Review of Mocco Wollert’s Life in Darwin, Northern Territory

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The book title is a typical Darwin expression with good connotations, and Mocco says she is an optimist, she lives on hope and in hope.  Originally from Germany, she worked hard with what she had, overcame obstacles and adapted to Australian life with her Aussie-born daughters Susan and Kim and beloved husband Niclas.

The other love in her life is Darwin, 1950s Darwin, at the Top End of Northern Territory.  No supermarkets, no fancy restaurants, definitely no air-conditioning, miles and miles of dirt roads, and at that time populated by about 8,000 people.  Tough, rough and ready people at that.

The strength of a woman when put to the test reverberates powerfully through Mocco Wollert’s narrative.  From good, bad and ugly circumstances, Mocco’s words shine.  She comes across as forthright in her opinions, honest, funny, emotional, grumpy yet ultimately loveable.  She certainly faced challenging circumstances, some which made me wince and some which would have seen me walk away, but not Mocco!

The chapters of Mocco’s book are grouped under headings, for example ‘Beginning the Adventure’, ‘Career Change’ (actually a couple of career changes) ‘Health Matters’ and ‘Decision Time’ all of which prepared me for her decade of thought-provoking reading.

Understandably there are heart-rending moments like depression in ‘A Night of Gin’ and the 1974 Cyclone Tracy devastation.

I remember sitting under our ceiling fan watching the ABCTV news on Boxing Day, 26th December, as black and white film footage showed our nation the flattened landscape which was once Darwin.  On a lighter note, it was rebuilt and continues to thrive, as did Mocco.  Small moments often stick and I enjoyed Mocco’s recollection of wigs and frizz hair-related matters in ‘Hairdressers’ where men were taboo.

Under the subheading ‘Sport’ on page 211, I think this paragraph typifies the tenacity of Darwinites and perhaps a large area of northern Australia.  “In spite of the heat and humidity, people played sport.  Golf was Niclas’ passion and he became quite a good golfer with a handicap of 16.  Watching today’s golf tournaments on television, I marvel at the green fairways and manicured greens.  There was none of this in Darwin.  The fairways were rough and, in the dry season, as dusty as a (cattle) station in drought.  The ‘greens’ were sandy plains without a blade of grass.”

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There are 47 photographs throughout the book, vivid examples of the era, and a pictorial of Darwin homelife which includes Mocco in weather so scorching she wore a bikini to hang washing on the Hills Hoist.  And there is a great little story behind the snapshot of her small daughter meeting Queen Elizabeth II.  Not telling, you’ll have to read the book!

‘Bloody Bastard Beautiful’ is Mocco Wollert’s tribute to Darwin, an intimate recollection of a more rugged time in 20th century Australia, told openly and honestly, and ultimately life-affirming.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

IMG_20191122_183655Born in Germany but a true-blue Darwinite by 1960, Mocco Wollert is now a recognised poet and author who lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Mocco has nine poetry books published as well as winning prizes for poems published in newspapers and anthologies.

Her Darwin memoir ‘Bloody Bastard Beautiful’ was first published by Historical Society of Northern Territory and later by Boolarong Press 2017.

For information on today’s Northern Territory, visit https://www.australia.com/en/places/northern-territory.html

Review ‘In My Father’s House’ by Indrani Ganguly

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When I first picked up Indrani Ganguly’s memoir-style book, I dipped into a couple of stories.  It soon became apparent the pages contained a thoughtful mixture of poetry, artwork, travellers’ tales, photographs and fiction stories in a layout designed to gently lead the reader though Indrani’s world.

Chapters are grouped under different headings, the kind of book which anyone can read and everyone will find something that touches them.

The content captivated me with a mix of fact, fantasy and deep emotions initially triggered by Indrani’s return visit to her father’s house and her old room which had been left untouched since she moved out.  This is where her thoughts begin to unfold, first with artwork and poems then a retrospective short story about her family titled ‘Menagerie Manor’.

Jewellery Gold 04As luck would have it, being a fan of crime novels, the first short story I read was ‘A Candle for Bob Carter’ in which plain-clothed Chief Inspector Bob Carter is on jewel-guarding duty at a swanky fancy dress Christmas party during a hot Australian summer.  ‘We’ll turn the air-conditioning up dear,” says Leila as the sound system booms the obligatory yet incongruous ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’.  Such a fun twist at the end.

