What to Recycle with REDcycle

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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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500 Likes – Thank you!

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 173 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.

Love Food Hate Waste Campaign

Brisbane Queensland Australia 05
Brisbane Queensland Australia

Maybe it’s because I was brought up by post-war parents that I am shocked at the staggering amount of food waste in Brisbane.  I could not understand why our local Government has joined the world-wide campaign Love Food Hate Waste.  Surely you only buy, cook and eat what you need and freeze leftovers?

Apparently for millions of households, it’s not that simple!

The Council brochure states “Love Food Hate Waste was launched in 2007 by Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) in the United Kingdom followed by New Zealand, Canada and Australia.  With food waste making up 37% of the average Brisbane rubbish bin, 1 in 5 shopping bags of food ends up in the bin.  That’s 97,000 tonnes of food thrown away every year.   There are simple and practical changes which residents can make in the kitchen to reduce food waste; planning, preparation and storage of food will make a big difference to your wallet and keep Brisbane clean, green and sustainable.”

Scramble over the mat, don’t trip on the dog, here’s a tasty listicle of Council wisdom prepared earlier:

  • Plan meals ahead – create a meal plan based on what is already in your fridge, freezer and pantry.
  • Shop mindfully – stick to your shopping list!
  • Store food correctly – Learn how to store food to ensure it lasts as long as possible and check your refrigerator is functioning at maximum efficiency.
  • Cook with care – Without controlling portions, we tend to waste food when we prepare or cook too much.  Remember fruit and vegetables ripen quickly and are best consumed daily.
  • Love your leftovers – Freeze leftovers to use for lunches, keep for snacks, or add to another main meal.
  • Consider composting – Turn your kitchen scraps into rich nutrients for your garden, get a Bokashi bucket, consider owning pets like chickens or guinea pigs.
  • Join a community garden – Composting hubs operate in selected community gardens.
  • Six-week food waste challenge – Every week the Council will provide step-by-step information on how you can reduce food waste in your home.  Seriously.

Bokashi Bucket Diagram 01

We are over-stocked, over-fed and over-indulgent of our taste buds.  Or as my dear mother would say “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Love Food Hate Waste BCC Campaign

Goodbye to Facebook Again

Facebook Poke 02

After taking one year off to immerse myself in the art of writing, my time is up.

New Year’s resolution: I will no longer be posting regularly on Facebook because it is the most all-consuming part of my day and ultimately hollow.  Eight years ago I dropped out, as evidenced by the snapshot of this unanswered Poke.  Author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck, The Duck Pond and Scribbles creative groups can be pleased she was the one who drew me back into social media to nurture my writing dream – you light up my life – thank you.

My unFacebooking is not due in any way to the calibre and overall enjoyment of the wonderful ‘friends’ I made, I will miss virtually following your daily journeys in writing and illustration.  Conversely, we all are living two lives, the one on Facebook and the real one.

My departure is due to the links, Likes, highlights, comments, feeds, Facebook layout and general entanglements with people whom I do not know on a real level.  It may feel personal but it is not; and I need to grasp reality, my home, my family and my proper writing.

A visit from a little red hen named Took got me back out into our overgrown garden and I realised the computer screen is destroying my creativity rather than enhancing it.

My WordPress blog will continue https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instil in us” – Hal Borland, American author.

Happy New Year 2018, everyone, and much fulfillment!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward



Postscript
: According to the 2017 Deloitte Media Consumer Survey, daily social media usage in Australia is down from 61 percent to 59 percent in 2017, and 20 percent of Australian social media users say they are no longer enjoying their time on the platforms.  Likewise, almost one third (31 percent) of survey respondents said they have temporarily or permanently deactivated one or more of their social media accounts in the past year.  Fake news is killing the media star with 58 percent of respondents agreeing that they have changed the way they access online content given the prevalence of fake news.  So, folks, I am not alone!

Am I Sharing With The World Or Just Getting Stuff Out Of My Head?

Please Shut The Gate Sign

Writers need to write but do readers need to read?

