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As we wended our way further north along the Pacific Highway, towing our caravan and with our two little dogs happily sleeping in the back seat of the Land Cruiser, we stopped in many interesting places along the way. I wrote many anecdotes in my travel diary, and many of them I expanded into a story that was subsequently published in one of the travel magazines.
One such was my account of the first time I saw a platypus in the wild. It took place at the Broken River, in the Eungella National Park, 80 kilometres west of Mackay, in Central Queensland.
This story has always been special to me, not only for the event itself, but because I turned it into a travel story, accompanied by the pics that Peter had taken, and it was published in Caravan World magazine.
It started me on my writing career.
What a red letter day it was when
we picked up a copy of the magazine
in a newsagent and there was the story-
a full two page spread with my story,
and a wonderful photo Peter had taken
of the Finch Hatton Gorge.
If you don’t know much about the Australian platypus, it is a bizarre semi-aquatic mammal that lays eggs and uses echo-location to find its prey, which it digs from the river bed. It is an egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal with water proof fur. And its elusive behaviour means most people never see it outside a zoo or sanctuary.
I hoped to see the shy and mainly nocturnal animal in its natural habitat, swimming in the Broken River.
So here we were before dusk, standing in the viewing area on the bridge over the Broken River. We’d taken up our positions an hour earlier, waiting patiently, and scanning the river for signs of activity.
“Watch for bubbles on the surface of the water,” the Ranger told us. “The platypus dives to the bottom for food, and strains it through his bill. Then he comes to the surface to eat it. He’s only on top of the water for a few seconds, and then he dives down again searching for more, so you have to watch carefully. And it won’t happen until the sunlight is off the water.”
Accordingly we scanned the shady areas of water carefully. We had a few false alarms as we saw tortoises swimming below us, and insects skimming the surface often gave the appearance of bubbles.
Peter trained his binoculars up-river and suddenly there it was, many metres upstream. Creating wide ripples as it dived, the platypus was clearly visible.
We watched its progress as it dived and swam towards us. Finally it passed directly below us, under the bridge. It was larger than we expected at about two feet in length, and we saw quite clearly its distinctive bill, the tail, and the dark brown fur. We hurried to the other side of the bridge, hoping for another glimpse, but it had disappeared.
It was truly a thrill to see this shy, elusive creature in its natural environment.
And an even bigger thrill when the article about it was published.
First, we have to congratulate our launch authors, our first authors, the ones who kicked it all off:
and of course to the many authors who have joined us since: Congratulations!
Escape is nothing without you, and we love working with you!
Here are some stats about our first five years:
- Over 650 000 books sold
- Almost 400 distinct titles (that’s nearly 400 happy endings!), across 14 subgenres
- 143 authors, 71 of which published their very first book with Escape. Most are still with us, either exclusively, within the greater Harlequin family, or as hybrid authors
- The authors who have published the most titles with us are Juliet Madison (11), followed closely by Rhian Cahill (10) and Jenny Schwartz (10)
- Our three best-selling genres are Rural Romance, Scottish Romance, and Paranormal Romance
- We have been nominated for six, and won…
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We continued to wend our way slowly north along the Pacific Highway up the coast of New South Wales with our caravan and our two dogs, Mimi and Lucy. We were on our adventure to ‘drop out’ of the real world for a while. For just how long we didn’t know; we planned to wander as our fancy took us – heading always north but making byways from the main tracks whenever something off the main road caught our interest.
Coff’s Harbour is a town located between Sydney and Brisbane. It’s known as the home of bananas, but it’s much more than that for the visitor, including fishing, scuba diving and rain forest walks. The Big Banana is an original Australian ‘Big Thing’ and has been an icon on the Pacific Highway on your way to Coffs Harbour for more than 40 years. A kitschy tourist attraction, it’s one of Australia’s famous landmarks.
It’s also home to Dolphin Marine and the Pet Porpoise Pool, where you can get up close and personal with seals and dolphins. The Butterfly House has an indoor rainforest teeming with butterflies where you can walk right among the butterflies.
We were here in Coff’s for two reasons. One was to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches and the surrounding countryside, which included some wonderful rainforests.The other was to attend the wedding of our old friends Lorrie and her partner James.
First thing to do on arriving was to book in at the caravan park, find our site, and set up. We planned to stay a few days so Pete set about erecting the fully enclosed canvas annexe on the side of the van, which was always a safe haven for the dogs when we needed to leave them alone.
