Monday 14 March 2016

Gum Tree Brownies and Other Wondrous Things

A Letter From Julie;

Well, here I am again at long, long last!!!

Despite finally having one excessively heavy downpour of rain, here in the tropics of North Queensland it continues to be drier and hotter than any other season on record!  It has been getting to 38 degrees more often than ever. My beloved Fur Babies have been feeling the horrendous and humid heat, so they tend to spend many lazy hours indoors where it is so pleasant for us all! Even the water from the COLD water taps feels warm! I haven't even needed to turn the hot tap on when having a shower! It’s quite unbelievable and very unusual indeed!  

Gum tree after the rain

My neighbor was here at 7.30 this morning as if he had left it any later to mow the lawn, he would never have been able to manage even a quarter of it!! Even that early, it was already 30 degrees!  I was enthralled, at that hour, watching and listening to the huge black cockatoo's squabbling for all they were worth in the enormous New Guinea Almond tree down towards the corner of the street. These amazing birds just LOVE the fabulous nuts which form on these trees and they are the only birds I have seen around here which can actually crack them open with their tremendously strong beaks! Some of the other, even larger native cockatoos are also strong enough to do so, but they don't venture from their homes in the rainforests!

Gum Tree Brownie and other Faerie Folk of the Never-Never

This situation has meant that I have been able to thoroughly enjoy the artwork in many of my precious old books, as well as finding new delight in acquisitions recently received from overseas!!  One of these is Tarella Quin's first story book, Gum Tree Brownie which was illustrated by the then just 19-year-old Ida Sherbourne Rentoul some years before she met and married Grenbry Outhwaite and took the name we all recognise so well these days!

Gum tree Brownie illustrated by Ida Rentoul.

I have longed for a copy of this very special and lovely book, completely illustrated in black and white, for as long as I can recall. When I won my treasure for a ridiculously low price which made it akin to winning the lottery for me, I truly could NOT believe it. I kept checking it, over and over and OVER again, just to be certain that a mistake hadn't been made! When it arrived back in the country of its creation, packed along with an almost mint volume of the exquisitely decoratively bound Penrose's Annual for 1907-8, I literally trembled with the knowledge of what I would very soon be looking at!!! Oh my goodness, I could have cried with the absolute joy of it! And let me assure you, I was not disappointed with EITHER of these books which I have now added to my library!  These very early Australian Golden Age children's books are like Holy Grails for any collectors and I do know how extremely fortunate I am.

Apart from these, I also have had a fabulous time buying a collection of Margaret Evans Price book treasures from a lady in America!! Well, actually there are five of MEP's plus four other stunning old early American (Volland) books! 

My many (almost 50!) beautiful old annuals which I ordered from UK last Oct/Nov have been keeping me smiling from ear to ear as I enjoy the contents of them;

The Oxford Annual for Tiny Folks and Penrose's Pictorial Annual

The wonderful Oxford Annual for Tiny Folks featuring a chubby little toddler pushing his even chubbier little sister in a green barrow is simply filled with surprise treasures. Just a few pages in I saw a poem titled 'If You Have A Persian Cat' illustrated by the fabulous Lilian A Govey, a contemporary of my favoured Anne Anderson! Every word of this is so true, especially when I think of the brother and sister pair which my dad and step-mum own and adore!! So much so, that I scanned the three pages and sent them with Dad's birthday card which I made for his 86th birthday! I was rewarded with so many giggles and such genuine laughter when I was phoned with their ardent thanks.

The first story I saw when I opened the Joy Book Annual for 1928 (with a gorgeous child dressed up as a Jester on the cover) happened to be by that favourite author of mine, Agnes Grozier Herbertson!! It is called 'Wee Wobbledy'. He is a gnome who lived on the One Tree Common, and everything in his little house had to be tied securely, or hung on hooks as the BIG WIND always caused everything inside to go Wobbledy-Wobbledy'!!! In her gorgeous inimitable style, A.H tells the story of how the house one day, while its owner was out, was picked up by the BIG WIND and taken quite far away. The Wibbledy-Wobbledy has a grand adventure trying to find where his beloved little home has been set down and with help from The Wise Witch, and then the Wise Wizard, as well as a Shepherd who has a star in his bell, he does indeed find where his house is, by the side of The Peaberry Tree where lots of lovely and kind fairy folk were staring at it and wondering who it belonged to! After he finds the house, meets the 'neighbours', and invites them all in for tea, he decides that he likes this sheltered place and the folk who live there so much that he stays there rather than return to One Tree Common.  All in all, another delicious little story by A.G.H.

The Joy Book Children's Annual with the story of Wee Wobbledy and The Spindle Tree 

I also managed to have so much time that I enjoyed reading her stand-alone story book titled 'The Spindle Tree’, which I believe was written back in the mid 1920s and illustrated by Stanley Cook. At 190 pages, it is divided into 12 chapters. It is all about a gnome named Yumps, his Real Speckly Sparrow, his Genuine Silver Fin (fish) and his RARE and REAL Spindle Tree which is home to the Spindle Fairy. The tale is filled with memorable characters from the very first page, and I do wish I had a small person to whom I could read a chapter each night at bedtime as it is just exactly THAT type of a story, though still in A.G.H's gorgeous style so suited to very young children!! Many of her larger books which I have now collected are groups of individual short stories, as in The Adventures of Bee Wee the Gnome to which I introduced you late last year,(again, as with my recent buy of Gum Tree Brownie, after waiting so long to find a copy I could afford!!!) Her Stand alone stories, such as Teddy and Trots in Wonderland and Lucy-Mary, or The Cobweb Cloak, to me seem far better suited to older children than the delightful Spindle Tree!

