The Very Hungry (Ugly) Caterpillar

A traumatised mandarin tree, the insect world in disarray, a true caterpillar tale with an accidental cliffhanger. 

Read what happens when two very hungry, very ugly caterpillars dine sumptuously on a modest little mandarin tree.

The long dry spell had finally broken, the tropical summer rains poured down, green vegetation burst forth and so did the insects.

Here is my report.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward Butterfly Caterpillar 01Butterfly Caterpillar 02Butterfly Caterpillar 03Butterfly Caterpillar 04Butterfly Caterpillar 05Butterfly Caterpillar 06Butterfly Caterpillar 07Butterfly Caterpillar 08Butterfly Caterpillar 09

Obviously the butterfly photographs were not taken by me. GBW.

‘Ebb’ Poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

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‘Ebb’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine USA, on 22 February 1892.  Edna’s poetry and playwright collections include The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver (Flying Cloud Press 1922) winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and Renascence and Other Poems (Harper 1917)

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Edna won a scholarship to Vassar College and became famous during her lifetime for her poetry with its passionate, formal lyrics, her flame-red hair, outspoken political views and unconventional lifestyle.  She died on 18 October, 1950, in Austerlitz, New York.

Poets https://poets.org/poem/ebb
Poetry Foundation https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/55993/renascence

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Review ‘The Elsinore Vanish’ by Joanna Baker Book Two

Joanna Baker The Elsinore Vanish Bookcover 2019

The prologue is dramatic.  A slightly unhinged magician Tim Williams is on stage at the Remember November Charity Cabaret in the local town hall, unaware of what his next trick will unleash.  Tim has just finished Year Twelve, ready for a big future, when he dies in front of a roomful of people under decidedly suspicious circumstances.

Matt Tingle and Chess Febey are youthful amateur detectives.  Like two high school students hungry for lunch, they embark on a serious yet magical mystery tour to unmask a murderer.  The setting is Beechworth, a country town renowned for its tourist attractions rather than murder.  The time is contemporary, give or take a decade for the way Chess talks, and her endearing dress sense.  Matt is solid and sensible to a point, but he does get into some hazardous situations.

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Sunshine dappled leaves

The opening chapter has some seriously ethereal vibes.  Matt tries to concentrate on the sunshine dappled leaves as he sits in the manicured gardens of old Langton House.  It’s an Open Garden, visitors stroll around the lawns talking in hushed whispers, and Matt sees a boy magician and a tough-looking man which makes him feel uncomfortable.  Chess turns up with a mug of coffee and when she explains why she brought them to this place, he snaps.

Chess has accepted an invitation from Jacob Langton, the son of the owners of Langton House, to investigate the murder of his magician friend Tim, and Matt’s not keen on the idea.

Beechworth Shire Town Hall Victoria
Beechworth Town Hall

The story is a classic locked-room mystery.  Tim was poisoned by his own stage prop and nobody can figure out how the poison got there when it was under lock and key.  Our dynamic duo investigate inside the hall, talk with colourful locals and Tim’s bereft family, and receive massive interference from a thug who roughs up Chess to warn her off.  The story twists and turns with red herrings galore until the final reveal.

This is where I start to get cagey because I don’t know how much to tell you without ruining the plot.

My new favourite is young magician Paz, quite a character, who speaks with a lisp and is seemingly more mature than he looks.  The Elsinore Vanish is a card trick (think Hamlet and ghosts) and Paz says ‘Magic is about the impossible.  That’s what makes it beautiful’.  He definitely knows something but flutters between the book’s pages refusing to be drawn into their investigation.

There are adults around but they loiter just long enough not to be annoying.

Sometimes Matt and Chess are determined, other times they have self-doubt, ultimately they are teenagers mature enough to handle the ramifications of their actions.  Almost.  Matt is thoughtful and his emotions are strong but he can misread people.  Chess is a socially awkward analyst, prone to unusual outbursts.  She has a troubled family background (there is a revealing vignette with her father) and although Matt and Chess would deny it, they are good friends.

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Mayday Hills Asylum

I enjoy a clever whodunit and was frequently stumped by author Joanna’s clues; mirror reflections anyone?  At times I thought there were perhaps a tad too many suspicious individuals because I had to think ‘Who was she again?’ but on the whole they were interrelated.

‘The Elsinore Vanish’ is the second book in Joanna Baker’s Beechworth trilogy set in the picturesque area of rural north-east Victoria.  The settings are wonderful, like old Mayday Hills mental asylum, well, the atmosphere anyway, and they are written with such clarity that I typed Beechworth Victoria into my search engine and had a look around the historic town.

Not a crash ’em smash ’em YA story—put your thinking cap on.

Definitely a great book for those who like to think about what they read.  There is one small point in the story where the ah-ha moment clicked for me and I enjoyed finding out if I was right.  See if you can work it out before the dramatic reveal!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

Joanna Baker Australian Author 2019Joanna Baker is an award-winning Australian mystery writer.  Her novel Devastation Road won the Sisters-in-Crime Davitt Award for Best Young Adult Novel and was described by The Age newspaper as ‘an outstanding first novel’.

Born in Hobart Tasmania, Joanna was educated at The Friends’ School, the Australian National University and RMIT in Victoria.

Joanna sets her novels in the two places she loves: Tasmania and the high country of north eastern Victoria.  She also writes and speaks about murder mysteries – why they are so enduring, and why they are not trivial.

