Nasturtium Flowers Lifespan

Nasturtiums like to grow free-range in the sun with well-drained soil but I planted the seeds in an old hanging basket under the verandah and watched their lifespan over three months from warm September mornings in springtime to steamy January afternoons in summertime.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Tea Towels and a Missed Opportunity

Before you yawn in boredom, let me explain.  A local bookshop promotes a new title ‘The Art Of The Tea Towel’ by Marnie Fogg, hardback 144 pages and selling well.

That author could have been me!

Last year I posted about my cotton tea towels, their history and some photographs.  Nobody, as far as I could tell, had done this before and I was rather proud of my efforts.  This year Marnie’s book comes out and I’m kicking myself.

The ‘what ifs’ start – what if I had ironed my linen tea towels, what if I had borrowed my great aunt’s classic designs, what if I had posed them with kitchen utensils and what if I had pitched to a nostalgic publisher who loves tea and scones?

Would I have my name on that cover if I’d taken the initiative?  Would, could, maybe…

Of course, there’s always the option of publishing my own tea towel book, but there would be the whiff of ‘copycat’ about it.  I doubt the literary world is ready for another one.

Interested in my meagre effort (I even designed my own) click here:
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/10/01/teatowel-of-ignominy/

Interested in Marnie Fogg’s selection, click book cover:

Art Of The TeaTowel 100 Best Designs

Both links explain the versatility of a tea towel and its usage in today’s world.

So, writers, you can guess the moral of this story.

I’m slinking off to find a handkerchief to dab at my eyes…hmm, handkerchief.  There’s another drying piece of serviceable domestic textile…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Tea Towel “Ayrshire Cattle Society” © By appointment to Her Majesty The Queen, suppliers of kitchen textiles, Ulster Weavers Home Fashions Limited, Belfast.

Pets Stop People Travelling


  • Australians really love their pet pals – one in three won’t go on holidays because it would mean leaving their pet behind.  A recent survey examined the lifestyle of 1,000 pet owners regarding the impact pets have on their travel habits.  I found the results interesting.

 

  • National Seniors and Trusted Housesitters research demonstrates that with 5.7 million households owning a pet in Australia (over 13 million people) roughly four million people choose to stay at home rather than holidaying due to concerns about their pet’s well-being.

 

  • Apparently those who did take a break (69%) said they had felt guilty when leaving their pet behind, while over one-third of Australian pet owners (36%) have turned down a weekend away, citing being unable to arrange pet care as the reason.

 

  • Pets often disrupt their owners’ social lives, with 18% of respondents having regularly missed social engagements in favour of staying at home to ensure their pets were cared for.  Of those surveyed, 6% avoided going on dates, choosing their pets over romance.

 

  • When it comes to Australian pet owners who regularly take holidays, 29% opted for a trusted pet sitter versus putting their pet in a boarding kennel (21%), while 35% of pet owners organised friends or family to care for their furry friend.

 

  • One in four participants said they would never travel overseas or interstate without their pet.  Presumably this pet is a dog and the owner is wealthy!

 

  • In a British study of veterinary experts conducted by Trusted Housesitters UK, 100% believed animals responded better to a new carer than a new environment, as animals were particularly bonded to their home.  Is there bias in this result?

 

  • I’m not making any pronouncements for-or-against.  I’ve loved and cared for every one of my darling pets and by making arrangements in advance, none ever stopped me from travelling away from home.  But the guilt was there.

 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Old-Fashioned Board Games

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Mature people from the 20th century may feel a twinge of nostalgia when reading the words ‘board game’ .  I have visions of crouching over a cardboard square with family or friends, munching snacks, rolling the dice and moving discs, cards or tiny symbols around the board to shouts of glee or great annoyance depending on who was winning.

 

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A board game has a goal each player aims to achieve.  This means instant winners and losers.  No reboot, no power-up, no regeneration, no second tries unless you’re a four year-old and burst into tears.  Any game of chance has pitfalls, but when you flip that top card and see what you’ve got, it sets your mind racing not your thumbs.

 

 

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I’ve played Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and other equally absorbing, equally time-guzzling computer games which controlled my moves even if it didn’t feel like it.  My Virtual Reality experiences offered yet another form of ‘visual involvement’ and the feeling of taking another step down the ladder to human isolation.

 

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With an old-fashioned board game, the players’ moves are initially controlled by the dice and random Lady Luck.  Thereafter, players can take a certain amount of responsibility for their movements and actions without the use of screen projections.  They can survey the limits of the board and plan their course using opponents body language.

 

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To tweak youthful reminiscences, I have compiled a list of my favourite board games for you.  Scraps of paper and a pencil (for scoring) are optional.  I’ve added some photographs of our boxed sets which have survived two generations.  Regrettably I can’t seem to locate Trivial Pursuit!  At one stage, maybe 1985, there were two big blue boxes on the shelf for special nights.

 

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Ah, those fun-filled nights of comfy clothing, junk food, fizzy drinks and overheated face-to-face discussions <cue Back To The Future soundtrack>

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

 

 


MY MEMORY LIST––I’M SURE THERE’S MORE

Trivial Pursuit Boardgame Genus Edition

Cluedo
Scrabble
Monopoly
Tiddly-Winks
Trivial Pursuit
Snakes & Ladders
Chinese Chequers
Mastermind
Pictionary
Draughts
Shipping
Mouse Trap
Blankety Blank
Chess (of course)
Escape from Colditz
It’s a Knockout
Quandary
Mahjong
Risk
the list goes on…



SPECIAL MENTION
:  ‘War of the Daleks’ (from early days of TV series Dr Who) which I never played but would have love to––players moved tiny Daleks around the board, obviously saying ‘Exterminate, exterminate’.  There are newer board games like ‘Time of the Daleks’ and electronic interactive TARDIS versions.

What to Recycle with REDcycle

what_to_redcycle_icons
Chart designed by REDcycle Australia
This post is not going to bore you.
It contains essential household information.
I’m recycling and happy to do it!
Here’s the
REDcycle list of scrunchable plastics.

YES PLEASE!

  • Biscuit packets (outer wrapper only)
  • Bread bags (without the tie)
  • Bubble wrap (large sheets cut into A3 size pieces)
  • Cat and dog food pouches (as clean and dry as possible)
  • Cellophane from bunches of flowers (cut into A3 size pieces)
  • Cereal box liners
  • Chip and cracker packets (silver lined)
  • Chocolate and snack bar wrappers
  • Cling Wrap – free of food residue
  • Confectionery bags
  • Dry pet food bags
  • Fresh produce bags
  • Frozen food bags
  • Green bags (Polypropylene Bags)
  • Ice cream wrappers
  • Large sheets of plastic that furniture comes wrapped in (cut into A3 size pieces)
  • Netting produce bags (any metal clips removed)
  • Newspaper and magazine wrap
  • Pasta bags
  • Plastic Australia Post satchels
  • Plastic carrier bags from all stores
  • Plastic film wrap from grocery items such as nappies and toilet paper
  • Plastic sachets
  • Potting mix and compost bags – both the plastic and woven polypropylene types (cut into A3 size pieces and free of as much product as possible)
  • Rice bags – both plastic and the woven type (if large, cut into A3 size pieces)
  • Snap lock bags / zip lock bags
  • Squeeze pouches with lid on (e.g. yogurt/baby food)
  • Wine bladders – clear plastic ones only
  • Please make sure your plastic is dry and as empty as possible.

NO THANKS!

  • Plastic bottles
  • Plastic containers
  • Any rigid plastic such as meat trays, biscuit trays or strawberry punnets
  • Adhesive tape
  • Balloons (of any kind)
  • Biodegradable/degradable/compostable plastics
  • Blister packs, tablets and capsule packaging
  • Blow up pools and pool toys – plastic or PVC
  • Bread bag tags
  • Christmas tinsel and Christmas trees
  • Coffee bags
  • Cooler bags
  • Disposable food handling gloves of any variety
  • Drinking straws
  • Film negatives and x-rays
  • Foam or polystyrene of any kind
  • Foil / Alfoil of any kind
  • Food waste
  • Glass
  • Laminated materials and overhead transparencies
  • Medical waste materials
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Paper post packs
  • Plastic/clear vinyl packaging from sheets and doonas etc
  • Plastic packaging that has contained meat
  • Plastic strapping used for securing boxes and pallets
  • Powdered milk packets, made of foil
  • Rubber, rubber gloves, latex
  • Tarpaulins
  • Tin cans
  • VHS Tape
  • Wet plastic materials as mould is a problem for us
  • Wine bladders – foil based
  • Wrapping paper and cardboard, ribbons or bows

 

The “NO” items should be recycled in the usual way.  Please note the REDcycle Program has been developed for post-consumer household plastic.  Participating supermarkets are not obliged to accept large volumes of commercial plastic waste.  Please visit http://www.redcycle.net.au/

Well, it might have been a bit boring but I bet it was helpful!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Brisbane Australia's New World City

Redcycle Recycle StickerRedcycle Recycle Motto

Too Much Junk Mail

I received this junk mail stuffed into my real mailbox this morning.  It’s a weekly occurrence and enough is enough!

In this photograph there are seventeen leaflet/brochures of varying content, page size and thickness (and weight) which supposedly contain sales, discounts and bargains.

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NOT an advertisement for any of these companies!

The seventeen companies are Chemist Warehouse, Coles Supermarket, Coles Health & Beauty, Woolworths Supermarket, Aldi, BigW, hotel Christmas bookings, weekend Nachos, BUPA Dental, Target x 2, Viking Cruises, Harvey Norman, Amart Furniture, Beacon Lighting, Winning Appliances, Repco Car Care.  Surprisingly, no real estate agent’s calendar.

I have worked in the industry and selling themes start way before holiday time or special days but I’m sure the delivery in my area has ballooned.  And the distributor must want to get back home early because often there are four or five double-ups.

The local newspapers are heaved onto the driveway in plastic sleeves to stop water damage, with a latex band around the middle for good measure.  They, too, share the junk mail bounty cunningly hidden between the inky pages.

Newspaper Trees Collage
Newspaper collage How To Make A Collage by AndreutzaVio https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/402931497894964026/

 

I enjoy print media so will read the local news––I have given up reading any of the junk mail.  It goes straight into the recycle bin.  What a waste!  In school break times when letterboxes are not cleared, paper escapes to fly around lawns and roadways.

If thousands share my philosophy of “When I want something I’ll research it myself” that’s an awful lot of junk mail being unread and pulped.

It will probably recycle back to my letterbox, time and time again, as some other company’s special offer.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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This columnist has a completely different take on junk mail – she loves it!

My Mandarin Tree Growing Project

You are invited to follow my pictorial efforts in home-growing mandarin trees with no experience and limited resources.  Nothing by the book, just me planting seeds and hoping Mother Nature does the rest.  I’m not even sure if you have to dry the seeds first!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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#1. You may remember this photo from my bread baking post. These home-grown mandarins started me thinking about growing my own fruit tree. The following photos are the beginning of my journey.

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#2. Originally five experimental mandarin seeds were sown and two germinated which was enough encouragement to start my home-growing project. These prototypes have past the two-leaf stage and should be replanted.

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#3. It was annoying having to wait until this egg carton was empty but the eggs were delicious.

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#4. I cut the lid off the base and snipped off the support cones in the middle of the box thinking it might help with watering. Not all egg cartons are made the same.

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#5. The lid fitted nicely into the base and created a drainage system underneath. I left the flap to write on later.

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#6. Seeds from two or three mandarins. The 45-year-old tree grows in our backyard and never gets watered or fertilized. I noticed that not all of the fruit had seeds so I took the plumpest ones.

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#7. It may look like an advertisement but I used a small portion of this 6-litre bag of seed raising mix.

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#8. Twelve seeds planted (poked into the soil) successfully with several left over until I have another egg carton. Just in case I forget, I wrote data on the side flap. I hope to post regular updates!

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#9. Instructions on the seed raising bag suggest watering with an atomiser for a fine spray. This one works well without flooding although I’m not sure how the cardboard carton will hold up.

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#10. I found a suitable bench outside where I can keep an eye on my project; and added a drip-tray. A clear cover is suggested to increase humidity and encourage germination but I live in a subtropical climate so will not cover the container. Fingers crossed…see you in three months time!

Hey, I Choose to Reuse

I was unsure if my takeaway coffee cup was recyclable or not.  Turns out it wasn’t.  The thin liner of plastic made it non-recyclable no matter how much paper is covering the outside.

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This coffee cup is lined with plastic film and not recyclable.
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This coffee cup lid is recyclable.

 

I’m going to do my bit to eliminate environmental pollution and stop landfill waste by thinking ahead.

Shops like BioMe have many alternatives to plastic products.  Use your own keep-me cup, cutlery, even drinking straw.

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Faux cardboard outer and plastic inner liner makes these containers non-recyclable.

 

 

Only One Straw Said 8 Million People
No explanation needed…

Be like the knights and pilgrims of old who used their own plate and dagger to eat food.

Or the old-fashioned picnic when everything was brought from home in a wicker basket, and everything (except the yummy food) was taken back home.  This may need to be modified but if a child can take a lunchbox to school, why can’t an adult take one to work?

I’ve always been prudent with water consumption (Australia, land of drought) and mindful of electricity usage but Craig Reucassel‘s ABCTV program War On Waste is an eye-opening indictment on the lack of thought we put into the disposal of our single-use products.

In a couple of posts, I have talked about the plastics ban and slow clothing (I’ve purchased bamboo underwear) but not really deliberated food waste.  I’m going to buy a Bokashi bucket to ferment and recycle kitchen leftovers (no longer have scrap-eating chickens) and get an outdoor compost bin because I think we all have to make an effort to turn around our throwaway society.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Very disappointed with iconic CSR sugar refinery, now Sugar Australia Pty Ltd, which has gone from paper to plastic packaging to combining both. Either packaging can be recycled separately but combining paper bag with plastic film liner makes it non-recyclable.

Revisiting Adult Colouring Books

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Remember when adult colouring between the lines was all the rage?  Pages and pages of black and white sketches bound in bright covers which swept the world and swamped book retailers.

Themes were many and varied from new age, retro, zen, buildings, abstracts, swirls, flora and fauna, all cleverly pitched at adults without the 'adults only' content.  It was certainly a fad and the biggest publishing push since Harry Potter hit the shelves.

The idea was that it should calm and relax anyone over 30 but it seemed to be a bigger hit with the over 60s especially those with grandchildren.  In the library during craft time, youngsters would often wander off as one or two monopolists relived their kindergarten days with intense concentration.  So, perhaps there was logic behind the publication frenzy.

In 2015, I was given the pocket-size publication ‘The Little Book of Calm Colouring – Portable Relaxation‘ which has beautiful quotes to accompany each drawing.  I dug out a variety of pencils and doodled when the mood took me.  I must admit that I can’t finish a full picture in one sitting so I return later to give it an abstract expressionist tweak here and there.

This kit travels with me on long weekends and the odd holiday but I’m not sure if I will ever complete the book.  What I have completed was very enjoyable – here’s a small selection of my pencil handiwork.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Baking Bread and Growing Mandarins

Two loaves of home-baked bread with garlic on top and grated cheese inside, eaten with chicken and corn soup.  Entrée nibbles were baby beetroot leaves, sliced sausage and home-grown mandarin (tangerine) pieces.  The mandarin tree is about 45 years old but still produces a juicy citrus crop each winter.

One of my earlier posts https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/07/15/garden-notes-on-a-warm-winter-day/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Three Things…#3


A snapshot of what’s happening in my world.
Reading…
Looking…
Thinking…

READING:  Two of my favourite genres tend to clash––crime and quirky.  Today’s quirky is “The Lucky Galah” by Tracy Sorensen.  Oh, and just maybe there’s a crime.

Reviews:  “Subtle, disarming and insightful” says author Rosalie Ham.
A fresh and surprising novel – thoroughly Australian, joyful and magnificently original” says novelist Charlotte Wood.
Blurb says “A magnificent novel about fate, Australia and what it means to be human…it just happens to be narrated by a galah called Lucky…this is one rare bird.

Title:  “The Lucky Galah” by Tracy Sorensen
Category:  Historical fiction / adult
Publication Date:  27-02-2018
Publisher:  Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
Pages:  304
Author:  http://squawkingalah.com.au/

Background:  A galah is a small pink and grey Australian native cockatoo with quite a piercing squawk.  If an Australian says “you’re a galah” it generally means you are silly.  If “you’re a lucky galah” it means you’ve won something.  In this novel, Lucky is an astute galah who receives transmissions from a satellite dish in Port Badminton, a remote coastal town in Western Australia, which beams messages between Apollo 11 and Houston, Texas.  Lucky also picks up revealing transference from radar technician Evan Johnson and his wife Linda, and domestic dissonance from the town’s anomalous inhabitants.

Evocatively set in 1969 prior to the moon landing and “one small step…” Lucky’s view of the human world and its minutiae makes absorbing reading.  I choked up, nodded wisely and laughed out loud throughout this book.  An original plot, cleverly conceived characters, tightly written, 5-Star rating from me.  GBW.


 

LOOKING:  “Curious Affection” Gallery Of Modern Art Exhibition by Patricia Piccinini from 24 March to 5 August 2018––Confronting work regarding genetic engineering, DNA modification and organ harvesting with ‘warm’ overtones.  Having read about this subject (and many will remember the real mouse which grew a human ear on its back) I was enticed into visiting GOMA on Brisbane’s South Bank on a fine winter’s day.

Sensory overload, yet not as creepy as I thought it would be, and like most art there is more to it than meets the eye.  Patricia Piccinini’s works are complex.  The guided tour, the perfect melding of lighting and sounds enhanced every display and took up a complete floor of the Gallery.

I can’t sufficiently convey the ambience nor startling ‘future’ creativity, but I’ve decided on a pictorial of my photographs in a future post.  Stay tuned!  GBW.


 

THINKING:

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VIEWS LIKES AND FALSEHOODS

Bloggers are so darn nice, offering advice and encouraging aspiring writers to do their best.

Here are my thoughts on the flip side of those Views and Likes.

When I hit Publish, my post is sent out into the world.

It appears at the top of the WordPress Reader until the northern hemisphere wakes up and starts typing.

I amuse myself by waiting to see who will Like my efforts without actually visiting my blog site.

First up, unless I've been Liked by the fastest human reader in the universe, I get a tiny square to say "..." likes my post.

As you may have experienced, it's a spammer.

If not, I give a sardonic laugh when someone clicks Like without viewing.

Sure, people do it - but do people know the stats reflect this deception?

What I don't understand is why a reader/blogger bothers when it breeds an equally dismissive response.

I know, twice I have returned the favour.

Forget about using the old "time poor" excuse, please.

Or harbour the misapprehension that my blogger sense of self needs constant validation.

Be firm, rise above that Like of self-promotion. 

My opinion is "Follow a blogger and genuinely read their posts".

Otherwise the Like gesture is hollow.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward


 

One post with three acts READING, LOOKING, THINKING an idea started by Book Jotter, innovative blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley.  Her invitation to participate offers a slight change from ‘Thinking’ to ‘Doing’ if that suits your purpose but I’m sticking with the first format.  I can love, like or loathe in three short bursts!  GBW.

Postscript:  Every Saturday I change my Home page Photo Of The Week.

Three Things…#2



READING:
  Saw the heading “The genre debate: Literary fiction” and I was hooked when Austen aficionado and author Elizabeth Edmondson said “literary fiction is just clever marketing”.
and continued…
In the third of The Guardian’s series on literary definitions “Jane Austen never for a moment imagined she was writing Literature.  Posterity decided that––not her, not John Murray, not even her contemporary readership.  She wrote fiction, to entertain and to make money.”
followed by…
“Genre fiction is a nasty phrase––when did genre turn into an adjective? But I object to the term for a different reason.  It’s weasel wording, in that it conflates lit fic with literature.  It was clever marketing by publishers to set certain contemporary fiction apart and declare it Literature––and therefore Important, Art and somehow better than other writing.”
with mandatory…
“Which brings me to the touchy subject of literary snobbery.  Perhaps I should call it LitSnob.  Lit fic: good.  Popular, commercial, trash and pulp fiction: bad.”
there’s more…

Worth reading even if it makes your blood boil––includes 110 comments!
Website https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/apr/21/literary-fiction-clever-marketing-genre-debate

The Guardian report is from her speech given at an Oxford Literary Festival debate and was first published Monday 21 April 2014.  Sadly Elizabeth Edmondson (Aston) passed away 11 January 2016.  GBW.



LOOKING:  Love reading the adult works of author Nick Earls and can brag that I had tenuous, almost ethereal, contact with the man at a book-related charity event.  Okay, he was in the same room and he did nod hello.  By some weird default in the booking system, I was seated at the head table with Mr Earls and treated like a VIP.  I kept getting covert glances from the other diners, socialites wondering who the heck I was.  I felt nervous but not intimidated.

Anyway, I have just enjoyed watching this short YouTube video of Nick Earls talking about his children’s book series “Word Hunters: The Curious Dictionary” co-written with Terry Whidborne.  Also, author and blogger Kate Forsyth did a good book review.

Promo blurb reads Twins Lexi and Al Hunter stumble upon an old dictionary and the world as they know it changes. They are blasted into history to hunt down words that threaten to vanish from our past and our present.”   And use word nails – take a look!  GBW.



THINKING: 
(My apologies because part of this post was accidentally released earlier)  Reusing old books, repurposing their mellow covers and yellow pages into something other than pulp
––there are good illustrations on this subject but I was musing about reusing the forgotten cotton carry bags in our car boot.  Whatever we buy, potatoes, pistachios, mangoes or marshmallows, we will need to bring our own grocery bags to supermarkets in Queensland from 1st July 2018.  Plastic bags are banned.  The perfect opportunity to reuse single-use carry bags with huge logos on them, like the paper Folio Books bag in muted charcoal with strong handles which currently houses old draft manuscripts.

I’m sure my grandmother’s 1950s wicker shopping basket is in the garage somewhere.  It’s the original multiple-use item.  Imagine me with the arched handle hooked over my arm, resting in the crook of my elbow, as I peruse the iceberg lettuces for just the right one.  A chip off the old block?  That’s how my grandmother used to shop with nary a polyethylene-sealed item in sight.

Here’s to the olden days and onward to a cleaner, healthier environment!  GBW.

POSTSCRIPTEvery Saturday I change my Home page Photo Of The Week.


Remember, one post with three acts READING, LOOKING, THINKING an idea started by Book Jotter, innovative blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley.  Her invitation to participate offers a slight change from ‘Thinking’ to ‘Doing’ if that suits your purpose but I’m sticking with the first format.  I can love, like or loathe in three short bursts!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Look Where I Live

Here’s a map of Queensland and video of Brisbane City which makes me think I live in a pretty good place.  Nomad Girl of The Jasmine Edit films short, interesting videos around the world.  She makes it look like fun; maybe I could make a video, too?

Queensland Map

Oops, just noticed a spelling error near the Great Barrier Reef.

If you are interested in early Queensland architecture from Victorian, Federation and inter-war era, please click here to view Wikipedia Queensland Architecture

Queensland Home

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Three Things…#1

Paula Bardell-Hedley WP Book BloggerOne post with three headings READING, LOOKING, THINKING an idea started by Book Jotter, innovative blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley.  Her invitation to participate offers a slight change from ‘Thinking’ to ‘Doing’ if that suits your purpose but I’m sticking with the first format.  Also, I am restricting myself to around 200 wordcount per heading.  I can love, like or loathe in three short bursts!

READING:  Let’s not pretend we always read high calibre books like Booker Prize winners and heady non-fiction tomes, most people like a bit of lowbrow stuff to pass the time without stretching the brain too much.

