Writing Challenges

March 4, 2019 at 8:29 pm | Posted in Australia, Mental Health, Publishing, self-publishing, Writing, Writing and Life | 14 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

When I discovered I really could write creative fiction back in 2005 at the age of fifty-seven, a flood-gate opened and words poured from my pen (I write my drafts by hand). I lost count of the number of short stories, poems, articles and memoir items I wrote over the following few years. And then I decided to write a novel, aimed at 10-16-year-olds, and things changed.

 

I wrote the following reflection in July 2011, when that first novel was about to go out into the world:

 

It took me four years to write Ben’s Challenge. All the way through, from the idea (it was originally going to be a short story) to the completion I had to battle to get it done. No, it’s not that I can’t write, or that it took many revisions, or that I didn’t know where the story was going and what I wanted it to do. And it’s not that I don’t know my grammar, punctuation and spelling either – I grew up in an era when schools taught that kind of thing. No, the problem was deeper than any or all of those.

My problem was a lack of confidence in myself, which manifested itself in many ways. The main issue I had to overcome was procrastination; after all, if I didn’t write, nobody could say it was rubbish, could they – and that included myself.

A life-long struggle with depression also helped make my self-doubts into mountains I was certain I couldn’t climb. Even when my critique group expressed admiration for my style of writing and for the story, I wasn’t able to relax and go with the flow.

Funnily enough, it was during my eighteen months of treatments for breast cancer that I wrote the most easily and with the most confidence. I suppose writing was no longer my sole focus, so I took the pressure off myself. My doubts became background noise, which I could often ignore. . .

 

After publishing Ben’s Challenge, it took me a couple of years to start on my next novel, this one for Young Adults. I had to work up the courage to see if the first book was just a one-off or if I was a “real writer”. As I had in writing that first one, I battled through self-doubt, bouts of depression and procrastination – again in spite of my writing critique partners’ and my husband’s support and encouragement. One period of not writing lasted for a whole year. As a result, it again took about four years before the book was finished. Thursday’s Child was published in February 2018 and those who have read it say it is an amazing and wonderful story – even better than the first one.

I have an idea for a follow-up to Thursday’s Child – a strong story line and again, challenging themes. I have written a few chapters, but am struggling to get moving on it. There always seems to be something more important to do – that’s the usual problem of procrastination, I suppose. You’d think that, after two well-received books, I would have confidence in myself; that the words would flow as they did fourteen years ago, but they don’t. I am scared that I won’t be able to pull it off again.

I know that if I really want the story to see the light of day, I must, as with the other stories, fight my way through the self-doubts, the fear and insecurity, and get on with the job. Or maybe I’ll just wait until after I’ve delivered my part of a panel presentation on self-publishing at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival in a month’s time. Then I’ll get stuck into it. Oh, that sounds like more procrastination though, doesn’t it? Mmmmm…

 

Linda Visman, 4th March 2019

 

Advertisements

Senses by the Lake

February 8, 2019 at 10:03 pm | Posted in Australia, Birds, Experiences, Leisure activities, Nature | 24 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have just come across a couple of pages of notes that I wrote in my notebook back in September 2010 – Spring in my part of the world. I was taking a walk by the lake where I live, and along the way, I sat on a water-side bench seat, not far from a pub, a services club and a café. I opened myself to the sights, sounds and smells around me.

 

What I could see:

  • the placid surface of the lake, unruffled by wind, reflecting a blue sky;
  • the wake of a passing motorboat on the opposite side of the bay;
  • ripples from the boat carrying all the way to the shore;
  • a cormorant diving for fish;
  • a variety of boats, sail or motor, moored in the bay, moving gently in the moving boat’s wake;
  • people of all ages passing by, just going for a walk or heading to the nearby shops;
  • casuarinas and eucalypyts that grow near the edge of the lake;
  • the concrete walking path that follows the shoreline;
  • the green lawns of homes that stand back from the trees and pathway;
  • a sea eagle that soars high on invisible currents of air.

 

What I could hear:

  • Corellas screeching;
  • Traffic going by on the road;
  • Peewees’ piping call;
  • The warning cry of masked lapwings;
  • A budgerigar in a cage nearby;
  • ‘G’day and ‘Hello; from passers-by;
  • The squawk of rainbow lorikeets;
  • The rumble of a distant aircraft;
  • Noisy miners (birds) quarrelling;
  • The clatter of a two-stroke bicycle motor;
  • The distant cooing of doves;
  • The whine of a whipper-snipper and the ring of its cord against steel fence posts;
  • The slap of a leaping fish as it hit the water;
  • the soft chittering of Eastern rosellas from a eucalypt tree;
  • the musical warbling of magpies;
  • the unmistakable sound of a postie’s motor scooter as he does his rounds;
  • the ‘aak’ , ‘aak’ of seagulls as they fly over;
  • the burbling of an outboard motor and the sound of voices, as two men tie up a ‘tinny’ at the RSL jetty;
  • the ‘ko-ko-ko-ko’ of a kookaburra as it warns away the persistent noisy miners.

 

What I could smell:

  • The soft, warm scent of recently cut green grass;
  • A slight tang of salt in the air;
  • The odour of mud and weed, exposed by the tide;
  • The fresh, clean scent of the casuarina trees;
  • The gentle waft of spring on the breeze;
  • The tantalizing aroma of garlic from the pub’s restaurant;
  • The pungent smell of cigarette smoke from the club’s beer garden;
  • A wonderful aroma of fresh brewed coffee.

 

How fortunate I am to live in such a wonderful place, with nature as well as a small urban area around me. It is great to take a walk along the lake shore, no matter what the weather.

Self-fulfilling Prophecies

December 12, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Australia, divisions in society, History, Philosophy, Religion, Society, War and Conflict | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

 

My thoughts on a new news item

Trump Rally Cheers Because Jerusalem Move Will Launch Armageddon PATHEOS.COM

Comment 1:  This is where the Religious Right are taking us… RIGHT TO WAR….hoping in their stupid way that it is the final war that ends the world.

Comment 2:  Delusional fairy stories believed by the insane.

Comment 3:  Trouble is – some lunatics will use that to justify violence somewhere, and that could very well unleash armageddon. People are very good at fulfilling prophecies.

 

The story above was shared on Facebook a day or two ago, and a few of the comments led me to think about this whole Armageddon thing. So I wrote those thoughts and share them here.

 I think the last comment is right. The religious right believes the extremist words of prophecy in the Book of Revelations. They think that, as “Christians”, they expect they will be lifted to heaven when the world collapses, so they actively work towards that collapse in order to prove the prophesies were right.

It actually does seem inevitable that there will be an apocalypse of some kind, but you don’t have to be religious to see that, and it won’t be the kind of Armageddon the evangelicals are hoping for. It is the greed and intolerance of human nature and the desire for power and control over the masses and the means of wealth creation that are fuelling our own destruction, just as it has throughout history.

In recorded history the very same human traits have led to the fall of many nations and the rise of others. Those nations were not so intertwined as they are today. Instead, as Marshall McLuhan said over fifty years ago, we live in a global village. That village is now even more closely connected via almost instant communications networks.

It is this very increase in the population and the interdependence of nations that drives us to our own inevitable fall and to the rape & destruction of so much of our natural world. There is a struggle among the top dogs of the village to be the alpha, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process.

I am sure that there have been prophets in almost every age who have foretold the end of the known world of their times. They didn’t need to have had a vison from some etheric entity to see what was before their eyes. As I write and talk about how the world is going to the edge of a precipice, I don’t believe I am a channel that is telling me that. There are no religious under- or overtones to what I am saying, apart from the use of religion as a power base. I am just stating the bleeding obvious.

But I also have some hope, little though it might be. Hope that it is the rational who will survive the end of the world as we know it. Hope that they will be the ones who will learn to live with the natural world and stop the destruction. Hope that somewhere in the future, any of my descendants who survive will create the world most of us wish we had now.

Of course, human nature being what it is, as those survivors grow & develop new societies, unless there has somehow been a genetic change in our brains, it will just start all over again.

Here is a poem I wrote over twelve years ago on how history repeats itself.

What History Lesson?

 

When looking at people throughout all the ages,

It’s clear that they go through the very same stages.

Just go back and look at our civilisations –

You’ll see the same problems throughout all nations.

 

One country gets stronger; thinks its ways are best;

Through warfare and conquest, it dominates the rest.

Time passes; it weakens, and its morals decay.

A new one takes over – it’s another dog’s day.

 

These cycles continue as centuries go by:

One nation brought low by another rising high.

Each struggles for power, takes its “god-given right”,

Before it cedes to another; that has risen in might.

 

Why Man cannot learn from the lessons of history,

but makes all the same mistakes is a mystery.

I suppose it is just that his nature won’t bend;

So, while Man’s on this earth, the destruction won’t end.

 

It will take far too long for our kind to evolve

To the stage where, as one, our dilemmas we’ll solve.

Before then, with our hate and our need for a fight,

We’ll have killed ourselves off, just to prove ourselves right.

© Linda Visman, April 2006

 

I wouldn’t mind hearing your views on this – but do keep it calm. 🙂

 

 

I came second!

November 12, 2018 at 7:00 am | Posted in Australia, History, Nature, Philosophy, Poetry, Reflections, The Red Centre | 19 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I recently entered a poem in a writing competition. The competition was the Alice Sinclair Memorial Writing Award, run by the Lake Macquarie branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) to which I belong. It was open to all writers throughout Australia.

