Story Archive



Posted on December 26, 2012 by
on the road at
Megalong Valley, New South Wales


As a child I was confused why my birthday, on New Years Day, was a major international event. Other kids didn't seem to have the whole world celebrating their birthday. I thought I was special but not that special. In any case I did realize fairly early that it was by pure chance that another year was delivered from the bowels of time as I was delivered from mother's womb. 

New Years Day, another year for both the planet and for me. I am SIXTY today. Who would have thought? Certainly not the child, nor the teenager, or the wild child of the Seventies, or the father and now the grandfather.  I'd never really thought that I would turn thirsty let alone SIXTY. Mortality was still vaguely inconceivable up until my father's death when the reality that each future moment moves relentlessly towards the current one hit me in the guts. My Dad's death, as fate would have it, was on this day two years ago. So I now celebrate my birthday not only with the planet but as the Day that Dad Died

In my book I recounted an incident with a frog on New Years Day and won't repeat it again, not when it is so easy to go to the Corner Store and buy The Electronic Swagman. That's called a hint in case you missed it.

I'll tell you another New Years Day story though but first a warning. If you thought I was a nice guy you might be disappointed.


I was alone in a remote wilderness called the Blue Gum Forest which lies at the bottom of a Blue Mountain's valley. To get to the valley floor involves a difficult descent of 1,000 metres. It is a bloody hard walk and especially with a heavy pack on your back if you are camping overnight. On the beautiful New Years Day an extremely overweight man, with an extremely heavy pack, suddenly emerged on the last stages of the descent. Each step was as confident as boy on his first date. If you can imagine two jackhammers with jelly wrapped around them you would come close to the image of his legs. My God did I laugh. Yes, I know I shouldn't but it was so funny. Here was man's inhumanity to himself. Here was hope springing eternal and without any reason at all to think it should. Here was the futility of the New Year resolution in all its wobbly-legged pathos.

I decided to never make another resolution again. And I haven't. But I have an idea that you might just like.

Talking to my friend Chrissie from the Megalong Tea Rooms I found my head spinning with her wonderful stories. She told me about her father Keith who ran the local timber mill for 60 years, hauling fallen logs out of the remote Burragorang Valley. She told me how the old man, now 90 years of age, came out to watch some workmen replace a telegraph pole a little while ago. Keith had put that same pole in the ground some fifty years before. The workmen ignored the old man.

I told Chrissie about a German man I had met the previous day who had been a child of ten when the Russians stormed into Berlin. His friend next to him was selected at random by the drunken troops and told that if he could drink a bottle of vodka, he wouldn't be shot. The young boy could only drink half and a bullet splattered his brains over his classmates. 

On it went.  Some stories told of lives which bestrode cataclysmic events like a world at war. Others, equally moving, were simple reflections of simple lives.  I left with about five books to write: The Pole, The Bottle of Vodka and others.

Days later, another story told to me by my Brazilian friend Clarissa sparked an idea of how we can capture these lost lifelines and wisdom. It was a story of food as an expression of love. In the tradition of Like Water for Chocolate Clarissa's grandmother spent months preparing food for Christmas. Gingerbread houses were adorned with crystallized rockmelon. The old woman's recipes involved love, tenderness and skill and Clarissa can still taste all of them in her heart. 

So here is the challenge for the New Year. It is not a resolution mind you but an invitation to tell some stories. The first series is tentatively titled RECIPES FROM OLD SOULS. There may be stories locked away that are best told and shared. 