The clear blue waters of the beach beckoned us, so as soon as the chores were finished it was time to change into our bathers and head down to the water for a swim. Mimi loved the water but Lucy was a bit more hesitant in those early days, especially if the waves at the edge were a bit stronger than usual. However, with a bit of coaxing she was soon enjoying the water as much as the more adventurous Mimi. And how they loved racing around on the sand after their swim!
The next day, Saturday, was the day of the wedding. As we were traveling with limited space for formal clothes I had one outfit only that was suitable for the event, and as it was to be a church ceremony I had bought a hat especially for the occasion. It was a small confection made almost entirely from tiny white feathers. I’m not much of a hat person, but when I checked myself in the mirror I thought it looked quite chic, and I was glad that I’d bought it.
Like all weddings, the service was lovely, and it was moving to see our old friends taking the plunge into matrimony. Also like many services it was quite long, and we decided to stop by the caravan on the drive between the church and the reception venue in order to check that the dogs were okay.
All was well in the annexe, and I went into the van to fill their water bowl again. While I was in there I caught sight of myself in the mirror and decided I didn’t need to wear the hat any longer, now that the church proceedings were over. I took it off and combed out my hair. Much more comfortable.
After seeing the dogs safely ensconced in the annexe I hopped into the car and we headed to the reception. We spent a happy few hours with the bride and groom and their guests, and when it was all over we headed back to the caravan park.
When we unzipped the door to the annexe we were surprised to see no dogs inside. The door to the van slightly open and I realised that in my hurry I hadn’t closed it properly, and both dogs had taken themselves into the van.
When I stepped into the van it looked as if there had been a snowstorm. White flakes covered every bit of the floor.
I had left my hat on the bench, within reach of any determined dog! And now two dogs stared at me innocently from the seat where they lay.
I told you travelling with dogs is fun.
The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly
This book stayed with me for a long time after I finished it. It is set in Sydney in the late 1920 and early 1930 – a time of high unemployment, deep depression, political unrest and the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Eoghan (pronounced Yow-un) O’Keenan is a young Irishman who loses his job in a boot making factory. He, literally, runs away from an abusive and threatening home, taking his lovable seven year old sister, Agnes, with him. He hopes to make a better life for them, but with little money and no job, they are forced to spend two nights sleeping in the Botanic Gardens before he finds a job working on the Bridge, high in the sky above the blue waters of Sydney Harbour, and a home in Balmain.
A chance meeting brings them into contact with Olivia Greene, a talented young woman who works with her mother in her small costumier salon in the Strand Arcade in Sydney. Olivia dreams of becoming a famous couturier, the next Coco Chanel, and works hard to achieve her dreams. With a totally different background to Eoghan and Agnes, and a secure home in Lavender Bay, they are miles apart in every way.
But this is the tale of an improbable love story, a city in turmoil, and a truly magnificent engineering enterprise that has Sydney obsessed. But more than the blue mile of the Harbour lies between the dreams of Eoghan, Aggie, and Olivia.
The one fault I found with this book was that the inner musings of Olivia were a jumble of distracting prattling. Had it not been for that I would have given this five stars, so I make it 4.5 stars.
While flipping through some photos I came upon a file marked “OUR TRAVELS.
It was like a trip down memory lane, and I thought I’d share some with you in the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy them.
Here is the first.
DALLYING with DOGS
Life on the road is fun. Two people, a caravan, a car, the open road. No worries, no commitments, just follow the sun and your own inclinations.
As novice caravanners, we had just made the big decision to retire and take to the road. We left Sydney and headed north along the Pacific Highway with a 7.3metre van, setting out on our big adventure; to see Australia with a large van and two small dogs.
Mimi was a 14-year-old miniature poodle. She had been our good mate for ten years, since we rescued her from the pound. The day we brought her home she was frightened, in need of a bath, and had a red and green ball clamped in her mouth. Her “security blanket”
I decided to nurse her on the trip home. She looked at me with trust in her eyes, put her head on my shoulder and cuddled up to me. She won my heart then, and was able to wrap me around her little paw from then on. “Saved from death row,” said my friend Maria, “to live a life of luxury.
Lucy was a four year old Maltese-Shizu whom we inherited when she was two and had grown to love equally with Mimi. The two were good pals but Mimi never left any doubt as to who was top dog, a fact reluctantly accepted by Lucy.