Her current mysteries are The Slipping Place, Devastation Road and The Elsinore Vanish with Evermore coming soon.

Review ‘Devastation Road’ by Joanna Baker Book One

Joanna Baker Devastation Road Bookcover 2019

Author Joanna Baker knows how to start her books with a gripping first chapter.  Matt Tingle had fallen asleep in front of Mr Roland’s computer in the office of Craft Gallery and Tea Shoppe, where supposedly he was doing his history assignment, when a noise wakes him . . .

. . . things get very dangerous very quickly.

Next day, in the small rural gold-mining town of Yackandandah, our protagonist Matt is sitting in the Yackandandah Bakery trying to steady his jangling nerves.  He has a headache from inhaling toxic fumes during his misadventures the night before.  In walks his friend Chess who says ‘Golly Matty.  You look awful’.  Chess’ dialogue is not always contemporary and it’s tricky to pinpoint an exact decade but it gives the story an enduring feel.

Yackandandah Bakery Victoria
Yackandandah Bakery

Then to make matters worse for sickly Matt, pretty Tara Roland walks into the bakery, a vision of shiny-haired loveliness.  Tara is accompanied by her cousin Wando who gets a bit twitchy with the bakery assistant Debbie Wilson over her necklace and the drama escalates from there.

Egyptology comes into play in the form of an amber necklace named The Eye of Ra

At this stage, Matt and Chess are two teenagers who are unknowingly about to become amateur detectives and embark on solving two local mysteries.  One is a cold case, a baffling hit-and-run road accident which turns Chess into the queen of concentration and Matt the emperor of emotions; they bounce ideas off each other . . .

. . . and the second mystery?

This one is more personal.  Going for a walk, Matt and Chess find the drowned body of someone they knew well.  After the initial shock, they begin to investigate, slowly unravelling the mystery to discover a horrible crime.

In both cases, our intrepid pair find anomalies in the witness stories, items gone missing, half-remembered half-overheard conversations and scraps of notes.  They talk to a grieving fiancé and parents, chat to the mechanic at Yackandandah Motor Garage, join an apprehensive gathering at the Yackandandah Christmas Picnic, and Matt witnesses a hair-raising moment with Wando at Burrie Falls, the local swimming hole.

Yackandandah Creek Victoria
Yackandandah Creek

Their trial and error investigations are beautifully woven through the story with real clues and false leads.

At one stage Matt gets badly pummelled by the deceased’s brother Craig for inferring.  Matt is limping around putting on a brave face when Chess arrives.  ‘You get too carried away by things…you’re too theatrical’ she says, before getting embroiled in her own thoughts and hazardous hypotheses.  I had difficulty in picturing them at first; Matt seems solid enough but Chess has family problems, making her seem wise beyond her years.

Joanna Baker Yackandandah Motor Garage
Yackandandah Motor Garage

The settings for this novel do exist, for example the Yackandandah motor garage, bakery, the creek and Falls.  I think it’s clever how Devastation Road was named but I am not sure it exists with that name.  Here’s the link if you are interested in reading more about north-east Victoria https://www.exploreyackandandah.com.au/

This is the first book in Joanna Baker’s Beechworth Trilogy.  I did a bit of swiping back-and-forth to see if I had missed anything vital.  Concentration is needed!  There is more to this story than meets the eye.  The ending is a chilling and substantial psychological twist I bet you won’t see coming.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward    


AUTHOR PROFILE

Joanna Baker Australian Author 2019

Joanna Baker is an award-winning Australian mystery writer.  Devastation Road won the Sisters-in-Crime Davitt Award for Best Young Adult Novel and was described by The Age newspaper as ‘an outstanding first novel’.

Born in Hobart Tasmania, Joanna was educated at The Friends’ School, the Australian National University and RMIT in Victoria.

Joanna sets her novels in the two places she loves: Tasmania and the high country of north eastern Victoria.  She also writes and speaks about murder mysteries – why they are so enduring, and why they are not trivial.

Her current mysteries are The Slipping Place, Devastation Road and The Elsinore Vanish with Evermore coming soon.

#OURSEA: Help the Moomins Save the Baltic Sea

A thought-provoking message from Paula Bardell-Hedley and Tove Jansson’s Moomins on the campaign to combat the pollution degrading the Baltic Sea.

In 2020 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of ‘The Moomins and the Great Flood’, Moomin Characters Ltd, along with its partners, is launching #OURSEA, a one-year campaign to save this stretch of ocean and its cultural heritage.  Read on…..

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Book Jotter

The Baltic Sea and its vibrant culture are in grave danger

OURSEA LOGOSometimes referred to as the great ‘creation myth of moominology’, The Moomins and the Great Flood (1945) was the first of Tove Jansson’s eight Moomin novels, introducing the world to the extraordinary inhabitants of Moominland.

To celebrate the book’s 75th anniversary in 2020, Moomin Characters Ltd., along with its partners, is launching #OURSEA, a one-year campaign to help the Baltic Sea. Their objective is to collect one million euros for John Nurminen Foundation’s work to save this stretch of ocean and its cultural heritage for future generations.

One of the most significant sources of inspiration for Tove’s art and writing was the Baltic Sea, but it is now among the most polluted in the world and desperately in need of help.

What is happening to the Baltic Sea?

The focus of the #OURSEA campaign is on…

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‘Peach’ by D. H. Lawrence

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Peach

 

Would you like to throw a stone at me?

Here, take all that’s left of my peach.

