My Daughter Built Her Castle out of Ice
My Granddaughter was sitting on my knee, busily drawing in her colouring in book.
What are you drawing Beckie I asked, in a quiet voice?
I am drawing a castle and Mummy is the Queen of the castle she replied.
I looked across to the hospital bed; yes my Daughter was a Queen.
I didn’t see the hollow eyes, the shrunken cheeks, or the many sores that covered her face.
I saw a beautiful baby girl that once I held in my arms, a little girl so full of innocence.
Three years later, I held my Grand Daughters hand as we stood beside the Graveside.
Granddad Beckie asked is Mummy still a Queen, and does she have a castle.
Yes Beckie I replied, as I looked into the eyes of an innocent young child.
Your Mummy will always be a Queen, and now she has a castle in Gods Heaven.
We walked away from the graveside, I held my Granddaughters hand.
Why did Mummy have to die Granddad Beckie asked?
I knelt down on one knee, and took her little hands in mine.
Your Mummy chose her time to go Beckie, your Mummy was a Queen and built her castle in her dreams.
Your Mummy built her castle, but Mummy’s castle was built of Ice.
Is Mummy still a Queen Granddad?
Yes Beckie, she is and always will be.
We walked away hand in hand, I let the tears fall.
My Queen, my beautiful Daughter, had built her castle out of Ice.
I wrote this story a few years back, as a form of highlighting the drug Ice that was becoming a scourge on our beautiful city.
Written originally with the idea of being made into a Television commercial.
During my lifetime I have developed a taste for a variety of foods. I have enjoyed culinary delights of all types and different cultures. Seafood of various kinds have titillated my palate, and made love across a bed of my taste buds, Oysters have seductively danced around the maypole of my tonsils, and crayfish have found haven in the depths of my appreciative stomach. Now with those words, I set the scene for my forays into the larders of the oceans deep.
Somewhere back in 1988, I found myself as a deckhand on board the shark fishing boat The Rhonda Lee trawling out of the port of Bicheno Tasmania, this boat was a long line fishing boat; long line fishing is where a fishing line is run out for a many kilometres with smaller branches running off at intervals with baited hooks, these lines can run out up to a hundred kilometres in length, the lines were left out over a few hours, or a night, and reeled in to unload the catch, apart from the tedious task of baiting the hooks in laying the line, the crews task was also unhooking the catch. The catch was mainly shark of varying sizes, some extraordinary sizes included, we would find monster squid that were also kept, these squid would attach their tentacles and suction caps to our plastic wet weather gear, and take a lot to remove, leaving an inky black liquid stain. It was on one occasion I had my first taste of fresh shark, it was a fish lover’s dream, freshly caught, filleted and tantalisingly toasted in a frypan in butter, it was a taste that awoke all the senses, and will be long remembered in my diary of Unforgettable Tastes. I also learnt on that trip, that all shark must be checked for Mercury content before being sold, Mercury or not, that fish went down a treat.
My first introduction to tasting Turtle, was a survival course during my Army days in north Queensland back in the mid to late 70s, it was an SAS course to introduce us to survival, when all other means had been exhausted. Apart from Snake, Goanna, Lizards and birds, the sea Turtle was added to our survival larder. I won’t describe the ways of catching or preparing Turtle, or even its taste, suffice to say it was my once only taste of Turtle, never to be repeated but apparently a delicacy among the Indigenous people. Now I need to explain that certain sea creatures are banned from exploitation here in Australia, apart from the Turtle, the Dugong is also banned; the only exemptions are given to the Indigenous people as it is deemed part of their cultural foods. I again came across Turtle in late 1980s when I was attached to a Signal Squadron at Bamaga, CapeYorke peninsula Queensland, right up at that pointy tip of Australia. I can relate this time now, as the limit of secrecy has expired, the task was a base for a Signal Squadron to eavesdrop on what was going on in the Indonesian waters at that time, the members worked in shifts from air-conditioned converted shipping containers. I found I had plenty of free time on my hands, so one afternoon I took one of the land rovers and started exploring the dense bush tracks outside the small Indigenous town ship of Bamaga, on one such bush track the tropical rain-forest closed in and created a canopy, a wild Boar and her young raced across the track in front, their tusks demonstrating a formidable weapon, a lonely beautiful Cassowary was disturbed and took flight, her talons as long and sharp as a knife. After some time I came across what I was looking for, the remains of many deep sea Turtles, after they had been killed and prepared for consumption, the only parts remaining were the skulls and the shells, about a dozen in all lay strewn among the tropical shrubbery. It was no surprise to me as I fully appreciated the rights of the Indigenous to hunt these creatures, as they had for centuries, for food. I held one of the skulls in my hand and found it to be as large as a mans, it was bleached from years of exposure to the elements, and cleaned by the tropical ants, the shells were of varying sizes, some a few feet long and some well over a metre in length, I had seen similar in craft shops on display with varnished shells, these shells however were blackened all over from fire. I did take one skull from the site and donated it to my son’s primary school as an education talking point. I did end up seeing one of these great creatures in the wild, on another expedition up Far North Queensland, between Mission Beach and Dunk island, we had been testing out one of our sea craft when we saw the Turtles great fin rising from the water and slapping the water as she moved, we were so close that we could see the massive size of this lovely creature, her head fully extended, her huge eyes alert and her shell a beautiful dark brown, it was magical to see her move with such speed, a speed she cannot reach on land. So ends my Turtle adventures.
