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)

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.


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.


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?


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

V is for Visman; or changing your name at marriage

April 25, 2014 at 10:35 am | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Society, Ways of Living | 11 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]



What’s in a name? An identity; belonging; family; commitment; esteem; shame; pride; ties to others; security; status?

Any or all of these, as well as many other attributes can reside in one’s name, especially one’s surname.

wedding bells clip artIn our Western tradition, it has always been common for the woman to change her maiden, or birth name, to that family name of her spouse. However, it is a tradition that is now being followed less often, often because the woman wishes to retain her name for professional reasons. Another reason is associated with a view that taking the man’s name is, in a way, granting the man a greater power than is given to the woman.


I have been known by three surnames in my life – all of them legal. My birth name, Thompson, came from my father, and most children still do take the father’s family name even when their mother does not. When I first married (it’s scary how long ago that was) I took my then husband’s family name. It was the accepted practice, and I saw no reason to do anything rings

Sixteen years later we divorced. At that time, I did serious consider returning to my birth name, as was my legal right. However, my children didn’t want me to have a different surname to them – they, of course, carried their father’s family name – so, to please them, I retained it.

When I married again, some twenty years later, I faced another decision. Should I retain the name I’d had for almost forty years, revert to my birth name, or change it to my new husband’s? He said the choice was mine to make. I considered it carefully and, in the end, I decided to take his family name, Visman. I have no regrets.

As anyone who has been reading my blog will know, I have been interested for many years in my family’s history. During my research, one of the biggest problems I have come across has been following the female lines.

My grandparents' marriage certificate, 1920

My grandparents’ marriage certificate, 1920

Because the women invariably took their husband’s name, they could easily get lost in the records. This was especially the case when only basic facts were recorded, without the names of the woman’s parents. The use of restricted number of given names didn’t help any in trying to sort out who was whom.

In every case, I have been able to follow the paternal line further back in time than I have the maternal. That means a great deal of my ancestry may never be known. Even the paternal line may be inaccurate, as it is always possible that, in some cases, the recorded father was not the actual father.


Nowadays, if we choose, we women can easily retain our birth name, and even give our children our birth name instead of the father’s – that is also happening more.

As for me, it was so long since I was known by my maiden name, that it didn’t mean a great deal to revert to it on my second marriage. My sons were adults themselves, and their wives had taken on their name when they married, so they were also happy for me to change mine.

I am happy to have taken on the name of a good man who came from a good family and is father to great adult children. I don’t feel that I have reduced my status by taking on his name, nor do I feel I have turned my back on my birth family.

We are all who we are, no matter what name we go by and I, for one, don’t need a name to affirm myself as a human being.


What do you think of the practice of the woman taking the man’s name at marriage? Have you seen a change in that custom, and do you agree with that change?


© Linda Visman  25.04.2014  (654 words)






T is for Toys: or how kids through the years are entertained

April 23, 2014 at 9:16 am | Posted in Experiences, Family, Family History, History, Mental Health, Ways of Living | 1 Comment
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


helmsdale-children-playing-marbles c1940s

Children playing marbles, c1940s

Times have changed since I was a child – and even more since my parents were. One of the ways that is very obvious relates to the toys we played with in those our grandchildren do. It was not always what we played with, but also their relative importance, and how toys and new ways of doing things have developed over time.

1920s doll& pram  Mum didn’t talk much about her childhood, and she died before I was able to spend real time with her, so I don’t really know anything about her actual toys. However, I can guess that she would have had dolls, perhaps a pram, and I know she would have had books.

Dad could tell me about his childhood activities. His toys, like Mum’s, reflected society’s gender expectations. What he had would always have been his preference1920s pedal car B anyway, as he loved making things and anything to do with machinery. When he was seriously ill as a four-year-old, his older cousin, also named Ernest, bought him a pedal car and hung it in his bedroom for when he was well again.

Along with other young boys, Dad played marbles and collected cigarette cards featuring famous sportsmen and historical figures. The cards people collected when I was young were put out by a clothing manufacturer, Stamina (no longer existent, and cigarette cards were still available, though not as widely. They are the same thing as the Pokemon or other cards that kids of today collect and play with. And toy cars, dolls and prams still bring joy to little kids.

When Dad was a bit older, his father traded poached game animals for things like Meccano sets and parts, and electric components to make crystal radios and speakers. Dad thus got a good grounding in skills that would serve him well in later years.

Crystal radio set 1930

Crystal radio set 1930


Meccano parts

He would also make things for his younger brother and sisters out of cereal boxes and whatever he could find. Before he was able to buy himself a bike, he found parts to create one. It had no brakes, only a piece of cloth for a seat, and wonky wheels, but it went hell-for-leather down the hill!

When we were young, we made billy-carts out of old pram wheels, a wooden box and planks of wood. Like Dad’s bike, they had no brakes, but they could be steered with ‘reins’, and if you were going too fast down the hill, you could (hopefully) steer into the long grass at the side of the road.

My sons made billy-carts too, and I was glad they did, because it showed creativity and initiative and a willingness to take a chance. All our generations suffered bruises and scrapes, but that was all part of the enjoyment.

Three of my boys & their billycart

Three of my boys & their billycart

We were also good at using whatever was available – for example, sticks became guns or swords or bows and arrows. A sheet became a cubby-house or the sail of a ship, or a cloak.

My 5 boys with their bikes in 1982

My 5 boys with their bikes in 1982

My boys had bicycles, though I never did – my parents couldn’t afford them. Instead, Dad made wooden scooters for me and my younger sister, as well as other toys, also from wood. My little brother got a bought pedal car at three years of age, but that was to help him exercise his polio-affected ankle. Dad also made him a metal scooter when he was a bit older.

Books have always been an important part of all our lives. Dad loved to read, as did Mum – as I did and most of my children, and as my grandchildren do now. Books are valued possessions. Dad didn’t own any when he was a child, and had to rely on the local library. When he was older and able to buy them, he and Mum had a small collection.

stack of books 04I didn’t own books either until my ninth birthday, when I received two. The library was a favourite place to go – when there was one. My children always had books, though not nearly as many as their own children have now. Things like that are much cheaper and more easily obtained nowadays, as well covering a much wider range of genres and interests.

Radio provided entertainment for my parents and also for us until we were teenagers. Then we got television. That took up some of the time we used to fill with toys and other activities, but we were restricted in when we could watch it. We were always encouraged to go out and create our own entertainment.

My children watched TV, but we also restricted their viewing. We also travelled and engaged in other activities. My grandchildren don’t watch nearly as much TV as many of their their peers, but they do have access to a lot more educational programmes than we had. However, my kids are also keen that their children reap the benefits of an outdoor life.

The biggest apparent difference between the toys of my generation and those of children now is the access to electronic devices that didn’t exist in earlier iPadyears. Although traditional toys are still a part of most children’s growing up, and the quality of those toys is much better, many children begin to use electronic devices at a very early age. That is what they want – easy and portable access to creation and adventure in other worlds and realities rather than in the real world. But perhaps that’s not too different to reading books and make-believe play; it’s mainly the format that has changed.

I suppose that wherever kids are, they will find something to play with. Whether it be creating a toy from almost nothing or receiving elaborate and expensive ones from their parents, whether building crystal radios or using an ipad or a Wii, what is important is the fun, the search for adventure, the learning, the exercise of creativity and initiative.

It might also be whatever will keep the kids occupied and out of their parents’ hair.


What were your favourite toys when you were a child? What did your parents have? Do you think children get as much out of their toys as the kids in your day or your parents’ day did?


© Linda Visman 23.04.2014  (1,076 words)


S is for Seashells and Stones

April 22, 2014 at 10:11 am | Posted in Australia, Family, Family History, Nature, Travel, Ways of Living | 4 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

seashells &stones


I love shells, and I love stones too; shells and stones of all shapes and sizes and textures. The beach is made up of fragments of shells and stones and many shells and various kinds of rock have their own beauty.

From the time I was about six or seven years old, we had access to the beaches of  Shellharbour and Kiama in eastern NSW. Like many kids do, I collected shells. I always wanted to create something using them, but didn’t know how.

