Quick Stories #5 Reconcile or Reject?

Highrise apartments with tennis courts at Cerulean, Main Beach Gold Coast Australia, an apartment project designed with the owner-occupier in mind. Image supplied by Cerulean Main Beach. Information https://www.therealestateconversation.com.au/news/2018/07/16/owner-occupancy-the-rise-apartment-design-changes/1531702806

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Fork in the road.

Reconcile or Reject?

“Julian Wentworth is a pain,” thought Karri. 

She actually heard him say that he was the best looking bloke in the building.  The junior girls in the office loved him and admitted to having his business card pinned to their bedroom walls alongside Duran Duran posters.

They thought he was hunky, his hair so stylish, his suits so well-tailored.

“And he never has smelly breath.”

When Penelope whispered this in the tearoom, everyone squealed “Ooh, how do you know?” and she blushed scarlet.

To prevent her stuttering reply, Karri jumped in. “He’s so up himself I don’t think he knows it’s daylight.”

Blank looks turned on her, followed by the cold shoulder.

Karri swigged the remains of her Nescafe and returned to her desk.  She had a secret.  Julian Wentworth had been asking her out.

Nobody on staff knew Julian had initially invited her for an after-work drink on Friday.  Karri shuddered when she thought what could have happened but didn’t.

She sensed his neediness.  Julian was only keen on one thing; cajoling his way inside her apartment on Riverside Drive. 

Grateful for the building’s strong security, Karri muttered “He won’t get his hands on my assets.”  She certainly didn’t want his fingers running over Grandma’s porcelain figurines.

The other office secretaries believed Karri was so lucky teamed with Julian.  He was the principal of the rental section of Frederickson Real Estate, the avaricious bastards she worked for, and he was always hunting for prestigious rental properties. Obviously he wanted to scrutinise her prime real estate, her inheritance.

When she bumped into Julian outside her local bakery on Thursday, he had insisted on walking her home until she snapped “Get real”.

At work on Friday, she told him to “Go jump”, and later to “Get lost” regarding Saturday night dinner.  He was not easily dissuaded and had suggested tennis on Sunday afternoon.

Surprise, surprise, the tennis courts were close to Karri’s apartment.  She enjoyed social tennis and had accepted.  Now she looked glumly at her canvas tennis shoes.  Julian would own an ergonomic pair, teamed with ultra-white shorts, and a tight top with a crisp collar and sporty logo.

She laughed, picturing him posing in front of the mirror then arriving late.

He was at the main gate on time but they couldn’t reserve a court.  The tennis centre had just closed ranks for an Under 12s tournament.

Ungraciously Karri did not offer her home for coffee so they walked to the nearest café.  She noticed envious glances from female customers and sat down hugging the tennis rackets.

Her gaze snagged on an attractive bloke in tennis gear sitting in the corner.

He sipped from a teacup, covertly watching Julian at the serving counter.  Distractedly he put the cup down on top of his cheesecake.

“Oh, hell,” Karri thought as Julian fumbled with the payment, jaws clenched.

Her mind clicked; she could see it was decision time. “Which road is it going to be?  Reconcile or reject?”  

Julian turned quickly and walked straight over to Mr Cheesecake.

“Anthony, old friend, how are you?”

Anthony pushed back his chair and rose to embrace Julian.

“Oh, Jules, I’ve missed you so much,” he beamed. “How did you find me?”

Julian looked across at Karri.  “That lovely lady lives nearby.”

They hugged again, and an elderly man at the next table dabbed his eyes with a serviette.

Another look from Julian conveyed an apology and Karri realised he must have discovered Anthony had moved into her apartment block.

She waved away his life of subterfuge.

Three’s a crowd; she could sacrifice a coffee. Anyway, her tennis shoes pinched.

“See you Monday, Jules.”

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #4 Buzzing

Hillside residence in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (source unknown)

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt words (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were to include an attic or basement, an insect, earth, wind, fire and water

Buzzing

“It’s in the attic,” she said, a note of desperation clinging to her words.

“Brisbane houses don’t usually have attics.”  I pictured her old home, the corrugated iron roof shimmering like fire in the afternoon sun.

“You know, that bit in the rafters with the twirly vent.”

“Why don’t you ring a pest controller?” I said, jaw tightening.

A gusting sigh.  “I did.  They can’t visit until Thursday and I’ll be driven mad before then.”

I imagined her tugging at her hair, bunching a fistful.

“Okay, I’ll come over.”  Firmness was needed.  “But I’m hosting a workshop tonight.”

“That’s great, David.”  The chirp was back in her voice.

I cleared my throat.  “How big is this wasp thing anyway?”

“I can’t tell.”  A pouting tone with a double meaning.

Her woman-child habit irritated me into bravado. “A squirt of insect spray should take care of it.”

“What if it doesn’t die?”  Her voice dropped a notch.  “What if it has wasp babies?”

“Jeez, Lettie, I’ll be over in twenty minutes.”

She bolted down the pathway to greet me and stopped suddenly.  A puff of wind raised dust around her bare feet as she pressed a finger to her lips in a hush gesture.

I could hear it.  An intermittent buzz, like the starter of a fluorescent tube on the blink.

“Might be electrical, we’ll have to be careful.” Deflection from a bloke afraid of bugs.

We walked down the uncarpeted hallway to her austere kitchen.  Set into the ceiling above our heads was a square manhole cover.  The sound of buzzing intensified.   

“Please be careful,” she whispered, pointing to a ladder.

“Why don’t you go first?” I half-teased.

Something changed, her body stiffened.  I saw emotions cross her face until she settled on anger.  “You always disappointment me!”

Before I could placate her, before I could berate myself yet again for being a miserable letdown, Lettie had dragged the ladder into place and climbed towards the hatch.  She opened it with a violent shove and the air crackled.    

Her slim body was half-way through the opening when I yelled “Wait, I’ll do it!”

I heard a girlish squeak, and my own voice shrilled “What?”

“Your turn, David.”  She descended, face aglow. 

The buzz from a thousand imaginary bees drilled into my skull.  I wondered what I would find; what I would do if I did find something.

I raised my boot to the first rung, the ladder seemed too small, the opening too high.

Once my head and shoulders breached the cavity, I heard water dripping somewhere in the gloom.  Ah, I saw a blinking light on a damaged possum deterrent.  Seconds later I heard a whooshing sound.  I lifted my arm but before I could move, two chains bearing a large silver blade swung down towards me.

The buzzing stopped.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #3 Fair Enough

Missing Out © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Missing Out.

Fair Enough

My sister wants to be called Garet, and I say “The end bit of your real name?”  I count to five.  She doesn’t hit me.  “Why not go for something different?” 

She pulls a face, accentuated by squinting into the morning sun beaming through the kitchen window.

Undaunted I continue “You’re called Margaret, right.  It might be hard for people to cut off the first part.  Why not the dual purpose name Monica? Get it?”

“Sounds like an English teacher,” she huffs, missing the point. 

“Yeah, you’re not brainy enough.”  I duck the paperback she aims at my head.  It tumbles to the floor and our dog Loopy senses conflict.  He hauls his arthritic body off the floor and lopes from the room.

Garet twirls a lock of hair, she’s in another place.  Possibly Zone One, the Plaza hair salon which radiates militancy.

Theatrically I gasp “You’re not planning short back and sides?”

“Not too short,” she says airily, “and a different colour.”

She holds up her phone, the image makes me blink.  “Wow, purple bleeding into fluoro green.”

“All the girls at school have short hair, like, I mean, really short hair.”

I lean forward.  “So instead of remembering all that stuff Mum and Dad say about being an individual—”

She cuts me off “That’s fine when you’re an adult and your high school days are behind you.”

My mouth won’t stay closed.  “Do those dimwits in your class use a social scale based on hair styles?”  

Garet flares “Of course not!”

“So why do it?”  I kinda know but want her to admit it.

“You know why.”  She picks at her nails, glaring.  “To fit in.”

“And?” I raise my voice an octave, my eyebrows go with it.

“It’s complicated.”  Garet stacks her cereal bowl on top of mine.  “The fear of missing out.”

My two hands slam onto the pine table before I can stop.  “Missing out on what?  Art gallery trips, tapestry classes?”

She flinches “I want to be part of the volunteer group visiting sick children in hospital.”

Instantly I regret my outburst.  Until she adds “There’s some pretty cool interns who hang out with the volunteers in the canteen.”

Fair enough, I can reason with that. Tragically I was overlooked for a hot new soccer team. Now I won’t put my hand up on Sports Day because of that fear, that stab of rejection.

“Garet,” I say condescendingly, “go a full makeover but don’t forget that your family loves you, okay.”

“Thanks, Bro.”  She actually blushes saying that, then twirls her hair again. “I’ll think about it for another week before I tell Mum and Dad.”

“I won’t breathe a word.”

I figure she’ll come home this afternoon with crazy coloured hair.  Fear of missing out makes a person irrational; like wasting money on a soccer club tattoo.   

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #2 Final Frontier

Scientific device © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write whenever I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words. For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Space.

Final Frontier

Fran ripped off the velcro strap so violently it took a tuft of her hair with it.

She dropped the VR headset onto the work bench and almost tapped the flashing message on her wrist screen before remembering she was no longer authorised to communicate.

Tord’s on-screen decree was absolute: Shutdown.

She was back in the real world, a contemporary world with little social consciousness, running on limitless personal greed, and no respect for history.

Money flowed through unnamed corporations with anonymous board members and spies controlled by the malignant régime of vigilante ruler, Tord, who leeched the economy of countries world-wide and left billions starving.

Fran spent two claustrophobic years in this grey-walled bunker recreating virtual realities of those countries before the takeover, demonstrating to Tord how nature was exhausted; Earth could no longer be sustained.     

Now those desperate years of work would be erased.

Fran spoke to her roving virtual assistant, a small round device, and issued one command; one irreversible command.

The VA argued with her but Fran was adamant.

“Erase internal and external data and activate equipment meltdown.”

She patted her agitated assistant and suppressed a pang of guilt at the VAs inevitable termination.

“Sorry, Beep.”

Fran unlocked a drawer and seized a new prototype, a machine gun-shaped molecular transporter, just as the security door crashed open.   

“Tord’s here! What are we going to…?”  The voice stopped.

Fran swung around to face her colleague Angelo.  “It’s your day off, Ang, forget about work.”

His eyes grew dark as he walked slowly towards her, arm slightly raised, ready to grab the glowing transporter.

“Please don’t do it, Fran.”                 

She moved back, but he lunged and grabbed the end of the device.

At that moment a thickset man strode through the open laboratory doorway.

“Stop, you idiots!” Tord bellowed. “That biomolecular thing is worth millions!”

His bodyguards shouted but as Tord stepped closer, he tripped.

Tord staggered forward and grabbed Angelo’s arm and Fran’s hand.  She was holding the transporter in a vice-like grip and Tord’s added pressure activated the transference trigger.

The air hummed and vibrated around them, turning everything blue then blindingly white.  Their mouths gasped for air as they travelled through time and space.

Steadily their senses cleared and Angelo discovered what had tripped Tord.

It was Beep, and the VAs Echidna mode had been activated.  It didn’t take long for Tord to start shrieking.  Metal spines were embedded in his ankle, rapidly injecting Quill-Still.  He would be asleep in seconds.

“Good,” thought Fran, as he sank to the ground unconscious.         

All they could see stretched out around them was a vast, empty desert of ochre dust.  The sun was high and the temperature melted the horizon.

Angelo shaded his eyes.  “Looks like 2041 to me.”

“I didn’t manage to set coordinates,” sighed Fran.

She handed him the transporter, removed her lab coat, and carefully rolled an exhausted Beep into the pocket.

Angelo tapped the screen.  “Reset to last week; Tord never visited, body never found.”

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #1 Wrong Agenda

Boardroom photograph by S O C I A L . C U T Brisbane based creative agency specialising in a social media first approach Unsplash image

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was three names Beverley, Johnno and Smith.

Wrong Agenda

When Smith, the Big Boss, walked into the boardroom everyone was stunned. Beverley, Sales Manager, and the assembled staff hardly knew where to look.

A business man at the wrong end of his fifties, who wears a suit on his day off and never drinks coffee, is not the sort of person you would expect to walk into an annual general meeting with purple hair.

Branch Accountant, Johnno, was the first to recover.

“What the hell happened to your hair, Smith?”

Air was suspended in several lungs, waiting for the backlash, as Smith placed his sleek laptop on the wide polished table. He unbuttoned his charcoal grey suit jacket.  He shook it carefully and placed it on the back of his executive chair before sitting down to adjust his brilliant white cuffs.

By now a modicum of control was coming back into the astonished and amused faces around the room.

Strangely, Johnno appeared to be unconcerned at possible retaliation. He was already tapping his keyboard and pretending to shuffle through notes.

Beverley peered sideways and surmised that Johnno was on social media. She watched his keystrokes and smothered a sly grin. Publicly admiring Johnno for his clever mind and ruthless behaviour at tax time, privately she loathed his unpleasant temperament.

Stealthily, Johnno began to manoeuvre his laptop into a position where he could take a snapshot of the boss.

“Two important words,” boomed Smith, “Fundraising for charity.”

The staff blinked as one.

“Three words,” corrected Johnno.

Smith raised his eyebrows, fortunately their natural grey, as Johnno back-peddled a little too elaborately.

“And those three words are Well Done, Smithy.”

“Give him enough rope…” thought Beverley, and said out loud “Which charity benefited from your rather colourful transformation, sir?”

Smith was about to reply when Johnno, being the accountant that he was, asked “How much did you raise?”

Beverley thought this was rather blunt from a contender for the new State Manager position.

Ignoring Johnno, Smith cast his eyes around the room.

“I raised $2,450.35. My hairdo is the result of my granddaughter’s first attempt at up-styling.”

The boardroom tittered in response; Johnno was busy texting under the table.

Beverley received a subject heading Purple People Eater and another Sure Looks Strange To Me.

Smith continued “She needed a volunteer so I put my hand up, more’s the pity.” Polite throat-clearing emanated from the executives, many of whom had encountered his granddaughter and her office décor ideas.

“Two good deeds then!” exclaimed Beverley, giving a rousing wave of her arm. Johnno quoted her on Twitter with a photo of a chimpanzee offering a high five.