I want to introduce you to Picorocos, one of the most strangest and weirdest sea creatures I have ever come across, so weird that on first sight, I nicknamed him The Alien, that is the first thought that came to my mind, it was one afternoon when we were shopping in Santiago and were visiting a fresh fish market, now as an aside, Chile is a long narrow country, not very wide and has the Great Andes on one side and the Ocean on the other, seafood plays a large part in the diet of the Chileans, and the seafood is always fresh being from the cold waters from the Antarctic, and moved along by the Humboldt current, back to my story, I was browsing the array of stalls when a large collection of Coral attracted my attention, the clumps of Coral were barnacle encrusted and had a pipe type of extension protruding out, I saw nothing that indicated it was seafood, and then The Alien emerged, from the pipe opening this creature came forth, two large tusks were extended and inside the tusks were two feelers or tentacles, I was amazed, it moved its head around and then withdrew back down the pipe, a slight touch on the Coral around the pipe and it emerged again, it was fascinating to watch, at one stage all the pipes opened at the same time, weird and wonderful. We purchased a number as it was intended that I must try the various culinary recipes of my host country, I won’t go into the preparation details, nor can I describe the taste of these Aliens, I can’t equate its taste to anything similar. So ends my First Encounter with Picorocos, The Alien from the depths of Chile’s deepest darkest waters.
I leave you with some photographs of my Alien. and a video clip that will allow you to see him up close.
Since my early formative years, I have always loved books and reading; books were my portal into a world of adventure, Romance and Mystery.
Over the years I have digested books on a diverse array of topics, from fact to fiction encompassing a world of subjects. I used books to educate myself in life, (having been removed from a Christian Brothers college in grade three, due to my inability to learn and being classified as illiterate). My world became a fairytale of adventure and excitement, how soon did my books become alive, virtuality replaced words, experience replaced books. Soon I found myself in uniform, and carrying out Humanitarian work in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, among the Cannibal Kuka Kuka tribe in 1969, from there to South Vietnam in 1970 as a Medical Advisor, I was living my own books and writing my own words as I travelled and experienced the world in a different light. This experience, combined with wisdom, has formed who I am today, formed my opinions, formed my political views and formed my perception of Spirituality. My love of books continued throughout my working life, but now I have defined my interests and hobby into factual accounts from earlier centuries, I love old bookstores, antique stores with books on high shelves, mouldy and dust covered, as though recently taken from the hands of the dead in gloomy graveyards of the 1800s. So my story continues, I now collect ancient books that tell the stories of other times and places, told through the eyes of those long gone, whose memory’s live on in letters and diaries.
So now I collect old books, books dating back into previous centuries, not overly valuable books, but valuable through the eyes of the reader. First edition, mint condition books don’t interest me, they have never seen the light of day. I prefer old books that are dirty, ink stained from notations, curled leaves, scribbles from notes written centuries ago, old books that have been held and cherished by those long gone, that is when you become immersed and one with history.
Now to my literary finds in Chile, Ana and I set out mid morning to locate a small bookstore we had been to once before, we wanted to purchase a basic modern book on Mapuche language that we knew they stocked. We left the secured apartments we were staying in with an Aunt of Ana’s, secured in that there was security gates and guards at the entrance, a quite common occurrence in housing estates throughout Chile. The estate gates led directly onto the main highway into Valparaiso and a set of traffic lights. Now traffic lights in Chile fascinate me, they are always a form of entertainment; once the lights turn red you can expect a display of entertainment, this could be acrobats, jugglers or just those selling products, their timing is spot on, they finish their demonstration about thirty seconds before the lights change, this gives them time to walk between the line of cars and collect donations. Leaving the traffic light entertainment we located our book store a few streets down and off to the side. A small bookstore with shelves awaiting discovery, the storekeeper was an elderly gentleman who gave me the impression of never leaving the store, in actual fact he could have been a character out of many of his tomes.
