And not for the first time. This is the third time and I know that it is now a permanent loss.

The first time this happened, I was living in Hong Kong. My hair was naturally brown but I had been a blonde for a long time. When a fancy new hair salon opened in Kowloon I just had to try it. At that time Asians and Blacks were not able to straighten or dye their hair as they do today. The most daring could, at best, change their black hair to a coppery brown. I was aware that Asian hair is a lot coarser than Caucasian hair but this thought eluded me when I checked into the Shisheido Salon on Nathan Road.

After thirty minutes of being capped with blue gunk I became anxious and called to the prettily uniformed stylist to wash it out. Even though I spoke a smattering of Japanese and this girl spoke a smattering of English, I could not communicate my sense of urgency. Finally, and too late, she led me to the wash basin to shampoo the stuff out. Watching my hair float down the drain was devastating.

Baldness has not enhanced any entertainer’s stage presence…except, maybe, the Irish singer, Sinead O’Connor. I lost my complacency but no-one seemed to share my distress at the result of their service. Swaddled in head scarves, I hired a lawyer to sue them but it was a huge hassle. Finally we agreed that the salon would pay for the wig that I was forced to wear for the next six months. To an energetic dancer who tosses her head while performing, a wig was a less than desirable solution.

Cosmeticians have learned a thing or two since then and there are now millions of blonde, big-busted, Japanese girls with surgically altered eyes roaming the globe. I don’t see any Caucasion women having their breasts removed and their eyes slanted so I blame this trend all on those high-flying, cashed-up Japanese men who frequent the many Japanese clubs along the Ginza. The big money for foreign performers has dwindled, much to the delight of the Dance hostesses who always hated us. And the added bonus for the drooling patrons is that whereas with the foreigners it was “Look but don’t touch” the hostesses have never been averse to a touch or two… even though previously there was not much to touch.

Many years later, after I had sewn my wild oats and settled down to motherhood, I lost my hair for a second time. This time it was due to cancer. I was prepared for my still blonde locks to fall out after chemo. I was not prepared for it to fall out quite so soon – within a week of my first dose, in fact. I well remember the day I climbed out of my car after visiting the grocery store. Huge clumps hair stuck to the head rest, giving me a nasty jolt. Upset, I tugged on the remaining hair and yanked out another handful or two. There was only one thing to do. I ran inside and chopped the remainder off as fast as possible. If it had to go – I wanted to be in control.

So again my hair grew back but it was never the same. Whereas it used to be thick, it was now thin, white and curly. Over time the curls disappeared as the last remnants of chemo left my body but the volume never came back. My mother used to admonish “It’s all the damage you did by dying your hair for years.” She may have been partly right but I never would agree. She had been against me doing anything as immoral as dying my hair from the time I first started while very young.

And now many more years later still, I am stuck with this hateful thin hair. This is a natural part of aging, I know. But I am a vain woman and I fight aging tooth and nail. Thankfully, so far God has been good to me in this battle and I am remarkably free of many aging signs and ailments.

Some people tell me that I must grow old gracefully but I think that is all a load of bull. I don’t consider vanity a bad trait and I find it synonymous with pride. Not everyone uses Botox or pays $300 for a jar of face cream but I say, ‘Why not?’ Most have their teeth capped and/or whitened and I see no difference.

So now, here is the dilemma; as I am a vain woman and my hair is not going to grow back this time, what is the answer? I have always worn hats almost daily. That is not a cover-up. I love hats. But now, apart from a fashion statement, they also hide the fact that my hair is thin. I never lie about my age but I DON’T want to look my age. Judge me if you will!

Wigs are an alternative but they are hot in summer and itch the skin. I don’t do as much head tossing these days but even so, if I accidentally drank too much, there is the possibility one could fly off. These things always happen at the most inopportune moments, don’t they?

Well I don’t lie awake at night worrying about this but I am open to answers. Got any?



As I followed the tour group through the narrow passages of the Marrakech Souk my

senses went into overdrive. Unfamiliar smells assaulted my nostrils and a sea of humanity

instantly engulfed us making it difficult to stay together. I pinned my eyes firmly on

Tariq, our guide, as he pushed his way through, his arm raised, a red cloth clutched in his

hand for identification.

Unlike back home in Australia, these people did not say ‘sorry’ when they

roughly pushed you aside or stepped on your toes. Nor did they smile. At times I was

pushed along unwillingly, at other times my path was blocked and I experienced brief

moments of panic as I lost sight of our group. I gripped my son Chip tightly, but that too

was difficult and I was often forced to let go. We staggered through the aisles between

huge pyramids of colorful spices as I wondered at such vast quantities. Walls of towering

dates loomed up all around me. I had never seen such fat, juicy looking dates. Wide-eyed,

I stared at the enormous baskets of olives of many hues. There were black ones, browns,

greens, yellow and red. Who would have known? After walking for miles we came upon

the pastry section. Again, the displays were enormous and the variety staggering. They

were some of the prettiest decorated sweets I had ever seen and I was sorely tempted to

purchase some but hesitated at the thought of lagging behind my mob. Also, Chip pointed

out the noisy swarms of bees that were covering many of them.

The exotic surroundings were a bombardment to my customary Aussie

perceptions of ‘life’. A serious drawback was my claustrophobia and at times I felt as if I

was smothering beneath a mountain of foreign flesh – not all of it washed. My nostrils

quivered before the onslaught of sweat, tobacco smoke from pipes unknown sweet

fragrances and other more odious smells.

Hours passed and I felt sure I had left my familiar planet and arrived in a fantasy

labyrinth of colour and movement. Indeed, without our guide I would never be able to

find my way back to blue skies and fresh air.

Cramped stalls overflowed with brilliant silks and rich carpets. Dazzling jewels

and yellow gold abounded. Wide eyed I trudged on, occasionally stopping long enough to

try and take a photograph despite the many bumps to my elbows.

