Bush Stone-Curlew Capers

Bush Stone-curlew poised amongst the roses in New Farm Park, Brisbane © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

The Bush Stone-curlew or Bush Thick-knee (Burhinus grallarius) is a large ground-dwelling bird with a life span of up to 20 years.  The bush curlew is endemic to Australia and found in Brisbane, usually in parkland.  The curlew will adopt a rigid posture when it becomes aware of an observer, as this one did, poised amongst the roses in New Farm Park.

Curlews are terrestrial predators adapted to stalking slowly at night.  Their preferred habitat is open landscapes which give them good visibility at ground level where they search for invertebrates such as insects.  The grey-brown coloration is distinguished by dark streaks, its eyes are large and legs are long.  Both male and female care for two eggs laid on the bare ground, usually sited in a shaded position near a bush, stone wall or fallen branch.

Queensland Bush Stone-curlews are capable of flight but rely on the camouflage of their plumage to evade detection during the day. Domestic animals are their biggest threat. At night their call is an evocative and unforgettable sound, a sort of wailing cry which echoes across open ground.

The curlew candid camera (below) is memorable!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Video by FAME 2019, Mt Rothwell in Victoria, Australia

Three Things #12

THREE THINGS started back in June 2018, an idea from Paula Bardell-Hedley of Book Jotter under the headings READING LOOKING THINKING and it seems I am the only participant left standing.

Thus I have decided that I will write an even dozen—non metric 12and call it quits. Not because I don’t like the idea, it’s just that now I tend to write posts without the need for an overflow outlet. I try to keep my patter short (cough) and practice slick (cough, cough) editing which mostly works. GBW.


READING

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: THREE CENTURIES OF WOMEN TRAVELLERS

Author: Dea Birkett with foreword by Jan Morris
Published: 2004
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books Australia
Pages: 144
Includes: 120 Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN: 1740662180

This book astounds in more ways than one. An enduring record of women in past centuries who did not stay home cooking and cleaning. From exotic, lesser known locations and fascinating old photos, to women around the world who had the courage to explore and travel alone. As Jan Morris said in the Forward “What they all had in common was their gender and their guts”. It offers the young millennials something to think about—survival without the internet.

Writing was one of the few careers that had long provided women with professional status, more so perhaps than other forms of artistic expression”.

Off The Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers

My particular favourite is on pages 94-95. It starts with a quote “The pictures of the pen shall outlast those of the pencil, and even worlds themselves” Ephra Behn, prologue to “The Luckey Chance” (1687).

Below, left, is a vintage bromide print (1902) taken by an unknown photographer which shows traveller Ina Sheldon-Williams dressed in white frills, painting two tribesmen with a horse and foal, in rather genteel surroundings. Unlike fish collector Mary Kingsley (1862-1900) who suffered overturning canoes, leeches and crocodiles in West Africa, and her thick skirts saved her when she fell into a pit of pointed spikes.

The photo on the right follows the biography of Ethel Mannin (1900-1984) an English woman who lived the stuff of literary dreams. Ethel was 23 years-old, had abandoned an early marriage and with one suitcase, a portable typewriter, a child of three and six words of French she went to the south of France in search of the violet fields, olive groves, vineyards and orange trees. Later, her writing enabled her to purchase a home in fashionable Wimbledon.

Ethel’s prodigious writing and her travelling were intertwined and she wrote fiction and non-fiction providing the reason for her travels. Ethel described herself as “An emancipated, rebellious, and Angry Young Woman”. I just love her 1930 B&W National Gallery portrait—a strong look, perhaps later copied by young Wednesday in “The Addams Family”. GBW.


LOOKING

New Farm Park, Brisbane, roses after rain © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Unlike cultivated New Farm Park, I have been looking out my window with a certain amount of glumness and a large dose of embarrassment, at the backyard garden (read overgrown jungle) which has proliferated after recent steady rain. Autumnal April, an odd time for such rainfall. It fell in south-east Queensland but not enough in the water supply dam catchment areas.

Even in the 21st century we are dependent on water falling from the sky.

There was a campaign for recycled water during our big Millennium Drought but it never caught on.

I believe Las Vegas, Nevada, has used recycled (reclaimed) water for many years. It’s a mental thing, isn’t it? People are dubious of water others have already drunk and worse…

Getting back to riotous grass, the lawnmower men and gardeners are booked solid so unless I can find an old man with a hay scythe, I will avoid looking out the windows for another week or two. GBW.


THINKING

Fasten seatbelts, get ready for my stream-of-consciousness…

I have been thinking about the legacies we leave behind. Good, bad or unintentional. Of course, there are hundreds of ways a person leaves a legacy; flamboyantly, quietly, cruelly, some not necessarily acknowledged, but they will be there just the same. From the tangible to the ephemeral, the loved to the hated, a universal legacy or a small one-on-one, we leave our mark. Be aware of this legacy, this part of you which I believe you will indelibly leave behind in some form. Use it wisely so those who receive it, directly or otherwise, will know where it came from and decide if it is worthy of keeping, if it will become part of them—although some legacies are hard to shake. Many people are no-fuss, low-key individuals and that’s fine, however, they may not know it but they will intrinsically leave a legacy. A legacy is more than an amount of money or property left to someone in a Will. I believe it can be found in a good book or website (thanks Paula) but rarely in texting or social media. A legacy transcends time. Think about it. I bet you can recall a parent, sibling, teacher, partner, child, best friend or workmate saying or doing something you have not forgotten. Basically it’s the essence of that person you experience and instinctively preserve. A legacy can be as big as a skyscraper or a single gentle word, both of equal value, and both can leave a remembrance. If it is bad, destructive or no value, it should be dismissed and a life lesson learned from it. In turn you can pass on a better legacy so others will benefit. That’s what a legacy is! Sometimes you don’t know until years later (sometimes never) that your legacy of word or deed was appreciated. And it doesn’t matter if you hold a very special legacy close because you will inexorably create your own for someone else. Make it good. GBW.