I was very happy to be told I had gained second place in the Poetry section with my poem, “Tosca – Northern Territory”. It is about a special place in the Red Centre of Australia, where I have camped several times and gone rabbit shooting too. While there, I’d sit at the entry to a shallow cave on top of a rock outcrop, and feel the majesty and vastness of the land. This is where the poem originated, and where I always return when I see the red dust of Australia’s ancient Red Centre.

I received my award on Saturday at the FAW meeting. Here is part of what the judge’s report said:

The poem is “a tightly written, image-rich poem that brings the reader into the moment of perception with visual imagery while also creating a satisfying link to history and tradition”.

Here is my poem. Read it slowly, and see if you can feel the country, its immensity and its beauty.

 

Tosca – Northern Territory

 

Linda Visman

 

Rocky red hillside, broken and rough, lies beneath my feet;

grey-green weeds and shiny, baked mudstone around;

endless, pale blue summer skies above

this overhang in which I can lie but not stand;

 

its pebble-studded roof, blackened by countless Dreamtime fires,

slopes down a body-length inside to a floor

scattered with twigs, leaves and droppings

– wallaby or goanna – or drought-defying rabbits.

 

A perfect lookout this, for those now gone – and for me –

across a sweeping panorama of hard-packed red sand

broken by low-growing stands of grey mulga and gidgee,

spiky domes of spinifex, and shallow gullies

gouged by seasonal downpours.

 

Distant caw of devil-crows mournful on the breeze;

taste of sunburned dust on my tongue,

coarse and dry in my eyes and on my skin,

a red-orange pigment dusting everything with its brand,

burning into every pore and crevice of mind and body.

 

Near the top of this hill in a thirsty landscape,

down between and beneath the sheltering rocks,

lies life – a native well, seeping just enough water

to keep a small band of travellers from perishing of thirst,

 

Or to sustain the miners who extracted turquoise wealth

then left a football-field-sized white talc scar down on the flat.

A tin can, string attached, lies hidden behind a rock

– slake your thirst, then replace it for those to come.

 

The ground that appears devoid of life by day,

at night sparkles everywhere with its own stars

– thousands of spider eyes reflected in the moonlight;

and all around in the cool of evening after day’s dry heat

wafts the pungent smell of the gidgee tree.

 

In this country the spirits of the past remain,

not only in ancient, fossilised trilobites and ferns

trapped within the baked mudstone of long-dried seabeds,

nor the deep diamond-studded night-time vault

where earth and plants, man and animals were born.

 

The Dreaming lives on in every leaf and twig,

every crow and crested pigeon, every spider, ant and lizard;

in the gales and cooling breezes and every drop of rain,

in every rock and every speck of seeping red dust.

 

How fleeting am I in this eternal place, and how tiny in its immensity!

 

(c) Linda Visman, 2018

A Sixteen-year-old’s response to “Thursday’s Child”

September 23, 2018 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Australia, book reviews, discrimination, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Reading, Social mores, Writing and Life | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

I had a great chat with my friend and her granddaughter, yesterday. We talked about my novel, “Thursday’s Child” which Natasha, who is in Year 10 high school, had recently read, along with my first novel, “Ben’s Challenge”.  Natasha told me what she thought were the issues raised throughout “Thursday’s Child”. We discussed the conditions most girls and women faced back in early 1960s and compared them with what they face today.

Natasha had written her thoughts on the book before we met, in the form of a review , and she said I could share it on my blog. I am really pleased to present the thoughts of a reader from the demographic my book is targeted at. Thank you Tasha.

 

*     *     *     *     *

Review of “Thursday’s Child” by Natasha Ireland

 

Thursday’s Child, by Linda Visman. Is a story of a teenage girl named Tori who faces many challenges around education and having to be brought up with a family on the poverty line. The biggest challenge she faces is the consequence of a violent incident which she experiences at the beginning of the story. Visman exposes her central character to many valuable lessons that come through the hardship that is face by Tori and how she is able to overcome this towards the end of the story.

 

Tori has many different people who influence her life in good and bad ways. The story shows how the men in her life have not impacted her life in a good way as life in the 1960s was tough for Tori ue to sexism and inequality towards women. Even her own father shows her no sympathy despite her terrible dilemma. He doesn’t care about what Tori wants or how important her education will be for her future. Tori’s mother says to her, “It’s not fair at all. But that’s what the law says. The man makes the decisions and we have to abide by ‘em”.

 

Tori’s treatment helps women of our generation now to understand how far women have come from those days and how many more opportunities we can have. Although this issue is still continued in certain countries, women over time will work to dismiss this issue for good.

 

The story will help boys to understand how difficult life was and can still be for women. This could explain many terrible issues women face and help them to respect us more equally.