Shoppers, hawkers, strident sounds, background hum, jabbing elbows, heavy feet,

bad breath in my face, wonderment and panic, all experienced on aching feet as a sense

of time was lost. Sometimes I wished I could take wings and escape overhead from this

dungeon I felt trapped in. Other times I felt compelled to try just one more camera shot.

Such was the case when I spied the snail man. He was old, bearded and had his greasy

hair tied in a scarf. His was no shop, no stall, no table – just an expanse of wall behind

him. And that wall was covered shell to shell with millions of snails. They slithered about

as high as three metres up the wall and one metre across…but no further. How did they

know their boundaries? Were they trained?

I was tempted to question the old vendor but he was busy placing handfuls of them in

bags for customers and it was doubtful he spoke English so I let it pass as just another of

life’s little mysteries.

We trudged on, mostly in silence, preserving energy. It took great effort to

communicate above the noise and bobbing heads. Finally, Tariq stopped at the head of

his straggly followers and raised his hand and the red cloth. When the last of his group

was counted he said, “We are almost to the end of the Souk and we will now pass

through the meat market.” Having some familiarity with third world meat markets from

earlier travels, I winced.

For me, time had stopped soon after we entered this Moroccan Souk so I cannot

rightly say how long we traversed these tight spaces in this house of horrors. It may have

been an hour. It seemed like days. The difference in this and other meat markets of my

experience was that the others were all outdoors. Enclosed within these crowded walls,

the stench had us all gagging immediately. It crawled up your nose and into your belly. It

penetrated your clothes and clung to your hair. It wiped out clear thought, leaving only

the instinct to cover the nose and try not to vomit. I passed mountains of un-refrigerated

dead flesh, origins unknown. Entrails hung and blood still dripped in places. Much of it

was camouflaged by the coat of feverish flies which were having a banquet. I found it so

sickening that I cast my eyes down whenever possible. And then…and then, I saw it! A

large group of camels, – or so I thought. Raising my eyes I followed the hooves up and up

but only to the knee caps. There it stopped. Yes, neatly stacked against the wall was

about a hundred camel’s lower legs. Better still, beside them, roughly piled high and

covering a metre square table were their tongues. Honestly, those tongues were enormous

and the sight of them there, waiting to be devoured, was the final straw. Unable to draw

my eyes away, as if mesmerized by the ghoulish sight, I looked higher and saw the head

attached to the wall. Instinctively I brought my camera up. No-one back home would

believe this.

You are probably fortunate that I cannot show you the photo. Again I failed.

This time it was because of the straw broom that the angry camel-man wielded in my

direction as he chased me with a tirade of obvious abuse.

And so my day ended. It was not my first Souk. I have happier memories of one

in Turkey, and I saw no camels there, but this one has had a lasting effect. I now

seldom eat meet.

1001 Words.


1666 words

The Mount Tamborine air is chilly in May. Therefore, when after a fourteen hour flight, I left the air conditioned Delhi airport and stepped into 45 degree heat, the breath was sucked from my body.

It was six years since my last visit to India. At that time the Delhi airport was hot, dirty and depressing.

I looked about. Gone was the multitude of homeless who had previously slept on the ground outside the entrance. Gone were the hordes of beggars who usually swooped on me, asking to carry my bags or whatever. Everything was now neat and orderly – even modern. India had certainly improved in a short span of time.

My protégée, Ajay was unable to meet me at the airport. He was about to become betrothed in a typical Indian arranged marriage and according to tradition, was not supposed to leave home the week before the wedding. The reasons why were never explained to me but he had assured me he would send a friend to meet me in his place.

I was slightly anxious as the plane had arrived an hour late. Ajay had moved house since I last saw him and I did not have the new address. Hopefully my greeter was still waiting. Not one, but two of them, certainly were! I couldn’t fail to spot them as they called in my direction. A gigantic bunch of flowers obscured the face of one but his arms waved wildly above the blooms. The other young man lifted a placard bearing my name, a huge grin splitting his handsome face. When I reached them they bowed low, brushing the backs of their hands across my feet.

            “What are you doing?” I asked.

            “Blessing you,” they exclaimed, straightening up. “You are famous here and we all love you.”

On my earlier trips to India, although I was warmly, even lovingly received, no-one had ever blessed me. Two of my six adopted children were from India and I had an Indian daughter-in-law. Therefore I had extended family in India – all who treated me like a Queen, yet none had ever bent low, blessing me.

            “We must hurry,” one said, after introducing himself as Amit, and dragging me towards the car. Too breathless to reply, I clutched my enormous bouquet to my chest while sucking burning air into my lungs.

 “Ajay is soooo excited about seeing you again,” he said, drawing out the word SO.

. Indeed, as we bolted perilously through the tumultuous traffic, Ajay phoned us five times to check our progress.

Upon reaching his home we found him pacing beneath a canopy strung across the narrow side-street. He flung himself at me as I alighted, and smothered me in a tight embrace, his face beaming with a mixture of joy and love.”

            “I am so grateful that you came, Mama,” he blurted after finally letting me go.

I was a little bit overwhelmed by this unexpectedly zealous welcome.

            Everything in this trip, including Ajay’s new home, was turning out to be a great surprise. I followed him inside to renew acquaintances with his mother and the younger siblings. Gone was the bare three meter by three meter room which the family of five had previously squeezed into. I recalled my sadness the first time I saw it – and the dismal community ‘kitchen’ and ‘bathroom’ that they shared with many others after they walked a block further down the street.


This new, three-bedroom apartment had its own kitchen and bathroom. Indeed, I could see nice furniture and a flat screen TV. The entire family was better dressed and furthermore, Ajay who did not even own a bicycle when I met him, now had a shiny yellow Vespa scooter parked outside the doorway. This extreme improvement in their lives warmed my heart.