Bon Voyage Three Things!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

‘The Fishermen Know…’ said Vincent

Design and image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was a post-Impressionist painter whose works, notable for their beauty, emotion and colour, highly influenced 20th century art. He struggled with mental illness and remained poor and virtually unknown throughout his life.

Posthumously, he became one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.

Vincent van Gogh

The eldest of six living children, van Gogh had two younger brothers (Theo, who worked as an art dealer and supported his older brother’s art, and Cor) and three younger sisters (Anna, Elizabeth and Willemina). Theo would later play an important role in his older brother’s life as a confidant, supporter and art dealer.

Vincent’s lifestory makes fascinating reading, he was truly the classic tortured genius, but there is much more to be learned behind the scenes, e.g. his own mother destroying many of his paintings; hoping to become a minister he prepared to take the entrance exam to School of Theology in Amsterdam; Vincent was fluent in French, German and English, as well as his native Dutch.

Wheatfield with Crows 1890 by Vincent van Gogh

Fascinating facts and more:

https://www.biography.com/artist/vincent-van-gogh

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

bAYLY’S bEDAZZLED mOTH

Dazzled Moth © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

“Fly away, pretty moth, to the shade

Of the leaf where you slumbered all day;

Be content with the moon and the stars, pretty moth,

And make use of your wings while you may. . .

But tho’ dreams of delight may have dazzled you quite,

They at last found it dangerous play;

Many things in this world that look bright, pretty moth,

Only dazzle to lead us astray”.

By Thomas Haynes Bayly


“Songs, Ballads, and Other Poems” by Thomas Haynes Bayly (October 1797 – April 1839) an English poet, songwriter, playwright, and novelist https://pennyspoetry.fandom.com/wiki/Thomas_Haynes_Bayly

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

“Hey Hey You You Get Off Of My Cloud”

Tribute to ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ by The Rolling Stones (Photograph © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021)

I was sick and tired, fed up with this

And decided to take a drive downtown

It was so very quiet and peaceful

There was nobody, not a soul around

I laid myself out, I was so tired

And I started to dream

In the morning the parking tickets were just

Like a flag stuck on my window screen

I say, hey (hey), you (you)

Get off of my cloud

Hey (hey), you (you)

Get off of my cloud

Hey (hey), you (you)

Get off of my cloud

Don’t hang around ’cause two’s a crowd

On my cloud…


Third verse of The Rolling Stones original lyrics ‘Get Off Of My Cloud

Songwriters: Mick Jagger / Keith Richard

Get Off Of My Cloud lyrics © Mirage Music Int. Ltd. C/o Essex Music Int.


The Rolling Stones performed ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ live on Australian TV in 1966 on Brian Henderson’s Bandstand. The Stones are so young, so pretty.  Check out the boys wearing ties and the girls sitting on seats tapping their toes, and the politely orchestrated screams. So much to love Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Alun Richards, Tom Jones, Helena Attlee on Wales Readathon #dewithon21

This year there is no set book for Wales Readathon 2021 so I have chosen subjects of Welsh origin which appeal to me, but it seems I have borrowed books with quite substantial content and I may not comfortably finish reading all of them within the month of March. 

BOOK ONE within the ‘Penguin Book of Welsh Short Stories’ edited by Alun Richards there are twenty-four famous Welsh authors.

BOOK TWO singer Tom Jones ‘Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography’ is quite a hefty volume and packed full of action.

BOOK THREE ‘The Gardens of Wales’ compiled by garden design historian Helena Attlee, photography by Alex Ramsay, is splendidly presented in true coffee-table style with absorbing information.

You can see I love a good dose of contextual facts and photographs.  

Reviews below—on with the show

PENGUIN BOOK OF WELSH SHORT STORIES
Edited: Alun Richards
First published: 1976
Second edition: August 2011
ISBN: 9780241955468
Number of Pages: 348
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd

There are twenty-four short stories in this slim volume ‘The Penguin Book of Welsh Short Stories’ edited by Alun Richards (some have been translated from the original Welsh) and I am going to list every one even though I am only half way through—

THE FASHION PLATE  –  Rhys Davies
THE GOLDEN PONY  –  Glyn Jones
ACTING CAPTAIN –  Alun Lewis
SATURDAY NIGHT  –  Geraint Goodwin
THE LOSS  –  Kate Roberts
THE BRUTE CREATION  –  Gwyn Jones
EXTRAORDINARY LITTLE COUGH  –  Dylan Thomas
A SUCCESSFUL YEAR  –  D. J. Williams
THE TEACHER  –  Gwyn Thomas
THE STRANGE APEMAN  –  E. Tegla Davies
BE THIS HER MEMORIAL  –  Caradoc Evans
THE RETURN  –  Brenda Chamberlain
TWENTY TONS OF COAL  –  B. L. Coombes
THE SQUIRE OF HAVILAH  –  T. Hughes Jones
AN OVERDOSE OF SUN  –  Eigra Lewis Roberts
THE HOUSE IN BUILTH CRESCENT  –  Moira Dearnley
BLIND DATE  –  Jane Edwards
MORFYDD’S CELEBRATION  –  Harri Pritchard Jones
A WRITER CAME TO OUR PLACE  –  John Morgan
A ROMAN SPRING  –  Leslie Norris
BEFORE FOREVER AFTER  –  Ron Berry
HON. SEC. (R.F.C.)  –  Alun Richards
BLACK BARREN  –  Islwyn Ffowc Elis
MEL’S SECRET LOVE  –  Emyr Humphreys