From early on I made the decision not to Like a post unless I had read it.  As you can guess, its hard to do.  Every day millions of posts circulate around the world on countless blogging platforms and social media sites to such an extent that most of them will NEVER be read.  At least, not fully.  I think I am pretty safe in saying that.  We are doing the modern equivalent of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

Which brings me to the heading of my post.  I will answer my own question.  It is preferable to get things out of your head and onto a page for personal satisfaction rather than thinking you are making a useful contribution to the world.  Plenty of specialists are making useful contributions but I guarantee they are writing to a niche audience, not the world.

Another decision (note I use the word ‘decision’ because we are given choices then have to make one decision) I made is not to seek Likes and Followers and not to maintain a prolific output to pursue a high profile.  I have not activated my Comments because the majority of blogging sites appear not to have worthwhile comments or replies and, if they do, the bulk of them are from fans bordering on sycophant behaviour.

I’m not a tortured genius nor do I have a singular agenda so I am way down the favourites listicle.  I am happy doing my own thing and don’t pine for kindly Likes.  However, I am very grateful for those Likes and Followers I do have because I feel confident they have actually read my blog posts.  You can tell by my Home page that I am not going to stick to a theme, although I do have Photo Of The Week and I’m loosely hung up on the importance of literacy.

Why did I write this post?  I will probably feel differently tomorrow but today I wanted to get it out of my head.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Stolen Jewellery Anger and Sorrow

ANGRY THOUGHTS BECOME WORDS:
A cathartic rant penned soon after the burglary of my home.  The break-and-enter and subsequent robbery took place on the evening of 15 September between 6pm and 11pm.  Here are my raw observations—

OUT FOR THE EVENING:
My family and I went to a live theatre production for the first time in several years and when we arrived home that night we felt that all was not well.  We quickly turned on all internal lights throughout the house.  It wasn’t until we entered our bedrooms that we saw small things dropped haphazardly on the floor.  A notebook, a spectacles case, a shirt flipped off the hanger onto the floor and drawers slightly open.  Nothing spectacular, no broken objects, but obviously all our rooms had been searched.

Crime Scene Sticker 05

 

SHOCK AND DISBELIEF:
At first my feeling was one of shocked disbelief, we ran between bedrooms trying to find where the intruder had entered.  Nothing was immediately visible and my daughter slammed the bathroom door shut with the thought that someone may still be in the house.  As our report was phoned through to the police, my anger was slowly building until I kicked the bathroom door open, shrieking foul words of murder and mayhem.  Behind me, my daughter screamed in fright at my violent action but we were both relieved that nobody was lurking there.

Crime Scene Sticker 06

 

THE POINT OF ENTRY:
I went slowly into the living room and turned towards the dining room which led into the kitchen.  At first glance I could see that the windows were intact and the back door was undamaged.  Suddenly I noticed that the lounge chair in front of the French doors had been moved forward.  I peered over and saw that the flyscreen had been damaged in one corner but the blinds were still closed.  I unlocked the back door and went outside onto the patio.  I had a vile afterthought that the burglar was probably watching me from the shrubbery, sniggering.  The French doors were slightly ajar and moving closer I could see that they had been forced open, classic B&E.  The top and bottom bolts were smashed out, splintering the wood, and the middle locks were broken off.

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A MINOR OBSTACLE:
Back inside and time to have a closer look behind that lounge chair.  The sliding flyscreen doors had given the burglar trouble, they were jammed with metal rods.  I believe the burglar took off his glove (there is evidence inside and outside the house that gloves were worn) in order to flip the metal rod out of the runner.  This rod was then discarded, to be found in our garden weeks later.  It had been though rain and handled which was unfortunate because the forensic officer who attended the scene would have liked to have dusted it.