This is why I love reading ebooks on my iPad, so accessible via OverDrive, and so many back numbers that it’s easy to binge on a writer’s complete oeuvre.  At the moment my guilty pleasure, no, rephrase that, my escapism is prolific British author Simon Brett and his Fethering Mysteries series.  A cross between Agatha Raisin, Miss Marple and cosy crime books featuring ‘mature’ women, Brett has created retiree Carole Seddon and her neighbour Jude, a healer, who live in an English seaside village which thrives on gossip and, you guessed it, murder.  Amateur sleuths Carole and Jude manage to solve crimes without external help, e.g. police, by persistence and sheer nosiness.  Exploits often revolve around fragmented marital relationships.  The first book I read was “Bones Under The Beach Hut”, coincidentally while I was on a beach holiday, and have enjoyed the consistency of the characters ever since, although some plots are more gripping than others.  Apart from Fethering series, Simon Brett has also written the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, and Blotto & Twinks series of crime novels.  GBW.

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Simon Brett British Author 02



LOOKING:
  My movie review of the HBO television version of Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” could be filled with vitriol but I’ll rein it in.

How did it go so wrong?  Why base the story on a best-selling book if you aren’t even going to try to recreate the ambience?  I was one of the first to read and review the novel “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty (before I became a blogger) and I knew it was a winner.  Modern, edgy, clever, the plot was enhanced by social media comments from witnesses, police, etc, which obviously didn’t translate to the screen.  In the turgid, overblown DVD 3-disc version, which thankfully I borrowed free from the library, the school-obsessed mothers were rich, pampered, spoilt like their children and their husbands were just as bad.  I could not relate, nor feel any sympathy for the movie characters although they were portrayed by big-name actors.  I can’t even begin to write about the weak build up and even weaker ending.  Moriarty’s name does not get credited on the DVD case and the words ‘based on’ is unreasonable.  In my view, the book is brilliant and regrettably I think anybody who has seen the HBO depiction will have a tainted view of the genuine meaning.  GBW.

Big Little Lies    IMG_20180613_221536



THINKING:
  Dog eats possum in suburban backyard.  No, not a newspaper headline, something which happened in my quiet, sober suburban street two days ago.

For a start, there are three dogs which is against Council bylaws and one of them has just birthed ‘accidental’ puppies.  They are territorial so they bark at anything that moves, people walking, kids on bikes, and possums.  Possums are a fact of life in my suburb, we have possum-proofed our house.  On a moonlit night they will pound across the roof, jumping from tree to tree, house to house in search of food.  I won’t go into the habits of possums, the main thought I can’t get out of my head is my neighbour calmly telling me the mother dog caught and ate a possum.  Horribly, I had heard the commotion, the desperate squealing, so my fears were confirmed.  The said neighbour let this happen because it was ‘good nourishment’ for the lactating dog.  Suburban possums are full of parasites, the least of which is worms.  That dog has now given those worms to her puppies.  I’m not squeamish, I understand how the animal world survives but that’s in the countryside, not a suburban block where owners need to conform and dogs need to be domesticated.  GBW.

Possums New Nature by Tim Low

 

Brushtail possum eating apple

 

 

 

POSTSCRIPT:  Every Saturday I change my Home page Photo Of The Week.
Join in with your Three Things
––for more information here’s the link:
https://bookjotter.com/category/three-things/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Clothes Shoes Food

Shoes Winter Spring Summer

There’s no disputing that clothes, shoes and food make the world go around.  The order depends on your preference.  I would have listed food first but today I’m talking about shoes.  Why?  Because I wear shoes out of necessity and make my favourite pair last for years.

Summertime footwear is usually sandals or thongs, no, not that kind, the flip-flops/jandals kind.  And wintertime is usually a closed-in toe like runners/joggers/sandshoes.  I have black work shoes and lace-up boots for walking, and flat heels and small heels being the most versatile for social occasions.

I like matching accessories, however, my shoes are usually the least prominent colour.  Recently I purchased a shiny rose gold-pewter casual pair of flatties and I love them.  They go with a lot of things and they are comfy.  My maroon old-lady slippers haven’t had a workout yet (summertime lingers in the subtropics) but my shiny flatties are just as good for pottering around the house.  The best part is that the shoe shop where I purchased them had a sale day.  Need I say more…

The ramblings above make it appear that I have many pairs of shoes but in actual fact I do not.  Of course, there’s the old, forgotten ones shoved to the back of the wardrobe, e.g. closet, gathering dust and mould.  The strappy, bling-covered pair which contain good memories; the 1980s white leather and wood health clogs; the brown leather knee-high boots which cost me a month’s wages (much admired by family and friends) now growing mildew.

Not so long ago I had a foot problem due to a gardening incident and suffered much pain even when inactive.  Treatment and recovery were slow, I spent a lot of time babying my foot which became a nuisance.  My heel had throbbed at random intervals, even though I inserted every kind of foot pad imaginable into the sole of my shoe…but not all at once!

My foot injury made me very aware of good shoe support and good advice from a doctor or podiatrist.  Never underestimate the importance of your “plates of meat” as Cockney slang might say.  Feet get you from A to B carrying the complete load of your body.  Support them!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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My Elusive Career as an Aspiring Writer

Attention span of a puppy? Pushed for time? “Publishing is a long game. As they say, you have to be a stayer if you want to be a player. Even if your book is only 500 words!” said Jen Storer, children’s author and chief inspirationalist at Girl & Duck.com when discussing the pitted path to publishing.  I intended writing a three-part posting on my literary travails but here they are in one glorious chunk.

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PROLOGUE After reading countless children’s picture books for Storytime in a public library, it became obvious to me what worked and what didn’t with a live audience. I thought it was about time I tried to write my own children’s book.

WARNING – THIS IS A LONG BLOG POST WHICH RAMBLES OVER EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF MY WRITING LIFE – CAFFEINATED BEVERAGE RECOMMENDED.

 

CHAPTER ONE The Plan. Work up slowly with a picture book maximum of 500 words for age 0-5, step into small chapter books for age 6-8 with 20,000 words, graduate to a decent sized book of 25,000 for teenagers then launch myself into young adult. Well, perhaps not young adult, could get a bit messy in the emotions department. Hopefully, maybe, I could consider penning a series. Something humorous and fun, with a good plot and memorable characters. An attention-grabbing theme, a zany bookcover and before you can say Harry Potter, I’m flying high, riding the wave of published author!

Er, right.  The truth of the matter is that I knew full well I had no experience.  Career shattered before it began?IMG_20170531_184235

In steps the many writer’s workshops and online courses available to the newbie.  Or as they say in the trade “emerging author”.  Plus a local writer’s club, State writers centre, Facebook groups and a conference or two.  (List of website links at end of page). Not forgetting the self-help books – anyone who’s ever written a book and had it published with moderate success seems to qualify as an adviser on the subject of literary rules. The do’s and don’ts, the routines, the voice, the need for originality, the best way to grab an editor’s attention, grammar, plot structure, plotter or pantser, show don’t tell, how to sell yourself, and the list goes on.

CHAPTER TWO First up, I enrolled in an expensive online course which certainly got me motivated but not by the moderator or the tutor. The other participants were withdrawn and really didn’t share. And the course notes were a little outdated. Yes, I know “Where The Wild Things Are” is a classic but hundreds of good, if not better, books have been published since then, with far more appeal. And I don’t really like the artwork.

Ah, artwork. You can write the words for a picture book but you can’t have it illustrated by an artist of your choosing. The publisher does that. And we all know we have different ideas when it comes to imagination and imagery. If you write and illustrate your own picture book, it has to be of exceptional standard. I can do pen and pencil drawings but they wouldn’t cut it. I’m much better with basic colour-in stuff. Which doesn’t sell.

Click link Saving

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Grandpa’s Tree

Then came the face-to-face classroom workshops which were fun. Lots of buzzing people with buzzing ideas and questions. Isn’t it surprising that when it comes to reading out your own work, people clam up? Not me. I always read out my stuff and one story was later fleshed out into a decent read “Saving Grandpa’s Tree”. However, it hasn’t attracted anyone’s attention yet.

CHAPTER THREE The big thing among creatives is to attend a yearly conference or festival in another State, necessitating a weekend away. I think a conference is meant to be more serious than a festival with serious lectures, serious note-taking and serious editor appraisals.  I have a small green notebook riddled with notes. A festival has all manner of literary people chatting on stage, with microphone feedback, showing wonky PowerPoint slides, supplemented with drinks and nibbles and a lot of networking.

Daily Things Egg Bookmarks Kookaburra (3)
Just like anywhere else, unless you are seen as someone who has “made it” you are not worthy of a business card exchange. And bookmarks, phew, I could wallpaper my room with all the industry bookmarks floating around.

 

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At these displays of verbose literary knowledge (excluding The Duck Pond – see below) I always wear my name badge. Nobody remembers my name and I don’t remember theirs but we compare notes, likes and dislikes and complain about the way the event is organised and the length of the queues. Usually the food tastes as good as it looks.  Of course, the better the quality, the quicker the goodies are consumed. Never cram your mouth because someone will ask you a question, and never spill anything down your front because you will be asked to step up the front to speak.

I’m going to pen a small piece on the Judith Rossell weekend writers retreat I attended at historic Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, Victoria.  Amazing vibe!  We don’t have many older buildings in Brisbane with such history.  I have organised, promoted and hosted author talks and, believe me, not all are created equal.  Will save that story for another time.

CHAPTER FOUR For well over a year, I submitted children’s picture book manuscripts to a myriad of publishers in Australia and overseas and have received only two rejections. I think the silence is worse than those two polite rejection letters. Surely, in this day and age, it wouldn’t take two seconds for the office junior to email a rejection to the poor, desperate writer at the other end.

RequiremeManuscripts.nts Of Submission occasionally want physical copies and I’ve gone the old A4 paper route, Times New Roman (no glitter in the envelope, big no-no) with clean easy-to-read layout and still not heard a word. Does that mean I’m no good or the publishing houses are totally swamped? Harking back to that office junior, who didn’t send me an email, I could get bitter. They are the first readers of unsolicited manuscripts which forces me to cry “What do they know? My literary reading is decades ahead of theirs.” Sadly, they know the trends. A new writer cannot predict trends. Nor can they single-handedly make them.

The scariest thing I’ve done (apart from hosting an avant-garde Shakespeare theatre troupe and judging a YA writing competition) was Literary Speed Dating; five minutes of torture in which you have to sell yourself and your manuscript.  A bell rings and, if you haven’t collapsed, you go to the next editor’s table.  And the next...and the next...A woman in my queue was eight months pregnant and the summer heat was ferocious but she coped better than all of us.  A book contract?  I hope the others were successful.  At least that woman has a baby now.

CHAPTER FIVE After becoming thoroughly disenchanted with the children’s book industry, I started up my own WordPress blog and thought “I’ll just do what I like and if anyone notices, that’s okay” but I didn’t hold my breath. Prepare to be amazed – 409 million people view more than 20.8 billion pages each month on WordPress, and users produce about 77.0 million new posts and 42.7 million new comments each month, an estimation of six new WordPress.com posts every second. Those stats have probably changed while I type, but it’s still a shedload of competition. It takes a lot to shine. Who’s going to read me and my miscellaneous Blogging Image 04ramblings? To date, I have 215 followers to whom I am very grateful.

I’ve discovered that personal stuff gets the most hits but specialising is not my thing.  Although I blog about many things, I still like the idea of kidlit. Notice that term? I’m getting good with the industry terms. Copy edit, structural edit, narrative arc, protagonist, antagonist … I subscribe to the newsletters of publishers, book stores, State organisations, libraries, writing groups, children’s literary charities and other book-reading bloggers like Paula Bardell-Hedley (see below). So far, I’ve come across a lot of WordPress book reviewers and enjoy their commentary. Personal opinion is a great thing, just not something I always agree with when it comes to books. Honesty compels me to admit that my leisure reading is not nursery rhymes, it’s a good crime novel.

CHAPTER SIX In between life, I volunteer at special events and displays at State Library and offer my free time closer to home in a charity shop bookroom. What an eye opener! Certainly a book for every customer, young or old; and quite a mixture of clientele. The shelves are browsed with all the fervent devotion of a high-end bookstore in the city. Without the price tag. And a few bent bookcovers and rusty pages thrown in. Behind the scenes, the staff are just as interesting. Again, will save that story for another time.

“But what of your picture book career?” Glad you asked. Confession time. Deep down my literary urge begins to lean towards writing for adults BUT I join Creative Kids Tales, an online group for emerging authors which specialises in children’s literature.  By this time I was doubtful that this was my true calling (after all, one can only take so many unsent rejection letters) and was oscillating between adult works and the perfect kids book.  I hung in there.

Truly Tan BooksEach month CKT features a different aspiring writer with a successfully published author. One author captured my imagination, Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.com An Enid Blyton lover, Jen shows an intelligent, vibrant nature, an honest, straight forward approach to writing and I like her children’s books, especially Truly Tan series.  Jen was starting a Facebook group The Duck Pond, inviting kidlit creatives to join, and the rest is magic.

CHAPTER SEVEN I’m pretty much a founding member of The Duck Pond and recently their creatives group Scribbles was added which I also joined. Membership grows weekly, and Jen does weekly Q&Q (questions and quacks) videos on YouTube. Apart from sudden Facebook drop-ins on screen, Jen does one-hour Scribbles Live Rounds and members tune in from around the world. Kidlit help is always at hand and the expertise of members is far-reaching.  The slogan “The rule is there are no rules” is true to its word. Jen says “Do the verk”.  Immersion is the only way and I’ve learned so much about writing books and the book industry generally.

Scribbles Live Round Participant 2018

An author/illustrator, Jen Storer believes is having fun and being messy, “Mess creates clarity”. The Scribblers course is for writers and illustrators and it encourages everyone to work without restrictions.  Quell that inner critic!  There are set Modules with exercises which you do at your own pace but following the easy guidelines so that your words just flow. I’ve experienced writing freely and unfettered and being surprised and pleased with the results. Honestly, with Jen’s prompts, I’ve had so many ideas I could be writing for years. Of course, submitting a manuscript isn’t messy, it has to be refined and polished. Jen is ex-publishing house so she know those ropes.

Now, the cruncher. I adore The Duck Pond group camaraderie and "doing the verk" but I am not a fan of the circus called Facebook. Nor do I participate in other social media like Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc. “Click this, view that, Like page” get lost. In a short space of time I have witnessed two great bloggers over-extend themselves to the detriment of their output.  I like to think I am not spreading myself too thinly!

CHAPTER EIGHT I’m loving my WordPress blog, the layout, the posts, changing photos, the full control I have over my content. Which reminds me, in the past I have submitted reviews and editorials to organisations who have edited or altered my work without my prior consent, which is apparently their prerogative, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I don’t – especially when they muck up a sentence to make it shorter or change paragraphing. So, dear reader, this leaves me in literary limbo.

Star Twinkle Twinkle 01CONGRATULATIONS – IF YOU REACHED THIS POINT WITHOUT SKIPPING BITS.

What is next in my literary journey? Will I shine? Over 18 months, and varying lengths of commitment, I have happily entered writing competitions (3rd place once) and completed a magazine writers course, travel writing course, children’s writing, crime writing, romance writers workshop, non-fiction-fest, lampooned the Australian publishing industry, and still don’t know what genre I want to pursue. I know it’s too late to become a ‘proper’ writer, contrary to what dear Jen Storer says in her passionate YouTube video A Slap Down For An Ageist Society I think I have missed the boat. I am passed my publishable prime. It’s no good lamenting the fact that I represent Gustav Freytag’s five-part story structure. I had a younger life to live and it didn’t include lonely, lengthy periods sitting at a keyboard. It does now.

EPILOGUE Sure, I can happily write to my heart’s content but who’s interested? Don’t answer that, please. Suffice to say I will dabble, making my miscellaneous Thoughts Become Words for my own pleasure because I can’t stop writing. Basically, that’s what it all boils down to, in the end we are doing it for ourselves. If someone else likes it, that’s a hefty bonus.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Paula Bardell-Hedley WP Book Blogger IN APPRECIATION – This post is dedicated to WordPress blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley for her great reviews, ideas, encouragement and super organisational skills
https://bookjotter.com/
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/04/02/dhq-dewithon19/
and I get a mention in Winding Up
https://bookjotter.com/2018/04/06/winding-up-the-week-13/


RELEVANT GROUPS AND ORGANISATIONS:
CKT https://www.creativekidstales.com.au/
AWC https://www.writerscentre.com.au/
QWC https://qldwriters.org.au/
BCC https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/facilities-recreation/libraries/opening-hours-locations/brisbane-square-library
CYA http://www.cyaconference.com/
KLV http://www.kidlitvic.com/
ILF https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/
SD https://www.storydogs.org.au/
FF https://www.fantasticfiction.com/
BWF http://uplit.com.au/
G&D https://girlandduck.com/
A&U https://www.allenandunwin.com/being-a-writer/getting-published/advice-from-a-publisher

A Home for Leftover Photos

An eclectic mix of my unused photos Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Laser cut dragon fantasy
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Agapanthus up close and personal
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Gaara chalk drawing
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Umbrella tree flower pods
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Backward and forward
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Watch out, Mr Rat
Kitchen Tree Frog IMG_20180319_082448
Frog ready to clean up
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Pretty purple petals
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A pixie was here a second ago
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Mirror, mirror on the wall…
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Gigantic orange roses
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Luke left his light sabre unattended
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Grow-a-Cow

 

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Kookaburra wizard

Afternoon Tea and Fancy Food

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”  Henry James, The Portrait Of A Lady.

Afternoon tea offers a variety of rich, creamy cakes and sweet pastries.  Ribbon sandwiches are sometimes served with savoury nibbles but the ubiquitous tea, scones, crumpets and homemade preserves are still in evidence.

The British aristocracy conceived Afternoon Tea a long time before their working classes began to consume High Tea in the evening.  Traditionally afternoon tea is lighter than high tea, the latter consisting of heavier food like meats and fish which possibly morphed into dinner.  Who knows?  I’m only going on what I’ve read.

