Three Things #12

THREE THINGS started back in June 2018, an idea from Paula Bardell-Hedley of Book Jotter under the headings READING LOOKING THINKING and it seems I am the only participant left standing.

Thus I have decided that I will write an even dozen—non metric 12and call it quits. Not because I don’t like the idea, it’s just that now I tend to write posts without the need for an overflow outlet. I try to keep my patter short (cough) and practice slick (cough, cough) editing which mostly works. GBW.


READING

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: THREE CENTURIES OF WOMEN TRAVELLERS

Author: Dea Birkett with foreword by Jan Morris
Published: 2004
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books Australia
Pages: 144
Includes: 120 Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN: 1740662180

This book astounds in more ways than one. An enduring record of women in past centuries who did not stay home cooking and cleaning. From exotic, lesser known locations and fascinating old photos, to women around the world who had the courage to explore and travel alone. As Jan Morris said in the Forward “What they all had in common was their gender and their guts”. It offers the young millennials something to think about—survival without the internet.

Writing was one of the few careers that had long provided women with professional status, more so perhaps than other forms of artistic expression”.

Off The Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers

My particular favourite is on pages 94-95. It starts with a quote “The pictures of the pen shall outlast those of the pencil, and even worlds themselves” Ephra Behn, prologue to “The Luckey Chance” (1687).

Below, left, is a vintage bromide print (1902) taken by an unknown photographer which shows traveller Ina Sheldon-Williams dressed in white frills, painting two tribesmen with a horse and foal, in rather genteel surroundings. Unlike fish collector Mary Kingsley (1862-1900) who suffered overturning canoes, leeches and crocodiles in West Africa, and her thick skirts saved her when she fell into a pit of pointed spikes.

The photo on the right follows the biography of Ethel Mannin (1900-1984) an English woman who lived the stuff of literary dreams. Ethel was 23 years-old, had abandoned an early marriage and with one suitcase, a portable typewriter, a child of three and six words of French she went to the south of France in search of the violet fields, olive groves, vineyards and orange trees. Later, her writing enabled her to purchase a home in fashionable Wimbledon.

Ethel’s prodigious writing and her travelling were intertwined and she wrote fiction and non-fiction providing the reason for her travels. Ethel described herself as “An emancipated, rebellious, and Angry Young Woman”. I just love her 1930 B&W National Gallery portrait—a strong look, perhaps later copied by young Wednesday in “The Addams Family”. GBW.


LOOKING

New Farm Park, Brisbane, roses after rain © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Unlike cultivated New Farm Park, I have been looking out my window with a certain amount of glumness and a large dose of embarrassment, at the backyard garden (read overgrown jungle) which has proliferated after recent steady rain. Autumnal April, an odd time for such rainfall. It fell in south-east Queensland but not enough in the water supply dam catchment areas.

Even in the 21st century we are dependent on water falling from the sky.

There was a campaign for recycled water during our big Millennium Drought but it never caught on.

I believe Las Vegas, Nevada, has used recycled (reclaimed) water for many years. It’s a mental thing, isn’t it? People are dubious of water others have already drunk and worse…

Getting back to riotous grass, the lawnmower men and gardeners are booked solid so unless I can find an old man with a hay scythe, I will avoid looking out the windows for another week or two. GBW.


