Mementos of Childhood

March 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, History, Making History, Psychology | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

I possess very little from my childhood; not the only doll I ever had, that the dog chewed up, nor bits of the wooden scooter Dad made one Christmas. I don’t even have the things that I was really keen to hang on to, that were important to me then; things like my Missal (Mass book), my First Communion and Confirmation medals and certificates, and especially the books I loved.

In the 1950s, we were a struggling English migrant family of seven (five kids), living in a tiny three-roomed house in a tiny village in rural Australia. Dad added a room to the house when our uncle and aunt and two cousins arrived from England to stay with us until they could get their own place, and another when our grandparents followed them.

My little brother, the fifth child, was born not long before they arrived. There was little room for thirteen of us, let alone old toys and papers, and that sort of thing didn’t ever seem that important to my parents anyway. It didn’t worry me at the time either; I was only a kid. But times have changed since then.

My home in 1965

I would love to have the books I treasured as a child, examples of my writing or school work, anything at all in my handwriting. The only original things I do have are a few report cards, my references from secondary school, and the three certificates I received during my education – one on leaving the convent primary school where I was female dux, one at the end of my third high school year, and my high school matriculation. The only example of my writing that I have consists of one article, printed in the second annual magazine of our high school, in 1963.

In 1969, I went back home for a visit after I had married and was teaching far away. I do not remember seeing anything of mine in the house; not my book collection, including Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, nor the WWII model aeroplanes (Dad had been an RAF fighter pilot in the war) and model vintage cars that I’d had in my bedroom. Strange as it may seem, I never asked where my things had gone.

My school in 1959 (I was in 5th grade then)

Another strange thing: when St Paul’s, my old primary school, celebrated the centenary of the St Joseph sisters in 1983, they produced a booklet about the teachers and the school. There were only three teachers, all nuns, when I attended, though it is a large school now. Daybreak, the Centenary booklet, contains quite a few old class photos. Both my sisters and both my brothers are in there, but I am not – and we could never afford to buy school photos.

Similarly, at the state high school my husband and I had attended for five years, many student records were destroyed in a major flood about twenty years ago. The only records lost were those from the exact years we were there, 1961 to 1965. It is as if we had never been there – apart from my name in the school magazines I was able to buy.

In many ways, I feel like I have lost a major part of my childhood. Most of my ‘history’ has gone. It doesn’t help that I also have only a fragmented memory of those times.

Perhaps as a result of all this, I tried not to throw anything out that belonged to my five children. I don’t know what they still keep from these items – all 5 being boys, and movers about the country to find good careers, I suppose they haven’t bothered – and somehow, I only have a few of their things myself.

Thirty-five years ago, I began researching and putting together the family history. I have written a book, in two editions, about our family antecedents, including historical and social conditions of the times. It focuses in greater detail on the individuals since about 1850. Years of research made me well aware of the importance of records in establishing the life of any individual in any time.

But to know a person, we need to have more of them beyond bare genealogical details. And that has led to my being designated as ‘family historian’. In order to save what I can of us as individuals, I have become a hoarder of my own memorabilia and anything associated with my family. I have only a few of my parents’ small possessions – which are virtually all that remain of their lives, apart from memories that fade over time. These too will be lost as my generation and our children die out.

My published novel, Ben’s Challenge, and its sequel, Ben’s Choice, my current work-in-progress, are based on childhood memories and experiences in the area in which I grew up. I wanted to pass on the knowledge of those times to the children of today, especially to my own grandchildren. Instead, I find that the first book has ignited memories in older folk who lived during those times, and they have enjoyed being taken back to their childhood.

I think the books may also be a search for my own past. Perhaps I have never gotten over the loss of what was really my own childhood identity.

What items do you treasure from your childhood?

© Linda Visman,

Bee-ware, Teddy-bear!

March 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Posted in Australia, Gardens, Nature, Society | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

You learn something new every day.

This morning, my husband saw an unusual insect. It looked like a bee but he had never seen one like it before. He caught it in a glass jar and brought it inside. We opened a google search and came up with the goods. It was a Teddybear bee.

    “Covered with dense red-brown fur, the teddy bear bee is one of Australia’s most appealing native bees and can provide you with a real teddy bears’ picnic in your garden.”

    Teddy Bear bees are native Australian bees, one of the ten groups of Aussie bees. Within those groups, there are over 1,500 species of native bee.

    I was really surprised to find this, as I had always thought there was only one basic group of native bees in Australia, and that these were small, stingless and being wiped out by the European honeybee.

    A little more information from the website:

    Most species of these rotund furry brown bees are 7 to 15 mm long. They build shallow nest burrows in soft soil and sometimes nest underneath houses. Each female builds her own nest burrow but many bees may nest together in the one location.

    It was difficult to assess the size of our bee, but it was at the larger end of that scale, a little bigger than a ‘normal’ honeybee. That was what made us interested to find out what it was.

    I have been mulling over why we should see these bees now, after never having seen one before. Over the last year or two, we have noticed a decline in the number of European honeybees around the blossoms of our native trees.