 

Rape, abuse and unwanted pregnancy are a few of the major disadvantages of women in Tori’s time. However, Visman wants the reader to see how much of an independent and tough woman Tori becomes through the story after the stressful events that have taken place in her life. Increasingly empowered, she continues to do anything she can to do what is right for her and does not surrender to the force of the men in her life.

 

The protagonist is a bright and intelligent girl who is trapped in the reality of her times. She recognises her escape is through her education. She is a remarkable role model for self-determination and courage.

 

Natasha Ireland, Year 10.

 

Love this review of “Thursday’s Child”

August 30, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, Reflections, role model, Social mores, Social Responsibility, Writing, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I am honoured to receive this wonderful review from a reader. Thank you Janet.

Dear Linda,

I’ve just finished reading “Thursday’s Child” and found it a fine piece of writing.

These days I have two simple criteria with regard to novels. I ask:
1. Did I care what happens to the people in the story?
2. Does the author present the story without me being aware of her techniques?

On both these criteria, your book gets a large tick.

I cared very much what happened to all the characters. Of course, Tori is the main focus, but her parents, her siblings, Adele, Gwen feel like real people with their own strengths and weaknesses, their own needs. I even cared about Grizzly, wondering if he continued as he began, or whether his encounters with Tori and Dad change him.

Your story kept me engaged, not wanting to rush ahead because what was happening in each moment mattered, but also keen to know how things would turn out. You write with skill, but, as I read, I was not aware of that. In other words, you, the writer kept yourself “out of the way”. That said, I do think a strength of your writing lies in the natural feel of the dialogue.

One aside: I remember that earth tremor in the early 1960s! I was living in Campbelltown at the time, and all the cups rattled in the cupboard!

At the library session on “Thursday’s Child” there was some discussion about the negative references to God and the church; people thought church schools would not allow their children to read such a book. Well, any church school that bans this book would also have to ban large parts of the bible, including the words from Psalm 22 that the gospel writer attributes to Jesus on the cross: My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?” The psalm adds the words: “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” which express well Tori’s feelings, albeit in more literary language.

Actually there are many ethical/moral questions in your story, which could be explored fruitfully in a classroom: male violence and rape, abortion (legal or illegal?) and what support should be given to young mothers.

One moral issue that impresses me is that of vengeful violence. Questions that arise include: Does revenge work for the one who has been violated? Does punishment convince the perpetrator? Then there is the dilemma of whether or not to involve the police, with all the problems that entails, and whether personal vengeance is justified.

I suppose what I am saying is that it is many years since I worked in schools, public and Catholic, and primary school rather than secondary, but in those days I felt more free to discuss thorny issues in the Catholic school than I had in the public ones.
I will give the book to my niece who has a fifteen-year old daughter. I will be very interested to hear their responses.

So, Linda, in summary, congratulations.

Kind wishes,

Janet

 

Old Jack

August 15, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Australia, History, War and Conflict, Writing and Life | 16 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 

Over eleven years ago, I wrote the story of what happened when I almost met Jack. I had forgotten about it until I was just exploring some of my writing folders. Now I think it is time to publish it, in honour of that old man I almost met.

 *     *     *

 

I first heard about old Jack from my next-door-neighbour, Eileen. It was an early February evening (2007), and we were out on our respective front verandahs, chatting across the fence about the day.

 

“I went to visit old Jack today. You write, don’t you, Linda? You’d probably find Jack interesting. He wrote poetry when he was a Japanese prisoner of war, and he tells some fantastic stories. He’s ninety-nine, and he’s still got all his marbles. He’d like to be involved with a writers’ group. Do you belong to one?”

 

“Yes, in Toronto. What’s his name again?”

 

“Jack. Jack Mudie. He turns a hundred next month. He’s a lovely fellow. Still lives at home. Got plenty of spirit too, even though he’s blind. I went with Vicky – that’s his carer – to see him before I leave. I want to let all the clients know I’m going. Not just walk out on them. The new people don’t care, but I do.”

 

Eileen had resigned her job as Regional Director of what had been a local community aged care programme. It had been taken over by a large interstate organization six months previously. Despite promises to the contrary, staff workloads had increased, while wages and conditions were gradually being eroded. The emphasis was now on profits, rather than on serving their elderly clients. Eileen had had enough.

 

“Old Jack, he wrote a diary too. When he was a prisoner of war.”

 

“A diary? Wow, that’s wonderful. Has he done anything with it? Has it been published?”

 

“No. He wants to. There’s nobody to write it out for him.”

 

“How come? You’d think there’d be lots of people interested in transcribing a POW diary.”

 

“His family don’t know much about it. But Jack did go to the War Memorial or the Archives or somewhere in Canberra and ask if they could get someone to transcribe it for him. They told him it could be done, but it’d cost him thirty thousand dollars.”