Indian Goddess Maa Durga Devi 03Under the tribute heading Women Worldwide, I read in awe as determined elderly ladies went ‘Walking in the Land of the Gods’.  Later I laughed out loud after reading ‘Durga Down Under’ a rather irreverent look at Durga, the Supreme Hindu Mother Goddess.  The accompanying poems resonated with me, particularly ‘A Woman’s Solitude’ a brief respite before a hectic day.  Under the title Travel Tales, Indrani writes with clarity and insight, transporting me to spectacular locations around the world.  My favourite is Shimla in the Himalayas which also has a lovely photo of Indrani and her daughter Gitanjali on rugged little ponies.

In this deceptively compact hardback volume there is a lot to read and think about.  ‘In My Father’s House’ is more than a treasury of family memories, Indrani’s words entertained and enlightened me.  She is in tune with diverse levels of society and human nature as well as comfortable within herself and her writing.

IMG_20190805_153244In her foreword, Indrani says ‘I continue to look both backwards and forwards for ideas and inspiration’.  I have already read and blogged her historical novel ‘The Rose and The Thorn’ and look forward to more literary adventures.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

IMG_20191122_183130Indrani Ganguly was born into a Bengali family in Lucknow and now lives in Brisbane with her husband, son and daughter.  She travels extensively around Australia, India and other countries.

She studied English Honours in Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, has a masters in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a PhD on the impact of British occupation on revolution and reform in Burdwan, now in West Bengal.

‘In My Father’s House’ was published 2015 by Unique Publications Delhi, and her novel ‘The Rose and The Thorn’ was published 2019 by Boolarong Press Brisbane.
Indrani’s website: https://indraniganguly139.wordpress.com/blog/

Review ‘Brisbane’s Greek Cafés: A Million Malted Milks’ by Toni Risson

Toni Risson Greek Cafe Malted Milks Bookcover

From the beautifully tactile bookcover and the glorious old photographs, to the spectacular amount of research and Greek family interviews, Toni Risson has written and created a book which is reader-friendly and as energetic as the boundless service in a 20th century Greek café.

Like a Greek café menu, there’s never a dull moment.  Toni has amassed images of people, posters, menus, waitress fashion, the furniture, big mirrors, the soda fountain, cigarette counter—the mid-century nostalgia is strong for me just looking at the old buildings.  And let’s not forget the food, ah, so much delicious food!  Everything was freshly prepared, and ice-cream, chocolates and chilled fruit drinks were made on the premises in a time before the invention of air-conditioning.

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Open from 8am to 7pm seven days a week, back when few other proprietors could match it, Greek cafés became meeting places and stopping points for a variety of daily events; late breakfast; ladies morning tea; midday meal; shopping break; date before the cinema; cool drink at the end of the day; weekend family gatherings.

Remember this was in the days before coffee chains and fast food outlets.

Visiting as a child, I recall strawberry ice-cream and also eating a banana split with “the lot” including a cherry on top.  I think I got into trouble because I refused to eat my (healthy) banana.  The malted milkshakes were huge to my young eyes, and I can still remember the aroma of warm chocolate emanating from the display cabinet.

I could rattle off the chapter titles and you’d see the important position Greek family cafés held in pre-television society in Brisbane.  But I won’t because there are 35 chapters—some bearing names I know today, Andronicos, Samios, Freeleagus and more.  Every page has a delightful story, a witty quote or snippet of memorabilia.

The type of book which I keep referring to, always finding something extra to read aloud to anyone in the room.

You don’t have to be Greek, or local, to read about the Greek café phenomenon which spread throughout Queensland.  Several towns are mentioned including Bundaberg, Charleville, Dalby, Inglewood, Stanthorpe.  You’ve heard the song “Video Killed The Radio Star”, well, television killed Greek cafés.  In this book, you can find out what happened.

IMG_20190929_172519I was fortunate enough to attend the official launch of “Meet Me at the Paragon” the State Library of Queensland’s retrospective display of all things relating to Greek café culture.