Kookaburra in my flowering gum tree

Oh heavens, I could just go one and on, and then on some more about all the magical moments I have been so lucky to enjoy over this hideously hot summer!!! I do not honestly know many people who are as fortunate to have such treasures at their fingertips whether indoor, or outside in the garden. Over summer, we have been visited by beautiful and very cheerful Laughing Kookaburras! I do enjoy these marvellous Aussie Icons so much as they sit in the trees and make their amazing sounds which truly do sound just like laughter! It is little wonder that they feature in so many Australian stories. My gum tree is back in bloom again so all sorts of feathered friends come to visit in the cooler daylight hours....simply wonderful!

Ladybirds and little water dragons (gorgeous little lizard friends) have been in the grass a lot lately as well, I think because they enjoy drinking the heavy morning dews!! Between the gum blossoms and the garden critters, I see so much of nature's inspiration which Tarella Quin found, from which she could tell her delightful early fairy tales of this country I call home! I am still tempted to pinch myself to prove that I do in fact have my treasure in 'Gum Tree Brownie’. I was showing it to an elderly friend who popped in earlier, so I do know it is indeed real!!! Some book treasures, as you are so well aware, are akin to dreams in their beauty, aren't they?!  (Indeed they are Julie!)

Water dragon which is about 5 inches long TOTAL!

Life is not just good, but genuinely GREAT! I’d need ever so much time to share with you all the treasures and pleasure I garner from them!! But I can continue to do so in bits and bobs! I nearly wrote 'in Dribs and Drabs' but they surely are not, any of them, Drab!!!!

The sunset is taken looking through the trees from my yard.

Until next time, my love and miles of smiles, Jules xoxox
February, 2016.

Postscript 14th March, 2016.

Well, Goodness gracious....We here in tropical North Queensland are now praying that the rains keep up....just so that they won't come down!!!!! Since I wrote the post and Feb came to an end, we have been continually inundated with the unusual wet stuff known as RAIN!! and I really DO mean inundated!! One night we had over 100mm, and almost every day or night this month we have received more extremely worthwhile falls!!

Day Orchids

The entire region around the city is gloriously green for the first time in well over a year, and with so much of the wet treasure, it may remain this gorgeous colour for more than a month!! The dust has settled at last too, so the Fur Babies are much more comfortable and it is far easier to keep the housework up to scratch! Like the rest of the population, I am certainly not complaining about any downsides the rain has, such as huge paw prints all over the tiled floors (they clean off so easily!!), as NOTHING makes my beloved plants grow as well as real rain!! I knew that we were in for some more of the deliciously refreshing stuff on Saturday, as my 24-hour little Rain Orchids came into full fragrant bloom again on Friday morning!!! They NEVER tell lies! It's almost as if they have little Fairies living within the buds waiting to just burst forth with the good news!! I could smell their perfume from my kitchen window long before I ventured outside for a closer appreciation! What a huge pity though, that these teensie, yet pristine blooms do only last for a single Day!

While the cheerful sounds, of all the children having a splashing good time out in the street as the rain gently falls on them, echoes delightfully in my head, I have been enjoying being able to curl up and enjoy some of my favourite of books with their magical illustrations and stories! I feel like the happy young child I was all those years ago, growing up in Melbourne where it always seemed to be raining, and I was always being transported off to have adventures in some new Storybook Land!!! My life is certainly blessed, even all these years later, in a city as far from and as different to, that memory-filled place of my childhood. I do pray that all of you who read this little post, also are able to return to you own magical memories with as much ease as I seem able to do.  Enjoy every moment, and fill them with smiles!!

All photographs courtesy of Julie Drew.

Read Julie's previous post here


  1. Many thanks for this lovely post Julie, and for sharing your fantastic photographs. I can almost hear those children splashing around outside and as for your day Orchids – what can I say – they are just gorgeous! I will be emailing you shortly to let you know your post is now live on the blog – thanks again. You are one in a million! xxx

  2. A great report from down under! I love the Kookaburra.

  3. It's no secret...And, a well known fact...
    I~Live~In~The~Past! I tolerate the present,
    and l suppose l'll have to tolerate the future!
    But, l can handle it...But the past is where l
    belong. My Father used to say to me, as l was
    growing up..."Trouble is with you boy is...You've
    never grown up". It used to upset me...But, when l
    got into my 20's 30' 40's he still used to say it..
    But, then l took it as a compliment...The fact is my
    music and my emotions run my life..Nowt! l can do about
    it, just the way things are. And, emotions and being a
    Sicilian..don't go to well together! "Nuff Said".