 

Blood-red, deep:

Heaven knows how it came to pass.

Somebody’s pound of flesh rendered up.

 

Wrinkled with secrets

And hard with the intention to keep them.

 

Why, from silvery peach-bloom,

From that shallow-silvery wine-glass on a short stem

This rolling, dropping, heavy globule?

 

I am thinking, of course, of the peach before I ate it.

 

Why so velvety, why so voluptuous heavy?

Why hanging with such inordinate weight?

Why so indented?

 

Why the groove?

Why the lovely, bivalve roundnesses?

Why the ripple down the sphere?

Why the suggestion of incision?

 

Why was not my peach round and finished like a billiard ball?

It would have been if man had made it.

Though I’ve eaten it now.

 

But it wasn’t round and finished like a billiard ball;

And because I say so, you would like to throw something at me.

 

Here, you can have my peach stone.

 

San Gervasio  D. H. Lawrence (1923)

 

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David Herbert Lawrence, English author, poet, literary critic (1885–1930) is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

Lawrence’s hard working-class upbringing shaped his life, and he wrote extensively about the experience of growing up in the poor mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.  “Whatever I forget,” he said, “I shall not forget the Haggs, a tiny red brick farm on the edge of the wood, where I got my first incentive to write.”

A prolific writer and traveller, Lawrence earned fame for his earthy novels (some banned) and short stories, and subsequently received acclaim for his personal letters in which he detailed a range of emotions, from exhilaration to depression to ruminating on life and death.

The story of his ashes and final resting place makes intriguing reading on Poets’ Graves
https://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/lawrence.htm

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Review of Mocco Wollert’s Life in Darwin, Northern Territory

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The book title is a typical Darwin expression with good connotations, and Mocco says she is an optimist, she lives on hope and in hope.  Originally from Germany, she worked hard with what she had, overcame obstacles and adapted to Australian life with her Aussie-born daughters Susan and Kim and beloved husband Niclas.

The other love in her life is Darwin, 1950s Darwin, at the Top End of Northern Territory.  No supermarkets, no fancy restaurants, definitely no air-conditioning, miles and miles of dirt roads, and at that time populated by about 8,000 people.  Tough, rough and ready people at that.

The strength of a woman when put to the test reverberates powerfully through Mocco Wollert’s narrative.  From good, bad and ugly circumstances, Mocco’s words shine.  She comes across as forthright in her opinions, honest, funny, emotional, grumpy yet ultimately loveable.  She certainly faced challenging circumstances, some which made me wince and some which would have seen me walk away, but not Mocco!

The chapters of Mocco’s book are grouped under headings, for example ‘Beginning the Adventure’, ‘Career Change’ (actually a couple of career changes) ‘Health Matters’ and ‘Decision Time’ all of which prepared me for her decade of thought-provoking reading.

Understandably there are heart-rending moments like depression in ‘A Night of Gin’ and the 1974 Cyclone Tracy devastation.

I remember sitting under our ceiling fan watching the ABCTV news on Boxing Day, 26th December, as black and white film footage showed our nation the flattened landscape which was once Darwin.  On a lighter note, it was rebuilt and continues to thrive, as did Mocco.  Small moments often stick and I enjoyed Mocco’s recollection of wigs and frizz hair-related matters in ‘Hairdressers’ where men were taboo.

Under the subheading ‘Sport’ on page 211, I think this paragraph typifies the tenacity of Darwinites and perhaps a large area of northern Australia.  “In spite of the heat and humidity, people played sport.  Golf was Niclas’ passion and he became quite a good golfer with a handicap of 16.  Watching today’s golf tournaments on television, I marvel at the green fairways and manicured greens.  There was none of this in Darwin.  The fairways were rough and, in the dry season, as dusty as a (cattle) station in drought.  The ‘greens’ were sandy plains without a blade of grass.”

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There are 47 photographs throughout the book, vivid examples of the era, and a pictorial of Darwin homelife which includes Mocco in weather so scorching she wore a bikini to hang washing on the Hills Hoist.  And there is a great little story behind the snapshot of her small daughter meeting Queen Elizabeth II.  Not telling, you’ll have to read the book!

‘Bloody Bastard Beautiful’ is Mocco Wollert’s tribute to Darwin, an intimate recollection of a more rugged time in 20th century Australia, told openly and honestly, and ultimately life-affirming.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

IMG_20191122_183655Born in Germany but a true-blue Darwinite by 1960, Mocco Wollert is now a recognised poet and author who lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Mocco has nine poetry books published as well as winning prizes for poems published in newspapers and anthologies.

Her Darwin memoir ‘Bloody Bastard Beautiful’ was first published by Historical Society of Northern Territory and later by Boolarong Press 2017.

For information on today’s Northern Territory, visit https://www.australia.com/en/places/northern-territory.html

Review ‘In My Father’s House’ by Indrani Ganguly

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When I first picked up Indrani Ganguly’s memoir-style book, I dipped into a couple of stories.  It soon became apparent the pages contained a thoughtful mixture of poetry, artwork, travellers’ tales, photographs and fiction stories in a layout designed to gently lead the reader though Indrani’s world.

Chapters are grouped under different headings, the kind of book which anyone can read and everyone will find something that touches them.

The content captivated me with a mix of fact, fantasy and deep emotions initially triggered by Indrani’s return visit to her father’s house and her old room which had been left untouched since she moved out.  This is where her thoughts begin to unfold, first with artwork and poems then a retrospective short story about her family titled ‘Menagerie Manor’.