When I was about fourteen, I worked out what I could make and drew the outline of Australia on a piece of plywood. I filled in the outline with small shells I had collected from the beach – mainly from Shellharbour. Then I drew the more complex outline of the British Isles on another piece of board and filled that in with small shells too. Both were finished with a couple of coats of varnish.

My shell map

My shell map

I hung them in my room, where they stayed until I got married and left home. I forgot all about them for a long time.  Almost 45 years later, as I was checking through a cupboard at Dad’s, I was really surprised to come across the one of Britain. It was in fairly good shape and had only lost a few of its shell.

Mum was also a shell lover, even more than I was. She  decorated objects with shells too. Dad made things from wood for her – a small wishing well and a wheelbarrow are two I particularly remember. She covered them with shells and made very attractive ornaments from them.


Wheelbarrow: made by Dad, decorated by Mum

Mum also took things like mirrors and pictures, and dressed them up with shells – small or large, depending on the size of the mirror. I have the small mirror that hung in their bathroom for many years, and another from their bedroom. However, the one from the front room was just too big to keep!

One of Mum’s smaller mirrors

Mum also bought larger shells that she particularly liked, and a couple of wall plaques that featured seashells. Dad kept everything after she died in 1994. When he died last year, all the shell items except those that I been given, were sold as part of his estate.


A few of Mum’s shells

After Dad retired in 1981, he and Mum made occasional trips around the state, towing a small caravan. On those trips, Mum was always on the lookout for nice shells, and rocks too. One of the pieces of rock she collected from out west served for many years as the front doorstop at their home. It now resides on our verandah.

Mum's quartz door stop

Mum’s quartz door stop

I have collected unusual stones and rocks for many years, not by following slavishly in Mum’s footsteps though. I gained a love of them after I’d been married and living out west, far from my parents for some years. I learned a bit about the types of rock, like igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic and so on, and usually had some stones and rocks around the place.

My piece of petrified tree branch.

My piece of petrified tree branch.

For a few years, Mum and Dad collected small pebbles, and Dad polished them in a tumbling machine he made himself. He made bracelets and pendants for Mum from polished stones. I now own one of each of them – nobody else among my siblings is interested.

Pebbles on the shore, Lake Macquarie, NSW.

My youngest son is a geologist – I think he loves stones too. Maybe I had some sort of influence on that – I’d like to think so.

I haven’t gone into why I love shells and stones here; maybe it would be too hard to sort out any particular reasons for it. I just know that I love their beauty, their colours, their textures and their composition, and I am amazed at their variety. Rocks are the basic component of our world, and if they weren’t here for us, we wouldn’t be here either.


Gorge in Karijini National Park Western Australia

Rocky Gorge in Karijini National Park Western Australia


Do rocks, stones, seashells affect you at all?  What do you like or even dislike about them? Do you collect natural objects, or make things from them?


© Linda Visman  22.04.14  (709 words)



Q is for Quotations

April 19, 2014 at 9:10 am | Posted in Family, Family History, Mental Health, Philosophy, Ways of Living | 10 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]



There are often certain people in one’s family or circle of friends who are known for the things they say or have said. They have often become part of family lore, associated with that person, often with either a laugh or a grimace.

It can be the same with our friends too. For instance, the normal response to discussions about a problem from a woman we know is a sigh and the comment, “But what can you do?” Another always says, “It’s a worry”.

My family has its own little quirky sayings, and many seem to have rather a philosophical bent. It is mainly two people who had sayings they used quite often, sayings that have been passed down through the generations. In many ways, these favourite sayings illustrate aspects of their character, as they express beliefs they adhered to and lived by.


Teddy Thompson 1949, with a grandson & his faithful dog Monty.

Teddy Thompson 1949, with a grandson & his faithful dog Monty.

The adages of my grandfather Teddy Thompson, the poacher and WWI veteran, who died in 1950, have been handed down by his son Ernie, my father. Here are a few:

– “If you see a man walking towards you down the same side of the street and he crosses to the other side, he owes you money. If he crosses from the other side to yours, you owe him money.”

