An Australian Bush Birthday and Bush Books

Today is Australia Day. It’s also Gemma-Rose’s birthday. How are we going to celebrate? We’re going to head into the great Australian bush!

“Let’s run up the hill,” someone shouts, and three girls disappear into the distance.

“Let’s dance,” someone suggests, and three girls leap through the air.

We jump from mossy rock to mossy rock, as we cross over the creek. 

“Hands in the air,” someone shouts, as we wade through the ferns which reach up to our chests.

“Hold onto my hand,” says Charlotte as the girls descend a steep slope.

We head between skinny trees, reaching up towards the light. It feels like we’re in a rainforest. Everything is damp and dark. The leaf litter is thick. There are fungi, lichen and mosses.

“Oh no!” Callum shouts. “There’s a ladder.”

“A ladder?”

“Nora is never going to climb a ladder!”

And she won’t. Callum has to hoist our huge dog upon his shoulder. She looks wildly around as they go up and up and up.

When we get to the top, we discover a waterfall! We can see it through the trees. Can we get closer for a better look?

We climb this way and that, ducking under branches and hauling ourselves over fallen tree trunks. And then we are rewarded by the sight of falling water.

It’s time to turn back.

Over the stepping stones…

and through the bush.

“How far have we walked?” I ask as our feet move from bush track to lake path.

“10 kilometres? 12 kilometres? 14 kilometres?” No one is sure. But we are certain we have walked a long way. 

Sophie and Andy are the last ones to arrive back at the lake. Sophie is limping.

“How did you hurt your foot?”

“I don’t know.” Blood is pouring from her ankle.

Sophie is ready for a rest. We all are. It’s time for our picnic by the lake.

“You’re having an Angels birthday,” I say to Gemma-Rose. “Celeste Angel went on a bushwalk to the waterfalls on her birthday too.”

Yes, the Angel family in my children’s novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek, head into the great Australian bush. They arrive at the lookout and admire the waterfalls. Mum snaps photo after photo. And then it begins to rain. By the time everyone arrives back at their van, they are all wet. Poor Mum. Her hair is sticking to her head. Normally that bothers her, but for once she doesn’t mind. It’s all part of the adventure.

It isn’t raining today. We don’t have to eat our picnic in a steamed-up car like the Angels. We can relax at a table by the lake. And we do relax until Andy jumps up. He’s discovered something wriggling on his clothes.

“A leech!”

“I bet that’s a leech bite on your foot, Sophie,” someone says.

“Do you remember the leeches in the Bush Boys book?” someone asks.

Suddenly Gemma-Rose’s Angels of Abbey Creek birthday is turning into a Bush Boys birthday.

Have you read Father James Tierney’s Bush Boys books? They are adventurous stories set in the Australian bush. You could visit the Bush Boys Online blog to find out more. The books are available from the Cardinal Newman Faith Resources bookshop as well as Catholic Heritage Curricula. And if you’d like to sample the delights of these living books before you buy, you could download the first book in the series for free. It’s available as a PDF.

“Perhaps I could put some leeches into one of my future Angels stories,” I say as we head home. “Yes, I must remember the leeches…”

The Angels of Abbey Creek

Have you ever been bitten by a leech?

Have you ever had a picnic in a steamed-up car?

Have you ever had a bush birthday? 

And have you ever read any bush books?

Perhaps you’d like to read The Angels of Abbey Creek or The Bush Boys!

Happy birthday Gemma-Rose. 

And Happy Australia Day!

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  1. Reply

    What a fun Australia Day birthday! Well, except for the leeches. I've never even seen a leech (and would be quite happy to keep it that way!).

    Your photos are stunning. I've looked at them several times already, and love those magnificent trees and the lush softness of the bush and THAT WATERFALL!

    Hope Sophie's foot is fine, and that Gemma-Rose has a lovely year!