Jewellery Gold 04As luck would have it, being a fan of crime novels, the first short story I read was ‘A Candle for Bob Carter’ in which plain-clothed Chief Inspector Bob Carter is on jewel-guarding duty at a swanky fancy dress Christmas party during a hot Australian summer.  ‘We’ll turn the air-conditioning up dear,” says Leila as the sound system booms the obligatory yet incongruous ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’.  Such a fun twist at the end.

Indian Goddess Maa Durga Devi 03Under the tribute heading Women Worldwide, I read in awe as determined elderly ladies went ‘Walking in the Land of the Gods’.  Later I laughed out loud after reading ‘Durga Down Under’ a rather irreverent look at Durga, the Supreme Hindu Mother Goddess.  The accompanying poems resonated with me, particularly ‘A Woman’s Solitude’ a brief respite before a hectic day.  Under the title Travel Tales, Indrani writes with clarity and insight, transporting me to spectacular locations around the world.  My favourite is Shimla in the Himalayas which also has a lovely photo of Indrani and her daughter Gitanjali on rugged little ponies.

In this deceptively compact hardback volume there is a lot to read and think about.  ‘In My Father’s House’ is more than a treasury of family memories, Indrani’s words entertained and enlightened me.  She is in tune with diverse levels of society and human nature as well as comfortable within herself and her writing.

IMG_20190805_153244In her foreword, Indrani says ‘I continue to look both backwards and forwards for ideas and inspiration’.  I have already read and blogged her historical novel ‘The Rose and The Thorn’ and look forward to more literary adventures.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

IMG_20191122_183130Indrani Ganguly was born into a Bengali family in Lucknow and now lives in Brisbane with her husband, son and daughter.  She travels extensively around Australia, India and other countries.

She studied English Honours in Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, has a masters in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a PhD on the impact of British occupation on revolution and reform in Burdwan, now in West Bengal.

‘In My Father’s House’ was published 2015 by Unique Publications Delhi, and her novel ‘The Rose and The Thorn’ was published 2019 by Boolarong Press Brisbane.

Review ‘Brisbane’s Greek Cafés: A Million Malted Milks’ by Toni Risson

Toni Risson Greek Cafe Malted Milks Bookcover

From the beautifully tactile bookcover and the glorious old photographs, to the spectacular amount of research and Greek family interviews, Toni Risson has written and created a book which is reader-friendly and as energetic as the boundless service in a 20th century Greek café.

Like a Greek café menu, there’s never a dull moment.  Toni has amassed images of people, posters, menus, waitress fashion, the furniture, big mirrors, the soda fountain, cigarette counter—the mid-century nostalgia is strong for me just looking at the old buildings.  And let’s not forget the food, ah, so much delicious food!  Everything was freshly prepared, and ice-cream, chocolates and chilled fruit drinks were made on the premises in a time before the invention of air-conditioning.

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Open from 8am to 7pm seven days a week, back when few other proprietors could match it, Greek cafés became meeting places and stopping points for a variety of daily events; late breakfast; ladies morning tea; midday meal; shopping break; date before the cinema; cool drink at the end of the day; weekend family gatherings.

Remember this was in the days before coffee chains and fast food outlets.

Visiting as a child, I recall strawberry ice-cream and also eating a banana split with “the lot” including a cherry on top.  I think I got into trouble because I refused to eat my (healthy) banana.  The malted milkshakes were huge to my young eyes, and I can still remember the aroma of warm chocolate emanating from the display cabinet.

I could rattle off the chapter titles and you’d see the important position Greek family cafés held in pre-television society in Brisbane.  But I won’t because there are 35 chapters—some bearing names I know today, Andronicos, Samios, Freeleagus and more.  Every page has a delightful story, a witty quote or snippet of memorabilia.

The type of book which I keep referring to, always finding something extra to read aloud to anyone in the room.

You don’t have to be Greek, or local, to read about the Greek café phenomenon which spread throughout Queensland.  Several towns are mentioned including Bundaberg, Charleville, Dalby, Inglewood, Stanthorpe.  You’ve heard the song “Video Killed The Radio Star”, well, television killed Greek cafés.  In this book, you can find out what happened.

IMG_20190929_172519I was fortunate enough to attend the official launch of “Meet Me at the Paragon” the State Library of Queensland’s retrospective display of all things relating to Greek café culture.

From neon signs to monogrammed crockery, this six-month SLQ exhibition runs until mid-March 2020 and ties in with Toni Risson’s book.

I saw a large amount of the items mentioned in her book, plus rare family photos during a white gloves tour.
Here’s my blog post
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/10/03/meet-me-at-the-paragon-a-greek-cafe-experience-slqgreekcafes/

Finalist in Queensland Literary Awards, “Brisbane’s Greek Cafés: A Million Malted Milks” is a time-capsule, a treasury of ephemera which will remain documented and preserved within its pages. 

This book is a great gift for a foodie friend or entrepreneur.

Suitable for readers interested in nostalgia or café trends.  And family histories, particularly those of inventive and industrious Greek families.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

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Toni Risson is a storyteller, food writer and cultural historian.  She writes short stories and children’s novels, and her doctorate mapped Australian childhood through the magic of lollies.

In a more ‘grown-up’ vein, Toni curated the State Library of Queensland’s exhibition “Meet Me At The Paragon” which displays the meteoric rise of Greek cafés across Queensland.  She has also written “Aphrodite and the Mixed Grill” 200 pages jam-packed with photographs and stories about iconic Greek cafés in Ipswich, Queensland.