As in most bookstores in foreign countries, there is a small section that stocks books in English, being directed to the shelf, I found an array of literature worthy of perusing; I looked for that which first met my eye. A biography, by one Peter Dawson. So began an interesting journey back into Australian history of music and Opera.
I read that Peter Dawson was born in 1882, and his career spanned 60 years as a Bass Baritone, performing worldwide with many notable Opera tenors of the time, including Dame Nellie Melba, who he describes in his book, 50 Years of Song, as a rather abrupt person.
Dawson made his first 78 on a wax cylinder back in 1904, and his first Vinyl stereo in 1958; he was one of the first recording artists in Australia, recording for EMI and other new emerging musical studios. I read the biography in a couple of days and unfortunately left it behind in Chile, which I will retrieve next year.
We left Valparaiso and returned to Santiago, my penchant for the elusive antique words was still foremost in my mind. By this time I had learnt to rethink my efforts in finding the books I dearly loved. I came to the conclusion that what I was looking for would not be found on bookstore shelves or any nondescript bookstore in back streets. My books were elusive and would only be found where no one else would look for them.
Bearing this in mind, Ana and I were exploring the streets of Santiago one late afternoon, shops were thriving with business, and stalls of every description impeded the footpaths, it was a moment then that I spied a shop with promise. Through the window I was able to view right to the back of the shop, high on a shelf I saw what I thought was a number of books, now this shop was not a bookstore, more like a cross between bits and pieces, old furniture in need of repair, oddments of forlorn artwork, pieces of vintage era glassware. We entered the store that appeared to be managed by a Husband and Wife with a small Boy in tow. Casually browsing the shop I made my way to the shelf I had seen from the footpath, and find my treasure, a number of books in English that had not been removed from the shelf for over many decades. Dust covered tomes, faded covers with a smell that could only have come from a Charles Dickens bookstore.
Before I describe my finds, I think it I should explain to you my thinking of finding old books in Chile. Back in the 1800s Chile was quite an emerging country, Santiago and Valparaiso particularly, became of much interest to Colonial Europe, British and European countries opened up various Government buildings, Embassies and Trade Colonial buildings emerged throughout Chile. My thinking was that representatives of these countries were housed in Chile; with them they bought furniture and comforts from home, such as books etc. When the Colonial era started to die out, the representatives sold up and returned home. Hence to this day, one may find Colonial British furniture and artefacts and books in diverse places throughout this South American country. Now to my literary treasures. The first book is titled The Good Book, which one may perceive by its title to be a Religious writing, in actual fact it is a collection of many story’s and articles, written of the political times and emerging world times of Britain. There are biographical papers, historical papers, and social papers, and notable Government writers, adventurers on masted sailing ships, explorers and entrepreneurs. There are firsthand accounts of the times of Charles and Scotland’s history. One story continues as a series, called The Men of The Mosshags, these are the people of the moors who opposed the reigning King of the time. To read these stories’s one must try and decipher the language of Scotland way back then. Permit me to write a short paragraph for your perusal and interpretation, I find the language quite charming.
“ Mither ! mither!” he wailed, “ I aye telled ye it wad come to this—mockin’ Yon disna do. A wee while, maybe, He can bide his time, and juist when ye are crawin’ croose, and thinkin’ on how blithe and cantry ye are— blaff! Like a flaught o’fire—Yon comes upon ye, and where are ye?”
From the shelf of the forgotten words, I found two more books of antiquity that showed promise of historical entertainment and education. Both books are titled Heaths Book of Beauty, one published in 1840 and the other 1844, the drawings are finished engravings and both edited by The Countess of Blessington. To imagining the era these books were written in, we will set the stage of the writers, they are mainly Ladies. Or the Honourable Mrs, a Countess, Lord so and so, numerous Sir’s and others of the bourgeoisie of those times of Britain, suffice to say the books were edited by a Countess. The contents of the books detail the daily lives and times of these titled rich people, lavish estates and dowry that ruled the country at the time, personal diaries of the love scenes between different titled nobility, these were the times of, I think they are called, Peri wigs and powdered faces on males, times of gala events like grand balls. Now having also read the works of Charles Dickens we can see the opposite of British England at that time, poverty rampant, the poor house a place of dread, the Hulks moored in the Thames awaiting the exportation of criminals to the land of exile, Australia.
Ahh, what a beautiful world we live in, that allows us to look back into our past, and our history, books are a treasure, read them and pass them on, for its knowing our past that we can face our future, and change that which is wrong.
Ps Just between you and me, I believe my ancestors may have had a passage to the new continent Australia, on one of those Hulks moored up the Thames.
