Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Week in Pictures...

** The week started out rather grey, cold and wet. Not that I mind those days at all: The sound of rain falling on the roof, the scent of it through open windows, and being snugged up with hot cups of tea, some letters and a Spoodle all equates to a pretty fine day in my book. However, the rain was short-lived and by the end of the week the clear blue skies, northerly winds and warm sunny days had returned.
** Knowing that these are probably the last of the warmer days for the next three months or so, we decided to take a family history day-trip to the charming little towns of Yacka and Jamestown, about two hours south of where we live. We left early in the morning and stopped at the town of Gulnare before heading onto Yacka, its War Memorial and the local cemetery. Then we made our way to Jamestown, admiring the splendid Bundaleer views on the way, had lunch and then took a stroll through another cemetery. The rolling pastures of the region are a stark contrast to our rugged mountains and saltbush plains, even though we're not so far apart. It's a wonder how the scenery changes so dramatically with just a few kilometres. 
** Thursday was ANZAC Day. As our council area incorporates a number of small communities, the Dawn Service was not held in our town this year, although we were still up at dawn to watch the sunrise. The absence of a local service meant we were able to watch live the Gallipoli (Turkey) and Villers-Bretonneaux (France) services on the television. The turnout to these services never ceases to amaze and inspire.
How did you spend your week?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Meeting with the Dead.

Yacka and Jamestown, South Australia :: 27 April 2013
1. War Memorial (WWI), Yacka, where we paid our respects to Samuel & Henry Gale.
2. Henry & Elizabeth Gale, my great-great-great grandparents.
3. In the Shadows, Yacka Cemetery.
4. Sleeping Peacefully, Yacka Cemetery.
5. A bright and sunny autumn day in Jamestown.
6. Isaac & Catherine Black, my great-great-great-great grandparents.
7. A Meeting with the Dead, Jamestown Cemetery.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: The Great War by Les Carlyon

The Great WarThe Great War by Les Carlyon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"We are lousy, stinking, ragged, unshaven, sleepless. Even when we're back a bit we can't sleep for our own guns. I have one puttee, a dead man's helmet, another dead man's gas protector, a dead man's bayonet. My tunic is rotten with other men's blood and partly splattered with a comrade's brains...Courage does not count here. It is all nerve. Once that goes one becomes a gibbering maniac." - Lieutenant John 'Alec' Raws, 4 August 1916, quoted in The Great War

On the 28 February 1916, 28-year-old farm labourer, Edwin Gale, from Yacka, South Australia, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. A week later his older brother, Samuel, followed suit. The brothers were sent to the Western Front, the former as part of the Infantry, the other as a Gunner. They lived through some of the harshest conditions imaginable, surviving gas attacks and endless defeats. Neither saw the end of the war: Edwin died on the 21 October 1917 from wounds he received during the (disastrous) Passchendaele Campaign; his brother, Samuel, was killed in action on the second day of the German 'Kaiserschlacht' Offensive, five months and one day after his younger brother (22 March 1918). Their widowed mother lost both her sons. The brothers are buried in Belgium, in separate cemeteries not so far apart, but still thousands of miles from home.

If Edwin and Samuel weren't two kinks in my Family Tree, I probably would never have read Les Carlyon's The Great War, but as it was (and still is), I needed to know more about the battlefields of the First World War so that I could greater understand the lives of these two brothers during such a pivotal moment in history. As it turns out, The Great War was the ideal place to start.

At around 800 pages in length, The Great War is an epic collation of the people, places and events that made the Western Front during the peak of World War I. Its central focus is the young, adventurous Australians who volunteered to fight (for reasons known only to them) on the other side of the world, and the British military commanders and politicians who held their fate. It covers in great, horrific detail all the major battles: Fromelle, Pozieres, Passchendaele, Villers-Bretonneux, and then some lesser known ones as well. Not one hellish moment is skipped.

Yet this is not a book bogged down in technical detail; it is not simply "tactics" or a regurgitation of time and place. What makes The Great War such a phenomenal read is the effort that Carlyon has put into creating a personalised recollection, to make it feel as if it is the Fallen who are telling this tale. It contains excerpts from journal entries and letters, photographs and maps. It tells the stories of these men not only as they were during the war, but also what life was like before it and - if they were lucky enough to survive - what happened after.

Yet at the same time, The Great War does not glorify war or make heroes out of ordinary men, instead recognising that they were, in fact, just men. The Great War may be an epic and phenomenal book, but it is also emotionally wrecking. It made me cry - a lot. It lays bare the horrors of war - the destruction, the desperation and the waste. The reader is thrust into the nightmarish existence of the rancid mud-flats that became the Western Front, and reminds one of the vicious brutality that humans are capable of. It peels back the layers of legend and myth and reveals to the reader the true, human aspect of the war, and explains how a nation lost an entire generation of men - a loss that remains an absolute tragedy, even after the passing of nearly 100 years.