DarkOz Comic Book Manifesto

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Late last year at Brisbane GenreCon, I said hello to Darren Koziol, mastermind behind Australian comic books DarkOz.  His display table was beside ours and I was lured over by the bright yet disturbing cover of the Retro Sci-Fi Tales Christmas Special #1 December 2019.  I purchased a copy and three quirky Christmas cards were thrown into the deal.

After chatting to Darren and learning about his creative skills and the help he gives budding comic book creators, I expressed interest in ‘The Comic Book Manifesto: Making Comic Books In Australia’.

Even coming from a non-comic book person like me, I feel this booklet gets to the essence of creating artwork and design and offers inspiration for those interested in furthering their artistic abilities.

It’s a small volume which packs a punch; under the heading Influences & Individuality, Mike Speakman says ‘Seek out advice from your peers, listen to it all, but remember to put your own spin on things.’

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DarkOz Retro Sci-Fi ‘Space Valiant’ art by Graeme Jackson from Retro Sci-Fi Tales #7

It was a week before I managed to fully read my copy of this idiosyncratic Christmas Special but I loved the tall tales and clever retro illustrations.  Inside, two wacky characters Bruno and Maggie feature in three comics—the one I particularly liked was ‘Space Elevator’.  Original, creepy, humorous with a twist in the alien tale.  Being retro, the slant was towards American-style comics but I was pleased to see ‘Great Australian Bight Bite’, short, sweet, deadly.

When I was a kid, the exaggerated reactions and cryptic comments from characters in comic books never really appealed.  Like most people, I seem to remember Lee Falk’s ‘The Phantom’ in our daily newspaper alongside the funnies but I think for over ten years Charles Schulz and ‘Peanuts’ blitzed all else for me.  Now I have greater respect for the patience, skill and hard work involved in comic book production.

Comic books have come a long way!  Or have they?  Happily the tradition lives on.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


INFORMATION

Darren Koziol, Editor/Director/Writer/Space Explorer
https://www.darkoz.com.au/
https://www.darkoz.com.au/Retro.html


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Bushfire Prayer for Australia

Bushfire devastation across rural Australia, everything and everyone is at risk, rain is desperately needed, it will arrive too late for many, let’s pray many thousands will be spared the burning embers Gretchen Bernet-Ward

[PLEASE NOTE: ChildFund Australia has posted a link to the ABCTV website with a list of charities for appeal donations.  ABCTV list https://about.abc.net.au/appeals/  Get behind the genuine charities which are supporting our bushfire affected communities]

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A bushfire prayer read by Dot Bernet of Uniting Church Australia (Brisbane) and blessings written by Rev Jennie Gordon Pastoral Resource Minister (Gippsland) January 2020.

My Wall Calendar Fetish

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The master of mysterious…

Do you keep a favourite wall calendar?  Do you keep an image from a favourite wall calendar?  Do you even buy a wall calendar?  Well, I do.

Each year late in December I peruse the newsagents and stationery stores for The One.  The wall calendar with good images and good size squares to write in.  The paper is also important, not too shiny otherwise the ink smudges, and not too thin otherwise the pages tear and have a tendency to flop forward.  I then have to resort to sticky tape to hold old months out of the way of a new month.  Sometimes I use glider clips (paper clips, metal things bent to slide over paper and hold it together) or if I don’t like the calendar much, I glue the old months together.

Occasionally it annoys me where the hole is punched in some wall calendars because it can affect the hanging process on my coat-hook (in the bedroom) the nail (in the kitchen) and the picture hanger (in the study) and enlarge the hole.

One of the calendar ‘things’ which has been a major item on our Christmas list for many, many years is a Bunch-Of-Dates.  A delightful play on words (perhaps conjured up by a light-hearted printer) it consists of a shaped metal frame which goes through the two holes in a square block of paper containing 365 day leaflets plus a tiny yearly calendar and national holiday dates.  An added bonus is daily quotations from inspiring people.

This pre-internet invention sits on office desks and when the workers begin their day, they flip over yesterday’s date to reveal all the chores they have to do today.  Every job I ever worked in from 1970s onward had Bunches-of-Dates sitting on staff desks or the reception desk.  Yes, I actually still use this old-fashioned device and it is right beside me on my left-hand side.  The date at the top (see photo) with lines at the bottom.  Yesterday, Sunday 5th January 2020, it had approximately seven things written on it, e.g. shopping for a light bulb and To Do things like fill bird bath with water.

You can buy the Bunch-Of-Dates refills for a couple of dollars (a range of office calendars and diaries are printed by Collins Debden) and every year after 1st January, they are renewed across the country.

If they are not used by lazy coworkers who try to remember things and when they can’t, they blame it on you for not reminding them, their blank Bunch-Of-Dates can be used as scrap paper for note-taking.  I sometimes find some thin old wire, like a twist-tie, which I thread through the holes and firmly bind 365 unused days together.  Just the right size for cryptic notes to colleagues or wayward family members.

 

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Happy New Year 2020…

Lately I have taken to keeping the last year’s used Bunch-Of-Dates (with exclamation marks, little drawings, council reminders) because sometimes I jot down an important number and don’t transfer it over to my Contacts file.  At this point, I must mention that I have an electronic calendar.  It is most ingenious but no matter how ingenious, it still needs input.  I am very sparing with what I type into my electronic calendar otherwise a lengthy tirade will pop-up at me in the morning when I least expect it.

