My Grandmother at Age 65

May 21, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Posted in Family, Family History, Health | 6 Comments
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Write a portrait of your grandmother at your age.

When I saw this prompt, I just had to use it. I am now sixty-five years of age, so that is the reference point for both of my grandmothers. I can’t write about one and not the other!

1) Grandma Thompson

Hannah Sefton Thompson, mid-1950s, just before her cancer.

Hannah Sefton Thompson, mid-1950s, just before her cancer.

My dad’s mother, Hannah, was born in November, 1894. She was a lovely woman by all accounts, bright, cheerful and industrious, a wonderful cook and needlewoman. Unfortunately, when I was five years old, we migrated to Australia. After that time, I had no personal contact with her, and I will always be sorry to have missed those years with her.

Grandma Thompson died in August, 1959 as a result of breast cancer, and so did not even reach 65, the age I am now. I was much more fortunate – my breast cancer was diagnosed in the early stages when I was 60, and I have just completed five-years being cancer free.

2) Grandma Atkinson

My mum’s mother, Agnes, was born in April 1893. The year Grandma Atkinson turned 65 she and Granddad migrated to Australia, where their only two children then lived – my mother and her younger brother. That was in 1958, the year my baby brother was born. I was nine years old when they arrived. Grandma Atkinson was also a wonderful woman, though were very different in personality to Grandma Thompson.

I remember we were all excited when Grandma and Granddad arrived. They were going to stay with us – even though we only had a tiny, three-roomed cottage with a bedroom dad added on for us four older children to sleep, Dad had also built a small garage for my uncle’s family who were already living with us. Mum and Dad gave up their little bedroom for my grandparents and slept on a day-night divan in the tiny lounge room.

Agnes Atkinson c.1964

Agnes Atkinson c.1964


The thing I always remember about Grandma is her beautiful olive skin, especially her hands. Unlike the somewhat coarsened skin of many Australians, hers was soft and wonderful to stroke and I loved to hold them. They were always gentle, and so were her voice and her smile, but her beautiful, deep brown eyes always held a sadness I could plainly see, even young as I was then. In contrast to the rest of her, Grandma’s shortish, iron-grey hair was dense and wiry.

It wasn’t until I was fully grown that I realised how small Grandma was. Only five feet tall – if that, she was also slender. She had just begun to stoop slightly, probably from osteoporosis, though we didn’t know about that then. She wore flat shoes, and floral dresses, usually with collars, that came well below the knee.

Grandma was deaf, profoundly deaf, and suffered badly from “head noises”, what we now call tinnitus. The story is that she lost her hearing in her twenties or early thirties, as a result of an illness, though I have no idea what it was. My father only knew her as being deaf, and for some reason, I didn’t ask Mum if she knew what happened, and now it is twenty years too late.

Because of Grandma’s deafness, communication was limited. She could lip-read, but we had to form our words the Lancashire way, not in the newly-acquired Australian accents we used outside the home. She was also good at reading body language. She smiled at us a lot.

What I hadn’t realise at the time was how much Grandma was under the control of my grandfather, who was quite a selfish person. He never even gave Mum and Dad any money for board and food in the year they lived with us. However, Grandma would slip Mum a pound note or two whenever she could. She also gave us kids a shilling each a week while they lived with us – the only pocket money we received throughout our childhood.

Granddad got us kids in with his ability to weave a story. But Grandma’s attraction was her gentle, loving and forbearing nature. We all truly loved her. When Granddad insisted on their return to England in 1961, only three years after their arrival, we were all terribly upset to lose her.

Have you ever written about your grandmother? Why not try doing so, picturing her at the age you are now.


© Linda Visman 21.05.2014 (724 words)

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Indulging Our Creative Side

May 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Australia, Family, Mental Health, Ways of Living | 6 Comments
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Creativity - intelligence having fun

I am constantly amazed – though I shouldn’t be – at the number of writers who engage in other creative endeavours.

A few members of my writing group are also artists in paint and/or drawing. Many of the writers whose blogs I try to keep up with also engage in creative activities beyond writing.

creative-writing-art-design-craft

Activities among the women include cooking, art, ceramics and pottery, dressmaking or other sewing, crochet-work, knitting and many other arts or crafts.

I haven’t heard much about the non-writing creative activities of the male writers I read, but I suppose there are many of them who are also into other areas of creation – music is one that has been mentioned.

Arts-and-crafts-icon

I have found it difficult to get much going beyond my writing during the last few years – I only began to write about eight years ago, and I am now in my mid-sixties. However I have always needed some form of creative activity to keep me happy.

I have always been a reader of course – what writer isn’t? However, I cannot draw for the life of me, nor can I paint or make music – and you don’t want to hear me sing, even though I do break out now and then.

I love to make things. Over the years, I have constructed all sorts of things for the house and garden. They include fences, chicken coops, bird cages, small items of furniture and garden beds.

Leatherwork 2 (1280x960)I learned to do leatherwork when my youngest was a toddler, and loved it. I made the usual things: key cases, wallets and bags, belts, and also bible covers. I didn’t sell them, just made them for myself, family and friends. The trouble was that the cost of the leather became too high for me to continue. With a family of five sons on my then husband’s teaching salary, the money wasn’t available for expensive hobbies.

A nice cheap activity I took up for a few years was woodwork. Mostly, I made small items from scrap wood that I scrounged or was given. The main items I created were fridge magnets, key racks and pen holders, but I also made a couple of larger items. I really enjoyed it.
Our market stall Nov 03

I also took up making rugs for the floor, using the technique that my mother used when we lived in England in the 1940s and 50s, and then when we first came to Australia. I would peg strips of fabric cut from old clothing with a tool on to a sacking base. The resulting rugs can be very colourful.
Pegged rug 2
A few years ago, concerned that all my photographs were digital, and that not many ended up in photo albums – my last album was 2003 – I decided to print the best ones to mount into scrap books. I don’t do scrap-booking as often as I’d like to, but I do at least have my sons, their families and their children, as well as some of our road trips, represented in four or five books now.

Scrapbook 2 (1280x662)

It appears that many writers like being creative in other areas of art and crafts too. What activities do you indulge in to fulfil your need for creative outlets?

You-cant-use-up-creativity

© Linda Visman 17.05.14 (539 words) Craft works photos by Linda Visman – my creations.

Long-lasting Odours

May 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family History, Nature | 8 Comments
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Smell Memorable

 

At times, I have been struck with a strong memory at the exact time I notice a particular odour. There is no thought to the response; the memory is just there – a simple Pavlovian reaction to a stimulus.

 

Sunny

 

Memories are often aroused by odours that we smelled in the past. Apparently, olfactory stimulation is the most direct line to memory in the brain. Odours can set down strong connections, and bring back people, places and events even from our earliest years.

There are two odours in particular that evoke this response in me. Both of them are associated with walks in the country, and they go back over sixty years to when I was a young child in the former cotton mill town of Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire, England.

 

Oswaldtwistle Moor (by(Orphan Wiki)

Oswaldtwistle Moor (by(Orphan Wiki)

 

The first is the delicious odour of bacon, eggs and baked beans being cooked on an open fire out on the moors. Dad and Mum used to take us for walks along country lanes, over hill and dale and open moor. Sometimes we’d go to where the town’s two old water reservoirs overlooked the countryside.

My little sister would be in the big cane pram, while us three older kids walked. Dad would sometimes carry me, the third child, on his shoulders. As well as my sister, the pram carried a frypan, billycan, eggs & bacon wrapped in newspaper, and a can or two of baked beans, plus cooking and eating utensils.

 

Egg,bacon campfire

 

When we stopped, around midday, Dad would start a fire and cook up this most wonderful of treats for us. It is a meal that I still relish, and as my husband does too, we have it every couple of weeks. That wonderfully evocative odour has created new memories now, as well as bringing back those long-ago ones of my childhood days in the English countryside.

The second odour is one I had forgotten until, one day, I was driving along an open country road in western NSW, Australia. It was probably about twenty or thirty years after we’d left England.

 

Central West NSW

Central West NSW

 

The weather conditions were just right. It was a warm autumn afternoon and I had the car window open. Thick dry grass alongside the road had just been slashed by the local Council as a safety measure. The breeze carried the smell of freshly-cut, sun-warmed hay to my nostrils.

Again, I was immediately transported back to the days when Dad and Mum took us walking in the country. We’d pass several farms along the way, where farm labourers were out performing the task of cutting the long autumn grass and tossing onto haystacks.

 

Hay-making

Hay-making

 

The feeling that welled up as my brain processed that odour so many years later was one of great pleasure, enjoyment and belonging. The conditions have been just right only a few times since that day, but when they are, my memory reacts in just the same way. Smell Memory janettoon

What odours evoke strong memories or emotions in you?

 

© Linda Visman   09.05.14 (504 words)

 

Evening Light

May 8, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Gardens, Nature | 3 Comments
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I love the light outside on clear autumn evenings, when everything has been washed clean by the rain.

The colours are enhanced by a golden glow,

Their shapes made clear and well defined.

Every flower, every leaf, every trunk and branch is perfectly itself.

Even the garbage bins and staircase bannister glow.

The greens are greener, the yellows yellower,

Their gradations of intensity more well-defined.

A red-brown shines out from the dark soil,

Which is usually a dull grey-brown.

The blue of the sky fits perfectly with the trees.

I don’t try to catch the clarity and perfection through the lens of a camera;

I have tried before and failed.

Nothing can reproduce those fleeting tones- except perhaps a great painter.

 

I just wrote this as the light fades outside my study window. I wish my words could capture it much better.

 

Evening light

[Photo : teresakasner.blogspot.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(c) Linda Visman 08.05.14

 

 

Kookaburra Beats the Odds

May 3, 2014 at 10:17 pm | Posted in Australia, Gardens, Nature | 5 Comments
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IMG_1500 (800x600)

Watcher!

 

We had a display of the natural world at work a week or two ago. I heard a lot of noisy miners (native birds) out in the back yard, and they were obviously upset about something. Then I heard what sounded like a muffled growl, so I went outside to see what was happening.

 

There, I saw a kookaburra hunched up against the garden terrace wall. It had something large in its beak, and the little miners were harassing it fiercely.

IMG_1494 - Copy

Kooka with its prey, before flying into the trees.

 

I thought the kooka had a mouse and called for MOTH (the Man of the House) to bring his camera. It took a few minutes for him to find it, and I thought we’d lose our chance to catch the bird and its prey in pictures.

 

MOTH came out just as Kooka escaped the miners and flew up into the ironbark tree near the back door. However, with the bright light, and lots of branches in the way, it was hard to focus on the bird from where he was.

 

IMG_1495 (800x600)

A single noisy miner keeps up the harassment, to no avail.

I was up the slope on the lawn by then, and I could see it clearly. MOTH brought me the camera and I took several shots of it from there. What Kooka had in its beak was a dead miner bird.

IMG_1518 (800x600)

This kookaburra would like part of the spoils.

 

Three other kookas also hung around, as well as a magpie and a couple of currawongs. They were all probably hoping Kooka would drop its prey and they’d be able to snatch it away.

IMG_1529 (800x600)

Another kooka looks on with interest

 

However, the miners let up their mass attack, and Kooka flew up into the big bush mahogany tree. There, it proceeded to bash the miner bird’s body against the branch so it would be easier to devour.IMG_1502 (800x600)

 

I managed to get photos of all four of the kookaburras, but none of the currawongs, which kept their distance.

There isn't much left of the noisy miner here.

There isn’t much left of the noisy miner here.

 

 

© Linda Visman

 

Why I Joined the A to Z Challenge

May 1, 2014 at 11:38 am | Posted in Family History, Mental Health, Writing, Writing and Life | 27 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

A-to-Z Reflection [2014]

 

My friend had been blogging almost daily for three months – and she works at a demanding job. I am retired and had written little during that same three months.

Then she said she was going to do the April 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge, which involves writing and posting a blog entry on twenty-six days through April, with Sundays free. Each entry was to be based on consecutive letters of the alphabet.

The challenge was to begin the next day, and I wondered how she would do it, after having already done three months of daily blogging. Then I felt really guilty that, in spite of my professing that I want and need to write, I had been procrastinating about my novel and my blogging for ages. Instead of wishing I had time to write, I should have been sitting down regularly, if not every day, and making the time. But I lacked the self-discipline needed to do it – I thought.

Procrastination-thief of time

 

Faced with my friend’s dedication and wanting to do something about my own laziness, I impulsively decided to join in the A to Z Challenge. It would be a good way to develop a writing routine.

Do it now

It was the evening of the day before it began, so I had a few hours to come up with the first entry. I did it easily, and posted ‘A is for Alphabet’ the following evening. Then I wrote ‘B is for Butcher and Bicycle’ and posted it on the second day. As I like to add pictures to my post, it can take some time to complete each one, but I got it up before lunch on the second day.

I also decided I needed to plan what I should write for each letter before it came up. When I began, I wasn’t going to write to a theme, but after I’d written my third post, ‘C is for Challenge’, and begun ‘D is for Depression’, I realised that a strong theme had developed on its own. I was writing family stories.

tell me abouth the past

During April, there were several family affairs to attend, all involving being away from home for several days at a time. I had to write my blog posts ahead, so that I could just publish them from my husband’s tablet as they fell due.

Writing to a deadline was good for me, and it still is. I have just published my last post of the challenge, ‘Z is for Zed and Zee”, and I have easily managed to write them and get them onto my blog on the correct day.

What has the A to Z Challenge done for me?

  • It has shown me that I can develop a habit of writing regularly;
  • It has shown that I write well to a deadline – which is a good thing only if I create deadlines to work to.

I already know that I can work under pressure. I did it when I was writing university assignments; when, as a school principal, I had to create and write the school handover books; write submissions for funding and follow-up reports; and any number of other written tasks.

ThursdayChild

What I really need is get on with my next Young Adult novel, Thursday’s Child.  I am two-thirds through the first draft, but it has only been staggering along for the last six months. There is a difference between writing reports and assignments and writing creative pieces, and I often find it difficult to get into the right frame of mind to work on the creative.

However, now that I have established a writing practice, I must use that to get back to my novel. Instead of allowing myself to be distracted by other tasks and by social media, I must just get my backside in my chair and WRITE! That’s the only way to break the dam that has been holding back the flow of creativity. In January, I did set June as the goal to finish my first draft – so, I have a deadline to meet. That’s my new challenge.

 

A-Z survivor [2014]

Thanks to the A to Z Challenge for getting me this far! It is a big step. Now I will take the next one.

 

Did you join the A to Z Challenge? How did you go?

 

(c) Linda Visman 01.05.14  (690 words)

 

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