B is for Butcher and Bicycle

April 2, 2014 at 11:59 am | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 15 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

Dad left school in early 1935 at the age of thirteen and a half. He was on his way home from school when he saw a notice in the window of a butcher’s shop in his home town of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England. The notice said “Boy Wanted”.

DSCF8547

He went into the shop and the butcher said, “Yes, son. What can I do for you?”

“It’s not what I can do for you, sir. You have a sign that says ‘Boy Wanted’. I’m a boy and I want a job.”

The butcher was impressed with Dad’s attitude and said that, if he was available and if his parents agreed, he could start the next day. He never returned to school, and went to work for the butcher six days a week, taking orders and delivering them by heavy bicycle to the local farms and villages, over rough roads and hilly country, in sunshine, sleet and snow.

Butcher's shop 1920s

Dad handed all his earnings to his mother to go towards feeding the family, but he was allowed to keep sixpence a week.

A few months later, Dad decided he wanted his own bicycle. He approached the owner of the local bike shop and asked if he could purchase a fixed-wheel bike (their cheapest) for sixpence down and sixpence a week.1909_Royal_Enfield_bike

When the owner found that Dad had a regular job, he agreed to the terms Dad had stated. Dad paid his sixpence religiously every week. By the time he moved on to an apprenticeship as a moulder at age fourteen, he had fully paid for the bike.

During the warmer days of the northern England summer weekends, Dad rode that bike, then a better one he bought later, over many miles of countryside. He would take some bread and meat, or bacon and eggs, and camp overnight by a brook, sleeping on a tarpaulin and wrapped in a blanket.

He said that those weekends were wonderful for a teenage lad with a sense of adventure, and regretted that the freedom he had then has now been lost.

Young man with bike 1920s

The story of the butcher and of the bicycle shows how Dad exhibited initiative and determination from an early age. He kept both of those qualities all his life.

 

Do you think youngsters show enough initiative and determination these days? Do you think they have lost many of the opportunities that once existed for youngsters with such qualities?

 

© Linda Visman 02.04.14

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Thursday’s Child – Introducing my Main Character

January 15, 2018 at 11:58 am | Posted in 1960s, Australia, divisions in society, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, historical fiction, History, Reading, Social mores, Society, War and Conflict, Ways of Living, Writing | 4 Comments
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I would like to introduce the main character in my new Young Adult novel, Thursday’s Child.

It is 1961, and Victoria (Tori) Delaney is in her second year of high school. Her class has been discussing social issues that affect Australia. Her teacher, Miss Bradshaw, has given the class an assignment to complete for homework.

Choose an issue that you think is important and write a one to two page essay on it.

This is what Tori writes:

*         *         *

Why are girls and women treated as if they are not as good as boys and men? Why are they not allowed to do the same things as they are, or given the same opportunities?

It surprises me that women are even allowed to vote. I am sure that if it hadn’t been for the Suffragettes, they would still not be allowed to. I think it is very unfair that we are treated as if we are inferior. Women have often shown that they are just as good as men, the most obvious way is when they had to step in during the Great War and again in the last war.

Women who had never even lived in the country joined the Australian Women’s Land Army so that farming could carry on when the men went off to war. They did everything that the men had done. They drove tractors and did the ploughing, the reaping and the carting of the crop. They cared for the animals, shore the sheep and milked the cows, as well as butchering them for meat.

Some women took over jobs that needed specialist knowledge and strength. They became mechanics, drivers, engineers and aeroplane builders, as well as producing guns and ammunition.

The Australian Army, Navy and Air Force would have found it harder to keep going without the women who joined the special Women’s Services. They drove jeeps and big trucks, piloted planes to be repaired and returned to service. They became radio operators and even observers and anti-aircraft gunners.

It was mostly the women at home who made the men’s uniforms, who went into danger to nurse the sick and wounded, and who took over from the male doctors when they joined the forces. And many of them did this as well as raising families, often on their own, and worrying about their husbands and sons who were fighting or imprisoned.

When the war ended, the men returned home and, of course they wanted their jobs back. Most women were happy to go back to the home life they’d had before the war, but more than a few thought they had earned the right to work at jobs they had done well for many years. They didn’t want to go back to being under men’s thumb again.

They had kept vital industries going, kept the country fed and the forces clothed and supplied. They had learned new skills, felt they could contribute something to society. Now the exciting days of responsibility and self-respect were over, they didn’t want to go back to household drudgery and lose what they had showed they were capable of. It must have been really hard for them

Many women and even girls like me resent that they are not treated as equal to men, and are not satisfied with a life of pandering to them. What hope is there in that?

 

Tori will tell us a bit more about herself in the next few posts.

If you wish to purchase Thursday’s Child on Kindle, click here to pre-order. It will be available for download on the 1st of February.

 

 

 

 

 

Entertaining ourselves in the 1950s and early 1960s (2)

March 30, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Family, History, Memoir | 2 Comments
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monday-memoir-badge

 

One of the things we did a lot of as children was making things. Our parents had little money to spare, and if we wanted toys, we often had to create them ourselves. I’ve already mentioned making bows and arrows and guns.

We also made dolls from the appropriately named dolly pegs, with varying levels of skill (Mum had a job keeping enough pegs for hanging the clothes on the line!). A wooden cotton reel, a few small nails and some wool made us a loom for French knitting.

French knitting   Dolly peg doll

Here are some of the other things we used to make for ourselves (or that Dad made for us).

Things Made From Paper

i) Aeroplanes: There were a couple of tried and true ways to make paper aeroplanes. One of them I have never seen anyone else other than my family use.

ii) Party hats and sailing ships: the party or pirate hat is an easily folded bit of newspaper, and most people know it. The sailing ship was a development on that, and I cannot remember now how it went.

iii) Kites: made from a cross of two sticks and brown paper. The tail consisted of string with paper strips tied to it at intervals. Often they were too heavy, or not strong enough, or not big enough to fly, but we kept trying. Occasionally, one would fly quite well.

Simple kite

iv) Dolls’ dresses: Another thing that we sometimes got on cereal packets was two-dimensional cardboard figures. You could cut them out and make paper clothes for them. You could also get a book of paper dolls with fancy clothes that fitted on the figure using flaps of paper that extended from the costume itself. They came in all kinds of period costume, so you could make up stories from the past. I only saw those once.

v) Christmas decorations: Crepe paper and newspaper made chains and twists to hang on the walls and on the tree we’d get from the bush. Silver paper from inside cigarette packets would cover a cardboard star (cut from a cereal box) to put at the top of the tree.

Things Made from Wood

i) Scooters. Dad worked with wood in his shed. When we were little we didn’t have any spare money. One Christmas Dad made wooden scooters for me and my younger sister. The whole thing was made from wood except for the wheels. We thought they were great! (Ten years later, Dad made my little brother a scooter in steel, using the footrest of an old motorbike for the base)

ii) Cars and boats: I used the off-cuts from Dad’s shed to make myself cars and boats. I was always fascinated by the circles of plywood that resulted when Dad drilled a big hole in plywood and I used to use them for wheels on my wooden block cars and trucks.

wooden wheel

Dad made a canoe for Peter when he was about 13-14. It was made from plywood and had outriggers for safety. Peter used to paddle around on the lake, exploring all the bays and creeks. I was so jealous that I couldn’t have one – indeed, I wasn’t even allowed to set foot in that one.

Things Made from Shells

One of the things we loved to do was go to the beach. We didn’t go to swim – none of us could! We went to play in the sand and at the water’s edge, and to see the sea creatures in the rock pools along from the beach. And we went to collect shells. Mum loved shells and did so all her life. Kids love shells too of course, and Shellharbour, where we went, still had a multitude of them along the beach and the rocks. There are only little ones now, and none of the larger ones we used to get.

Mum used shells to decorate around picture frames and mirrors. When I was about twelve, I made two wall plaques. They were a map of England and one of Australia, in-filled with small shells on plywood backings that Dad cut out for me. I lacquered them when they were done. The one of Australia has disappeared, but when I was looking for something for Dad in his cupboard, not long before he died, I found the one I made of England.

Shell map England re-sized

Reading, Writing and Drawing

My brother and I especially loved reading, and we belonged to the local public library from an early age; I also used to get books from school. Primary schools received the School Magazine from the NSW Education Department. There were separate ones for different grades, issued each month during the school year (ten per year). I loved these too. If I were lucky, I would get a book for Christmas or for my birthday. I remember one Christmas – 1958 I think – I got the first books of my own. I spent a lot of time as a child and a teenager with my head in a book. I loved adventure, and read as much as I could about it, I also wanted to write my own stories. I began many but didn’t get far with them as I just didn’t know how to do it.

Like most kids, we drew pictures and coloured them. Mostly what we used in the early days was the creamy white paper that meat from the butcher came wrapped in. We occasionally had drawing or colouring books too. On rainy days, when I wasn’t reading or doing jobs, I’d settle down with paper, coloured pencils and (usually) Peter’s set of compasses. These circle flower designs were one of the things I loved making. I made other designs as well as this one, but I loved the symmetry of this one and it was my favourite. These two colours, blue and yellow, were also my favourites then and I loved using them together.

Circle flower design

(c) 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)

 

L is for Love at First Sight

April 14, 2014 at 8:42 am | Posted in Family History, Society, Ways of Living | 7 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

Ernie was fourteen when he first saw Agnes. Of course, he didn’t know her name until much later. At the time, Ernie was working as a butcher’s boy. As well as delivering meat on his bicycle, he used to clean the floors, the equipment and the meat trays in the windows.

One day he looked out of the butcher’s shop window, and noticed a girl about his own age gazing into the window of a gift shop across the road. He watched her until she entered the shop, noticing how pretty she was, and how gracefully she moved. He said to himself then, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry’.

It was several years before he saw her again. His family had changed where they lived, and his route to the engineering works where he was an apprentice moulder now ran along the main street of Oswaldtwistle.

As Ernie rode his bike to work, he noticed three girls walking along arm-in-arm. The middle girl was laughing, and her whole being seemed more alive and beautiful than anyone around her. It was the girl he’d seen looking into the shop window.

Agnes (left) walking with a friend, about 1936. Age 16

Agnes (left) walking with a friend, aged 16 in 1936.

Every day, Dad rode his bicycle hell-for-leather to catch a glimpse of the girl of his dreams as she walked to or from work. She was always with the other two girls, and she always seemed to be laughing. Bur Ernie never even approached her.

After some time, the group of girls no longer appeared. Ernie had to get used to the idea that he wouldn’t see her walking along Union Road again.

In 1938, Ernie’s family moved again, this time to a new Council housing estate at Trinity Street. Soon afterwards, Ernie’s mother asked him if he’d seen the new people who’d moved in next door.

“There’s a pretty lass coming home now,” she said.

Ernie looked out of the window to see a lovely girl slapping away the hand of the man building the front fence.  She walked through the gate and strode into the house with a straight back, not answering the offending worker.

“I know that girl,” said Ernie. He also thought she had lots of spirit.

“Well, she seems to be a good worker,” said his mother. “She’s always cleaning the windows that face our yard.”

Some days later, Ernie walked out of the back door. At the same time, the girl walked out of hers. The doors faced each other, and it was impossible for them not to notice each other. Was her exit planned? They both approached the dividing fence.

The girl looked at Ernie and spoke her first words to him.

“How old are you?”

“Seventeen.”

“Can you dance?”

“If I can’t, I’ll learn,” he said.

Ernie and Agnes went dancing the following weekend, and barely missed a weekend after that.

They  were married in November 1941, just before Ernie, who’d joined the RAF, went off to Canada. He would learn to fly there in the newly established Empire Training Scheme. It would be almost a year before they saw each other again.

Agnes&ErnestThompson wed.1941-350 (2)

And that’s how my parents met. They had been married for almost fifty-three years when Agnes (Mum) died in 1994.

 

Do you know how your parents met? Did they ever tell you?

 

© Linda Visman  14.04.2014  (554 words)

Rathmines – the Park at F-Jetty

August 12, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Posted in Australia, Mental Health, Nature, Tourism, Ways of Living | 4 Comments
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The park, with F-Jetty through the trees.

The park, with F-Jetty through the trees.

This is the second of two posts about the morning we spent at Rathmines. The first post is here.
I sat at a picnic table in the park next to F-Jetty so I could do some writing. But the winter day was so lovely – blue sky, warm sun, gentle breeze – and the sights and sounds so engrossing, that I stopped to watch, listen and take it all in.

The Birds:
Galahs scratch in the grass under a shady eucalypt, searching for tender shoots.

Several kookaburras cackle loudly from nearby trees.

Butcherbirds delineate their territory with their musical calls, and one pays a visit to my table to see what I have to offer.

Brightly coloured Rosella parrots search for seeds in the longer grass and, later, race by with their distinctive bouncing flight.

A wild duck moves off the path to make way for a human pedestrian, then pretends he was just searching for bugs.

Noisy miners chase each other from tree to tree, or make assaults on other passing birds.

DSCF3993

Swallows perform their aerial ballet, while picking off insects on the wing.

A magpie digs in the dirt next to me and finds a tasty grub; another sings a melody in the distance.

Rainbow lorikeets chatter and squawk in the treetops.

A shag (cormorant) perches on a buoy just off-shore and spreads its wings to the sun.

A corella announces its appearance with a shrill screech.

DSCF3986

A masked lapwing (plover) scuttles across the lawn on stick legs, searching for its lunch.

Seagulls settle for a rest in a placid alcove, while others bob about out on the breeze-blown lake.

Pelicans paddle smoothly by in stately succession.

A peewee seems to say hello to a big black dog that sleeps on a cushion outside a van by the lake shore.

DSCF3988

The people:
Pedestrians pass by on the walking path. Some walk dogs, others amble by, while several stride out to get their daily exercise.

Hopeful anglers cast their lines from the end of the jetty and wait for an elusive bite.

Two men walk down from their car to the public gas barbecue, and an enticing aroma soon drifts across on the breeze.

A white-haired man sits on a bench reading a magazine.

DSCF3977

Two young girls roll by on skateboards; the second takes a photo of the first with her mobile phone.

All that activity in about 30 minutes – and people say that it is boring just sitting on a park bench!

Do you just sometimes take time out to watch, listen and take in what is around you?
DSCF3994

© Linda Visman

Birds and Trees

October 31, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Gardens, Nature | 2 Comments
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You may wonder what kind of birds those are at the top of my blog page. You may also be wondering what country of the world they, and I, live in.

Rainbow lorikeets

Well, the birds are Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), and the photo was taken on my verandah a few months ago. The birds are on our feeder, eating the seeds that we occasionally stock the feed-tray with. We don’t do it too often because they need to be able to forage for themselves.

At present – spring and summer – the lorikeets feed on nectar from the native plants around the district. The main blossoms they feed on now, mid spring, are bottlebrush trees (various varieties of Callistemon), and we have about half a dozen in our yard. Thus, we get to see lots of Rainbow Lorikeets.

And where in the world are we? We are in Australia; in the state of New South Wales; near the east coast, about forty-five km south of Newcastle and a hundred km north of the state capital, Sydney. We are on the western side of the largest coastal lake in the country, beautiful Lake Macquarie.

Eastern rosella

We love trees and birds, and so we make every effort to provide a habitat that is friendly to both. That means mostly native species of trees and bushes that will attract native birds. The lorikeets are not the only brightly coloured birds we have around here. We also have the much shyer Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius), a small parrot with a bright red head and breast and colourful wings and tail.

There are many song birds too, the main ones being the magpie (Cracticus tibicen) and the butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus), with their beautiful warbling songs. 

Kookaburra

It is the kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) that tells us, by its raucous laughing call, that the sun is about to rise in the early morning, and it also farewells the sun each evening.

These are just a sample of the great variety of birdlife that abounds in our area. We love our trees and our birds, and will continue planting those trees and shrubs that bring the birdlife into our yard – for their benefit and for ours.

© Linda Visman

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