My Strange Experience in Shopping Arcade

My photographs (below) show the Gallery Level because that’s where my true story took place. In those days we called it the balcony level but it still has the bespoke, original shops with artisans working in the background as customers window-shop or browse the fine wares on display.

The main photograph (above) was taken entering Brisbane Arcade from Adelaide Street, City. Partially visible lower right hand corner shows Keri Craig Boutique Emporium to downstairs level. The iconic The Pen Shoppe (left) is small yet packed with the most incredible items you could imagine, and not all pens!

From memory, Brisbane Arcade was not as well lit as it is today and the atmosphere always seemed rather sombre with its darker wood and ‘proper’ shop assistants watching their customers, patiently waiting to be called to assist. Even today, nothing ruffles the ambience, no piped muzak or microphoned spruikers shouting about sales, and never discount bins.

If you desired a sophisticated clothing boutique with timeless elegance or a discreet luncheon you slipped into Brisbane Arcade. You hoped it would rain so you could buy that beautiful umbrella or stylish coat. The hustle and bustle of the city faded away and you knew you were somewhere special. Artisan jewellery, watches, ballet wear. And it didn’t get any better than hand-made Darrell Lea Chocolates deliciously displayed for special occasions. Unfortunately they now come from supermarkets, blocked in cellophane wrappers with lurid colours.

Every time I walk into Brisbane Arcade, the elegance, intimacy and history surround me. In fact I feel I am no longer in the 21st century and I love it.

So, where does my spooky story start? As Mary Poppins (Queenslander P L Travers literary creation) aptly says “Let’s start at the very beginning…”

Well, maybe not at the very, very beginning but certainly two young women deciding on where to go for an end-of-term treat. Unfortunately the divinely delicious Room With Roses café was out of our price range.

The idea of a tea-leaf reading Fortune Teller lured us up the polished stone steps to the gallery level and…

My personal reminiscence is of the Fortune Teller, or Teacup Reader, on the upper level, midway along the gallery walk. I cannot recall the woman’s name but even now I get shivers thinking of that cubbyhole café. In 1973, as a Stott’s Business College end of term treat, my friend and I decided on a special tea-leaf reading.

When we arrived, for some reason I declined and just drank my cup of tea and ate a slice of cake. But my friend opted for a reading. I cannot remember the price of afternoon tea (or a reading) but past documents show a jar of Maxwell House instant coffee was 30 cents back then.

Anyway, it was a real pot of tea with leaves and when my friend finished her beverage, the cup was upended into the saucer. The leaves left behind in the china cup were those the mystical woman read aloud. She told my friend that there were “lots of feathers” in the cup, lots of birds. She said that my friend had a trip ahead, she would leave and go somewhere “very important”. I cannot remember all that was said, we were too amazed to speak. My college pal lived on a poultry farm at Redland Bay and she was due to fly to Canberra ACT where she had been successful in obtaining a job in a ministerial office—I will never forget that tea-leaf reading moment.

Add your memories

Memorabilia Time! My favourite umbrella was obtained from the brolly shop in Brisbane Arcade, pale blue fabric with cane handle, and I have gifted many items from the abundant The Pen Shoppe. Around 1975 I purchased (from the chemist shop) an original USA Diamon-Deb metal nail file which I still own and have travelled extensively with it. Another memorable purchase in 1981 was a beaded headpiece for my bridal veil from the wedding shop near Darrell Lea Chocolates. Over the years I have enjoyed morning teas and shopping forays in the delightfully small yet visually splendid shops in Brisbane Arcade and truly believe this glittering jewel will live on for future generations.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

‘Death in the Sauna’ Dennis Altman Book Leak

“Imagine Agatha Christie parachuting into the heady world of gay saunas and HIV research, and you’re getting close to this delicious, camp and tightly-plotted murder mystery” – Benjamin Law, Writer and Broadcaster.

Death in the Sauna by Dennis Altman 2023

Melbourne-based author and academic Dennis Altman is a giant in academia and the gay rights movement. He has written and spoken widely on sexuality, politics, and culture both in Australia and internationally. With over 17 published non-fiction works up his sleeve, this is Dennis’s first foray into crime fiction.

“I grew up reading Agatha Christie and see murder stories as both elaborate games and a very useful genre for satire. I know of no other crime book that takes place in the international AIDS/HIV world, which I know very well” – Dennis Altman.

SynopsisDeath in the Sauna – On the eve of a major international AIDS Conference in London, the Conference chair is found dead in suspicious circumstances. Tracking down how he died reveals layers of deception, rivalry, and danger for those close to him.

“There could be no better author to take us into this story of secret lives, sexuality, politics and competing agendas. A searing and enjoyable read”
Tara Moss, bestselling author.

EVENT: MELBOURNE. Hares & Hyenas and Australian Queer Archives ‘Life and Death in the Sauna’ – Dennis Altman and Andrea Goldsmith + the workers from Wet on Wellington – amazing chat and panel. Pride Centre 31 May 7.00pm
EVENT: SYDNEY. The Bookshop Darlinghurst with mystery guest. 6 June – from 5.30pm.
EVENT: SYDNEY. Dennis Altman in conversation with Sue Turnbull. Better Read Than Dead 26 June 6.30pm
EVENT: BRISBANE. Avid Reader Bookshop 25 July 6.00pm Dennis Altman and Myles McGuire. An IAS 2023 affiliated event.