Crime Scene Sticker 03

 

THE POLICE ARRIVE:
After a lengthy telephone call to CrimeStoppers, and a sleepless night, we awaited the arrival of the police next morning.  Two officers arrived early with a forensic sergeant.  They had a look around and were surprised to see no broken glass and our electronic devices and certain objects still in place. This is something which we have never understood but do believe we were done over by a specialist thief who targeted gold.  I use the word “he” because I was later informed that two similar crimes had occurred over a three-day period and on the third day he was seen in a hallway and escaped by jumping out a window.

Crime Scene Magnifier

 

FORENSIC WORK:
Regrettably I do not have the name of the forensic officer who was called in but she was very informative and helpful and took samples of gloved finger prints from the broken French doors, walls and throughout the house.  She took clear photographs and checked items like the front of the jewellery chest-of-draws which she dusted for prints but which were on wood so not very useful.  If I had been in a less shocked mood, it was a good example of police work.

Jewellery Gold 01

 

FAMILY INHERITANCE LOST:
This thieving criminal stole gold items relating to my family history, small pieces from my great grandparents, finely crafted and lovingly engraved.  An inheritance lost, no proof of ownership, not clear photos, only verbal descriptions.  Special items, sentimental items kept in the third drawer down in my mother’s large pine chest-of-drawers.  Yes, this is where the old jewellery was kept, all in original boxes, all quite obviously family treasures.  Sure, silly place to put them but they were not worn often, too fine for general wear, and not my generation’s style.

Jewellery Gold 04

 

ANGER, SORROW AND TAKING THE BLAME:
I am deeply sad and angry and wholly blame myself for the loss because I took our jewellery for granted.  It was part of the family but I did not respect its uniqueness or irreplaceable value enough to make sure these precious objects were kept safe.  My engraved wedding bracelet was worn, not hidden away.  Gone now.  Should we love and wear our meaningful possessions or lock them up?  We run great risks with many things.  There is insurance available but no matter what premium fees we pay, it will never ever replace our true possessions.  I have steeled myself never to see those familiar pieces again.  I know my family members are safe but I feel this loss like an ache.

Crime Scene Melted Gold

 

MELTED DOWN OR SOLD AT AUCTION:
A shockwave went through me when I realised our jewellery may be melted down for its gold.  But, according to a Melbourne jeweller I spoke to a week later, old gold is highly prized on the stolen goods market.  Holding value, easily transported from thief to fence to crooked jewellery store to people out there who don’t care if it has been stolen.  Sold as “deceased estate” jewellery, people will buy it, wear it, and lie about its provenance.  Either way, I hope they rot in hell for all eternity.

Jewellery Gold 02

 

SIFTING THROUGH THE RUINS:
The small sad broken little jewellery boxes are still in the chest-of-drawers.  Initially I couldn’t delved too far, it was traumatic enough sitting on the bed to open each box from its jumble in the bottom of the drawer.  I had to do an inventory.  Instinctively I knew which pieces of jewellery would be gone – and they were.  My gold rings were taken but everyday accessories were still there because they are average stuff.  Of course there’s always the horror of the thief passing on details to other cronies who may be interested in what is left behind.  Huh, nothin’ here now, mate.

Crime Scene Finger Prints 03

 

TOUCHY FEELY KINDA GUY:
It was obvious the intruder had touched everything and anything in our house.  The classic cat burglar, in most instances hardly moving objects, but perceptible just the same.  The rough gloves worn to jemmy open the double doors were replaced by smaller, possibly surgical gloves, but they still left small dents in the dust on our bookcases and side tables.  Three-prong finger prints where he had rested his middle fingers to reach up or pull an item forward.  Those small gloved finger marks tell the story of a thorough search.  Every framed picture, every ornament on every shelf had been moved.  Anything which might conceivably contain cash or jewellery was opened and closed roughly or otherwise.  Yes, even my t-shirts and undies drawer had been shuffled through.  Various drawers had been almost closed as to be unnoticeable.  But he had wanted them to be noticed.

Crime Scene Break In

 

EXTERNAL DAMAGE REPAIRED:
The locksmith was calm and professional and he showed me the methods used to break-and-enter as he repaired the damage.  The door was pried in ten places to snap the barrel bolts and break off the locks.  You could see where the thief had rested his grip-gloved hand while he worked.  Also, explained the locksmith, marks were on window sills at the back of the house where windows had been probed, the security screen lock on the back door was loose, too.