            Six years earlier I had met Ajay, then a teenager, when he left a temple where he had been praying for a job. He was desperate to get enough money for an education. Poverty stricken, he was eking out an existence as a shoe shine boy on the streets. He told me that his mother, because of ill-health, missed many days at her job of scrubbing floors. I hired him that day to accompany me around the city. During our few hours together I discerned that he was a very bright boy with high ideals. Touched by his plight, at the end of the day I said “God has answered your prayers. I will pay for your education and a little extra so that you can have time to study and not spend all your time working on the street.


            Now only six years later he had a good job with a travel agency, the lives of his family was elevated and he was about to get married.

The build-up to the wedding lasted for days. During that time Ajay did not change out of the white cotton robes he was wearing or remove the gold and red sheathed sword from around his waist. Tradition – tradition! An exception came as night fell and he stripped to shorts before sitting on a stool. Two men then covered him from head to toe in red Tumeric paste while a group of women encircled him, singing and chanting until he looked like a New Guinea mud man and the men then washed off the paste. During that ritual, the street slowly filled as friends and neighbors arrived in droves. The canopy above the road in front of the house was an indication to all vehicles that the road was closed for the celebrations. By nine pm each night the party started in earnest. Drummers beat wild, ear-piercing rhythms as young and old danced up and down the street, all attempting to outdo each other. Neighbors carried chairs out from their homes and bodies filled every chair, step or gutter. Children joined the dancing or watched-on wide eyed. A handful of dogs wandered about looking confused- or maybe just deaf from the noise of the drums. The last stragglers left at dawn. What surprised me was that many of Ajay’s closest friends had taken a week off from work so as to enjoy the celebrations to the fullest. Until this visit, I had no concept of just how big a deal a wedding is in India.

 All the children wanted to dance with me. How could I say no? I loved them! And literally everyone wanted a ‘selfie’ with me. Indeed my cheeks were continually stiff from smiling at so many camera lenses. By the third night I was exhausted but, not wishing to look like a piker and let my country down, and despite advancing years, I pushed on – or should I say, danced on?


During all of this, there was no sign of the bride. Ajay had only met her previously on two occasions but he assured me she was lovely and he trusted his mother’s choice. On the fourth night I attended The Feast with about four hundred others. It was held in a massive marquee where everyone ate and made merry. This time trumpeters joined the drummers and my ear drums took another beating. I did not eat or drink. There was no time in between posing for a thousand ‘selfies’ and I don’t think that is much of an exaggeration.. I am no celebrity and too old to be beautiful so I guess they were curious about the only Caucasian guest.

The final night arrived. More rituals! Too many to even describe. The bride still had not made an appearance. Everyone was dressed as if invited to Buckingham Palace. Indeed, the women all looked magnificent and sparkled from head to toe. All except me! I don’t even own anything that could compare. And darn! Only at the last minute- when I was already there – was I told that I was the guest of honor.

The procession to the wedding hall began and I was ordered to climb up into the wedding carriage with the groom. By this time Ajay was dressed in embroidered cream and gold robes, topped by an elaborate headdress. He looked exactly like a young Maharaja; sitting grandly in a flower bedecked carriage which was pulled by an equally decorated pair of white horses. I climbed aboard, feeling like Cinderella before the transformation. Our carriage was at the rear of the procession. We proceeded slowly, grandly, with fireworks bursting high overhead the entire time. Leading the procession, a dozen or so drummers and trumpeters were beating holes in the drums and blowing their lungs out. They were dressed in magnificent uniforms of red and gold but such was their fervor that sweat streamed down their faces. Following them were many excited dancers and, most impressive of all…two elephants, in the spirit of the night, dressed to kill.

The night raved on. I could neither see nor hear – blinded from the flashlights of another thousand or two “ Selfie” poses and with my ear drums finally shattered from the constant roar of drums.

In words familiar to many, “Ah, what a night it was!”

The bride finally made her appearance at midnight. She and Ajay climbed onto a flower draped dais and I was invited to be the first one to join them. She too blessed my feet but when I tried to speak to her, Ajay whispered that she was not allowed to speak to anyone except him on her wedding night. Another tradition, I supposed, as I saved my comments for another day.

I stayed on in India a few more days. I did get to talk to the bride and she, Ajay and I spent a lovely couple of days together. I will never forget Ajay saying to me “I always dreamed of a wedding like this, Mama, and my dream has come true, all because of you.” But I am old and wise(?) enough to know that it wasn’t ALL just because of meImage



Continuing my series on people who have touched my life;

He looked about seventeen, slender, carelessly dressed and sporting a red paint dot on his forehead. I was about to enter a temple in Delhi. He came out and walked over to my tuk-tuk driver who was patiently waiting for me and my son. They seemed to know each other and immediately engaged in animated conversation. Maybe it is just their language, or maybe the volume, but Indians always sound as if they are highly excited.

An hour later, when my son and I left the temple to continue our sightseeing, the lad was still leaning against the tuk-tuk.

“Hello,” I said.

He surprised me by replying in English.

“What were you doing in the temple?” I asked.

“Me  pray for work,” he replied. “ Me shoe shine boy. No money, cannot finish school . No good study – no good job. Must pray hard.”

His limited English was a big improvement over that of  the driver’s whom I had hired for the day.

“Our driver does not speak English,” I replied, “And we don’t understand what we  see. Can I pay you to accompany us and act as our tour guide?”

He frowned.

“Come with us. Help us.” I indicated my money purse. His eyes widened and he grinned, revealing strong, white teeth.

“Okay,” he said. “ Me Ajay.”

My son and I squeezed closer and Ajay climbed aboard.

“I am Jodi,” I volunteered, “And this is Chip. “

“Okay Mama,” he replied, and from then on, I was Mama.

We chugged through the heaving traffic of the city, inhaling grey petrol fumes while the driver continuously tooted the squeaky horn. At one point he knocked a rider off his scooter. The man picked himself up from the dust and he and our driver engaged in heated words, oblivious to the sea of traffic surging around us. Anxious to move, I handed the scooter rider a few rupees and we were on our way.