 

“You’re joking! Thirty thousand to transcribe a war-time journal?”

 

“Yeah. They said that’s what it’d cost. Awful eh?”

 

“Sure is. I suppose there are quite a few diaries around now and they’re not so scarce as they were. And they’d have to employ someone to do it. Still, I can’t understand why they couldn’t do it for nothing. It’s part of the country’s history.”

 

“Yeah. The family haven’t done anything about it. Don’t know why. But Jack would still like someone to do it. They just don’t know who. Or how.”

 

“I’ll do it!”

 

“Would you?”

 

“Sure would! I’d hate to see all that lost!”

 

“Apparently, it’s written in really tiny writing. He didn’t have much to write on. And he had to keep it hidden, of course.”

 

“Yes. He’d have been killed if it was found. A brave man, by the sound of it. I’d love to meet Jack and see if he’d like me to transcribe his diary.”

 

“All right. I’ll ring Vicky, his carer, and let her know. She’ll talk with Jack and see what he thinks. I’ll take you to see him, probably in the next week or two. I’m having a couple of weeks’ holiday before I start my new job.”

 

“Great! I’ll see if he wants me to take him to the Writers’ Group too.”

 

Eileen couldn’t take me to Jack’s place in the next two weeks, so she gave me Vicky’s mobile phone number, so I could arrange with her about going to meet Jack. Eileen said to call Vicky at about ten o’clock on Monday morning, as that’s when she was at Jack’s place.

 

I was really excited about meeting Jack. A little apprehensive too, because he would be entrusting me with something very precious. Would I be able to do him and his diary the justice they deserved? During the time I had to wait before ringing Vicky to organise the meeting, I decided to see if I could find out anything about Jack. I did a Google search on his name and got several hits. The Hunter Military History website briefly mentioned that Jack “survived three brutal years as a prisoner of war in Japan“ (I couldn’t find the actual Forum entry). I also discovered that Jack had been awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal). “Mr. Jack Mudie was conferred OAM for service to furthering relations between Australia and Japan through the development of the Prisoner of War Memorial” (Website of Volunteers for International Exchange).

 

Australian soldiers after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore, 1945

Australian soldiers after their release from Japanese captivity in Singapore, 1945

 

A “Catholic Weekly” story “To forgive is not to forget”, told of a 1991 Anzac Eve reconciliation service at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. The centrepiece of the service related to the “comfort women” who were enslaved by the Japanese during the war to serve their soldiers. One former comfort woman was there to accept the apology of “the ordinary Japanese people” through a Japanese Catholic film director. Tom Uren, former Labor Minister, also spoke of his experiences as a POW of the Japanese and how much he’d hated them. Then, when he was sent to Japan, still as a POW, to work alongside the ordinary Japanese people, he realised they were as much victims as he was. The story records “Jack Mudie, also a Japanese POW”, as having attended the reconciliation service. It seemed to me that Jack’s involvement with reconciliation, after his wartime experiences, showed him to be quite a remarkable man. This made me even more keen to learn more about him.

 

Other websites mentioned Jack’s visits to Japan, and visits of Japanese people to his home. They told of his POW poems, some of which (nineteen, I think) have been translated into Japanese and published as a book, “And Gumtrees Nodding Under Azure Skies” Other references to Jack’s poetry mentioned that Lt. Jack Mudie was at the Naoetsu P.O.W. Camp in Japan from 1942-1945.

 

There was a further reference to Jack in the English Speaking Union of Japan’s Newsletter No.31, October, 2001:

“Mr. Muramatsu …  talked about his reunion, after over a year, with Mr. Jack Mudie, who as a young lieutenant of the Australian army, spent much of his time during the Pacific War in a POW camp in Naoetsu, Japan. One of many poems he wrote during the internment was read by him. It was a moving poem about the hard-working Japanese women there, filled with his kind words and full of humor and warmth despite the adverse circumstances.”

Another site, relating to war books, gives details of Jack’s poetry book.

As I discovered more about Jack’s background, it became more important to me that I meet him and transcribe his wartime POW diary. I went with my husband, Dirk, to buy a small second-hand laptop computer that I could use. We also found a cheap scanner at the market. I wanted to be able to scan the diary at Jack’s place if necessary, so that he wouldn’t need to let it out of his possession. Scanning and enlarging it might make it easier to read too. I re-checked our tape recorder and microphone, and bought some new audio tapes. If Jack wanted to talk, and was happy to be recorded, I’d be ready. Both Dirk and I, and Eileen too, were really excited about the project.

 

At ten o’clock on the last Monday in February, I called Vicky’s mobile number. When she answered, I explained who I was.

 

“How’s Jack?”

 

“Oh Linda, I’m afraid I’ve just called the ambulance for Jack. He’s not very well at all. They should be here soon.”

