Walk in Fear or Safety

Early morning walk © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

The suburban street is quiet.

A safe city skyline in the distance.

No choking clouds of black smoke.

No artillery fire, no jet fighters roaring overhead.

Around the bend I will not be stopped by a military checkpoint.

I will not see people waiting in line for food, faces with helpless hopeless eyes.

No muttering, no crying, only the sound of bird calls and the breeze ruffling leaves.

No chants for freedom, no skirmish over the ownership of an abandoned vehicle, weapon, passport, shoes.

A woman cradling a sick child – no, she is carrying her small dog.

A cyclist whizzes by, a delivery truck rolls around the bend.

I keep walking, steadily, evenly, calmly. There is nothing to ruffle my early morning walk.

And I am grateful.

Very grateful.

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.

Eric Hoffer

My First Car

My First Car 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

Wobble Jellyfish

Pirate Ship 02

Wobble Jellyfish was wobbling along under the sea when
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
A wave stranded her on a sandy beach.
It was midday and it was hot.
A seagull eyed her suspiciously.
Wobble Jellyfish hardly had time to take a breath when
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
She was slopping along in the bottom of a plastic bucket.
Wobble slowly blubbed her way up and peeked over the side.
The water park was full of wet, squealing children.
She saw a huge swimming pool ahead and got ready to slip overboard.
With a squeeze of her tentacles, she oozed up and over the edge.
Plop!  She missed the swimming pool.
This water was cold and bubbly and swirled Wobble up, up and over.
The fountain tossed her around and around like a washing machine.
Wobble waved her tentacles helplessly then plopped back into the water.
She grasped hold of a long purple ribbon dangling in the foam.
The person wearing the long purple ribbon stood up.
Aagh!  The young girl swung her long plait to get rid of Wobble.
Wobble soared high and fell with a splat on the hard ground.
A water canon spray hosed Wobble off the pathway into the gutter.
The force of the water swished her straight down the stormwater drain.
It was dark and stinky and slimy in the drain.
Wobble wrapped her tentacles tightly around her body.
“Oh, ooh, oooh, I want to get out of here,” said Wobble Jellyfish.
Many empty water bottles floated past and she grabbed one.
It was a bouncy ride, up and down through the pipes.
The bottle got jammed between the bars of a stormwater grate.
Wobble sucked in her jelly belly and squeezed through.
Now the water was quieter and flowed more smoothly.
Grass lined the bank and the sun shone on a long stretch of clear water.
It made Wobble feel relaxed but the water was not salty.
She longed for the tang of the ocean, the surge and swell of the current.
A boy’s face loomed above her and another plastic bucket scooped her up.
The ride was sloppy and jerky hanging from the handlebars of his bike.
Wobble heard lots of voices talking and saw cheerful colours flash overhead.
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
Wobble was sluiced over the side of the bucket into a square glass tank.
The first thing she saw was another jellyfish.  He was very small.
“Hi,” he said.  “I’m Irukandji, or Iru for short.”
Wobble thought his smile was unfriendly.
She didn’t like his long, quivering tentacles and backed away.
Something sharp poked her side and she wobbled around to look.
It was a large starfish.  He said “My name is Spike.”
Wobble slubbed and blubbed “I’m not surprised.”
She introduced herself and peered closely at Spike “You’re a beautiful colour.”
Spike showed her around the glass tank.
He was proud of the rocks and the seaweed and a tiny pirate ship.
“But they are not real,” said Wobble.
“They are to me,” said Spike.
That made Wobble cry but nobody saw her tears because of the clean tap water.
“We have to get back to the sea!” she said.
Wobble saw blurry people lift the fish tank “Up ya go!” and “In ya go!”
The light dulled as a heavy canvas was pulled over the back of the ute.
Water slopped everywhere as the old ute bucked back and forth along the track.
The canvas was lifted and Wobble, Spike and Iru blinked at the bright sun.
The tank was hoisted up and carried along the beach towards tall cliffs.
At the base of the cliffs, the blurry figures stopped.
Wobble could see large rock pools and waves splashing over them.
Spike and Iru were very quiet, hardly daring to move.
Wobble rose to the top of the fish tank and blub blubbed excitedly.
The fish tank moved again, closer to the waves and the sea.
A huge sparkling wave rose up, curling and churning towards the rock pools.
The blurry figures leaned over and tipped the tank.
Swoosh, whoosh, splash!
Wobble, Spike and Iru caught the wave and rode it high into the air.
They tumbled and mingled with the fresh, cool, salty water.
Whoo hoo!  shouted Wobble and Spike and Iru.
Seaspray carried them higher and higher until the wave rolled back into the sea.
Briefly they touched, careful of Iru’s stingers, then turned towards home.
Wobble Jellyfish had the tiny pirate ship wrapped in one of her tentacles.
She was going to show it to a real sunken pirate ship.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Jellyfish 03

Star Fish