With India newly affluent since my last visit, I marveled at the number of new cars on the narrow roads which once were traversed merely by bicycles, camels and elephants. There seemed to be no traffic rules, with vehicles driving on either side, dominance accorded to the biggest or the noisiest. The majority of new cars were already dented from collisions.

Chip was holding his shirt-tail over his nose.

I coughed dryly for the umpteenth time as caustic fumes tickled my throat.

Ajay looked at me and stated, “It be the kerosene.”

“Kerosene? I was confused.

“Mmmm. Drivers mix kerosene, petrol. Kerosene little money. Petrol big money.”

I pondered these drivers, spending money on new cars then polluting the engines, not to mention the air, with kerosene.

The tuk-tuk unexpectedly swerved to miss a heavily laden elephant and I was almost thrown out onto the road. Grabbing Chip, I pulled myself back into the dubious safety of the cab.

We continued our sight-seeing with the driver stopping whenever we came upon an impressive building amid the rag-tag huddle of  dilapidated shacks. Indeed, these occasional temples, palaces, walls, archways, were grand and the driver would wave his arms, his face suffused with pride, as he indicated we disembark and take photos.

The day was growing long when we stopped some distance from a fenced series of stately red brick buildings. Tall guards, wearing colorful uniforms and carrying rifles, patrolled out front.

“No go close,” Ajay warned, “No camera. Stop here.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Prime minister’s house.”

“It is lovely,” I said.

Ajay answered by spitting angrily into the dust. “Yes,” he growled. “English build big house. Fancy house. Many rooms. Why one man need many rooms? Him bad leader. He no care his people have no rooms. They sleep on street in rain. Why that man no open some rooms for people to sleep.”

I was surprised at such vehemence in one so young. And I was impressed that he already had a social conscience.

Despite our conversational limitations, by the end of the day, I had developed a fond respect for this young man .

“Could you come to my hotel tomorrow and the next day?” I asked Ajay as the driver pulled in before our hotel. “ I want you to work as our guide while we are here. We are staying in room 12.”

“No can do.” He shook his head, “Hotel desk man no let me come inside.”

“Good heavens,” I cried, ” Why not?”

“Because they know I street boy. They chase out street boy.”

“What?” I exploded, “Of course you can come in. Don’t you worry. I will talk to the manager. You be here by 9 a.m..” I took a deep breath and continued, “Oh, by the way, your prayers have been answered. India needs smart young men like you. I will provide your education, Ajay.”

The look on the boys face was my reward as he stammered and stuttered in disbelief.



Ajay completed his education and now, six years later, he is no longer on the streets but employed by a Travel Agency. He has been able to elevate the living standard of his mother and younger siblings.

He still calls me Mama and in two weeks time I return to Delhi to attend his wedding.



My Latest and Favorite Review

My Latest and Favorite Review.

My Latest and Favorite Review

I seldom post reviews but this one, received on April 4 is my favorite for several reasons. Importantly, it came from an Army Sergeant and even more important, he credits me with making changes to the way the NCO military clubs are now managed. Furthermore, I was unaware that the club system had been altered and this information is very pleasing to me. Anyone who has read Goodbye Junie Moon would understand that. I do not know who this reviewer is but wherever he is, I hope he knows how his words have warmed my heart.

5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!!!, April 4, 2014
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Goodbye Junie Moon (Paperback)
As the title so subtlety suggests I found the book to be absolutely fabulous. Ms Collin’s writing style has you clawing at the pages for more. I read The Khaki Mafia a few years ago and liked it, but was a bit worried that Ms Collins did not have the ability to write well without the tutelage of Robin Moore. I was completely mistaken. She not only has the ability to write well but she has surpassed her Mentor. She told the true story of the events and it was more exciting and interesting then the fiction version. At times you have to check to make sure what you are reading is not fiction. I must say I had this book on my shelf for sometime before ever picking up and reading it but was so pleasantly surprised when I did that I did not put it down until I had finished. Thankfully it is such a smooth and easy read that I was able to do so.

As an Army Sergeant myself I was appalled to read some of the things my predecessors had done before me but not exactly shocked. I see a lot of things that were over looked before that are watched more closely now one of those things being Clubs and such in warzones. They are no longer run by Soldiers who will be able to make a profit off their comrades, but they are now mostly free MWR (Moral, Welfare, and Recreation) centers, where the government takes care of their fighting men and women by providing them with wholesome entertainment and amenities from home. The few shops that are there for profit are owned and ran by locals which are aimed at helping their local economy and building relations with the populous. I can’t help but think that Junie moon had a lot to do with making my two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan a better experience.

Thank you Junie Moon
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The Saga of Mick Continued.

Chip and Mick were late returning from work. I heard Mick’s car pull up and soon Chip entered.

“Why are you so late?” I asked.

“We went down to Beaudesert to get wood,” Chip replied.

“Mick’s getting ready for winter then?”

“Yes. And we had to take another load to a very old gentleman.”

“What? A customer?”

“No. Just someone Mick met somewhere. Mick said he is very old and doesn’t have much money so Mick takes him enough wood to get him through the cold weather. Oh, and Mum, Mick says he wants to talk to you tomorrow evening about your trip to New York.”

I had lived in the United States for many years and I still went back frequently to visit family and friends. Mick knew from previous conversations that I had on occasion attended talks at The New York Explorers Club. Now he had a mission for me. In his quest to find this dinosaur which he believed still roamed the remote wilds of New Guinea, and during his research, he had come to believe that there was a manuscript in the N.Y. Explorer’s Club’s Research Department which referred to that. He wanted me to find the manuscript and copy the pertinent information. The fact that he thought he was making progress had him quite excited about his next trip which was only three months away. He had told us about his earlier trips and the dangers he sometimes encountered. On one trip he had been surrounded by headhunters who carried rifles instead of spears. Fortunately they left him his head, while robbing him of whatever else he was carrying.