Australia was founded by the British so, up until recently, a fair amount of our eating habits were ever-so-English and afternoon Tea For Two was practiced both domestically and in cafés until the advance of a more universal drink coffee.  Most people are lucky if they get afternoon tea now, e.g. in my experience people have a break at ‘morning tea’ time.

My grandmother’s hand-stitched tablecloth and serviettes were linen and a deliciously laden 3-tiered cake stand was placed in the centre of the table on a crocheted doily.  A posy of fresh flowers was discreetly positioned beside the teapot, milk jug and sugar bowl.  The cutlery was usually a knife, for spreading strawberry jam and cream, and a spoon for stirring your tea.

The crockery set was china or hand-painted porcelain and generally both cups and saucers displayed dainty flowers.  I learned to tell the difference between a teapot and a coffee pot by the position of the spout.  Not many people remember the design reason for this!  Sometimes during pouring, a small tea strainer was used.  I won’t go into the variety of teas available but traditionally alcohol was not served.

“Happiness for me is largely a matter of digestion” said writer Lin Yutang and added “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life” ― Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living.

These are my thoughts becoming words and not necessarily historical facts; just how I remember it when I visited my grandmother in Melbourne, Victoria.  As a child, in the homes of my friends, a serving of apple pie with ice-cream was just as good.  Friday evening fish and chips were a treat, and when the first pizza was taken from the pizzeria oven, we were not sure how to pronounce it let alone eat it.

I have a pot of leaf tea with my breakfast and use a tea cosy.  Teapots come in all shapes and sizes, and tea cosies, once the staple of the twentieth century Australian woman’s knitting repertoire, covered the pot and kept it warm.  While the tea leaves brewed, a colourful and creative tea cosy added to the charm of many an afternoon tea table.

NOTE : Afternoon tea images may induce hunger pangs!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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History : https://afternoontea.co.uk/information/history-of-afternoon-tea/

Tea Party : https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-throw-afternoon-tea-party

Teapot Museum : http://www.bygonebeautys.com.au/tearooms/

Teatowels : https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/10/01/teatowel-of-ignominy/

 

A Friend Pops Up 24 Years Later

Have you received an email, text message, Facebook request or card in the letterbox which made you wince?  Me too.  And it was today.  I guess I should be grateful that the sender did not phone me.  I would have spluttered my way through the conversation and tried to weasel out of giving this person any information about myself since I last saw them 24 years ago.

Do I feel annoyed, upset or beguiled by their surprise appearance on Facebook?  I’m not sure.  First, I wondered what prompted this bolt-from-the-blue contact.  Second, I wrote down our backstory to get my head straight:

We worked together before our children were born, she was going into a new marriage and I was leaving an old one.  This woman’s role was administration manager or something like that, she did a lot of accounts and moaned about the way forms were filled incorrectly.  She had a corner office with a big desk and spent a lot of time talking to staff in an over-friendly, mocking way that unpopular people have when they are trying to be popular.Wedding 13

As a matter of fact, I’m ashamed to admit, I became part of her bridal party.  I succumbed to pressure and involuntarily became a bridesmaid.  Her friend or her sister was matron-of-honour and I think there may have been another bridesmaid but maybe I replaced someone who wasn’t up to task.  Anyhow, I remember the gown fittings, the diamanté jewellery, the shoes, the bouquets, the whole rigmarole was exhausting.  On the Big Day I had professional make-up applied (trowelled on) and I thought it looked hideous.  My hair was whooshed back and I felt as stiff as a Barbie doll.  A close-up photograph of me doesn’t look too bad – gosh, I was young.

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Now, dear reader, I was in a relationship with an army sergeant at the time and the wedding photographer was an ex-boyfriend.  I don’t remember feeling tense about them being in the same ballroom.  Maybe I blotted out that part of the evening.  I do remember my ex-boyfriend wilfully snapping a photo of me dancing with my new partner.  I’m not a dancer.  It was an okay wedding ceremony with theme colours of pink and maroon which were quite tastefully done.  As befits the centre of attention, the bride played her part but the groom was a bit quiet, e.g. rather inanimate character.  Predictably over the intervening years, the cake, food, groomsmen and speeches left no impression.

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Not long after the Big Day, I resigned from the corporation where we both worked and I started another life.  I briefly met the woman in question about two years later outside a local video store (remember videos, overnight rental, tape jams?) and she was with her husband and six months pregnant.  From what Facebook will let me see, she has a couple of children now.  With no family news or information, she perceptively called me ‘Stranger’, asked me if I was still living in the same place and did I want to meet up?  Why, and why now?  Truth must be told; I was uncomfortable around the woman.  She had the knack of grating on me, especially when she initiated ‘jokes’ with co-workers.

A long-time friend, a dear person who lives in the countryside, says he has been contacted by various ‘friends’ he hasn’t seen in years and feels they are freeloading in their desire to drop in on his rural idyll, taking advantage of a convenient escape to the country.  I, too, have had similar occurrences in suburbia but I tell people that I do not entertain at home and we don’t have a spare bed.  And that is true enough, depending on the visitor.  With this mystery reappearance of a workmate (as opposed to friend) who made no contact with me after the wedding, much to my relief, and now wants to buddy up as if 24 years is no time at all – I don’t get it.

Is she divorced?  Is she retiring?  Is she thinking kind thoughts about me?  Or is she bored with her life and Facebooking randoms from her past?  Another truthful moment; I don’t think we would have one single thing in common.  Possibly she has changed, possibly I’m anti-social, possibly infinite variables.

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Am I tempted?  Sure, I’m tempted.  I could click Accept or Decline on that Messenger button.  Click Accept and, hey presto, all will be revealed.  Also, it would expose a lot of stuff I don’t want to remember very closely.  Then there’s the difficulty of worming my way out of it.  I don’t want an added extra to my social life right now.  As previously posted, I am cutting back on my social media.  I want to move forward…write and relax…my way…I guess I could just say ‘hello’ and not get involved…I guess…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

N.B. Apologies to friends and followers who would like a Comment box.