Bananagrams

May 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Posted in Australia, Leisure activities, Mental Health, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
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words

 

I love words. Going deeper, I love the way words are created, and how they are represented on paper or on the screen by a series of little squiggles. Then, how they are joined together to create meaning.

I wonder how the prehistoric people first gave specific meanings to the guttural sounds they uttered & how they created simple languages. Over hundreds and thousands of years these languages became more and more complex. As mankind spread farther and wider across the globe, these languages became more and more different from each other.

Eventually, someone, or some groups, worked out a way of representing speech through pictures – probably beginning with the ancient cave paintings we now marvel over. Starting with these pictures, which represented their world – the animals, the weapons, the spirits, they eventually created symbols that would represent either sounds or words. And so writing was born.

 

Egyptian hieroglyphs

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs

 

For most of history, writing was under the control of religion, then of the rich and powerful. If the lower classes could read and write, they would be a real threat to the ruling classes.

It is hard to believe that it was only relatively recently that writing and reading have become fairly common throughout the world. Spoken words are all around us of course and now, so are written words. First we had books and magazines and newspapers; now, we also have written electronic communications. Nowadays, we have more writings and thus more things to read than we can possibly cope with.

We can also play with words. There are even many games that draw upon one’s knowledge of words – their spelling, meaning, matching them, or simply putting letters together to create existing words within a pattern.

crossword &pen

I love unusual words, or words that may be difficult to say or words that have a rhythm & that are pleasing to the ear. Words like exculpation, elegiac, dendrochronology, propinquity. I love crossword puzzles too – the straight ones and the cryptic ones, with their clever use of language and meaning.

My latest word game, given to me a couple of years ago by my son and daughter-in-law (who know my love of word games) is one that I have become almost addicted to. BananagramsR is a tile game similar to Scrabble, but without the board.

Bananagram bag

They are called Bananagrams because the tiles come in a cloth bag shaped like a banana!  There are lots of letter tiles and the aim is to create your own crossword with them. It is made to be played with others, because I have nobody who wants to play with me, I play alone.

I find the game to be very absorbing but, at the same time, very relaxing. Whenever I am stressed, I get out the ivory-coloured tiles and lose myself in a world of word creation.

Bananagram 2

This is one of my Bananagrams – great with a snack & a cup of tea.

It’s not just making words either. As I also like the order of patterns and the symmetry of crosswords, I try to make my own puzzles as tight as possible. Within the limits of the rules and the number of tiles allowed to be picked up at a time, there is also a randomness to the game, to the words I can create, every time I play.

Do you play with words? What is your favourite word game?

© Linda Visman

 

 

 

 

 

An Olfactory Blast from the Past

January 11, 2016 at 2:00 am | Posted in Australia, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Leisure activities, Memoir, Nature, Reflections, The Senses | 11 Comments
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It was December 2005, and we were traveling along the Great Ocean Road in southern Victoria in our camper van. [My husband] Dirk and I were in bed at a caravan park in Apollo Bay, when an aroma took me back to my early childhood. As the perfume wafted in through the open window, it affected me so powerfully that I couldn’t sleep until I had written about it.

 

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This is what I wrote then, and added to after we returned home.

 

11.20 pm 19th December 2005, Apollo Bay Caravan Park, Victoria.

 

I lie in my bed in the caravan, weary yet content, and listen to the murmur of the waves, ebbing and flowing, muted by a hundred yards of distance from the seashore. Beside my head is the open window. Through it wafts a scent/smell/odour/perfume, carried on the cool night air. It is fresh and clean, and takes me immediately back to my childhood. It is at the same time comforting and exciting, familiar yet strange, bringing me thoughts and feelings from the distant past, whilst still being here in the present.

 

I take in the smell with each breath and attempt to analyse it. What is there about it that makes such an impression on my both conscious and unconscious mind? I look out of the window. In the diffused glow from the park lights, and against the darkness of the sky, I see the spreading branches of the huge trees beneath which we are parked. They are ancient pine trees, what kind I don’t know, but as soon as I realize that’s what they are, I can put a name to the perfume my subconscious memory has already identified.

 

It is the clean scent of pine; a perfume that has been added artificially to cleaners for years to give the impression of freshness and purity. But this isn’t that artificial perfume which invades the senses and often becomes cloying. Instead it is a subtle blend of pine needles, bark and resin, damp pine-infused earth, and cool night air. It is light, almost ethereal, more a presence than an odour.

 

It brings to my mind cool and shady woods, feelings of peace and tranquility overlaid with the tang of adventure. I can almost believe there are elves or fairies present – that is how strong the impact is on my senses and my feelings. It stimulates me to such an extent that I can’t sleep until I have put these impressions and feelings onto paper. I wish I could capture in words the strong sense of how I am somehow transported back more than fifty years into the past and to the feelings I had as a young child.

 

What power has the sense of smell on the mind! I want to drink in this perfume as if it is the elixir of life, and to be conscious of every draught of it.

 

I am sure it was at Reed Park, where we lived in a caravan for an extended time during 1954-55 when I first encountered this aroma. We had arrived in Australia from England in March 1954, and somehow, the scent makes me think of good times, the stimulation and excitement of the new, but also of security and contentment.

 

Reed Park with pavilion 1950s

Reed Park in early 1950s, showing a few of the pine trees

 

 

I talked about this with then, and later with [my brother] Peter and Dad over Christmas. They all agree that there definitely were huge pine trees around where we camped in the caravan at Reed Park. Peter can’t remember there being pine trees anywhere else we’ve lived. So I am confident that the smell that night – which I have not thought about since I was about six or seven – was from that park. I must have been happy there, I think.

 

© 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

 

 

Entertaining ourselves in the 1950s and early 1960s (1)

March 23, 2015 at 11:22 am | Posted in 1950s, Australia, Culture, History, Leisure activities, Memoir | 16 Comments
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Apart from the little ride-on horse I have mentioned before, and my older brother and sister’s trike, I cannot remember any play activities in England. However we did often go for walks in the countryside, over the local moors.

My sisters played with dolls, but I was never interested in them like they were. Dad had made gollywogs for my younger sister and me from fabric blanks he got when he worked in the weaving mill in Oswaldtwistle. Mine came with me to Australia, and I have a photo of me holding it, taken at the caravan at Reed Park, Dapto.

Me with my gollywog on the caravan step; my elder sister with her doll.

Me with my gollywog on the caravan step; my elder sister with her doll.

Making My Own Wild West

I was a real tomboy and wanted to be an explorer, a cowboy or an Indian. Inside certain cereal packets were small plastic toys to collect. For me, the best of these were the cowboys and Indians and horses for them to ride. The packets also had cut-out wild west buildings on the back that fit together. You could collect these and make your own town. It was mostly me who played with them.

CowboyAndIndianFigures

I often made bows out of the shrubs and thin branches that grew around the place, and string. My arrows I made from a green weed that grew long straight stalks and dried off in summer after seeding. Though light, they made fairly reasonable (straight at least) arrows. I made my quivers for the arrows out of newspaper.

Here I am with my sisters, posing with my home-made bow and arrow.

Here I am with my sisters, posing with my home-made bow and arrow.

I loved the poem “Hiawatha”, which I’d read in an issue of our NSW Education Department school magazine when I was about nine. The poem mentioned the type of wood, ash, that Hiawatha used to make his wonderful bow with, and I decided to make a bow for myself just like Hiawatha had. I asked my brother Peter if there were ash trees around. He laughed and said, “You’ve been reading ‘Hiawatha’, haven’t you?” I was embarrassed and denied it. He said “Anyway that’s America. We don’t have those trees here”. I was very disappointed.