His treks were into country so remote that he could travel only by foot on land or  in cut-out canoes on the rivers .

Over the years he had befriended one New Guinea family who lived far from civilization and they gave him whatever help they could. He referred to them as his “other family”. Such was their friendship that when the wife gave birth to a son, they named him “Little Mick”.

Life continued on in the usual pattern of nightly musings over a bottle of red and intermittent silences to study the stars only now, we sometimes spent our nightly unwinds on Mick and Ursula’s porch. Ursula was a homebody and did not like to go far from home.

Mick told me that he was going to ask for $2,000,000 when he sold his farm. He often mentioned that he planned on giving $100,000 of it to me and Chip so we could finish the renovations we were doing to our house. I am a most independent person who has never taken anything, even from family, so I always brushed such talk aside.

My trip to the States was only two weeks away now and I was determined to finish building a set of steps down to our next level before I left. Our property rests precariously on the side of a mountain and we had bulldozed it into three levels.

Chip and I were digging post holes when Mick arrived. Despite my most fervent protests, Mick cancelled his farm-work for that day and took the posthole digger from Chip.

“Chip and I can get these holes dug today,” he said. “You can’t afford to pay someone to help and you will never get it done yourselves.”

Indeed, it was a big job with about twenty steps being required to reach the next level surface. No matter how hard I tried to stop him, Mick would have none of it, and as the morning progressed, the two of them worked away with sweat streaming down their faces. Digging deep holes is hard work on any level but on a steep slope it is much worse. Even the Kookaburras were laughing at their efforts as they watched from a nearby gumtree.

Ursula had told me that Mick was having heart trouble. He was a bit overweight and she was trying to make him watch his diet. I thought of all this as I tried to push aside my uneasy feelings about the hard labor he was doing on my behalf.

At one pm I called the men to lunch and set out a couple of salads on the deck table. Mick stared a moment then said “Is this rabbit food all you’ve got for a hard working man? Come on June.”

“Sorry Mick, Ursula said you can’t eat fried food and all I’ve got is bacon and eggs.”

“Well bring it on girl, bring it on. I’m starving.”

“I don’t know,” I hesitated, “I don’t think I should.”

“I could die for bacon and eggs. Come on, get back in the kitchen.”

I gave in and made a couple of big plates of bacon, eggs and mushrooms which Mick eagerly got stuck into.

By four pm Mick said they were finished for the day. He was going to go home and get cleaned up. He asked Chip and I to join he and Ursula on their porch later.

We were all tired so Chip and I didn’t stay long that night. As we left I called out to Mick “By the way. A letter arrived from The Explorers Club setting up an appointment for me.”

“We’ll talk about it in the morning,” Mick hollered back.

At 2 am Ursula called, hysterical. “Come quick. Come quick.”

The police were there when we arrived. Mick was on his back in the hallway. He had been on his way to the toilet when he had a heart attack. I don’t remember a lot more about that night.

Mick was 52.

How sad that he died so young when he had so many plans for so much more living. Dinosaurs and fishing played a big part in those plans. He never had time to find his dinosaur but I’m glad he never had the disappointment of discovering there was NO dinosaur. Or was there? And is there?

We loved Mick in that pure way reserved for only a certain few special ones. For awhile I felt guilty that I had not stopped him from working that day and eating those damned bacon and eggs. We always find something to feel guilty about when someone we love dies, but then, I remind myself, I have always believed in fate.

Understandably, Ursula was bereft and in her grief, she put the farm on the market immediately.

It sold quickly at a fraction of it’s value and soon after, Ursula phoned me.

“June, I need to talk to you about money,” she said.

“I don’t understand, Ursula.”

“ Mick told me he was planning to give you and Chip $100,000 when he sold the farm. I am terribly sorry but I sold cheap and I haven’t got that much to give.”

“For God’s sake, Ursula. I never took any notice of Mick and I wouldn’t take it if you did. We don’t want any money.”

“Well it’s what Mick wanted and I am trying to fulfill his wishes. You know he always tried to follow the biblical admonition of ‘Take care of the widows and children’. But, I hope you are not upset if I give you less.”

“Upset?” I spluttered. “I can’t even believe we are having this conversation.”

Now a few years later, I look at my lovely renovated kitchen and ponder what a good woman Ursula is and what a good mate she was for Mick.

Some weeks after Mick died we were talking about him and Ursula said “You know, his right hand never knew what his left hand was doing. He never talked about the people he helped. When I started going through his diaries and bank statements I found there were many people he had been helping over the years. There was one old lady whose daughter had become a drug addict. The grandmother took the two grandsons in and was raising them herself. Mick had set up a bank account for the boy’s education and he had been supporting them for years.”


PHOTO CAPTION: Big Mick and Little Mick.



At Mick’s funeral his brother read a beautiful eulogy and although all of it was worth repeating the part I liked best of all read;

Mick was a starry-eyed idealist who sometimes seemed a little out of touch with the world as it is. Perhaps because he lived in a world not as it is but as it should be.

He had no airs and graces but he was a complex and sophisticated man. He chose to dress and present himself himself as a bit of a simple ‘bushie’ but he was not from the bush and he was anything but simple.

With a brilliant, incisive mind he had an extraordinary intellect without ever being an intellectual. He had the highest personal principles without ever being moralistic. He was uncompromising in his own views but tolerated the very human compromises of others…..

The Many Facets of Mick.

A bikie

A preacher and missionary

A fisherman of renown

An avid collector

A Scrabble Champion

A wordsmith and poet

A successful, entrepreneurial businessman

A horticulturist

An amateur paleontologist

And much, much more.




Did I mention that I was going to do a series of memorable people who have touched my life?

The following is the second one;

My son and I were new in the small mountain community. This was not a town containing magnificent buildings or churches with steeples. This was a simple farming community of immense natural beauty which attracted residential artists and writers. During the day, busloads of camera-toting tourists came and went.