“Buckle up, guys,” rumbled Smith, “this session is going to go off with a bang.”

During lunch, Johnno found out his photo of Smith’s hair had gone viral. Next day he received his notice of termination and discovered the new State Manager, the only person he’d ever liked, was Beverley.

Maybe she didn’t like chimpanzees.  

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Lifeguards Ready for Action

Yeppoon Beach, Queensland – Photograph © Dot Bernet 2021

LIFEGUARDS ON DUTY at Yeppoon situated 38 kilometres north east of Rockhampton, Queensland, the gateway to Great Keppel Island and the wonders of the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

From Yeppoon, across beautiful blue water, you can see Great Keppel Island. It has been years since I visited this coastal region and much has changed but the beaches and islands are far more accessible.

Meander down Yeppoon’s main street or stroll along the esplanade to browse beach-chic boutiques and surf stores and keep an eye out for one of the many new street art murals adorning local walls.

Kakadu stud bull

The Capricorn Coast (on the Tropic of Capricorn, the circle of latitude around the world which contains the subsolar point at the December solstice) also delivers when it comes to sourcing fine food with specialty produce like premium, export quality beef (nearby Rockhampton is the beef capital of Australia) seafood, and tropical produce. There is a wide range of restaurants, cafés and clubs catering to all tastes and budgets.

Families are well catered for in Yeppoon, with the foreshore also boasting the fantastic ‘Keppel Kraken’ zero-depth water park, open daily with fun and free activities for the kids on hot sunny days. The new lagoon pool at the southern end of Yeppoon Main Beach also has a children’s play area and dining areas.

I’d say Yeppoon is unspoiled, a relaxed and friendly little coastal town.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Information courtesy of https://www.queensland.com/au/en/places-to-see/destination-information/p-56b25db42cbcbe7073ad7126-yeppoon.html

. . . . .

Set against a spectacular coastal vista of blue seas and Great Keppel Island in the distance, the Singing Ship at Emu Park is a majestic monument that commemorates the area’s legacy of the historical explorations of Captain James Cook, who discovered this bay in May 1770.  The unique design represents the billowing sail, mast and rigging of his ship Endeavour. Concealed organ pipes use the sea breezes to create haunting musical sounds.

Pumpkin Poem

Pumpkin seedling sprouts in a tea caddy © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

PUMPKIN POEM

One day I found two pumpkin seeds.

I planted one and pulled the weeds.

It sprouted roots and a big, long vine.

A pumpkin grew; I called it mine.

The pumpkin was quite round and fat.

(I really am quite proud of that)

But there is something I’ll admit

That has me worried just a bit.

I ate the other seed, you see.

Now will it grow inside of me…?

I’m so relieved since I have found

That pumpkins only grow in the ground!

Source DLTK’s Crafts for Kids
https://dltk-holidays.com/fall/pumpkinpoem1.htm

Cotton Harlequin Bug

Image courtesy of Dot Bernet © September 2021

The whole plant was covered in these fast-moving jewel-like bugs! It was fascinating to see them sparkling in the sunlight in a suburban garden.

I am reading “Miss Benson’s Beetle” by Rachel Joyce, wherein Miss Benson and her assistant Enid search for a golden beetle in the wilds of New Caledonia, far removed from the comforts and safety of home, and this book has heightened my interest in insects.

The little Cotton Harlequin bugs (above) were enjoying lunch.

Scientific name: Tectocoris diophthalmus

Size: 2 centimetres

The Australian Cotton Harlequin Bug is a member of the Jewel Bug family named for their bright metallic colouration.

The males and females of the Cotton Harlequin Bug are different colours, with the females mostly orange and the males mostly blue-red.

The Cotton Harlequin Bug lives in urban, agricultural and coastal areas of eastern Australia. It eats sap from many species belonging to the hibiscus plant family (Malvaceae) including ornamental hibiscus species and cotton.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

* * * *

A display of Australian beetles at the Cobb and Co Museum in Toowoomba, Queensland. Read about my visit https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/06/30/toowoomba-mountain-air-and-heritage-preserved/

Old Masterpieces from New York to Brisbane

Finally reached the end of the queue © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

On a sunny Friday morning, waiting to enter GOMA Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, I did not photograph the great long queue of people. However, there were no privacy issues, every single person was wearing a mask. Patiently observing restrictions, we were all determined to view the European Masterpieces exhibition on loan from The Met, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Once inside, after a quick squirt of lavender hand-sanitiser, directions from the highly organised gallery staff were followed, and metered groups were ushered through the necessary sign-in to enter a specially designed viewing area. I say ‘area’ but it was more like roaming around inside someone’s home. Admittedly a large home with muted lighting and grey walls but it was what hung on those walls that definitely became awe-inspiring.