From neon signs to monogrammed crockery, this six-month SLQ exhibition runs until mid-March 2020 and ties in with Toni Risson’s book.

I saw a large amount of the items mentioned in her book, plus rare family photos during a white gloves tour.
Here’s my blog post
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/10/03/meet-me-at-the-paragon-a-greek-cafe-experience-slqgreekcafes/

Finalist in Queensland Literary Awards, “Brisbane’s Greek Cafés: A Million Malted Milks” is a time-capsule, a treasury of ephemera which will remain documented and preserved within its pages. 

This book is a great gift for a foodie friend or entrepreneur.

Suitable for readers interested in nostalgia or café trends.  And family histories, particularly those of inventive and industrious Greek families.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

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Toni Risson is a storyteller, food writer and cultural historian.  She writes short stories and children’s novels, and her doctorate mapped Australian childhood through the magic of lollies.

In a more ‘grown-up’ vein, Toni curated the State Library of Queensland’s exhibition “Meet Me At The Paragon” which displays the meteoric rise of Greek cafés across Queensland.  She has also written “Aphrodite and the Mixed Grill” 200 pages jam-packed with photographs and stories about iconic Greek cafés in Ipswich, Queensland.

Christmas Reading in a Shoebox

In the tried and true method of storing items of a precious nature, I have used a shoebox to delineate my important Christmas reading.  Methinks this bundle of books will take me into the New Year!

IN ORDER OF SHOEBOX CONTENT

Bloody-Bastard-Beautiful-Mocco-Wollert SWWQ

I just love the front cover of Mocco’s book. That yellow dress pops!  Back cover reads: “Adventurous, lovable and laughable, Mocco captures the heat and vibrancy of Darwin, in the 1950s rugged unruly Northern Territory of Australia.”  And “I am on my way to Darwin to find a job.  I have no money…”

 

 

Maybe The Horse Will Talk by Elliot Perlman

Another front cover I love!  You just know this will be quirky and Elliot’s Stephen Maserov has problems.  A onetime teacher, married to fellow teacher Eleanor, he is a second-year lawyer working in imminent danger of being downsized.  The back cover reads “I am absolutely terrified of losing a job I absolutely hate.”

 

 

In My Fathers House by Indrani Ganguly

Such a tranquil front cover.  It reminds me of my own father reading the newspaper every morning.  Many will remember my review of Indrani Ganguly’s “The Rose and The Thorn”, well, this is the book which precedes it.  Indrani has included her poetry, art work, short stories, photographs of her travels and more.

 

 

Toni Risson Greek Cafe Malted Milks Bookcover

Another beautiful front cover.  Must be viewed in person to appreciate the qualities!  You may recall my post about the opening of Queensland State Library’s exhibition “Meet Me At The Paragon” a Greek Cafés retrospective.  Toni’s companion book bulges with photos and historic information.

 

 

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The front cover certainly sets the tone.  The back cover reads “A city girl stranded in the middle of the desert.  A circus performer with haunted wings.  A rebellious fighter with a kangaroo heart.  A boy who dreams of holding his home in his heart.  A house made of flesh and bone.”  Maree writes unexpected stories!

 

 

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Almost last but never least, “Dewey” with photos inside, and “Miss Read”.  My own photograph of these two front covers is larger than the others because—

(A)  I worked, lived and breathed libraries for years but never read Vicki Myron’s series about “The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World” and

(B)  Miss Read, aka school teacher Dora Jessie Saint, had a particular cosy-village style and a huge following in the UK in 1960s when I wasn’t interested in that sort of stuff.  A slim little volume chosen because of the title “Village Christmas” far removed from my dry hot Aussie festive season.

HONOURABLE MENTION

Joanna Baker Devastation Road Bookcover 2019The final two books are on my iPad.  Written by Joanna Baker they are set in country-town Victoria, Australia.  I can whisper that I have already dipped into “Devastation Road” and it’s gripping.

Joanna Baker The Elsinore Vanish Bookcover 2019

There you have it!  Separate reviews will follow—eventually—on my blog as well as Goodreads.  Joy to the world!

Holly Christmas 02          ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART THREE

On your marks, get set…

The University of Queensland Alumni Book Fair 2019 at St Lucia, Brisbane, had been in full swing for a couple of days before I arrived on the third day.  One more day to go with no sign of running out of keen customers or brilliant book bargains.