We started attending church services in a community hall. Leading the hymns from a raised platform was a small choir of about six or eight people. They looked conservative/respectable in their Sunday best. Except for the man at the end on the right. Each Sunday he was there wearing a plaid shirt, his untamed tresses sweeping over his shoulders. His chest long salt and pepper beard seeming to move with the flow of the music as the fervor in his strong bass voice dominated those around him Although his shirt changed from week to week, his headgear did not. He had an apparent attachment to the small red Tibetan hat which never left his head.

From the first day I was curious about him. He had an easy smile and eyes that seemed simultaneously kind and impish.

After each service I noticed he and his wife left the parking lot in a battered old dust covered sedan.

As the weeks passed he began paying more attention to my son. My son has a mild intellectual disability and I always warmed to anyone who was kind to him.

By this stage I could hardly contain my curiosity about this enigma of a man. He looked like such an over the hill hippie –not someone one would expect to find in church, yet he knew his bible intimately. That word then hit me. Intimate. When he spoke to you – to anyone-there was such an absorption in his attention that his words, his presence felt as if you were sharing a great intimacy.

And why would I not expect to find him in a church? I knew better than to judge a book by its cover. Belated brain-flash!  He looked like Jesus. Well sort of! Maybe a bit more portly for I knew Jesus was slender from all that walking. And I wasn’t sure that Jesus would have had such a twinkle in his eyes.

As Mick seemed to seek out my son after each meeting, I began befriending his wife, Ursula. She was a petite woman- small but wiry with prematurely sun dried skin. She told me that she worked on their avocado farm from sunup to sundown. She loved nature and gardening. I jumped at the chance to visit when she invited us to come around the following week.


As we drove into Mick’s property we were awestruck by the beauty of it. Eleven acres of pristine lawns and trees nestled around the rim of the Columbia Gorge, an extinct volcano.  We spotted two neat houses. The place was lush with flowers and shrubs and I could see a couple of large green-houses which I would later learn housed orchids. There was no sign of either Mick or Ursula on the grounds or in the houses. I began calling Mick’s name and soon I heard a distant response.

“Down here. Down here.” It was Ursula. “Grab the end of that rope would you – and haul me up.” I couldn’t believe the sound came from down the steep drop-off.

I am deathly afraid of heights but I edged towards the rim of the crater and peered over the edge. A dislodged stone fell to the bottom, way, way below and I shivered. Surprisingly, the craters steep surface was a tangle of exotic ferns and palms. As I peered cautiously down I once again heard Ursula call out and then I saw her head appear from under a fern.

“What are you waiting for?” she yelled “Pull the rope.” Indeed, I could now see a rope that was wound around her waist with the other end attached to a nearby tree.

“Quick Chip” I ordered “Haul Ursula up.”

Soon she scrambled over the edge, dusty and sweating.

“Hell, Ursula,” I said “Aren’t you nervous about climbing down there?”

“Naw! How else would those things get planted?”

As I shook my head I heard the sounds of an approaching tractor and soon Mick came into view, waving a welcome.

By the time we left that day, Mick had offered Chip a job working with him on their beautiful little farm and a new phase in our life had started.


Because of his disability, Chip is unable to drive, but Mick saved me a trip by coming to the house to pick him up each day. At the end of the first day Chip hurried in after work as I heard Mick drive off.

“How did it go, Pet?” I asked.

“Good Mum” he replied” And do you know what? Mick isn’t scared of snakes. On the way home we saw a big snake across the road. Mick stopped the car. He jumped out and made the other cars stop while he picked the snake up and moved it to safety.” I could see Chip had found a hero. I was glad because he missed my husband who had died a couple of years earlier.

As the weeks passed, Mick fell into the habit of stopping for a drink on our verandah at the end of the day. I looked forward to our chats as we relaxed and let our worries float away. Mick talked about the adventures he and Ursula had shared and his plans for the future. He was a dreamer and had several. Occasionally I shared my experiences about my days dancing in Asia and during the Vietnam War.  We were becoming good friends – the three of us.

I began to feel guilty that Ursula was never with us but whenever I called and asked her to join us she replied that she was tired and going to bed, adding that Mick’s dinner was in the oven. Besides, although she didn’t drink, she did not seem to mind Mick unwinding on my verandah. And so the pattern continued. Many a night we enjoyed the stars and a brilliant full moon in silence, just soaking up the serenity of such beauty.

Mick’s enigma never faded. I was surprised to learn that he came from a wealthy family and indeed, he was still a partner in the family’s manufacturing business. His brothers were suit wearing businessmen who operated the corporation but after a short stint in the business, Mick had rebelled and they had let him go his own way. He and Ursula found each other and they explored the world together – hippies, sleeping on beaches and in caves.

As I heard one of the brothers explain later “The business was better off without Mick. He was philanthropic in the extreme. There were countless times when he found some jobless, homeless beggar in a bar. Pretty soon he employed them and they showed up, usually hung-over, at the factory the next day.


Months turned into years and our friendship became deep and comfortable. Yet, Mick rarely entered our house – not even to use the toilet. Indeed, he preferred disappearing into the bushes – which I found a little disconcerting.


A stately English lady lived in our community – ‘old’ money, well educated, thick white coiffed hair and spoke with a plumb in her mouth. (to use an expression.) She advertised in our local paper for partners with whom she could play scrabble. Who should reply but Mick. After she discovered that I knew Mick she said “He is the only one who has ever consistently beaten me…but I think he is a little odd.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Well we were deep in conversation one day when he excused himself to use my toilet facilities. Without a hesitation in what he was saying, he walked down the hallway, urinated noisily into the toilet and never shut the door or stopped speaking.”

I suppressed a giggle. That was our Mick!


And then there was the Dinosaur. When he first told me that he spent his vacation looking for a dinosaur I thought he was joking. But he assured me he was serious. Not bones, but a real live dinosaur.  In fact, he was so serious that he was about to sell his property and head to the wilds of New Guinea to look for that dinosaur in earnest. But I will leave that for the next episode.