Backcover information reads ‘In twenty-four short stories, written by Welsh men and women, for the most part about Welsh people, we are treated to depictions of valley and mountain, country and town, as well as offered powerful and moving insights into the nature of the people.’

MY REVIEW: The calibre and wisdom of these fiction short stories blows me away, the people of Wales and the understated passion they have for their country shines through in emotive yet precisely documented stories of their era.  I was drawn into their despair and great joy of everyday life, studied and examined but never artificial.  So far the story which touched me the most is ‘The Squire of Havilah’ by T. Hughes Jones.  Behind the tale, behind the words is a great depth of understanding about a man most of us would have met or seen once and dismissed from our mind. Daniel Jones, a 40-year-old bachelor of Rhos-y-grug, is a misjudged man who, in himself, is hopeful of a wealthy future.  After being deceived and flimflammed at a fair into paying for the deeds to twenty acres of rich mineral land in Havilah, supposedly in Mesopotamia (Iraq), Jones dreams the life of a prosperous man as his farmhouse crumbles and his land turns wild around him.  Religion plays a part and Jones cannot visit his tenure because the First World War is raging.  There are other pertinent parts to the story and lessons lurk; perhaps distrust of fairground buskers.  But everyone has something going on deep in the recesses of their mind.  If you cannot help, at least acknowledge their hopes and dreams.
GBW.

OVER THE TOP AND BACK: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Author: Tom Jones
Publisher: Penguin Australia 2015
ISBN: 9780718180690
Imprint: Michael Joseph
Format: Paperback
Pages: 521 includes photographs

MY REVIEW: I will be upfront and say that so far I have not read all the chapters in the life of the inimitable Welsh singer Tom Jones.  But ‘Over the Top and Back’ has me hooked. I love reading about the lives of famous 20th century celebrities from when they came into the world until their later years.  Especially with lots and lots of old photographs like this one.  The ‘aah’ nostalgia moment happens and I remember his songs and where I was, or how old I was, when I saw him on B&W television or tuned the radio and heard his current hit.  Or bought ‘the single’ a small vinyl record. I discovered that Tom Jones adopted the name Tommy Scott for a short time but his real name is Thomas John Woodward.  In his early life, aged twelve, he contracted TB infection, not unusual in industrial Wales during that era.  He recovered after two years and wanted to be either a professional singer or a slate-faced cowboy.  He writes ‘From the kitchen of 44 Laura Street in Pontypridd in the forties, the odds of becoming one appear to be about as long as the odds on becoming the other’.  But as we know he did succeed—and what a ride—I lost track of the many famous people he met and worked with. Before knickers were tossed on stage, his raucous stage presence shone too brightly for the strict censorship laws of the time.  A censor once told him to tone himself down during the rendition of Rolling Stones song ‘Satisfaction’ because it implied sexual satisfaction. ‘Well, isn’t it?’ said Tom.  Can’t wait to read what happens when he tours America.
GBW.

THE GARDENS OF WALES
Author: Helena Attlee
Format: Hardback | 128 pages | Colour photos
Dimensions: 250 x 267 x 17.78mm | 910g
Publication: 2009
ISBN: 9780711228825
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Ltd

MY REVIEW: I have a library copy of ‘The Gardens of Wales’—like Tom Jones autobiography, it is well thumbed—and the picturesque gardens are simply stunning.  There are fine examples of unusual topiary but it’s the flights of fancy created by dedicated visionaries which I find jaw-dropping; whole gardens and parkland over untold acres with water features, profuse flowers, statues, fine lawns, hidden paths, grottoes, ancient trees, and the hard work and dedication by gardening staff.  All set against a backdrop of magnificent heritage listed Welsh homes, er, mansions, maybe castles.  Anyway, they are very grand and I hope I get to return to UK one day and visit them.  For example Wyndcliffe Court, Monmouthshire ‘Warm stone terraces, bulging topiary and a good splash of colour (plus trickling fountain and bowling green) the garden of Wyndcliffe Court bears all the hallmarks of designer H. Avray Tipping’ an artisté who loved the contrast between cultivation and natural landscape.  I admire the classical architecture of the follies, or summerhouses, often a miniature version of a stately home, fashioned for a couple to sit and partake of their view.  This book has become a bit of a rarity, however, Helena Attlee has made a career of studying and writing about spectacular gardens in many countries around the world. Both she and photographer Alex Ramsay live in Wales. Alex Ramsay’s image of the layered Orangery Terrace, Aviary Terrace and Top Terrace at Powis Castle, Montgomeryshire, is a sight to behold.
GBW.

In March 2020 last year, for the shared Wales Readathon, I ordered ‘One Moonlit Night’ by Caradog Prichard which unfortunately arrived late so I posted my review in April. It is a fascinating almost-autobiographical novel and well worth reading. But history is trying to repeat itself and the 2021 deadline is looming fast.