Dennis is available for interview
Please contact: Laura Benson, BENSON PR

Author Bio: Dennis Altman is the son of Jewish refugees, and a writer and academic who first came to attention with the publication of his book Homosexual: Oppression & Liberation in 1972. His book, Global Sex (Chicago U.P, 2001), has been translated into five languages. Recent books include Queer Wars (co-authored with Jonathan Symons), Unrequited Love: Diary of an Accidental Activist, and God Save the Queen: the strange persistence of monarchies.

Altman is a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. He was President of the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific (2001-5) and has been a member of the Governing Council of the International AIDS Society. He was listed by The Bulletin as one of the 100 most influential Australians ever and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2008.

Publication: “Death in the Sauna” by Dennis Altman—

Publisher:Clouds of Magellan
Publication date:May 2023
Thanks to sources who supplied this information ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Scarlet Stiletto Awards Launch

Womens crime and mystery short story competition


The idea for a national award for short stories, written by Australian women and featuring a strong female protagonist, was cooked up over a few glasses of wine in 1994 at a convenors’ meeting in St Kilda, Victoria. The purpose was to support and unearth new talent. This has been achieved in spades!

Get in quick for an historic (and enjoyable) occasion – the launch of Sisters in Crime’s 30th Scarlet Stiletto Awards hosted by Angela Savage.

Susanna Lobez and Leigh Redhead will read the winning ‘Body in the Library’ stories from 2021 and 2022.

Date of launch Friday 2nd June 2023
Time 5.30pm (for 6.00pm) until 7.30pm
Venue Melbourne Athenaeum Library 
Level 1, 188 Collins Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia + Google Map

Of course, this event is to get writers warmed up for the writing of their own crime short story!

Competition entry details for 2023 will be posted when they come to hand… stay tuned…

Meanwhile here’s a link to some other great writing events:

Further event information
Sisters in Crime
Carmel Shute
Secretary, Sisters in Crime

Yours in criminal writing,

♥  Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Snapshot (Phryne Fisher) from DECO Watermark Publishing Ltd and John Sands Greeting Cards

Ode to Buttons

Buttons, buttons everywhere,

they’re on this and over there.

They’re on clothes and touch-screens.

They’re on phones and washing machines

They can be found in boxes or jars,

or in neat rows on planes and cars.

Being on the button is good,

pushing peoples, you never should.

Some buttons are big, some are small.

Some buttons do nothing at all,

some are outies others innies,

silly buttons on our bellies.

You may have a cute button nose,

to enjoy the smell of sweet rose.

While buttoned up or buttoned down,

in the rain or strolling in town.

Buttons in all shapes, any size,

having a spare is always wise.

Buttons for eyes on our stuffed friends.

Uses for buttons never ends.

We glue them on paper plates,

making gifts for special dates.

Add string then sprinkle glitter on,

next curly yarn, name in crayon.

Some are toggles, some are switches.

Some like snaps to hold up breeches.

No zippers for me, I prefer,

buttons to hold all together.

Glad to share my buttons with you,

we’re all buttoned up, story through.

Rhyme’s done, time to button my lip,

I’ll say goodbye, have a safe trip.

By Steve Kittell

© images Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

Not buttons but bowl of baby mandarins just for fun © image Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

Brisbane Arcade 100 Year Anniversary

Almost a century old, Brisbane Arcade celebrates 100 years in 2024. Turn your thoughts into words and post your memories on their website.

Brisbane Arcade © image Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

Quote: “A grand heritage arcade ‘for the people’, Brisbane Arcade is arguably Brisbane’s most cherished shopping Arcade where nearly every visitor has their own special memories of visits to the Arcade over its many decades. Brisbane Arcade’s distinct old world yesteryear charm is enchanting.” 

Brisbane Arcade © image Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

“Today, the iconic Brisbane Arcade is where visitors step into an Arcade steeped in history, memories and timeless elegance.”

I sense that elegance and a certain intimacy every time I walk off busy Queen Street and into the calmness of Brisbane Arcade. And I love the Gallery level!

Soon: I will be posting my own personal (spooky) experience so watch this blog. I am sure if you live and work in Brisbane you will also have some early shopping tales to tell.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Art Deco leadlight glasswork in L’s Espresso Café Brisbane Arcade © image Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

‘The Sun Walks Down’ by Fiona McFarlane

Absolutely love this book! Although I am not a clever reader of literary fiction, Fiona McFarlane got me hooked. It is sometimes a demanding read but so alive and full of richly portrayed characters.

Of course, the South Australian landscape is the main protagonist, tortured and decimated as it is, ruined by European settlers who did not see beauty or learn bush secrets nor had the ability to properly sustain the land; they just saw desert to be conquered. And they did it badly.

September 1883, in the South Australian outback, young Denny is lost in a dust storm but author McFarlane’s tale spins off into other areas as well; the climate, people showing strength and fear, love, intimacy, unthinking cruelty, making good and bad decisions, and those who trek back and forth across the bone-dry landscape on enduring camels. Colonial Australia was raw and rough; every human emotion is detailed here, channelled into finding a lost boy, coercing the reader into moods of discomfort, dreamlike imaginings, and showing the struggles needed to sustain a viable future.

Although I dislike the non-indigenous trees on the bookcover, I could write copious notes on each character in this story. McFarlane brings to mind earlier Australian authors, superlative Patrick White and inimitable Thea Astley. Here, McFarlane’s character of Mrs Joanna Axam reminds me of my great-aunt, a strong and opinionated woman with natural cunning subdued for polite society and an unerring ability to read people’s personalities, often using it against them.

GBW 2023

Joanna Axam has a whippet named Bolingbroke which shows her sense of humour. Henry, her deceased husband, left behind a biblical garden, not because he was devout but because he liked the idea. Joanna knows it’s thirsty, a waste of water, but cannot let it die even though their land is barren due to cattle over-farming. I found her chapters quite riveting and she is obsessed with the possum cloak worn by Jimmy, one of Sergeant Foster’s trackers. What a schemer! Did she want it taken from the rightful owner to cover her own disfigurement? Did she understand mob and Country significance of a possum cloak?

Although young frightened Denny is the catalyst, over seven long days, there are many people good, bad and indifferent, trying to find the youngster by using their own particular skills. Two people spring to mind, Karl and Bess, penniless itinerant artists wandering in the desert in search of creative inspiration. They are woven through Denny’s story for better or worse, you decide.

GBW 2023

I read this book when I was feeling strong otherwise I may have been overwhelmed by emotion at what Fiona McFarlane has created. As indicated by my first name, I am a descendant of German settlers to South Australia where the story is set. My great-great grandfather was a Lutheran pastor who documented the sad decline of Indigenous populations, caring for them as best he could. His records are in University archives and that’s all I know.

Just like life ‘The Sun Walks Down’ has turmoil then a resolution of sorts.

Set aside a chunk of quiet time to read it.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My Goodreads reviews—

That Special Book Shelf

My small selection of How To Write books from various decades.

Interestingly the most handled judging by its spine is ‘Writing For Pleasure And Profit’ by Michael Legat 1992 (published Robert Hale Ltd London) with a foreword by P D James.

Chapter One says “…the obvious practical necessities for writing are pencil, pen, paper, typewriter, or get a typewriter friend to transcribe your work for you. Or have it professionally typed.” Legat used a word processor and called it a magic machine. Times have changed. Has creativity?

The book ‘Writing Down The Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg generated the most interest when I purchased it at a book fair. School’s out on this approach. In my opinion it depends on the genre.

Of course, all these books are senior citizens now, mainly due to the electronic era and the whole world on our phones. I cannot find my Stephen King ‘On Writing’ and I gave away my hardcopy of Julia Cameron’s perennial ‘The Artists Way’ but she is now live online However, I did find ‘See Me Jump: 20 things I’ve learned about writing books for children’ by the inimitable Jen Storer who has hundreds more tips now!

Books, hand-written, keyboard, paper drafts, online, speech-to-text, any format writing is writing and you just have to keep at it.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

© images Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023


Books on writing:
‘How to Write History that People Want to Read’ by Ann Curthoys & Ann McGrath
‘The Writer’s Guide’ by Irina Dunn
‘How to be a Successful Housewife Writer’ by Elaine Fantle Shimberg
‘Weasel Words’ by Don Watson
‘Writing for Pleasure and Profit’ by Michael Legat
‘The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club’ by Maeve Binchy
‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg
‘The Stage Manager’s Handbook’ by Bert Gruver & Frank Hamilton
‘Why We Write’ edited by Meredith Maran (20 acclaimed authors advice)
‘Picador New Writing’ edited by Helen Daniel and Drusilla Modjeska
General inspiration:
‘The Works’ by Pam Ayres
‘See Me Jump’ by Jen Storer
‘Playing Beatie Bow’ by Ruth Park
‘Short Story Favourites’ edited by Walter McVitty
‘The Animals in That Country’ by Laura Jean McKay (shown below, adult concepts, indigenous animals not included with book)

Writers Festival Coming to Town

So excited about this literary feast! So much to choose from and such great events.

READERS WRITERS LITERATURE LOVERS UNITE—Brisbane Writers Festival advise “In May 2023, Brisbane Writers Festival is spinning a rollicking tale of festive entertainment across five days, four nights and more than 100 literary events.”

“The plot? Full of twists and turns. The characters? A diverse cast of writers, readers and thinkers coming together to enjoy a lively line-up of panel discussions, poetry salons, raconteurs, book talks, special events and much more.”

“From blockbuster bestsellers to literary luminaries and everything in between, BWF 2023 is an unmissable adventure from beginning to end.”

My favourite new author is on a panel and also discussing his recent crime novel so naturally I have booked him first. More on that one later in May.