Another thing; I never ever put stuff on my mobile phone.  Silly, I guess, but they need to be charged and friends say ‘my battery died’ whenever they are late.  An old-school piece of paper in your pocket will never let you down.  That, and a pen, is all you need to survive in the world of words.

But, you ask, what about keeping your favourite calendar photographs?  Goodness, I don’t know where to start!

I have many beautiful scenery images, all totally scribbled on the back, all years old.  But I love them and I often remember the month that went with them.  Except for the one I framed which is three elephants and their passengers splashing down a river in a jungle.  The shallow water is jade green, as vivid as the lush tropical foliage.  There is a feeling of both pleasure and menace.

Anyway, a person in my familia has taken a shine to Polish artist Jacek Yerka’s fantasy style and I began to enjoy the ones where he puts hundreds of bookstacks in quirky settings.  I kept this one (see above) perhaps not his strangest, but I get a lot of pleasure out of it.

Every so often I have a surplus calendar, a gift or whatever, so I hammer in an extra nail and hang it up, not as prominent as those I love but I give it hanging space.

And this year?  Oh joy, this year I discovered an Australian Jumbo Big Huge calendar with gigantic squares!  It will take anything I wish to write on it and leave room for more—the down side of this extravagant calendar is no pictures.  There is a tiny strip along the top showing a beach or mountain or city but nothing else.  And one of these images is repeated, not a good look in my eyes.  Ho-hum, can’t have everything.

In the kitchen my next favourite is Chickens, not cooked, just hens displaying glorious feathers in beautiful country settings.  Pecking through, it looks like April hens are ahead of the flock photogenically.  I will have to let you know who gets preserved at the end of the year.  Just a minute, I’ll write a note on my calendar…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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This is not an advertisement, just a bit of calendar styling.

To Sleep or Not To Sleep said William…

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… Wordsworth as he tossed and turned and counted sheep, perhaps after a rollicking New Year’s Eve party.  Hope you got some sleep once the brand new decade had dawned.  Maybe reciting William’s poem can give you “fresh thoughts and joyous health!” in 2020.

To Sleep

 

William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

 

A flock of sheep that leisurely pass by

One after one; the sound of rain, and bees

Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,

Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky;—

 

I’ve thought of all by turns, and still I lie

Sleepless; and soon the small birds’ melodies

Must hear, first utter’d from my orchard trees,

And the first cuckoo’s melancholy cry.

 

Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,

And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:

So do not let me wear to-night away:

 

Without Thee what is all the morning’s wealth?

Come, blessed barrier between day and day,

Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

 

°°°°°°°°°°°°∇°°°°°°°°°°°°

 

William Wordsworth, born April 7, 1770, Cockermouth, Cumberland, England—died April 23, 1850, Rydal Mount, Westmorland, English poet whose Lyrical Ballads (1798), written with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped launch the English Romantic movement.

Encyclopædia Britannica an absorbing article written by Stephen Maxfield Parrish

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

New Year New Decade

Happy New Year 2020

Happy New Year to the southern hemisphere, and a bit later, Happy New Year to the northern hemisphere.

May 2020 be your best year!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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https://www.goodreads.com/

Goodreads Final Reading Stats for Dec2019 01
It is amazing how many books a person can read without really trying. I joined Goodreads mid-year but before that I never kept a tally of the books I read. Needless to say I am rather surprised! GBW.

Rain for Christmas Day!

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After months of drought-like conditions it actually rained on Christmas Day!

THE BIRD BATH

by Stephen Whiteside

I’m just a humble bird bath.  I have no tap or drain.

I only ever fill up if we have a fall of rain.

I never have a bar of soap, or bottle of shampoo,

Or sachet of those clever salts that soak you through and through.

I’m never cleaned.  I’m never scrubbed.  There’s lichen on my lip.

I’m gritty and I’m earthy.  I provide a proper grip,

And those that use my services don’t mind that I am old,

Though my water might be cloudy, and its temp’rature quite cold.

They leap.  They splash.  They frolic, throwing spumes high in the air.

They play with great abandon, like they’ve not a single care.

They use me as a wash tub, yes, but choose to drink as well

Of my cool, refreshing water.  They are happy, I can tell.

I’m just a simple bird bath, standing silent in the yard;

Abandoned, half forgotten, but I do not find life hard.

I’m frequently replenished by refreshing falls of rain,

And all my good friends visit me…again…again…again.

© Stephen Whiteside  11.09.2012

Website https://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au/

Poems https://australianchildrenspoetry.com.au/australianpoets/u-z-2/stephen-whiteside/

Photographs Gretchen Bernet-Ward  26.12.2019

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Christmas Reading in a Shoebox

In the tried and true method of storing items of a precious nature, I have used a shoebox to delineate my important Christmas reading.  Methinks this bundle of books will take me into the New Year!

IN ORDER OF SHOEBOX CONTENT

Bloody-Bastard-Beautiful-Mocco-Wollert SWWQ

I just love the front cover of Mocco’s book. That yellow dress pops!  Back cover reads: “Adventurous, lovable and laughable, Mocco captures the heat and vibrancy of Darwin, in the 1950s rugged unruly Northern Territory of Australia.”  And “I am on my way to Darwin to find a job.  I have no money…”

 

 

Maybe The Horse Will Talk by Elliot Perlman

Another front cover I love!  You just know this will be quirky and Elliot’s Stephen Maserov has problems.  A onetime teacher, married to fellow teacher Eleanor, he is a second-year lawyer working in imminent danger of being downsized.  The back cover reads “I am absolutely terrified of losing a job I absolutely hate.”

