A Child’s Christmas in New South Wales

As Christmas nears, are your childhood memories happy or bitter sweet? Fruity-rich but dark as a Dylan Thomas poem? After the arid outback of NW Queensland, I loved holidays in northern New South Wales.

Our holiday near Byron Bay draws to an end after the family Christmas dinner at the redbrick riverside house at Brunswick Heads. Uncle KJ is present, shaven and dressed in his Sunday best. I am too concerned with my own rumbling tummy to notice him. I am ten years old, a sixth child of eight.Ruth-Bonetti-koala-child

Being small fry, I am relegated to a coffee table overflow at the celebration with uncles, aunts and cousins. My nostrils flare as plates laden with turkey, ham and vegetables pass along the tables—then halt. Granddad pronounces the blessing. Over the rattle of cutlery I chirp several times before they hear, ‘Where’s mine?’ Mum scrabbles another plateful together.


Excerpt from Midnight Sun to Southern Cross

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Now, as an adult, I visit the redbrick house by the Brunswick River, marvel at the changes, and value opportunities for family to share special times together.


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This year I’ll invite others less fortunate to share our bounty.

And may enough ham and turkey reach your end of the table!

Blessings for a happy Christmas!

Independence Centenary of Finnish heroism!

Finland–and Finns globally–celebrate today, 6 December! My Grandad’s brother Edvard fought in the Civil War, and his son Rolf in the 1940s to win freedom from Russian overlords. 

Edvard Back soldier 2_NH

How Finnish “sisu” won freedom

This typical Finnish tenacity has been described as digging through a cement wall with a spoon, but you keep going. Since exploring my heritage I feel awed by the Finns’ tenacity to wrest freedom from Russian overlords, in true David vs. Goliath fashion.

Hero Edvard (at right) off to the Civil War

Russians invaded again in 1939

My father’s cousin Rolf Back enlisted in 1942 to fight in the crack unit, the Jaegars—on skis! He went on thirty patrols over the Soviet lines into Russian territory, wearing a white camouflage cape. (More of his unique stories next blog.)


Read their heroic stories (Special Independence Centenary prices!) Visit https://www.ruthbonetti.com/burn-my-letters/

Download an eBook now at Booktopia. (Did I say Amazon last blog? Working to fix a glitch in that system.)

Opposing sides

Victory owed much to Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim’s deployment of Jaeger regiments trained in Germany and armed with German weapons. During those crucial wars that led to Finland’s freedom (Civil War, Winter War and Continuation War) how did brothers at the other side of the world view the Finland-Russia-German struggle?

Edvard’s brothers Karl Johan Back and Wilhelm Anders Back viewed “The Hun” as their foe. They emigrated to escape conscription into the Russian army. In their land of refuge, Australians rejected conscription in two referenda.

Australian Displays of Patriotism

My grandfather W.A.Back made conspicuous donations to the war effort, second only to the mayor’s. WA raised money by driving people in his new automobile to farewell soldiers—for a fee. He and other family sent loads of provisions to aid Finns and other Europeans .

The pacifist dissenter brother Karl Johan protested his patriotism by writing two books A Consolidated History of Australia and The Royal Toast.
Locals suspected that KJ spied for the Germans, for he tended his bananas on the ridge by lantern light. But what is night to a Finn?
[Excerpt from Award-winning Burn My Letters available at our webstore.]

Jaeger soldier Rolf Back 

The sequel Midnight Sun to Southern Cross shares a family view of Finland’s history, more personal memoir and heritage discoveries. 5-star reviews at Goodreads.com and Amazon.

Download now at Booktopia.

Let’s celebrate with the Finns on 6 December!

Writers journey into print

Most authors traverse potholes on their paths to print.

Publishers rejected big name authors like J. K. Rowling, John le Carré, C.S. Lewis  (800 rejections) and now may regret their decisions. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before publication. Many self-published and were later “discovered” by big publishers. There’s an idea…

Self-Publish or Perish?

Encouragement is sweet!Burn-My-Letters-Caleb-prize-Omega-Writers

At Omega Writers‘ Sydney Conference Awards Night, Burn My Letters was announced winner of the CALEB Nonfiction prize. 

Its hero, Karl Johan Back, knew REJECTION. CENSORSHIP.

In 1899, the year “KJ” fled Finland, the Russian regime Board of Censors shut down four newspapers, and seven in 1900.

Why did Russian police track him to Suez?KJ Back and Orchid Hint: he described his writing as “pen-fighting.”

KJ self-published two books from his safe haven overlooking Byron Bay. In 1920, he tried to present a Morocco-bound copy of The Royal Toast to the visiting Prince of  Wales, hoping for patronage.

 PR Photo and Reviews

KJ mailed copies to newspapers. Some reviews were kind, others tepid or cutting:

“It should rank as one of the curiosities of Australian literature.”

“Twenty years ago Mr Back could not speak a word of English but now he is a fluent speaker and has absorbed the ideas and ideals of Australia.”

One noted that KJ was no Tennyson and advised against printing further books. Ouch!


KJ plays the Facebook PR game!

His Facebook page channels through his great-niece author, Ruth. OK, he died in 1962–that’s magical realism!


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Celebrate Finland’s Independence

On 6 December, Finland celebrates its Centenary of Independence from Russian overlords. KJ’s brother Edvard fought in the Civil War, and nephew Rolf in the 1040s Continuation War, on ski patrols over the border into Russia (read more in Midnight Sun to Southern Cross). Perhaps KJ’s earlier “pen fighting” contributed in some way?

Christmas Book Flood

In Iceland, books are exchanged as Christmas Eve presents, to be read through the night while eating chocolates. This tradition is part of a season called Jolabokarflod or Christmas Book Flood.

That’s a great idea for a blessed Christmas and rejuvenating rest.