GBW 2023

Visit event highlights and genres and be amazed:

Check out this crazy long list A-Z of artists:

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The goal of the Sandford Meisner acting technique has been described as getting actors to “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances” yet one has to take into consideration the author, writer, screenwriter, playwright who first penned the words, the tools of an actor’s trade ♥ Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Review ‘A Message Through Time’ Anna Ciddor

What a great read! A story with non-stop action and well integrated historical facts revolving around a modern duo, Felix and his stepsister Zoe, who are visiting France with their parents. Felix accidently (due to curiosity and a writing stylus) gets Zoe and himself transported back over a thousand years to 315 CE and Arelate (modern-day Arles, France) in ancient Roman Gaul.

Inadvertently Felix and Zoe meet a haughty high status Roman girl Petronia and her wilful dog Furia. At first the characters of Zoe and Petronia seemed abrasive to me but as time went on I found their personalities much more interesting. There are threads of understanding and relating, and for Felix and Zoe to come to terms with their parents new relationship. If they ever get back home!

The busy streets of the city of Arelate with its library, meeting place, and special bathhouse, teems with activity and the sights, sounds, smells, strange food and citizens are well documented by author illustrator Anna Ciddor.

My favourite chapters start from ‘Over The Boat Bridge’ which leads to hard labour and major discomfort on a terrifying leaky boat trip. As if the coarse food and anxiety isn’t enough, Anatolius is an overbearing boat owner. But it’s true what the book blurb says, a rollercoaster adventure. There is high drama on the Druentia river before the trio reach their destination, Avennio.

After a disappointment, there is a long climb to reach the Sacred Spring and Villa Fontanicum. Why is this place their hard-won goal? I guess you’ll have to read the book and follow the map to discover the answers. And find out if they like the food along the way. Felix tastes a variety of strange dishes (and sees how cheese is made) but my favourite dish was Calves’ Brain Pudding. Ugh!

The duo witness street processions (Hermes/Mercury with his snake staff named Caduceus) and see unusual medical treatments. Petronia is keen to take them to a live theatre performance; but the big question here is will Petronia lose her snobby attitude and make friends? Meanwhile Felix must face a worrying situation regarding their time transporting stylus. He needs to problem solve fast to get Zoe and himself back to the future.

As a fan of irreverent TV series ‘Plebs’ for adults, I think Anna Ciddor has written a factual yet rollicking adventure suitable for children/teenager/adult readers. An ancient Roman must-read, an exciting immersive time-slip journey into the past.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Anna Ciddor has always been fascinated by the past. It would be her dream come true to step through time! Instead, she immersed herself in research and hunts out the tiniest details so she can bring the past to life in her imagination—and her books. To find out more Visit

The acclaimed standalone companion novel ‘The Boy Who Stepped Through Time’ is also well worth reading Visit

Nota bene: You can see two Romans on this Brisbane Writers Festival poster, not connected to the book, nevertheless they indicate that people have been reading and writing for a long, long, long time…

The BWF advise “In May 2023, Brisbane Writers Festival is spinning a rollicking tale of festive entertainment across five days, four nights and more than 100 literary events.”
Visit highlights

‘The Giver’ by Sara Teasdale

New Sandals © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

The Giver

You bound strong sandals on my feet,

You gave me bread and wine,

And sent me under sun and stars,

For all the world was mine.

Oh, take the sandals off my feet,

You know not what you do;

For all my world is in your arms,

My sun and stars are you.

By Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale (born 8 August 1884 Missouri U.S. and died 29 January 1933 New York New York) An American poet whose short, personal lyrics were noted for their classical simplicity and quiet intensity.

Save the Bilby

Two Easter Bilbies hiding in cupboard © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

Bilby – Australia’s Easter Bunny

Common name: Greater bilby
Scientific name: Macrotis lagotis
Family: Thylacomyidae

Among the hot, dry grasslands of western Queensland, the Greater Bilby lives far from the public interest surrounding its conservation. As one of Queensland’s 15 endangered mammals, the Greater Bilby is the subject of intense conservation efforts. This includes attempts to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby in Australia, in an effort to make the public aware of this important animal’s endangered plight. Find out more:

Save the Bilby – Donations welcome

Quote: “Every Darrell Lea chocolate Bilby you buy helps raise money for the Save the Bilby Fund, 20 cents from every purchase will help the national breeding program and support the Save The Bilby Fund’s mission to have 10,000 Bilbies in the population by 2030.” 

NonFiction Reader Challenge ‘Little Cornwall’ Philip Payton

Pictorial History of Australia’s Little Cornwall by Philip Payton © Styling Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

I have decided to accept the Non-Fiction Reader Challenge from Book’d Out and make non-fiction part of my regular reading. I am currently reading ‘Pictorial History of Australia’s Little Cornwall’ by Philip Payton.

Why this particular book? Do I have Cornish connections?

Well, I chose this book because I attend Cheryl Hayden’s U3A classes on Cornish History and all that entails. Cheryl has a passion for Cornishman Tristram Winslade and she studied with author Philip Payton. On the first day, the first thing I recognised were the names of towns and places because Cornish miners came to Australia around 1840s and left their mark on the South Australian landscape.

Miners and their families came to South Australia to take part in the new colony’s great copper boom from 1845 to 1877. These skilled men used their expertise to extract the rich ore which gave Australia world-wide acclaim as the Copper Kingdom. Mining was a grim life for everyone and added to that physical toil was the mental toll of being thousands of miles away from home.

