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Spinifex and Snakes

Gone before the heat each day

the partner I had followed to this land of Spinifex and snakes

leaving me alone

My daughter painted this picture from her memories of our life in north-west WA

My daughter, Stephanie Burns, painted this picture from her memories of our life in north-west WA. To see more of her art and fabrics go to

with my babies

aged one and three.

No friends

the town not yet reality

no shop, no school

an alcoholic doctor

the airport down the track—an hour’s drive.

I had no car but where could I go

even if that wasn’t so?

To shark infested waters, holding two little hands?

Across a wasteland of bushes uniformly stunted?

To the caravan park

where filth, depression

and language hurled at children made me shrink.


Word from the south was flown up

with grader parts and other vital stuff.

Food and clothes came fortnightly by truck.

Radio was rarely heard

television never seen

no books

no strains of Mozart

no scent of flowers, twitter of birds

trees or shade or anything to feed the soul.

In that pindan-covered camp

no-one felt or thought like me.


Afraid of losing little ones

curious to explore that never ending sameness

each day confined within my arms-width space

sheltering from flies and sun that fried the brain

I lived inside my head.




Victoria Mizen



Library Presentation: Greenmount

At Denmark Library - they enjoyed my readings

At Denmark Library they enjoyed my talk and the readings

Due to a full house for the Mundaring Library presentation of my novel ‘The Green Velvet Dress’, I am delighted to be doing another one at Greenmount Library from 5.30-7pm on Tuesday, 6th October. Drinks and nibbles at 5.30, talk starts at 6pm.

A few places are still available so if you wish to join us, please contact the library by phoning 92906755 or use this link to read about my presentation and/or to make your booking.


Much is written about what we see. Today, everyone is a photographer. Sounds are recorded, enabling us to recall the trill of a bird, a crack of thunder, the voice of a loved one. The sense of smell, though, is the most powerful for that emotional pull, flinging us back to memories we thought we had forgotten. I hope my words evoke memories for you–good and bad. What is your gut reaction?


Sweaty armpits, old gym shoes,
potatoes rotting in a cupboard,
dirty nappies, pig manure,Continue reading

The Storm

A splash of sunshine offers hope.
Dreary sky and dreary heart
watch it quickly pass
as storm clouds gather pace.
What chance is there
what use is hope against the might
of tempests?
patient must I be
learn to wait
with tolerance and trust
but is that possible
when my heart is crushed?
Have I strength within my soul
to ride out this storm
and if I do
will I survive
will I still be me?
Victoria Mizen

Two Old Farts

There goes Mick again. Silly old bugger. Thinks he’s Prince Charming or something, the way he carries on with the Murphy sisters over the road. Mind you, they’re as dopey as him, fluttering their silly old lashes and mincing about, pretending that they’re still young and pretty. Young and pretty. Bah! Had my pick of them in my youth. No good thinking about those days. Look at him. Shiny shoes and bloody arty- farty walking stick, with its twirly knob. Yes. I suppose I am jealous. He’s handing Daisy a rose. Saw him out in his garden this morning. Should have been watching the toast, it burned, serves me right. Time I got a new decent bloody toaster, the popup sort that don’t burn. He was singing to himself. Sings so loud the whole street can hear him. Needs a hearing aid, has a hearing aid, but he’s too bloody proud to use it. He was out there this morning watering his precious plants. Loves them like he loves that silly dog, old, blind and just as useless as him. I should talk. Useless, bah! We’re all bloody useless at our age.

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Kerbside Collections

Last Sunday Julian and Penelope enjoyed a salubrious lunch at the Darlington Estate Winery. Returning home they shared memories of teenage years – Penelope’s spent in the hills, riding her bike along bush tracks with friends, Julian’s helping his father on the farm where he lived in Cornwall.

‘After that feast we should have a rest when we get home.’ Penelope glanced at her partner, the beginnings of a smile playing with the corners of her mouth.

Julian spluttered, ‘Do you mean a rest?’ Bushy eyebrows questioned her meaning of rest.

Almost missing the corner, he turned left into Glen Forrest Drive.