 

 

In My Fathers House by Indrani Ganguly

Such a tranquil front cover.  It reminds me of my own father reading the newspaper every morning.  Many will remember my review of Indrani Ganguly’s “The Rose and The Thorn”, well, this is the book which precedes it.  Indrani has included her poetry, art work, short stories, photographs of her travels and more.

 

 

Toni Risson Greek Cafe Malted Milks Bookcover

Another beautiful front cover.  Must be viewed in person to appreciate the qualities!  You may recall my post about the opening of Queensland State Library’s exhibition “Meet Me At The Paragon” a Greek Cafés retrospective.  Toni’s companion book bulges with photos and historic information.

 

 

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The front cover certainly sets the tone.  The back cover reads “A city girl stranded in the middle of the desert.  A circus performer with haunted wings.  A rebellious fighter with a kangaroo heart.  A boy who dreams of holding his home in his heart.  A house made of flesh and bone.”  Maree writes unexpected stories!

 

 

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Almost last but never least, “Dewey” with photos inside, and “Miss Read”.  My own photograph of these two front covers is larger than the others because—

(A)  I worked, lived and breathed libraries for years but never read Vicki Myron’s series about “The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World” and

(B)  Miss Read, aka school teacher Dora Jessie Saint, had a particular cosy-village style and a huge following in the UK in 1960s when I wasn’t interested in that sort of stuff.  A slim little volume chosen because of the title “Village Christmas” far removed from my dry hot Aussie festive season.

HONOURABLE MENTION

Joanna Baker Devastation Road Bookcover 2019The final two books are on my iPad.  Written by Joanna Baker they are set in country-town Victoria, Australia.  I can whisper that I have already dipped into “Devastation Road” and it’s gripping.

Joanna Baker The Elsinore Vanish Bookcover 2019

There you have it!  Separate reviews will follow—eventually—on my blog as well as Goodreads.  Joy to the world!

Holly Christmas 02          ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Toadstool 3-Day Lifespan

DAY ONE

My lavender plant has been struggling in the smokey, dust haze, drought conditions which Queensland faces this Christmas.  We recently had one day of light rain and next morning I went outside to see these amazing toadstools which had spring up overnight.

Here’s what my never-say-die French Lavender planter looked like on Day One.

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I did not, and still do not, know what particular type they are but I am sure from Don Burke’s description that they are definitely toadstools.  The one in the middle photo (above) has a small split.  When I touched it to see how soft it was, it split and smelled musty.

Here’s what Don Burke, our Aussie gardening guru, says—

MUSHROOM AND TOADSTOOL COMPARISON INFORMATION https://www.burkesbackyard.com.au/fact-sheets/in-the-garden/gardening-tips-books-techniques-and-tools/mushrooms-and-toadstools/

DAY TWO

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A parasol perfect for a pixie…

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Thin stem and ridges on the cap – not a mushroom…

The cracks are showing…

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You can see they are getting a bit ragged as the afternoon wears on…

DAY THREE

Meltdown, a sad sight…

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Looks like they have deflated in the heat! 

To be fair, at one stage the temperature did reach 43 degrees Celsius – approx 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Over the next couple of days the caps and stems turned brown, rotted down, then were absorbed back into the compose and leaf-litter in the planter.

Will they rise again?

They are ordinary-looking in comparison to European toadstools.  Contrary to popular belief, not all toadstools are poisonous but I would not eat them.  Fungi grows indiscriminately, open ground and nooks and crannies.  This type had a brief fling with my lavender yet its spores may linger.

What is their purpose?

Interestingly, plants have fungal partners.  Our native eucalypt gum tree has underground mycorrhizal (symbiotic) partners for good health.  Remember fungus puff balls as a kid?  They are one of many varieties of above-ground seed dispersal units.  The Australian National Herbarium has great info for nerds like me!
Check https://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/what-is-fungus.html 

If you like fungi (or you’re a fun guy) I will include a diagram so that when you are strolling across a paddock, or rambling through a wood, you can recognise what you are about to step on.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Retrospective: The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling 2012

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The Casual Vacancy, First edition worldwide cover, Author J. K. Rowling, Publisher Little Brown and Company, Publication date 27 September 2012, Pages 503. The illustration denotes a square and cross marked on a voting ballot paper.

Who read The Casual Vacancy by famed British author J K Rowling?  I certainly did!  It was her first post-Harry Potter novel and caused quite a stir.  I worked in library services at the time so I helped shelve this hardback hundreds of times.  Fortunately the cover was so bright (and the original publication rather big) it was always easy to locate for prospective readers.  Actually the book did not stay shelved for long, there were so many on the waiting list clambering to read it.

The Casual Vacancy was written under Rowling’s real name prior to publication of her Cormoran Strike detective series written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.  Don’t ask me why, it didn’t fool anyone.  I do remember penning a scathing review of Lethal White the fourth book in that series.

Anyway…

In 2015, The Casual Vacancy was made into a British TV three-part miniseries.  Directed by Jonny Campbell, scripted by Sarah Phelps, and starred Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, Emelia Fox, and others I recognised from sit-coms, but unfortunately never got to see.  Actually this production may not have reached Australian television screens.  By all accounts, viewers were outraged by the changed ending, giving rise to the old saying ‘the book is always better’.