FORCE USED ON INTERNAL DOORS:
Inside, where this felon could not easily open a storage cupboard, force was used.  Fortunately we never keep any cash on the premises but the bending of hinges and buckling of locks is easy to see.  Door handle screws were loosened, the bottom door on an old metal filing cabinet (never locked anyway) is damaged, the locked door between our garage and hallway held firm but had been jemmied and now rattles in the frame.

Crime Scene Shoe Print 02

 

INSULT TO INJURY:
My emotions seesawed from sadness to annoyance to outrage.  One particular thing which made me fume and cry “How dare he!” was when I discovered the hinged bracket on my stepladder had been damaged.  During his unlawful search, the thief had broken my stepladder!

IMG_3661

 

ANOTHER MISSING ITEM:
When I had a thought about something, say a trinket box or unused cupboard, I would look to see if anything inside had been moved, sure enough, it had.  Days later I realised a small insignificant brooch was missing.  And everywhere those chilling little gloved fingerprints.  The thing which surprised me was the opening of food packets in our kitchen.  No mess but dry goods were rifled.  Even foodstuff in the refrigerator had been rearranged.  I thought that only happened in movies.

IN THE TIME WE WERE AWAY:
On the crucial night of the burglary, he certainly had a field day and didn’t have to worry about the length of time we would be away, seeing as our calendars advertised the start and finish time of the show we attended.  We were away for approximately five hours. Basically, our lives were overturned in that time.  As mentioned, he’d worked throughout the house and over the following days we discovered more tamper-evident details.

Crime Scene Tape 03

 

TAMPERING WITH ELECTRICITY SUPPLY:
The switchboard power box at the side of the house has been damaged because it had a jammed clasp which squeaked when pulled open and shut.  I checked it and could see the screws have been slacked off so the lock was useless.  I remembered waking up one morning and the clocks were flashing, showing the power had gone off at approximately 2am.  Someone checking the switches?  An outdoor floodlight had been broken during the burglary and was subsequently replaced.  Another cunning trick is to turn off the water supply to gauge if the householder is at home.

Crime Scene Sticker 01

 

WATCHING AND WAITING:
It is my strong belief that the thief was watching our house for at least a week or two before we were robbed.  My spider senses were working but I forced them down, I knew something was “out there” and chose to rationalise, ignoring my tiny twinges.  I did get a scare when I went down to the rubbish bin after dark one night.  Glancing up I thought I saw a shadow dive around the corner of the narrow walkway at the back of the empty house next door.  Nah, just imagination, right?  Never happened before…out-of-character for our quiet street…

NEVER IGNORE YOUR SUSPICIONS:
I do know I heard “things” several days beforehand and tried to dismiss them.  I shouldn’t have, they were significant sounds.  Once or twice the wind chimes tinkled when there wasn’t a breath of air.  Another time I heard our loose paving step rattle, a bin lid drop, the door shake.  Why was I aware of this?  Familiar sounds, yet unusual at those times.  I turned on the outdoor lights.  Maybe that was the night I scared a sneak thief, testing, checking points of entry.

Crime Scene Abandoned House 02

 

POOR CONDITIONS FOR US:
On the night of the burglary, the house on our left was unoccupied (owners out to dinner), the house on the right was a vacant rental and the house immediately behind us was also an empty rental.  Perfect conditions for a would-be thief; means, motive and opportunity!  We no longer own a dog and, ironically, one week after the break and enter, the house on the right was rented and the new tenants have two teenagers, two dogs and one cat.  Then the house behind us was occupied by a young family also with two dogs.  Always plenty of activity now which would have been useful just one week earlier.  C’est la vie.