The Exhibition Hall is huge!

The whole area was filled with tables covered in books of every shape, size, colour and genre.  I couldn’t name every section without going cross-eyed but there were technical books, reference books, fiction, non-fiction, and fun stuff like mixed media (including old vinyl records) and cool kids books.

I could say romance novels jostled for position with items such as travel guides and political biographies but everything was grouped in an orderly manner, well marked and easy to access.  I was surprised to see numerous large old dictionaries for sale, however, the eclectic poetry section caught my eye.  Ooh, Bruce Dawe.

Total absorption

The whole area was spacious, clean and civilised.  I expected a few gasps or cries of joy when The One, that perfect addition to a series or a special edition was found and held aloft.  But no, basically the customers had their own agendas and moved calmly from book table to book table with carry bags, totally absorbed.  By my estimation, I think you could expect to spend about two hours scanning and sifting through the books, more if you wanted to read pages here and there.

Stacks of boxes

In the first photo (above) in the distance you can see a stack of book boxes, then in the second photo you see the book boxes up close.  That opened box was about head-height and a volunteer told me those boxes had stretched along the walls, and every day they were emptied.  Volunteers in purple t-shirts worked tirelessly the whole time I was there, unpacking, shelving, answering queries, and working at the payment points.

Afternoon tea

In the adjacent cafeteria (delicious homemade strawberry cake) I displayed some of the haul.  You will spy a small red book in the left-hand photo which I have opened in the right-hand photo.  The dust-jacket is missing and the previous owner had not liked naughty boy Pierre and scribbled on him in pencil but I love it.  After a bit of searching, I found out this little Maurice Sendak volume is one of four, a Nutshell Library boxed set published in 1962 by HarperCollins.

Time to go

On display in the foyer of the Exhibition Hall were enlarged travel images and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the duck and ducklings.  Overall, the synchronicity of UQ Alumni Friends, Members and volunteers created an exceptional event.

Walking back to the bus stop, weighed down with my treasure, the water bubbling through the pipes of this fountain made a relaxing sound so I stopped to admire it.

As I stood there, I thought about the massive amount of books on every subject imaginable which showed how far we have come, and how much of value we have left behind.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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My previous posts:

Part One
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/04/28/rare-book-auction-and-alumni-book-fair/
Part Two
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/05/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-two/

Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART TWO

What a blast!

On arrival, drinks and nibbles were a nice surprise after travelling by bus along winding streets to UQ Alumni Rare Book Auction.  From then onward it was non-stop action from 6pm until 9pm in Fryer Library.

Twilight sky

Beforehand, I walked not the ‘hallowed halls’ but the beautiful arched sandstone walkways of the Great Court to the Fryer Library entrance.  I caught the lift to the fourth floor where several people were mingling in the foyer beside the bidding registration table.  On receiving Number 30, I hoped it was a lucky number.

Lucky number 30

I wandered in to the library, strolled through all the assembled black chairs, and entered the book viewing area.  Lighting was subdued but it was easy to see the fascinating array of old books waiting patiently for my frenzied bidding.  Not quite frenzied; but to jump ahead, I did offer a bid for a beautiful book, at least I think it is, which started and finished at the same amount, i.e. nobody out-bid me.  Shame really because Smith, A. Croxton ‘Tail-Waggers’ Country Life, London, 1935, 147 pp has superbly rendered B&W mounted etchings by Malcolm Nicholson.

Lights, camera, action

After ascertaining if I could take photos, permission granted, I ended up being so entranced by the bidding that I didn’t take many shots.  The introductions, welcome and Acknowledgement of Country were conducted (first by university librarian Caroline Williams originally from Nottingham UK) and at 6.45pm, auctioneer Jonathan Blocksidge stood behind the lectern.  Game on!

Quickly, keep up

The bidding was fast and Mr Blocksidge kept the pace up, the heat on and the bids rising.  There seemed to be some pretty serious collectors and possibly agents in the audience and at times the bids rose in increments so rapidly it was hard to keep track.

The highest bidder

There were absentee bidders and Lot 27 rose above the reserve price.  As the night progressed – 146 lots were listed – bidding ‘wars’ occurred, particularly between two people behind me.  The jousting for Lot 62, first edition of ‘Human Action: A Treatise on Economics’ made the audience applaud in appreciation.  Same for Lot 66 ‘The Natural History of Man’ and Lot 86 James Cook’s ‘A Voyage Towards the South Pole’ which later culminated in Lot 105 Charles Kingsford-Smith’s personally signed copy of ‘Story of Southern Cross’ going for a huge amount.

Regrettably, the star of the show and expected highlight of the evening Lot 146 Gauss (de Brunswick) book ‘Recherches Arithmetiques’ did not meet the hefty reserve price.

Until tomorrow

The UQ team of staff and volunteers worked tirelessly throughout the evening, quiet yet ready to assist, and I think they did an excellent job.  In fact, I have been reliably informed that all of the auction organisers I had contact with are UQ Alumni Friends, Members and volunteers.  They were supported by the Fryer Library team (led by Manager, Simon Farley) who organised the chairs, allowed use of the library space, and provided the hospitality pre-event.  A success well deserved!

I purchased and collected my precious old book of ‘Tail-Waggers’ and headed out into the cool, calm night.

Stick around for Part Three coming soon, my adventure with books, books and more books.  Or better still, visit the UQ Alumni Book Fair yourself!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Check out my previous post Part One
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/04/28/rare-book-auction-and-alumni-book-fair/
and my final post Part Three
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/08/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-three/

 

Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART ONE

So excited, I’ve never been to a rare book auction.  In fact, I have never been to an auction.  It’s not something which cropped up in my everyday life and I must admit from what I’ve seen on television, it can get pretty fast and furious.

There’s always the horror of twitching an eyebrow and accidentally bidding for a hugely expensive volume of poetry, the only book of its kind in the world, which has to stay in a glass case.  Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.

MY COMMENTARY INTERSPERSED WITH IMAGES

The University of Queensland Alumni Book Fair and Rare Book Auction will be held at St Lucia Campus, Brisbane, over four days on the weekend of Friday 3 May to Monday 6 May 2019 – Monday being Labour Day holiday in Queensland – see UQ website for various times.

HOW DID I FIND OUT ABOUT THIS RARE BOOK AUCTION?

Last month, I attended a talk at University of Queensland’s Long Pocket Campus, home of the University of Queensland Press, or UQP as it is fondly known, the oldest independent publishing house in Australia with an illustrious stable of authors.  I browsed some of the newly published books on offer, grabbed a coffee and sat with other attendees to absorb an informative talk from the Publishing Director, right down to choosing bookcovers.

We broke for a tasty lunch then listened to the ins-and-outs of publishing publicity, Selling The Brand.  Another world really but invaluable knowledge for a writer.  Our group participated in a Q&A quiz about books and authors.  I threw up my hand and answered correctly, winning myself a new novel ‘The Geography of Friendship’ by Sally Piper which I will read and review.

DOWN A HILL AND UP A HILL . . .

Afterwards, we all trooped outside, down a hill and up a hill through the lush native gardens to where the Archives live.  Amongst the thousands of new and used books donated every year, there are rare and valuable tomes, well-kept considering their age.  On the shelving, behold every genre, every topic, every format imaginable.  And nearly every item in the Junior Section held nostalgia for me.  It is here I learned about the UQ Alumni Rare Book Auction 6pm on Friday 3 May 2019.

BROWSE AND BUY – TAKE A TROLLEY – BOOK VOLUNTEERS WELCOME

I will have to leave you hanging, dear reader, because I will write Part Two when I’ve actually been to the Rare Book Auction in Fryer Library which itself is full of literary treasures.  See you there?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Here is MORE tantalising information:
http://books.alumnifriendsuq.com/rare-book-auction/
and http://books.alumnifriendsuq.com/charles-kingsford-smith-at-the-the-uq-alumni-book-fair-and-rare-book-auction/

Plus BONUS extras so you can jump ahead:
Part Two
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/05/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-two/
Part Three https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/08/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-three/


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UQ Duhig Tower Forgan Smith Fryer Library
UQ Forgan Smith Building, Duhig Tower to Fryer Library