– “Income: one pound; out go: 19 shillings and sixpence– a happy man. Income one pound; out go one pound and sixpence– an unhappy man.”

– “Laws are made fer them as keeps ‘em.”

– When Granddad was in the army, he used to play a betting game called Crown & Anchor. He always made money when others lost theirs. That was because he followed his own advice: “Always be the banker, they’re the only ones who win.”


Ernie Thompson 2007, aged 86

Ernie Thompson 2007, aged 86

Dad had lots of sayings too. Some were his own, but others were ones he heard that reflected his own open and positive attitude to life. In his later years, he quoted them often.

– When asked how he was, he would say: “top of the world”. Everyone in the district identified Dad as the ‘top of the world’ man. He later expanded this to, “top of the world, fighting fit and getting younger every day.”

– When someone said it was a nice day, Dad would reply in one of two ways: 1. “Every day’s a nice day; sometimes the weather’s better than others”; or 2. “If you can get out of bed and walk away from it, it’s a good day.” Then he would add, “ Do you realise how many people couldn’t do that this morning?”

– When someone talked about ‘a problem’, Dad would say, “There are no problems in life, only challenges”.

– If he was a bit late for a meal and you told him it was getting cold, he’d say, “It’s a poor belly that can’t warm up a bit of cold food”.

– When we talked about how hard it was to do anything about the problems of the world, he’d say, “Do what you can, for as many as you can, however you can, wherever you can, for as long as you can”.

– Dad was legally blind (10% decreasing to 3% vision) for the last twenty years of his life. When anyone mentioned it as a problem, he’d say, “No it’s not. I look in the mirror and I don’t see any wrinkles; and every woman looks beautiful to me”.

– When walking through a large shopping mall with his tapping stick, he had enough vision to see the movement of people. He said, “As I walk along, they separate like the bow wave on a battleship”.


Agnes Thompson Eng.1974 (2)

Agnes Thompson on a visit to England 1974

Mum had a few of her own common expressions too.

– About a pushy person: “S/he’s not backward at coming foreward!”

– Two expressions of amazement that came from Oswaldtwistle were: “Well, I’ll go to our house!”; and “Well, I’ll go to t’top o’ t’stairs!”

– When something was done well, she’d say (and so would Dad): “Go to the top of the class and kiss the teacher!”

– When something was done well enough: “It’s as near as makes no never-mind.”

A saying she liked, but which applied to neither her nor Dad was, “Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can. Seldom found in women, and never in a man.”

Well, that’s probably enough!

If you woke up

Do you have sayings in your family that have been passed down, or that identify a certain member of the family?


© Linda Visman 19.04.14  (699 words)


K is for Kith and Kin

April 12, 2014 at 8:08 am | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Society, Ways of Living | 7 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]



Kith: Old English cȳthth, of Germanic origin; related to couth. The original senses were ‘knowledge’, ‘one’s native land’, and ‘friends and neighbours’. The phrase kith and kin originally denoted one’s country and relatives; later one’s friends and relatives. This is the only way ‘kith’ is used nowadays.



Familial relationships used to be the basis of community in past times, and still are in small village societies where people still live in smaller groups. Such communities are mostly made up of ‘kith and kin’, who depend upon each other for security and support, especially in difficult times.

Grandparents would often care for children so that parents could provide for their families. But as societies grew larger and more sophisticated, this interdependence lessened, especially with the industrialisation of western societies. People paid others to do what family normally would have done.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,, periods of huge waves of international migration, families lost that cohesiveness. They were split apart and millions never saw their children or their parents again

That was the case for my father when we migrated from England to Australia in 1954. Dad never saw his parents again. Mum only did because her parents and brother followed us out here. I have never seen any of the relatives we left behind, and most of them are now gone.

Rodney Holland Baptism Grandparents &g'chn Jan.1981


There has also been considerable migration in the past fifty years within countries as family members have to move to find work. My own five sons were scattered across Australia at one time. Four of them have settled closer together now, though one still lives overseas. But they all live too far away for me to see them more than two or three times a year.