Statue Dedicated to Kapunda Cornish Miners of South Australia Bruce Elder Aussie Towns

And, no, I don’t have a family connection to Cornwall. But I am fascinated by the strength, courage and determination of those Cornish pioneers who travelled to the other side of the world for work.

The motto of Cornwall is ‘Onan hag Oll’ which in English means ‘One and All’ a sentiment of unity that pervades the Cornish spirit and has defined its character over centuries.

My mantra would have been ‘Damn dirt and dust’. They were religious people so perhaps did not swear. If you’ve read about the Prayerbook Rebellion and King Edward VI part in it back in 1549, they took that pretty seriously.

Book photographs show grim, hardworking Cornishmen above and below ground. Of course, in those days the people being photographed had to keep very, very still otherwise the image blurred. These blokes changed the fortunes of Australia.

QUOTE: The Cornish steam engine was revolutionary when it was introduced into Australia in the mid-19th century, enabling mining of metals at depths not previously possible. This new form of deep, hard rock mining required new skills and technology not then present in Australia. Mining for copper required the skills of miners who knew how to establish mines and systematically work them in a way that gave the best return for the effort and cost required to access the ore body.

Australian Government Parks and Heritage National Heritage Places – Australian Cornish Mining Sites

Due to my claustrophobia I don’t know how men could go down a shaft and work in tunnels underground. I get palpitations and cold sweats just looking at the B&W photos of mining accomplished hundreds and hundreds of metres—Moonta as deep as 762 metres (2,500 feet)—below the surface in low lighting with little ventilation… sorry, have to stop and take some deep breaths…

Copper Mining South Australia Burra Mine Site c1900s

Death and infant mortality would have been regular visitors, coupled with irregular supplies of food and clothing necessities. For example, Burra is 164km from the city of Adelaide and two hours travel by car now. Back then it would have taken several days, if not a week, allowing for the weather. What consideration was given to housing, health, education and even entertainment? It seems like it was all work, work, work for mining families. But I bet it wasn’t!

I certainly hope those intrepid miners were well paid with bonus credits because I reckon they deserved every penny they earned and more. In conjunction, the Moonta Mines women on the Yorke Peninsula deserved gold medals for their Cornish Pasties, continual scrubbing of clothes and the ability to produce a home-life as normal as possible under the harsh conditions.

When the mines were closed in 1923 many Cornish families stayed in Australia. By then ‘Little Cornwall’ and its Cornish heritage had achieved legendary status. Festivals and parades were held Kernewek Lowender and Gorsedh Kernow. There are early photographs of Chapels, brass bands and street parades with proud banners. This tradition still exists in South Australia today.

Kapunda Copper Mining Mounds and Pond, South Australia

It’s easy to say nothing really remains of the old mines but it does. It’s there in the engine house, the rocks, the mounds and mineral ponds; the names of Cornish descendants and, of course, the original town names like Redruth, Burra, Kapunda and the ‘Copper Triangle’ of Wallaroo, Moonta and Kadina. Today Burra and Moonta are of outstanding national heritage significance as two places in Australia where Cornish mining technology, skills and culture are demonstrated to a high degree.

Mining continues in Australia; minerals are a finite resource yet presently unrecycled copper products are widely used in building construction, electrical grids, electronic products, transportation equipment and home appliances.

Image GeoScience Australia

One hundred years from closing in 1923 to 2023 today, those Cornish miners had no inkling of the controversy, dilemma and great debate earth mining is causing in Australia right now. Benjamin Franklin said ‘No nation was ever ruined by trade.’ But whose bank account does it fill and at what cost to the environmental future of our country?

Now I am going for a walk, very conscious of what could lie beneath the grassy parkland.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward  

Pictorial History of Australia’s Little Cornwall
By Philip Payton
Format: Paperback
Size: 265 x 218 mm
ISBN: 9781743056554
Extent: 96 pages
Wakefield Press is an independent book publishing company based in Adelaide, South Australia.
Opinion Piece GBW March 2023

Pink Ants Run For Fun

Birds eye view of pink fun runners © S P Tucker 2023

International Women’s Day Fun Run, Brisbane, was held on Sunday 12 March 2023. This record-breaking fundraiser supports women with breast cancer and raises funds for life-saving research at Mater Hospital.

The 5km course started from Southbank Parklands and crossed the Brisbane River to City Botanic Gardens.

The high-rise photograph was taken of the finish line in City Botanic Gardens, like a swirl of PINK ants, tired but happy participants.

The course and venues are designed to provide the best experience for all participants, whether they chose to walk, jog or run. Think about it for next year!

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Enrolments for 2024

International Women’s Day Fun Run Brisbane 2023

‘Smile’ Poem

Universal fact © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

Smile—A Poem 

Smiling is infectious,
You catch it like the flu.
When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner
and someone saw my grin.
When he smiled I realised
I’d passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile,
then I realised its worth.
A single smile, just like mine
could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin,
don’t leave it undetected.
Let’s start an epidemic quick,
and get the world infected!

by Spike Milligan (Possibly)
Irish Writer, Poet, Comedian, Actor.

