♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
NAIDOC Week 7 July – 14 July 2019
‘Awaken’ artwork by Kaurna and Narungga woman Charmaine Mumbulla. Charmaine cares deeply about the 2019 National NAIDOC theme, and about the celebration of Indigenous art and history.
“Early dawn light rises over Uluru, symbolising our continued spiritual and unbroken connection to the land. The circles at the base of Uluru represent the historic gathering in May 2017 of over 250 people from many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations who adopted the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Our message, developed through generations, is echoed throughout the land: hear our voice and recognise our truth. We call for a new beginning, marked by a formal process of agreement and truth-telling, that will allow us to move forward together.”
Learn more about poster winner Charmaine Mumbulla.
Indigenous Network https://www.indigenous.gov.au/regional-network
As a National NAIDOC poster winner, Charmaine Mumbulla is excited to be part of NAIDOC history. Charmaine plans to celebrate NAIDOC Week by taking her children to the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and achievements with a community BBQ and entertainment. Charmaine will also be doing some workshops at her children’s school and making their favourite morning tea…Johnny cakes with lilly pilly jam.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
I love binge-reading! When I discover a good author like Elly Griffiths who has ten books in her crime oeuvre, I am ready, willing and able to read all. The archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway mystery series fits the bill nicely. To quote the Independent ‘The perfect ratio of anticipation, shock and surprise’.
Elly Griffiths is the pen name of Domenica de Rosa; she has written other novels under her real name. I like the historical and archaeological authenticity of this series which could be due to the fact that she’s married to Andrew Maxted, curator of archaeology at Brighton Museum.
I enjoyed the earlier books and then the later ones shown above. I loved ‘The Ghost Fields’ WWII story and found award-winning ‘The Chalk Pit’ quite fascinating. I struggled with ‘The Outcast Dead’ subject matter although it is fitting. I must mention the clever yet sneaky outcome of ‘The Dying Fall’ which has a touch of Hollywood about it.
The stories mainly revolve around Norfolk UK, tidal marshlands, excavations (with an occasional nod to ‘Time Team’) coastal regions and fictional University of North Norfolk where Ruth Galloway works. She is also a police adviser. The relationships of the key players are intriguingly tricky because of love triangles, children, 21st century parenting, murder and mystical goings-on.
Rather than a book review, I thought I’d do a quick character overview:
- Dr Ruth Galloway lives on the Saltmarsh, lectures in forensic archeology, makes ground-breaking discoveries, and likes old bones and her cat Flint.
- Fast-driving policeman DCI Harry Nelson moved with his family from Blackpool to Norfolk and doesn’t really like the place but he’s a born copper.
- Two glamorous women, Michelle Nelson is wife of DCI Nelson, and Shona MacLean is Ruth’s bestie.
- Michael Malone (aka Cathbad) brings enjoyable highlights to each plot with his spiritual insights, Druid instincts and flowing cloak.
- Part of Nelson’s team are police officers DS David Clough ‘old school’ and DS Judy Johnson ‘graduate’ who don’t always share the same views.
- Phil Trent, professor of archaeology at UNN, worries about funding but loves TV cameras, publicity and himself.
As I dug and sifted through the series, I noticed less archeology and gradual changes to the main characters but that’s the grit which makes these books human and relatable. There’s drama in their lives; a rocky layer or two over a conspiracy waiting to be uncovered.
Elly Griffiths has a nice knack of getting you up-to-speed with each book while revealing a ‘fresh’ crime involving the living and the desiccated. At one stage I quibbled over her use of Anglo male names like Max, Dan, Tim, Tom, Ted, Bob, well, you get my drift…but this has improved and the VIP reviews keep on coming:
"I refuse to apologise for being in love with Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson, one of my favourite current crime series . . . a pleasure from start to finish" Val McDermid. "I adore the Elly Griffiths series and have eagerly read each book. I love seeing how the recurring characters are living and working out their relationships" Joyce of joycesmysteryandfictionbookreviews
I’m waiting for book 11 ‘The Stone Circle’ but don’t you hang around, start reading!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
In UK, Her Royal Highness has two birthdays each year: her actual birthday on 21st April and her official birthday usually the second Saturday in June. Born in 1926, at the time of writing, she is 92 years-old and still going strong. Happy birthday, Your Majesty!
The birthday of reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II is celebrated at different times of the year throughout the world and usually accompanied by a public holiday. In Australia, each State and Territory has decreed a different day.