I will finish these books, meanwhile a halved review is better than no review, right.

See you next year, Book Jotter—darllen hapus!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Donkey Trekking Tips ‘The Only Way Home’ Liz Byron

In her memoir ‘The Only Way Home’ and YouTube video (see below) Liz Byron explains what it meant leaving her roller-coaster marriage, career, family dinners, large library and a comfortable, charming home to trek 2,500 kilometres through rural Queensland on the rugged Bicentennial National Trail.

Liz, mother and semi-retired sociolegal researcher, writes from her New South Wales Northern Rivers home.  Her writing is confronting and visceral in its honesty.

Each step on this radical journey of self-discovery helped Liz make sense of grief and trauma, including the tragic loss of one of her four children.  Liz’s fierce independence was confronted daily as she tackled details of equipment, food supply, lack of drinking water, thorny grass seeds and the hilarious will of her two devoted donkeys Grace and Charley.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF AUTHOR

EXCERPTS FROM LIZ BYRON INTERVIEW

What advice would you give to someone wanting to do a long distance trek?

LIZ : From the various facets involved in a long-distance trek, consider where you might lack experience and spend time acquiring the experience you need. From thirty years of overnight bushwalking, I was experienced at living outdoors, packing light, negotiating difficult terrain and camping, cooking in all weathers. However, I had no experience with large animals and allowed myself four years to get to know my donkeys, learn how to handle them on the road and have them face as many scary situations as I could predict might arise.

What was your most essential piece of equipment?

LIZ : My hoof pick. Everything about trekking depends upon the donkeys’ feet.

You talk about having to learn about adjusting your standards of what to expect, how did the BNT trek compare to what you expected?

LIZ : Adjusting my standards was more about adjusting my expectations of other people and myself. A strong theme in the book is that – because of all my outdoor experience – physical challenges were easily overcome. It was almost as if surviving physically demanding situations was no longer part of the lessons I needed to learn. The challenges were much more about relating to people from whom I needed help – because of the extremely dry conditions and NEVER part of my trek plan – so accepting my limitations, and theirs, changed my standards of what to expect in all sorts of social situations.

What was the most important thing that working with donkeys taught you about yourself?

LIZ : Accepting the way things are, like donkeys do, is far healthier, for both mind and body, than getting lost in thoughts about how things should be.

Several years have passed since you walked the Bicentennial National Trail, have the lessons you learned endured?

LIZ : Yes. Because lessons learned from experience, in other words, from our mistakes, naturally endure.

Thank you, Liz, I enjoyed reading ‘The Only Way Home’. Your unique memoir shows strength of purpose and insights into your remarkable journey.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

WOLLONGONG CITY LIBRARIES – YOUTUBE

MY BOOK REVIEW HERE

THE ONLY WAY HOME



PURCHASE BOOK HERE

A Question of Copyright on Goodreads

THE CREATION https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2020/feb/the-boy-the-mole-the-fox-and-the-horse-saved-my-life.html

The beautifully illustrated book ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy is intended for children not cynical adults.

The content has been reproduced in countless book reviews on Goodreads to the extent that a large portion of the book has been copied.

We should all know our own country’s copyright laws.  Where possible I acknowledge the source of material I use and only quote a sentence or two for emphasis in my book reviews.  Copyright is adhered to in many areas including business, education, libraries, publicity, government, even blogs and hand-out leaflets. 

So why do certain Goodreads reviewers think they can profusely post someone’s artwork?

Would they like their creative endeavours photographed and reproduced, and in this case vilified, and used for a different purpose other than originally intended?

I believe that by reviewing Mackesy’s work on Goodreads, a reviewer is not justified in reproducing the words and illustrations constituting a chunk of the author’s work.

“Copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects the original expression of ideas. It enables creators to manage how their content is used.”

https://www.copyright.com.au/about-copyright/

There may be Goodreads rules and regulations in the fine print which I could not locate but I am waiting on a reply from the Librarians.

My WordPress followers know that I do not activate Comments but I suggest if you think the copying is unfair or unjustified, check the book ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ on Goodreads and perhaps submit a message to the gatekeepers.

WEBSITE LINKS:

PUBLISHER https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-boy-the-mole-the-fox-and-the-horse-9781529105100

AUTHOR https://www.charliemackesy.com/

GOODREADS https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43708884-the-boy-the-mole-the-fox-and-the-horse

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


I have noticed on Goodreads that generally there does not appear to be any control over spoilers or plot reveals so what hope does copyright offer Goodreads authors. Copyright is mentioned under https://www.goodreads.com/about/terms and it would appear action has to be taken by the author.” GBW.

POSTSCRIPT—Below is my contact post to Goodreads Librarians on Monday 29th March 2021—no reply has been received:

“What are the copyright limitations on posting author illustrations on Goodreads? The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy has had pages copied by reviewers to such an extent that they almost represent the complete book. The book contains original work by the author and has significant meaning to him while naturally being a source of income which could be impacted due to continued copying by book reviewers.  I know it is hard to control copyright (particularly on social media) but I would expect a certain level of copyright control on a book-dedicated website.  I have no vested interest in this book other than enjoying it, and wanting to see Goodreads and reviewers being more circumspect regarding the posting of images from inside this book, or indeed any illustrated book.” GBW.