Now, without further ado, I present—

my original book review (previously published on a now-defunct book readers website) hopefully without spoilers—

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling 2012
Reviewed by Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2013

Quote “It was a brilliant piece of marketing strategy to publish this J K Rowling book prior to her (subsequently more popular) detective novel ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’.  What better way to heighten interest and arouse social consciousness than her very first post-Potter novel.  A long-awaited book, The Casual Vacancy is liked and loathed in equal measure but disliked more for the content than the writing – even though we’ve probably read similar books and met people similar to those in Pagford.  I think the pace is well-crafted, the voice and sense-of-place are beautifully brought to life, tinged with the graveness of a modern-day Dickens.

“The characters are an inglorious burst of humanity, almost, but not quite, edging towards insanity.  Indeed, most of the characters appear average but through various twists and turns the families in Pagford and the Fields are slowly stripped of their protective veneers and laid bare, exposing their ugliness beneath.  Nothing is sacred and all manner of collective disorders appear from young and old alike as their every move is documented, every word faithfully recorded.  We see the truths and witness the unveiling of secrets, motivated by revenge via website hacking.

“As we know from the blurb, the book kicks in with the death of Barry Fairbrother who arrives at the golf club for dinner with his wife on their wedding anniversary and keels over in the carpark.  By all accounts, he’s a nice man and liked by many people considering he was a local Councillor on Pagford’s wheeling-dealing Parish Council.  His demise leaves a casual vacancy on the Council board and the fight over his seat begins.  The reader learns there’s a war going on between the communities of Pagford and Yarvil over maintenance of the Fields, a decrepit housing estate, and the closure of a methadone clinic.  Not much political correctness goes on in council chambers.

“There you have it, henceforth The Casual Vacancy seethes with social snobbery, underage excess, racism, drug addiction and the ever-present spectres of greed, selfishness, ignorance and cruelty.  But, hey, don’t let that put you off.  This story hooked me like a continually unfolding TV saga or radio play.  I’d put it down and then have to pick it up just to see what happens to Krystal Weedon and her dissipated mother Terri, or Howard Mollison and his new café, or the ill-fated relationship of Gavin Hughes and Kay Bawden.

“Social worker Kay is new to Pagford and not a big player but she’s hardworking, misguided and gullible and the one I wanted to shout at, tell her to grab her daughter and get out of town fast.  The others, like Simon Price, are set up to be despised with appalling behaviour behind closed doors.  Occasionally I grew tired of the angry men and the gossiping wives and found that the sabotaging teenagers had more diverse demeanours, although young Sukhvinder Jawanda is heart-rending.  Was the ending so predictable?  As this inharmonious story draws to a close, I know it’s all still happening in real life.

“What more can I say?  The Casual Vacancy is an adult novel and anyone who’s been around the block a few times will related to its adult themes.  Whether or not the right people read it and change their social attitudes is another thing.  Sure it’s a tad depressing but I’ll give J K Rowling full marks for moving on from Hogwarts and writing something completely different.”  Unquote.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2019


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Joanne Kathleen Rowling CH, OBE, HonFRSE, FRCPE, FRSL, better known by her pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author, film producer, television producer, screenwriter and philanthropist. She was born 31 July 1965 in Yate, United Kingdom, and at the time of posting has written over 30 books of different genres. https://www.jkrowling.com/

Friendship and ‘A Time to Talk’ with Robert Frost

As we all know,

Christmas is fast approaching,

the silly season has begun,

in gift shops,

in department stores,

kids unable to settle in the classroom,

grass is brown and dry,

barbecue grills are being checked,

sunscreen is stockpiled,

food is flying off the supermarket shelves,

chlorine levels are dosed,

wrapping paper is being unfurled,

groups are having break-up parties,

bells jingle in the hands of Santa as he strolls through the mall,

queues in to the carpark,

queues out of the carpark,

tempers rise,

decisions have to be made about Christmas lunch,

European or Australian,

the temperature is predicted to be in the high 30°s Celsius,

the air-conditioning struggles at midday,

birds welcome the water in birdbaths,

dog water bowls appear outside cafés,

hats and beach umbrellas are selling fast,

flashy new decorations for an old tree,

family car washed and waxed ready to collect grandparents,

music is Christmas themed,

commercials blare out what we need for a happy fun festive season,

there is more than one man behind Christmas,

the wealth in the world prefers to use a generic symbol,

An old lady sits alone on the edge of her bed,

tears in her eyes,

sad for what is lost,

sad for who has gone,

that t-shirt-stained boy who sits on a park bench,

heatwaves shimmering off the concrete path,

wondering if he will see his Dad,

wondering if he will get a present,

put it under the tree he created from twigs,

we need each other,

we need our friends,

text a lunch date,

money spent at Christmastime isn’t going to mean much,

if there’s nobody to reminisce with in the new year,

friends share your life whether it seems like it or not,

they are part of you.

© Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

“A Time to Talk”

 

WHEN a friend calls to me from the road    

And slows his horse to a meaning walk,       

I don’t stand still and look around    

On all the hills I haven’t hoed,          

And shout from where I am, What is it?             

No, not as there is a time to talk.      

I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,          

Blade-end up and five feet tall,         

And plod: I go up to the stone wall   

For a friendly visit.

 

Robert Frost (1874–1963)

Poetry Collection “Mountain Interval” 1920

 

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