‘More of a siesta,’ Penelope continued.

‘Someone’s been busy while we were eating.’ Thoughts of a Mediterranean style, leisurely post-lunchtime rest were put aside as the green jaguar slowed down to allow a rudimentary assessment of the no-longer-loved contents of a garage or storage room, neatly laid out on the road verge opposite them.

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Mundaring Library Presentation

Mundaring Library is very kindly organising an Author Presentation for me on Thursday, October 1st from 6-7pm. Drinks and nibbles will be served from 5.30pm.

I am delighted to know that the event is booked out already, but if you are interested in joining us, please let me know right away and we might be able to squeeze you in.

There is also the possibility of another presentation for those who miss out so please email me at or phone me on 9298 9583 if you and/or your friends would like to hear me talk about ‘The Green Velvet Dress’ and my teaching experiences that inspired the book.

These presentations are interesting and fun for anyone who loves to read. You also get to know stuff about me that might surprise you.

Walking the Narrow Streets of Rudesheim

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A typical Rudesheim hotel

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Steep narrow streets; Rudesheim ambiance

On leaving the amazing musical museum we had to decide whether to return to the river in the little train or on foot. I hoped that, despite the abundance of kitsch, I might find something worthwhile in a couple of shops and I still wanted to capture the ambience of Rudesheim on camera. David chose the train and I suspect that he might have tried some of the famous Rudesheimer coffee. Asbach –  a special brandy – is poured into a mug and set on fire. Filled up with coffee which douses the flames, the concoction is then topped with whipped cream and chocolate flakes.  I settled for a small box of brandy filled chocolates and a few more postcards, then couldn’t resist a silly sign that says  VIP Parking Only. Unfortunately no-one will notice it on my driveway, so I’ll have to give it to someone who really is a VIP. One with a sense of humour of course.

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Rudesheim and Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum

AmaCello docked at Rudesheim

AmaCello docked at Rudesheim

Sunday, May 31st we moored on the banks of the Rhine at Rudesheim.

Tower near the bridge where we docked

Tower near the bridge where we docked

I have been to this town twice before, and although  its famous narrow street, that rises up from the river, is terribly kitsch, I love it.

The famous narrow street of kitsch and Asbach coffee.

The famous narrow street of kitsch and Asbach coffee.

Cameras were even more essential than usual. The tourist train that pulled up in front of our ship was like something out of a children’s story book.

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We all piled in, squashed into spaces which were only big enough for children, but the journey along the foreshore and up through narrow streets to the museum was fun. Not enough elbow space for photos, but I planned to walk back and capture the quaint buildings later.


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The Technical Museum of Speyer

Speyer Cathedral, completed in 1111 is the largest Romanesque church remaining in Europe.

Speyer Cathedral, completed in 1111 is the largest Romanesque church remaining in Europe.

The day that we went to Speyer, we were almost hit by a large plane as it flew over the bridge which took us into the town. The airport must be very close by as I later saw several planes flying in, equally low, over the river and the bridge. Our bus parked, amongst many others, below the town, with the largest and most important Romanesque building in Europe, completed in 1111 and dominating the skyline. (Thank goodness the planes stayed away from it’s medieval turrets) I wished I had booked for the city tour, but the technical museum sounded more interesting and I P1040817 (427x640)didn’t think I could manage both.

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Our guide pointed us in the direction of the museum and told us to return by 12.30pm for the return trip to the ship. An hour and a half seemed like plenty of time, until I walked P1040848 (551x640)into the main hall. My camera was busy trying to captureP1040861 beautiful antique cars,P1040856 (640x590) aeroplanes hanging from the ceiling,steam engines, racing vehicles from early days to some of the latest models,

Full size steam engine

Full size steam engine

fire engines,P1040837 (640x480) motor bikes and even a space shuttle.

Our grandfather had a jaguar like this. He was so short and it was so hard to steer, he could barely drive it, but I loved the smell of the leather seats.

Our grandfather had a jaguar like this. He was so short and it was so hard to steer, he could barely drive it, but I loved the smell of the leather seats.



For racing fans

For racing fans

As I began my walk, I thought of my brother,

For you Rus

For you Rus

who was mad keen on motors (of any kind) and who could fix just about any of them. Remembering that he died last year, and could not see the photos I wanted to show him, caused a few tears, but hopefully his children will see them


Switzerland by coach in a day

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Lake Geneva and surrounds

From Lyon to Basel

The morning of May 28 saw us up early as our packed cases had to be outside the cabins by 6.30am. I felt excited to be starting on the next stage of our holiday, but sad to leave the very friendly staff and happy memories made on AmaDagio.

David and I had become quite attached to our cabin and I wondered if the next one would feel as homely.Returning there after breakfast, I checked all the cupboards again to make sure we hadn’t left anything.‘I hope the internet works on the next one,’ I muttered, shoving the last of many cords into my hand luggage. David patted the bed in a proprietarial fashion; he appreciated its comfort and hoped that AmaCello’s would be as good.

Gunther was coming with us, which gave some continuity to the program. He had warned us two days earlier, that it would not be a good idea to pressure him on departure day as problems were bound to arise, despite his very detailed planning. He was Belgian, not German as his name suggested, and he stressed this fact, but his ability to organize all our trips, to be on hand and at his desk seemingly from dawn till late at night, was the kind of Germanic trait for which most of us were grateful.

Knowing that my back would not cope well with sitting for six hours on a bus, I reserved the back seat  before everyone else got on, so that I could  lie down. We had large, well sprung tourist coaches, but this  gave me extra protection and meant that I reached Basel feeling fine; and I offered to swap seats for a while with anyone else needing a lie down. I think I dozed off a couple of times, but managed to see much of the countryside and if I snored it couldn’t have been louder than a few of the guys.


Heidi could yodel from the mountains

The scenery was so much like I had imagined it to be, that I almost expected a Heidi, with long, straw-coloured plaits, to yodel from the fir covered mountains.Everything about the land and the properties was neat and well maintained; vines grew up the hillsides from

Vines growing beside the lake.

Vines growing beside the lake.

Lake Geneva in perfectly straight lines, or in rows that were parallel to the lake, but aligned with Swiss precision.

Swiss village – steeply pitched roofs and shuttered windows

The houses, too, looked exactly as I expected, with steeply pitched roofs and the smaller, shuttered windows that are common in children’s picture books.P1040796 (640x418) Brown and white or black and white cows, fat and contented looking, munched on grass so green it had to produce incredibly rich milk and delicious meat. I knew, without question, when we crossed from France to Switzerland.

Lake Geneva itself, with snow-capped mountains on the far side, an almost clear blue sky above and villages and farms fitting snugly into the sides of the hills below us, was picture perfect.

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Lyon – Painted walls and Secret Passages

Lyon is also known as the gastronomic capital of France, although, having eaten very well at stops along the way, and having spent time in Paris, I wonder about this claim.

so many delicacies to choose from

so many delicacies to choose from

Our guide for the day, being from Lyon, stressed that her city, although the third largest one in France, is actually the second largest if you take in the whole metropolitan area.

Note projector, bottom right corner one

Bottom right corner, note the projector

She led us from the river to a large building with famous characters, mainly from the region, painted on the outside walls at every level. The Lumiere brothers, who invented cinematography in Lyon, are featured, and an image of Paul Bocuse stands at street level in what could almost be a restaurant.P1040682 (640x480)

Because the city, even the old part, is so much larger than our other stops, we had to travel by bus through much of it, but then we stopped to walk through a few traboules (secret passages,) which have been used for centuries as short cuts through private dwellings and were useful during the German occupation for hiding people and goods.


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French Gourmet Delights – Frogs Legs, Snails and Paul Bocuse


Beaujolais and Dombes Regions

Food and wine were on the agenda for our outings on the 26th. Unfortunately we couldn’t do both at once, so, knowing that we would be able to try the wines later, we opted for the snails and frogs legs.

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Enthusiasm for snails??

After the truffle performance from Serge, our snail man was about as inspiring as any old snail in any garden, but he did show us a few tricks for catching them which I will be testing on the vegetable garden when I get back home – note the photos.