The galleries were split into three groups:

1. Devotion and Renaissance

2. Absolutism and Enlightenment

3. Revolution and Art for the People

From Giovanni di Paolo (Paradise, 1445) to Claude Monet (Water Lilies, 1916) I have written a quick overview of my visit—and I only took a handful of photographs. There are 65 works of art on display, and so famous they do not need my documentation.

Deep down I have to confess that the age and history of many of the paintings captured my attention more than the artwork itself. Scary moments frozen in time, dramatic posturing, gloomy scenes were not the order of the day for me. I loved the works with life and action and, let’s face it, realism.

French painter Georges de La Tour’s work ‘The Fortune Teller’ (see main entrance photo above) finally made sense to me when I saw it for real. It’s not about the old fortune teller at aLL.

GBW 2021

I liked the ‘essence’ of Lady Smith (Charlotte Delaval) and her children George, Louisa and Charlotte, in this family portrait where she appears lost in thought while her children tussle beside her, glancing at the viewer. The portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (England) was commissioned by Lady Smith’s husband, a baronet and member of Parliament. Expressing cultural ideals of femininity and upper-class childhood, this work was a popular exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1787 the year it was painted.

I wandered past El Greco, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Goya, Rembrandt, Renoir, et al, and was drawn towards the sound of violin music. I left the dimmed rooms and walked into a brightly lit area where a lone violinist was playing. He finished with a flourish and an elderly gentleman and myself clapped enthusiastically but he appeared a tad embarrassed, nodded his thanks and exited the stage.

Directly behind me was The Studio, a long gallery set out with still life objects for the budding artist to create a modern masterpiece. There is a Renaissance backdrop for live models at special times. My eyes were drawn to the interactive displays and ‘paintings’ which brought the original art to life. Shades of Harry Potter, both clever and spooky!

The theatrette was not heavily patronised and after hearing the big bosses talk, I decided to seek out one of my favourite colourful artists and that is Paul Gauguin (France 1848-1903). His ‘Tahitian Landscape, 1892’ is smaller and less vibrant than I expected. A pleasant rural scene (below left) but not his usual tropical effervescence.

Claude Monet (France 1840-1926) and his sombre ‘Water Lilies’ wished me bon voyage and I was back into the real world.

As any person who frequents an exhibition knows, the exit is via the gift shop. This low-key store had some nice items but I wasn’t feeling it. The Library Café was looking inviting.

When I thought about the great works of art I had just seen, I pondered which one I could single out, which one I thought was the cream of the crop. The pleb in me rather enjoyed a large 1670 work by Jan Steen (Netherlands) ‘Merry Company on a Terrace’ for its rich vibes and domestic disorder. The original is bigger and brighter than the image (above right) shown here.

I think perhaps Covid-19 had something to do with the way I responded to the Met Masterpieces… and it was interesting to see how each century lightened the mood.

GBW 2021

To quote architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) “Respect the masterpiece, it is true reverence to man. There is no quality so great, none so much needed now.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

—–European Masterpieces—–

12 June 2021 – 17 October 2021
GOMA | Gallery 1.1 The Fairfax Gallery, Gallery 1.2, Gallery 1.3 Eric & Marion Taylor Gallery | Ticketed

https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/european-masterpieces

Happy galley visitors © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Book Review ‘The Others’ Mark Brandi

Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

A boy gets a diary for his 11th birthday, to help with his writing practice. What begins as an innocent account of a child’s daily life quickly becomes for the reader something much darker.

We see the world through the eyes of a child, written with masterful naivety by Mark Brandi that few authors manage to capture. The boy tells us about his daily routine, his schoolwork, the farm work he and his father do, and the names of his favourite sheep. He tells us about his father’s ‘gold tooth’ – the way he knows his father’s smile is genuine, and how he misses seeing it more because the rain hasn’t come. He tells us how he’s learnt ‘being taught something’ is different to ‘being taught a lesson’. Through our story-teller, we begin to cotton on that life on the farm is anything but normal. Our main character has only ever known this world; we know better.

The stick against the tree trunk © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

The story is written in a way that drags you in and pulls you along, unwillingly at times as the brutality of nature is so vividly portrayed (and sketched) by our young protagonist. His father, stern and scarce with his affection, runs through the narrative with an enigmatic, threatening presence – the reader gets to see more than our protagonist does, which adds to the tension. We understand; his son does not.

The cast is light-on. The father and son are central, we have some animal characters, and four people mostly alluded too – his mother, and three Others. The beauty of The Others is that we don’t need anyone else; the sense of Tasmanian isolation and the terror that comes with it really makes the story.

Images © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

As plots go, there isn’t the traditional rollercoaster ride of some thrillers. Instead, there is a slow rolling on of dread which grows with each secret our protagonist keeps from his father – a note, voices heard in the dead of night, a strange noise in the trees – that finally comes to a traumatic head in the final chapters. The resolution is swift, underwhelming; it leaves more questions than it answers. We puzzle together the last terrible clues and are left with a sense that life could never be the same again.

© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Only one thing let the book down for me – the voice of our protagonist changed. In the final act he goes from using the childish descriptions of a boy to a very deliberate ‘lyrical’ style of the author. Descriptions took priority and it felt jarringly unnatural from our protagonist to be spouting self-reflective prose. However, for the most part, the ‘voice’ of our main character stayed the same, without ever compromising on storytelling.

The most interesting thing for me was that names were never used. Our main character’s name – Jacob – was never said by his father; only once in a letter, on basically the last page. His father’s name was never given at all. The only character named in full was Jacob’s mother. It was a surprise for me that a story could flow so well without ever really giving itself away – we never quite find out all the details. The mystery is left open for our interpretation, and in the end, that’s the scariest part of all.

I would give The Others 4/5 stars because nothing is perfect but this gets pretty dang close.

Gretchen Bernet-Wardin collaboration with Dot Bernet.

________________________________

AUTHOR PROFILE

Mark Brandi’s bestselling novel, Wimmera, won the coveted British Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger, and was named Best Debut at the 2018 Australian Indie Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year. His second novel, The Rip, was published to critical acclaim by Hachette Australia in March 2019. Mark published The Others in 2021.

Mark had shorter works appear in The Guardian, The Age, the Big Issue, and in journals both here and overseas. His writing is also sometimes heard on ABC Radio National.

Mark graduated with a criminal justice degree and worked extensively in the justice system, before changing direction and deciding to write. Originally from Italy, he grew up in rural Victoria, and now lives in Melbourne and is creating his next work of fiction.

PRAISE FOR THE OTHERS

“Spare yet emotionally sumptuous… laced with page-turning suspense, and a creeping sense of dread that turns into something excruciatingly claustrophobic as it builds to its heart-pounding crescendo”

SIMON MCDONALD, POTTS POINT BOOKSHOP AND WORDPRESS BLOGGER

Forevability New Database for Empowering Tales

I received an email from Michelle Worthington of Authors Online who wrote “Tabitha Page has been working hard on a new venture which I am excited to share with you. Tabitha, children’s author and disability advocate, is currently setting up an online database under the name Forevability, where she is compiling as many books as she can for children through to young adults which have the following themes:

Disability
Illness
Medical conditions
Medical Procedures
Anxiety
Sensory
Bullying
Diverse
Own voice
Inclusion
Grief/Death/Loss

“Tabitha is also looking for books by authors and illustrators who have a disability or illness themselves, and she plans to have a showcase page of their work.”

“In addition to these resources and showcases, Tabitha will also be compiling a database of podcasts/videos/blogs/articles related to the same categories as noted above” and aims to make Forevability an easy place to find books, podcasts and more.”

“The goal of this project is to create an online space where people can find resources when they face challenges…”

Michelle Worthington

Visit the website under construction and explore the possibilities for your work http://www.forevability.org/

Tabitha Page says “We hope to inspire, empower, teach and support”.

If you have a book, or books, which would make a good match for Forevability database, or you are an author or illustrator who has a disability or illness, check to see if your book fits one of the categories in the guidelines on the website and make a submission.

Hey, you can find out more about the dynamic book fairy Michelle Worthington here.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Elephant

Elephants heading upstream © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

The Elephant

“When people call this beast to mind,

They marvel more and more

At such a little tail behind,

So large a trunk before”

Hilaire Belloc

Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc (1870 – 1953) was an Anglo-French writer and historian and one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. Belloc was also an orator, poet, sailor, satirist, writer of letters, soldier, and political activist.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Camel Milk Pancake Recipe

Pancake Recipe from 1984 ‘Country Hospitality’ Cookery Book

This is an straightforward recipe, you can juggle amounts and type of ingredients to suit. I use whatever is available in the fridge. When you are hungry, you cannot afford to be too serious with pancake-making batter. My secret ingredient is camel milk.

PANCAKES

Ingredients

1 cup self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

1 egg

1 cup camel milk (or other)

1 tablespoon butter (or other)

1 lemon

I have tried different milks, e.g. cow milk, soy milk, almond milk, goat milk (considered sheep milk) to versatile camel milk.  The Summer Land camel milk makes consistently fluffy pancakes which keep well (if you have any left over) and they take a variety of spreads or toppings.

Method

Sift the flour and salt; make a hole in the flour and break the egg into it, gradually stirring in as much flour as the egg will take;

Add half the milk by degrees and continue stirring until all the flour is absorbed;

Continue beating until bubbles rise, then stir in the rest of the milk gradually and stand batter aside for at least half an hour (I never do);

Take a small piece of butter and melt into the frying pan. Pour butter out and wipe the pan with paper (not necessary with non-stick pans) then put another piece of butter in, and when it has melted pour in a little of the batter and fry till it is light brown and tiny bubbles form;

Turn with a spatula, and when cooked on both sides, slip pancake onto a piece of paper.  Continue in the same way until all the batter is used. 