My Taste Tester for Wales Readathon 2021

To view stunning photographs of breathtaking scenery and villages around Wales which inspired Welsh authors, poets and artists to create their world-famous works, I can highly recommend Visit Wales “The word trail: 8 journeys through Welsh literary landscapes” website—

https://www.visitwales.com/things-do/culture/welsh-poets-authors-welsh-artists

Dylan Thomas

Creatives, some well-known, some not so, feature on the list including my favourite Dylan Thomas, who spent his final years in Laugharne, where he lived in a boathouse down on the estuary.

Read about contemporary poet Gillian Clarke (I have already downloaded her “Collected Poems”) and Medieval European poet Dafydd ap Gwilym (14th century) who was born into a noble family in the parish of Llanbadarn.

There’s even a giant peach commemorating Roald Dahl’s eponymous children’s story.

Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff, Cardiff.

Caernarfon Castle

Kate Roberts, hailed as “Brenhines ein Llên” (Queen of Our Literature) chronicled the lives of slate workers. The South Wales coalfields attracted thousands of migrant workers, but the North Wales slate mines were almost exclusively worked by Welsh-speaking local men, which had a major influence on cultural life. Yet it was a woman – Kate Roberts (Caernarfonshire 1891-1985) – who was the greatest chronicler of the lives of men, women and children in the slate-producing north.

Have a look at Book Jotter’s Wales Readathon 2021 for information, or find out more about the literary greats of Wales and post your review for the Readathon.

You might learn a few wise Welsh words to whip into your next literary conversation!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wales Readathon in March #Dewithon21

Host a ‘Great Book Swap’ 2021


The Great Book Swap is a fantastic way to celebrate reading, and raise much-needed funds for remote communities. Schools, workplaces, libraries, universities, book clubs, individuals and all kinds of organisations can host one. The idea is to swap a favourite book in exchange for a gold coin donation.

Here’s a letter from Executive Director Karen Williams—-

“The Great Book Swap is back and registrations for 2021 are now open. Register your school, library or organisation to hold a Great Book Swap anytime throughout the year. Last year the pandemic stopped many individuals, schools and organisations from hosting a Great Book Swap, but we’re hoping 2021 will be our biggest year yet.

“We are aiming to raise $350,000 to gift 35,000 culturally relevant books to children in remote Australia and we need your help! Visit our new-look website, and access some great features and resources to help make fundraising easier, fun and more successful than ever.

“Why not check to see if a Great Book Swap aligns to your organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan, or you can ask your employer to match donations? It is also a great conversation starter to get teams talking and sharing their reading interests and passions.

“Get ready to celebrate reading, hold your business or organisation to their social responsibilities, and raise funds for an excellent cause.”

REGISTER NOW

Holding the Great Book Swap brought us together as a team, we had a chance to share our love of reading and raise money for an excellent cause.”—-Alice Dickins, Heide Museum of Modern Art.

Thank you for your support.

Happy swapping!

Karen Williams
Executive Director.
“READING OPENS DOORS”
SIGN UP FOR THE NEWSLETTER
Indigenous Literacy Foundation
https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/


I reckon swapping could work for little Street Libraries with a BBQ and live music 🙂

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Liz Byron ‘The Only Way Home’ Book Review

A memoir of singularity of purpose and a deep determination to overcome all obstacles.  Liz Byron challenges herself in every way, mentally, physically and spiritually to start afresh by walking the rugged Bicentennial National Trail towards a new, independent life.  The BNT on the Great Dividing Range on the east coast of Australia has some of the most unforgiving landscapes in the world.  Her companions on this journey are two donkeys with the wisdom of ages and Liz’s symbol, the wild watchful wedge-tail eagles.

‘The Only Way Home’ is an intimate memoir with a heartbreaking look into family life, the pain Liz suffers and the repercussions for those involved.  It also captures the freedom of walking through wide-ranging bushland, fording rivers, and making camp with two charming character-filled donkeys Grace and Charley.

Liz had previously done a lot of bushwalking but without encountering such a harsh and challenging environment. Taking the extremes of drought country in their stride, her donkeys are clever and observant, and prove they can be stubborn for good reason.  Humans just have to work out what those reasons are! Liz shows love and respect for her companions, their hardiness and their intuition. Grace and Charley each carried a load, packed and balanced, and it was amusing how they behaved when released to graze.

Interspersed with walking the Queensland section of the BNT, a trail originally intended for horses, Liz writes candidly about her fractured marriage, the love of her children and losing a child, the trauma of her own childhood and soothing meditation. A mixture of grief, courage and sheer willpower drives her forward as she launches herself into a second life in one of the most demanding ways imaginable. 

Admittedly I am not an adept hiker but some of the trials and tribulations Liz encountered would have had me stumbling to the nearest township, flagging down a four-wheel drive and heading back to Brisbane.  At one stage the soles of Liz’s hiking boots came adrift, not to mention needle-thin grass seeds digging into her skin.  Sometimes the track was marked and sometimes it was not; they traversed barren sections, steep topography, waist high grass, slippery rocks and rested at the occasional restorative oasis.

Along the way, Liz kept a journal rather than taking photographs and if she stopped for the night in solid accommodation in lieu of pitching a tent, all she needed was a table and chair to update her journal.  Liz often met farmers, cattlemen, country people, who were informative and willing to help with advice on the terrain ahead, plus an overnight paddock for her two stalwart pals.