Sprinkle crushed grain on a hard surface and lay slatted timber against  it to catch snails

Sprinkle crushed grain on a hard surface and lay slatted timber against it to catch snails

We were put off at the beginning by his attitude when a couple of us ladies enquired about toilet facilities. He really did not want us to use his, and no wonder, it was in his house. The farm (can you call snail production a farm?) has been in production for about five years and making money for the last two years, so we thought he should by now have his facilities properly set up for visitors.


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Ardeches Steam Train

Ardeche and Doux Gorges

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Plants sprout from steep rock face

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Ardeche steam train

Moored near Tournon, we decided to take the easy outing on the Monday holiday and travel by a vintage steam train up to the top of the hills. P1040535 (427x640)Stunning scenery – water rushing below us, greenery clinging to and sprouting from impossibly steep, impervious looking rocks, and the rock formations themselves, begging to be photographed. Several of our group caught bits of grit and smoke in their eyes, hair and any other body parts that happened to be in the way of our engines by-products.

The journey brought back memories of my trips to Kalgoorlie when I was four or five. My uncle was someone important (I never thought to ask what his role was) on a gold mine near Kalgoorlie. I travelled there with my grandparents and my mother, so it must have been during the war years, when dad was away in England. The flying cinders and the smell of the coal fired steam captured it all for me.


Truffle Growing in France


On Sunday I visited the truffle farm and enjoyed not only the tasting, but the performance by Serge and his truffle-hunting dog, Amy, at La Rabassiere at Aurel in the Grignan area.

Amy, a much loved and valuable truffle dog

Amy, a much loved and valuable truffle dog

I thought we’d do a lot of standing, so it was the one time I took my portable chair/walking stick, but they were well organized, with plenty of seating in a tent which was set up on a semi-permanent basis for the visitors. Our guide was part of the charade, rolling her eyes and waving her hands at the dramatic performance and the extravagant wording used by Serge to explain his PASSION for the truffles produced on the 45 acres which were started by his grandmother. She produced 1000 tons per year, his father 150 tons a season, but now Serge can only get about 30 – 50 tons a year. The price has gone up so much though, that he still lives well and his son will take over when Serge retires.

He showed us a sample of a black truffle, about five centimeters across, looking rather like a large dog turd. He handed it around for us to smell after performing a sort of gastronomic drawn-out sniff–left hand holding the truffle to his large nose, then bending his body from the waist and sweeping the truffle ( in the manner of a cavalier waving his hat while bowing to his admired lady) and as his arm extended, his nose appeared to quiver like a dog’s. Guide lady didn’t need to tell us that this demonstrated the depth and strength of aroma to be found in a good quality truffle. It had, in fact been cut in half earlier, so it wasn’t nearly as pungent as I expected.

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Avignon, Pont du Gard and Uzes

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Le Pont D’Avignon

P1040287 (640x480) - CopyPont d’Avignon was worth a photo or two, simply to say we’ve seen it. Avignon seen from the river, with its medieval walls surrounding the papal palace and the town

Vegies but such French panache

Vegies but such French panache

makes another pleasing photo, but otherwise the visit was not very impressive, except for the markets.



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Cruising the Rhone River–Arles and Van Gogh


 Arles and Van Gogh

Van Gogh painted irises while in  Arles

Van Gogh painted irises while in Arles

Finding the rest of the group in the airport at Nice was an adventure as no-one stood near the information counter and the staff there new nothing of our arrangements, but Australians have that certain look (never mind the accents) so we found several other equally puzzled prospective AmaDagio travellers and eventually our very French guide arrived to collect us and bundle us onto the coach. The itinerary said it would take about an hour and a half, but in fact it was a three hour trip from Nice to Arles. We arrived as most of the passengers were about to go to the captain’s cocktails and safety talk. So, while the early arrivals displayed their finery while drinking champagne and nibbling dainty cocktails, I dashed into the lounge, disheveled and weary, tossed back a glass of bubbly and retreated as soon as possible to dress appropriately.

A sculpture of Van Gogh greets us on the path to the hospital

A sculpture of Van Gogh greets us on the path to the hospital

Next day we visited the hospital, St Paul de Mausole in St Remy, Provence, (still used for the mentally ill) where Van Gogh spent the end of his life. The chapel is quite austere, pretty much as it was when he went there in 1889. Copies of many of his paintings line the walls and particularly the staircase which climbs up to his tiny room.

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Courtyard in the hospital

I was particularly taken with the internal courtyard. When I was at boarding school, at St Brigid’s in Lesmurdie, I liked to walk around that courtyard, but at the time didn’t realize its significance. I now suspect that it was supposed to be a place of quiet contemplation, which of course the nuns never got to enjoy with a bunch of noisy girls requiring constant discipline. Perhaps during our holidays they could walk around it, fingering rosary beads and concentrating on holy meditation.

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Nice France



Antique lift in the foyer

Well, we’ve now been to Nice, Antibes and Cannes but won’t be in a hurry to return. The hotel, Le Negresco, P1040083 (640x558)was very grand and our room was spacious and quiet with a bed large enough for at least four people. P1040165Valuable works of art dominate every part of the hotel’s interior



Private beach closed for the night.

Walking back from dinner one night I experimented with the camera and captured this unusual photo of one of the private beaches.

Fishermen on the shore at night

Fishermen on the shore at night

Fishermen on the stony shore made another interesting night time shot.





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Prague – Buildings and Music


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A wide variety of roof lines yet they harmonise wo well

The buildings are largely what make Prague so appealing to me. P1030886 (603x640)Like elegant Paris, so many of them have to be captured in photos. I love the variety of architectural styles, the generally pale colours on the walls, and the different roof lines. In Australia I rarely look up to the top of the buildings, but in Prague there are so many styles from vastly different eras that I am surprised at the way they blend and harmonise so beautifully.

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One of my favourite buildings is in the famous square near the P1030953 (480x640)Astrological clock. To me it typifies Bohemian Prague.

The photo was taken as we walked to our first concert; attending at least one musical performance is imperative while in Prague as musicians are everywhere. Our Mozart Dinner Concert was held in the Grand Hotel Prague which is immediately opposite the famous clock.


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Prague – Old Jewish Area


On Friday May 15th we were guided around the Jewish area of Prague by a delightful young lady called Katerina who told us so much about the history of each place that I wish I could remember all of it.

Our first stop was the Pinkas Synagogue, established in 1535 by the Horowitz family. It is no longer used as a house of prayer, but was turned into a memorial to the 77,297 Jewish victims of the Nazis from Bohemia and Moravia. Interestingly, this was done by the communists during the mid to late 1950s. The walls inside the building are covered with the names of the victims with dates of birth andP1030833 (640x426)

 Names of the dead cover the walls

Names of the dead cover the walls

death (when death date is unknown, the date taken is that of departure by train to the death camps.) Seeing so many names, I had to close off my emotions or I’d be overwhelmed by the awful events.P1030838 (640x427) On the end wall of the main hall, are lists of all the camps where prisoners were held until they were sent to the gas chambers, mainly to Auschwitz.

As the Jews were confined to their ghettos, in areas frequently flooded, the synagogue has been under a metre or more of water several times and had to be repaired each time, most recently in 2002. I hadn’t realized that because of a ruling in the Old Testament, one must step down into a synagogue, so of course the chance of flooding is greater. I wonder did Jesus change this rule for Christians?

Prague’s Old Jewish CemeteryP1030849 (640x480) was our next stop. A fascinating place, with headstones sticking out of the ground, at odd angles and from a vast array of depths. It has been built up with fresh layers of soil so that now the ground level is about two metres above the earlier level of surrounding walls. Moving the hallowed graves is not allowed so the number of bodies buried here from its beginning in the 15th century is not known. It is not a large area, nothing like our modern cemeteries, but a mature tree that has pushed its way through five or six gravestones, gives some indication of the age and jumble of this place. As we walked around, Katerina pointed out symbols on the stones to show the family name or position in society – a lion, fish, jug etc. Dark stones are the oldest, marble being used more recently although the last gravestone is from 1787.

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