Woodrow Wilson Knapp ( Lt. j.g.)


Spending years in Vietnam during the war can take its tole, even if you are not a combat soldier. While there, I tried to come back to reality every six months by taking a brief R&R. Usually I went to Hawaii and once, I returned home to Australia. But this particular time I decided to take my break in Tokyo. After all, I had lived in Japan a few years earlier when I was working as an exotic dancer. I enjoyed Japan and I genuinely liked the polite people.

The Otani Hotel was the newest and most modern in Tokyo that year. Staying there was a nice contrast from the army bunks I usually slept on in Vietnam.

It was my first morning when I stepped out of the revolving doors into the warm sunshine. At the kerb, in front of the hotel, I spotted a young American in uniform. He was bending over beside a Mitsubishi cab.

“The Ueno Railway station,” he was saying “I want to go to the Ueno railway station…you know, train. Train.” He made a moving motion with his hand as the nonplussed driver shook his head and inhaled noisily.

            “Train, train…you take me?”

I walked over to the cab and translated, causing a large grin to spread over the cabbies face while revealing two gold teeth.

            “The young soldier turned gratefully to me. “Thank…

            “Look out!” I warned, grabbing his arm and pulling him back from the cab door which had automatically swung open.


            “These big Japanese cabs have automatic doors. You have to watch they don’t smash you in the stomach.”

            “I seem out of my depth here, Ma’am.” He replied. “I wish I spoke Japanese like you. Thanks for helping.”

The Cabbie was twitching impatiently in his seat, anxious to get going. Indeed, the soldier did look lost – so young and innocent in his freshly starched uniform. He had a boyish appeal which aroused my sympathy.

            “I tell you what. I’ve got nothing better to do, would you like me to accompany you and keep you out of trouble?”

His eyes lit up. “Would you? That would be just great. I’m heading to a museum I’ve heard about and I was worrying how I would find the correct train.”

            “Then jump in before this fellow takes off and leaves us.” I was climbing in as I spoke and the American had barely settled beside me when the door slammed shut and the driver lurched the cab forward.

            “My name is June,” I said. “What’s yours?”

            “Woodrow Wilson Knapp” he replied, “But my friends call me Woody.”

            “On R&R are you?” I asked, not recognizing any uniform insignia. “What unit are you with?”

            “I’ve never set foot in Vietnam. I’m a pilot on the aircraft carrier the Oriskany. We patrol the Gulf of Tonkin. The closest I get to Vietnam is when I fly over it on missions.”

            “Well it all has its danger although I’m sure your in-between times are much better than those of the grunts.”

            “Do you mind me asking you what your accent is?” a warmness, as well as curiosity, had crept into his voice “And what do you know about the grunts?”

            “I too am on R&R from Vietnam. I’ve been there a couple of years already.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Well, pardon me saying so Ma’am but you sure don’t look like any military personnel that I’ve yet met.”

            “Probably not. I’m a booking agent, placing rock bands into the camps to entertain the troops.”

It was hard to miss the admiring glances he was now tossing my way. I silently acknowledged that I wasn’t the ‘norm’ that a young man would expect to meet while on R&R in Tokyo. And while he had immediately made a good impression on me, it was not one stirring instant lust. After all, I could tell he was a few years younger than me, who, at 28 had experienced pretty much all that life had to offer. His aura of innocence made me feel I wanted to take his hand. He was different from the men I usually met- kind of innocent and sweet – with a purity, which somehow, did not detract from his masculinity.


We spent a lovely day together. We laughed as we were shoved and jostled onto the Japanese trains which bulged with way too many passengers. We visited a hilltop look-out and Woody clowned for the camera as I took movies of him.

He invited me to join him and three of his pilot buddies later that night for dinner. They too were off the Oriskany and were staying at the Otani.


They were all young, early twenties. Fine young men.

I did not enjoy the evening. At one point they decided to drink a toast.

‘Let’s order a bottle of Mateus Rose,’ one suggested. They all agreed. ‘That was Marshall’s favorite drink. He was shot down last week, another KIA of ours,’ he somberly explained.

I did not want to join in the toast. Reluctantly I did and as I lifted the glass to my lips, a cold shiver ran up my spine.


After we left the dining room we headed for the elevator and watched the light as one descended to our level. It stopped and the door opened. A teenager ( or so he appeared) fell out into the foyer wearing a disheveled uniform. He staggered forward, mumbling incoherently, and bumped into me. Woody’s demeanor instantly changed.

            “Straighten up soldier,” he barked. “You’re a disgrace to your uniform. If you are staying here, get back to your room and sleep it off.”

The drunken troop spluttered “Aw shit,” then tumbled back into the elevator.

I felt uncomfortable. “That was a bit harsh,Woody,” I said. “He is so young and we don’t know, he might have been out in the field yesterday and may have just seen his buddies killed. They have it really rough.”

            “He represents America,” Woody ground out. “He’s in uniform in front of the Japanese. This is not a whorehouse. There’s no excuse.”

When I was alone later I thought about our opposing views. Grudgingly, I acknowledged that Woody was right…but I still had some sympathy for the young drunk.


We spent three glorious days and nights together before we parted – he for the ship and his war plane and me for the camps of war.

 Woody’s letters soon started arriving. They were intimate letters, telling me about his life on the ship and recalling his days before that with his family. He spoke so fondly of his parents. His father was a top executive with Pan American Airlines. We learned about each other through the United States APO.

Then one day, I received a letter from him asking me would I marry him as soon as he got out of Vietnam. This was the last thing I expected. How to answer it? How did I feel? What should I do?