NOTE: Author/illustrator Jez Alborough also attributed to this poem.

Firecat smile fan the flames © Dot Bernet 2018

Two Very Aussie Things

For those who may not know what these photographs represent, keep reading.

The first photo is a poster for a charity fundraising event held at the RSL community centre in aid of the cancer centre at St Andrew’s hospital, Toowoomba, Queensland.

The required fancy dress is Bogan style, a checked flannel shirt and hairdo called the Mullet. This haircut is said to be the anglicised name of French guru Henri Mollet’s hair style.

Although there are later versions of its creation, the Mullet was embraced and immortalised by bogan Australian men in the 1970s and 80s perhaps as a form of rebellion.

The name also refers to an edible fish (sea mullet, Mugil cephalus) which occurs around much of the Australian coastline. I can see a similarity, dead fish on head…

Can’t say whether I liked this hair fashion statement or not, kind of an interesting trend at the time which didn’t concern me. A question has been raised asking if today’s Mullet is a fond, ironic reclamation of Australian identity or a cheap way to cut your hair—particularly prevalent for both men and women during Covid-19 restrictions.

Look closely… a night-time view across Toowoomba, Queensland, and high above—that’s the Southern Cross star constellation which is imbedded in Australian and Pacific Island cultures.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Extreme Reading Competition Buzz

Warning, this post may contain humour.

There are many types of competition in the world. In fact thousands of competitions exist in the world. From sport to just about anything you care to name can be made into a challenge involving a ball, a bat, a horse, a swimming pool, eating, drinking, singing, running, dancing, driving, outer space, and let’s not forget the longest, the highest, the bravest, the most foolhardy things to outdo anyone who has tried before.

Of course, more and more now, competing involves a chat show panel or video camera following near-naked people running around the jungle working up a sweat for the ratings and a big pay cheque. Celebrity shows, quiz shows, unreality television, cooking, antiques, and growing gardens. From local country fairs to big city boardrooms, they all love a good competition. Supermarkets and used car dealers love a bit of sales competition and are currently discussing book sponsorship—I wish!

Disco toads dance the night away

Schools thrive on competition; I think many children are born competitive, it starts with their siblings and works toward world domination. Queenslanders have several forms of competition (gambling casinos, Golden Casket Lottery, Scratch-its, leagues clubs) and one unique game requiring ugly cane toads which jump around when a bucket is lifted off them. (See photo) The first toad to leave the circle or careen through the crowd is the winner. Ugh! Cane toads are an imported noxious pest, destroying habitat and native wildlife. I would like to see a competition to have them eradicated from Australia.

Hey, jumping into a subject which would be impossible to turn into a spectator sport—BOOK READING!

Hang on, isn’t that what Goodreads reviewers do? Yeah, but not with a live studio audience. Maybe this is feasible. “Now,” whispers the show host, “here we have Angela Augustus reading a chapter from a special edition of The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay.” Not classical literature so reader-viewers (or RVs) won’t lose points. “Hands on buzzers”.

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

Announcer One: “Watch Angela turn the last page, slowly turning the page, right she’s done it! The audience goes wild and everyone at home clambers online to secure a copy of The Animals in That Country an immersive adult experience with subtle undertones and high drama.”

Announcer Two: “Next up, viewers, we have Angus Augustus, Angela’s twin brother. He is quick, too quick and the audience miss his speed reading, lips barely moving. They admire his patent page-flick technique and the flourish when he shoots the book into its alphabetical place on the bookshelf.”

Book reader Angus is studied by thousands of wannabe speed readers around the country. But what about comprehension? Sports players have to speak into the microphone to explain How they did it/Why they did it/What it felt like when they did it. So put Angus on the pro circuit, tentatively dubbed Real Reading Australia 2030, thanking his mother and first grade teacher. He waves battered copies of Blinky Bill, Possum Magic or even the contentious Wombat Stew, then moves onto Bluey, Animalia and Ranger’s Apprentice enthralling thousands of children across Australia—again, I wish.

The ground swell back to paper books would archive digital copies, screens would go unlit, there would be reading time in every home after dinner. Renegades would read Jasper Fforde far into the night despite work next day. It would not be unusual to see readers sitting for hours engrossed in a p-book instead of an e-book without a café latte or muffin in sight.

A book engrosses a person, it takes all your attention no flashy adverts therefore it is advisable to slowly build up to bigger, thicker, weighty classics. It can be done! Librarians offer recommendations for a good Book Gym where staff talk you through a workout to suit your particular genre. Believe me, people are keen and waiting to read. The first-release promo videos astonished me with reader focus and intensity. I love reading Australian crime novels but cannot discussed top Aussie authors due to Brook Paige TV Clause—another wish.

