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26 March 2023 / leggypeggy

Bill the Bastard was a real hero

Bill the Bastard rescuing soldiers

Last year my book club decided to do different things on alternate months—a book one month and an outing the next. Our first outing was to Jugiong for lunch at the Long Track Pantry and a stop at the twin towns of Harden/Murrumburrah on the way back.

First off, I’m super fussy about reuben sandwiches and the Long Track Pantry served up one of the best ones I’ve ever had. But the stop at Harden was equally rewarding.

That’s where we saw the statue of Bill the Bastard—an amazing and clever horse from World War I. His fame stemmed from a fearless rescue during the Battle of Romani in Egypt in August 1916.

The billboard in Harden says Bill had the heart and lungs of an elephant. It goes on the say:

‘He had the power, intelligence and unmatched courage that stood above all the 200,000 Australian horses sent to the middle east in The Great War. He was a big 17.1 hh with a long back and big rump. Chestnut in colour; and a Waler—named after New South Wales. The first person who tried to ride him was a young lad called Ben Towers—a questionable 17 years of age. He came from Cootamundra. Young Ben claimed to be a capable rider—but Bill had other ideas.

‘After several attempts it seemed that Bill would allow only one person to ride him—Major Michael Shanahan.

Bill the Bastard rescuing soldiers

‘Shanahan managed to persuade his Captain “Banjo Patterson” to take Bill into battle. He felt sure that Bill would be the ideal horse for the job. In the thick of The Battle of Romani, with four soldiers down, Shanahan rode Bill under heavy Turkish fire and with super strength, got the four soldiers on—making it five in total on Bill—and returned them to safety.

‘After Bill had a big drink, Shanahan said to the horse, “It’s time to get back, Bill, you’re a bloody marvel!” and so they rode back into the thick of raging war.

‘It was soon after that Shanahan was shot in the thigh and Bill was shot twice. Still they continued to fight until Shanahan collapsed into the saddle. Bill was aware of the seriousness of the situation and took Shanahan three kilometres through the fighting, straight to the vet.’

I love the fact that Bill knew to go straight to the vet. Shanahan was soon taken to the medic. Sadly, he lost his leg, but he and Bill both became heroes.

Bill the Bastard rescuing soldiers

9 July 2022 / leggypeggy

Fabulous fashions from Australia’s First Nations peoples

First Nations dress

Towera (Fire) 2020 by Lyn-Al Young, made of silk and cord

NAIDOC Week is one of Australia’s most important celebrations of the year because it showcases the history, culture and achievements of the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Top and pants

Seedpods top and pants (2019) by Grace Rosendale

Australia has a sad history in terms of how it has treated its First Nations peoples. I won’t go into those shameful actions because you can search for the details. NAIDOC started in 1938 as a Day of Mourning, and became a week-long event only in 1975.

First Nations dresses and accessories

Dresses by Julie Shaw (2019). Accessories by Margaret Djarrbalabal, Evonne Munuyngu and Mary Dhapalany

These days, First Nations people are beginning to receive the honour, recognition and attention they deserve. This last week has served up a feast of their accomplishments, stories, art, performances, recipes and more.

Legacy dress and accessories

Legacy dress and accessories by Peggy and Delany Griffiths, Anita Churchill, Kelly Anne-Drill and Cathy Ward

Today I want to share some of the magnificent fashions and textiles that made up Piinpi: Contemporary Indigenous Fashion. The display was curated by Bendigo Art Gallery’s First Nations Curator, Kaantju woman Shonae Hobson, and featured about 60 works.

Indigenous wedding dress

Wedding dress worn by Miranda Tapsell in the movie Top End Wedding. Created by Bede Tungatalum, Heather Wallace and Robyn Trott

I saw it last year at the National Museum of Australia. Shame on me for not sharing it then, but I couldn’t let NAIDOC pass without bringing it to you now.

Indigenous textiles

Dilly bag textiles. Selina Nadjowh on left. Priscilla and Sylvia Badari, Lynne Nadjowh and Katra Ngabjmirra

I totally loved this exhibition and I so wish that it had or will travel more widely than Bendigo and Canberra. It’s simply breathtaking. The colours, textures, designs and so much more are so indicative of First Nations creativity. I struggled to add captions to the pics below. Thanks WordPress for changing things. Both dresses are by Shannon Brett.

As a complete aside, if you are ever interested in viewing and/or purchasing Indigenous products, please check out this website. Lots of great products.


3 July 2022 / leggypeggy

Checking out Snail Lane in Tainan, Taiwan

Snail Lane sculpture

Thanks to Covid-19, most of life has moved at a snail’s pace for the last two-plus years. This blog has been almost as slow moving. So it seems fitting to share a post about Snail Lane in Tainan, Taiwan.

We encountered this creative and colourful lane almost daily in late 2019 and early 2020, when the whole family gathered in Taiwan for Christmas. Little did we know that we wouldn’t be able to regroup again for almost two years.

Snail sculpture

Snail sculpture

The name Snail Lane stems from the writings of Yeh Shih-tao. a pioneering author and historian, who focused on the literary history of Taiwan and the lives of ordinary Taiwanese people.

Some years ago, he and his family moved into a small house near the centre of Snail Lane. Back then it had no name and was simply a collection of narrow streets, alleys and old housing communities.

Snail sculpture

Snail carving

Yeh Shih-tao brought the name Snail Lane to life in some of his writings. After the name started to stick, the local residents were inspired to clean their laneways and the surrounds of their homes, and add snail sculptures and artworks throughout the area. There are also sentences selected from Yeh’s novels and poetry.

We walked through several times because the lane was so engaging. I haven’t added any captions—didn’t think they were necessary—but I hope that you notice how all the snails have spoons for antennae. And the one on the table has a solar lamp.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Yeh Shih-tao’s life, check out this article in the Taipei Times.


Snail sculptures

4 May 2021 / leggypeggy

A sleeping baby got me back to blogging

In the market in West Africa

Earlier this afternoon, a young African woman made my day. She was waiting to take money from an ATM at a nearby shopping centre in Canberra. She had her young son tied to her back in a most African way. 

Pumping water with a baby on a hip/back

I couldn’t help myself. I approached—smiling broadly—and said I hadn’t seen anyone carrying a baby like that since I lived and travelled in Africa. Her little boy was contentedly asleep on her back, trussed up with a long length of cloth. I said I wished more people figured out how to do it. She returned my smile and said how efficient it was.

Going to market

She was pleased to know I’d been in Africa. We almost hugged—darn Covid—and then went our separate ways, but I regretted not asking her if I could take a photo. Not to worry, I have these photos from our extensive travels in Africa in 2019. It’s a few of many.

Child minding, African style

Today’s glimpse of my African travels was enough to finally kick me out of my long-term languish. You can read about my Covid-19 languish here. So I am posting here for the first time since 19 July 2020. Fingers crossed that I can stay inspired to keep going. 

Going home after doing laundry

Thanks to the ‘new’ WordPress, I can’t find how to share categories or other useful details. Can anyone help?

19 July 2020 / leggypeggy

Poor John gets ‘the works’ in Taiwan

Getting the sideburns trimmed

Getting the sideburns trimmed


Applying shaving cream

Like many of us, Poor John has been hanging out for a haircut. A couple of weeks ago, he had an appointment at the local hairdressing school which had re-opened. Sadly, he had to cancel because he had the sniffles. He even got tested for Covid-19—negative. Then the school closed for two weeks of winter holidays.

He has a new appointment—for tomorrow—but it won’t compare to the haircut with ‘the works’ that he got in Jui-Fen, Taiwan in December.

Jui-Fen was one of our stops on a day trip from Taipei. Who knew the place was famous for a hairdresser?

Going after the ear hair

Going after the ear hair

We were strolling through Jui-Fen in the early evening, when Poor John spotted someone getting his haircut by Grandma. He went in, expecting to be served fairly soon. Turned out the guy already in the chair was getting ‘the works’. So Poor John waited and waited and waited.

Festive Jui-Fen, Taiwan

Jui-Fen is a popular and welcoming tourist town

We meandered around the touristy shops and checked on him from time to time. Still waiting. Maybe 45 minutes later, it was his turn. It didn’t take long to realise that he was getting ‘the works’ too. I stayed a while to take some pictures of this extravaganza, but wandered off with the kids to enjoyed the sights of Jui-Fen, including some startling products—most likely tea.

Soap or lollies?

I can’t read Chinese. Soap or tea?

Just so you know, ‘the works’ included a wash and dry, haircut, shave, eyebrow trim, nose and ear hair trim, other stray hair removal and more. It took close to an hour (Grandma even changed clothes). I forget the cost, but it was under A$15.

So what made us think Grandma is famous. There’s a plaque outside her shop. Written in two languages, this is what it says in English:

‘Situated on the Light-rail road, petite Grandma has seen the history of Jui-Fen through her haircuts, ear picking, baby hair trimming. Always wearing her signature thick-sole shoes and her smile. Many miners from old times still use her services, for their families have visited Grandma for three generations.’ I wonder how she and her regular customers have fared this year?

Hair washing

Getting the hair washed. Note the ‘signature’ thick-sole shoes

Poor John’s haircut tomorrow does include a shave. The receptionist told him not to shave over the weekend. The students are studying shaving and he is going to be one of their guinea pigs. I’m not going to take pics.

18 June 2020 / leggypeggy

Not everyone loves a parade

Parade in Tainan, TaiwanI can’t believe that it’s been almost two months since my last post. I haven’t been sick, but I haven’t been inspired to write either. I have cleaned and cooked. Poor John is enjoying desserts for the first time in years. The dog is getting plenty of walks too.

I’ve spent the last week sorting photos—in print and digitally. Not sure how long it will take me to organise pics going back 100+ years, but I’m loving the old ancestral pics.

Parade in Tainan, Taiwan

These pics gave me a good laugh. We saw a long and colourful parade while we were in Taiwan. This one was spread all over the city of Tainan, and represented many neighbourhoods.

I’m getting back to posting but I thought you’d like seeing evidence that not everyone loves a parade, especially if they’ve been on a float for most of the day.

Parade in Tainan, Taiwan

Parade in Tainan, Taiwan

Parade in Tainan, Taiwan

20 March 2020 / leggypeggy

Home delivery is a wonderful thing—if you can get it

Milk truck

That’s the milk truck just after delivering milk and eggs to my house

The coronavirus and its resulting disease—COVID19—have brought out the worst in people when it comes to shopping for daily needs.

I mean how many rolls of toilet paper does a person need? I rather like the joke that says your IQ is 150 less the number of toilet rolls you have at home. Based on that, my IQ is 140 and will increase by one point every four or five days.

Other ‘hot’ items for hoarding include hand sanitiser, tissues, paper towels, meats, pasta, pasta sauces, rice, milk and eggs.

Milk and eggs

Milk and free-range eggs—only 250 chickens per hectare

Luckily most supermarkets have implemented a sort of you-can’t-bring-it-back-because-you-bought-too-much policy. Plus, they are so swamped now that they have severely limited their home delivery services. A person needs to apply and be accepted to get a delivery. Mostly reserved for the elderly and/or disabled.

I usually have a well-stocked pantry and haven’t really had to venture into the supermarkets. So I have to brag just a bit. My milk and eggs are home delivered. Canberra still has two milk trucks that serve a handful of suburbs. We’re one of them. How cool is that!

And I have to share this toilet paper cartoon. My thanks to the person who created this. I wish I knew who you were!


3 March 2020 / leggypeggy

Jade treasures in Taiwan’s national museum


Bi-zun vessels, mid-Qing dynasty

Bi-zun vessels, mid-Qing dynasty, 1736–1820

Table screen, Qing dynasty

Table screen, mid to late Qing dynasty, 1736–1911

The National Palace Museum in Taipei is so large and so loaded with treasures that it’s impossible to share it all in one post. We set aside a whole day to explore this national treasure and its overwhelming collection—they have 700,000 pieces—not all on display.

I confess that I took more than 200 photos in just a few hours.

Looking back through the pics, I’ve settled on a way to share some of the glory. Green is one of my favourite colours and lots of jade (but not all) is in shades of green. The museum’s collection of jade covers the gamut of colours and carving techniques.

I was never all that interested in jade until we lived in Burma (now Myanmar) in the mid-1980s. Jade was abundant there. So much so that in 2017 a group of miners found a 174-tonne piece of jade worth about US$5 million.

There are actually two types of real jade—nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite is mainly a calcium magnesium silicate. Jadeite is rarer and is a sodium aluminium silicate. Myanmar is the source of nearly all of the world’s finest jadeite, which highly prized in neighbouring China where it is known as the ‘stone of heaven’. Brightly coloured jadeite is commonly known as feicui (kingfisher feathers).

Jadeite also occurs in the USA, Guatemala and Japan. Nephrite is most commonly found in China, Russia, Taiwan, USA, New Zealand and Australia.

Jadiete cabbage in a cloisonné flowerpot

Jadiete cabbage in a cloisonné flowerpot, Qing Dynasty, 1644–1911

The Jadeite Cabbage from the Qing Dynasty is one of the museum’s most popular jade pieces. Made in the shape of a head of Chinese cabbage (a bok choy), the carving includes a katydid and a locust camouflaged in the leaves. The craftsman followed the natural colours of the jadeite to turn the green parts into the leaves and the white parts into the stems. This piece was originally part of a decorative setting in the Qing court. We saw it in Taipei, but until May it is being displayed at the southern branch of the museum in Taibao City.

Meat-shaped stone, Taipei

My photo of a photo of the meat-shaped stone. So realistic

Another popular museum piece is the Meat-shaped Stone. It’s not jade, but banded jasper, a form of agate. The craftsman enhanced the natural banding by staining layers of the stone so that it looked more like pork that had been braised in soy sauce. This piece is usually shown with the cabbage, but it was in on display in Taibao City when we were in Taipei.

I’m still trying to decide which piece is my favourite after the cabbage. What’s yours?

Vase, gift to the Empress of Japan

Green jade vase, gift to the Empress of Japan in 1940

Jade screen

Jade screen, gift to the Emperor of Japan about 1940

5 February 2020 / leggypeggy

Bushfires and the heartbreak of Australia’s new landscapes


Rosedale Beach, NSW, Australia

The long Rosedale Beach after the fires. It looks green enough, but only 14 houses still stand.

Pooh Corner, NSW, Australia

Amazing that the firefighters managed to save Pooh Corner.

We just spent six days at Rosedale. In case you didn’t know, the small hamlet of North Rosedale, New South Wales, was almost wiped out by bushfires on New Years Eve 2019.

The road into North Rosedale will be closed for some time and we were not allowed to walk there because trees may fall and there’s lots of asbestos dust around. Reports say 14 houses still stand out of maybe 70? I took the top photo on Monday. It shows the long Rosedale Beach where people sheltered during the fire (see the video at the bottom).

South Rosedale (which is just called Rosedale) fared better. We lost between 15–18 houses out of 70, with many more being damaged. (Note to self: check a map and figure out how many houses are in both.)

Rosedale footbridge, NSW Australia

No idea when the footbridge will be restored

North Rosedale and Rosedale are (well, used to be) connected by a timber foot bridge and the main highway (no internal connecting roads because of the creek that runs between the two).

We were in Taiwan when the fires were approaching, but our friend Chloe was at our coast house with her dog and ours. Thank goodness, Chloe was super organised. On the 30th, she packed her car and filled it with fuel. She put both dogs on leads and left them like that. For hours, we were texting back and forth. I asked her to ‘rescue’ a few precious items from the house.

Burnt tree

A tree on the edge of the beach

Burnt car

This car was about 30 metres from the beach

Of course, there was a big chance that Chloe would hit fire fronts or blocked roads. and have to sit it out in an evacuation centre. So I urged her to take plenty of water, fire blankets, lots of gear for the dogs and tinned food. Oh and be sure to take the WINE.

Chloe set her alarm for 5:30am on the 31st, but said she would move as soon as she woke up. That must have been about 4:30, because I got a message from her at 4:45am and was on the road by 5. Later I was to learn that she had whipped around with the vacuum cleaner before she drove away. Geez!

Turns out she had a good run, driving north through Kangaroo Valley and then on to Canberra. I won’t add a map here, but it was a detour that meant a trip that normally took two hours took almost five. A couple of hours later, Kangaroo Valley was on fire and many of the roads she travelled were closed because of fires.

Burnt hill

A burnt hill on the edge of the beach. Even the life preserver was burnt.

Scorched life preserver

Scorched life preserver

Now for the heroics
There is no way I can adequately describe the heroics and strokes of luck that meant our house and many others in Rosedale are still standing. The fires hit mid-morning on New Year’s Eve. 

Obviously we weren’t here and didn’t live through it, but here is some of what I think happened. Some information conflicts. So forgive me if I misstate anything.

For example, I originally thought the fires started in North Rosedale and then came at Rosedale, but yesterday I learned it may have been the other way around. The blaze was heading up our street and then the wind changed, driving the fire back on itself and towards North Rosedale.

Our Rosedale heroes have been Mick, David, Richard and Sue. These are people who stayed to fight (some had to evacuate along the way). They worked hard to put out spot fires. Richard lost his outbuildings and backyard.

Spot fires can last for ages, Sue told me that three air tankers and Elvis (a super firefighting helicopter) continued to drop water on Rosedale for three days after the main fire to minimise the chance of flare ups. I’m pretty sure Elvis dropped a few loads on our house because the roof is amazingly clean.

The most extraordinary thing is that once you climb the hill on Tranquil Bay (our street), you’d think nothing had ever happened. Oh, except that the little garden in the small circle near our driveway was burnt. Talk about a close call.

Cooks Crescent, Rosedale NSW

Several houses burnt on this headland, which is about 300 metres from our house

Burnt house

One of the houses lost in the headland photo above

Rosedale notice board

Rosedale notice board

The community
The fires have certainly brought our community together. If you search for Rosedale on Twitter, you’ll get us and a suburb in Vancouver. But if you come to our Rosedale, you’ll find that two streets—where about six houses were lost and more damaged—got together for a meet and greet. It was supposed to last for two hours, but went for five.