I have written in Goodbye Junie Moon about my first marriage and how I lost my three children. How, knowing I could not have children, I decided to leave my husband and never marry again. It seemed to me that as an independent woman, there was no reason to marry if children were not the outcome. How could I tie down this wonderful young man and give him no sons? Besides, I still did not want to marry anyone. How then to let him down lightly? I had been in Vietnam a long while and I had seen the effects of ‘Dear John’ letters. I could not do that.

After much heartache I wrote back. I no longer remember my exact words but I did say that we should think about it a bit longer and get to know each other better. In my heart –I just did not want to hurt him. I knew we were mismatched. I had lived so much. He had lived so little (if you discount the daily stress of his job). I loved him but I wasn’t ‘in love’. And his proposal was no doubt influenced by the effects that the war was having on him.

I could envision him back in the USA with a lovely young girl, fresh from College, on his arm. One who could explore life with him. One who was ready to settle down and give him a family.

I drank a lot in those days. At first I drank for fun. Towards the end I drank from despair. Woody barely had a drink. No, it could never work!

 I often wish I could remember the words I wrote in that letter. I hope they were gentle – not erasing all hope. I’m a sensitive person so I’m sure they were, but we all have moments of self doubt.

A few weeks later I received a letter from one of Woody’s mates. It was one who had had dinner with us at the Otani Hotel that night when I felt such a cold shiver.

The letter said Woody had been shot down over North Vietnam and he never had a chance to bail out.

 Days of numbness- blackness,-mental turmoil.

Would my letter have arrived before that fatal mission? If not, would his parents have received it along with his belongings and read it?

 All these years later…I still think of Woody and worry about that letter.






This post has been a long time coming. Several reasons. I’ve had a serious and prolonged writer’s block. And, I have previously acknowledged that my total lack of technology skills does not lend itself to a first class blog.

Leila Summers, a cyber friend and great writer from South Africa has lured me back with this invite to participate in the blog hop. Leila is the mother of two daughters and she has written a great book ( I don’t use those words lightly) titled “It Rains in February”.

It can be found on Amazon at

Leila’s blog;


Many writers have good stories to tell but Leila does so with extraordinarily beautiful writing, check her out!

Thank you, Leila.

Leila has asked me the following four questions so here goes;



I am sorry to say that I have spent more time trying to promote Goodbye Junie Moon and Junie Moon Rising than getting on with yet another sequel. Many readers have asked me to please write a sequel about the children I adopted but although I keep trying, I find I cannot do it. It was a huge job and there were many days I would not want to live through again – even by writing about them. There are already so many sad memoirs out there and I don’t want to add to them. Still, I love writing and hope to come up with a new idea that grabs me very soon.


My life has been so varied and intense that it is hard to believe some of it is true. (Most of it has been verified in newspapers and magazines) Therefore, although I write as memoir, it actually reads more like fiction.


Because I know I have a story to tell. I know the subject extremely well and do not have to do a lot of research. In my stories I try to be extremely truthful – even when the truth does not put me in a particularly good light. Hopefully the reader finds enough good in the character to more than balance things out. Nothing is all black or white and I believe readers can smell the truth and appreciate it


I am greatly in favor of prologues to set the scene. Other than that, I don’t use an outline although I generally have a rough idea of beginning, middle and end. Thanks to ‘cut and paste’ I am able to alter the continuity occasionally until I feel it runs smooth. Once I get into the story, it seems to stay in my head even while I am sleeping. It is not unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night with actual sentences running through my brain. I get up immediately and write them down. I think it is important to know when to finish. I have read some books that still run on after what has seemed to be the perfect ending. I no longer want to keep reading. An epilogue should cover any unfinished business, short and sweet.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with me, here is a brief bio. I am an Aussie but I spent half my life living in the USA. As a teenager I married an Aussie sheep farmer but that did not last long after I lost the children I so desperately wanted during, or shortly after, childbirth. My life changed entirely when I became a dancer and started traveling the world. During the Vietnam War I entertained the troops for several years and put my life at risk by becoming a whistle blower against a group of corrupt club sergeants. That story was written about in detail in my first book, The Khaki Mafia. I was fortunate to have the well known author, Robin Moore as my co-author. Robin wrote The French Connection and The Green Beret as well as dozens of others.

I was a long time settling down after the war but eventually I married an American and together we adopted six children ( not babies) from several countries. Now in my retirement, I live a peaceful life interspersed with travel and occasionally…writing.



I needed to tag at least two other bloggers to keep this thing going. I selected Beryl Belsky from The Writer’s Drawer and Clancy Tucker. Both are prolific bloggers with world-wide followings due to consistently terrific posts.

CLANCY TUCKER has unfortunately had to decline. He is at the moment extremely unwell. Even so, he is managing to keep up his daily posts which he prepared while he was feeling a little better. He is both a writer and a photographer of great merit and his posts are varied and have a huge world wide following. His blog can be found at and his book ‘Gunnedah Hero’, a good Aussie tale, can be purchased from his blog site. I cannot recommend his site highly enough so do yourselves a favor and check him out and maybe send him well wishes while you’re at it.


Beryl was born in Eire, raised in Australia but now lives in Israel. She graduated from the Australian National University with degrees in E.Asian studies (Japanese), and political science. For 30 years she worked as an editor for academic institutions.

A few years ago she started writing blogs which eventuated into The Writer’s Drawer – her main focus these days. When I think of Beryl, the words ‘literary nurturer’ springs to mind. Although she has not written any books herself, Beryl is the writers champion. Not only does she publish writers excerpts and reviews on her blog but she also shares writing tips with them and runs writing contests and promotes writing contests organized by others. She calls The Writer’s Drawer an intercultural site for authors of all genres, languages, status ( from beginners to established). For those starting out, she has always been ready to ‘give a hand’. A writer could not find a better friend than this. I was one of the fortunate ones whose book she has reviewed on her blog. It was an insightful and honest review. 

Besides the blog, Beryl annually publishes an anthology of short stories and poems. She is also available for freelance editing projects. On the 17th March, be sure and look up her blog to see her blog hop post.



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