In Queensland (named after Queen Victoria) we have a Monday holiday in honour of the Queen’s birthday and enjoy a long weekend. This year it falls on Monday 1st October 2018 and Brisbane residents will head to official celebrations, BBQs, coastal regions, rainforest walks or just laze around at home and read a book.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
“God Save Our Gracious Queen”
View my blog post about my own umbrella
A witch-finder compiles his list … To me, prologues are an unnecessary extension of the backcover blurb and I often don’t read them. Resistance is futile when it comes to Beth Underdown’s deep dark 17th century historical novel based on the real witch-finder Matthew Hopkins.
When I read the prologue to The Witch Finder’s Sister I tried not to become smitten with the words, tried not to be intrigued by the premise nor overcome with a desire to read what sister Alice has to say, but I am already into Chapter 8 even though historical fiction is not my preferred genre.
As absorbing as I’m finding this tale, this is not a proper book review and “no correspondence will be entered into”. But I will say Chapter 1 is claustrophobic and tension-filled, a classic example of how thoughts become words to become other people’s thoughts. There is an epilogue under the guise of Author’s Note which I can live without reading. If you wish to pursue the Prologue & Epilogue debate, check out WordPress Blogger theryanlanz A Writer’s Path
I will leave the review to Suzi Feay of esteemed The Guardian newspaper:
The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown review – puritan or serial killer?
The Guardian Review of The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Here is the prologue to The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown––
“1645, and the Civil War in England has begun its fourth year. It is a war about God, and how best we should worship Him. It is a war about who should govern, and why; whether the Parliament should rule, or whether the ousted King. It is a war of thoughts, of words printed or hurled in anger: but this is also a war of guns. Last year, at Marston Moor, more than four thousand men were killed. Before this, women have seldom been hanged for witchcraft – one or two, every five years, or ten. Eight were sentenced in Pendle, thirty years ago, when the land still knew peace. But now this country is falling apart at the seams. Now, all England is looking the other way: so there is nothing to stop Matthew Hopkins stepping forward. Starting to make his list of names.”
London winter 1880, Limehouse, and chorus girls are disappearing from music halls in Paradise, the criminal precinct run with ruthless efficiency by the ferocious and opium addicted Lady Ginger aka The Lady.
Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders
(First book in the Kitty Peck series)
A novel by Kate Griffin
Seventeen-year-old Kitty Peck, a seamstress at The Gaudy, is summoned by The Lady and blackmailed to perform a hair-raising act every night to uncover vital information about the missing girls. Kitty is taunted by The Lady who withholds the truth about her family, particularly her beloved brother Joey. Before long Kitty becomes the talk of London with her daring show and the plan begins to work. Gradually she’s drawn into the world of high society ‘toffs’ and embroiled in depravity and murder. With only her two friends Peggy and set painter Lucca for support, Kitty is shocked to find herself facing an adversary more horrifying than The Lady crime baron.
First of all, the pace and atmosphere is superb throughout the books. Immediately I was right in the action and swept along on a very dark ride. The characters evolve nicely and flesh out into interesting and tortured human beings who find themselves in rather bizarre circumstances. They have subplots with much to hide, emotions seesaw as their personal history gradually unfolds.
There’s a heavy dose of Cockney slang which, due to an Anglophile father, I picked up quickly enough. Some reveals are to be expected but one took me by surprise! The novels have adult content. However, don’t expect true romance. It’s the Queen Victoria version of an action movie. Grim, grimy, cold, damp London of the 19th century is a backdrop to dirty deeds done by black-hearted people and Kitty must keep her wits about her to survive. The endings are cliff-hangers which lead into each book.
Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill-Fortune
(Second book in the Kitty Peck series)
A novel by Kate Griffin
Due to spoilers, I cannot reveal too much about Book Two or Three. Certain text in the following review has been taken from the book blurb:
London’s East End, March 1881 and Kitty Peck, a spirited but vulnerable young woman, is the reluctant heiress to Paradise, the criminal empire previously overseen by the formidable Lady Ginger aka The Lady. Kitty is now The Lady, with all that entails; servants, buildings, stock, music halls and vicious crime barons. Far from the colour and camaraderie of the music hall where Kitty had been working, this newfound power brings isolation and uncertainty, and a disdainful lawyer Telferman.
Desperate to reconnect with Joey, her estranged brother, Kitty travels to Paris with Lucca. She is unable to refuse the request of a handsome stranger to take a child back to London. Within days of their return, it’s clear she has been followed by someone, and this someone is determined to kill the child and anyone who stands in their way…starting with Kitty.