Thats about it. Its just an idea but it is easier than walking down a cliff and a great way to start 2013. 

c ya

Raymond & Tommie


  • The story should be between 500-1000 words.
  • The theme is to celebrate a person's life and their passion and love of cooking. A photo would be great. I might edit the image with a B&W or sepia tone. I promise I will do the best job I can. 
  • We will publish the story on Facebook and on the Guest Blog. Maybe as a weekly post if we get a good response.
  • This is only open to Swaggys. It's easy to become one and it has discounts and offers and all types of stuff to let you become more involved in our journey -
Post Comment
ellen biggs
It is now probably 12 years since you came into the lives of my then children and myself. Into the blue was then just embryonic in its development and it has been wonderful over these years observing the growth of your ideas and seeing someone actually living his dreams not just talking about them. I enjoy reading your regular blogs, I enjoy travelling vicariously through your magnificent photos but I get most pleasure viewing the world through Tommie's eyes.... he has such a way with words. It was great catching up on the phone today. could you please give me a fools guide i.e a step by step instruction on how i can buy your book. Regards from it "kids" , they like I enjoy your electronic swagman . When r u selling the film rights...which I am sure u will want to direct......
Hey Ellen - lovely to speak to you as well. You do get a mention in the book but I wont tell you exactly where because then yo will go directly to that spot. Only kiddin!. Buying the book is easy. You can either order from a book store OR buy from the Swagman's Corner Store. Go to the link below and just select Books and eBooks - If you become a Swaggy you get a 10% discount plus some other stuff from the Free Downloads. Ill catch you in the New Year - love to you all - Raymond -

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lorie canfield
hello there friends what a great way to start the new year with 2 of my fav new freinds happy birthday raymond its mine to lol no wonder i like you book awsome love the idea for recipe im thinking of which to send i am going to come to sydney in june then murry river mildura i hope some how i can catch you some where to sign book as always happy trails x lorie
Thats amazing Lorie. Happy Birthday to you as well. Be great to catch you in Australia. Somehow we will have to find a way. I would love you to send a recipe with a story. cheers Raymond
Jutta Gläser-Ziemendorf
Hi Raymond, a very happy birthday to you and a very happNew Year as well! Love your idea with the stories and will probably submitt one one of these days, but the present topic isn´t one a have a fitting story for! So maybe the next topic! I´waiting anxiously for the delivery of your book although I know it´ll take some time from OZ to Germany! Hope you and Tommie are fine and have a marvelous day together!
Hi Raymond! Happy Belated birthday and best wishes for the New Year!
Rosemary Jean
At the tender age of 16 I was employed at Matthews Emporium in Peterborough SA. I boarded with Mrs Watkins who was obviously trying to stretch the food dollar to it's limit so once a week I'd be served crumbed brains, steak & kidney pie(with minute ammount of steak) or Lambs Fry. One of the other boarders, a young teacher left the table in tears more than once and ultimately moved elsewhere, possibly to escape the diet of offal!Luckily I was made of sterner stuff altho after a year there I gave up and moved back to Adelaide and a more varied cosmopolitan diet. One recipe I found in my "Early Settlers Household Lore" book might well have been served by Mrs watkins .. but fortunately was not! GIBLET SOUP: To each full set of duck or goose giblets(including head,neck feet & wing tips) allow 1 carrot, small head of celery,2 leeks, half pound apples,quarter pound prunes, 1oz shortening,2 ozsflour, water, vinegar, parsley & sugar. Clean Giblets well, split heads & remove eyes & brains. Cut windpipe in 3 remove windpipe & gullet. Wash heart.Cut each wing in 2. ,chop off claws, remove skin from feet.Place pieces in salted water bring to boil skimming from time to time.Add flavourings such as parsley & tops of leek celery & carrot. Simmer for 3 hrs then sieve leaving just a little liquid with giblets. Cook apples & prunes in a small separate quantity of water until soft.Combine flour & shortening, add to sieved soup with 1 cup apple and prune liquor.Slice carrots, leeks & celery, add to giblets & cook 10 mins.Spoon in the apples & prunes with a little vinegar & sugar then the sieved mixture. Serve Hot! This may have been too complicated for Mrs Watkins to serve us .. for which I am eternally grateful!
Lesley Hampton
Well I sent away for your book last week and I'm looking forward to it arriving some time next week. Happy New Year to you and Tommie. All the best, Lesley