On our second day out of Sydney we approached the White Albatross Caravan Park at Nambucca Heads. It had been a fast learning curve; travelling with a large and unfamiliar rig on one of the busiest highways in Australia. Now we looked forward to a few quiet days in this peaceful spot.
The entrance to the caravan park is not well marked. Peter mistook the turn off and went straight onto the fishing area next door; a narrow wharf with sea ahead, fence on the left and a row of cars parked on the right. No room to turn. No option but to reverse 500 metres. Not an easy task with only two days experience at maneuvering this leviathan!
With me, rookie navigator, trying to guide him in a straight line while two dogs barked encouragement from the back seat he finally extricated us from the dead end.
When we reached our site and unhitched the van, he mopped his brow. “Well, I guess the locals enjoyed watching that and had a good laugh.”
A little later, Peter was chatting to another vanner, who remarked, “By the way, I must thank you for winning me $10.”
“Really? How come?”
“A group of us were watching from the tavern upstairs when you came in, and took the wrong road. It was obvious you were fairly new to backing a van. There was a lot of banter as to whether you’d be able to back up and turn or not. I bet $10 you’d make it. Thanks for that.”
Well, the only thing dented was Peter’s pride.
After our eventful day we both looked forward to a good night’s sleep. We settled down happily. But. Lucy decided in the wee hours that she needed to go outside.
Peter took her out and, after she had attended to her needs, he was shepherding her back inside when disaster struck. In the next van lived a fox terrier that chose just that moment to also heed the call of nature. He came past to our van, a situation not to be tolerated by Lucy.
With a loud bark, she decided to chase him away. Away they both went. How those dogs could run! We hadn’t nicknamed Lucy ‘the pocket rocket’ for nothing. Through the park those two dogs tore, calls from their masters totally ignored. In and out between the vans. What fun!
Finally two angry and flustered men collared their dogs and shoved them inside. Lucy happily settled down to sleep away the rest of the night, but we heard that foxie barking for the next hour.
I told you life on the road is fun!
Women who were never boring- always awesome
These are famous women from history. Some were known for their beauty, some for their scandalous love affairs, and others for what they achieved in their lives. But they all had one thing in common. They were strong, independent women – women of spirit who weren’t afraid to take a chance. They grabbed life with both hands and to Hell with the rest of the world!
She was the one who started it all! She took a bite out of an apple that a serpent gave her and passed it to Adam, thereby creating original sin. It is because of her that women throughout time have been blamed for being seductresses.
A role model for ever?
Cleopatra ruled ancient Egypt for almost three decades. Well-educated and clever, she was a dominant ruler. Both her love affairs and military pacts with the Roman leaders, both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, as well as her striking beauty and powers of seduction, have earned her a lasting place in history.
The true love story of Antony and Cleopatra, two powerful figures, is intriguing and moving, and one of the great love stories of all times. They fell in love at first sight, and their relationship gave the country of Egypt great power. But their love affair angered the Romans, who were wary of the growing powers of the Egyptians. Despite all the threats, Antony and Cleopatra married. While he was fighting a battle against the Romans, Antony got false news of Cleopatra’s death. Devastated, he fell on his sword. When Cleopatra learned about Antony’s death she was broken hearted, and took her own life by means of an asp bite on August 12, 30 BC.
What a woman!
JOAN OF ARC
In 1424, at the age of 13, Jeanne d’Arc, an illiterate French shepherdess began having visions, in which Saint Margaret, Saint Catherine, and Saint Michael told Joan, as she was known in English, she must support King Charles VII and help rid France of the English. At the head of her troops Joan led them to capture first Orleans, then Rheims, Paris, and many other towns in an effort to free France from the English.
While the French lauded her for her accomplishments, the English declared her a heretic. Joan was captured eventually by the Burgundians, allies of the English, to whom they traded her for money. The English put her on trial, quickly convicted her and sentenced her to death.
On May 30, 1431, at the age of 19, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for her crimes against the English. In 1456, Pope Callixtux III declared that Joan was innocent of her crimes; at this time, she became a martyr. In 1909, Joan of Arc was beatified, meaning she was accorded the power to intervene on behalf of those who prayed in her name. In 1920, she was canonized, which is an official declaration of Sainthood.
A French heroine, brave beyond belief!
Queen Elizabeth 1st ruled England from 1558 – 1603, and left us with an amazing picture of a glittering time of excitement and achievement. The Queen, larger than life as she inspired her people, was at the centre of it all.
Her father was the notorious King Henry the Eight, who had six wives. Elizabeth was the daughter of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded for suspected adultery and other trumped-up crimes, when Elizabeth was only three years old.
Elizabeth ruled wisely and fairly for forty five years, taking advice from her council of learned men, but going her own way. In spite of pressure from her advisers she refused to ever marry, and became known as the ‘Virgin Queen’. However, she loved the attention of her devoted courtiers, and was rumoured to have affairs – particularly with her favourite, Robert, Lord Dudley who, it is believed, was her one true love, and, in later years, with Robert Devereux, the young earl of Essex.
She was a diplomatic ruler who restored the Church of England and eased tensions between England and France, and England thrived throughout her reign.
In an age when women were considered inferior to men, Elizabeth was a glorious exception.
A 1930’s Hollywood sex symbol, Mae West was assertive in an age when women were supposed to be submissive; she was openly bawdy when respectability was the order of the day.
She began her career as a child star in vaudeville, and later went on to write her own plays, including “SEX”, for which she was arrested and sentenced to 10 days in jail for ‘corrupting the morals of youth.’ She got her first part in the movies in 1932, and with her first film she became a box-office smash hit, breaking all sorts of attendance records.
The controversy aroused by the sexy content in her first two films resulted in the studios establishing the Motion Picture Production Code, which regulated what content could be shown or said in pictures. After this she used ’double talk’, which could be interpreted in two ways, to get around the censorship rules.
Although she only appeared in 12 films, as well as spending much time on the stage, she had a powerful impact on the public. She was way ahead of her time with her sexual innuendos and the way she made fun of the puritanical society of the day.
She once quipped, ‘You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.’
She made sex her tool of trade, when women were supposed to be ladies.
In 1930 Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, and she set a string of other records throughout her career. She was regarded as one of the most inspirational women of the twentieth century.
She worked as a typist for a firm of solicitors until, at a loose end one Sunday afternoon, she made her way to Stag Lane Aerodrome in North London. She was enthralled by the primitive biplanes taking off and landing, and began to spend all her spare time at the aerodrome. She gained a ground engineer’s licence and took flying lessons, and in 1929 she was awarded her pilot’s licence.
Amy left Croydon Airport on May 5th 1930 to fly solo from England to Australia. She was in a second-hand Gipsy Moth called Jason, with no radio link with the ground or reliable information about the weather. Her maps were basic but she had plotted the most direct route – simply by placing a ruler on the map. This took her over some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain and meant she had to fly in the open cockpit for at least eight hours at a time. In spite of a forced landing in a sandstorm in the Iraq desert she reached India in a record six days, and suddenly she was world famous. She became called the “British Girl Lindbergh”, “Wonderful Miss Johnson” and “The Lone Girl Flyer”.
When she ran into a monsoon near Rangoon a bumpy landing ripped a hole in Jason’s wing and damaged its propeller. A local technical institute repaired the wing and Amy landed in Australia on Saturday, May 24th to tumultuous crowds. Over the next six weeks she was treated like a superstar. Women asked their hairdressers for an ‘Amy Johnson wave’ and at least ten songs were written about her, the most famous being ‘Amy, Wonderful Amy’. Fan mail poured in and her fame was so great that an envelope addressed to ‘Amy wat flies in England’ reached her.
After a short courtship, Amy married Scottish pilot Jim Mollison in 1932, and they became known as the “flying sweethearts”. They both created many more records and won many air races. America took them to their hearts. They were given a ticker tape parade in New York and entertained by President Roosevelt.
A daring adventurer.
One of the greatest beauties of all time, Elizabeth Taylor started dancing at the age of 3, made her screen debut at the age of 10, and had a love life that made international headlines. She shone as an actress, winning two Oscars and numerous film awards, and her films grossed many millions at the box office.
Her personal life received constant media attention, and the public adored her for her passionate embrace of life. She was married eight times to seven men, and led a jet set lifestyle, and amassed an incredibly expensive collection of jewelry.
Her most famous marriage was the fiery and passionate one to Richard Burton, whom she married twice.
She was the movie star of all times, with her marriages, her jewelry, her amazing violet eyes her talent, and her spirit.
Shortly after her death, her son Michael Wilding released a statement, saying “My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love ….. We will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.”
Truly a woman of spirit!
Kitty Morland was not famous, but she was every inch a woman of spirit. http://a.co/ctaYRGF