Serve

The ICPA serving suggestion is “sprinkle with castor sugar, roll up.  Serve hot, garnished with slices of lemon.”  However, I love them spread with soy margarine, honey and slices of banana.  Try seasonal fruit, peanut butter, savoury mince or a soft square of camel fetta.

Note: Summer Land camel milk (1 litre bottle) available at organics grocery stores, and also in milk powder formula. Use it with your own favourite recipe!

Thanks

This recipe is courtesy of Mrs L Nicholas of Solferino, Clermont, Queensland Australia.  Recipe published in ‘Country Hospitality’ compiled by Clermont Branch of the Isolated Children’s Parents Association 1984 with illustrations by Branch member Margaret Finger of Redrock, Clermont, Queensland Australia.  Metric conversions are approximate.

Bon appétit !

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

U3A Adds to My Life

Design and photo © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

I am a member of U3A, University of the Third Age, an organisation designed for retired or semi-retired people over 50.  My focus has been creative writing but U3A provides an opportunity for members to try something different, meet new people, and share and enhance their knowledge and skills in a friendly environment.

World-wide, U3A is making a substantial contribution to societies by helping members to remain healthy and active longer.

University of the Third Age promotes learning for personal enjoyment and well-being for seniors.  Keeping the brain active, doing interesting things and making new friends are essential for helping older Australians maximise their chances of independence.

U3A Brisbane is one of many similar U3A branches throughout Australia. Formed in Brisbane in 1986, they are a volunteer organisation.  Brisbane locations provide leisure, arts and educational courses to local members at low cost each term.

Classes are conducted on Zoom and in person at a number of venues subject to Covid-19 restrictions.  

CLICK A LINK! ENHANCE YOUR SKILLS OR DISCOVER A NEW ONE:   

U3A Brisbane https://www.u3abrisbane.org.au/

U3A Queensland https://www.u3aqld.org.au/

U3A Australia https://u3aaa.org/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

* * * * *

Front doors of U3A Adelaide Street, Brisbane.

John B Tabb was Ahead of His Time…

Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

… or have we gone backwards?

The small green book nearest the candle is simply titled “Poems”, a volume of verse by John B Tabb. Each poem is on a single page and has been written in similar length to Twitter and Instagram. All the way from 1894—I had to share it with you!

There are 172 pages, one short poem per page, extolling nature, love, life and death. I guess Tabb wanted only his poetry to shine because there is nothing personal inside.

The first page has an important red logo with lilies and Latin written on it, not for the poet but the company insignia of Copeland and Day, Boston, MDCCCXCIV (1894)

The second page states “Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1894, by Copeland and Day, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.”

The back page reads “This first edition of poems by John B. Tabb is limited to five hundred copies, which have been printed during the autumn of 1894 by John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

A slim volume which appears to have been well handled over many years, and the pale deckle parchment is showing its age—see below.

The big question is “How did this volume arrive at a book fair in Brisbane Australia 127 years later?”

GBW 2021

After the formality of the front pages comes a seven page index (in tiny print) which has intriguing titles listed under headings. I guess the first are general rhymes, the next Quatrains and then Sonnets.

Here are some of my favourites—

The Phonograph

Hark! What his fellow-warblers heard
And uttered in the light,
Their phonograph, the mocking-bird,
Repeats to them at night.

Imagination

Here Fancy far outdoes the deed;
So hath Eternity the need
Of telling more than Time has taught
To fill the boundaries of Thought.

The Dandelion

With locks of gold to-day;
To-morrow, silver gray;
Then blossom bald. Behold,
O man, thy fortune told!

Evolution

Out of the dusk a shadow,
Then, a spark;
Out of the cloud a silence,
Then, a lark;
Out of the heart a rapture,
Then, a pain;
Out of the dead, cold ashes,
Life again.

Compensation

How many an acorn falls to die
For one that makes a tree!
How many a heart must pass me by
For one that cleaves to me!

“We may use different words but emotions are eternal”

Who was this man John B Tabb? Well, his full name and title was Father John Banister Tabb (22 March 1845 – 19 November 1909) and he was an American poet, Roman Catholic priest, and professor of English Contents. He was born into a wealthy family in Amelia County, Virginia, was a blockade runner for the Confederacy during the Civil War, converted to the Roman Catholic Church in 1872, taught Greek and English at Saint Charles College (Ellicott City, Maryland) and was ordained as a priest in 1884. Among his other works, Father Tabb published eight poetry books and was widely published in prestigious magazines of the day including Harper’s Monthly and The Cosmopolitan. The Tabb Monument in Amelia County, Virginia, is dedicated to his memory.
Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Tabb

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

——oooOOOooo——

Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Review ‘The Emporium of Imagination’ Tabitha Bird

Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

A tale of love, loss, grief and healing wrapped in magical realism and suitable for a wide range of readers.  Families in this story have lost loved ones and are either handling their grief, not handling it, or ignoring it.  They carry suppressed fears, squashed desires, and unfulfilled dreams but The Emporium of Imagination is here to help.  And help it does, in the strangest of ways.  I know the town of Boonah (and the camel farm) and felt an affinity as the story unfolded but apart from Story Tree café and Blumbergville Clock in High Street, similarities ended there.

A man, a cat and a key arrive with The Emporium and set up shop in the main street of Boonah, offering special ‘phones’, strange notes on scraps of paper and the ability to hear human grief in all its stages.  Although this may sound gloomy, at worst depressing, the characters keep things moving, offering the reader many POVs and scenarios ranging from timidity to teen humour, guilt to anger, regret, and worse case scenarios like replaying the death of a loved one.  The narrative often has dreamlike suspension of disbelief but the heartache is real.  

The iconic clock mentioned in the book is named after the original Blumbergville settlement in Boonah and is made out of old farming and industrial equipment. In 2014, Boonah artist Christopher Trotter created the clock with Boonah clock-maker David Bland designed to mark the town’s rural heritage.

The Emporium’s former custodian, Earlatidge Hubert Umbray, gives way to a new curator who decides not to answer the special ‘phone’ but believes the townspeople of Boonah deserve hope ‘I can’t take that away from them’ although cynical me wonders if it would give false hope?  Surely a nicely worded pep talk about getting on with your life and following those cherished dreams would work?  However, the story is more restrained than that and gently imparts the whys and wherefores of coping with grief. 

I felt the inside of The Emporium was a bit Disney-movie.  While I tried to put my own emotions into a character, the practicable side of me could not relate to uncertain concepts.  Would a final ‘phone call’ to the recently deceased help the person in mourning, or would it tip them over the brink?  Items include Ladybird lollipops (nobody pays for goods); special connections to memorabilia; a notebook which turns up in the oddest places for select clientele; and a subtle cat with an unsubtle name.

In the last pages of the book I found the experiences of author Tabitha Bird just as moving as the characters in the book (poor dear Enoch) but that’s just me.  There is an end page headed The Owner’s Guide To Grieving in keeping with The Emporium’s roving notebook, offering the opportunity to write in ‘A quiet space to simply be’. I read a new library book so abstained from writing on the page—I bet someone does.

Now I’m off to bake Bedtime Muffins from Isaac’s (Enoch’s dad) recipe!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Grantham Gatton Helidon Road vintage shop © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2019

Crochet a Concrete Block

CROCHET is a handicraft in which yarn is made up into a textured fabric by means of a hooked needle. These public art works cover concrete blocks along the entrance driveway to Rocks Riverside Park, Seventeen Mile Rocks, Brisbane, a combined project from Crochet Clubs around the city.

If you are interested in trying this colourful craft, or yarn-bombing trees, here’s a link to Brisbane Crochet Club: https://brisbanecrochetclub.com.au/

Photographed on a sunny winter’s day June 2021.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Brisbane City Council initiative https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/things-to-see-and-do/council-venues-and-precincts/parks/parks-by-suburb/seventeen-mile-rocks-parks/rocks-riverside-park

The Oldest Foods on Earth

The Oldest Foods On Earth cookbook photo © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

‘The Oldest Foods on Earth’ introduction by author John Newton who asks ‘What do I mean by Australian native produce?’

Quote “Indigenous foods we have always eaten, e.g. oysters, crabs, rock crayfish and all the fish that swim around us… and varieties of duck and quail… but outside the familiar are an estimated 6,000 edible plants including 2,400 fruiting trees in south-east Queensland alone, and 2,000 truffles or subterranean mushrooms.  Of those, 6,000 non-Indigenous Australians currently use less than fifty.

“Why should you eat these foods?  Firstly, for their unique flavours, then for their nutrient values… they are among the richest on the planet in the nutrients we need for health.

“This book is a guide on how to source, select and cook with Australian native produce ingredients.” © John Newton 2019

Published by NewSouth Publishing Australia with recipes from chefs such as Peter Gilmore, Maggie Beer and René Redzepi’s sous chef Beau Clugston. ‘The Oldest Foods on Earth’ will convince you that this is one food revolution that really matters.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Indigenous painting ‘Possums and Tall Trees’ an Arabana ILF children’s book by Aunty Kathy Arbon 2018

DID YOU KNOW? Former teacher Suzy Wilson, the owner of Riverbend Books in Bulimba, Brisbane, got the ball rolling in 2004 when she launched the Riverbend Readers Challenge to raise money to boost literacy levels. The Challenge grew, and then teamed up with the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Australian Book Industry to become the Indigenous Literacy Project in 2007. In 2011 it was superseded by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF), a national not-for-profit charity focussed on improving literacy levels in very remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Source https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/