I myself have entered the genuine Irish William Trevor Challenge reading “Love and Summer” please check out my book review here:

My advice is to create a comfortable environment and read up on your chosen author’s booklist before enrolling in the proposed *Real Reading Australia 2030. The genres for this thrilling competition can go either way—traditional or modern—but paper format rules. Polish your *specs dear reader!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward
© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

* Aussie for reading glasses

* This opinion piece is as fictional as the stories I read
(but maybe it’s possible)
GBW Australia

William Trevor ‘Love and Summer’ Review

My Thoughts:
A beautiful story of ordinary life and love with extraordinary depth. Author William Trevor invited me into the pages so I could gently and thoughtfully read my way through the summer months in an Irish village named Rathmoye and learn about those who lived there in varying degrees of peace, comfort, toil and hardship. So different from today’s way of living, except our emotions never change, human nature is what it is.

I read this novel for ‘A Year With William Trevor’ Reading Challenge (info below). I could see the countryside, the characters. William Trevor captures the very essence of humanity with ease. His style of writing is deceiving, he makes it look simple but every sentence is meaningful.

William Trevor Love and Summer 2009

Gradually rural mid-century characters show the reader their world, from joy to sorrow, their hidden thoughts amid the daily grind. Making do ‘just because’ the majority of things are hard to come by.

There are the not-so-hidden thoughts from people in the village about the visiting stranger from Castledrummond, Florian Kilderry, and local lass Ellie Dillahan who are the two main characters on a collision course. Among others, we have Miss Connulty with secret desires, wearing mother’s jewellery, wondering if she is jealous of Ellie. There is advice from Sister Ambrose, and old Orpen Wren who wanders about with his hopeful memories and tragic past.

FOUNDLING QUOTE: Ellie “We were always there. The nuns pretended our birthdays, they gave us our names. They knew no more about us than we did ourselves. No, it wasn’t horrible, I didn’t hate it.”

Everyone and everything has a part to play; woven through the story is a decaying estate; dogs, sheep and Ellie delivering farm fresh eggs on a bicycle; sewing a summer dress on the kitchen table. Amid the endless toil of farm life, Ellie’s husband battles his own demons after losing his first wife and child. Most of all, religion and the Irish nuns who cared for and raised Ellie from a baby, the lessons they taught her never forgotten.

‘But she saw Florian…’
Ellie watches him, she is captivated. He stirs her in strange and mysterious ways, slowly drawing her onto forbidden ground. Florian is both accessible and distant. They come from different and difficult backgrounds, they both have the vestiges of abandonment. Not getting too close, searching for something, they don’t really know what that something is—Ellie is smitten but she also has a strong conscience.

Florian Kilderry starts off photographing a funeral with his old Leica camera but later feels that photography would fail him like everything else. We know that he has other plans but he cannot get the lovely Ellie out of his thoughts as he prepares to sell the family estate.

They pass notes in a niche in a stone wall, go walking, talking. In between times, Florian is literally burning everything from inside his family home, it seemed such a waste to me but his memories are bitter-sweet. A charming flashback has Florian and cousin Isabella reading some of his short stories written by hand in an old field journal years before. I wondered if they were really William Trevor’s when he was young?

The ending is powerful and actually crept up on me. It is three-pronged and at first I wondered if I’d interpreted it correctly. Snappy vignettes of speech and thought are used to heighten the denouement. Also a tantalising question is left hanging in the air. Great stuff!

Conclusion: I finished this book and wanted to meet the characters, sit and chat with them in the sunshine. To ask questions and maybe visit the village pub; walk through the fields, splash across streams, eat a farmhouse meal. So much of this tale is real and true but mostly vanished from the universal landscape. Domesticity, societal rules and etiquette, that time immemorial quality of hard, tedious tasks being done by hand, without grumbling, because there was no other way.

For better or worse, close-knit farming communities are changing and moving on from villages like Rathmoye in many ways except for emotions, our deep desire for love and tenderness and a partner to walk beside us.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward




A Note from the Creators

William Trevor (1928-2016) was an Irish writer who left behind an amazing legacy—dozens of novels, novellas, short stories and plays—for us to enjoy. In 2023, on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of his birth, what better way to celebrate his work than by spending a year reading it?

That’s why I (Kim) have joined forces with Cathy from 746 Books to spend ‘A Year with William Trevor’. Between the two of us, we think we can cover a good chunk of his writing over the course of 12 months—and we’d love you to join in!

We have come up with a proposed reading schedule and we’ll be posting our reviews in the first week of every month between January and December 2023. #williamtrevor2023

Biography William Trevor
Ireland (1928 – 2016)

William Trevor was born in County Cork in 1928 and spent his childhood in various provincial Irish towns. He went to Trinity College, Dublin and then to England in 1953. In 1977 William Trevor received an honorary CBE in recognition of his services to literature, and in 1998 he was awarded the prestigious David Cohen British Literature Prize for a lifetime’s achievement in writing. He wrote novels, plays, essays and short stories, appeared in anthologies and won many literary awards.