 

“Oh, no. I hope he’s going to be all right.”

 

“I don’t know yet. Can you call me back, in about half an hour or so?”

 

“Yes, I will. Thank you.”

 

I waited anxiously during the half-hour Vicky had requested. When I called back, Vicky said Jack had gone to the hospital. She didn’t know how he’d be. I hoped he’d come through all right.

 

“I was so looking forward to meeting him today.”

 

“Yes. He was really looking forward to meeting you too. Look, can you call me again next Monday? I’m here every Monday. We can organise something then.”

 

When I saw Eileen a couple of days later, I told her Jack had been taken to hospital on the very day I’d called. She was upbeat about it.

 

“Don’t worry. He’s tough. They usually just get taken in for a couple of days to rest and get their strength back and then are home again as good as ever.”

 

So I waited again. Eileen was due to start her new job on Monday, the day I was to call Vicky. I asked her on the Saturday if she’d heard anything about Jack. She hadn’t.

 

On the Monday (March 5th) I called Vicky’s mobile number. It rang for a long time. There was no answer. Maybe she had the vacuum cleaner going and hadn’t heard it. Jack’s hearing wasn’t too good, Eileen had told me, so he probably wouldn’t have heard the phone either. Fifteen minutes later, I called again. This time Vicky answered.

 

“Vicky, this is Linda. I’m calling about Jack. How is he?”

 

There was a few seconds’ silence at the other end.

 

“I’m sorry. Jack died last Monday.”

 

Oh, no! Tears burned in my eyes.

 

“The funeral was last Friday. I didn’t have a number to call you.”

 

“Oh, I’m so sorry! You must be very upset.”

 

“Yes. I was close to Jack. He was a wonderful man. Look, I really don’t know what will happen about his diary, but Jack has a lovely family. I’ll be in contact with them again in a couple of months.”

 

“When everything’s settled, will you tell them, if they want to have Jack’s diary transcribed, I’ll help in any way I can?”

 

Vicky said she would. I gave her my home phone number, so she can call me if anything eventuates, and said goodbye. I went to tell Dirk, tears in my eyes. He hugged me. I felt like I’d just started to get to know Jack. All week, while I’d been thinking about him, he’d already been gone. Now, he was a friend I would never meet.

Linda Visman, 6th March 2007

………………………………………………………………………………………

Post Script:

After I’d written the foregoing story, I subscribed to the “Newcastle Herald” website service, so that I could purchase past articles from the newspaper. I searched for any references to Jack Mudie, and, among other, irrelevant items, I found two short articles from 2006. There are probably other, earlier stories in their regular archives too.

 

Those two articles however, were enough to give me an even better picture of Jack Mudie than I already had. Here are some extracts from those articles:

1. Author: ANITA BEAUMONT   Date: 06/09/2006

JACK Mudie remembers the barbed-wire fences, the cruelty and the starvation suffered at Changi prisons in Japan during World War II all too well.

The former lieutenant and Coal Point resident, 99, was one of 21,700 soldiers captured in the Malayan area in the war. Of those, about 7500 died.

Mr Mudie fought against the Japanese Army in Malaya and Singapore, and spent 2 1/2 years in one of their camps in Naoetsu, Japan.

“I saw and experienced a lot of cruelty and starvation. I came back a physical wreck,” Mr Mudie said.

“On one occasion a few of us were pulled out of the sleeping quarters to provide entertainment for the Japanese soldiers. We had to crawl around like dogs while getting belted along until we collapsed . . . I lost about three kilograms that night.”

He wrote poetry as a distraction from the conditions.

He also kept a detailed diary that was later used as evidence against eight Japanese soldiers indicted for the death of 60 soldiers

2. Author: IAN KIRKWOOD   Date: 14/08/2006

Jack Mudie survived three brutal years as a prisoner of war in Japan, but his saddest memory is returning to Australian soil.

“I was standing on the wharf and all around me were these people hugging and kissing, being reunited with their families,” Mr Mudie recalled yesterday.

A lone friend on the wharf had to tell him his parents had died while he was away. Their house had been sold. His possessions had been given to charity, a “fair bit” of money in the bank had been frittered away. He had been given up for dead.

Mr Mudie, who enlisted as “an old man of 32”, was captured in late 1941.

The retired primary school principal says he has made his peace with the Japanese people, but “not their soldiers or their military”.

He says there is “no room for hatred” in his heart, at least partly because his eldest child, Lynette, now lives in Japan with her Japanese husband, Kenji Kise.

 

Additional note, 15th August 2018:

I never did hear from Jack’s family, which saddened me. I don’t know if his diary was ever transcribed as I can find nothing about it online.