There are mesmerizing and harrowing scenes throughout this book which serve to shape Kitty and her world. More of the secondary characters emerge and betrayal rears its ugly head. Tension builds as Kitty nears the deadline to meet the other Barons of London, merchants, jewellers, bankers, the controlling elite who are rotten to the core. Will they break her and destroy the Paradise she has inherited?
Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow
(Third book in the Kitty Peck series)
A novel by Kate Griffin
London, the hot summer of 1881, and the streets of Limehouse are thick with coal smoke and opium; and Kitty Peck is choking on the ever-present bitterness of evil. At eighteen Kitty has inherited Paradise, she is The Lady of a sprawling criminal empire on the banks of the Thames. Determined to do things differently from the fearsome Lady Ginger, she now realises that the past casts a menacing and treacherous shadow.
Plagued by city heat, haunted by a terrible secret and facing more deaths, Kitty is stalked by a criminal league intent on humiliation and destruction; she should never go out alone. But she’s ready to fight for the future of everyone she cares for and more. Including journalist Sam Collins?
Always difficult to review books with clever twists and turns one cannot expose. ‘Descriptive’ and ‘gripping’ hardly does them justice. Sense of place, POV and clothing are beautifully transcribed. There is one minor point I noticed when reading––there is little mention of food. Tea and gin are drunk habitually, and champagne is used as a lever, but food is not often consumed. No matter, they are gritty stories which had me on the edge of my seat. While it is not an era I would like to inhabit, I can highly recommend this series with a shiny five star rating.
To be concluded in Book Four – Kitty Peck and the Parliament of Shadows – Coming July 2019.
“Even though Paradise was riddled with rot, I reckoned I could make it a cleaner place for the poor types who came with the dirty trades. I could make them all love me, I thought. I was wrong about that. I’ve been wrong about so much.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Griffin was born within the sound of Bow bells, making her a true-born Cockney. She has worked as an assistant to an antiques dealer, a journalist for local newspapers and now works for The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. “Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders”, Kate’s first book, won the Stylist / Faber crime writing competition and she has written other genres. Kate’s maternal family lived in Victorian Limehouse and her grandmother told her many stories of life around the docks. Kate lives in St Albans, north of London.
Further reading Author Kate Griffin is interviewed by Sarah Oliver a close look at her lifestyle and writing methods.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Among scholars, says Thu-Huong Ha, there is a surprisingly fierce debate around when European society transitioned from mostly reading aloud to mostly reading silently. Thu’s latest article for Quartzy shines a light on the evolution of reading silently––
“The beginning of silent reading changed Westerners’ interior life”
By Thu-Huong Ha
Tuesday 19 November 2017
People think of reading as the introvert’s hobby: A quiet activity for a person who likes quiet, save for the voices in their head. But in the 5,000 or so years humans have been writing, reading as we conceive it, an asocial solo activity with a book, is a relatively new form of leisure.
For centuries, Europeans who could read did so aloud. The ancient Greeks read their texts aloud. So did the monks of Europe’s dark ages. But by the 17th century, reading society in Europe had changed drastically. Text technologies, like moveable type, and the rise of vernacular writing helped usher in the practice we cherish today: taking in words without saying them aloud, letting them build a world in our heads.
Among scholars, there is a surprisingly fierce debate around when European society transitioned from mostly reading aloud to mostly reading silently—some even say the ancients read silently just as much as they read aloud—but there is one scene in literature they agree is crucial. In St. Augustine’s Confessions, the titular professor describes the reading habits of Ambrose, the bishop of Milan:
“But when Ambrose used to read, his eyes were drawn through the pages, while his heart searched for its meaning; however, his voice and tongue were quiet. Often when we were present—for anyone could approach him and it was not his habit that visitors be announced to him—we saw him reading in this fashion, silently and never otherwise.”
The fact that this was so remarkable to Augustine, some scholars argue, is because in the 400s, silent reading wasn’t really a thing.
Other researchers say that this passage is meant more to point out Ambrose’s rudeness. “It’s really that Ambrose would go on reading silently while he was there, like someone going on texting while you’re trying to talk to them,” says D. Vance Smith, a medievalist in the Princeton English department. “[Augustine is] surprised by his rudeness at not reading out loud to share with him.”
“The default assumption in the classic period, if you were reading around other people, you’d read aloud and share it,” says Smith. “For us, the default is we’ll read silently and keep it to ourselves.”
If silent reading was in fact rare or rude in ancient times, then at some point the expectation of readers in society shifted. As late as the 1700s, historian Robert Darnton writes, “For the common people in early modern Europe, reading was a social activity. It took place in workshops, barns, and taverns. It was almost always oral but not necessarily edifying.”