Most of Thompson clan 24 June 2001

There do appear to be indications that families are again having to rely on kith and kin for support. With the high cost of childcare, and the need for both parents to work, relatives, especially grandparents, are increasingly taking on the role they traditionally had.

I just wish my sons lived close enough that I could, at least occasionally, be a minder for my grandchildren.



How much contact do you have with your family? Are they scattered, like mine, or are they close by? Is it better to have some distance between you and them, or would you prefer they were close by?


© Linda Visman 12.04.2014  (360 words)

H is for Home

April 9, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family, Society, Travel, Ways of Living | 2 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]



The word ‘home’ evokes strong feelings in people, more than most words. There are many sayings about it – “Home is where the heart is” and “There’s no place like home”, among others.

Many poems and songs are written about home, expressing a love of and a longing for home, or a desire to leave it.

BillCosby Children come back home

However, when we look at a dictionary for a definition, we get one that in no way reflects those feelings.

The UK Oxford Dictionary: the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

Free dictionary has nine definitions of the word, and most of them also relate to a place or structure wherein one dwells. But one of those meanings does actually capture what really lies behind the word for most people:

Home is: a. An environment offering security and happiness; b. A valued place regarded as a refuge or place of origin.

Elizabeth-Gaskell-home quote

Of course, home is not always a refuge or a place of safety and security, but when it is written of in song and poem, that is what it means.

Home is where one starts from, T. S. Eliot.

Where thou art, that is home, a poem by Emily Dickinson.

Linda&Pauline T abt 1955

So, what happens if a person travels a lot and does not ‘settle down’ in one place? Does that person have no home; or if they live in many different houses in different places?

My brother has travelled and lived in a small camper van (mobile home) for many years. Does he have a home? He certainly does – his home is his van.

And my own situation: ever since I first married at the age of twenty, I have lived in more houses in more places than I can remember. The longest in one place, until where I now live, was six years. Have all of those places been a home to me?


Yes, they have; all of them. As Maya Angelou says,  I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.

It is not the building or place that makes a home as far as I am concerned. Some of the homes in which I lived weren’t the best, others have been lovely.

The condition of the house, flat, caravan, etc, made no difference to me. It was and still is the people with whom I share that place with.

homeis where heart is

Until I was twenty, it was my parents and siblings, even when we lived in a caravan. Then it was my husband and our children, until we separated. After that, it was other people with whom I lived and whom I felt close to.

Any old place I can hang my hat is home sweet home to me, the title of a song by William Jerome.



What does home mean to you?


© Linda Visman 09.04.2014




G is for Genealogy

April 8, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family, Family History, History, Society, Ways of Living, Writing | Leave a comment
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


Genealogy has several meanings, but the one I focus on in my interest and activity is this: the study of family ancestries and histories.

To many people, genealogy means making their family tree. They look up names and dates and relationships and places, but that is as far as they go. All they want is a chart they can display in a book or on the wall. But to me – and to other serious researchers – genealogy involves many different facets apart from, but also including this.

Who I am

What is the point of knowing names and dates if you don’t know the people, their relationships within the immediate and extended family, the places they lived, what they did for a living, their place and station in society, their religious and political beliefs? You can’t know a person at all unless you know all these things and unless you know about the times and culture in which they grew up and lived as adults.


Knowing all these things gives us a background to our grandparents’, our parents’ and our own lives. It puts us into a context that can give us a much greater understanding of who we are and how we came to be who we are within our family and society as a whole.

Linda&Pauline T abt 1955

I started researching my family history for a college assignment back in 1976. I had to talk with my parents and anyone else I could in order to complete the assignment. I had always been interested in history but, when I went to school, history revolved around religion and politics, gods and kings. In undertaking this new task, my interest in personal and family origins was ignited.

history remembers

I worked on researching my background for the next thirty years. Because I was born in England and we had emigrated to Australia when I was only five years old, it was a slow process in the first twenty-five years. I had to do everything through the postal service – applying for my grandparents’ marriage certificates, their birth certificates, etc.

EdwardRThompson-birthextract 1893

It was a matter of slowly working back through the generations to verify names, dates, places, occupations, and so on.


Along with this slog through the records was a parallel course of research, centred on learning about the times in which my ancestors lived, so that I could catch a glimpse of how they might have lived.

Because those times were different from my own, I had always to remember that they had different beliefs to mine, different laws and understandings, different ways of doing things, and different ways of living. I could not judge them by the standards of the present, for their world was a different one to mine.

In the end, I published a 136-page family history book in 2002, which I expanded to a book of 278 pages in 2005.

Now&Then cover (919x1280)

I haven’t done much work on the family history since then, as I changed the focus of my interest to other kinds of writing. But I am pleased to say that my interest in genealogy has been inherited by my youngest son, who is carrying on with the original research I did on his father’s side of the family.

I hope that, when I die, I can bequeath my considerable research materials to the National Archives of Australia or to the one in the UK.  I don’t think my son has enough room in his house to keep them!

Chasing your own history


Do you have any interest in the history of your family? Have you done any research, or gathered oral evidence from family members? Have you created a book for your family to share their origins with them?


© Linda Visman 08.04.14 (605 words)

F is for Fighter Pilot

April 7, 2014 at 8:36 am | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Making History, Mental Health, Social Responsibility, War and Conflict | 18 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

It was 1938, when he was only 17, that my father, Ernest told Agnes (later to become his wife), “War’s coming and I’ll have to go.” They lived in England, had just started courting, and the situation in Europe, with Nazi Germany was not looking good.

In late 1939, soon after war broke out, Ernest tried to enlist. However he worked in a reserved occupation, engineering and weapons manufacture, so he was exempt, and even discouraged from, doing military service.

Home Guard Field Manual

So Ernest joined the Home Guard. After working a 12-hour shift at the engineering works, he would train with the local unit in the evenings. He also went regularly to the recruitment office in an effort to join up. Eventually, he was told that the only way he could enlist from a reserved occupation was to be accepted as aircrew.


In 1940, the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain led to a shortage of pilots, and that gave Ernest his chance. He applied yet again. This time, he was accepted into the RAF. He was mobilised in September 1941 and undertook basic training in England. Ernest was then sent to Canada to train as a pilot in the newly set up Empire Training Scheme.

RAF WWII hat badge

He returned to England as a fighter pilot with non-commissioned officer rank and was posted to 289 Army Co-operation Squadron, based mainly in Scotland. Ernie spent the next 3½ years flying a wide variety of single and twin-engine planes. Because of his flying skill, quick reflexes and ability to spot enemy fighters, and in spite of not being an officer, every C.O. he served under made him his Number 2 wingman.

WWII pilots wings

Among other planes, he flew Hawker Hurricanes, Typhoons and Tempests and the Vultee Vengeance. His missions included bomber intercepts and marine patrols. He searched out and attacked German submarines in the Irish Sea, and strafed German convoys and escort vessels along the north-western coast of Europe. As a member of 289 Squadron, he also flew various target-towing aircraft for the anti-aircraft gunners to practice their shooting.

RAF Pilots with their Hurricanes

In 1944, in the weeks before D-Day, Ernest flew Lysanders into German-occupied France to drop Allied spies. He flew at night, hedge-hopping to avoid detection by the Germans. He made six such trips, landing in isolated fields in the French countryside.


In July 1945 after V.E. Day, Ernest was granted a six-month compassionate discharge to look after his wife, who had been paralysed at the birth of their first child. During this period, he was not paid by the RAF, and had to work as a labourer for the local Council. He returned to the RAF in early February 1946 and served out his time in the south of England, piloting Vultee Vengeance aircraft towing targets for anti-aircraft gunners.

Defence of Britain medal

Defence of Britain medal

Throughout his service, Ernest rose through the ranks. Although often recommended for officer training, he always declined, as he hated the class distinction that went with it. At his discharge in June 1946, Ernest had attained the rank of Warrant Officer First Class, the highest non-commissioned rank in the RAF.

Agnes,Ern&Peter Thompson Jan.1946

                            Mum & Dad with their first born, 1945.


Do you have family who fought in WWII? Have you researched their story?


© Linda Visman 06.04.14 (549 words)




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