 

References for original story:

Website of Volunteers for International Exchanges:

http://www.max.hi-ho.ne.jp/yoshi-ko/indexe.htm

 

ESUJ Newsletter Oct. 2001:

http://www.esuj.gr.jp/news/eng/archives/0031.htm

 

The Catholic Weekly May 13 2001 story: http://www.catholicweekly.com.au/01/may/13/story_13.html

 

Jack’s Book of Poetry:

Author: Mudie, Jack

Title: Aozora no shita de yureru Ukari no ki ni = And gum-trees nodding under azure skies : nineteen poems made by Lt. Jack Mudie at the Naoetsu P.O.W. Camp, 1942-1945

Publisher: Joetsu-City, Japan. Hiromu Jagi

Year: 1999

Notes: In Japanese and English. Translated by Hiromu Yagi.

 

 

 

 

 

Writing and the Arts

July 25, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Poetry, Writing | 16 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 

At the June meeting of the Lake Macquarie Fellowship of Australian Writers, our guest presenter was Jan Dean, who is well known in the Hunter region. Jan is an award winning poet, and a former art teacher who loves to combine these major passions. She is a member of Poetry in the Pub, and was its first female president. Jan introduced the LakeMac group to a few new ways of looking at writing, particularly in regard to the crossover between poetry and art.

 

Firstly, we were introduced to the concept of surrealism in art, poetry, drama, etc. Surrealism concerns the unconscious or subconscious mind – “the plausible impossible”. We saw a picture of Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and discussed the elements of surrealism within it. Jan shared two surrealist poems: Antonin Artaud’s “Dark Poet’ and Arthur Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat”. She also read a poem she wrote based on a surrealist painting, and these gave us an idea of what kind of writing to which we could stretch ourselves.

 

The Persistence of Memory (1931) Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” 1931

 

Many of the group had not heard the term “ekphrasis”, i.e. writing stimulated by a piece of art, as in the poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn” by John Keats. Jan talked about how important it is to research the piece of art to get details correct. She read excerpts from her poem “Artemesia Reflects” (which is published in Paint Peels, Graffiti Sings, a pocketbook from Flying Islands Books, Macau). Artemesia Gentileschi was reputedly the first female artist to exist solely on the proceeds of her painting.

 

Jan pointed out that any piece of art – visual, auditory, performance – can provide stimulus for writing. She then gave us an exercise to do which involved linking surrealism and ekphrasis.

 

We each looked at a different, ordinary picture. Jan asked us to insert something grotesque into it that shouldn’t be there. We were to use the changed picture as a prompt to write a poem. My picture was of a woman and a man seated on opposite sides of a table. The woman’s face is sad, her arms rest on the table and she holds a disposable coffee cup in both hands. Her eyes are half-focused on the man, but his gaze is downwards, towards the cup. My insertion was a green emanation that rose from the cup and swirled around between the couple, touching neither.

 

The surreal aspect we gave to the picture was a great way to expand our understanding of any piece of art and how we could write about it. This is what I wrote about my picture:

Words, sickly, pastel-pale, swirl in the air.

Blue reaches for yellow, yellow for blue

trying to connect but,

unable to bridge the distance between them,

become absorbed into

amorphous green misunderstanding.

 

Surrealist overtones can be included when we write about still life pictures as well as any other. Jan gave us an exercise that showed how to put incongruous words together to create dream-like images that we can use in our writing. She introduced us to asemic writing too, images made up of meaningless words, beyond semantics, but which can stimulate the emotions.

Asemic-writing-necronomicon     Asemic writing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of asemic writing

 

To complete the session, Jan reminded us of the Queensland Poetry Festival and encouraged us to enter its associated writing competition, the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award.

 

I left the session with my mind buzzing, words and images swirling, and a determination to use at least some of the writing techniques Jan shared with us. Perhaps I will even have a go at that ekphrasis competition.

 

Crazy, irrational things happen all the time in Surrealist literature. (Unknown origin)

A pleasant Sunday Morning

July 23, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Australia, Gratitude, Leisure activities, Mental Health, Nature, Share Your World | 16 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

 

We had a lovely morning on Sunday, a beautiful & pleasant winter’s day. We went for a drive, going anti-clockwise from the west side of Lake Macquarie where we live around to Swansea on the east (coastal) side.

We bought coffee at Macdonald’s there & a couple of hash browns each. It’s ages since we had either, as we have avoided Macca’s since the coffee changed to a bitter blend. However, we’d heard that their coffee is back to being good, so we decided to give it a try. It sure is good again, so we can hopefully get a decent coffee whenever we go to any Macca’s.

01 channel

After that, we had intended going to nearby Caves Beach but not knowing the way to the caves, we ended up at Swansea Heads instead. It is lovely there where the rock-walled channel links the lake and the sea. We decided to go for a walk on the south side, where we were parked.