    1. Reply


      It WAS a fun day and even the leeches didn't spoil it. Andy actually found two leeches in his clothing. He was lucky he wasn't bitten. Leeches, I'm sure, look worse than they are. I remember writing an article once about their use in medicine. I still don't like them even though they can be useful!

      Sophie's foot bled for a long time because leeches inject an anti-coagulant, but it's fine now. She'll probably have a small scar because I have a leech scar and so does Andy, from bites we got years ago. Scars make good stories!

      The photos from the first half of our walk are different from the ones I took once we crossed the creek. It was wetter and darker over on that side, and I am guessing that's where we picked up the leeches! I'm glad you enjoyed looking at my photos. We finally found a waterfall!!

      I'll pass on your message to Gemma-Rose! Thank you!

  2. Reply

    What a gorgeous bday celebration!!! I felt I was reliving Celeste's bday too!!
    Your kids are beautiful! I don't know what my favorite picture is! Happy happy happy birthday to your sweetheart! I feel I know your family by now!

    And I'm so excited to hear you say you might put a leech into your NEXT Angel book! Wohoo! Not so much about the leech..but another Angel book in the works ? Sorry if you mentioned it….I missed it. But I'm SUPER excited.

    We're up to the advent chapter. I just don't want it to end…we have so little left! I've been dragging it out!

    Sue, great post, thank you for sharing the day!

    I hope Sophie's foot is ok by now, BTW

    1. Reply


      I'm so glad you knew what I was talking about when I referred to Celeste's birthday. I use our real life stories for inspiration when writing my fiction!

      Another Angels book? I have written two more collections of Angels stories. I need to edit them. The first sequel needs less work than the second one. I will probably need additional stories for the third Angels book that's why I'm constantly looking out for new ideas. The leeches might make it into the book… but then again, they might not because that book is set mostly in the city. The Angel family move to Sydney for a year. They leave the beautiful bush and swap it for museums, opera houses, harbour bridges, art galleries and speeding trains… I lived in Sydney as a teenager, and Andy and I lived there when we were first married, and occasionally we take a trip there with the girls, so it wasn't too difficult to use Sydney as the setting for a book.

      I'm so grateful for your kind words about my book. Thank you! And thank you for the birthday greetings for Gemma-Rose. You made her smile!

  3. Reply

    What an adventure! I'm glad to say I have NEVER been bitten by a leech. Daniel has had a few from the creek outside of the library in our old home town – but happily we caught sight of them early, and got them right off. Given a leech or a tick though, I think I might pick the leach…then again…maybe I'll just enjoy the bush this way – through your pictures 🙂 Happy birthday wishes to Gemma-Rose!

    1. Reply

      Leech bites are not nice! But I think you are right: ticks are worse than leeches. They are more difficult to remove. Also we have ticks which can cause paralysis in dogs. I remember working with ticks when I was a veterinary science lab technician many years ago. Maybe we were trying to find a vaccine. I can't remember!

      Thank you for looking at my photos and for the birthday greeting!

    • Hwee
    • January 28, 2015

    Happy belated birthday to Gemma-Rose! What a fantastic way to spend a birthday! I hate, hate, hate leeches! They are so incredibly creepy. I don't mean to be rude to nature and its creations, but anything that has no legs creeps me out, the same way that I'm not a fan of worms and snakes!

    Australia has such rich and incredible wild life and nature that I think you're spoilt for choice when it comes to nature study!

    1. Reply


      Thank you for the birthday greetings for Gemma-Rose!

      Yes, there are some creatures I just don't like either. I agree with the 'no legs' category of animal. They all seem to be slimy or wriggly or slippery or all three! I just don't like the thought of a leech attaching itself to my body and sucking my blood. That's not polite at all.

      We do indeed have lots of incredible wildlife. We are fortunate to live with nature on our doorstep so we often see interesting animals and plants. And although we would't change our flora and fauna, we do find other countries' nature very fascinating. We'd love to see some squirrels!

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