Memorable lines from Liz ‘Folks in rural, remote, drought-stricken Queensland understood only too well the interdependent nature of being human.  I, on the other hand, was trying to resolve an inherent dichotomy: seeking my independence as a woman at the same time as being a homeless wanderer heavily reliant on cattle station people’ – Liz is a vegetarian and food was a source of uneasiness, both getting and eating, and fresh produce was always a joy – ‘My commitment to receive help graciously was Step One.’   

Charlie, the archetypal Australian bushman said ‘Don’t be tempted to leave the roadway. The country is the same in every direction. Getting lost around here is a lot easier than getting found.’

‘The Only Way Home’

I liked the way the chapters and timeline were introduced.  Backstory arrives at pertinent intervals with sections of Liz’s life before, during and after she walks the Bicentennial National Trail.  Through Liz’s retelling more shocking revelations emerge, putting her quest in sharper focus.

Just reading, without travelling alone for 2,500 kilometres with two Equus asinus companions, this memoir invoked many emotions in me. From an embattled marriage to conquering those kilometres, Liz shares the insights gained on her path to independence and healing.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


ISBN: 9781925868203
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 257
Published: 24 Feb 2020
Publisher: Woodslane Pty Limited NSW

In her introduction, Liz Byron says ‘It was 2006, when I had been writing academic material for 20 years, before I decided to try writing my story. I had five lecture pads full of journal notes about the 2,500 kilometre trek I’d recently completed with my two donkeys. This seemed like a good place to start.  And so I did. I wrote on and off for nearly fifteen years before feeling as if I understood myself and my life well enough to explain why I had done the trek.’ My thanks to Liz Byron for a review copy, the book is available on her website here.

LIZ BYRON Q&A INTERVIEW HERE

The Bicentennial National Trail - Australia
The Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) originally known as the National Horse Trail, is one of the longest multi-use, non-motorised, self-reliant trails in the world, stretching 5,330 kilometres from Cooktown, Queensland, through New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory to Healesville, 60 km north-east of Melbourne, Victoria. This trail runs the length of the rugged Great Dividing Range through national parks, private property and alongside wilderness areas. The BNT follows old coach roads, stock routes, brumby tracks, rivers, fire trails and was originally intended for horses.  The Trail would take most of one year to walk.

It’s March – Get Set for Wales Readathon 2021

It’s March and that means Wales Readathon time!  Book Jotter has launched this exciting yearly event with an eye-opening post featuring a Royal Welsh Fusiliers regimental mascot, a Great Orme goat named Fusilier Shenkin IV.  You can read his life story and details on #dewithon21 in the following post… oh, and perhaps join us as we Read Wales…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Book Jotter

DEWITHON PLANNER 2021

Dewithon is an opportunity for book bloggers around the world to discover Welsh writers and their works (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, in fact anything written in English or Welsh with links to the nation of Wales).

We will begin our 31 days of celebration on Monday 1st March 2021 (St. David’s Day), with an official page appearing thereafter to display all your Dewithon-related posts. There are plenty of useful links and reading suggestions at DHQ (Dewithon Headquarters) and in our Wales Readathon Library, but please do not hesitate to ask for help if you are struggling to get started. You are free to read and write on any literary subject relating to Wales, so please dechrau darllen (start reading)! 

Dewithon With a Difference

It became apparent quite recently that some members of our global book blogging community were having difficulties obtaining certain UK…

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Flamingo and Horse in Barn Scandal

Franny Flamingo and Gunsynd Greyson snapped during drinks at the barn © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

This famous duo looked mighty cosy together when they were snapped in a local barn on Saturday night.  Supposedly both happy in their marriages, renowned sitcom star Franny Flamingo and movie stud Gunsynd Greyson II sat in a quiet corner, endeavouring to hide from prying eyes.

But it was too late for that, the locals were agog, all eyes on the glamour couple.  

SPECIAL FEATURE

Staff reporter L. K. Wombat

Echidna Network News : Monday 22 February 2021 : 1350hrs

As soon as the long-legged bird and the grand stallion entered the wood-panelled room, a hush had fallen.  The rumour mill started to grind.  The celeb twosome were closely watched as they settled themselves on a hay bale and ordered drinks.

It is reported they sipped wine from a galvanised bucket and nibbled on shared apple pieces.  Franny nervously adjusted the jaunty silver bow in her latest hairdo and, by all accounts, Gunsynd had difficulty controlling his swishing tail even though no flies were in evidence. 

Tony Galah, barn manager and family man, was obviously perturbed by his VIP patrons.  It is common knowledge that Gunsynd’s mare is due to foal within the week but this seemed the furthest thing from the superstar’s mind as he tossed his mane at a chirpy comment from Franny.     

A group of hens, on a humans night, noticed that Franny’s trademark pink feathers were swept in a carelessly alluring style but speculation was rife as to whose feathers would be ruffled by this hot encounter.   

As the evening wore on, apparently Gunsynd’s horsey chuckle made quite a few barn patrons go weak at the knees.  His coat gleamed in the candlelight, unhindered by a saddle, and his trademark white blaze shone.  Several people noticed his hooves had a mirror polish rather than his usual in-the-paddock look.  Consensus was he only had eyes for Franny but one Shetland pony was heard to swoon “Oh, if only I had a lead rein right now…”

“Cats and dogs must work together” said Chairman Meow on Nine Lives news

It is hoped that during this intimate rendezvous, the cashed-up couple were discussing their latest venture, a joint movie project featuring mixed animals working together to find a way to stop humans contracting Covid-19.  The pandemic had rendered millions unable to care for their beloved family pets.

With a flap of her wings, Franny had said “The flight, er, plight, of every species nests, er, rests, on the whole entire world working together.  Every chick deserves a clean, healthy place to live.”  A profound statement and perhaps the longest words Franny has cheeped since being told her fourth series would not be renewed this season.  The studio cites budget constraints while producers suggest a “younger, fresher” approach is needed.

Gunsynd, who previously fought and successfully quashed doping allegations, yesterday released a press statement saying the funds from their new movie would go towards human research.  “After all,” he said “they are dependent on nature and animals for their continued survival so it is the least we can do to help them help us.”

A kangaroo waitress, busy bouncing paparazzi, refused to be drawn into conjecture but did let slip “Insects outnumber everyone so they better get them on side.”  Wise words from an animal well versed in tourism, being eaten and featured on the country’s coat-of-arms.

The couple were believed to have left the barn around midnight in separate vehicles, a custom-made cage and a luxury trailer. Next day, Franny was seen frolicking in the water, eating crustaceans and molluscs with her flock, and being criticised for her unchanging wardrobe.  In breaking news, it is believed Gunsynd is in lockdown at his farm hideaway preparing for another big race aptly titled “Save the Humans from Themselves Fundraiser”.

So there you have it, dear reader, a love-tryst destined to put the cat among the pigeons?  Or a meeting of two creatures about to organise a world-wide campaign to save the humans before they do more damage to our shared environment?

You be the judge.

Logged by L. K. Wombat, Esq.

STAFF PROFILE

Lasiorhinus Krefftii Wombat has been a newsreader and journalist for 20 years, give or take time off for digging burrows, and is a celebrated carrot critic for “Veggie News”.  He is reputed to be a friend of famous children’s author Jackie French and is acquainted with the wombats featured in her work.  He knows he’s an endangered species and advocates State protection.

REAL endangered wombat information : https://environment.des.qld.gov.au/wildlife/threatened-species/featured-threatened-species-projects/northern-hairy-nosed-wombat

REAL Gunsynd race horse : https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/blog/gunsynd-goondiwindi-grey

REAL flamingos in Australia : https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2020/06/27/wild-flamingos-in-australia/

REAL children’s author and wombat person : https://www.jackiefrench.com/

Save the Wombat
Poetry Clipart 12

Typesetter Gretchen Bernet-Ward

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Gunsynd Greyson II courtesy of trainer Dot Bernet.
Franny Flamingo courtesy of PetBarn Australia.

Review ‘The Animals in That Country’ Laura Jean McKay

Australian native animals not include with book © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

My reading was floundering until this gleaming gem came along!  ‘The Animals in That Country’ is a novel with strange overtones and intense undercurrents.  Certainly a distinctive story with fear, confusion and confronting chapters involving the catastrophic side effects of human zooflu virus and the subsequent fallout for the animal world.

Kind of dystopian, kind of quirky,
this book made me think, it made me cringe,
it fascinated me, it troubled me,
and it will stay in my mind for a long time.

People succumb as the virus spreads across the country, or they try to outrun it, and some eventually arrive at the animal park where alcoholic ranger Jean Bennett works.  Her initial despair permeates these early chapters, both for the animals and her wayward son who causes problems.  Jean is careworn by events and decides to leave the native animal sanctuary with Dingo Sue to find her runaway family.

I may not like the disarray Jean and Dingo Sue get into as the pandemic spreads but it certainly makes riveting reading.  I trekked with them along dusty outback roads via devastated townships to reach the ocean.  They meet rough characters and conmen but Jean believes in Sue’s unerring instincts leading them towards the hypnotic seashore.

With a singular writing style, author Laura Jean McKay tackles a pandemic from a different angle.  The animals and birds are not anthropomorphised in the usual sense, and definitely not suitable for children.  At first Dingo Sue is unintelligible until gradually Jean understands the patterns of mind matching physical dialogue, and ‘speech’ is cleverly enhanced by page layouts.

The subtle yet resilient nurturing instincts of both human and animal infuses the story and this primitive and powerful connection twisted my brain.  I was gripped by the overwhelmed and distraught characters who learned that we are part of nature, dependent upon it for our existence and survival but it can drive us mad.

As I was nearing the final chapters, I heard that author McKay had won the coveted Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2021.  In a statement McKay said she had been writing a draft several years before coronavirus devastated the real world.  Apparently she was unwell with malaria-like symptoms while writing and said this may have accounted for the creeping darkness of the story, the uncertainty and panic is eerily similar.

This novel cries out for an Australian native animal bookcover ‘The clouds have parted, leaving the lit-up ghost of a dingo, a pale and vengeful ancestor on the passenger seat beside me … Her hair shifts.  Body ripples with messages that join like drops of water in the sea.’

Thoughts on ‘The Animals in That Country’

An earthy, supernatural tale, a reminder of Earl Nightingale’s quote ‘Never compete. Create’ and Laura Jean McKay has excelled.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

PROFILE
Laura Jean McKay is the author of ‘The Animals in That Country’ (Scribe 2020) and ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ (Black Inc. 2013) shortlisted for three national book awards in Australia.  Dr McKay is a lecturer in creative writing at Massey University NZ, with a PhD from University of Melbourne focusing on literary animal studies.
LINKS
Laura Jean McKay’s bio journal
http://laurajeanmckay.com/
McKay is the ‘animal expert’ presenter on ABC Listen’s ‘Animal Sound Safari’.
https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/animal-sound-safari/
FURTHER READING
Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2021
https://www.wheelercentre.com/projects/victorian-premier-s-literary-awards-2021
Scribe Publications information
https://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/books/the-animals-in-that-country
The Dingos of Fraser Island Queensland
https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/kgari-fraser/about/fraser-island-dingoes/dingo-ecology

Leisure Time Filled With Books?