    Great post...lovely read...And, Orchids! Love Orchids.
    Have them all around my home! Mostly Moth Orchids.
    There my second most favourite flower! My first....
    No laughing now....Pansies! I shall have a wreath of
    them on my 'pink' coffin..If and when l decide to move
    to a higher level...Though, going to heaven could be a
    problem..As l won't know anyone there...! :). Bless!x

    1. Julie always paints such beautiful images both with her pictures and with her words. I enjoy reading her letters through your blog. It certainly makes me want to visit North Queensland. :)

    2. Hi Willie, I’ve always liked the old-fashioned flowers – things like Lilly of the Valley, Foxgloves, Cornflowers, Primroses, Snowdrops and of course Pansies. . They are such cheerful little flowers, and they all seem to have different expressions on their ‘faces’.

    3. Me too Heather! Thanks for leaving a comment.

  4. Thanks for sharing these gorgeous pictures, Julie. I don't think I've ever seen a close-up of an actual kookaburra sitting in a gum tree (just like the song!)--it's beautiful. Your books are nice treasures, too. :)

  5. My dear Barbara! HELLO! What a lovely tour into a magical garden, rife with amazing wild life! That water dragon, oh, can my imagination transform him into a HUGE but gentle dragon, like that one in Kenneth Graham's The Reluctant Dragon! hahahaha, I love that story.

    Beauty, simplicity of days past and colorful memories are always found here. HUGS!

    1. Hello Anita, thank you so much for your sweet comment. I have no doubt at all that your imagination can do wonders for that little water dragon! Much love Barbara x

  6. The orchids are so pretty- but sad that they only last for a day! I especially love all of the gum tree photos with the raindrops on them. So beautiful!

    I love looking at illustrations too and the ones that Julie shared were fabulous- I can just imagine how much fun she has been having looking though her treasures.

    I am glad she is able to find and appreciate magic all around her. :)

  7. Beautiful post, exotic photos of flowers and animals, well even a Dragon! I can't imagine it living here in the North West of England.

    1. Don’t you just love that little Dragon? I think he might feel the cold living anywhere in England! :-)

  8. Beautiful post, exotic photos of flowers and animals, well even a Dragon! I can't imagine it living here in the North West of England.

  9. Thank you to EVERY ONE of Barbara's followers,for the truly humbling comments you have made about my guest posts on this Blog!!! You have all made me feel so very welcome, and Barbara already knows how her invitation for me to do these 'Letters from Julie' has enriched my life in untold measure!! I have such an enormous collection of book (and other!)treasures,that it would be totally selfish of me not to share at least SOME of them with others who also may love them.And as for the garden joys? well, words are never enough,hence the photos!!! I am so thrilled that the Kookaburra has brought the old song to mind.D'you know? on the re-run of Dr Who on Tuesday night,this very song was sung to banish the monsters'!!! I'd never realised how famous it is!!
    Orchids just seem to spring up unbidden here in the tropics,and for you Willie,I have to,and DO really work hard to get decent Pansies (which I have always adored since childhood some time ago!!)to grow, and even then,they only survive here in Winter!!! Like you,I seem to never have grown up,as I get such genuine joy from the major aspects of my past!!I have continued to garner such pleasure from more and more of these old joys as I have gotten 'older'!! My Water Dragon is actually barely 5 inches in total length,but I love him all the more for this lack of size!! Yes,a Reluctant Dragon indeed!!My old copy of this book has Ernest Shepherd illustrations so I am always reminded of Pooh Bear and Co when I read the story!Pure Delight!!!
    How lucky we all are to have the power of the internet and all the magic it allows us to enjoy! Who could ever have dreamed of such a thing as a BLOG? and this one of Barbara's is sheer and utter Bliss!! Thank you again,for all your kindness in reading, enjoying & commenting on,my little additions to it. Many warm smiles as always,Julie in Oz

  10. Wow, look at those beautiful orchids. White ones are so elegant, aren't they? And that is a good-looking water dragon. It's good hearing about books I haven't read before, and all with such pretty illustrations. Thanks for sharing these with us, Julie and Barbara. I can imagine how hot it is, for over here in Singapore, it's 34-36 degree Celsius and in the wee hours of the morning, one can easily break into a sweat!

    1. Hi Claudine, I love to be warm but 34-36 degrees at night is too hot even for me. I hope you have an efficient fan or some other ways of getting cool – a cold bath perhaps? Julie’s orchids are beautiful and very exotic looking to me, so it is wonderful to see photographs of them. Keep cool & have a lovely weekend. xx

  11. A wonderful post and photos, they're so beautiful! Many thanks for sharing with us :)

    1. Hello Nikki-ann, I enjoy sharing Julie’s posts and photos, and it’s nice to know you are enjoying reading them. Thanks for your visit, Barbara

  12. Something I always look forward to. Thank you for sharing yet another magical post from Julie.

    1. Hi Tracy, it was my absolute pleasure! Thanks for calling in, Barbara

  13. Thank you Julie for sharing the magic of Queensland. We lived for ten years in the California desert and warm water came from the cold tap there too. So sad that day lilies only bloom for one day but all in all it sounds like a lovely place to read wonderful books.


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx