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

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

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 SWWQ, 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.

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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.

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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? Recently I had 385 Followers but I culled the spammers and that number dropped back drastically.

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 (two Third Place awards and shortlisted) 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
SWWQ http://womenwritersqld.org.au/

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

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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.

Crime Scene Gloved Hand 02

 

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.

Springtime Ode

September and spring is emerging in the southern hemisphere. And my garden!

Luminous Fluoro Flowers
My ode to springtime using DooDooLite

I have just found out what Crocosmia means!  Small, brightly coloured funnel-shaped blooms, sword-shaped foliage, grown from bulbs similar to the Iris family.  Grouped together they make ideal, butterfly-friendly floral displays.  Such a variety of colours and shapes to gladden the heart of any artistic gardener.

On Gardenia Creating Gardens website, companion planting with Crocosmia is reminiscent of English cottage gardens (see below) although they are natives of South Africa.  I haven’t planted Crocosmia, I should, they tolerate Brisbane’s subtropical climate, humidity, heat and current drought-like conditions.

Flower Crocosmia
https://www.gardenia.net/guide/Great-Companion-Plants-for-Your-Crocosmia

Since Queensland won’t be getting tropical rainfall for a couple of months yet, I will satisfy myself with what I can photograph in my own meagre garden; and add excerpts from some famous poems about springtime.

IMG_3811
“Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
IMG_3818
“A Light Exists in Spring” by Emily Dickinson
A Colour stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.
It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.
IMG_3822
“September in Australia” by Henry Kendall 
Grey Winter hath gone, like a wearisome guest,
And, behold, for repayment,
September comes in with the wind of the West
And the Spring in her raiment!
The ways of the frost have been filled of the flowers,
While the forest discovers
Wild wings, with the halo of hyaline hours,
And the music of lovers.
Azalea and Dragon
“Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
Gnomes
“Australian Spring” by Hugh McCrae
And jolly Spring, with love and laughter gay
Full fountaining, lets loose her tide of bees
Upon the waking ember-flame of bloom
New kindled in the honey-scented trees.
IMG_3829
“Spring” by Christina Georgina Rossetti
There is no time like Spring,
When life’s alive in everything,
Before new nestlings sing,
Before cleft swallows speed their journey back
Along the trackless track –
God guides their wing,
He spreads their table that they nothing lack –
Before the daisy grows a common flower
Before the sun has power
To scorch the world up in his noontide hour.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Post and Postcards

Pioneer House Removal
Moving

This postcard came in the mail via Australia Post.  As intended, the ye olde black and white image caught my eye.  It was not sent from a removalist company but a real estate agent.

Our images are so copious, so spread around, and so disposable these days that it is hard to believe this single shot would have been a painstaking work of art.  And quite an historic rural event.  Look at that horse power!  There appears to be one small girl on a beam but the rest of the contingent is male.  A move like this would have been challenging to say the least, and not without its hazards, so the womenfolk were probably waiting at the other end with hot beverages and bandages.

I would have liked acknowledgement of the photographer, location or source (probably State Library archives) but suffice to say I was most impressed with the photo taken a century ago.  And delivered to my letterbox in the traditional way.

As a kid I had an American penpal, sadly no letters and no memory remain other than choosing the lick-and-stick postage stamps.  Until recently I belonged to the world-wide postcard group Postcrossing, receiving postcards and stamps from all over the planet.  It proved difficult for me to maintain but it was a wonderful experience.

In Brisbane, we still have a good postal service which regularly delivers letters, parcels, bills, cards, leaflets, brochures, newspapers, pizza vouchers and assorted items like sachet samples of detergent.

I scrutinise all unsolicited mail and most goes straight into the recycle bin.  Except, of course, this one.  Ah, time travel, how I wish I could go back and watch that house moving for real…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Lawn Mower Men

Lawn Mower 03
Mower

For the last 20 years my lawn have been maintained by a variety of lawn mower men.  You might say I’m an expert in using and losing lawn mower men.  Some were franchised, many were independent, two were uni students, and my current bloke is the son of a former lawn mowing man.  They all have one thing in common, they have stories to tell.  From tyre-like snakes to the ubiquitous naked housewife, they would arrive from their last job, either wide-eyed or totally unmoved at what people do or generally don’t do in their gardens.

An interesting fact, little documented, is that lawn mowing men are commonly escaping the grind of an intense and soul-destroying job.  They like the fresh air, the physical aspect, their own timetable and the odd cash in hand.  I have heard about their families, their weekend activities and their apologies for why they have to charge me more for trimming the edges.  I’ve given up querying those five minute extras.  Some have used a whipper-snipper over the whole garden and one modern man used a ride-on mower.  The noise and the results were equally bad but they didn’t come back.  Which is a blessed relief.  You can read about my suburban garden in Garden Notes.

In the beginning I used to offer these men a cold drink on a hot day but increasingly I have noticed they bring their own beverages.  Once I offered a craggy old fellow a yoghurt ice-cream on a stick, thinking it would be cooling, but he refused telling me he didn’t like that sort of stuff. The stories are real but I have used pseudonyms throughout so let’s call him Doug.  Doug had experienced “that sort of stuff” before.  Without yoghurt but involving a Naked Lady.

Doug was mowing the front lawn when he glanced up and saw the homeowner standing naked in the front window.  She was unperturbed but he was flustered.  At the end of his job, Doug went to the door and it was flung open before he could knock.  The now scantily clad homeowner ushered him inside, offered him coffee, sat close on the sofa and introduced him to her girlfriend.  Apparently they wanted a baby together and he seemed the perfect candidate.  Doug was a happily married grandfather and “wouldn’t have a bar of it”.  In other words, the answer was “no”.

Chook Cheeky 02
Chook

The Egg Basket was one of Doug’s more humorous stories.  Doug was mowing the back lawn of a regular customer, being careful not to scare the free range hens, when he came across fresh laid eggs.  He picked them up and placed them out of harm’s way in the peg basket swinging on the clothes line.  Next visit, the homeowner told Doug “the funniest thing had happened” and his “chooks must be acrobats” because they laid their eggs in the peg basket.  Doug laughed and explained what he had done.  The homeowner was relieved since he couldn’t understand how the hens had balanced.

Lawn mowing men are wizards with a mower but rarely are they trained horticulturists, arborists or landscapers.  The same goes for a sub-branch called treeloppers but that’s another story.  Some mower men are billed as gardeners but often become vague about availability when you ask if they can weed the back garden.  Or even more vague when you ask if they have time to remove a pile of garden waste.  Their astute move with garden waste is to tote-up how many other householders want rubbish removed, coordinate the same day collection, slug each of us the disposal fee and do a one-stop drop at the council tip.

One thing I have noticed (apologies, I have yet to see a female mower person) is that, to a man, they have their mobile phones in their top left pocket, button undone ready to take calls.  They don’t write these calls down so, inevitably, at some point they have to ring the caller back to confirm appointment details.  The good ones leave a business card in my letterbox with the next mowing day and the more lax ones fade away.

On the subject of workwear, I have observed that lawn mower men do not go in for burdensome things like high visibility vests or safety glasses.  On the plus side, they do wear working boots with heavy khaki socks which match their heavy khaki shirts.  Accessories include cheap sunglasses and, depending on the age of the wearer, a sweaty cap or straw-weave hat.  Protective gloves rarely make an appearance and I can only put that down to the subtropical heat.

Wally certainly needed all the help he could get.  He was always keen to lend a helping hand (even building our budgie aviary) but he had an obsession for removing wasps and spiders.  We told him that the big spider over our driveway was our pet and he was to leave it alone.  But Wally took a dislike to a wasps nest and attacked it until he was chased around and around the garden, flyspray can in hand.  I was on the side of the wasps.  And Wally didn’t know it but I had seen him surreptitiously snipping bits off my conifer tree because it got in his way.

Lawn Mower 05
Wally

Once Wally told me about a customer who came outside complaining because he was using a leaf blower instead of a broom.  He also told me of clothes left hanging on drying lines for months, barbecue crockery left out for weeks and large rocks abandoned in strange places.  Regarding rocks, Wally had flicked up stones which had broken windows.  The best way to identify a novice lawn mower man like Wally is to watch his attention to detail.  Does he bring in your empty wheelie bin?  Does he shut the gate?  Does he make sure nothing has been missed, e.g. palm fronds on the path?  If the answers are “no” then you can assume he is experienced; the old hand creating a tsunami of leaves in the far corner of your yard.

Another sign of the more experienced lawn mowing man is the Second Job.  Usually this is unrelated, like the chap who hinted that my balcony railing looked unsafe and gave me the number of his carpentry business.  Go with your instincts.  In this instance, I should have taken note because a year later the carpenter who subsequently did the job was pretty slap-dash and cost me money.  On the subject of money, let me tell you about Enrico.

Enrico’s customers are a mixed bag when it comes to paying the bill.  Those who live in big houses with big cars take months to pay.  There are customers who pay him online and he’s never met them.  One customer paid him with lots and lots of coins, and another disappeared owing money.  Sounds like an average business day to me.  Enrico has three pet peeves.  First, the bossy client who dictates how they want the job done then stands with hands on hips to watch.  The second is chatty old ladies/men who want to follow him around.  And third, the classic Neighbour Across The Street who asks for his business card then angles for a “good” deal.

Lawn Mower 02
Johnno

I think of young Johnno as more of a wildlife ranger.  He always had a tale to tell about an animal encounter, from guinea pig wrangling to accidentally letting dogs out, to scaring a goat.  One day he was requested to do a garden tidy for a couple who had taken ill.  He recommenced where they had left off and scooped up a large pile of leaves and twigs.  It wasn’t until he had disposed of the bundle in his Ute trailer that he realised it was full of black fuzzy caterpillars.  And they were on his clothes.  He did a war dance and hosed himself down but still came up in a rash wherever they had crawled, mainly down his neckline.

Johnno by far had the biggest snake encounters, from a python asleep in a veggie patch to a green tree snake in my begonia hanging basket.  One morning he saw a big brown snake sunning on our driveway and he took a spade to it.  I was horrified, first because he wanted to kill it but second, because he sent it under the fence into the children’s play area.  It was never found.

I believe a lawn mower man does not appreciate the pressure he puts the lawn mowee under.  We have to lock up the dog, do a poop patrol, clear away any washing and raise the Hills Hoist, pick up toys, cover the budgies (in case of those flying rocks) remove fallen branches and make sure the area is free of trip-and-fall hazards.  It is imperative that I place my herbs and tender potted plants in a safe place and have learned from bitter experience to build a fortress around new shrubs.  My prize pomegranate was lopped off at the base and has taken years to reassert itself.

In conclusion, I would say that most of the lawn mower men I’ve employed seemed happy with their work.  It’s an early start and early knock-off, and their weekends are free.  They seem fit and healthy, none I’ve known have ever set foot in a gym.  Of course, sunstroke taught them to drink plenty of water.  I am sure I have contributed to their holiday funds in a positive way and they, in turn, have allowed me to walk across my lawn without using a machete.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Lawn Mower 04
Happy Chappy

My First Car

My First Car Datsun
Datsun

One hot day in early 1970s, sitting in a crowded bus on my way to business college in Brisbane central, I vowed to myself like most young people at the time, that the first thing I was going to do when I found a job was to buy a car.  And I wanted a new car.

Thanks to my parents’ foresight, I was already taking RACQ driving lessons around the torturous hills of Bardon and Paddington in Brisbane.  I was issued with my driver’s license at Rosalie on the first attempt, secured a secretarial job and started to save for my first car.

Vehicle window-shopping became a regular pastime.  By mid-1975, after reading volumes of the driver’s bible The Road Ahead, and comparing models with my father, I purchased a brand-new white Datsun 120Y four-door sedan from Ira Berk in Fortitude Valley.

My new Datsun sedan cost me $4,000 in cash.  Although I could drive a manual, it was an automatic.  It also sported a thin stripe along either side.  It had a tight turning circle and was economy-plus when it came to petrol consumption, two of its bragging points.  The interior and seats were brown vinyl and the dashboard was black; basic but functional.  It contained a radio player, cigarette lighter and, surprise-surprise, an analogue clock which ticked away the hours for 18 glorious years.

Many happy memories are linked to my first-car ownership which include boyfriends, marriage, having my child’s first car seat fitted, then school runs.  There was no downside to my Datsun.  The only challenge I faced was to keep the metal hubcaps on because they would pop off driving over speed bumps.

It was serviced regularly and the service log book was an historical record in itself.  When my Datsun was sold in 1993, it was in such good condition, amazingly, I was given $2,000 trade-in.  The only reason I sold it was to enjoy the cooling breeze of air-conditioning in my second brand new car.  Another white four-door sedan.

AUTHOR NOTE: This excerpt was written in 2004 and I would like to add the postscript that I am now a big advocate of public transport and catch a bus regularly, particularly into the city centre.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Brisbane Bus 1970
BCC Bus 1971

Balcony Muse

Balcony Morning 004
Balcony View

As I sit on our small balcony with the French doors open behind me, I can see a front view over the trees, over the shallow valley and up the opposite hillside.  Roof tops gleam here and there and a council bus grinds its way up the steep incline of a street still named ‘lane” from way back when it took farm traffic up and over the hill.

To my right are the wooden chamfer boards which line the house, in this instance making the wall of our home office, or, as it was nicknamed many years ago, The Den.  To the left is an open view over rooftops and trees and I’m right in line with a big fluffy white cloud.  This cloud is probably bigger than an ocean liner.  It is floating slowly through the blue sky.

To the side I hear the roar of a jet engine and a shiny aerodynamic form cruises past, heading towards the fluffy cloud.  For the first time, I wonder what it must be like for the pilot, drawn inexorably into this massive expanse of whiteness.  From experience I know that clouds can be bumpy rides but the unspeakable horror of something else flying into it from the other direction…nah, that’s not possible in this day and age…

The plane gets smaller and smaller until the sun glints off a tiny silver speck.  I wait for it to be swallowed by the white cloud when, ever so gracefully, it curves away and downward, heading for the airport and out of my view.

I jump as suddenly a screeching white cockatoo cuts across my line of vision.  It is closer but follows the same flight path as the jet.  Still screeching to scare both friends and enemies, the cockatoo turns and mirrors the same downward arc, disappearing from sight.

Perhaps a philosophical parallel could be made, a bit of literary prose penned to suit the occasion.  However, it is just an illustration of everyday life and I can still hear the highway rumble, the neighbour’s dog barking and the postman on a small motorbike with squeaky brakes.  Nothing magical, no cheque in the mail, just suburban routine.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Cockatoo 01
Cockatoo

Apple Queen

CARTOON GIRL EATING AN APPLE
Crunch Munch

My childhood nickname was “Apple Queen”.  In later years, I have wondered why I wasn’t called “Apple Princess” but I think it may have had something to do with the name of a variety of apple at that time.  One of my mother’s favourite early black and white photographs of me, taken in my grandparents’ long driveway at Hampton, Victoria, illustrates my love of apples.  I have a Granny Smith apple in each hand, possibly from a homegrown tree.  I was about four years old and, by the look on my face, quite serious about the art of eating apples.

I still am.  One sits next to me as I type.  If I need a snack, a lunch box filler or fruit for a picnic, I grab an apple.  Drool has formed in the corners of my mouth when I’ve looked at apples with sultanas and honey.  Strudel, pies, pureed or skewered on a kebab, the texture and essence of apples is never lost. That crisp, sweet smell pervades my senses, particularly when I walk into a room and get a whiff of that fruity fragrance.  Immediately I want to chomp my teeth into the cool, smooth skin, break through that thin protective layer to taste its juicy flesh.  That first crunch is like no other sound.  The sound reverberates through my jaw as I munch the apple into cider and swallow.

Granny Smith Apple
Apple Green

In my haste to eat an apple, I have been known to choke on a piece but it has never put me off.  My mother could devour a whole apple, pips and all, but that’s not my style.  I denude the apple to the core then toss the remains into the garden for some foraging creature to finish off.

I have a vivid memory of apple blossom and then tiny green and red striped apples forming on a tree we had in our backyard at Mount Waverley, Victoria.  Picking them too soon, I recall my disappointment at their unripe, bitter flavour.  Just recently I have read that apples are helpful to asthma sufferers and, since I am a life-long asthmatic, I wondered if instinct might have played a part in my voracious consumption.  It certainly had nothing to do with Adam or Eve.

Occasionally, I am asked about my favourite variety and I answer “Any.  As long as it’s not bruised.”  Apples creep into my salads, my sauces and, thanks to a friend, into my hamburger mince.  To me, a dessert isn’t a proper dessert unless it contains apples.  Imagine a world without apple pie and ice-cream!  My father liked cloves cooked into apple pies and that’s the only time I didn’t like my mother’s cooking.  To this day I don’t know why the odd flavouring of clove is meant to enhance cooked apples.

Pink Lady Apples
Pink Lady

The very shape of an apple is pleasing to me, even the logo on my laptop.  During my teenage years, I collected ornaments in the shape of apples.  Two examples may have survived.  A red china apple made in two halves, the bottom half containing candle wax.  The other apple made of hand-blown glass, with a glass leaf, which contains layers of coloured sands from Cooloola Beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

Baby daughters are now being named Apple; it’s something I didn’t think of at the time and I’m hoping it’s after the apple blossom fruit rather than the corporation.  My fruit bowl is really an apple bowl with other fruit scattered around for effect.  Sometimes toffee apples will creep into the mix and I treat them with caution.  Hard red toffee and my teeth don’t work well together but I never let that stop me.

Happy torta di mele!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Apple Pie
Home Bake

Apple 06

Garden Notes on a Warm Winter Day

Dear Diary, it’s a calm, warm July day, almost like an early Spring, but there are no butterflies or buzzing insects.  The crows call to each other across the back garden and noisy miners flit back and forth like feathered investigators on an important assignment.  The children in the house behind my suburban block are jumping on a netted trampoline and soon there will be a cry and a parent will take them off.  The towels have been on the Hills Hoist clothes line for two days.  A dried-out agapanthus head is sticking straight up out of the perennial foliage, a reminder that I am not a conscientious gardener.

IMG_3643
Tomatoes
Rosella Flower 01
Rosella
Pointsettia 002
Poinsettia
Agave 03
Agave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So saying, in a green square pot I have grown a very tall tomato plant with fat green tomatoes (above) emerging every day.  The old mandarin tree has a yearly crop of pale orange-coloured mandarins, and my rosella plants are flowering (above) while the spring onions and ginger roots carry on regardless.  There are non-native plants like a small pomegranate, poinsettia bright red and blooming (above) and our huge native gum tree towers over all of us; blossom for the parrots and fruit bats.  Special mention goes to our agave family.  These Mexican beauties (above) love our subtropical climate and we’ve given away more young plants than I can remember.

IMG_0517
Hoya

 

IMG_0451
Coffee Flower
Bird Nest 02
Nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, there’s the herbs, for better or worse, always trying so hard … The trailing hoya (above) was a joy with its pink waxy flowers but recently it decided it had had enough and shrivelled up.  The ancient mulberry tree went the same way, dying in the drought a few years back, followed by the peach and avocado trees.  The coffee bean tree (above) survives anything.  We live on a sloping hill with poor soil which is interesting because many years ago cows grazed on the lush hillsides around us.  My father once said “All your good top soil has been washed downhill”.  Not so long ago the rich alluvial earth along the creek at the bottom of our street was plundered and no doubt sold for landscaping.

When I first lived here, the suburb was casual with a leafy roughness about it which made for a relaxed, friendly vibe.  Indeed, every home was owner/builder and most residents chose not to erect fences nor were there any footpaths.  Trees were planted to shade homes from the fierce western afternoon sun and if you were lucky you had a ceiling fan.  Ah, the 70s, a time of emerging from the past and forging ahead with little regard for past cultural or community identity but, in so doing, it created a unique city.  Strangely, if not surprisingly, it has taken about 40 years for the people of Brisbane, Queensland, to appreciate our subtropical city.  The past is now nostalgically and fondly remembered as the concrete is poured for yet another highrise apartment block.

If real estate developers would let us, we would return to our friendly, informal way of life instead of building cement block homes and painting them grey like every other capital city in Australia.  To take my mind off the screeching of chainsaws as they hack down another leopard tree (above) I will write a little bit about our front garden.

Palm Blossom 001
Date Palm
Alkina Flame Tree (6)
Flame Tree
Orchid on Flame Tree
Orchid
Jacaranda in Afternoon
Jacaranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maiden Hair Fern
Fern

 

 

 

 

 

In the front garden, and I use the term loosely, there is structure and visions of edging and all, but I have let that slip.  Two tall palm trees (above) on either side of the house echo early Queensland-style seen in rural areas.  Tough-as-old-boots golden cane palms dot the area while I think our camellia is a Melbourne throwback.  The stocky Illawarra flame tree with its pink orchids (above) was planted to complement the purple jacaranda nextdoor (viewed from balcony).  I will not describe the weeds like camphor laurel, monstera or umbrella trees always springing up between the lemon scented tea-trees and more civilised shrubs.   Does anyone still grow ‘mother-in-law tongue’ and ‘cast-iron’ plants?  Cast iron is an unkillable broad leafed low-growing plant and I think it was beloved of early Victorians as either a hothouse or indoor plant in brass pots on wooden stands.

In the back garden, what there is left of our lawn is covered in bindii prickles thanks to lawn mowing contractors who disperse them willy-nilly via their lawn mower tyres.  You can read my screed on Lawn Mower Men.  There is a shallow bird bath under the eucalyptus tree for the enjoyment of noisy miner birds.  On a tiled outdoor table, I have my inherited maiden hair fern (above) in a small pretty terracotta pot.  The pot was thrown and fired by a neighbour and friend over thirty-five years ago.  This little fern is hardier than most!

Apart from hedging bushes of murraya, or mock orange, there is no strong scent in the garden and no ornamental plantings with fragrance except a straggly French lavender potplant.  Our forebears had a bit of foresight when it came to planting leafy, sheltering greenery in an otherwise hot landscape.  It’s our trees which stand out, they, and others like them, represent our suburban streetscape.  Long may they tower over us!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward