More Olfactory memories

January 18, 2016 at 2:00 am | Posted in 1950s, England, Experiences, Memoir, The Senses | 16 Comments
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Last week I wrote about the smell of pine trees and the memories they evoked fifty-five years later. There are a few other aromas that also strongly evoke memories of my childhood.

 

1. Bacon and baked beans

 

All my life I have loved the smell and taste of bacon and baked beans. Whenever I have had it, I think of being on the moors back in England when I was little. I didn’t know why this memory always came with this aroma until Dad told me (when I was in my fifties) that he and Mum used to take us for walks out on the moors of Oswaldtwistle. When we were there, Dad, a former Rover Scout, would light a fire and cook up bacon and beans for us. It was a special treat that we didn’t have very often.

When we go camping now, we have eggs and baked beans, with either bacon or sausages, at least once during the trip – my husband has always loved it too.

 

Sausage, egg, b.beans camping

On one of our trips

 

 

2.  Cut grass on a warm day

 Occasionally when I have been driving in the country, I have come to places where council slashers have been busy cutting the long grass along the sides of the road. Sometimes an aroma hits me, and I am taken back to my early childhood in England. I have discovered that the right smell is only there when the cut grass is long and dry, and the air is warm but not too hot. I didn’t know then why this wonderful smell affected me so much – I love it, it brings me a great feeling of happiness.

Whilst visiting Dad over Christmas in 2005, I mentioned it to Dad. He said he always loved the smell of new cut hay in the fields back in England. It was then that I realized what the odour was. Haying time was a great time for kids then. I had picked up those feelings, along with the aroma of hay being cut on a warm day in autumn before I was five years old. They have stayed with me all these years.

 

Cutting hay in meadow

Cutting hay in a Lancashire meadow today

 

 

3. An Isolation Hospital

 When I was about three years old, I had glandular fever and had to go into the isolation cottage at Blackburn Infirmary, where I spent some weeks. It would have been about 1951. I remember being in a cot and wanting Mum and Dad to come and take me home. They weren’t allowed to come in, and I could only see them, and they me, through a window.

There was a smell there that, when I come across it today, always takes me back to that memory. I’d always thought the smell was chloroform, but that wouldn’t be right. It is more likely to be the old kind of cleaning alcohol that was used when giving injections. The modern alcohol cleanser doesn’t seem to have the same smell.

 

Blackburn & East Lancashire Royal Infirmary early 20thC

The isolation ward was in a cottage at the back of the main hospital

 

Because of a later association with this odour, another memory also springs to mind. It is of walking past a mobile medical facility that used to occasionally park in the area in front of the shops at Albion Park Rail when I was probably about 10 to 13 years old. I think it was the TB testing unit.

 

 

Linda Visman

 

 

 

 

 

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Some Memories of My Yesterdays

January 4, 2016 at 2:00 am | Posted in 1950s, 1960s, Australia, Experiences, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir, Reflections, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 21 Comments
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I have written just a few memories here in the form of an acrostic, using the above title. They are from my first thirteen years, and are limited by the letters I had available to me. They are also very brief, though I have already, or will in the future expand on some of them in other posts. It actually wasn’t that easy to do this self-imposed exercise!

 

School days at St Mary’s, St John’s, St Paul’s, St Mary’s & Dapto High

Oswaldtwistle, where I was born, and left when I was five

Making my own bows and arrows to play Indians

Entertaining ourselves with simple toys and games

  

Mowing the lawn at twelve

Easter rituals at Church and school

Mum’s green leather belt when we were naughty

Ordinary – that is how I saw my life; nothing special at all

Reading to find worlds of adventure

Ironing before heat controls or steam and burning my white school shirt

Earning a few pennies by opening & closing the railway gates for motorists

Singing old songs from England with my parents, uncle & Granddad

 

 

Odd one out – the middle child of five who didn’t fit anywhere else either

Finances always strained, with no money for extras

  

Milk – our milkman came around with a horse and cart

Yearning for I knew not what, but something more than I had

  

Yelling at my sisters & brother when I was angry – too often!

Eating Mum’s trifle at Xmas & New Year with Grandma, Uncle Fred & our families

Sitting at the kitchen table on stools that Dad had made

Taking Peter’s canoe onto the lake when I was forbidden to

Eating tough mutton chops & being unable to swallow the over-chewed meat

Radio serials like Superman and Tarzan that we listened to after school

Dad, David & Pauline hospitalised with polio

Accident, where I fell onto a joist when Dad was building an addition to the house

Yearly tests and trying to beat the two boys who were my main rivals

Songs from the 1940s, 50s and 60s that we listened to on the radio

 

What memories would you write if you did this acrostic exercise?

 

 

(c) Linda Visman

 

My Rose-coloured Childhood

December 21, 2015 at 1:00 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Leisure activities, Memoir, Mental Health, Nature, Philosophy, Society, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
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I sometimes wonder whether my childhood memories are as authentic as I believe them to be. There have been times when my siblings have reminded me of  an event that occurred which illustrates an alternate version of those times, one that I may have pushed aside or interpreted in a different way.

I know that people can focus on aspects of their youth that colour and reinforce a version they have become used to. Sometimes, that version is a happy one, sometimes a negative one. I know of two brothers who see their experiences in a way that makes it seem they lived in different worlds – one seeing a society accepting of migrants and the other seeing discrimination everywhere. That has to be related to how their personalities have been shaped and to their natural optimism or pessimism I think.

Of course, there are some who really have endured awful family backgrounds,  situations that could  break them if that is what they focus on. And it does break some – but  paradoxically makes others, even in the same family, stronger and more resilient.

We had a pretty good family, where we were loved and cared for, but during which we also endured some pretty tough times. I do remember those hard times, but I also remember the good times. Perhaps I have created a world that was somewhat better than it actually was, but at least it helps me to focus on the good stuff. Here’s a poem I wrote that does that:

 

 

In spring, summer and autumn,

we walked along muddy creeks,

along lake shores and ocean beaches,

over expanses of sea-side rock,

dotted with crystal-clear pools,

our bare feet tickled by weed and grass,

salt water and sand.

 

We collected driftwood and shells

and wave-smoothed stones

and carried them home

in bright red or blue or yellow buckets.

We spent hours sorting them

by shape and size and colour,

and days making sea-drift sculptures,

shell borders for photo frames and mirrors,

shell pictures and maps.

 

We strolled through wetlands,

dense with melaleuca,

wary of spiders and biting mosquitoes,

through lakeside forests of casuarinas

with their wind-eerie sounds,

and through paddocks and gullies

studded with eucalypts & blackberry bushes,

wary of red-bellied black snakes.

 

We collected sheets of paperbark

to make three-dimensional pictures,

flexible green sticks to make

Hiawatha bows

straight-stemmed

dry reeds for arrows,

and bulrushes for spears.

 

 Our Christmas decorations

were made from strips of crepe paper

that twirled across the room;

the star on top of the tree was

a piece of cardboard covered in

silver paper from cigarette packets.

 

From the huge pine trees

that bordered our school yard

(long gone now)

we fashioned their thick bark

into serviceable pistols, or dolls,

and their pinecones sawn through

created wide-eyed owls.

 

Inside, on cold or rainy days,

a sheet of newspaper could make

a ship or a plane or a hat,

or a row of dancing dolls.

A block of wood

made great cars and trucks;

large circular off-cuts from

holes drilled in plywood

made wheels for them.

 

Making our own entertainment was normal,

a stimulus to creativity and independence.

Not for us the electronic wizardry

of television or video games,

of computers or mobile phones.

We made what we could out of what we had

and enjoyed a childhood

rich with stimulation and experience.

 

 

What was your childhood like? Are your memories pleasant or negative?

 

© Linda Visman

 

 

A Letter to my Grandchildren

August 3, 2015 at 12:30 am | Posted in Experiences, Family History, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Memoir | 10 Comments
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June 2005

My dear Grandchildren,

Remember when you’ve been to the museum, where you saw old carts and other old things. You thought that it was very old, and that those days were very long ago. Well, we used to have our milk in one of those old carts

My Mum and Dad and us kids had come out from England when I was five. We didn’t have much money, even though my Dad worked very hard. He did manage to put a deposit on a block of land. Back then, not like it is now, the area was all bush, and our land was on the shore of the lake. There were five or six houses within a few hundred metres of us, and a little store over on the highway. Dad rented a caravan, and we lived in it on our block of land. There was no electricity, but the water was connected to a tap at the front of our block of land.

I remember how we all helped Dad to clear the land, and how we played in the bush around our house and on the lake shore. The only thing we had to watch out for was snakes.

Anyway, back to the cart – well, in a roundabout sort of way! How do you get your milk? In plastic bottles from the supermarket I’ll bet! Well, we didn’t. There were no supermarkets then. There were no plastic bottles either. And, where we lived, there weren’t even any glass milk bottles yet!

Our milk was brought around early every day by a man called Max. Max had a trusty old horse named Fred (now, isn’t that an original name for a horse!). Old Fred was very well trained. Max and Fred and the cart would come along the rough dirt road with a big tank of milk sitting on the back of the cart. As they went along, the people would come out of their houses with their billycans. Max would give a whistle, and Fred would stop, right outside the house – or caravan in our case.

Milk cart&horse

Each of us kids always wanted to be the one to take out the billycan to have it filled up from the tank. At first, we were all a bit wary of Fred the horse, because we weren’t used to such big animals, but we soon got to know that he wouldn’t hurt anyone. It was exciting to give Max our shilling and see the creamy milk splash into our billycan. When our can was full, and we had exchanged a word or two with Max, he would give another whistle, and off Fred would plod to the next house. We had to be really careful carrying the billycan of milk back down to Mum, so that we wouldn’t spill it.

Now, don’t you think that’s a more interesting way of buying your milk?

Mum would put the milk into an icebox because we didn’t have a refrigerator – or even electricity. But that’s another story!

With love from

Grandma

This started off as a letter to my young grandchildren– written over ten years ago when the first of them was only a year old, even though I pretended that he was a lot older. I wrote it to describe how we got our milk when I was a child,

I wanted to show that it wasn’t really so long ago that things were so different. But perhaps I’m having myself on. Even a child of seven or eight would think fifty years (as it was when I wrote it) WAS a heck of a long time ago. It just doesn’t seem that way to me, and now it is sixty years ago!

Anyway, it’s interesting to look back on those changes.

Would you like to share an example that illustrates the changes from when you were a child to now?

©  Linda Visman

Blogging from A to Z Challenge – B is for Black Dog

April 2, 2015 at 12:01 am | Posted in A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015, Experiences, Mental Health | 13 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE [2015] - Life is Good

Black Dog

Black dog – a ghost in British legend relating to death.

The black dog is a symbol for depression, widely known in medical circles and among those with depression. I have suffered from it since I was a youngster, and still do. However, I am more able now to cope with its debilitating symptoms, partly through medication, and partly by knowing that I can get through it because I have done so for the last 60+ years.

This is a poem I wrote whilst in the throes of a depression.

Black dog brings me down;

Black dog lays me low.

How can I get away?

Where, oh where can I go?

Black dog stalks me,

Tracks me, follows me.

Wherever I hide

He always will find me.

Black dog is cunning,

Hiding and waiting.

However I try

I cannot evade him.

I want to catch him,

Chain him and hold him;

Keep him imprisoned,

So I can escape him.

Black dog brings me down;

Black dog lays me low.

How can I get away?

Where, oh where can I go?

Black dog he deceives.

He makes me believe

I’ve left him behind –

But there is no reprieve.

Black dog’s tenacious,

Stubborn and tireless.

I can’t outrun him

His stamina’s matchless.

I want to be free,

bright future to see;

and to know for sure

that he cannot find me.

Black dog brings me down;

Black dog lays me low.

How can I get away?

Where, oh where can I go?

If you suffer from depression, there is help. In Australia, the Black Dog Institute can help. So can Beyond Blue.

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – 2015 Week #12

March 27, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Gratitude | 6 Comments
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Again it is time for sharing my world, answering Cee’s questions for week 12.

 

When was the last time you sat on a park or garden bench for more than ten minutes? Describe the occasion.

I often sit at them. The latest was this morning, when I met with a friend. We sat on a bench looking across the lake and caught up with what’s been happening. People walked by exercising themselves and their dogs, and a man I’d spoken with before stopped to chat. It was a pleasant hour.

Would you ever be interested in observing a surgery or do you turn away when the nurse brings out the needle? 

No way! The thought of cutting live flesh gives me the horrors! The needles are fine if I am having them; I don’t worry about them at all.

Where’s your favorite place to take out-of-town guests?

We usually take them for a walk along the lake. Otherwise, it depends on whether there are children and how old they are. The Hunter Valley wine area is a popular place for adults, as are the forests of the nearby Watagan Mountains.

If you had an unlimited shopping spree at only one store, which one would you choose? Why?

A place that sells motor vehicles. I have never owned a new vehicle, and hubby only once. It would be great to get a decent car for towing the boat trailer, and a new version of our camper van.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last weekend, instead of going sailing, we drove to the Watagans and found a lovely bush camping spot. We had a lovely quiet time with no phone or internet reception, and just relaxed, chatted, walked and read. We weren’t too happy with the gang of trail-bike riders who kept us awake until after 4am though!

Tonight we are going to a party to celebrate our friend’s daughter’s 21st birthday. Nikky is a lovely girl who we have watch grow from a delightful child to a mature, beautiful and hard-working young woman. We are looking forward to it.

(c) Linda Visman

Kicking the Habit with Love

January 15, 2015 at 9:47 pm | Posted in Experiences, Friendship, Gratitude, Health, Love | 6 Comments
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Helping each other

 

Yesterday, I read author Kim Kelly’s blog entry on how she gave up smoking. She tells how she overcame the cravings and emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms with the aid of drugs, yes, but also with love – the love and support of her friends. Her post reminded me of my own story.

This is the relatively long comment I wrote on her blog:

The road from nicotine addiction can be a very difficult one indeed, Kim. It is wonderful that you were able to travel it and come to your non-smoking destination. Congratulations indeed.

I gave up smoking almost twelve years ago after having smoked for most of the previous 36 years – one to two packets a day. Unlike you, I enjoyed smoking and, as I lived most of that time in rural and remote areas, I wasn’t alone in the habit. I know I wasn’t physically addicted; I was emotionally addicted.

My five sons tried to get me to give it up but, because I have a stubborn streak, I resisted – for many years.

Then I caught up with a man I hadn’t seen since high school and we fell in love – we were both divorced at the time, and we also lived in different states.

He was willing to take me on, even though he hated the habit – the smell that was all-pervading and the smoking itself.

On my road trip from S.A. to N.S.W., I stayed overnight in a motel at Narrandera. I was outside having a smoke when I called him on my mobile. It was right then and there that I realised that if he wanted me enough to take my disgusting habit too, then I could give it up for him. I put out that cigarette and have not had one since. I haven’t even wanted one.

It is amazing what love can do!

One of my sons, who also worked and lived in the country took up the habit, but he has been a non-smoker now for several years, thank goodness. None of the others took it up.

A friend knows but loves you

I am so glad I gave up smoking. The stench is gone. I no longer allow my money to go up in smoke. I don’t have to isolate myself because of my habit. And my health is so much better. My husband thought he was taking on an invalid at the time, but was still happy to look after me. It turns out that he hasn’t needed to, and I am so glad.

I put it out - you can too

 

Today is the fifth anniversary of my first blog post. I started it in order to get some self-discipline into my writing. It took a long time, but I am getting there.

 

5th anniversary logo

 

Linda Visman

Share Your World – 2015 Week #1

January 8, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Gratitude, Writing | 3 Comments
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Here we are at the start of a new year, and Cee has sent us her questions for the first week of Share Your World.

How do you get rid of pesky phone calls from telemarketers?

In Australia, we have a facility that telemarketers must refer to in order to see if we will accept such call. It is the “Do Not Call Registry”, which you can opt-into. It costs nothing and has been part of our land line service for several years now. A couple of years ago it was extended to mobile (cell) phones; again, an opt-in.

If you don’t register, you do not gain the benefits, and telemarketers are free to call you any time. Registered charities and political parties are excluded from the register, but we don’t get a lot of calls from them anyway. I am just thankful we have aprotection from those darned telemarketers.

What are you a “natural” at doing?

I don’t know that I am a “natural” at doing anything. I certainly don’t have any great talent to boast of. I’m not too bad at listening I suppose. Many people have told me I am a good leader, a good writer (I often have doubts about that) and teacher. I am also reasonably good with my hands – as in making stuff. I used to do leatherwork, make small wooden items, and other things, but scrapbooking is now my only creative activity outside of writing.

How often do you get a haircut?

When my hair starts tickling my eyebrows – which it is doing now! I used to have waist-length hair until ten years ago, but now have it short. I didn’t need to get haircuts before, just a trim on the bottom when I visited my sister once in a while. But now I need to get it cut about three or four times a year.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “fun”?

My memory takes me back to my childhood, when my extended family would get together at a park for a picnic and a game of cricket. That was fun. I don’t seem to think in terms of fun any more, just enjoyment. And I do enjoy getting together with a friend for a coffee and chat.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

It was wonderful to have one of my sons and his family stay with us for a few days over the New Year period. Hubby took my son and my two grandsons sailing on one day and I got to spend time with my lovely daughter-in-law.

This Saturday, writing group begins again for the year. I don’t know if I am looking forward to it or not, as I haven’t been doing much writing. However, I am certainly looking forward to seeing my lovely writing friends again.

Linda Visman

Share Your World –Week 41

October 18, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, Society | 13 Comments
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Here is week 41 of Cee Neuner’s Share Your World, where we answer Cee’s questions to share a little of ourselves and our world with others around the planet.

Would you rather take pictures or be in pictures?

Both hubby and I love to take photos, to record our lives as we live them. When we visit family, we are both busy taking photos of our kids and grandkids. We only occasionally get a look-in ourselves. We will often come home to find there are no photos of us among the hundred or two we have taken!

Although many people hate having their photo taken, I don’t mind it. I would like my family in the future to know what I looked like and how life changed me through the years. I look back on my childhood and mostly can only imagine what my family looked like, how we grew, what we did, where we lived and where we went.

There are very few photographs to see, because in those days – the 1940s to 1960s, the cost of a camera, film and developing was too great for struggling family. Nowadays, we can take as many photos as we like at little cost. We need to remember to print them though. If anything happens to digital photos or they are not accessible due to changing technology, then people in the future will be the same as we were in the past, with little or no record of their lives.

What did you most enjoy doing this past week?

Last weekend, I was part of a Community Fair. My writing group had a stall to publicise what we do and how we can assist budding or novice writers to improve their craft. It was a beautiful day, with lots of people about browsing a myriad of stalls in the main street which had been blocked to traffic.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who came over to look at the books and magazines our members have produced. Many of them stayed to chat about writing, and quite a few were interested in coming along to our meeting to see how we operate. The best was that two of those interested are young teenage girls.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Books. It is so hard to resist them!!

Which letter of the alphabet describes you best?

It is difficult for me to choose one. Instead of looking at the shape of the letter as many will do, I am listening to the sound of it. When I do that, there are several that could apply to me at some level.

B          I want to be myself and not other people’s versions of me;

I           I – me. There is a selfish gene on one side of my family history that I always have to fight. I am getting better at it, though I still often like to get in my opinion on something;

U         I am becoming more empathetic to others as I get older, and enjoy helping you where I can;

X         Some twenty-five years after being divorced from my first husband, he finally found someone else and allowed me to be his ex-wife;

Y         I often ask why. Why is there so much hatred in the world? Why do we have to destroy our environment for the sake of short-term financial gain? Why this or why that? Maybe I should rather be asking, ‘How?’: ‘How can we fix things?’

Here are a few bits of fun too: ‘A, what did you say?’ – ‘C, I told you so!’ – ‘E, that scared me!’ – ‘G, that’s amazing!’ – ‘L, not again!’ – O dear, that’s terrible!’ – ‘RUOK?’ – T and biscuits anyone?’

Bonus question: What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Skype is a great way to keep contact with my children and grandchildren, who all live far away. It was great to talk with one of my sons and his family.

I have a fairly light week coming up, with few scheduled commitments. I am looking forward to doing some of the things I have been putting off.

(c) Linda Visman

Campfire Magic

September 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Experiences, History, Nature, Philosophy, Society | 9 Comments
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I wrote this a couple of evenings ago as my husband and I camped by a creek in the Border Ranges between NSW and Queensland.

IMG_0638 IMG_0639

There is something primitive about sitting by a campfire in the wilderness. That’s where I am tonight, and the experience takes me back to several different pasts.

I imagine the ancients huddling close to a fire they have only recently tamed, building it high to keep away the fearsome and ferocious predators that would otherwise prey on them.

I feel their awe as they gaze into the roaring flames that hungrily eat up the branches tossed into them. I feel their fear of that hunger if it should escape. How easy is it to imagine their veneration of this awesome power, a magical force which they have managed to harness for their own protection.

Campfire 01

What were their thoughts as they later stared into its dying embers, watching the occasional flicker of a flame as it flickered and died? Did they wish they had collected more fuel to feed the fire? Or were they relaxed enough to ponder their own next meal, the mate they would lie with, or how the hunt had gone that day?

A campfire from a less distant past also comes to mind. One set up by a river or in the bush, or by a huge monolith in an isolated southern continent. Images of the wondrous vault of the sky, undimmed by any city lights, filled with uncountable stars. Thoughts of indigenous people sitting by their clan fire. I see them as self-sufficient and self-reliant, yet filled with awe as they contemplate the unknown and create their Dreamtime origins.

Later, I see the early European explorers by their campfire, uncertain of what is out in the darkness, yet eager for discovery of what is to them a new and unclaimed land.

Campfire 03

It’s not just the far distant past I see in my campfire this night, as I remember my own experiences in isolated Central Australia, knowing that I could walk hundreds of miles in any direction and not meet another human being.

I also wonder how many children today and in the future will experience the thrill of their own campfire. Will they ever feel the thrill of the unknown, the fear even, of a night far from home. Far from their electric lights, TVs and computers, from the comfort of their soft beds and the security of their four solid walls?

It is sad that so many of them will miss out on that more primitive experience of life. That they will never see a campfire flare and flame, as the darkness presses against their frail light, then flicker and die to embers. What a loss that is.?

(c) Linda Visman

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