Janis Sheldrick is a lifelong resident of Melbourne who has always been strongly attracted to the landscapes of South Australia. She studied philosophy at the University of Melbourne, has a Graduate Diploma in Librarianship, and was awarded a PhD by Deakin University in 2000 for work on George Goyder and Goyder’s Line. Working as an independent scholar, she completed the rest of Goyder’s biography in the years that followed. Nature’s Line: George Goyder, surveyor, environmentalist, visionary is due for release from Wakefield Press this month.
We asked Janis a few questions about Goyder and the process of writing the book.
Can you tell us a little known fact about George Goyder?
Just about everyone who knows of him would be aware of his reputation for hard work, determination, and mental and physical toughness, but few would now know that according to those who knew him, in private life he was a different person. He had a wide circle of friends and was described as charming and as entertaining company – the ideal person to have as a companion on a long and tiresome journey – and as possessing a ‘magnetic’ personality. He also had a pleasant speaking voice and liked to sing Italian arias (when travelling), so he probably had a better than average singing voice as well. This large personal presence must have been a useful compensation for a diminutive physical one – he was only about 160 centimetres tall (a bit less than five feet four inches, according to a descendant).
What prompted you to write Nature’s Line?
I’ve been an intermittent visitor to South Australia from childhood and the ruined houses beyond the Mid-North made a powerful early impression on me, but I had no idea of the story behind them. When I finally heard about Goyder’s Line I was literally enthralled – I was full of questions and couldn’t wait to learn more. At the outset it struck me as an important story, and the more I investigated, the more certain of this I became. It was clearly not just about where not to grow wheat in South Australia, but about European settlers encountering a climate, the key characteristic of which – rainfall variability – they were entirely unprepared even to recognise and name, let alone to adapt to. What impressed me so much about Goyder was his unblinkered ability to see what was going on around him in the natural environment, to pay close attention to the natural world and to learn.
Do you know what project you would like to take on next?
At the moment I am working on something very different, although it is still about human awareness and perception of the natural world (among other things), with the working title Here and Hereabouts.
There are also two small things that I am working on. One of the characters in Goyder’s story is Eustace Reveley Mitford, a great-grand uncle of the Mitford sisters. The family resemblances, in literary style, social and political outlook, and physical appearance, are startling, especially given that the relationship is not that close, and I think he merits making a tiny contribution to the Mitford Industry. I have also been investigating Victoria’s Chinese dragons, the oldest of which go back to the nineteenth century.
After that, I’d like to return to a bigger project.
What’s your favourite type of ice cream?
Green tea – but I haven’t had any since the Japanese store that sold it closed. Perhaps Christmas pudding ice cream (my sister’s or from Fritz Gelato) is a more realistic choice – at least there’s an opportunity to enjoy it once a year.
What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?
Philip Jones’s Ochre and Rust: Artefacts and encounters on Australian frontiers is the first that comes to mind. Its approach to the telling of history, working from particular objects, sidesteps the usual frameworks. And the book is a lovely object itself: good to look at and to handle.
The other two are about the work of Australian painters and both are connected to exhibitions at Tarrawarra Museum of Art (in Victoria). The first is Master of Stillness: Jeffrey Smart paintings 1940-2011 by Barry Pearce. I particularly liked the inclusion of his early work in Adelaide.
The second, Russell Drysdale: defining the modern Australian landscape, by Christopher Heathcote, isn’t a favourite – I haven’t read it yet – but I am looking forward to doing so. The exhibition started as Tarrawarra in October and will be on until February 2014. I haven’t been yet, and I want to see the paintings before I read the book.
The cold is well and truly here, so it’s time to shed your summer skin and step into your winter layers. I can think of no better way to weather the worst of it than with a good book (from Wakefield Press, naturally), your fuzziest socks, and an exaggerated portion of a hot dessert. Give your muffin top a proper welcome to winter with this (vegan!) bread and butter pudding, featured alongside heaps of other great recipes in Divine Vegan Desserts by Lisa Fabry, available here.
250-300g good white bread, sliced thinly (about 6-8 slices)
¼c (50g) dairy-free spread
¼c (50g) sugar
½c (80g) raisins or sultanas
¼c chickpea (besan) flour
2 tbsp cornflour
2c (500mL) oat, rice or soy milk
Oven 180˚C/350˚F/Gas 4
1. Grease a glass or ceramic baking dish, about 20cm x 20cm (8” x 8”)
2. Spread each slice of bread thickly with dairy-free spread, reserving a little spread for the top. Cut each slice into four triangles.
3. Place a layer of bread slices, spread side up, in the bottom of the dish, cutting pieces to fit in the gaps. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and about half the raisins or sultanas.
4. Cover with another layer of bread, another tablespoon of sugar and the rest of the dried fruit.
5. Finish with a layer of bread, overlapping the slices so that the points of the triangles stick up a little – these corners should turn brown and crispy.
6. Mix the chickpea flour and cornflour in a large jug or bowl. Gradually whisk in the milk. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread slices.
7. Put in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the bread to soak up some of the liquid.
8. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top of the pudding and dot with the remaining dairy-free spread.
9. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.
And that’s it! Wait for it to cool to a safe temperature so as to not burn your tongue (I learned that one the hard way), then grab a spoon and kick back. Or share it with friends and family. You know, whichever.
I know, I know, we’ve been bad and have neglected this little blog for some time. But we have a good excuse, promise! Recently we launched our new title, The Heaven I Swallowed by Rachel Hennessy. Read all about the launch below, then head over here to purchase a copy yourself!
A mysterious box arrived in our office this morning, post-stamped Leverkusen, Deutschland. We soon discovered its contents were none other than five beautifully wrapped books – German editions of the best-seller Behind the Veil by Lydia Laube, published as Hinter Dem Schleier by Drachemond Verlag.
The Germans have certainly out-done themselves with their version (left) – a stark contrast to ours (right). Let us know which you like best!
Not only do our German counterparts make lovely books like ours, they also explain the quality of their work in the same way that we do: ‘Machen Bücher glücklich? Wir sagen ja! Daher sind unsere Verlagstitel mit Herzblut erdacht und mit Liebe gemacht.’ (Translation: ‘Books make you happy? We say yes! Therefore our published titles are passionately conceived and made with love. Enjoy your reading!’)
Above: a very excited Lydia Laube holding her copy of Hinter Dem Schleiner at the Wakefield HQ this morning.
Beautiful stone was nature’s gift to South Australia, and an irresistible building material for early settlers. Many stone walls, without mortar or with no more than mud as glue, have defied gravity and the elements all these years. Or did gravity combine with deft balance to sustain them?
In Those Dry-stone Walls: Stories from South Australia’s stone age, author Bruce Munday takes us on a journey across the state, exploring the history of SA’s dry-stone walls, and giving an insight into rural life. Hot off the press, this book is not just for history and nature buffs – it contains a comprehensive chapter (‘So, you want to build a wall!’) on DIY dry-stone walling, for those who are keen to have a crack.
Click here for further information, and to order your own copy!
Below, author Bruce is hard at work on his own dry-stone wall (picture by Kristin Munday).
Wow, this year certainly has a lot to live up to after the delicious line up of books created in 2012 … and what better way to kickstart this January than by firing up a brand spanking new blog!
Keep your eyes peeled and watching this space for regular updates, news, competitions, reviews and more. We always love to hear from you, so keep the feedback coming!