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Never won a prize but I enjoy puzzles © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Contrary to what my friends, bloggers and book club think, my leisure time is not totally filled with book reading, instead I puzzle over crossword puzzles.

In downtime, my relaxing go-to fillers can be television, radio, YouTube, walking, things on my iPad, things on my phone, even talking to a real person, anything that comes under the banner of time-out.

But my big love is crossword puzzles. I have been doing them in newspapers and magazines for years.  When I was a young girl sick in bed, my mother taught me how to solve a crossword in the Australian Women’s Weekly and I was hooked.

A favourite puzzle is the one with only numbers as clues.  Yet my long abiding dislike is Sudoku which is numbers.

“There seems to be two main types of people in the world,
crosswords and sudokus”
or discuss with 
The Everyday Behaviour Analyst
or perhaps InsideHook
https://www.insidehook.com/article/games/crossword-puzzles-print-media-new-yorker

Poetry Clipart 13Not so long ago I tried puzzles online.
It didn’t suit my hand-eye co-ordination.

There are hundreds of crossword puzzle books but I discovered Take 5 Puzzler booklet.

I will try most challenges and styles so I am in seventh heaven with a recent January edition of the Take 5 Mega Puzzler with 130+ puzzles, some I have not seen before — of course, Alphabet Sleuth is the best!

Taxing — yes
Good for my brain — yes
Fun — yes!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Eucalypt Tree Shows Its Colours

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Grey Gum (Eucalyptus propinqua) starting to shed its bark after summer rain © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

A bit of background on this stunning Grey Gum eucalypt I photographed during an afternoon walk.

Eucalyptus propinqua
Grey Gum
MYRTACEAE

Known as Grey Gum but there are many eucalypt trees given this name on the east coast of Australia, because there are rather a lot of grey gums. About half a dozen are members of the Grey Gum Group – rather obviously named for their grey bark. All members of the group are prized for the strength and durability of their timber, and in the early days of European settlement were heavily logged for use in construction.

The tree can appear to be a small mallee in tougher sites where the soil doesn’t quite suit, but on the Central Coast of New South Wales it is generally a beautiful tall, elegant tree, 35 metres or so high, with a tall, straight cylindrical trunk.

The name, Grey Gum, is a giveaway in what to look out for in the tree, but in February each year they can surprise. Most of the time the trunks are a rather uniform, granular surfaced, mottled grey, but once a year the bark is shed in slabs and displays new colours, ranging from pale cream to light orange.

Then, more occasionally, when the rainfall has been heavy over spring and summer, the same process is carried out – but this time displaying a most vivid orange trunk.

This gumtree seems to like being perched on the side of a hill in the suburbs of Brisbane.

Information thanks to Butterfly House
http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/plants/myrt/eucalyptus-propinqua.html

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Eucalypt leaves © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Jerry Seinfeld ‘Is This Anything?’ Book

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The comedy of Jerry Seinfeld is worth its weight in gold © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Comedy gold—-I have discovered Jerry Seinfeld’s jokes, or tiny stories, are even better when read.  I can fully absorb the nuances leading to a smooth punchline, being taken by surprise, and bursting into laughter.  Fortunately in the comfort of my own home.


IMG_20200617_141756Of course, reading a Jerry Seinfeld book filled from cover to cover with his observational comedy written over five decades is best taken in small doses.


There is nothing truly personal in this book so don’t expect an autobiographical exposé of his life.  The best you are going to get under the heading of About The Author is “Jerry Seinfeld is a stand-up comedian.  He lives in New York City with his family.”

However, his life does subtly unfold throughout the book via his comedy routines, both on and off television.  I can relate to most of his observations.  Admittedly they don’t always mirror my experiences of life, but do cover a large, unavoidable portion of my existence as a human being.

Film Camera Lights Action MovieIt is fascinating to read through the decades from 1970s to 2010s.  Small bits, longer bits like “The Chicks and the Checks”, an ordinary event turned monumental.  And there’s the condensing, the immediacy of his transference, the reveal, the audience reaction he craves on stage. He couldn’t hear me laughing at the six lines of “Earthquake”.

If you’re wondering, the book title “Is This Anything?” is taken from what comedians nervously ask each other about a new bit they have written.

Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy style is a clean, straight-forward, perfectly paced delivery.  Always on the funny side, in his 452 page book plus index, he goes from being a young man to a mature adult with a family. Gradually the content and tone of the jokes change, a kitchen sponge talks, technology invades and “Device Dictatorship” rules but the entertainment is always there.

It is not necessary to have watched his television series “Seinfeld” but as I read, I heard his voice in my head.

I guess maybe that’s a good thing… 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

It is like being in a time machine with the years being told in very short, very funny stories: great to lift the pandemic blues.
GBW.

Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld

Take A Detour…

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Take a detour © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

“The Road Not Taken” is a narrative poem by Robert Frost, published in 1916 as the first poem in the collection Mountain Interval.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves, no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

By American poet Robert Lee Frost (March 1874 – January 1963)

Condamine River Sheep Shearers on the Track

Condamine River sheep shearers on the Track 1800s Queensland Australia