Crime Scene Sticker 02

 

BE VIGILANT WITHOUT BEING PARANOID:
Things worth watching for – I had noticed a shiny black motor cycle with a rider clad in black leathers cruising up and down our street a couple of times.  In our average middle-class street, he was not a regular nor a neighbour.  I heard him in the next street over, cruising up and away.  A week later I was chatting to a friend at the front gate and a dark sports car with blackened windows cruised slowly up our street.  No headlights on, it was dusk, so the number plate was not visible.  I always pray that our scrutiny scared off that driver.  Both these occasions, I am certain, were “patrols” by the criminal fraternity.

Handcuffs 01

 

NO ARREST IN SIGHT:
To date, the thieving scumbag is still at large.  No matter what I do from now on in, I will always be double checking the doors and locks and security lights.  He is obviously specific, neat and creepy in all his movements.  He could have family connections to a jeweller, he could have been groomed to thieve for the family firm.  Perhaps a drug or gambling addiction?  There could be a number of reasons why he does what he does but none of them is excusable or legal.  I hate this faceless nameless criminal who broke into my home.  I hate him with a passion and still haven’t recovered from the crushing of my security, my safety, my homelife.

Thanks a lot, you rat fink bastard.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Crime Scene Sticker 08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N.B. Images used for illustration purposes only.

Teatowel of Ignominy

Ever do something just for fun?  Sure you have.  From an impromptu picnic to cooking a lavish dinner.  Sporty things, family things, shopping expeditions or entering a competition in the name of fun.

Recently I designed a book-themed teatowel for fun.  There was a prize involved but I won’t dwell on that because I did not win.  However, it did spawn this blog piece…

Tea Towel Design 03
G-B-W©Book Lifecycle artwork (Australia)

For those born into a dishwasher world, I will elaborate.  A teatowel is used to dry crockery and cutlery.  It is made of an oblong piece of linen or cotton material, naturally absorbent, hemmed on all sides and printed with a design.  The design is printed on one side, in portrait position.  Teatowels can be any colour, any theme, but traditionally the same fabric and size.  They can also be displayed poster-like on a kitchen wall.  The following teatowels are not ignominious!

Tea Towel Design 04
Raspberry Thistles©Scott Inness (Scotland)

Tourist destinations sell souvenir teatowels, the most glorious ones are those in public art galleries.  Gift shops offer cute ones with flowers, teacups, recipes or cow designs.  Craft groups use them as fund-raisers, while cookware stores display matching sets of oven mitt, apron and teatowel with a trendy designer logo.

Tea Towel Design 06
Friesian Cows©Rodriquez (Australia)

I have a large proportion of Australian flora and fauna too well-laundered to show here.  The examples displayed are the best I could find in the kitchen drawer.  A lovely giraffe print from Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo NSW, was singed from a cooking incident.  My recently purchased Cecily teatowel (below) is part of a book-themed series from New Zealand.  It will not suffer the fate of another limited edition teatowel which, shock horror, was used to wipe the stove griller.

Tea Towel Design 08
Cecily©Moa Revival (New Zealand)

Teatowels sound old-fashioned and domesticated but they can become the focus of teenage washing-up disputes and used as a weapon to flick people.  Snap!

Tea Towel Design 05
Babushka Dolls©Ladelle (Australia)

Apparently teatowels originated in Victorian England and were used at teatime to keep the china in good condition.  Baked goods were often laid on a teatowel to cool or alternatively kept moist under a teatowel.  The name is different in different countries, in Australia a dishtowel/dishcloth is used for more heavy duty cleaning.

Teacup 001
Tidy teatowel (Unknown)

No doubt there is an online history of teatowels and teatowel aficionados around the world, but I am content in the knowledge that I have owned many useful hard-working ones over the years.  Lightly imbued with nostalgia and sentiment, some were gifts, most I have bought, and one I designed myself which is not destined to be printed.  That’s a good thing.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


BONUS:
My blog post is laden with afternoon tea foodie photographs
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/03/11/afternoon-tea-and-fancy-food/
Extra teatowel image courtesy of The National Trust UK
https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/

IMG_20180403_120406
Made with care in UK for The National Trust 100% cotton.