It was rare for us to have ‘real’ toy guns. We would make a pretend gun from a dolly peg, a matchbox and an elastic band. Mum used dolly pegs for hanging the clothes on the line (no spring pegs then). Sometimes if the clothing was too thick, the peg would split; leaving the top part and one ‘leg’. We would use this broken peg and, with a doubled rubber band, fix a matchbox, sitting upward and end-on to it. The head of the peg became the handle of the gun, and the matchbox was the barrel. If you fitted a half-match with the rubber band stretched around it, between the box and the peg and then depressed the matchbox with your finger as if firing a gun, the match stick would fly off like a (slow) bullet. Mum would find that more of her pegs than she thought had suddenly lost one leg!

Gun& Holster set 1950s

A gun and holster set from the 1950s

As many kids did, we made rifles from odd bits of wood that had the right approximate shape. One Christmas, when I was about eight, I received a cowboy set – chaps, vest and a gun-belt with a toy pistol. It was just what I wanted, and I thought it was great – except that my skirt would get in the way of the chaps, as we girls weren’t allowed to wear pants then. My younger sister got a cowgirl outfit, so we played together sometimes, but I thought she was too girly most of the time.

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – 2015 Week #7

February 18, 2015 at 11:08 pm | Posted in Australia, Gratitude, Leisure activities | 6 Comments
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Is the paper money in your possession right now organized sequentially according to denomination and with the bills right side up and facing the same way?

In Australia, our monetary notes are different colours, according to denomination. They are also made of plastic, not paper, and are regarded as the most difficult notes to forge.  While I sometimes put them into my purse in order of value, I often just leave them however they end up, as I can see the ones I need by their colour.

Aussie plastic banknotes 2

What is your favorite type of dog?  (can be anything from a specific breed, a stuffed animal or character in a movie)

My favourite kind of dog is an Australian heeler – either blue or red. They are intelligent working dogs (with cattle) but are also great to have as a pet. I have had both a blue heeler – when the kids were young) and a red heeler (when I lived in a remote community in the Northern territory).

Red & blue heeler dogs

If money was not an issue, would you go on a cruise?  If so where would you go?

No! To go on a cruise would be the opposite to what I want and need. I would hate to be cooped up on a ship with only frivolous activities to keep me occupied. I would much prefer to go camping in the bush for a week or two and commune with nature!

Would you dare to sleep in haunted house overnight?

As I don’t believe in ghosts, I would probably have no problem doing that. If somethimg were to happen, I would be really interested to see if there were really a ghost there.

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

This last five days, hubby and I have spent time camping, visiting family, and seeing more of our lovely country and our heritage.

As we are now home again, I am looking forward to getting the yard mowed and tidy again, and catching up with some writing.

Linda Visman

Photographs on Friday – Sydney Harbour

February 6, 2015 at 11:22 am | Posted in Australia, History, Leisure activities, Sydney Harbour, Tourism | 9 Comments
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We were in Sydney the other day, and decided to take a trip on the Manly Ferry. It is something most Aussies who live in NSW have done, and something tourists often have on their list of things to do. After all, Manly Beach is known world-wide. But, in all the 61 years since I came to Australia, I had never been to Manly, and never taken the Manly ferry.

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We have quite a busy harbour. A giant cruise ship was being refuelled as we passed by.

We started at Circular Quay and sailed past some of Sydney’s most iconic landmarks. I took photos of course. Although I only have a cheap point-and-shoot camera, it takes reasonable shots, and I love to go through them when we get home to see what I have caught in the lens.

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Sydney Opera House

My outward bound photos weren’t as good as those on the way back, so the only one of Manly Beach is also one of me.

Me sitting on the promenade wall; the southern end of Manly beach behind me.

Me sitting on the promenade wall; the southern end of Manly beach behind me.

The ferry that will take us back to Circular Quay arrives at Manly.

The ferry that will take us back to Circular Quay arrives at Manly.

Most ferries in Sydney Harbour are named after Sydney suburbs or famous people. The one above is named after the suburb of Collaroy.

Sydney Heads, the entrance to the harbour from the Tasman Sea

Sydney Heads, the entrance to the harbour from the Tasman Sea

The last time I saw the Sydney Heads (the headlands that protect the harbour and make it such a fine one), was in March 1954. That was when we arrived in Sydney by ship from England.

Another Sydney ferry passed inside the Heads

Another Sydney ferry passed inside the Heads

A  Whale watching boat takes passengers through the Heads and out to sea.

A Whale watching boat takes passengers through the Heads and out to sea.

I enjoyed capturing some of the boats that ply the Harbour on a regular basis. It is a very popular place for sailing, but vigilance is the watchword, especially on a public holiday.

A sailing boat races along under the influence of the strong southerly breeze.

A sailing boat races along under the influence of the strong southerly breeze.

Heading back towards the city.

Heading back towards the city.

As we approached the city, it was hard to know what to take photos of. We passed the several small islands along the way. Garden Island is the largest and has long been a naval dockyard. A small island houses Fort Denison, built in the 19th century to repel any Russian invasion. I didn’t get decent photos of those, so haven’t included them.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

As we came into the quay, I took another photo of the huge cruise ship. Re-fuelling had been completed, and I had a clear view of it.

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The Carnival Legend cruise ship from Valetta.

Then I thread3ed my way to the other side of the ferry to get a final photo of the Opera House with the sun shining through the grey clouds onto its sails.

The Sydney Opera House lit by afternoon sun

The Sydney Opera House lit by afternoon sun

We certainly have a beautiful harbour – even on a cloudy day like it was.

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – 2015 Week #2

January 14, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Australia, Gardens, Gratitude, Leisure activities | 4 Comments
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Here are my responses to Cee’s Share Your World questions for Week 2 of this year.

 

Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?

I am definitely a hugger. There is something warm and accepting about a hug, and I love to pass that on to others. We all grew up in a demonstrative family, and it was considered normal to hug when arriving and leaving home; and I hug friends as well as family. I carried that into my adult life and my five sons are all comfortable with hugs. I can almost always tell when a non-hugger arrives though, and back off so they don’t get uncomfortable.

 

What’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?

Boysenberry! However it is a rare treat to have ice cream.

 

Do you prefer exercising your mind or your body? How frequently do you do either?

I like to exercise both. Physically, I am quite active. I mow our double house block which is on a slope, do fairly heavy work in the garden and the house, and go (irregularly) for walks. I can’t be a book-chair or computer potato for too long before I need to move.

My reading, writing and extensive work with my reading group has kept my brain active for some years now, and I love crosswords – both regular and cryptic. My scrapbooking also keeps my creative side alive and kicking when my writing falls off.

 

Are you more of a dog person or a cat person? Why?

I am certainly not a cat person, and I am astounded at the fuss people make over cats. It seems in many ways they worship them! Cats are beautiful creatures in every way except for one – they are superb killing machines. They seem to be like humans that way; killing for the sake of killing. Much of Australia’s natural wildlife has been destroyed since cats were introduced to this country, taking millions of small animals every year.

Dogs can go feral too, but they are capable of wonderful relationships with people – unlike cats, who use people as their slaves. I would love to have a dog, but circumstances do not allow it.

 

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

I am grateful for the terrific man I married – that is ongoing. I was glad to see it raining steadily for several days, as we needed it for the garden, and to cool off the summer heat.

Next week? Nothing much planned early in the week, but the Australia Day holiday is coming up on the weekend of the 24-26 January, and a cruise with our sailing club to celebrate. Hoping we will both be okay to get the boat out and join in on at least some of the festivities.

 

Linda Visman

Sunset at Dobell Park, Wangi Wangi, NSW

January 4, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Australia, Family, Gratitude, heritage, Leisure activities, Nature | 6 Comments
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After dinner on the second day of the new year, my husband and I, with our son and family who were visiting from Queensland, went for a walk on the shore of Lake Macquarie. Being summer, it was still light when we arrived at Wangi Wangi village, almost two kilometres away.

images[2]The local park is a popular one, overlooking the lake on the southern side of the isthmus. It is named in honour of our late local celebrity, Sir William Dobell, a well-known and sometimes controversial artist. We had walked past Sir William’s house, now an art gallery, on the way there.

We all sat on the grassy slope to watch the sun make the last of its descent past the horizon. I took some photos, as it was a lovely scene.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????This old and battered fibreglass dinghy sat forlornly on the beach.

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Then we walked the almost two kilometres back home. It was a lovely end to a busy and very pleasant, family-oriented day.

Photos (c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – Week 50

December 25, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Posted in Culture, Family, Family History, Gardens, Gratitude, Leisure activities | 6 Comments
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Many thanks again to Cee, for the questions for this week’s Share Your World.

Do you have a signature dish? If not is there one in your family?

This is a good question for Christmas time, as the only signature dish I have only makes an appearance at Christmas and New Year. It is a trifle, made with sponge cake, jelly, custard, whipped cream and topped with strawberries. When I go to Christmas shared dinners, that is what I take, and it is always very well received.

The trifle recipe is an old family favourite, and is made differently to all the other trifle desserts I have seen. My sisters and I learned it from Mum, who learned it from her mother, though I don’t know how far back from there it goes. Still, a hundred years is a pretty good family tradition.

Do you have a favorite board game?

I haven’t played board games for many years. However if I were to play one, it would be Scrabble, as I love any word games.

Is there a household chore that you enjoy?

Not so much inside the house, I’m afraid. However, I love mowing the lawns and keeping the yard tidy, as well as building anything needed there.

What is one thing you will never care about?

Being rich and famous. What’s the point, when it leads to the loss of your soul!?

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

Last week – Being able to at least deliver the Christmas gifts for my grandchildren in Queensland in an aborted visit (caused by my getting sick). Also, spending time with hubby as we travelled to and from there.

This coming week – relaxing for a few days at home before my second eldest son and his family come for a visit from Queensland.

(c) Linda Visman

Share Your World – 2014 Week 48

December 11, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Posted in Australia, Family, Gratitude, Leisure activities, Nature, Social Responsibility | 4 Comments
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Here are more of Cee’s questions, which we answer and share with others. The questions are great also for looking into ourselves and seeing what is important in life. Thank you again, Cee.

What is your favorite toppings on pizza?

We have a pizza shop in our village that makes the best pizzas I’ve ever had. They are not wimpy scatterings of a few ingredients on a piece of thin, brittle pastry that you get in the well-known chains. Instead, they are a good, solid feed with plenty of topping on a decent pastry base.

One of their toppings they call ‘Rosita’, and that is my favourite. It is basically lots of lovely king prawns (you call them shrimps in the U.S., I believe) with pineapple and cheese, and a yummy sauce.

I want to learn more about …

Life. Mainly, I want to know how to stop being so terribly affected (angry, upset, distressed, disgusted, demoralised, depressed) by the awful things that people are capable of and the destruction of our world.

What are three places you’ve enjoyed visiting?

Central Australia; the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney; and the South Coast of New South Wales. In reality though, I love to visit anywhere in Australia’s mountains, coastal areas , the bush and the desert.

Do you prefer eating the frosting of the cake or the cupcake first?

Neither – both are too sweet. I prefer a fruit mince tart.

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

Last week we had a lovely half a day in Sydney at the Powerhouse Museum, with  two gorgeous granddaughters and their lovely mum (hubby’s daughter).

Next week we are going to see most of the kids & grandkids from my side of the family – 4 of the sons and 6 of the grandkids.

(c) Linda Visman

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