Cheers and keep Smiling
Turquoise and Marble Memories
I was browsing the thousands of photographs I managed to take during my adventures in Chile late last year and early this year, it bought back so many memories. Images that stood out in my mind, captured for a fleeting moment and now preserved for generations to come, where others can visualise what my eyes did see. Wonders of Nature in all her beauty and stark harshness, yet leaving one in awe of her magnificence.
Join me in revisiting some of the beautiful areas of Patagonia South Chile, where we travel through the Austral highway, passing by the majestic Cerro Castillo, know the effects of Hudson Volcano’s latest eruption in the dead woods sector, then arriving at Peurto Rio Tranquilo in Lake General Carrera, where you will meet the Marble Chapels, a natural formation engraved by water over millions of years. The waters of Lake General Carrera are magnificent in their own right, so sky blue it’s dazzling, for me they appeared a brilliant Turquoise blue.
The wonders of South America never fail to amaze me; every part of Chile has been blessed with every diversity and wonder of Natures hand.
Having returned in February from our adventures in Chile, and completed a brief series on our various escapades that have been posted, I have now been going through the photographs of our memorable experiences in South America. In all it appears that over 7000 photographs were taken, from the North of Chile to the Patagonian region down South, including the major cities of Santiago and Valparaiso. Each photograph is a story within itself. I have randomly selected some for your perusal. The photographs are of varying subjects that appealed to my eyes, I think if you double click on the picture they enlarge. They are mainly street scenes that are part of everyday Chile, one photograph depicts Dolls hanging outside a building, a rather macabre looking building and I have no idea its meaning or intention, another shows a gentleman sleeping between two cars, respect is afforded to these people, other photographs were taken on the spur of the moment, such as the four dogs watching TV in a shop window, and another of a Dog behind a security window, that one I labelled, I Was Framed, as he does look forlorn and in prison. Looking back on my photographs it reminded me as to how diverse and beautiful Chile is, colourful images in my camera lens every time, that really illustrate the vibrancy and life of this South American country.
Emu aka Ian
It was in Santiago South America that I was first introduced to the Erhu. Ana and I had been exploring the streets of Santiago, Santiago was not new to Ana, but was an exciting new experience for me. The architecture that dated back over a hundred years was mesmerizing, there were elements of many pre colonial countries still in existence and their buildings beautifully presented and maintained. Some had seen the brunt of earthquake damage as did many normal buildings.
Every street and every corner led to a new adventure, the streets were alive with the vibrancy of the people and culture, food stalls dotted the footpaths with their enticing aromas, street buskers added to the flamboyancy of the streets, buskers who portrayed statues, motionless until approached, street pavement artists with their beautiful paintings depicting various scenes, magicians to enthrall the crowds, and in between were street stall holders, selling a vast array of goods from decorative jewelry to shirts and sunglasses. Every street giving off a carnival atmosphere. Interposed were dancers in National Chilean costumes giving demonstrations of the National dance The Cueca.
We entered one street that was set back from the main thoroughfare, here I could hear the strains of music that did not seem to be the normal mixture of Chilean music, this music had more of a classical sound to it, or an Asian sound to it, it reminded me a little of the music I recall in Vietnam in 1970. We continued on towards the origins of this incredible music, and came across a young Chilean teenager playing a very unusual instrument, the music he made was absolutely beautiful, captivated I watched as he played this two stringed instrument and produced the most hypnotic sounds that entranced the mind.
After the young Maestro finished his music, I had questions to ask, and through my interpreter wife Ana, we found out the name of the instrument, it was a Chinese Erhu, the young player had been taught it at one of the musical academy’s in Santiago. His busking was his income and we bought one of his CD’s and congratulated him on his performance. From that moment on it became my desire to obtain an Erhu and endeavour to learn. Back in Australia through our many travels I realised that obtaining this instrument was no easy task, the music stores had never heard of the instrument, it is only now that I have learnt it is called the Chinese Violin in Western countries but still where to obtain one was still a problem.
Last week we visited Adelaide in South Australia for a few days, it was there in Chinatown that I saw my beloved Erhu, at a small stall were two young Chinese girls selling Chinese musical instruments, and they also demonstrated playing the instruments. We purchased the Erhu and also received some papers in respect to having lessons on the Erhu by the noted player Zhao Liang. Having come this far in my quest for the Erhu there was no question in not taking up lessons to learn to play this exquisite instrument, the only problem is we live about four hour away from Adelaide; however we have plans to continue with the instrument, but need to work out a lesson itinerary to accommodate travel.
I have included a video clip of the Erhu being played by a professional, however I assure my readers I have no aspirations to reach the standards of the Masters of the Erhu, they are truly the Masters. If I can make some sounds and enjoy the instrument then it has all been worthwhile. Please listen to the music and I am sure you will find the hauntingly beautiful music as captivating as we did.