Book List:

   A Standard of Behaviour (1958)

   The Old Boys (1964)

   The Boarding-House (1965)

   The Love Department (1966)

   Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel (1969)

   Miss Gomez and the Brethren (1971)

   Last Lunch of the Season (1973)

   Elizabeth Alone (1973)

   The Children of Dynmouth (1976)

   Old School Ties (1976)

   Other People’s Worlds (1980)

   Fools of Fortune (1983)

   Nights at the Alexandra (1987)

   The Silence in the Garden (1988)

   Reading Turgenev (1991)

   Juliet’s Story (1991)

   Felicia’s Journey (1994)

   Death in Summer (1998)

   The Hill Bachelors (2000)

   The Story of Lucy Gault (2002)

   My House in Umbria (2003)

   A Bit on the Side (2004)

The Dressmaker’s Child (2005)

   Cheating at Canasta (2007)

   Love and Summer (2009)

   Selected Stories (2010)

   The Mark-2 Wife (2011)

   Last Stories (2018)

Postscript: At the time of writing this book review, I did not know that ‘Love and Summer’ was the last NOVEL William Trevor wrote. (My review posted on St Valentine’s Day)

Photography: My book-styling image was hijacked by JoJo who insisted that I use it in my ‘Love and Summer’ review. Apparently all other William Trevor novels had flown off the shelves, so I borrowed a large print edition from my local library. It has an odd front and back cover design as though someone has scribbled postcard graffiti to match an element in the story. Happy reading!

New Calendars and Old Books

Forward thinking and backward reading. Or a calendar in nearly every room and at least three retro books on the bedside table…

Some of my favourite New Year calendars 2023 © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

First in line ‘The Fourth Crow’ (2012) a Constable & Robinson Ltd hardback featuring a series written by well respected historical fiction author Pat McIntosh. Her Gil Cunningham murder mysteries are lusciously populated with all manner of people and goings-on in Glasgow in fifteenth century Britain. The ye olde atmosphere is so vividly written that you can imagine yourself right there, and this series was recommend to me by a medieval historian and lecturer.

Historic Note: 👑
The movie ‘The Lost King’ (2022) is a story about the real Philippa Langley who actually found the final resting place of King Richard III. The poetic licence has been challenged but it’s immersive viewing, filmed entirely on location in Edinburgh Scotland with great care and compassion, humour and heartache and so relevant on so many levels. Can recommend!

Three retro books for New Year reading © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2023

Next in line ‘Death in Disguise’ (1992) by Carolyn Graham on BorrowBox Audio, but do I really have to mention anything about Caroline Graham’s Midsomer Murders mystery series? DCI Tom Barnaby has had so many crimes to solve over so many years in books and on ITV television that he’s almost a real person.

This story is nicely read by John Hopkins with a foreword by John Nettles who played the first Tom Barnaby. I have to admit I am not far into this tale of criminal intent because I am finding the plot slow and the scene-setting long. However, the writing quality is top notch in relation to some of the light-weight stuff around today.

Summertime in Brisbane © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

The third book ‘Love and Summer’ (2009) a Charnwood large print hardback written by highly regarded award-winning Irish author William Trevor. I had not heard of him until a WordPress blogger Reading Matters posted and wrote about the William Trevor Reading Challenge.
This tale hooked me straight away with subplots, instant twists and turns and interesting characters. “Ellie falls in love with Florian, although he’s planning to leave Ireland and begin anew after what he considers to be his failed life… and a dangerously reckless attachment develops between them”.

Of course, I review books on Goodreads regardless of whether or not anyone reads them. Either the books or my reviews! The interesting fact of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge is I nominated to read 37 books over the year. I ended up reading 78 books (211%) so that was a surprise.


Happy New Year 2023 and may you be pleasantly surprised by________________(fill in the blank).

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Poetry of Geometry and Sociometry

Geometry © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

Geometry Class
by Michael Devoe

In geometry we learn how to measure the distance between things

The space between things

The empty space between lines

How long is the shadow cast by a branch on a tree if it is two o’clock
and the branch is east facing
and seven feet above the ground

A train departed Madrid in rush hour at 5:40pm
and arrived in Barcelona at 8:15pm
it went 63mph for 50 minutes
how fast did it go the rest of the way if it is 386 miles between the cities

A trove of treasure held 300 cubic inches of gold
and had a six inch square face
how long was the box

If it takes three seconds for my phone to chime after you send a text message
and it takes two seconds for my brain to recognise your name on my phone
how long will my stomach flutter if I’ve loved you for one month…

Assuming my stomach flutters for that long
and you ended our burgeoning relationship yesterday
to stay comfortable in your current surroundings
and we both don’t want to give up how real it all feels
how much silly putty does it take to fill the empty space in my chest

If Wal-Mart sells silly putty for $1.36 per package and each package contains 4oz. of silly putty and I work for $13.51 per hour and $13.30 of each hour’s wage goes towards bills and other essentials how long will I have to work in order to save enough money to buy all the silly putty required to fill my chest with it, assuming I live in Oregon where there is no sales tax and that I only drink one six pack at $8.99 a week

More importantly though

If I fill my chest with silly putty, will my heart bounce back after it’s dropped next time.

A collection of poems by Michael DeVoe is available:

Where She Left Me – Michael DeVoe

I like geometric imagery but don’t appreciate the mechanics.
However, I do enjoy the clever confusion of this poem and the end twist.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

We stopped for lunch at the Gatton campus of University of Queensland and admired this heritage-listed Foundation Building constructed in 1896 and used for events and conferences.