THINKING

Fasten seatbelts, get ready for my stream-of-consciousness…

I have been thinking about the legacies we leave behind. Good, bad or unintentional. Of course, there are hundreds of ways a person leaves a legacy; flamboyantly, quietly, cruelly, some not necessarily acknowledged, but they will be there just the same. From the tangible to the ephemeral, the loved to the hated, a universal legacy or a small one-on-one, we leave our mark. Be aware of this legacy, this part of you which I believe you will indelibly leave behind in some form. Use it wisely so those who receive it, directly or otherwise, will know where it came from and decide if it is worthy of keeping, if it will become part of them—although some legacies are hard to shake. Many people are no-fuss, low-key individuals and that’s fine, however, they may not know it but they will intrinsically leave a legacy. A legacy is more than an amount of money or property left to someone in a Will. I believe it can be found in a good book or website (thanks Paula) but rarely in texting or social media. A legacy transcends time. Think about it. I bet you can recall a parent, sibling, teacher, partner, child, best friend or workmate saying or doing something you have not forgotten. Basically it’s the essence of that person you experience and instinctively preserve. A legacy can be as big as a skyscraper or a single gentle word, both of equal value, and both can leave a remembrance. If it is bad, destructive or no value, it should be dismissed and a life lesson learned from it. In turn you can pass on a better legacy so others will benefit. That’s what a legacy is! Sometimes you don’t know until years later (sometimes never) that your legacy of word or deed was appreciated. And it doesn’t matter if you hold a very special legacy close because you will inexorably create your own for someone else. Make it good. GBW.

Bon Voyage Three Things!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Email – Aunt Jenny’s Doll

Hello M,

Attached are photos of Aunt Jenny’s doll.

I inherited Jenny’s doll.

There’s a special clause in Jenny’s will regarding said doll.

The doll must go to me.

But carrying no explanation.

Jenny’s doll is at least 60 years old.

Our cousin JR mailed the doll to me.

In pink tissue paper in a cardboard box.

I don’t remember the doll.

I don’t remember her name.

A happy childhood anecdote linked to this doll?

JR does not know details.

Just that Jenny always wanted me to have the doll.

JR does not know the doll’s name.

Her temporary name is Margaret.

The name of my childhood friend.

Gretchen and Margaret mean the same thing.

We both wore bows in our hair.

All our aunts are gone now.

Would anyone in the family know the story?

Did I spend my toddler years with this doll?

She must have been as tall as me then.

But not cool for a teenager.

Poor doll, re-wrapped in pink tissue paper.

Wearing a boring flannelette nightie.

What shall I do with her now she’s mine?

Love Gretchen


Email to My Cousin © Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Friday 3rd April 2020

Remnants of Mary

Arm Chair 03
Mary’s Chair

The old lady across the road died alone but at a good age after a good life, well, that’s what the family said as they stripped her house of all its fixtures, fittings and 1960s furniture.  They singled me out from the group of neighbours on the front verandah and asked me if I would like anything from Mary’s junk, er, they cleared their throats, her mementos and stuff.  I raced home to my mother and being politely greedy I raced back with her message that we’d take anything they didn’t want, and also Mary was a lovely old gal.  She was too, she used to worked at the university and was clever, always keeping up with radio bulletins and had newspapers delivered from London and New York.

Mrs Anglesea and her toddler were standing at their front gate, wiping eyes and sniffing about poor Mr Roberto gone, gone forever.  No more bark-bark said the toddler.  Mary’s terrier Mr Roberto had been bundled into a pet carrier and taken to the local vet.  The carrier came back empty.  Even my mother blinked at that.  But to help the family with their clear-out, she gave them a load of flattened cardboard boxes from a high-end removalist company.  My mother didn’t know they cost money so it wasn’t until she saw them in the back of some bloke’s ute did she twig that they’d sold them on.

So, it was with the feeling of recompense that we were offered, and graciously received said my mother, a framed drawing of a grey English village, a chrome-legged brown laminated table and an old armchair.  I was pretty annoyed we hadn’t been given the choice of some of the good things like her TV or bookcase or favourite figurines but I had already spotted a woman trundling them out to her white van.  I knew she sold stuff on eBay and sent them a million miles away.  I wondered if Mary had followed her belongings or left her soul in the house like my mother said she would have . . .

AUTHOR NOTE This story has been temporarily withdrawn  . . .  it was rewritten, submitted, and subsequently awarded Third Place (and won a cash prize) in a short story writing competition with the option for publication.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Old Woman Sitting Reading