Varroa mite on bee

    There is a world-wide decline in honeybee numbers, due partly to the parasitic verroa mite. However this mite has not yet entered  Australia; we are the only content free of it at present, though it is closing in on us. Other factors are obviously at play here.

     But whatever the cause of the local downturn in honeybee numbers, I think that reduced competition from these introduced bees could possibly lead to a resurgence in our native bee populations. Apiarists are also increasingly breeding and using stingless native bees for food crop pollination.

    What is not in doubt is the importance of bees to the world food supply. Honey production is only a tiny part of the bee’s value. Most crops for human consumption and stock raising must be fertilised by bees, and these account for a huge percentage of the world’s food production. Without bees, we would have a catastrophe of incalculable proportions on our hands.

Our Teddybear bee

You will be pleased to know that, as soon as we discovered what our captured insect was, we released it unharmed into the garden. I am so pleased to know that we have real Aussie bees in our area again, and we will watch out for them from now on.


Do you know what the bee situation is in your region? Have you ever considered the ramifications of bee loss to food production around the world?


© Linda Visman  26th March 2012

Making Lists

March 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Posted in Writing | 8 Comments
Tags: , , ,

To-do lists, bucket lists, grocery lists, gift lists, wish lists, book lists, the list goes on…

I have lived-by-list ever since I began making grocery lists when I first married – my family knows, or can work out how long ago that was (Oh, all right, it was 43 years ago, but to a different fellow than the one I am married to now)!

Lists certainly are great motivators. You have to write the list first, of course. Then, when you look at the list – yes, you have to actually consult it – you may either choose a task from anywhere on it  or do the next one on the list. There is great satisfaction when you can tick off a completed. It makes you feel you have gotten somewhere – even if it wasn’t very far.

But lists have a greater power than that.

I find that having a list helps me to remember what I want to do, what I need to do, and what I must do.

When my five sons were young, I used lists to allocate tasks to those who had the time, the ability or inclination to do them (money provides the incentive there: no completed tasks for the week = no pocket money). I was on the list too., though I didn’t get any extra pocket money.

Lists can organise and prioritise your tasks, from lesser to most important, thus have a great impact on your choice of which tasks to take on at a particular time.

Even if a list is long, it can be broken up into separate lists for short, medium or long term, easy, difficult, or awaiting a time when everything else is in place so it can get done.

I make lists in my writing too – of characters, plot points, research items needed, topics to blog about, items submitted to the newsletter I publish for out writers’ group. I even make lists of inspirational, funny or otherwise appropriate quotes to use in my writing.

     My husband and I sometimes even find it difficult to get through a day now without our lists – the ones that tell us which medical appointments we have to attend (more of those than we’d like), bills that still need paying, what maintenance tasks need doing or completing, and when we need to meet people and attend engagements.

     While I may remember the items on my grocery shop list, I will almost invariably forget an appointment or commitment if I haven’t made a note of it.

     I have also found the making of lists to be a great way of re-cycling those bill-carrying envelopes that come in the mail, though they come less frequently now, when more and more bills are paid electronically.

    I have a pile of blank-backed envelopes tucked on a shelf corner in the pantry, and I use the backs of them to write my lists on. I also cut up printer paper scraps that I have double-side printed drafts and other temporary items onto. These sit on my desk. The way both piles stay at the same height convinces me that it will be some time before they run out.

     I really do want to avoid becoming obsessive about list-keeping, however. So, now and then, I will avoid looking at a list for a whole day. It must be working, because things still get done – just not always the things that were on my to-do list.

How important are lists to you? Can you manage without them, or are they an essential part of your life?


“I have always lived my life by making lists: lists of people to call, lists of ideas, lists of companies to set up, lists of people who can make things happen. Each day I work through these lists, and that sequence of calls propels me forward.” ~ Richard Branson


This blog post was inspired by my nephew. Here is, Pete Abela’s own blog post about lists.


© Linda Visman

22nd March 2012

Seven Lines

March 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Posted in Writing | 1 Comment

I was over at Helen Ginger’s blog, Straight from Hel, today. She was tagged by another blogger to put seven lines from her Ms or one of her novels onto her blog. However, she didn’t pass on the tag to anyone, but left it open for anyone who wanted to participate to get involved. I decided it would be a bit of fun to join in. I can’t use my WiP because I haven’t written that many pages yet.

The rules are:
1. Go to page 77 of your current Manuscript/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

It might be interesting to see what I have on that page, on those seven lines. So, here is what came from those seven lines on page 77 of my novel Ben’s Challenge. The section is where Ben’sand Joe’s younger brothers, Peter and Stan, are scavenging at the rubbish tip for wheels they can use to make a billycart. The older boys also want wheels for theirs:

     Peter looked at his friend and I looked at Joe.

     “What’s all that about, Joe?”

     “I tell Stanislaw I don’t tell Mama he come here if he give us two wheels. They get two, we get two, and he don’t get no trouble. He say yes.”

     I grinned. “Sounds fair to me.”

     “It’s NOT fair, Ben. We found ’em, not you. They’re ours!”

     “Look Pete, you only want two back wheels. We’ll help you find two more for the front. Matter of fact, we’ve already got some…”

This is the first time I have taken up such a challenge. Like Helen, I am not going to tag anyone, however you may like to do it yourself to see what your seven lines are.

Do you tag, or have you been tagged to join in an activity like this?

© Linda Visman

16th March 2012

Dobell Park at Wangi, 9th March 2012

March 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Australia, Nature, Writing and Life | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

  The lake before me is a deep, rich blue that pales and changes to a soft gold where the water shoals over sand and pebbles near the shore. The sky’s lighter blue is daubed with fluffy white clouds that sail slowly up from the south. I see a couple of white sails in the distance – it is a perfect day to be out sailing.

The water lapping at shore has a different resonance today as it washes onto the pebbled beach. Instead of the usual shhh, there is a deeper sound; more like an eddy gurgling and echoing into a large drain, or a giant coffee percolator bubbling away.

A dainty black and white peewee saunters past my foot, and seagulls wait expectantly for morsels that I do not have. An Indian mynah hops about, picking up tidbits from the grass, whilst trying to keep balanced on its single leg.

From a nearby old eucalypt comes the tinkling call of an Eastern Rosella, almost drowned by the fractious squabbling of Noisy Miners.

I hear a rooster crow in the distance; something unusual in town these days. It brings back memories of the many years we kept fowls and relished the freshness of their eggs.

My piece of pumice

I go for a walk along the shore, looking for pieces of petrified wood. There was plenty of it around at one time I’ve been told, but collectors seem to have scavenged it all now. I do find a small piece of pumice though, extremely light and full of bubble holes; the lava must have cooled very quickly when it hit the water aeons ago.

I am constantly amazed and extremely grateful that I live in such a beautiful place. I hope that I will never take it all for granted.


Do you live in a place that you see as beautiful? Or is there some other place you would love to live? Do you think we too often take for granted the good things we have in our lives?

Pebbles on the lake shore

© Linda Visman, 9th March 2012

Photos: Linda Visman


What a Load of Rubbish!

March 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Australia, Destroying nature, Social Responsibility | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , ,

Part of the Lake Macquarie shore: a small sandy beach where a creek enters the lake

  A couple of days ago, my husband and I went to Myuna Bay, just a kilometre or two further along the lake from where we live. It is a place where people come all the time to walk their dogs along the tracks that meander through the trees.

The tracks follow the lakeside as far as the cooling channel, a few hundred metres away. The channel was constructed from the coal-fired power station at Eraring. It is about a hundred metres long, and empties into the lake.

Overlooking the cooling channel near the power station

   We walked along a different track this time, and came out of the wetland bush just where the water gushes from the power station cooling area into the channel – which we hadn’t seen before. Because the water is always warm, there are lots of fish there.  

The cooling channel, looking towards where it enters the lake

  We then carried on to the outlet into the lake, where people – mostly men, often fish from the rocks that line it there. On this occasion three fishermen were trying their luck on the opposite side of the channel, and one on our side, closer to the lake

  The three on the other side were what I call ‘fishing louts’ who are the type to leave a mess behind them. Every second word they say is the f-word – and their words carried to us very clearly across the water. We had wanted to enjoy a spell of bird watching, sitting on some concrete steps that lead into the channel. But it was not to be a pleasant rest, and we cut it short.

  There were other things that also spoiled our enjoyment of what should have been a lovely area. Along the shore among the retaining rocks, we found the leavings of other fishermen: tangles of fishing line; discarded vodka-mix bottles and cans; empty plastic bait bags; a length of synthetic cord; and other non-perishable rubbish.

Some of the rubbish I collected

  I carried the collection of rubbish with us back to the lakeside park. Did I mention that all this rubbish was collected within an area no more than a hundred metres long and a couple of metres wide?

 At the park, I did what the original tossers should have done – I placed it in one of the many garbage bins that are provided for that purpose by the local Council. I then washed my hands at the tap, also provided by the council.

There are plenty of bins, but too many people don’t bother to use them

It was Clean up Australia Day here yesterday, and many groups get together to clear rubbish that builds up along roadsides and in public areas.

Do you have clean-up days?

Is there much rubbish/trash left around by tossers who don’t care?

How does your local Council or other civic organisation manage rubbish in public areas?

(c) Linda Visman

author of Ben’s Challenge

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.


Our species is evolving. But will we ever be smarter than crows?

Helen Armstrong - writing on the move

I write when I travel but not always about travelling. It doesn't have to be a quiet corner...

Rosella Room

Socio-cultural comment on a range of issues, including literature, music and mental health


Exploring the Past to Improve the Future

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


art. popular since 10,000 BC

Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry

Colleen M. Chesebro: Prose-Metrist, Novelist, & Word Witch


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

Learn Fun Facts

An Archive of Curious Facts for the Curious

A blog about writing and reading


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.


A site for the Barsetshire Diaries Books and others

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.