03 rock fishermen

There’s a sheltered little sandy beach that would be great for little kids. Walking past the beach we came to where quite a few rock fishermen had rods out and their lines in the sea, hoping to catch dinner. There were also lots of anglers in small boats just outside the channel mouth. Farther out to sea, several colliers waited their turn to get access to Newcastle harbour to load up.

07 Breaking waves

It was picture postcard stuff. And so were the cliffs & the scattered rocks below them, which are so varied as to be amazing – sandstone, conglomerates, coal and others I don’t know. I took lots of photos of everything & used up all my phone battery.

The couple of hours we spent wandering the rocks & the beach were relaxing and yet also invigorating. The cold but gentle breeze was refreshing in the warm winter sunshine. Blue sky, waves breaking against the rocks, & multitudes of seagulls that had gathered on both sides of the channel, made us feel like we were on holidays.

06 Dirk

We set off home happy and content, and by the time we arrived there, we had circumnavigated the whole lake. The circumference of the lake is 147 kilometres. Here is more information on our beautiful lake and the city of Lake Macquarie.

 

I love being near the sea. The crashing waves are a tonic for me. Do love the sea shore?

 

 

 

 

Politics of Immigration

June 26, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Australia, discrimination, Immigration, Politics, War and Conflict | 34 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

 

I am loth to write about political situations but, following the example of another writer-blogger,  I have finally gotten up the courage to speak out.

There is a lot of emotion being generated around the world by the Trump administration’s treatment of so-called illegal migrants in the U.S, especially the separation of children from their parents. These emotions – horror, disbelief, deep sympathy and compassion for the trauma these children are suffering – are well-founded and justified. What is being done there is appalling.

What many people don’t see, because it is hidden as much as possible by the govt here in Australia, is an equally appalling situation. This is what is being done to seekers of refuge who came to this country by boat. To seek asylum in another country is perfectly legal, and yet we have our govt happily locking up refugee kids (albeit with their parent/s) in prison camps on Manus Island in P-NG and on Nauru in the Pacific in terrible conditions. Most of these refugees, kids included, have been incarcerated for several years – up to 5 years at present.

Refugee Children On Nauru

Refugee children on Nauru

The men, women & children, having already been traumatised by the life they fled, are in a bad way – physically, mentally and emotionally. They are treated appallingly – not given decent treatment for illnesses, injuries childbirth issues, and psychiatric problems associated with their incarceration. Several have died because of that lack of treatment. Others have taken their own lives because they cannot cope any longer with the conditions, the brutality of the system and its administrators, their demonisation by the govt, their lack of hope and uncertainty about the future.

Both our major political parties – the Coalition Liberal-Nationals in government and Labor in Opposition – are happy to stir up fear and hatred of refugees within the populace in order to create and conduct a disgraceful policy of deterrence. They say it will prevent more “boat people” from seeking asylum. They say it’s a matter of national security, but any thinking person knows it is simply to shore up the support of fearful, unsympathetic and uncaring voters.

Manus refugees

Refugee men on Manus Island

I hate to think what the outcomes of their treatment will be for those refugees when they are finally freed – what they will have to come to terms with and what they will have to overcome to be capable of living again in society. How much these refugees could have contributed to Australian society if they had been allowed to stay, we will never know. Instead, their lives have become a political football, and they may never know the peace they yearn for.

It seems that extreme right wing policies are having their day in many parts of the world. I just hope that the indignation & horror of good people– along with their raised voices and action – will turn the tide. I hope we can get back to what made Australia known for its friendliness and mateship. But I am afraid it will be a difficult road to return to.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” – Hebrews 13:2

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

Foxgloves and Bumblebees

A Nature Journal

L.T. Garvin

Eclectic blog: short fiction, poetry, humor, occasional dreams and wild book schemes.

Echidna Tracks

Australian Haiku

irevuo

art. popular since 10,000 BC

The Faery Whisperer

Colleen M. Chesebro ~ Novelist, Prose Metrist, & Word Witch

sketchings

Thel's Sketchings: Art, Photography, Musings & Short Stories

Learn Fun Facts

An Archive of Curious Facts for the Curious

backstorypress.com

A blog about writing and reading

roughwighting

Life in a flash - a weekly writing blog

Half Baked In Paradise

Searching, settling, sauteeing and spritzing

The Curry Apple Orchard

A blog designed to remember the past and celebrate the present.

barsetshirediaries

A site for the Barsetshire Diaries Books and others

Cee's Photography

Learning and teaching the art of composition.

Leigh Warren :: Country Music Outlaw

The ramblings of Leigh Warren about himself, country music and maybe... well who knows

Diane Tibert

~ writer -

Looking Back

With Mick Roberts. Est. Online 2000

Explore China

Four weeks of flying, cycling, hiking, cruising, eating and exploring

Repurposed Genealogy

Explore What's Possible