#Book Snap Sunday – Home

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Home by Larissa Behrendt is about the loss of identity, connection and belonging experienced by the stolen generation and their descendants. We all want somewhere to belong, somewhere where we can put down roots, somewhere to feel connected, somewhere to call home. For the stolen generation, their identity, connection and belonging is bound to land, family and culture. It is also about memory – knowing where you belong,  your history,  your culture and your home.

This photo of Home by Larissa Behrendt is taken out at our new house. After four years of renting in Toowoomba in three different houses, we will finally have a place to put roots down, a place to call home and a place in which we are not the only ones coming home. The book is sitting on what looks like a very ordinary bookshelf. I have a number of bookshelves, but this one is special. It was made by Rob, my first husband, who died suddenly when Dan and Bec were young. So it is special to us. It is more than just a bookshelf – it is about memory. For the last four years it has remained out west. It is big and heavy. Too big and heavy to move from place to place while renting. But now finally we are reconciled. It has come home. 

Like many people, we have moved around from place to place, from home to home and while we may not experience the same kind of connection with land as our Indigenous Australians, we still have the need to call somewhere home and to know where we belong.

Happy Reading

 

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Carnival of Flowers – Celebrating 70 Years

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It’s the first weekend of the September School Holidays, the flowers are out in full bloom and the local parks and gardens are crowded with visitors and tour buses. It must be Carnival time.

The Carnival of Flowers is Toowoomba’s premiere event of the year, a festival that celebrates flowers, local wine and food, and Australian music. It is one of the longest running Australian events, garnering a number of tourism awards and this year it celebrates 70 years, so it will be a very special celebration indeed. For months gardeners have been hard at work in the local parks to prepare the floral displays, and despite the exceedingly dry conditions of the drought, they have done a fabulous job. The floral displays are just beautiful.

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The very first Carnival was held in 1950 and attracted a crowd of around 50,000 to see a three mile procession led by a team of bullocks. Following the hardship of World War Two, the Carnival was envisioned as an event that would encourage economic activity and promote Toowoomba’s reputation as the Garden City. Sadly, I don’t think bullocks are a feature of the Carnival parade anymore, but Toowoomba businesses and community groups put in many hours of hard work to prepare their floats and costumes and put on a spectacular display of colour, music and all things floral. Last year Dan was in the parade on the Yellow Bridge float and he will be again this year, although this time they are just walking the route so I hope they have someone fit and fast to keep up with him!

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Every year the Carnival seems to get bigger and bigger with a variety of events and activities over ten days to keep people of all ages entertained. In keeping with the 70th celebrations there will be 70 different experiences this year for visitors. The Food and Wine Festival has become a popular addition to the Carnival, providing opportunities for visitors to sample Queensland wares while enjoying some iconic Australian entertainment, like John Farnham, Dragon and Bjorn Again. Other events include:

  •  Gardening Competition for Local Gardeners
  •  Photography Competition 
  • Garden Tours
  • Steam Train Rides
  • Talking Pub Tour
  • Carnival Memorabilia Display

We will be heading into the city centre today for the parade but we will be taking advantage of the free shuttle bus service rather than fight the crowds to find a parking spot. We can hop on the bus a short distance from where we live and it takes us into town to Queens Park, the hub of the Carnival. Here visitors can enjoy all the usual carnival entertainment such as amusement rides and side show alley. The Carnival also runs a Park Shuttle service that takes visitors between the three main garden displays at Picnic Point, Queens Park and Laurel Bank Park. Last year the Carnival attracted a crowd of over 255,000 so the shuttle bus is an excellent idea.

From humble beginnings the Carnival of Flowers has grown into a spectacular event that showcases the Toowoomba region, cementing its reputation as the Garden City and providing inspiration for all the novice gardeners among us. If you are planning a trip to Queensland, keep the Carnival of Flowers in mind.

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Carnival of Flowers 1950 – 2019

 

Laurel Bank Park

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 Increasingly we are becoming a nation of city dwellers. The migration from the bush to the coast in search of study and employment opportunities expands the urban sprawl of our major cities and empties our once thriving rural towns. But the city can be a busy, noisy and polluted place, especially in its heart – the CBD. There is the stop-start drone of the city traffic, the constant flashing of traffic lights, the scream of ambulances racing to an emergency and the occasional train rumbling down the track. 

The pressure and pace of city life can drain our energy and lead to serious health issues. However, recent studies have recognised the healing benefits of time spent in the outdoors. Spending time outdoors doesn’t just make us feel better but can also reduce our risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, stress and high blood pressure. The busy pace of city life can make it difficult to find time for a nature break but urban green spaces like parks and gardens may provide a solution. They are not only aesthetically pleasing but also provide people with places to exercise and socialise.   

Luckily for us here in Toowoomba, we are blessed with many urban green spaces. Toowoomba is not named the Garden City for its concrete jungle, but for the parks and gardens scattered around the suburbs and right in the city centre itself. Laurel Bank Park is one of these. Close to the CBD,  Laurel Bank Park provides a beautiful and peaceful escape for city dwellers and workers.

Laurel Bank Park was originally owned by Samuel George Stephens. I gather he was a keen gardener because he not only designed the gardens’ original layout but was affectionately called the “Man of Flowers”.  In 1932 Stephens generously donated the park to the people of Toowoomba and left its care in the hands of the local council, who still do a marvellous job taking care of it today. Some of the garden beds date back prior to 1943 and the Commemoration Gates on West Street have been in place since 1934.

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It is a beautifully designed park with walkways, arches, a fountain, a scented garden and at this time of the year, beautiful floral displays, including a mass planting of tulips. During the week people come to the park for lunch and a leisurely stroll. On the weekends they gather for picnics and barbecues, weddings and other family or community events. During November it is a popular place for Year 12 formal photos. It is a lovely place all year round but especially now in the lead up to the Carnival of Flowers.

Laurel Bank Park is not just for the adults. Children can expend their energy in the playground, climb the raised viewing platform for a better view or rest quietly on Thomas the Tank Engine. It is a park we know quite well because it is located right next door to Yellow Bridge, where Dan joins his mates everyday for a range of group and individual activities. It is the perfect place for them to go for a walk, play some games or gather for a BBQ lunch.

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If you are ever visiting Toowoomba for the Carnival of Flowers or just for a holiday any time of the year, Laurel Bank Park is a must see. Bring a picnic hamper, stroll around the gardens and stop to smell the flowers.

 

 

The Last Stop

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The Great Australian Dream

For decades now the Great Australian Dream has been a home of one’s own. We grow up aspiring to be home-owners. When I was growing up, it was the quarter acre block. Nowadays blocks are a lot smaller, but the dream is still the same – a home of one’s own.

Since I first moved out of home, many years ago now, I have been a renter more than I have been an owner. I have lived in the city, by the coast, out west and now on the top of the Great Dividing Range. I have lived in units, regular houses and on a semi-rural block. I have moved house numerous times for a variety of reasons. Less than two years ago I wrote about my 18th move which you can read about here. And now we are gearing up for move number …19!

After four years of renting in Toowoomba, we are finally moving into a home of our own. We moved from our home out west for a few reasons, namely so Bec could finish high school and Dan could access better support. Initially we thought we would rent for a while and then buy a house somewhere. Unfortunately this took a lot longer than we expected. The boom and bust mining cycle can play havoc with the regional real estate market. But finally we have a new home and we can’t wait to move in. 

The Last Stop

Why is this post titled The Last Stop? After so many moves, Paul has asked whether I have Gypsy blood – not to my knowledge. He asked whether our new house will be “the last stop”. Straight away we knew that would be the perfect name for our new house – The Last Stop. I am certainly hoping it will be the last stop for quite some time. Bec has noted that the longest time she has ever lived in one house is six years. I am hoping we can beat that record. In fact, I told Paul the only way I was leaving this next house was in a box!  

The Last Stop is located on a block just outside of Toowoomba. It is one of those places that requires a little TLC but has plenty of room for Dan to ride his bike, for Bec to have chooks again, for a garden that consists of more than just pots and for Paul to indulge his passion for woodwork. We have been a little crowded in our small duplex. Some mornings the kitchen is just not big enough for the three of us. And when Paul comes down for the weekend, well, there is even less space. 

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We all like to have our own space. We like peace and quiet. We like to see open space, smell the country air and hear the sounds of nature. We need places where we can find solitude. And we are looking forward to finding places for all our bookshelves and books and other stuff too.  

Just knowing we will have our own home again has fertilised our imagination. Those home renovation mags which we usually ignore have suddenly become far more interesting.  A master plan of future possibilities is starting to take shape in our minds. Who knows, perhaps you may see some Reno posts sometime down the track. 

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Renting can have its advantages but it is not the same as your own place. Over the last four years we have lived in three different rentals, which were all perfectly nice places but they weren’t a home. Two of them had perfectly blank walls without a single hook. We weren’t allowed to hang anything – not even a clock. They may well have had a modern and sleek interior, but they were cold and sterile. They weren’t a home. So we are looking forward to pulling out our family photos and artwork to hang on the walls. We are looking forward to creating a home. 

In your own home, when something gets broken or needs fixing, you can fix it! You don’t have to go through the whole rigmarole of reporting maintenance issues to the real estate office and then wait for ages for them to get around to actually getting it fixed.  And, best of all, no more routine inspections!

So move number 19 is fast approaching. Another round of packing and unpacking boxes, loading up furniture and negotiating stairs, corners and hallways.  But this is a move we are all really looking forward to. We can’t wait.

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Bec Turns 21

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We have just celebrated Bec’s 21st birthday. It feels a little strange to have both children over the age of 21. I don’t know where all the years went. One minute I had two small children and the next they are full grown adults. How did that happen?

Twenty-firsts are becoming a thing of the past in some places. Times have changed. The 21st once signified a major milestone in a young person’s life, a coming of age, a time when they would take on the expectations, responsibilities and privileges  of the adult life. Today the 18th is often seen as marking that milestone, however it still is a joyous occasion to gather together to celebrate a birthday and always provides a good excuse for a party.

Bec is not the raging, partying kind. She loves her family and close friends and prefers intimate gatherings where friends and family can get together, enjoy a meal, and celebrate in a relaxed, low-key manner. So a group of family and friends gathered at the local Golf Club for a lovely evening together in a private room. It was exactly what Bec wanted.

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Of course, it is still hard to believe that she has reached this milestone. It is hard to believe she is no longer that tiny little baby with the long blond hair. And yes, when Bec was born she did indeed have long blond hair, long enough that we could have tied it up with a ribbon.

Bec’s life hasn’t been an easy journey. She has been surrounded by loving family and friends. She has known the challenge of having a special brother like Dan, who I know she really does love, even though he drives her mad. But she has also known the heartbreak, pain and grief of losing her beloved Dad, Rob. It is a grief she will carry forever in her heart.

Bec was only four when her Dad died, yet she has memories that are crystal clear. She is very much like her Dad in so many ways – the way she smiles, the interests she pursues, the way that she never puts anything away in the same place twice. But she is especially like her Dad in the ways that count: in her compassion for others, her attention to detail and dedication to excellence, her love for music, the natural world, and the written word.

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Through the hard times Bec has endured. She has grown deeper and stronger, and having experienced both the pain and joy of life, she can look into her future with hope, knowing that she has the inner strength to face whatever comes her way. She has grown into a beautiful young woman and I know that her Dad would be very proud of her.

We are all very proud of Bec too and long after the tea lights and flowers have faded, and the music themed cake has been devoured, we will continue to wish her joy, hope and love as her journey in life goes on.

 

 

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#Book Snap Sunday -The Man Who Was Thursday

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The title of today’s #Book Snap is The Man Who Was Thursday by G K Chesterton (1874-1936). My edition contains two of Chesterton’s novels: The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Man Who Was Thursday. I read the first of the stories almost three years ago and then never got around to reading the second. However, I am trying to make it a project to finish off some of the half-read books I have laying around.

The Man Who Was Thursday was first published in 1908 and is regarded as Chesterton’s most well known novel. Described as a “spellbinding story of paradox”, the story features characters named with the days of the week and starts with Thursday, “an undercover poet-turned-policeman” who infiltrates an organisation of anarchists. However, he discovers that the rest of the members are not who they seem and neither is Sunday, the head of the so-called anarchists. A  humorous and at times, thrilling read.

Feel free to join in and get creative with Sharon at Gum Trees and Galaxies, reading, snapping and posting on a Sunday afternoon.

Happy Reading!

July-August Reading Update

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Another two-month update. This idea of doing monthly updates hasn’t been working out so well of late.  July didn’t turn out to be the greatest month for reading with only two books but I regained some ground in August reading eight books. Some of those I have already commented on in the Book Bingo Catch Up which you can read here.

Since my last reading update I have joined in with Sharon’s #booksnapsunday. The idea is to take a creative photo of a book and post it somewhere on social media on Sunday. So far I have managed to post three booksnaps – Mrs M, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, and Pride and Prejudice. It’s challenged me to think about the book and its themes as I am reading and how I might represent that in a photo. It’s also an opportunity to explore the local area for just the right setting. I’m still thinking about this week’s challenge.

Onto the books…

 

The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon

Haddon is known for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I am yet to read, however I came across this book of short stories in our town library.  I’m not usually a reader of short stories. I generally find them, well, rather short. You just get into a story and then it’s finished. But this collection was engaging, shocking at times, and thought provoking. My favourite story, “The Pier Falls”, is set in a beachside town during the 1970s. A pier collapses. People drown. Others are seriously injured. And this is all before the advent of mobile phones.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Goodman is a home-grown author who has won the Aurealis award. I picked up this book last year at the Brisbane Writers Festival and I loved it. It is the first in a series, so I will be tracking down the next two as soon as I can. An urban fantasy set in 19th Century England, Lady Helen discovers that she is a Reclaimer, gifted with special abilities that enable her to see the Deceivers – evil spirits that feast on the human life force. How is a young woman supposed to act in a lady-like manner, attract a husband of good fortune and save humanity at the same time! Excellent fun.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It’s Pride and Prejudice – what else is there to say! 

Home by Larissa Behrendt

I first read this novel a few years ago while studying Australian Stories. It tells the story of Elizabeth or Garibooli, as she was known to her family, a child of the stolen generation. Taken from her home at the age of 12 to become a servant in a wealthy white man’s house, she is subject to abuse, exploitation and loneliness. Elizabeth never saw her family or her home again. But it doesn’t end there. The consequences of the loss of family, home and identity continue to impact on her children and grandchildren – until they come home.  

Book Bingo

Over the last month I have ticked off another eight squares on my bingo card for…

  • Memoir about a Non-Famous Person: One Life by Kate Grenville
  • Written by an Australian Woman: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
  • Written by an Author Under 35: Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
  • Written by an Author Over 65: A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
  • Historical: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Fictionalised Biography about Person from History: Mrs M by Luke Slattery
  • Beloved Classic: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Book Written by Australian Woman More Than 10 Years Ago: Home by Larissa Behrendt

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Here’s hoping that September will be a good month for reading too.

Happy Reading!

 

#Book Snap Sunday – Pride and Prejudice

 

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This week’s #Book Snap is the classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have just finished reading this for my course Texts in Adaptation, and as I was reading, and taking notes for the essay, I was thinking about how I could frame the photo. My lecturer made a comment in our lecture about carriages and how they were used by the gentry to affirm their elevated status and make sure others knew their place.

Hmm, carriages. Ah – the Cobb and Co Museum! The Cobb and Co Museum in Toowoomba has one of the largest collections of restored carriages, from fancy carriages for the well-to-do, to the Cobb and Co passenger carriages, down to a cute little goat cart. The museum also has a number of other displays with an excellent science area for kids with hands-on activities. Best of all, if you are a local, entry is free!

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. It has been a while since my last read and I had forgotten how cutting Jane can be. Lizzie’s observations and witty remarks about people and life in their small village are just as relevant today, but I am relieved that despite the prevailing issues regarding the gender pay gap, discrimination and who takes out the garbage, the lives of women no longer depend upon catching a man of great fortune. Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good romance and Colin Firth still makes the best Mr Darcy in my opinion.

After wandering around the museum displays, the Cobb and Co Cafe is a lovely place for morning tea. I don’t usually go in for snapping my snacks and posting them online, but I was impressed with the design on my latte and the chocolate and vanilla slice was delicious. And they have a great range for those of us who are gluten-free.

Happy Reading!

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Anyone for a holiday?

Mr Percival in the Creek

 

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Strolling along the West Creek walkway, we spot a variety of birdlife. We see ducks swimming on the pond or waddling near the bank, little birds that flit over our heads,  and as we start to approach magpie season,  those black and white marauders that like to swoop on unsuspecting walkers. There is even a rogue goose on the loose on which we do need to keep a watchful eye. Most of the time we see it swimming happily in the middle of the lake but occasionally we have been pushed to the other side of the road when it decides to make a bee line for us, wings flapping and honking loudly.

The other day though, was the first time I had ever seen a pelican swimming in the creek. I had to look twice – yes, it is Mr Percival! That tell-tale bill stretched wide open is always a dead give away. I couldn’t let this photo opportunity slip by, so approaching very slowly and carefully while drawing the phone out of my pocket at the same time, I managed to snap a couple of photos before it took to the sky.

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Now, I am not exactly sure that it was Mr Percival. It could have been Mr Ponder or even Mr Proud. After all, pelicans do look pretty much the same to the untrained eye. And if you are not sure what I am talking about, then it’s time to read Storm Boy by Colin Thiele, a classic Australian story about a young boy and some orphaned pelicans. I haven’t seen the recent remake but I do remember seeing the original film back in my primary school days. Perhaps it’s time to dust off my old copy too.

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#Book Snap Sunday – The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

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I am joining in again with Sharon for #Book Snap Sunday and it seems that we both had the same idea; taking inspiration from our natural environment. As you can see from the picture above, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, by Holly Ringland, is perched somewhat precariously on a branch in what I think is a Grevillea bush.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a beautiful book. Not only is the cover beautifully illustrated with Australian Native flowers, but each chapter is named after an Australian flower. Visually the book is reminiscent of a nature journal, complete with definitions, descriptions and drawings of each Australian flower. Ringland’s prose is equally beautiful and yet the story packs a punch, with themes of loss, trauma, betrayal and domestic violence.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is Ringland’s first book and I think it is a stunning debut. One of the themes that resonated with me concerns protection of the ones we love. It is natural as a parent, grandparent or carer to want to protect our children from harm. Sometimes though, in our attempt to keep them safe, we can inadvertently make them vulnerable and actually put them at risk. Without giving too much away, I found this aspect of the story to be thought provoking. It’s hard to watch your child experience the spills and hurts of life, but it is through these experiences that they will develop resilience and learn to thrive – much like the wildflowers of the Australian bush.

Australian flowers play a big part in Alice’s journey so it only seemed right for native flowers to be present in the Book Snap. Sadly, my small courtyard doesn’t have any native plants, but luckily I spied this flowering bush along the walking path that follows the West Creek parklands. It is one of our favourite walking tracks in Toowoomba and you can read more about it here.

Until next time, happy reading.