Sue has a pond and the wildlife has been quick to find sources of food and water. Shes heard five different frog calls and seen plenty of birds and wallabies visit. We started putting out seed and had as many as 12 birds on the deck at once, including eight king parrots. See some of our visitors above.

Also, there was a Go Fund Me campaign to purchased mobile water tanks for Rosedale. It raised $25,000 in a few days and we now have four units.

Kings Highway, NSW, Australia

Kings Highway, NSW, Australia

Kings Highway, NSW, Australia

Driving back to Canberra—our burnt landscape

The drive back to Canberra
We drove back to Canberra yesterday. It’s 154 kilometres. Most of the first 70 kilometres is heavily treed and almost all of it (both sides of the road) has been burnt. Pooh’s Corner was a pleasant exception. 

Some bushfire facts
Bushfires have been raging across Australia since July. Contrary to the fake news that has been spreading globally, the fires are not the work of arsonists. Less than 1 per cent of the land loss is attributed to arson. Horribly dry landscapes (drought) and dry lightning strikes are the main cause. Tonight there are fierce fires burning south of Canberra. There’s a long fire season ahead. So far we’ve lost 33 people, 3000 homes, 12 million hectares of bushland (or the land area of England) and more than a billion creatures.

Tranquil Bay Place, Rosedale, NSW

Our end of the street was saved, but there’s a long fire season ahead

As an aside
Our end of the street was virtually untouched by fire. Our house is perfect to share and (through Mick) we offered it to someone who had lost theirs. Paul and his dog have moved in downstairs and can stay for as long as they need. His wife and daughter (who have been in Sydney) have been here too.

The photos
It’s impossible to adequately explain the look of the landscape. I took all these photos during our stay. Captions tell more of the story. The video below was taken by the Kelly family (Bethany, Patrick and Madeleine). It was featured in the Guardian newspaper and on Monday’s bushfire special episode of Q and A. It shows people sheltering on the long Rosedale Beach and watching as the community burns.

P.S. For now I’m returning to travel pieces, but I’ll keep you posted on Rosedale’s progress. And if you’re hungry, please check out my cooking blog.

18 January 2020 / leggypeggy

Three things have lifted my heart today

Artwork for Pooh Corner

Pooh Corner thank you to firefighters. Art by Mick Ashley. Link in body of text

If you have been following the news in Australia or virtually anywhere else in the world, you’ll know that much of this country has been on fire. Some of the worst devastation has been in the states of Victoria and New South Wales.

Almost 30 people have died, about 6000 homes and buildings have been lost, more than a billion animals have died and 19 million hectares (46 million acres) of land have been burnt. Here’s a rundown of the unbelievable devastation.

So what’s to smile about? It’s a combination of things.

First, today is the 17th anniversary of the horrific bushfires that swept through Canberra. Four lives and about 500 homes were lost back then. That’s reason for immense sadness, but today no fires are burning in the Australian Capital Territory. They are nearby, but not upon us. Our firefighters have worked hard to be better prepared.

Second, today (18 January) is National Winnie the Pooh Day and our own Pooh Bear’s Corner has survived, which leads me straight to the third item.

Third, today is when I saw a delightful artwork that thanks our many firefighters for saving Pooh Bear’s Corner, a small cave on the Kings Highway, which is the way from Canberra to Australia’s South Coast.

We’ve driven past Pooh Bear’s Corner regularly for almost 40 years. But we haven’t been by lately. Because of fires, the road has been closed for more than a month, and reopened earlier this week. Luckily the firefighters have been on duty and Pooh Bear’s Corner has been spared.

As an amazing thank you to the firefighters, Canberra artist, Mick Ashley, created a gorgeous artwork that is available for sale (see above). I think this work is amazing and so poignant. You can order here if you’d like to buy one. All proceeds go to fire relief.

A bit about Pooh Bear’s Corner
More than 40 years ago, David and Barbara Carter from Crookwell created Pooh Bear’s Corner in an effort to distract their children’s pleas of ‘are we there yet’.

Each time they passed, they put signs at Pooh’s Corner and hoped they wouldn’t get in trouble. Then they noticed other people were leaving teddy bears or honey or just a little message for Pooh.

This has gone on for years. We’ve often stopped to say hello to the many Pooh stuffed animals.

I don’t have any current pics of Pooh Bear’s Corner, but I know it has survived. In the meantime enjoy Mick Ashley’s stunning artwork.

P.S. I just found a pic of Pooh Corner that I took three years ago.

Pooh Corner, Australia, Clyde Mountain

Some of the residents at Pooh Corner, 26 January 2017