** The 25 April in Australia and New Zealand is ANZAC Day, a day of sombre reflection commemorating the moment when our two nations officially became part of the First World War with the dawn landing of Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli, Turkey, on the 25 April 1915.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

365 Mail Art Project: Weeks 27 & 28

Week 27:
#96 of 365:
I found an old faerie calendar in a stack of paper craft supplies and decided to turn some of the lovely pictures into mail art. In doing so I also got to use more washi, which is always a thrill. This one is for Amanda in the U.S.A.

#97 of 365:
Riley sent me the daffodil picture and I thought it too good not to use on a piece of mail art, so I've sent it to Kelly in the U.S.A.

#98 of 365:
Big, bright and beautiful faeries for Rachel in the U.S.A.

#99 of 365:
A faerie party for Justina in Australia.

#100 of 365:
Wings of butterflies, moths and bats. Hooved feet. Part goat. I love these faeries and they are for Anne in Finland.
Week 28:
Got my geek on this week with a selection of my favourite superheroes.

#101 of 365:
Rogue from X-Men for Arjen in Belgium...

#102 of 365:
The Hulk for Ursa in Slovenia...

#103 of 365:
Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) for Nicki in Australia...

#104 of 365:
Save the cheerleader, save the world: Claire (from Heroes) for Rachael in the U.K...

#105 of 365:
Proving that nice guys don't always come last, Captain America is for Cheryl in Scotland...

#106 of 365:
A little obscure, perhaps? Well, she shouldn't be: River Tam (Firefly and Serenity) for Lauren in Australia...

#107 of 365:
But what is a superhero army without an ultimate supervillain? Loki (Thor and The Avengers) for Laura in Canada.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Week in Pictures...

** It was another frantic-busy working week followed by a quiet, uneventful weekend at home. But you know what? I don't mind it so much. Although it does leave for little to write about on the blog.
** The past week was unseasonably warm with temperatures getting into the mid-30s (*C). Tonight we are waiting for the rain that the BoM promised, although so far the sky is clear aside from a few clouds puffing up over the Ranges to the south (in the wrong direction!).
** The sky seemed especially blue this week; the ocean particularly turquoise; and the wattles were bursting in red. These are our colours of autumn.
What are yours?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

365 Mail Art Project: Week 26

I realise that Sunday is normally the day when I share my photos from the week, but this week I started a new job and I haven't quite figured out the new routine yet and no photos were taken.
Although my days are no longer as flexible as they once were, I still managed to find time for mail art, so I thought I'd share them with you today instead:
#90 of 365:
A shipwreck for Kelly in Malaysia...

#91 of 365:
Gift tag for Jennifer in Australia...

#92 of 365:
South Australian awesomeness for Riley in the USA...

#93 of 365:
Tulips for Flavia in England...

#94 of 365:
Sunny sunflowers for Ele in Italy...

#95 of 365:
And vintage bicycles for Louise in England.
How was your week, anyway?

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Week in Pictures...

** I hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend and had a wonderful Easter (if you celebrate it)? Ours was very quiet and relaxing: A well-earned break from the usual routine. I wrote letters, caught up with reading my blog list, and watched some DVDs. I can't eat chocolate so our weekend was Easter egg free, but I did eat my weight in hot cross buns. A fair trade, I reckon.
** Autumn in the Flinders Ranges is the best time of year. I know I whinge about the summer, which is so long and hot, but when autumn finally arrives it is simply glorious. Most days we wake to slightly chilly mornings that are wonderfully clear and bright. The dewy nights are great for the garden and the lawn has started its regeneration after being burnt to a crisp during January and February. We also had two days in the past week where it rained: Wednesday was slightly disappointing with less than 1mm falling, but then on Saturday it was grey and wet all day (and decidedly cold), which gave us 15mm. It may not sound like much but as long as we get a little rain regularly it isn't so bad. We hope to invest in some more rainwater tanks in the coming months to catch as much rain as possible. At present we are only catching rain from the back half of the house, so we need to start collecting it from the front and also from the shed. This will make a huge difference to our supply and hopefully once they are full we'll not run out of rainwater again.
** I received some fantastic pieces of mail art this week but my favourite came from Alison in Australia. She made me an awesome lotus flower postcard (pictured above). If you're into paper crafts then I strongly recommend her blog, Paisley and Brown Paper. She makes the most amazing stuff.
** Apparently Google Reader will be closing down, so if you are using it to read this (and other) blogs you might want to import your blog list into another feed, such as Bloglovin'. I've already done mine and it's fantastic: So easy to use and I get an email every day advising of any new posts from the blogs I follow so I can access them from my inbox. I love that. It's super convenient and it's completely free.

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