But by the time Marcel Proust was writing in the late 1800s, his narrator hoping for time to read and think alone in his bed, reading privately had become more of a norm for wealthy, educated people who could afford books and idle bedroom rumination.
This came with the spreading of literacy and diverse kinds of reading material. Writes Darnton, records from until as late as 1750 showed that people who could read had only a few books: perhaps the Bible, an almanac, and some devotionals, that they read and re-read. But by 1800, he writes, people were reading more voraciously—newspapers and periodicals—and by the late century they had branched out into children’s literature and novels.
As reading shifted away from the social, some researchers believe this helped create what we now call an interior life.
Writes Alberto Manguel in his 1996 book, A History of Reading:
“But with silent reading the reader was at last able to establish an unrestricted relationship with the book and the words. The words no longer needed to occupy the time required to pronounce them. They could exist in interior space, rushing on or barely begun, fully deciphered or only half-said, while the reader’s thoughts inspected them at leisure, drawing new notions from them, allowing comparisons from memory or from other books left open for simultaneous perusal. And the text itself, protected from outsiders by its covers, became the reader’s own possession, the reader’s intimate knowledge, whether in the busy scriptorium, the market-place or the home.”
“Psychologically, silent reading emboldened the reader because it placed the source of his curiosity completely under personal control,” librarian Paul Saenger writes in his 1997 book, Space between Words. “In the still largely oral world of the ninth century, if one’s intellectual speculations were heretical, they were subject to peer correction and control at every moment, from their formulation and publication to their aural reception by the reader.” As Saenger writes, asocial reading helped facilitate intellectual rigor, introspection, criticism of the government and religion, even irony and cynicism that would have been awkward to read aloud.
This strange new trend of reading to oneself naturally had its detractors. Sceptics thought silent reading attracted day-dreamers and the “sin of idleness,” as Manguel writes. And worse: it let people learn and reflect without religious guidance or censure. Silent reading by the late 19th century was so popular that people worried that women in particular, reading alone in bed, were prone to sexy, dangerous thoughts.
There isn’t much consensus between historians on why people would have started reading silently. Saenger hypothesizes that a shift in the way words were laid out a page facilitated the change. Latin words once ran all together, makingithardtoparsethem. Saenger argues that Irish monks, translating Latin in the seventh century, added spaces between words to help them understand the language better. This key design change, he argues, facilitated the rise in silent reading.
M. B. Parkes, in his 1992 book “Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West” argues something similar. He writes that a “grammar of legibility”—the visual changes made to texts, like punctuation and word spaces—changed the way we read. This early book technology was premised on the idea that the scribes, the people writing, didn’t know who their readers would be, or how fluent they might be in reading Latin, and so had to find a standardised way of telling them how to read: pause here; these are two separate words; this is a long “a.”
This scholarship applies for the most part to the Latin-based writing and reading of Europe. In other major reading cultures of the world like Chinese, whose script doesn’t have spaces between words, and whose literature depends heavily on prosody, silent reading may have developed differently.
Mainstream historical accounts would have us think that the end of oral reading in the Middle Ages was part of the Renaissance, a new European preoccupation with the individual. But it’s possible humans’ desire for privacy, the carving out of a little pocket in which to escape by way of a book, was there all along. We just needed a little help getting there.
Written by Thu-Huong Ha for Quartzy newsletter, a weekly dispatch about living well in the global economy. Original webpage The Beginning of Silent Reading was also the Beginning of an Interior Life.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
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…
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
My blog post is laden with afternoon tea foodie photographs
Extra teatowel image courtesy of The National Trust UK
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
This photograph intrigued me for two reasons. First, I thought perhaps the laird is a children’s storybook lover, and second, perhaps National Trust Scotland has relaxed their heritage rules. The illustrations certainly capture the essence of fairytales, well-worked and colourful. No doubt this eye-catching display attracts the attention of the viewing public. For better or worse!
Now, for those who like the facts, here they are:
The Graffiti Project
Most people know Kelburn for its innovative street art projects, or perhaps it is better described as ‘castle art project’, which brought together four leading graffiti artists from Brazil. The artists were asked to transform the rendered exterior of the castle’s south walls and tower into a gigantic work of art, blending Scottish architecture with vibrant and colourful urban art on a giant scale. The Kelburn Castle ‘canvas’ has been named one of the Top 10 examples of street art in the world.
There are lots of other attractions at Kelburn Estate, well worth a visit!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward