The Keeper of The Tomes

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

The Emu


Posted by on July 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Turquoise and Marble Memories

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.


The Emu


Posted by on July 1, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Memories of Chile

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


Posted by on June 6, 2016 in Uncategorized


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The Erhu—The Chinese Violin

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.




Posted by on April 27, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Yackandandah/Beechworth— A Journey into Australia’s Past

We decided to take a small journey down memory lanes of my past, apart from visiting relatives, I wanted to show Ana some beautiful old country towns that I recall from my Army days.

These old towns date back to the 1800s, an era in Australia when Gold fever was rampant throughout the colony of Victoria; the two specific towns I wanted to visit again were Yackandandah and Beechworth.

For our three day visit we made our home base at Yackandandah, now where is Yackandandah you may well ask, Yackandandah is in the State of Victoria, much like a Province for my overseas readers.

Yackandandah is not far from Tangambalanga, at the foot of Murramurrangbong, and over the hills from Mudgegonga, just follow the dirt track to the intersection and turn right, there’s three cows grazing on the corner paddock of Browns pastures, you can’t miss it. Follow the creek line along and you will enter the old Gold town of Yackandandah.

This historic town has retained its old buildings and charm, I recall visiting the town over forty years ago, it was being used as a back drop for a movie at the time, I do recall having lunch in the old pub with a number of beautiful girls dressed up in period costumes, the actress was either Meryl Streep or Sigrid Thornton, I was in uniform at the time with an old Army mate, just wish we had the stamina to approach and ask for a photo with them.

Having enjoyed the afternoon in Yack, as it is commonly known as, we departed next morning for the other well know Gold mine town of Beechworth. With the changing of the seasons, the trees all through this Alpine part of the country were shedding their leaves, vivid Gold’s and Brown leaves decorated the trees and roads throughout the region, an exciting visit into Natures studio of colours.

What drew me back to Beechworth was its history, a history I never really delved into back in my more adventurous Army days. The Cemetery was my destination, a cemetery is always a good source of a town’s historical background, so we entered the hallowed grounds of Beechworth cemetery which was established in 1856 and contains the graves of many of Beechworth’s pioneers.

Alexander Roy (Dick) Harwood, Dick Harwood was an Australian film producer and the first to introduce Talkie films in Australia.

Jacob Hoffman, an American Civil War Veteran.

John Drummond, Battle of Waterloo Veteran and Pioneer of Beechworth.

James Riley, American Civil War Veteran.

The Gammon Children, seven children of George and Kate Gammon, their ages ranged from 9 weeks to two years, all died from various traumas of family life in the 19th century.

James M Storey, a Mexican War Veteran.

John Watt, shot by a bushranger.

James Ingram, known as, The Grand old Man, a very stalwart pioneer of Beechworth.

Rosetta Isaacs, Sister of Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Australian born Governor General of Australia.

Dame (Annie) Jean McNamara, long remembered for her work as an authority on Infantile paralysis, (Poliomyelitis).

Chinese Graves and Burning Towers.

The Victorian goldfields were characterised by the large numbers of Chinese miners who, along with others from Britain and Europe, came to try their luck with the gold pan and pick. Beechworth was no exception. By 1856, there were many Chinese in the district and the numbers swelled following the Buckland riots in July, 1857, when many Chinese, having been driven out of Buckland, joined their brethren at Beechworth.

The Chinese formed their own community within the town, and Chinatown was to be found along the lower Stanley Road, on the high side of where Lake Sambell is now situated. It had its own shops, Joss House and Temple. The Chinese took an active interest in town affairs and were generous donors to the appeal to build Ovens District Hospital in 1856-1857. They also formed a colourful part of the annual procession through Beechworth’s main street. The Burning Towers were built in 1857, and were used for burning prayers and meals for the dead. The towers were not used for cremation. It is interesting to note that in Northern China, it was the custom to burn paper prayers and meals at the graveside, whereas in southern China, burning Towers were used. The existence of the Beechworth Towers indicates that a large section of the Chinese community here were from southern China. The altar in front of the Burning Towers was not built until 1883-84.

Although there are thought to be about 2000 Chinese persons buried here, it was the wish of all Chinese persons to be buried in China. For this reason it was relatively common for bodies to be exhumed and sent back to China with relatives, where re-burial would take place.

Henry Ah Yett was the last Chinese person to be buried in the Chinese section of Beechworth cemetery; he died at Reid’s Creek on 31st July 1932. Mr Ah Yett was a very old and well known identity of Beechworth and district, having lived in the area for over seventy years. He is believed to have been 105 years old when he died. He came to Beechworth during the gold rush, and was a goldminer for a number of years. He later established a market garden at Reid’s Creek and had numerous customers in Beechworth and Chiltern on whom he called regularly. He was also skilled in the use of herbs for medicinal purposes. Mr Ah Yett was noted for his honesty and his geniality and kindness to children was proverbial.

We leave the Beechworth cemetery and its residents, to rest in history, making our way back to Yackandandah before driving back to Mildura. Leaving behind us an enjoyable excursion, back into the flamboyant exhilarating days of Australia’s Gold rush.


Posted by on April 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Ilsa de Negra

 We left early in the morning from the Santiago Bus terminal, our destination today was the Ilsa de Negra, a journey of one hour and thirty six minutes.

Isla Negra is a coastal area in El Quisco commune in central Chile some 45 km (70 km by road) south of Valparaiso and 96 km (110 km by road) west of Santiago.

Isla Negra is best known as the residence of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who lived there at Casa de Isla Negra (with long periods of travel and exile) from 1939 until his death in 1973. The area was christened by Neruda himself, after the dark outcrop of rocks just offshore. It literally means “Black Island” in Spanish. The Casa de Isla Negra is now a museum that is well visited all year around and especially during summer.

Every year on Neruda’s birthday (July 12), there are celebrations, both at the house and in the artisans’ square nearby. There are poetry readings, music and picnics on the beach.

Although most tourists come in buses to see Neruda’s house, there is also a thriving community of writers, artists and artisans who live in Isla Negra and the surrounding area. It is a favourite vacation spot for middle-class families from Santiago and there are many cabins and restaurants, craft shops, an Imaginary Boat open to visitors up Av. Central and the possibility of eco-tours.

The incessant crash of the waves against black rocks led Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda, to select this place as the backdrop of his most famous home. Many of those who visit this area come to learn more about this Chilean legend, who lived here in the 1940s.

The arrival is deceptive. Though it is located just off the highway, we had to follow winding dirt roads to reach the enormous house/museum, which is flanked by tall pine trees. Currently administered by the Neruda Foundation, its more than 500 square meters contain many of the fascinating items that the poet collected: figureheads that once graced the bows of ships, masks of all kinds, bottles, photographs, boxes containing strange insects and butterflies, Latin American pottery, carved figures from Easter Island, clocks, navigational instruments, maps of the world and conch shells of all shapes and sizes.

In the house’s garden, are a bell tower, a boat, a fountain, and the tombs of Pablo Neruda and his last wife, Matilde Urrutia, which look out onto the ocean.

It’s easy to get to Neruda’s house, but if you get lost, as we did, you can ask any of the locals where to find it. Neruda has become the great icon of this town, which is part of the municipality of El Tabo, 111 km west of Santiago.

The spirit of the poet, who passed away shortly after the 1973 military coup, lives on here. You can find murals depicting Neftalí Reyes (his real name), small crafts fairs with paintings of the bard and restaurants with seafood dishes named in honour of his best-known verses.

Isla Negra has a small beach with a view of the open-air bell tower at Neruda’s home. To the north, there are an enormous rock formation facing the Pacific and its large waves. This area is called Punta de Tralca, and it is a popular destination for spiritual retreats. Further south is the popular resort town of El Tabo.

I submit for your reading, a poem by Pablo Neruda, titled The Night in Ilsa Negra.

Ancient night and the unruly salt
beat at the walls of my house.
The shadow is all one, the sky
throbs now along with the ocean,
and sky and shadow erupt
in the crash of their vast conflict.
All night long they struggle;
nobody knows the name
of the harsh light that keeps slowly opening
like a languid fruit.
So on the coast comes to light,
out of seething shadow, the harsh dawn,
gnawed at by the moving salt


Posted by on April 4, 2016 in Uncategorized


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The Woodcarver

I have titled this post The Wood carver, an extraordinary talented Chilean Artisan who makes his livelihood out of Beautiful intricate wood carvings. The wood carver’s shop is in Pueblito Los Dominicos, a village of quaint adobe brick shops, I think of it as a Hamlet housing around 200 unique Chilean shops, located on the outskirts of Santiago in a Heritage listed zone. I won’t go into the history of Pueblito Los Dominicos, as you can find its colourful history by Google, I prefer to let you see it through my eyes. This captivating village with its 200 craft shops is a veritable wonderland of Chilean and Mapuchee culture. A sample of the shops include, Wool work with Alpaca Fleece, Clothing, Jewellery that includes the semi precious stone, Lapis Lazuli which is mined in both Afghanistan and Chile, Chilean paintings, original Mapuche Pottery, Silversmithing, Leatherwork, Sculptures and Copper cookware.

This is the second time that I have visited this Craft village, the first time was in 2009 when I was first introduced to the fascinating craft of Matchstick carvings, I was not disappointed on this occasion and was again able to add to my growing collection, I now have over twenty beautiful pieces, the carvings are so intricate and unbelievable, all carved out of a simple matchstick depicting various scenes, some Religious and some with incredible imagination, The Artisan advised that due to age and eyesight, he was coming to the end of his career as a Master Craftsman of Matchstick Carving, understandable but a magnificent talent. I have posted before on Matchstick carving with a few examples, however the photographs do not do it justice, I need a very small lens to illustrate the small intricate carvings. From Matchsticks we go to the opposite spectrum of carving, Artisans who carve monstrous pieces, pieces that are displayed in Churches around Chile, Crucifixion statues, Virgin Mary’s, various Saints, pieces so large they adorn many churches and are monstrous in size, not only Religious Icons, but huge pieces that adorn the Bow of old sailing ships, much as you would see in old Pirate movies, there are large Book shelves, intricate furniture pieces, and a myriad of pieces that the mind could imagine.

I selected this one Master Woodworker to illustrate his skill, Shop and Wares, he has an extensive array of wares for sale, some tourists may think them highly priced, I certainly didn’t as I watched him work, some pieces take many months to complete, his skill and efforts in his intricate trade are well worth the price, we bought a few pieces and are proud to display and celebrate his Craftmanship.

Our visit to Pueblito Los Dominicos was, and always will be, a very culturally and memorable experience, I leave you to enjoy a few photographs of a very talented man, The Chilean Woodcarver.



Posted by on March 31, 2016 in Uncategorized


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