In Remembrance ANZAC Day 2016

I write this in remembrance of the men (and today, the women) who suffered in war, who witnessed unimaginable horrors and carried images and sounds of human terror for the rest of their lives. I write it also in absolution, in forgiveness for them and for us, their children and grandchildren who carry their agony in our genes. My father tried many times to explain this, that what we suffer makes us what we are and only now do I really understand. We must never lose our hope and our compassion.

bwbeaver2Private Patrick Little Beaver Kavanagh in 1939

ANZAC Day is the reason we emigrated to Australia as a family of three in 1969. Thirty years after the start of WWII, when my father joined the British Army, he realised his dream of becoming an Australian. He had served in the desert campaign under Montgomery, and during that time had been introduced to the ANZACs, particularly the Australian contingent, with whom he formed close bonds. These were men after his own heart, with a healthy disrepect for authority, and stories to tell of a wide brown land where a man could feel completely free. Well, it wasn’t quite like that when he got here, but the horizon was further away, the skies impossibly more blue and it already felt like home because the friends he had made had not forgotten him. (They only asked that he not tell their wives about thir antics in the war.)

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That wasn’t hard to understand – he carried this picture of my  mother through the war, and the only time he told her about a woman he had met – a destitute widow and mother in Holland, whom he helped with money and rations and who taught him to make Dutch coffee – she was a bit miffed at first, until she learned how deep the pain and suffering of the innocents in war had cut into his soul – and that woman, I am sure, remembered him with deepest gratitude.

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This is one of the pictures he sent back, of some enormous vehicle that he was in charge of driving cross the desert. Yes, it’s a boat. I have no idea why.

ANZAC Day is a day of remembering, and for me, of remembering that it brought us here 47 years ago, the memories of those brave and daring men who made my father fall in love with a country he had never seen and whose dreams of a wide brown land stayed with him long after the war had ended.

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A Place in the Country

While staying in Sydney with Jack Perry and my daughter Chi, of the rock band A Girl’s a Gun, I accompanied them to a gig at Laguna in the Hunter Valley – well, just outide it, as this small hamlet is known as the Gateway to the Hunter Valley. Our destination was the Great Northern Trading Post, an eclectic assemblage of amazing old buildings and antiques where good food, good wine and good music are the order of the day. But the first thing you notice is the view…

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And after that, the Mad Max wildlife…

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When they are not rocking the Sydney music scene with their band, Jack and Chi play gigs like this as a duo where their repertoire of blues, soul, jazz and rock suits the ambience.

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While they played and sang, I wandered about and found some things just begging to be photographed – like this overgrown whatsit that reminded me of the krynoid from Doctor Who. In fact it concealed a far more mundane secret. It’s the public toilet.

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The room where Jack and Chi played had wonderful views from this airy little balcony, where I caught them relaxing between sets.

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It was the most atmospheric, peaceful room, full of glorious little vignettes like this desk…

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…and this window….

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These ‘Kraken’ bottles seem to be quite a feature of the GNTP. They remind me of Captain Jack Sparrow, but that’s water, not rum.

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I loved this antique (vintage?) pram sitting in state on its pedestal, just one of the quirky little vignettes dotted about the place – honestly, it’s just like a box of story prompts.

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Mismatched windows and panes of glass like boiled lollies – everything offered itself as a work of art. In every way, a most enchanting day.

Learm more about the Great Northern Trading Post here.

 

Autumn in Australia…

…is still darned hot, leading one to hope that a long Indian summer means a long winter in which to get over it. But in an area where there are deciduous trees, Autumn is still a beautiful sight.

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Deciduous trees are usually found in botanical parks and higher locations here in Queensland but with the warmth of the Autumn sun pouring through the leaves they take on an unearthly fiery transparency. This maple grows in Queens Park, Ipswich.

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Queens Park is also home to this Japanese maple, which looks a bit caramelly and good to eat.

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The Chinese Gardens in Sydney is always filled with Austumn glory after Summer has gone. This is the lake in the middle of the gardens where you can find Dragon Rock.

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This pretty vista is at the University of Queensland’s Japanese Garden in Toowoomba. Designed by Professor Kinsaku Nakane of Kyoto, it is a serene and beautiful place, and naturally, in Autumn, a feast for the eyes.

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One of the great things about cooler weather is being able to light fires again – well, perhaps not just yet, but always around my birthday, which is in winter. I can do the old campfire thing, making billy tea and roasting corn and potatoes in the embers. Can’t wait!