieces, in heatproof bowl; toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Place over a large saucepan of simmering water; cook 10mins. Let cool 15mins. Chill until cold, about 4hrs. Divide fruit and juices among bowls; drizzle with a little x-virgin oil; garnish with basil leaves and freshly ground black pepper; top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.